Arguably, the most important skill necessary to be a “good” manager is to communicate effectively. Effective communication begins with engaging your subordinates by asking them questions. A “good” manager asks his or her subordinates for their observations and suggestions. When you ask for input, you are, in essence, telling them that their opinions are valued and appreciated. At the same time, you are initiating discussion of the issue(s), creating a safe environment for them to propose solutions to problems, and most importantly giving them ownership or “buy-in” of daily processes.
When communicating with your subordinates, it is ok to re-phrase or re-ask a question. Do not consider it as a sign of weakness or misunderstanding on your part. Rather it is a sound tactic the best managers use to get clarification. Asking for clarification is a method of resisting temptation to react to the initial statements people make. For example, by asking, “what led you to that idea or what are the pros and cons you have identified?” will give a clearer understanding of a subordinate’s ideas or perspectives.
Unfortunately, most managers believe that they have above average communication skills. I believe; however, that it is a distinct skill and often is not done well. How would you react if one of your subordinates came to you with a suggestion that you did not like? More often than not, managers will immediately respond with why they do not like the suggestion or why they do not think it is practical. A manager who communicates well would ask, “What problem are you trying to solve?” By asking this kind of question, the manager invites discussion and may learn of a problem of which he was unaware.
Essential to asking questions is believing that your subordinates have information, knowledge, and ideas you don’t have. This belief will earn you respect and create an atmosphere of continual improvement that can help you reach your goals as well as your organization’s. Your words, actions, and tone will demonstrate whether or not this belief is true. Non-belief displays itself either as a lack of interest in involving subordinates or as a sense that you view your subordinates as inferior thinkers. A lack of belief in your subordinates destroys morale, hinders innovation, and prevents any process improvements.
Your skill in communicating with your subordinates is crucial for creating a culture of appreciation, cooperation, and innovation. This type of culture is necessary for happy and productive workers and motivates them to do their best.