A lot of press is given -- including within this blog -- to the differences between how men and women communicate. It's important to note that, while there are differences, it is also correct to say that neither sex has a monopoly on the best way of communicating. To get ahead, you have to be a good communicator. Great communicators are often tapped to become company leaders.
Managers of both genders are especially challenged when tasked with having to communicate with employees during tough times, said Denise Messineo, senior vice president of human resources at Dimension Data. Learn how to give criticism, how to listen and how to build morale. Knowing yourself -- and identifying areas in which you need to improve -- can help.
Messineo herself knowsher staff appreciates her directness, but she also realizes that the newest members of her staff can be taken aback by her bluntness at times. So part of the answer is to work on toning down some over-the-top behaviors, but another part is setting expectations with your staff: "I'm very direct, and you'll always know where you stand with me. But if you have a question or feel I was short with you, please let me know so I can clarify my position." You don't need to change your personality, but you do need to understand how you're coming across.
Managers also have difficulty finding time to do "outreach," those everyday communications that nurture staff relationships. Messineo noted that this was vitally important, especially in high performance cultures like that at Dimension. Having a busy schedule and working toward daily as well as longterm goals can make it rough to find the time to understand what's going on with employees. Be careful not to pay lip service to the idea; employees know when a boss is not being genuine. Conversely, you don't need to be everyone's best friend. Make it a priority by scheduling the time. One-on-ones are ideal, even over the phone. If that's impractical, small group sessions are an option. The goal is to create an atmosphere in which your staff is comfortable enough that individuals will come to you when a problem does crop up.
Finally, Messineo advises getting two mentors: one female and one male. That way, you'll have prospective from both angles. If your company doesn't have a mentoring program, suggest one. Better yet, volunteer to help start one. You'll get exposure throughout the company and you'll have instituted something worthwhile. Becoming a skilled communicator who has spearheaded a new or improved mentoring program creates one heck of a promotable package!