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The Boomer Bulletin - 2012
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Communication: The Key to a Successful Working Relationship

Posted By Tina Greim, Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Processes and procedures seem to be lacking, little details continue to get missed or a project just wasn’t done the way you expected.  When coaching an employee who seems to be struggling, effective communication on how to improve can be challenging.   You might find yourself focusing too much on the employee’s weaknesses and not valuing their strengths. This can lead to an unstable working relationship and can leave your employee questioning their abilities without having the confidence to improve. 

Coaching on weaknesses can be difficult for managers. However, if done correctly, the relationship between the manager and employee will grow and strengthen the working relationship.  Managers must clearly communicate their expectations, be direct and have specific when coaching opportunities arise.

Communicating Weaknesses

Start with the positives.  What are your employee’s strengths? What do you value about their skill set?  What strengths does your employee have that you don’t?  Next, what areas can your employee improve upon?  Do you have specific examples that you can use as a coaching exercise?  Then, properly communicate your expectations for that employee in their role.

Capitalize on strengths.  Is your employee’s "weakness” truly a weakness or just a difference in expectations? Once this is identified, most situations can be manicured and corrected.  However, being direct and specific is crucial to the process. Sugarcoating and giving vague examples will only create additional frustration.  As always, honesty is the best policy. Author Steven Gaffney defines honesty as,” in saying what needs to be said.  I think most people think their honest but the truth is, we all lie: we withhold information.”

Tips for Positive Communication

  1. Clearly define and communicate expectations. Make no assumptions. If appropriate, develop a plan in writing with the employee.
  2. Increase trust by being honest and open.
  3. Understand your employee’s communication style. The Kolbe Index is a great tool to start.
  4. Focus on progress, not mistakes.
  5. Allow the employee to ask questions of clarification.

Tips to Avoid Negative Communication

  1. Don’t let emotions drive your communication.
  2. Give yourself time to reflect before you begin communication.
  3. Avoid public situations to engage in coaching sessions. Privacy is the best policy.
  4. Don’t be vague when describing areas for improvement. Specifics and examples are a must.
  5. Don’t delay coaching conversations to only happen at quarterly and/or annual reviews.

Take Action Now

As a manager, it is your responsibility to lead the development of a solid working relationship with your employee.  Being clear, open and honest about strengths and weaknesses is crucial to the relationship. Both sides should develop respect and trust for one another during the process. Do you have an employee that has a coaching opportunity? Reflect for 5 minutes on the situation and think about how you can apply some of the tips in this article to begin the conversation.

Tags:  coaching  communication 

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