Use ratings by staff to improve bosses’ communication skills

Surveys reveal that managers and supervisors think they are better communicators than they really are.

Therefore asking managers and supervisors about their communication skills generally doesn’t lead to much that’s useful.

However, by asking their direct reports to give anonymous feedback on the communication skills of their bosses is a different matter – there is a big disconnect between the bosses’ self-assessments and the candid assessment of the people who report to them. The important thing is to ensure the identities of individual employees can’t be revealed by the feedback, just in case there might be retribution.

One effective way to rate the communication skills of supervisors or managers is to ask their staff to respond to a simple questionnaire containing questions such as these:

  1. My manager genuinely listens to me when I speak to him/her.
  2. My manager tells me about important things happening in the organization.
  3. My manager communicates clearly to me what his/her expectations of me are.
  4. My manager consults with all appropriate team members before he makes important decisions.
  5. My manager communicates team member views and concerns up the line effectively.
  6. My manager acts appropriately as a leader in the organization.

If you don’t want to be too pointed about seeking approval to rate your boss’s communication skills, you could add in other questions such as questions on the communication skills of senior management or your peers in your department, or even asking questions about other generic behavior of your boss.

Staff ratings of supervisors or managers’ communication skills can quickly be calculated and summarized from the responses to the questionnaire. Notice the statements are about behavior rather than attitudes. It is much easier to change observable behavior than underlying attitudes.

Show peers the results

Ideally, this type of survey would be conducted across your organization. Then the results could be tabulated into a table comparing all the managers’ results. The important thing then is to circulate the table to all managers and if possible discuss in a meeting in which they are all present. This will unleash powerful competitive peer pressure among the managers to do better next time.

The above measures relate to outputs rather than results. Results are really what matters, and simple measurement techniques can provide the mechanism to improve operational results. You can take the initiative and achieve impressive results by using measurement techniques to identify operational communication blockages and reach solutions that clearly improve profitability or productivity of the area.

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