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Think Before You Speak
Being intentional about communication fosters an ideal workplace.
In today’s business landscape, managers who are intentional about building clear, concise, and consistent effective communication strategies help set their companies up for lasting success.
“I believe it is the foundation that trust, teamwork and productivity are built upon,” said Julie Brown, owner and founder of JBrown Counsulting, a professional HR firm in Georgia.
Laying this foundation allows for employees to be in a workplace where they feel heard and valued, ask for feedback, experience high engagement and higher job satisfaction, offer empathy, and form healthy relationships and real comradery.
This type of energy, Brown believes, drives the culture of the company making it the ideal place to attract and keep the best and brightest.
Effective communication is more than spouting words. It is commonly understood as the exchange of emotion and intentions behind the words clearly conveyed so the message is understood by the person for whom it was intended. We know the communication is effective when the receiver of the message responds in a way that makes the sender feel heard and understood.

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However when managers aren’t intentional about their communication strategies, words spoken or written without thought become the traps used to create chaotic and ineffective workplaces. In these environments, absenteeism, low productivity, low morale and safety issues run rampant.
“Leaders could unintentionally be making someone feel discriminated against, not included, sabotaged,” Brown said. “The worst pitfall of ineffective communication is what I like to call mutiny among the hourly employees or the team. It’s us versus them.”
She explained that the “us” are those who got the information and know what to do and the “them” are those who didn’t get the effective communication and are confused. This type of atmosphere breeds a “have-or-have-not” environment and can eventually ruin the team and the company as a whole. 
But, ineffective communication does not have to be your team’s or company’s reality.

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Instead, build an environment where managers and employees are intentional about their communication styles.
“Companies that really have a great internal communication strategy have given their leaders and employees platforms and opportunities to be able to do this consistently,” said Brown, who has more than 20 years of HR experience.
Some of those platforms include Zoom, Teams, Slack, Asana, GoToMeeting, Flickr, and many others. With these, you can send a quick message, weigh-in as a team with creating documents in real time, or use video conferencing to bond with your teams. Effective communication on these platforms helps companies stay in touch with both face-to-face and hybrid employees.
“In today’s time when you are hybrid, in order to be effective and work within a team, the most important thing that needs to happen is understanding the mode of communication and engagement,” Brown said. 
With hybrid workers and their managers, each must have an understanding of the communication platform being used, how to use it, and how often to use it as well know the method of accountability.
“There is no more water cooler, copy room, etc. where we can find out updates on projects,” Brown said. “Being able to get those tools that allow for collaboration and accountability no matter what time zone you happen to be in would be the most effective.”

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In addition to platforms, leaders must engage with their employees. Two simple techniques to do so are active listening and check-ins.
The check-in consists of four basic questions: How are you doing? What are you working on? What are some of the barriers or pitfalls you may encounter when trying to complete the task successfully? How can I help contribute to your goal?
“Being able to communicate those four simple components will allow the employee to feel like they have a voice that’s being heard,” Brown stated. “It allows for the employee and the manager to have an environment in which is collaborative.”
These check-ins can be daily, weekly, or even monthly depending on what works best with your team or department.

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Becoming an active listener in conversation is another simple technique. Its key component is giving someone your undivided attention.
When the other person speaks, stay engaged. Maintain eye contact whether in person or on video conferencing. Don’t fold your arms across your chest. Instead, keep your body open. This communicates to the other person that your presence is a safe space. Once the other person stops speaking, the listener should take a beat to digest what was said, repeat what was heard, allow the other person to clarify anything that was misconstrued, and then agree on the message so correct action can take place.
This especially helps when deadlines loom or projects turn. Sometimes, the employee or even front-line manager needs to reassess the project to adjust any deadlines or deliverables. Being an active listener opens the door for that type of communication and allows the manager to collaborate in finding a solution.
Everyone should take an active role to maintain effective communication. Whether you work in reception, the field, or the C-Suite, fostering an environment where being understood is priority number one creates an atmosphere where everyone feels respected and valued. And at the end of the day, this is the type of workplace most people enjoy.
Brown couldn’t agree more.
“Seek first to understand before you try to be understood,” she encouraged. “Listen more. Speak less. Be mindful of who needs to hear the message.”
Nichole M. Palmer is an independent wrtier in Charlotte, N.C.

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