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4 rules for good leadership communication

The right way for managers to communicate

When issues arise within a company, they often stem from a fundamental aspect: communication. Mistakes, misunderstandings, anger, and stress can result from lapses in effective communication. However, these effects are particularly devastating when communication comes from managers. Many people assume that they have good communication skills and therefore do not need to concern themselves with the subject any further. However, it still makes sense to prevent misunderstandings, improve employee motivation, and contribute to a good atmosphere in the company.

What are the challenges of communication?

Communication in the original sense is the exchange of information. The psychologist and communication scientist Paul Watzlawick coined five principles that apply to communication and help us to explain communication and possible misunderstandings:

  • One cannot not communicate.
    Communication occurs not only through words but also through behavior, gestures, facial expressions, and various other factors. This means that two people who come into contact with each other inevitably communicate, even if they remain silent. Communication therefore takes place both verbally and non-verbally. This means that factors such as clothing style or the design of an office can also be seen as part of communication.
  • Every communication has a content and relationship aspect such that the latter classifies the former.
    This means that, regardless of the content of the communication exchanged, the communication also provides information about the relationship between the communicating people or influences their relationship.
  • The nature of a relationship is dependent on the punctuation of the partners’ communication procedures.
    This principle states that people relate communication sequences differently, which can lead to different interpretations. For example, you may be in a bad mood because a coworker seems to be avoiding you. However, the employee may be avoiding you because they think you are in a bad mood.
  • Human communication involves both digital and analog modalities.
    According to Watzlawick, facial expressions, tonality, and gestures are considered analog, while language itself is considered digital. Both aspects contribute to the overall message but do not necessarily have to go together. For example, we can answer the question of how we are feeling with “fine”, while our facial expressions indicate that this is not the case.
  • Inter-human communication procedures are either symmetric or complementary.
    People have different roles or behaviors. For example, if a manager communicates with employees, the communication takes place on different levels (complementary). If, on the other hand, the manager is talking to a direct colleague, the communication is symmetrical. This context in turn influences how the communication is interpreted.

At this point, it becomes clear that what you want to communicate may be received completely differently by the other person. Much of what you want to convey will probably be lost on the way from you to the other person. Instead, things that you did not intend to communicate may reach them, for example, because they are unconsciously conveyed through your body language or the environment. In addition, what you want to convey can be misinterpreted, and information can be selectively absorbed or distorted. However, if you are aware of this, you can learn to communicate better. The following tips can help you do this:

1. Listening and understanding

Many managers like to do one thing in particular: talk! But even if this sounds wrong at first, the most important aspect of communication is listening. Communication does not only work in one direction and if you learn to listen carefully to your employees, you will quickly understand them and your communication style better. This will help you later on to adapt your communication to the needs of your employees.
Therefore, make sure that you always let your employees finish speaking or that you take a step back if an otherwise quieter employee wants to say something. Openness towards your employees and your topics is also important. So deal with the issues that are brought to you and try to understand them or take on the perspective of your counterpart. This will show your employees that they are being taken seriously. Feel free to ask questions if you have not understood something or need further information.

2. Communicate consistently, credibly, and transparently

The days when a manager told you what to do without any explanation are over. Instead, it is important that employees can trust their managers. This requires consistent, open, and authentic communication. The following rules can help you here:

  • Timely: All information required for the work must be communicated to your team or individual team members in good time. Delayed information can mean that activities cannot be carried out or cannot be carried out correctly, or that unpleasant rumors or assumptions arise.
  • Timing: Some information needs to be communicated regularly. Therefore, make sure you talk to your team at regular intervals, for example in a weekly team meeting. With other information, timing is important. For example, if your employee is working on a task that requires a lot of concentration and does not want to be disturbed, communication about the next project is out of place. Therefore, before you approach someone, ask yourself whether now is the right time.
  • Complete but concise: Some people tend to withhold individual pieces of information or only pass them on piece by piece. However, this often creates unrest and prevents employees from doing their work. Therefore, make sure that the information you pass on contains all the necessary aspects, and don’t withhold anything if possible. However, do not do the opposite and burden your employees with extensive information that is not or is not yet relevant to their area of work. Otherwise, you could put your employees off their work. Make sure you get to the heart of your topic quickly.
  • True: Your employees need to feel that they can trust you. It is therefore important that you always stick to the truth. Many employees intuitively notice when this is not the case because you unconsciously send subtle signals, for example with your body language. Your credibility suffers as a result.
    Our tip: stick to the facts instead of giving your interpretations. This helps to avoid misunderstandings.
  • Structured and understandable: To make information easy to understand and process, it helps to structure it or present it clearly, for example in clear dashboards.
  • Direct: Sometimes there is a tendency to simply throw words into the room, for example in a team meeting. However, what you say usually carries more weight if you address others directly. This can be done through eye contact, but the choice of words is also crucial here. If tasks are assigned with the words “you should…” or “we have to…”, this can lead to no one feeling directly addressed or responsible for the task. The same applies to praise. Although it is important to praise the whole team regularly, special achievements by individual employees should not always be rewarded with praise for the whole team. It is also important to note that phrases that include the manager, e.g. “we have achieved a great success”, quickly come across as if the manager wants to take the praise for themselves, whereas criticism is often conveyed directly to employees.

3. Target orientation and place of communication

Have you ever wondered during a conversation what the other person is getting at? Before we start talking, we often don’t know exactly what we want to convey. Precisely because everything you communicate as a manager can also be misinterpreted, it helps if you think carefully beforehand about what you want to get across to your counterpart. In this way, you can successfully steer the conversation, express yourself more clearly, and counteract misunderstandings. This also prevents you from having to explain things several times. After all, few things are as boring for employees as hearing the “same old story” from their line manager over and over again.
If you know exactly what you want to say, it is also much easier to determine where the communication should take place: In private, at the next team meeting, via the company chat, or perhaps in the project management software. When choosing the venue, it is important to be aware that the less direct the communication, the more room for interpretation there is. For example, neither body language nor tone of voice can be conveyed in an email, so a message can be taken the wrong way. It is therefore often better, for example, to address criticism directly in private, while tasks, especially if a lot of details need to be communicated, can be done in writing.

4. Nonverbal signals

Your gestures, facial expressions, and tone of voice make up a large part of your communication. In contrast to speech, however, these signals are much more difficult to control. It can therefore help to at least fundamentally deal with the topic of body language and to pay attention to signals from your own body so that your message is not misinterpreted. The way you say something also influences how it comes across to the other person. For example, if you are angry about something, you must calm down before you speak to someone. As the other person does not know the background of your anger, what is conveyed between the lines can otherwise lead to misinterpretations.
Bonus tip: Take a critical look at what signals you are still sending: Is your office neatly organized or are there piles of documents that convey a barrier between you and the other person? What does your style of dress say? Would you prefer to wear a suit every day, or do you prefer to meet your employees casually and on equal footing? What is your posture like? Do you possibly radiate nervousness or rejection? With new interviewees in particular, it makes sense to ask yourself these questions before the first meeting and adapt accordingly. How to make a successful first impression.


We all communicate, all the time. However, as a manager in particular, it is important to avoid misunderstandings and misinterpretations. That’s why it’s important to get to grips with the topic of communication and know the basics.

Management software such as myPARM CorporateNavigator can support you in communicating the corporate strategy to your employees. For example, if you derive specific tasks and goals for your employees, they can easily understand what they can contribute to the implementation of the strategy. Communication with your employees is also simplified by the software, as the current status of a task can be easily reported back to you in the same system.

Find out more about the myPARM CorporateNavigator leadership software:

Would you like to get to know myPARM CorporateNavigator in a demo presentation? Then make an appointment with us right away!

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