Effective Communication for Managers

The Importance of Effective Communication for Managers

Being a manager is a multi-faceted position. It requires managing personnel and resources, solving problems, thinking critically and creatively, being a leader, and coordinating many moving parts simultaneously. However, to be a successful manager, there is nothing more critical than exhibiting excellent communication skills. Even still, developing adequate communication skills in managers is often not appropriately prioritized.

In 2006, the Journal of Communication published research examining how much time people across different roles spend on workday activities. The data showed that 50%–80% of the workday is spent communicating, with the bulk of that time dedicated to talking. Today, the proliferation of technology, including email, instant messenger, text, and video chat, has diversified how colleagues communicate at work. For managers, it’s never been more important to understand how to hone communication skills and leverage different communication channels and styles to engage colleagues and both external and internal stakeholders.

This article will explain the importance of effective communication for managers, the four types of communication and provide tips for being a better communicator.

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Importance of Communication

Communication skills are among the most vital soft skills any professional can have. These verbal and non-verbal interactions occur across in-person meetings, video calls, emails, messages, or any platform to facilitate employee collaboration.

Good communication is the key to being successful, as you are responsible for consistently gathering and disseminating information to the right people. This includes talking and listening to colleagues, presenting to stakeholders, and sharing information with the appropriate personnel. You also need to spend time coordinating projects and keeping your team aligned on what tasks need to be completed.

Without adequate communication, you risk work not getting done, the misallocation of resources, duplicating assignments, and missing important milestones. For example, if your company contracts an outside organization to complete a project you’re managing, you must communicate the division of labor to your internal team and the contractor. If the internal team does not know the specifics, they may assume the contractor is doing a set of tasks, while the contractor may assume those tasks are the responsibility of the internal team. Nothing may get done if you don’t properly communicate roles and expectations. Conversely, both parties could assume they are responsible for the assignment, and each completes it, resulting in double the work needed.

Proper communication isn’t just about productivity, either. As a manager, it’s critical to understand your employee’s needs so you can help them succeed and thrive in their role. Sharing feedback and encouraging them to communicate their thoughts and ideas will help them be more efficient, improve collaboration and help you succeed in your role.

4 Types of Communication

The four primary types of communication are verbal, non-verbal, visual, and written. While talking is typically the most common mode of communication, supervisors need to be strong writers and presenters and understand how to control their body language.

Here is a description of the four forms of communication, as well as examples and advice for improving your skills in each.

Verbal Communication

The most common types of verbal communication are speaking or sign language. Managers use this form of communication at work more than any other. Verbal communication usually occurs during presentations, teleconferences, phone calls, meetings, and one-on-one conversations. Verbal communication is essential because it is efficient.

You can be a more compelling and engaging verbal communicator by using a strong speaking voice, enunciating your words, and avoiding filler words such as “um,” “like,” “so” or “yeah.

Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal communication is using body language, gestures, and facial expressions to convey information to others. This form of communication is beneficial for trying to share and read the thoughts and emotions of other people. Conversely, being aware of body language is critical because it is easy to send the wrong message accidentally.

You want to be aware of your nonverbal communication, especially during interactions with subordinates. Eye contact, smiling and nodding are good ways to show your employees you’re actively listening to them, which is essential for building trust and making them feel valued at work.

Visual Communication

Visual communication is using imagery, photographs, graphics, drawings, sketches, charts, and graphs to transmit information. The most common form of visual communication in a professional setting is creating slides for a presentation. A visual aid such as a bar graph or data table helps provide additional context for your audience.

Written Communication

Written communication is sharing information through writing, typing, or printing. With the rise of technology such as social media, instant messenger and email, writing is the most common form of communication next to talking. Many professionals find writing the most efficient and straightforward way to communicate because it provides a record of information that is easy to reference. It’s a great way to provide explicit instructions and feedback on a project.

Writing is commonly used to share information through books, pamphlets, blogs, letters, memos, etc. Emails and instant messages are the most common forms of written communication in the workplace.

To be a good writer, you should keep your language simple, concise, and clear. Avoid using sarcasm or punctuation, as your audience might misinterpret what you’re trying to say. Also, you should always review your written communications before sending or presenting them. Writing that includes typos and grammatical errors can seem unprofessional and less authoritative.

How Much of a Manager’s Time Is Spent Communicating?

Considering the four forms of communication detailed above, it’s no surprise that managers spend most of their time communicating. In fact, data shows that a manager can easily spend 90% of their time on communication in an average day. This time adds up quickly between all the meetings, emails, reports, presentations, and instant messaging completed in an average day.

6 Time-Saving Tips for Effective Communication as a Manager

With such a significant percentage of the day devoted to communication, it’s vital to know how to conserve time while ensuring you can make the most significant impact. Here are six helpful tips to be a better communicator while saving time at work:

  • Always be clear and concise in your communication. Avoid using jargon or technical terms that might be unfamiliar to the receiver.
  • Provide context and background information to help the receiver better understand the message.
  • Pay attention to body language and tone of voice, as these can often communicate more than words alone.
  • Ask questions to ensure you have a shared understanding with the receiver.
  • Keep everything updated regularly. If your project files are updated, you can communicate much faster. Use the modality that works best for everyone.
  • Get your team’s help and keep them involved.

Final Thoughts: Communicating as a Manager

71% of employees think their managers need to spend more time explaining goals and plans. This stat indicates that despite the significant time spent communicating, there is always room for improvement. Employees look to their supervisors for transparency and direction. They want managers who will help get them involved and set them up for success, leaders who are committed to building trust and collaborating. Getting them there requires open, honest, and transparent direction and feedback.

You can become a better communicator by focusing on a few critical skills, including:

  • Accommodation: Every employee has unique needs, whether that’s being aware of their cultural sensitivities, adjusting to remote and hybrid workers or medical requirements
  • Active listening: Paying attention to what your employees have to say ensures they feel appreciated and heard and helps facilitate trust.
  • Transparency: Don’t dilute messages or directions to your team. Be direct about your thoughts, plans, and objectives when giving instructions.
  • Collaboration: Show your employees that you’re part of the team. Get involved, keep yourself available, and proactively contact them throughout the day to keep communication lines open.

Becoming a good communicator is the secret to being a great manager. It makes you a better leader by keeping team members aligned and subsequently helps projects progress on time and within budget. It’s always the right time to work on your communication skills.

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Erin Aldridge, PMP, PMI-ACP, & CSPO
Director of Product Development at
Erin Aldridge, PMP, PMI-ACP, & CSPO