Improving Communication With Your Employees

Follow these tips to motivate employees to become better performers and future company leaders

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Let’s imagine Sarah needs a special project done as soon as possible. She approaches one of her resourceful employees, Ken, to see if he can complete the project for her. Instead of directing Ken to get right on it, she explains to him that she has a problem. She describes the project and then asks if he can help her out.

Ken is a bit surprised by her approach and says, “Sure. But, you’re my boss. It’s not like I can decline.”

Sarah responds, “Actually, if you have something more important to do, I want to know about it. Then I can make a decision. Do I make a priority call on your time, or do I need to find someone else to do this project?”

Ken says, “I have a project I am working on for George. I should be able to complete your project now and still meet George’s deadline.”

In dire situations, a leader must give orders based on their position — with no pushback or discussion. In today’s workplace, this is often not very effective. People resent being told what to do, especially when they receive conflicting direction from multiple bosses.

There are benefits to a manager treating their employees like volunteers. You should treat them like they can say no or walk away at any time. It encourages feedback. It improves morale. Often times, the feedback provided can prevent wasted time, money and materials.

Here are some ways to lead your “volunteers”:

Share the big picture

Give your people a sense of purpose. Regardless of whether they are driving a vacuum truck or completing a clerical task: if they don’t perform their task well, the product or the company will suffer. Put the importance of their work in perspective.


Give clear direction. Create alignment. Encourage respectful pushback. Be accessible. Not only have an open-door policy, but walk around. If you show up at people’s work area and engage them, they may ask you a question that had not reached the threshold for them to call or come visit you. Create those opportunities.


One way to have people enjoy working for you is to encourage them to grow. Remind them of the importance of training themselves. Give them suggestions on things to learn. You can help their development by giving them new “stretch” assignments and responsibilities. Then, be patient and nurturing as they ascend the learning curve. Coach them through any reluctance they have to leave their comfort zone. They will feel better about themselves and be more valuable team members.

Play to their strengths

Know your people. Know what they do well. Know what they don’t do well. While you want them to grow, it is your responsibility to know their weaknesses that may be too hard to develop. You have to realize that people are what they are. Honor them by capitalizing on their strengths and not fighting them over their weaknesses.

Show respect

People want to be respected. Don’t be that person who doesn’t make eye contact or acknowledge others when you walk into a room or down the halls, approaching someone like your long lost best friend only when you seemingly need a favor.

Acknowledge experience

There is a saying that everyone is an expert within 3 feet of his or her workspace. People who have been doing a task for years or who have been with the organization for years have valuable insights. Realize that. When you approach them on an issue, take time to honor that experience and listen to them. Nothing irritates a seasoned performer more than when a new leader comes in and wants to share their book learning and tell them what to do. Listen with the intent to understand first and then discuss the best way to solve the problem. You will come up with better quality solutions and have a team that respects you.


Be grateful for the big things and the little things. Always remember to say “please” when asking someone to do something and “thank you” when someone does something for you. So often, this doesn’t happen, and the leaders are unaware of the effect. Also, seek out opportunities to catch people doing something right. People want to be appreciated. Go out of your way to show them.


In the end, Ken was able to complete Sarah’s project on time as well as meet George’s deadline. He felt good about how he was approached and allowed to be in a position to succeed on both tasks.

He also had a new appreciation for what it takes to be a good leader. He used to think that he could never be a leader because he didn’t like ordering people around. He is rethinking that position because he knows you can be a leader without acting like a dictator.


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