Good communication as a leader is much like yoga, it’s a practice that you do every time you speak with another person. You have to flex to each situation and each individual because each conversation is unique. The way you communicate is influenced by your actual words, your body language, the location or environment, as well as the mindset of your listener.
Becoming a good communicator is as much about improving your situational awareness as it is outlining the points you want to make in the conversation. Take for example, having a conversation with a rock-star employee who asks for a raise in their salary. They have been performing at the top of the pack since they were hired, and regularly going above and beyond without being asked. When they approach you asking for the raise, they outline not only their performance within the organization, but also include market values for the same role at other companies. So how do you approach this situation?
Do Your Homework
First of all, did you notice the employee brought comparative salaries from other companies? That means they have already done some research to know they could get paid more elsewhere. Not to say it is their intention to leave if they don’t get the raise, but it’s your job as the manager to pay attention to these details. Are they asking for the raise because their spouse just lost their job? Or have they taken on additional workload which has changed the nature of the position making it more valuable? Have you done your homework to know what the cost of keeping that employee looks like versus having to start training someone new?
Time to Assess
Whether you know the answer to this hard question or not, it would be best to then ask the employee for some appropriate amount of time to consider the request. This could include reviewing budgetary factors, doing your own market analysis of the position, or even considering possible changes organizational structure. Alternatively, you may reflect on this employee and determine that their performance has been inadequate, and their extra efforts have actually occurred instead of them doing the necessary functions of their assigned job. So where do you go from here?
Practice, Not Perfect
Whatever direction this conversation is destined to go, either a joyful yes or a woeful no, here are a few strategies to practice when communicating with others, whether the topic is a raise, performance plan, exciting opportunity, or undesirable change.
Be Human First – Always be kind, regardless of whether your message is good or bad. Talk to the person in a respectful manner, remembering people are complicated.
Seek Out Purpose – Believe that all people want to feel like their contribution is valuable. Ask the employee what their long-term goals are so you can align opportunities or corrective action accordingly.
Identify Action Items – What specifically needs to happen in order to achieve the outcomes from your conversation.
Talk Timeline – Be specific on when things will or need to happen. Put them in writing and mutually agree. This creates buy-in and shows respect between individuals.
Plan Follow Up – Identify a specific point when you as the leader will follow up with the employee.
Perhaps you agree to the raise and want to make sure it goes through in payroll? Or perhaps you created a performance plan to get the employee on a path towards future success? Whatever the outcome, practicing these simple strategies will help you be a better communicator and more importantly, a more successful leader.