This is an occasional series describing (anonymously) a real challenge faced by one of my Ohio or Michigan clients and my recommendation to them.
Please let me know what topics you’d like to see included in this series.
Correcting Supervisor’s Employee Communication Challenge
Scenario: A team conducts research for a professional services firm. The company’s sales declined significantly during the 2008-2009 recession and large reductions in headcount took place. With sales recovering, the company isn’t getting fast enough responses from this research group and is investigating how to correct the situation.
Personality Patterns (as reported by PI®)
Department Manager – Persuasive Management/Sales PI® Reference Pattern
Very High B, Very Low C, High A, Cutback D
Typical Employee – CrafstmanPI® Reference Pattern
Highest D & C, Lowest B, Low A
The Issue: The team complains that their supervisor does not communicate with them well and this is limiting their ability to perform. The typical employee is an introverted, “heads-down” worker who focuses on data and facts while preparing reports. The Department Manager is an impatient extrovert who loves to talk with everyone in the company and he is shocked, and even hurt, by his team’s complaint.
The Department Manager is a natural communicator who readily understands and acts on the company’s key priorities. He is in constant contact with key decision-makers and relays the latest “news” to his team members when he stops by to talk with each of them. Because he sees himself, accurately, as someone with good interpersonal communication skills he was blind-sided when his team pointed to communication dysfunction as the source of their performance shortfalls.
The typical team member is a methodical analyst who produces expert work via a step-by-step process. Team-members still worry about their employment status due to lingering emotional trauma from the terminations that took place during the recession. The Manager’s preference for one-on-one conversations makes those not included suspicious about what was discussed with others. They find the Manager’s constant updates on “news” in the company to be disjointed interruptions that get in the way of their work. Despite constant conversations, they do not feel they are in touch with what’s happening.
My recommendation to the Department Manager was to focus on the communication needs of his team rather than rely on his natural style. This is a common coaching message my ADVISA clients hear from me regarding how to supervise people.
His team will understand and respond more effectively to structured, formal communication that puts everybody on the same page at the same time. Explaining how any changes impact current priorities to maximize workflow predictability will pay dividends in improved performance.
I also emphasized that he could continue to use his natural strengths to leverage his network with peers and other company leaders – acknowledging and supporting the value of his skills in this area made acceptance of the recommendations for interacting with his team easier to accept.
Result: The Department Manager instituted regular team meetings with detailed, advance agendas and follow-up “minutes” to document key decisions. The Manager delegated these administrative tasks to ensure quality work. The communication dysfunction ceased to be a problem.