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Managers as communicators


Lynn Fraser of The Wayland Partnership is the contributor of the following guest article which will be followed on Wednesday with “Six ways to help line managers support internal communication”.

Line managers in many organisations hold the key to effective communication with staff. They can build a bridge – or erect an eight-foot brick wall – between central management and frontline staff.

Time and time again, surveys show that supervisors and line managers are the preferred source of information for staff. They are in the ideal position to facilitate two-way communication, to interpret messages and to make sure that everyone is reached and included. However, as often as their potential is acknowledged, their action – or inaction – is blamed for poor communication. Too often line managers seem to be acting like blotting paper, soaking up information from above and below and never passing it on.

There may be practical reasons why your managers might fail you as communicators, such as a lack of time or an organisational structure that makes it difficult for them to reach people. In some instances, managers may lack the skills (although it’s surprising how much better people can communicate when it’s important to them). There are also human reasons why they may not communicate – information is power and they may be reluctant to give it up.

Whatever the reasons, it’s worth trying to overcome the problems to support your line managers as communicators – after all, if they’re not part of the solution they will undoubtedly be part of the problem.

Benefits of managers as communicators

As effective communicators, managers can:

  • Provide ‘global’ access – line managers provide a network that reaches out into all parts of your organisation.
  • Add credibility – line managers have the power to make your message believable.
  • Make information relevant – line managers can put your message in context and translate it into appropriate language.
  • Increase involvement – line managers can facilitate two-way communication, encouraging discussion and gathering feedback.
  • Influence attitudes and actions – line managers who have the respect of their teams can act as opinion leaders.

Lynn Fraser is a senior partner with The Wayland Partnership, a communication and training consultancy based in Kingston upon Thames in Surrey.

see Lynn’s previous article Raise the profile of your T&D function with an ‘internal identity’

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