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3 Tips for Improving Your Communications

As a manager, you have so much to do and so little time to do it. You know communicating with your staff is critically important, but how can you make it easier? Here are 3 techniques you can use:

* Because I said so isn't always enough A leader's power comes from his/her followers. If your staff rejects your directives, you're toast. Here's how you can work out your differences with a staffer who fails to follow your instructions.

- Confront the issue. Meet with the employee to discuss what's going on. Don't be afraid to ask for his/her perspective. Example: "Joan, this report isn't what I asked you to do. Can you tell me what happened?"

- Be quiet. Once you've asked the question, resist the urge to put words in her mouth. Remain silent until she answers the question completely.

- Give in for now. If you have the luxury of time, let the employee prove you wrong. Example: "If I let you do it your way and it doesn't work, will you agree to rerun the numbers?"

- Share power. Encourage the employee to suggest solutions to the impasse. Example: "How are we going to keep this kind of misunderstanding from occurring in the future?"

* Use templates to speed writing Save time by creating written templates for everyday correspondence. Even if you end up customizing these standardized letters and e-mail messages, you'll still save time over creating something from scratch.

First, find an example of your (or someone else's) best letters, reports, contracts and proposals. Use them as a guide, then customize as necessary.

One of my clients uses templates for some 40 basic letters. One letter is a response to a request for donations, another is a rejection letter, one is a quarterly scheduling letter distributed to district managers and one is a welcome letter for new clients.

Note: Don't use templates for sympathy notes, individual thank you messages and congratulatory messages. These kinds of occasions require highly personal - sometimes handwritten - notes.

* Avoid harsh military metaphors. Be careful about using military metaphors such as "shoot to kill," "take no prisoners," "attack," "firepower," or "war zone." While they can help inspire employees facing a crisis or intense competition, they can also be inflammatory and divisive. When you need to motivate without creating controversy, try these:

- Nature metaphors such as "cycle" and "evolution."

- Music metaphors such as "rehearse," "harmonize" and "orchestrate."

- Dance metaphors like "lead and follow," "synchronize movements" and "choreograph."

These metaphors are just right for everyday collaboration.

By Kathleen O'Connor

Kathleen O'Connor is the owner of the O'Connor Success System which provides professional growth programs for managers and entrepreneurs. To access our free resources, visit our website at You can sign up there for your free 4-part mini-course on communication skills and a free subscription to our monthly e-zine, "The Edge."

O'Connor Success System 511 Avenue of the Americas, #276 New York NY 10011-8436 Phone: (212) 924-9339 Fax: (212) 924-3222 E-mail: info@O...

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