How to help line managers communicate better
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How to help line managers communicate better

Line managers can get a bad rep when it comes to communication. They are often seen as the barrier to communication campaigns and helping change happen.

So, why is this? First, we need to understand the purpose of the line managers role.

Line managers responsibilities and role in communication

The role of a line manager is to be a bridge between employees and senior management teams. They are responsible for managing from one person to a team of employees to achieve organisational goals.

This includes:

  • Hiring the right people
  • Providing performance feedback and coaching for team members
  • Communicating and ensuring the team understand team, department and organisational goals
  • Measuring each individual and team metrics and performance against targets and monitoring progress
  • Evaluating team and individual performance and delivering performance reviews
  • Ensuring a high-quality standard of work and performance
  • Providing reports on productivity and other KPIs to senior management

This is just a snapshot view of what is required from line managers but gives a flavour of what is required from the role.

Their focus is around their team’s productivity and development.

It is very easy to see why they would focus more on this rather than improving their communications skills, when it could appear that it takes away from their primary role, when in fact it is a fundamental skill of a line manager.

Communication is a key part of this role. Not only is it around making sure individuals and teams understand what the strategic goals are for the business, but it is also about communicating well with each team member about their performance and their productivity to senior management.

So, if a line manager doesn’t hone their communication skills, then they aren’t able to achieve their own or their team’s objectives.

The skills they need

So, we know that line managers need to communication skills. Usually, though, people are promoted because they are very good at their job which sometimes has no correlation to communication skills.

So, they are placed in a line manager position, but then don’t have the required skills to either manage and coach a team or communicate effectively.

Which skills do they need?

  • Listening skills
  • Presentation skills
  • Communication to senior management
  • Negotiation skills
  • Cross-level communicating
  • Diplomacy skills
  • Coaching skills

This is a big range of skills needed for communication and can appear quite daunting for line managers. Communication is often seen as a soft skill, but there is a lot more to this than you first think. It is much more strategic than you realise.

With these skills, line managers will be able to communicate up, down, across the organisation and with their own team members.

These skills will improve their other fundamental responsibilities connected with the line manager role.

Read this great blog post from Rachel Miller at All Things IC, she asks more than 70 professional communicators how to help managers communicate.

Coaching and skills education

Where can line managers learn these skills?

By taking part in coaching and training courses.

There are some great online training courses available, specifically around improving line managers and those responsible for communication. A great way to learn while we’re in this continued lockdown and pandemic.

The first course we recommend is our online training course – Better prepared to communicate with your people in your business.

Another great course to look at is the Institute of Internal Communications Communication Skills for Line Managers.  

Both these courses will give you a great overview of the purpose of communications, the impact they can have on people around you and the practical elements and tactics you need to know to successfully communicate with your people and your teams.

Setting them up to succeed

Line managers are the nervous system within a business, they connect employees with senior leadership, they ensure employees understand the organisation’s strategic direction. They also help develop and improve the team’s performance and productivity.

By understanding what communication skills they need, we can help line managers excel in their role, allow them to achieve their goals and really connect them with their people.

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