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Communication Tips for New Managers and Team Leads

The path to successful digital transformation is multifaceted, requiring a delicate balance of leadership, innovation, and change management. Business advisors with expertise in human behavior, business management, and technological change offer a holistic approach to navigating this path. Their guidance empowers leaders to foster a culture of constructive criticism and continuous improvement, driving operational excellence and technological adoption. In doing so, they pave the way for organizations to not only survive but thrive in the digital era. In this article, we will explore the three simple ways to foster more collaboration, acceptance and the seeds of excellence tin the workplace. Managers, Supervisors and Team Leaders - this one's for you.


Keys to Engagement: Understanding the Impact of Tone

Effective communication is one of the fundamental pillars to a success transformation of our business processes, digital technologies and teams. It fortifies engagement and enhances performance, establishing a robust work culture. A pivotal component of communication is the tone adopted, particularly when offering feedback or constructive criticism coupled with non-verbal queues. This article explores the significance of tone in communication, the art of active listening, and the creation of a feedback-friendly culture, as well as strategies to embrace constructive criticism for beneficial outcomes in our workspaces.

Imagine stepping into the office, the air humming with productivity, your team engaged and responsive. This is not just a dream — it’s within reach. As you begin to adopt a symphony of communication strategies, watch your team transform, your leadership strengthen, and your organization’s culture flourish.

At the heart of any digital transformation is a very human need to be acknowledged, appreciated and understood. While many businesses have opted to keep psychology practitioners out of the workplace, every great manager knows that employing the basic principles of human behavior and communication help foster an environment where constructive criticism is not just accepted but welcomed as a tool for growth and improvement. At its core, it’s the emotional undertone of our messages shapes perceptions and can affect morale, motivation, and productivity. A positive, constructive approach encourages teamwork and openness, whereas negativity can cause misunderstandings and dissatisfaction. Key attributes of effective tonality include:

  • Clarity: Clear, concise messaging to avoid confusion.

  • Empathy: Compassion towards colleagues builds trust and camaraderie.

  • Confidence: Assertive communication, coupled with openness to different viewpoints, garners respect.

  • Respect: Valuing each other's input promotes a cooperative atmosphere.

Think of the last time that you spoke to a colleague that you enjoy working with. Pause and reflect on the melody of your voice — most people take for granted how powerful a tool it is that sets the stage for your message. Think back and visualize your words as ripples, each one capable of building a wave of positivity or a storm of discontent. Picture your tone as the warm, reassuring light of a sunrise, bringing clarity, empathy, and respect into every interaction. Your confidence — not overbearing but inviting — becomes the cornerstone of trust.

I know, it sounds funny to think of your words this way, but in communicating with people we like and / or appreciate, the tonality of our voices can carry the same positive feelings of a warm, sunny day.


Crafting Constructive Feedback Like an Artist

What about when the conversation topic isn’t quite as delightful? Think back, did you shift your tone to being dramatic, sharp and demeaning, or did you pause more allowing empty silence to fill in the blanks of disapproval?

Thankfully, there’s a better way.

Constructive criticism is not about personal judgments but about encouraging improvement through specific, actionable insights. It emphasizes issues over individuals, fostering a supportive environment. Here's how to approach it:

  • Situation, Not Person: Focus on the issue at hand to avoid personalizing feedback.

  • Specificity with Examples: Offer clear examples to pinpoint areas of improvement.

  • Guidance for Enhancement: Suggest practical ways to better performance.

  • Positive Reinforcement: Balance feedback with acknowledgement of strengths.

One way to consider this is to yourself mastering the conversation like art. It’s like painting on a vast canvas, but instead of brushes, you use specific, actionable insights that guide your team towards improvement. Envision your feedback not as criticism but as seeds planted in fertile soil, from which skills and abilities grow. Balance is key — for every area that needs development, there’s a strength to be acknowledged. You'll be surprised to see how much this balance fosters a culture of motivation and a desire for excellence.

Here's a few common examples for you to try out:

Example 1: Providing feedback to an employee who's often late

Instead of saying,

"You're always late, what's your problem?"

Try this instead,

"We've noticed that you've been arriving late to meetings recently. This is unlike you, is there anything where you could use some help?”

The key in this scenario is to be genuine when you offer to help and be specific about what they’re doing, in this case - attending meetings late. Often, vague criticism can be confusing, unhelpful or perceived as an attack.

When presented as a pattern that is unlike what you’ve seen before, you are giving your colleague, team member or friend the opportunity to get whatever’s off their chest and to “reset.”

Example 2: Providing feedback about a bad presentation

Instead of saying,

"Your presentation skills need work, that sucked."

Try this instead,

"In your next presentation, consider using visual aids and rehearsing beforehand to help convey your message more effectively and to reinforce how well-researched and thorough your report was; the extra practice will help you be more concise and you’ll naturally refine the final sections. Keep up the excellent research.”

Balancing criticism with positive feedback is a tremendous way of helping others feel recognized and acknowledged for their efforts. In this scenario, addressing the issue with the focus of a sculptor, providing guidance with the wisdom of a mentor, and engaging in dialogue with the openness of a friend will instantly add rapport with your team member, reaffirming your belief in their potential.

Remember, as a race, humans naturally want to reciprocate so something as simple as this will spark a natural inclination to want to show up better the next time they’re faced with doing a presentation.


The Role of Active Listening

Active listening is integral to effective communication, ensuring that feedback is both given and received well. It requires full attention and genuine engagement. This is one of the easiest ways to showcase empathy.

Much like our CEO, Sarah Mae, always states:

“Empathy is NOT about handing out hugs or consoling comments; if someone needs sympathy, that's ok, but it's not the same as empathy. Empathy is the ability to pay attention to what someone is saying, to remain engaged in the conversation to understand their perspective, their challenges and, most importantly, what they need to remove their impediments. Essentially, empathy is just active listening.”

Active listening is an art and science that involves:

  • Eye Contact: Demonstrates focus and interest.

  • Distraction Reduction: Ensures undivided attention.

  • Restating to Confirm Understanding: Validates the message received.

  • Open-Ended Questions: Prompts further discussion.

  • Non-Verbal Affirmations: Encourages continued sharing.

  • Patience: Allows complete expression without interruption.

  • Actionable Steps: It’s critical that once help has been accepted, there needs to be clear actionable steps that direct what happens next.

This is the bedrock of trust and the hallmark of great leaders.


Putting it all together

As you integrate these insights, you begin to see the change. Your leadership is not just about managing — it’s about inspiring, encouraging, and leading by example. You're not just a manager; you’re a visionary leader. Embrace this journey, and let the vision of being an amazing manager in your company become your reality.

I’ll fill you in on a little secret we share with our clients that changes how their teams operate almost overnight: Resistance to any criticism or change, usually stems from a fear of inadequacy.

So what do we suggest? When a leader is conscientious of the tone they use when they communicate hard-to-swallow messages, structure the criticism in a way that showcases it’s them against the problem (not each other), and listens intently to what they express and agrees on a plan of action where the first step is very small, but requires action the same day they unlock an immense feeling of relief in the employee who needs improvement all while demonstrating support from their leader. The ability to overcoming this resistance in a very simple way, unlocks the desire to reciprocate the support that was experienced, and this changes the game.

About our Advisory and Coaching Practices

In today’s fast-paced digital transformation era, Senior Leaders and Business Managers are increasingly relying on the expertise of Executive Advisors specialized in human behavior, business management, and technological change to help them expedite the delivery of their transformations. Playing a crucial role in navigating the complexities of organizational change, enhancing employee engagement, and streamlining operations, at Paragon Digital we take a people-first technology augmented approach where our clients reap the benefits 2-years, 3-years and even 4-years after completing their transformation.

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