How communicators can use the 5 F’s to help managers’ messaging

As information cascades through an organization, supervisors often deliver crucial details to the largest segment of the workforce. Some do just fine; others need assistance. Try these tactics.

All too often, managers are hired despite sketchy communication skills.

Still, they are tasked to deliver crucial information to—and from—the troops.

Here are five top reasons why organizations do employ managers:

  • To scale business owners’ ability to direct the work of employees and others
  • To scale the business owners’ ability to detect problems and opportunities
  • To speed up decision-making by moving it closer to the issue
  • To provide an interface between employees and executives
  • To model and enforce rules and norms within an organization

Communications professionals can bolster these functions in an increasingly digital world by changing and capitalizing on “The Five F’s.”

1. As communication professionals, we can help socialize and normalize new methods to increase and improve managers’ interactions with their teams. For example, instead of holding the tired weekly or monthly target meetings, try replacing them with a daily 15-minute standup, removing roadblocks and opening lines of communication.

2. People hide behind formality when they don’t feel confident in their ability to convey an idea. Employees look to managers not just for their guidance on tasks, but for context and an answer to the question, “How does this affect me and our team?” Communicators can give line managers context about the company’s business goals, its societal impact and cultural aspirations, building managers’ confidence through increased clarity and transparency. When they feel personally connected to the organization, managers can confidently translate business goals into their own words, use personal examples and perspectives, and share what it all means to their teams.

3. Historically, the manager directs, and the employees listen. Communicators can shift the focus from the manager leading the conversation by talking to leading the conversation by listening. It’s amazing how the dynamic can change when managers do not feel pressured to be the wellspring of communication.

4. Employing “snackable” content in our editorial strategy goes beyond mere brevity to helping line managers deliver information to their people. This approach differs by organization, but consider technology options such as Yammer, Slack and Facebook Workplace to help managers communicate more informally, helping them become more personable and approachable.

5. Do your managers have the right tools to facilitate conversations, or are they just shuttling information up and down the hierarchy? Communicators can facilitate these facilitators by developing a discussion guide with them to drive exploration and innovation, rather than just providing a list of talking points. The best discussion guides provide enough structure to encourage a manager to feel confident in sharing context with their teams, ask exploratory questions, handle confrontation, and collect and share insights.

A version of this post first appeared on the Institute for Public Relations blog.

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