5 Keys to Fixing Communication Before You Lose Another Employee [Updated 6/29/20]

The leaders who master these 5 core principles keep their superstar employees, while other mangers watch theirs walk across the street to the competition

Masterful communication is vital for your success as a manager. Motivating employees, sharing your vision, and interacting with people all depend on your ability to properly communicate. If you don’t get this right, you run the risk of losing some of your top performers, possibly to your competitor across the street. You have to learn how to communicate well if you are to lead your team in a clear, positive way.

Yes, your priorities are focused on pushing the business forward, but that work is accomplished through people. Because of that, you need to take care of your team and communicate effectively. The way you give direction determines how well your team members executes the tasks assigned to them. Clear communication leads to happy employees who are more satisfied with their work.

Here are five keys to fixing communication before you lose another employee:

1 – Connect with your employees on a personal level

The best managers have a positive attitude that connects well with others.

Remember, employees are not just your worker bees; they’re people. Living, breathing humans—just like you. They have families, aspirations, hobbies, and personalities.

Dr. Tony Zeiss, author of Build Your Own Ladder, writes: “People hire people. People promote people. Be a people-oriented communicator, learn to build trusting relationships, and then you will be able to take advantage of this important law for career success.”

Show that you care about your team members by connecting with them. Operate out of a positive and caring attitude towards others. Even something as little as remembering their names can go a long way.

In his article on Forbes, John Hall has frequent communication listed as the first of his 5 Ways to Connect With to Connect With Your Team on a Personal Level. There’s so much value that comes from breaking through the leader/employee relationship. You can only find that when you look at your employees as people.

By caring for your employees, you lead by example. You show everyone that it’s important and valuable to care about the work you do, and the people you work with. After that, an environment that fosters good working relationships and people that care about their work grows.

“People hire people. People promote people. Be a people-oriented communicator, learn to build trusting relationships, and then you will be able to take advantage of this important law for career success.” ~ Dr. Tony Zeiss

When people put their minds and hearts to working well, your company sees a positive impact. Why? Because engaged employees lead to world-class companies.

2 – Support your team with guidance and wisdom

Once you connect with others, supporting your work “family” is much easier and feels more natural. For example, suppose some close friends ask for your help. You know them well, you care for them, and it’s your pleasure to help.

They also have no issues telling you about the problem so you can clearly understand everything. As a result, you’re able to use your wisdom and experience to help and both parties are satisfied.

Now imagine if you were asked to do the same for a group of people you didn’t know. First, you’re less likely to go out of your way to help them, especially compared to assisting your friends. Second, they might not want to share the real issues if they’re embarrassed.

It’s silly to think you would end up with the same positive outcome. Your advice and the result would be nowhere near the experience with your friends.

Offering support to your team members works the same way. If they don’t feel comfortable asking you for advice or help, you won’t be able to fix the problem.

However, once you connect with them, it’s natural and easy to work together. By focusing on connecting before issues arise, you pave the way to support them when they are having problems – and they’ll be more willing to help when extra work is needed.

In How Organizations Can Prevent Employee Disengagement, we talk about the importance of trust between leaders and employees. Your employees need to be able to trust you. Trust that you have their best interests at heart, trust that you’re telling them the truth, and trust that you’ll listen (and respond) to their concerns. That develops over time, as they see how you are able help them through the things they deal with.

As you develop trust and wisdom between you and your employees it will also help you handle any conflicts amongst your employees since they trust you and they value your wisdom.

3 – Be humble, approachable, and open

The next key to effective communication is to make yourself approachable and easy to talk to. Often, approachability comes from caring for others and showing your willingness to support them. Genuinely caring for others shows them you are willing to listen to them.

Do people feel comfortable coming to you with problems now? It may sound simple, but many managers miss the importance of being approachable. Don’t make the mistake of looking or being so busy that people don’t feel comfortable coming to you. Softening harsh language is another way to create an approachable attitude.

Benjamin Franklin once got some great advice; a kind friend explained that his harsh opinions and offensive talk were so negative and repulsive that no one wanted to share their thoughts aloud with him.

His friend admonished him – if his behaviors persisted, he would never learn and grow; he would merely stagnate. Franklin took this advice to heart, and adjusted his behavior. His conversations turned more pleasant and others were more receptive of his ideas.

Don’t make the mistake of looking or being so busy that the very people you are there to guide don’t feel comfortable coming to you.

He changed his abrasive ways and gained by kindness what he had wished to attain by badgering. When your communication is considerate, other people are more eager to listen to you. So be considerate and pleasant when you speak to others. Kindness goes a long way!

4 – Communicate intentionally and with purpose

One of the most important parts of communication is making sure your communication has a purpose. It’s also the most overlooked. If you are wasting time talking about nothing, how can you expect your employees to be 100% productive during the day?

Some tips from VistaComm on communicating with purpose include:

  • Have a plan
  • Consider your audience
  • Be clear
  • Make it real
  • Create impact
  • Keep it frequent

Instead of winging it, be prepared to speak before you communicate with your team. Make your interaction worth the time and effort for everyone. A short rule of thumb: If you are not connecting, teaching, correcting, or motivating your employees, you’re probably wasting your time and theirs!

If your conversation is a simple “Hey, Bob! How’re the kids?” you don’t have to be prepared with a full-fledged speaking agenda. However, in settings where you’re giving work assignments or conducting meetings, be sure to set goals for what you want accomplished. This helps employees grasp the details of a particular task and helps them understand the finished product.

Giving them a whole picture is the most effective way to communicate the importance of what they are doing, and helps them find personal motivation to achieve your goal.

5 – Be open to taking questions for the sake of clarity

Stop to take questions after you give an assignment. If your employees aren’t clear, listen attentively and give an extra effort to explain further.

Propel Magazine advises, “Take an EXTRA moment to explain something to a team member, and you will soon have an EXTRAordinary team.” When you explain effectively the first time you give an assignment you save time and avoid backtracking.

It takes a good leader to create a positive environment where questions can be asked. If you make your employees feel stupid when they ask questions, you’re missing a great opportunity to eliminate problems in the future. If there are things preventing your employees from asking questions, Alison Davis recommends ways to encourage them by eliminating the pressure of the spotlight, allow plenty of time for Q&A, or simply ask them what’s holding them back (5 ways to encourage employee participation: How to manage people’s reluctance to ask questions).

“Take an EXTRA moment to explain something to a team member, and you will soon have an EXTRAordinary team.”

Make sure your employees understand by letting them ask questions. Another way to find clarity is to have them repeat their job back to you after you explain it. Overall, set goals for what you want to get accomplished in conversations, and make sure that when you speak, it empowers them to do better, and be better.


Any leader who wants to keep their top performing team members must learn effective communication skills. Now you have the five keys to fixing communication before you lose another employee:

  1. Connect with your employees on a personal level
  2. Support your team with guidance and wisdom
  3. Be humble, approachable, and open
  4. Communicate intentionally and with purpose
  5. Be open to taking questions for the sake of clarity

Be a masterful communicator and you will empower your employees to be the best that they can be. They’ll be happier in their job, and won’t look for any new job opportunities. Under your leadership, they will succeed, and so will you.

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