It's an essential skill to build genuine relationships and advance in life and business. A manager that is able to convey a message to their team in the right way is able to move mountains. But a manager that sucks at communicating is able to drive the whole organization nuts.

So it's one of the utter most important things for managers to get right.

Most new managers or companies mistake communication for talking. Just because someone uses a ton of words doesn't mean what they have to say is important.

Another pitfall is to over-regulate communication:

  • Following exact guidelines.
  • Ignoring everything that happens between the lines.

None of the above examples helps a fresh manager with the hard parts of communication.

Communication is hard because there always are two parties - the sender and the receiver.

And this is where the trouble begins.

  • We all have different backgrounds and perspectives.
  • We experience language in different ways.
  • We use slang and dialects.
  • We don't know how the other person perceives our words.
  • We don't know what happened right before the conversation.

It’s hard enough to speak the same language, but it gets worse when we are not speaking in our mother tongue. Then we need to translate it back and forth in our heads.

Now that we understand the major issues, we can start asking the right questions:

How can we make sure the receiver understands us?

Pay attention to what you say, your words carry weight. If someone gives you a strange look, ask for clarification. Figure out where it went wrong. This may sound strange and feel awkward. But it will improve your relationship when you set a common ground in the beginning.

And second, relax - life is easier when you don't look for enemies everywhere. If someone said something doesn't attribute malice immediately. People are nicer than you think.

Next, managers need to understand the position they take in their communication.

When you talk with or about your team you need to be aware of the position you take in your communication. Do you talk about “them” or do you talk about “us/we”? Do you consider yourself part of the team or not? It’s important to understand the impact the choice has.

Are you about to praise the team, it’s fine to address them with “them”. This takes you out of the equation.

So, if you would do this when the team screwed up, it looks like you are giving away the responsibility. Then you either include yourself as in “We screwed up” or even take the blame on yourself, as you are responsible, and say “I took the wrong decision.”

It’s not only how you address your team.

It’s about the identity the team develops, and the perception that comes with it.

You can discuss values for the team in workshops and regularly put them up for review. But this is temporary. What makes a difference is how the team sees and talks about itself.

Are we “the losers that always deliver last minute”, or are we “the professional quality-minded engineers”? But to be perceived like that you must live this identity. Even when no one is watching.

Don’t be the professional team on the outside, but act like a kindergarten when no one is watching.


That's it, we have covered quite some important perspectives on communication for new managers.

Since this is the first issue of the newsletter, I'd be happy to hear what you think.

Is this content you are interested in or am I missing something?

Hit reply, and let's chat!

-- Daniel

P.S.: Next time we will talk about listening properly, as this takes your communication skills to the next level.

How to communicate in your team