Leadership means communication above all


Communication is not a one-way street. It never has been and it certainly is not under digital working conditions. But digital communication also needs to be learned. The following article provides impulses on how to succeed.

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In the future, only very few employees want to return to pure presence work. At the same time, companies are offering more and more jobs where home office is partially or even completely possible. This hybrid working world offers opportunities, but also poses problems for companies. To empower employees and promote good teamwork, companies need to change their management style. And the way they communicate.
Managers can do a lot of things wrong in their day-to-day work. But they can also do many things right. In the digital transformation, employees need modern workplaces and digital tools. In phases of professional reorientation, qualified contact persons and suitable counselling services are becoming increasingly important. Companies need self-management and self-organisation. Managers can support, accompany and empower their employees. However, this requires strength, perseverance and above all: communication, communication, communication.

Concerned about cohesion

How can leadership succeed while coping with new forms of cooperation? With employees predominantly working from home and rarely returning to the office, many leaders are concerned about how to maintain a motivating work atmosphere in digital co-working and how to continue to foster the productivity of their teams. Especially in the hybrid working world that will shape the coming years. Communication is the key that leaders use to strengthen the cohesion and development of their teams. Whether heads of small teams, heads of departments or CEOs of companies: Without exception, they all need to discover, develop and apply their communication skills.

Instead of convincing employees to 'come back', it is now time to seize the opportunity of participative design. (Jule Jankowski)

In everyday work, however, managers often reach their limits. What can they do, for example, if people no longer want to return to face-to-face work? "Instead of convincing employees to 'come back', it is now time to seize the opportunity of participative design," Jule Jankowski, systemic organisational consultant, emphasises in an article in New Management. The individual wishes for more autonomy must be contrasted with the requirements for common goals and cooperation to possibly find out that there is no contradiction at all. And for this, teams now need space for discourse and reflection.

From feedback to workshops

The communicative corridor is large and offers numerous channels. Regular feedback meetings give managers and employees the opportunity to reflect on their own work, to praise, to address problems, to seek solutions and to improve cooperation. The classic appraisal interview is about common expectations and goals, about personal and professional development. In workshops, teams regulate their cooperation and agree on their mutual understanding. But not every place allows teams to work together creatively and communicatively. As the example of a famous animation studio in California shows.

Unintentionally, we had created an obstacle that prevented people from contributing. (Ed Catmull).

After the worldwide success of "Toy Story" in 1995, Pixar founder Ed Catmull wanted to remove all those obstacles that stood in the way of inspiration and creativity. Despite numerous changes, one thing remained unchanged: In the large conference room there was a long and narrow table. If you wanted to talk here, it was best to sit in the middle. The seating arrangement was therefore determined by place cards. Those who sat at the end of the table or in the second row could not hear the conversations. A communicative problem. "Unintentionally, we had created an obstacle that prevented people from contributing," the founder states in his book "The Creativity AG". Catmull finally got rid of that table and replaced it with a square table. The place cards also disappeared. Communication between managers and employees opened up immediately. Everyone felt free to contribute.

Communication on all channels

In 2022, managers are not only dealing with conference rooms and seating arrangements. With the help of digital tools such as surveys, chats, onboarding apps and wikis, they facilitate unhindered and constant communication within the company. Used consistently, they promote what is already working. But they also identify what is not working. And they can react more quickly to everyday situations. Communicating on all available channels: Many managers and employees find this a great challenge.

Communication means listening, taking the other person seriously and responding.

Communication is hard work. It requires digital skills and the willingness to deal flexibly with change. But communication also needs clear rules and honest exchange. Managers should learn to respond to their employees' questions in an unbiased, attentive and structural way and to react appropriately to their needs. Employees will feel more and more secure and in turn learn to address their concerns openly and directly. Communication means listening, taking the other person seriously and responding. After all, communication is not a one-way street.

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