There are many factors and skills that can make a good manager in the work place.  Empathy is one of my favorites, and of course being a good listener is crucial, but recently I have noticed that one of the traits that have proved really valuable is the ability to distill information and explain it clearly.

Of course getting things done is one of the most important factors in a manager’s performance; but there are lots of other important peripheral tasks as well– such as motivating employees and keeping them excited and productive (which also ties into getting things done).  One sure fire way to motivate your team is to make sure everyone clearly understands the “why?”.  People are given lots of tasks and sometimes it is unclear how their particular task fits into the big picture or overall strategy.  Taking the time to clearly explain why a certain feature is important can go a long way to helping someone understand their role in the success of the team or company.

And besides motivation, managers also need to be able to provide constructive criticism in clear easy to understand language.  And, more importantly, since each person has a different learning style, and what is acceptable to some can be offensive to others, learning how to explain things in many different ways can be a great asset to a manger looking to cultivate and grow their team members.

So, how do you get better at explaining?  Here are some ideas:

Break a problem into pieces. Like an exam question or a puzzle, breaking things up into their pieces can aid in an explanation.  If there are a lot of steps to solving a problem, going through each one in sequence can help someone see the path from a to b.

Draw a picture. For example, if you are trying to explain a complex project, drawing a diagram and showing how all the pieces fit together can help one see how their piece fits into a big picture.  Being able to show visual examples can help a lot of people spatially piece different parts together into a holistic view.

Use examples.  This is my favorite–especially when giving feedback.  If you can help others learn from similar situations it makes it easier for them to relate.  And when giving someone feedback it certainly makes them feel like they are not alone.  I like this approach because it establishes a pattern, which can then be repeated and it certainly easier to remember.

Start from the beginning. People can grasp things easier when things are laid out in chronological order.  Starting from the beginning can help others see the evolution of an idea.  For example, if you are trying to explain a new company strategy, start with the goals, the steps to achieve those goals and how the strategy helps make forward progress with each step.

Repeat yourself.  As silly as this may sound, saying the same things over and over, and sending out the same message consistently ensures that the key points will get communicated.  It really helps some people to hear things multiple times, so in those cases repeating the same message in the same or different verbiage can really help get everyone on the same page.

These are few ideas to get you started, and I am sure there are lots of others.  Regardless of your technique though, good communication is an important skill for any manager and something all of us can continue to improve throughout our careers.

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