The article was published in The Globe and Mail on 22 November, 2019.

Employees don’t quit their job, they quit their boss.” It is a fact and studies bear this out. In the article Employees Want a Lot More From Their Managers from the Gallup publication Workplace (April 8, 2015), Gallup tells about one of their studies involving more than 7,272 adults who had left their jobs. It showed that 50% of them left to get away from their managers. A Canadian study released on October 8, 2019 by the Robert Half organization found that 39% of people quit their job because of a bad boss.

No doubt you can attract talented employees with a nice offer, but you won’t retain and engage them if they don’t have a great employee experience. And the manager’s communication has much to do with it.

In that same article, Gallup mentioned another of its studies, this one involving 7,712 adults. The study revealed that managers who consistently communicate with their employees and display a genuine interest to know them have a positive impact in their staff engagement level.

But being consistent isn’t enough. What practical and effective communication techniques should be used by managers? And how can managers communicate with their employees in a reliable and motivating way?

In the classic book: ‘How To Win Friends And Influence People,’ self-improvement and corporate-training guru Dale Carnegie showed how to communicate effectively, and I encourage anyone who is leading a group of people to heed his approach. Here are two tips.

Tip #1. Begin your conversation with praise and honest appreciation

Let’s say you just hired a developer. John is creative and driven. He typically delivers more than you expect but has a problem with deadlines. He is always way behind the due date and sometimes his delays directly impact the business.

The dilemma for you, his manager is how to address this problem without alienating an otherwise talented person. Put another way, how can you apply Carnegie’s approach to handling an effective conversation with John that benefit both of you?

You could say: “John, I really appreciate your creativity and drive. You have done this and that for the company and it looks fabulous and fits perfectly with our brand. The only area of improvement that I notice is when it comes to delivering the final work within the agreed timeframe. Do you mind sharing with me how you determine the timeframe needed to complete a project? Perhaps together we can find a better way.”

The goal is to be yourself and have a genuine discussion while supporting John. It is important to show you trust him and that a truly collaborative discussion between the two of you will resolve things.

Tip #2. When you make your request, convey to the other person that they will personally benefit.

Jen is your administrative assistant and recently prepared a great slide deck that was well received by a client. You want to use that same slide deck for another client but it’s going to require updates. However, your meeting with that client is the next day, so you need Jen’s help.​

So once again, how can you the manager apply Carnegie’s approach to handling an effective conversation with Jen that benefit both of you?

This is how not to do it:

“Jen, I meet a client tomorrow and need this deck right away. Update the background with their logo, change the date and names, and adjust the colours with their brand. Forget everything else and focus on this today so I can have it ready for my meeting.”

A much better approach is:

“Jen, your last slide deck was so well received. Thank you so much. I want to use it again for a meeting with ABC tomorrow. But it needs some updates and I have them. It would be great if you can make those changes and complete them by 2 p.m. which still gives us time to review and then we can go home at 5 with peace of mind. And tomorrow your work will make us look first-class again and you will have done your part once more to provide a great client experience.”

A final word of advice from Carnegie: “The only way I can get you to do anything is by giving you what you want.” In other words, good communication is a pillar of any relationship. So, communicate with your team the same way you wish everyone would speak to you at work or outside of work. Ultimately, this type of communication will impact employee engagement and boost productivity. A bonus is that you feel good about it yourself. It’s a win-win.

Carine Lacroix

Carine Lacroix

Carine Lacroix is founder and CEO of Reneshone, an Oakville-based HR company powered by facts and data which focuses on employee engagement for organizations of 5-3,000 employees.