Leadership Advice

A friendly communication reminder to managers

Advice from Jill Geisler, Bill Plante Chair in Leadership & Media Integrity, Loyola University Chicago and Freedom Forum Fellow in Women’s Leadership

Here’s a truth that will surprise no one in journalism. Media organizations — filled with professional communicators — often do a poor job of communicating with staff.

It’s a challenge in the best of times, and it’s even more complicated, clumsy and error prone these days. People are dispersed. Our virtual meetings range from effective to exhausting. We use multiple channels for everyday information. We miss and misread messages. We vent to each other in backchannels. We’re stressed. We’re tired. 

So, managers, let’s redouble our efforts to communicate with care and candor. Here are 10 questions to ask yourself and your management colleagues:

  1. Before we send out a memo to the masses, do we think about all the stakeholders involved and make sure those who are the closest to the issue aren’t blindsided by it? Do we need to touch base with them first?
  2. Do people feel they can easily get a one-on-one conversation with us? Do we leave space in our days or schedule “office hours” so they can connect?
  3. Are we succinct and clear in our communication? When people are buried in messages, are we making them work too hard to get through ours?
  4. Do we have the right mix of written and verbal communication? How do we know?
  5. When things are getting tense and there’s conflict or confusion, do we step away from the keyboard and shift to having personal conversations?
  6. Do we let people know when we need something immediately and when they can take their time? (Managers’ messages can seem urgent when they’re not.)
  7. Do we regularly provide sincere, specific feedback on someone’s work — making sure to share appreciation, encouragement, reinforcement and praise — not just corrections and critiques? 
  8. Do we need to re-evaluate our meeting schedules or structures?
  9. Are we blessedly free of management-speak in our messages?
  10. If we asked our staff how our communication is working, what would they say?

Finally, are we thinking about how we’ll be working six months from now, or a year from now, and making sure effective communication is a key part of our planning?  If so, are we involving and informing people, so we do it right?


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