Engineering Manager: Effective Communication – DZone Agile

In this article, a follow-up to the Engineering Manager series, we’ll analyze the challenges of communication and some tips to improve the process.

, there are many definitions of CommunicationsBut in the context of this article we have an easy way to define it as a process by which information is exchanged between people, Organizations and employees, engineering managers and engineers, teams or departments.

People usually associate good communication with other concepts such as organization transparency, open culture, or horizontal organizations. Some examples that I was given by coworkers are the frequency of all-hands meetings, or the ability to speak with key stakeholders in the company. Now, it is a misconception that what is meant by good communication, as all these are indicators of company culture. These are really the only channels available for the exchange of information or frequency of communication.

Provides value when communication is effective, This is the first question we must ask ourselves as engineering managers or organizations—is our communication or organization’s communication effective?

What is effective communication?

From my point of view, effective communication is a process By which information is exchanged and the message is received and understood with clarity and purpose.

now Remember all the broad or global meetings you’ve attended and think about:

  • How many people noticed the meeting
  • How many people actually understood the message with clarity and purpose
  • How often were we focused on something else during a global meeting?

As managers, if we are unable to answer the first two questions, this is the first point we need to improve. So there are three important questions which we need to analyze before any communication:

  • What is the purpose of the message and what goals do we need to achieve?
  • Who is the target of the people?
  • Is the information clear to everyone?
  • How do we check that the message has been received and understood by the people?

As managers, we are responsible for making sure we have these questions covered in all scenarios. We need to break the message together with the team to make sure there are no misunderstandings. Common scenarios are:

  • When we have the message before we can communicate, whether we are speakers or not
  • When we don’t have message before communication

We always need to be aware of the message and the intended recipients, because sometimes the target audience of some messages is not all the people in the meeting.

In other cases, the objective may be simply to practice transparency or to increase motivation, the key is to focus on understanding not all the details but the overall idea.

An example is finance report, of course, part of the message should be simple and understandable to all, but many times the rest of the information is such that it requires finance knowledge which not all people have.

Csequence No. ofneeffective communication

The effect depends on the purpose of the communication, but common ones are:

  • misalignment: People not working together to achieve the same goals And don’t share a common purpose, but they think they are, This is one of the most dangerous because we have two consequences people’s motivation is being affected and company goals are not being achieved.
  • de-motivationMotivation: Motivation enables and motivates people to achieve their goals. But feeling demotivated not only produces the opposite effect but also affects physical well-being as it spreads very rapidly through teams and organizations.
  • fail to meet expectationsExpectations are beliefs that something will happen or that you will get something—and that the meaning of “something” is important.

When communication is not effective there is an impact on the alignment of the organization. The first indicator of non-effective communication is not having a common and clear vision of priorities and milestones between departments.

Often the simplest messages lead to the worst misaligned situations because it gives way to interpretation.

four commons scenario

global meetings

When C-levels provide simple messages without context, it can produce consequences on the alignment and priorities of teams. The main reason is that these words come from a key decision-maker in the company, so many people understand that they must change their priorities as quickly as possible to achieve the new goal.

Messages like “We have to increase sales and you’re all salespeople” can create a misalignment or de-motivation for a number of reasons. A very common example is a support engineer or software engineer who wants to “be a salesperson.” The message should mean that all employees should identify upsell opportunities and share them with sales teams, not that the engineer should start sales instead of focusing on the technical.

Product Features

What usually happens is that the expectations built around an initiative do not align between different teams. One reason for this is that each team has a different experience, knowledge, and sometimes culture. A common problem when talking about product development among product, marketing and sales teams is misunderstanding. One can talk about the ability to support use cases and the other can understand that certain use cases will be implemented.

one better than the other

Common examples of not meeting expectations are promotions in terms of role or salary, sometimes the engineering manager does not provide a clear message or the engineer does not understand it. Generally, engineering managers cannot guarantee promotion, as there are many factors they cannot manage such as financial position or open vacancies. They provide the requirements to be eligible for promotion and follow-up with the engineer.

culture

The culture of the people depends a lot on the country where you live or live. When you convey a message to people from different countries it is not understood in the same way, even in some cases it may be a vulgar message to some of them. For example there are many differences between Spanish, Japanese and North American culture, think of something basic as suggestions:

  • In the United States, tips are almost mandatory because they complement the salary.
  • In Japan, tips are not accepted and can cause problems for the employee.
  • In Spain, tips are optional and usually in very small quantities.

Tips for improving effectiveness

a persistent message

Key messages create more trustworthy and trusting relationships between employees, the organization, and customers. Following are the general characteristics of compatible messages:

  • Use simple language that is understandable to all.
  • The message is aligned with all departments or areas of the organization.
  • The same message is provided by all the important stakeholders of the organization.
  • The message is distributed across various channels of meetings, newspapers, social media or Slack.
  • Objectives, goals and expectations should be clear and measurable in most cases.

provide one CPersistent message requires actions to match with the message and this is the basis to make positivehigh performance, and trust on Relationship,

body language

Communication is made up of verbal (words through various channels) and nonverbal cues or “body language”. Body language is an untold part of communication when we are speaking, we are instinctively using physical behavior, expressions, and various speech intonations. In our day to day, usually, we don’t focus on our body language and it is shown unconsciously, hence people feel when we are sad, happy or upset.

in professional scenarios When we are delivering a message to our team, organization or customer, body language is even more important than verbal. in such casesour behavior and expressions have to be conscious whenever and align with the purpose,

The best communicators and leaders convey their message and vision primarily through their body language, Think of the great leaders of history in whom you can feel the power of their message, even if they speak other languages ​​you don’t understand.

In this article, we are not providing specific tips to improve your body language, but here is an interesting article by Galina Hitching “Powerful Body Language Hacks for Successful Leaders”.

Provide and need feedback

Feedback is very important to identify whether the message is understood correctly, sometimes feedback comes naturally but in other cases when people do not provide it, we need to ask questions to clarify some points. Must ask. Remember that a message has a purpose so it is our duty to verify that people understand the message.

Ask questions to clarify some points: “What do you think …”, “What do you think?” or “Do you think this is an improvement?”

always a written reference

Spoken messages are spread over time, think about how many messages we receive during the day, not only in our professional time, but outside as well. Furthermore, human memory is complex and memories are changed at times.

It is common that people do not remember certain details or miss messages, so it is very important to always provide a written reference to the message. People use this context to review a message, share it with other people, or discuss doubts. In my opinion, written reference is essential but there are other additional options such as video or audio recordings. Documents support quick searches and readings.

repeat in message

Often the message is aimed at promoting cultural values ​​or improving workflow models as these are long-term challenges. These types of messages require constant communication because:

  • The repetition of the message eliminates the natural noise of communication. External factors that distort the message such as misinterpretation, ignorance, or ignoring communication channels.
  • The unconscious reflex influences decision making by people.
  • Reinforces the importance of the message.

Previous communication with middle management

The middle management layer is fundamental to providing effective communication, so it is very important to ensure that they understand the message. The reasons for the previous communication with the management layer are the following:

  • They are the first point of contact for engineers within the organization.
  • They are responsible for supporting the team, resolving non-technical doubts and achieving goals.
  • They are part of the circle of engineers’ trust.
  • They can provide initial feedback and concerns regarding messages and help optimize communication.
  • If they don’t understand the message or even misunderstand the message, they’ll probably inadvertently create a misalignment situation.

Obviously, there will be messages that the organization does not want to share with them at first, but there must be conscious decisions based on the purpose of the message or the context of the situation.

conclusion

Effective communication in an organization has people aligned to achieve goals, this means that messages have to be understood, people’s motivations have to be fostered, commitments have to be achieved and actions have to be triggered. Of course, outputs and goals must be measurable.

The important thing about communication is not the number of messages. generated, but how effective are they, Non-effective communication means that you are probably making decisions with the wrong information.

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