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8 Elements of Effective Communication


Consider these eight elements to effective communication the next time you coach or counsel an employee.

"People who feel good about themselves produce good results.” - Kenneth Blanchard, author of “The One Minute Manager.”

This is one of my favorite quotes that I am mindful of in today’s healthcare environment.

This quote is so important because truly believe people are the most productive when they are happy, and they will go that extra mile. And as Roger Staubach, former NFL star-turned businessman, said: “There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.”

However, we know that as managers/directors there are times when we must coach and counsel employees - and we must do this in a way that the recipient maintains his or her self worth and hears our message without becoming defensive or feeling put down. What happens when a subordinate becomes defensive and feels put down? They do not hear your message.

When I coach or counsel employees I have found these eight elements to effective communication helpful. I learned these from a reading by management gurus David Whetten and Kim Cameron.

  • Focus on the problem not the person. Focusing on the problem does not lead to focusing on the individual personal traits. Remember the goal is to key in on behaviors and the events and develop a solution together.
  • The communication is based on congruence not incongruence. What does this mean? Match the communication both verbally and nonverbally to what the individual is feeling and thinking.   Often, employees are not even aware of the correlation between their feelings and their actions. When coaching and counseling it is important for us to match our verbal and nonverbal communication to how we feel.
  • Be descriptive not evaluative. When coaching and counseling, describe the events as objectively as possible. Describe how you feel and the consequences and propose acceptable alternative solutions. Do not be accusative.
  • Validate, rather than invalidate, the individual. This is done by simply giving the employee time to participate in the conversation. Employees feel validated when they can give their opinion, ask questions and are encouraged to participate in the discussion.
  • Be specific not global. The point here is to be as specific as possible and avoid the use of general statements.
  • Be conjunctive not disjunctive.  Your message should flow smoothly. Disjunctive communication has three results: one person interrupts another, there are long pauses in the conversation, and one person controls the topic of conversation.
  • The communication is owned not disowned. The communicator takes responsibility for the message by using word such as “I”, “mine” and “me.” Words such as: “they said” or “we think” indicate disowned communication. The disadvantage of disowned communication is that the listener is not sure whose point of view the message represents.
  • Communication requires listening. We all know the importance of listening. People feel valued when they feel heard.  The biggest benefit of talking the least is you learn the most.

The next time you’re engaged in a coaching or counseling session try utilizing these eight elements to assist you in communicating your message.

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