The Gatehouse Blog

Line manager skills – Chuck Gose, ICology

This year, we’ve been quite provocative in saying that as a profession we’ve hoisted up the white flag. Is that unfair?

No. In fact, I was going to say that you used a very polite word when you said we’ve surrendered the effort. I’d say we have bailed on line managers! While internal communicators recognise the critical position and visibility of mid-level managers, there’s a clear lack of appreciation of the challenges they face. Line managers are very much in the middle of the organisation, and probably asked to do too much. I’m curious to see how respondents define effective. It seems to be largely based on a gut check.

When you look at the report findings, very few channels are dedicated to them. It’s likely that these line managers feel like the company may not respect the role that they’re in.

A lot of organisations rely on cascade. And it’s human to filter information – based on time available or your own interest. You can’t blame managers for not cascading down some of the information to their teams if they’re given too much.

That’s a great point. When we do audits, we often found that line managers are squeezed from every side. Maybe the starting point for us as internal communicators is to ask ourselves how we can make their life easier?

An improvement from 2018 was one-to-one coaching sessions. Maybe one-to-one sessions are too ambitious – maybe it should be one-to-few. We always talk about us internal communicators getting a seat at the leadership table, but what we need to do is to build a table for line managers, where they can discuss team engagement and learn to become better communicators.

“We always talk about internal communicators getting a seat at the leadership table, but what we need to do is to build a table for line managers, where they can discuss team engagement and learn to become better communicators.”

There’s an awesome opportunity for communicators to initiate some face-to-face conversation with line managers, whether it is using coaching sessions or focus groups.

Yet providing communication training and/or coaching is a very low priority for internal communications, with only 15% of respondents saying they are very involved in this. Do you see evidence of communicators partnering with their colleagues in learning and development?

I think many internal communicators see themselves as the doers; as the ones “pushing the buttons” – sending emails, posting messages – as opposed to those facilitating communication in an organisation. We don’t have to be that gateway or bottleneck for all communications anymore. We undervalue our own employees as content creators. In their personal lives, people are comfortable sharing things on Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn. But in many organisations, communicators still feel that it’s their domain. I would like to see them open up and let others create their own content.

As communicators, we should create the platforms to enable this and provide to the leadership; and become thinkers, advisors and counsellors. That would allow them to focus on the training and development element instead – understand what line managers’ pain points are and help them become better communicators. How can we package information better to make their job easier, and show the respect that we have for their pivotal position inside a company?

 

Biography: Chuck Gose

Research has shown time and time again that line managers are critical in unlocking employee engagement. Yet, lack of line manager communication skills has been named as one of the top barriers to success in the past five editions of State of the Sector. ICology founder Chuck Gose comments on this year’s findings.

@chuckgose