111: Avoid These Common Communication Mistakes with Alisa Cohn

So much of what a manager does relies on good communication skills. Yet effective communication practices are not always obvious or intuitive. When managers become intentional about their communications, they can turbo-boost the effectiveness of their team members while strengthening relationships and trust.

In this episode, I speak with Alisa Cohn. Alisa is the world’s top startup coach. She has worked with clients such as Etsy, Venmo and Foursquare and others you haven’t heard of yet….but you will! She also writes for Inc and Forbes and is an angel investor and Broadway investor.

Alisa and I talk about common mistakes managers make when communicating with their team members. We talk about power and authority, delegation, micro-management, chat tools and more.

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Key Takeaways:

  • It’s easy to forget that you have positional authority (i.e. you are someone with power) so what you say carries a lot of weight even if it’s not intended to.
  • To counteract the negative side of this positional power, you must build psychological safety. Demonstrate to your team that you listen and remove obstacles. Consider using phrases like “I’m wondering about” or “this is just a thought” to clarify and explicitly signal when you’re in brainstorm, not decision mode. Offer to have another conversation about it rather than move forward.
  • Be thoughtful about how you delegate. What work, to which person, how you onboard them to it, etc. You must be clear about what finished looks like before you can ask someone else to take over.
  • Talk with each team member about what the right forms of autonomy are for them – what they feel confident with, where they need help / want to grow. Make this a regular conversation so you can both continue to refine and evolve your oversight.
  • Clarify decisions and next steps at the end of a meeting. Ensure people are on the same page to reduce confusion going forward.
  • Make a plan with your team for how you’ll use each mode of communication (chat, email meetings, etc). Chat is great for engaging many people and quickly gathering responses. Email is great for longer information sharing and response time. Agree on document storage norms, too, so people can find what they need.
  • Talk with each team member about their schedule and home-office setup, and work with them as needed to create the optimal working conditions.
  • Everyone should spend 1-3 hours per week on planning and strategic thinking. This is the time to organize your week/days so you can focus on the important (not just urgent) and streamline your productivity for the week.
  • As a manager, part of your strategic thinking time is to reflect on each team member and how you can best support them to make progress – what do they need from you to be successful? How can you help them grow? Are you fully utilizing their talents and capabilities?

Additional Resources:

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