Speaking to Your Boss Vs. Peers Vs. Junior Team Members
Communications is not a one-size-fits-all model. In fact, effective communication requires you to think about what your audience cares about. For 1-1 communications, this is especially important. You will want to consider this question: what is your relationship and its dynamic to the person you’re speaking with? The answer can be either they’re more senior than you, your similar-level peer, or someone who reports to you. Understanding the conversation dynamics will help you create an effective message.
Below is a deeper dive into the 3 different dynamics to help you better approach your conversation.
1. Speaking With Those More Senior than you
When speaking to someone with seniority (your boss or your client who you are accountable to) establishing credibility should be your top priority. Your boss or your client wants to know if you are going to be taking up their time or saving them time.
When it comes to your speaking, you’ll want to keep your conversations and information concise and high-level. This will show you’ve done your homework ahead of time.
There are a few ways you can build your credibility through communication:
Start with the Most Important Point – Don’t leave the most important point to the end of your conversation. The last thing you want is for your boss to get called away and you didn’t have a chance to tell them the most important thing. Always start with the most important point.
Don’t Exaggerate – Inflating results, or exaggerating successes won’t build your credibility. In fact, it will make it harder for those who have seniority to trust you and your opinions. So, when speaking with those who have seniority, keep your answers to the facts even if the facts aren’t as stellar as you had hoped.
Admit What You Don’t Know – It is really hard to admit to someone more senior you don’t know something. But if you truly don’t know, it is better to admit it than be caught up in a lie trying to prove that you do. Instead, consider admitting that you don’t know the answer but you will find out. You can say you are going to research and get back to them or ask a colleague who knows.
Own Your Mistakes – Owning your mistakes is another difficult thing to do. No one likes to admit they messed up. But remember, if you own what you’ve done, you will build credibility because you are honest. It seems counterintuitive, but the more those with seniority can count on you to be upfront the more credible you will be to them.
As you enter into a conversation with someone who has seniority be sure to do your homework and keep your credibility in mind.
2. Peer Conversations
When you are speaking with those who are on your level, such as your co-workers, they’ll want to know if you are trustworthy. In order to be seen as trustworthy, you will have to be a bit more vulnerable.
There are a few ways that you can do this:
- Share thoughts (excitement or frustrations) about a project you are working on
- Ask for their input on something you are working on
- Be authentic
- Share experiences
One of the most important ways you can showcase your trustworthiness and vulnerability is to have a high emotional intelligence or EQ. There are several ways you can use your emotional intelligence while communicating with your peers
Actively Listen – Listening is one of the most important things you can do if you want to be a better communicator. That means being fully present. The more you truly listen to your peers the better you will be able to respond to them.
Respond Don’t React – If things aren’t going right and you’re feeling frustrated with your peers, it’s easy to send an email in the heat of the moment. But that doesn’t show a high Emotional Intelligence. Instead, think about your response. Don’t respond in the heat of the moment. Pause, and collect your thoughts.
Be Assertive – Instead of talking about your co-worker behind their back, be assertive. What this means is to talk to them directly. You can use your emotional intelligence to communicate your needs while also respecting your co-worker.
Be Self-Aware – Spend time thinking about your interpersonal relationship with your peers. How are you coming off? What can you do better? How can you foster better relations with them? Likeability is key to career success.
Remember, your peers and co-workers need to know that you are there for them. These are the people who are in the trenches with you. Being trustworthy and establishing a good working relationship with them is key.
💡We recommend the e-course “Assertiveness Basics” to help you learn steps on becoming more assertive.
3. Speaking With Those Who Are More Junior Than You
We characterize someone more junior than you as someone who reports up to you. As you speak to those who are more junior than you, keep in mind they want to know if you care about them. Studies have shown that those who feel more cared for at work are more engaged and effective. There are several ways you can show your team you care about them.
- Share your vision – When you share your vision for the project you are managing, you’re allowing your team to feel included in the process. When your team can see the end goal it will feel more like a collective effort that everyone can get behind. People don’t generally like to get “boss’d” around, so sharing the bigger vision is a great way to clue people in and build motivation.
- Be Visible – You have to show up for your team and your company. If you don’t lead by example, your team won’t feel cared for. One of the biggest ways to do this is to have a visibility strategy in place. If you are working in a hybrid model or 100% remote, you will want to make sure that you have a strategy in place. In our LinkedIn Learning e-course, Building Your Remote Visibility Strategy, you will learn how to show up for your team so they know you care.
- Listen – Communication is all about listening. When you listen to your team they will feel heard. An employee who feels heard and empowered will be more engaged to do great work for you.
- Give constructive feedback – There will be times when your team needs feedback. Giving constructive and fair criticism in a judicious way (see the SBI or Sandwich Method) shows that you care and want them to succeed.
- Show your appreciation – Showing your appreciation is another way your team feels cared for. You can show your appreciation by saying it, emailing, or bringing in coffee. A little appreciation will go a long way.
- Give opportunities for advancement – If you see someone who is doing well, offer them a chance for advancement. A great leader surrounds themselves with great people.
- Say Thank You! – Saying Thank You acknowledges someone on your team. Employees want to be seen and heard and a simple Thank You can do just that!
The more you show up for your team and show you care the more you will get out of each person.
Tailor your communications to what your audience is thinking about:
- More senior = credibility
- Peers = trustworthiness
- Junior = care
This will help you become a stronger and more effective communicator.
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