The Strategic Approach to Managerial Communications
Updated: Nov 1, 2019
Affecting Improved Resonance Between Sender and Receiver
By Ian Ségal
15 October 2019
The world today is faced with a myriad of technology devices that lend themselves to the facilitation of communication across the widened landscape of business verticals and disparate departments directed by managers in the organizational chart. With the abundance of media available to supervisors and staff, the communication process has not become easier—it has been plagued with information overload across different channels of conversation. To this point, in order to ensure not only the quality of managerial communications but the clarity of the message content, a process is required to safeguard those discussions to guarantee operational and functional harmony in the corporate environment. With this said, a framework for strategic communications is prudent to be used and followed in disseminating information required for transmission between managers and staff, superiors, resources, as well as clients and vendors.
Five Levels of Managerial Communications. The cornerstone of effective management is supported by the vitality of proficient communications. Sometimes, managers are tasked with distributing new objectives while other times they are burdened with the responsibility of sharing critical alerts regarding new corporate policies. But in order to ameliorate these communications, a manager should outline a holistic and strategic approach to managerial communications. For the purpose of offering lucidity to this method, five levels of managerial communication including intrapersonal, interpersonal, group, organizational, and intercultural need to be examined (Hynes, 2016). And with each level holding its own importance, a harmony between them all can deliver success in sequence or perform in concert with one another—similar to interdependent parts of an apparatus.
The first of these levels, intrapersonal, examine behavior, more specifically observation, evaluation, and listening (Hynes, 2016). This area is mostly concerned with the acquisition of information, providing managers with the accurate data they require in resolving problems, dealing with caveats, and making practical decisions aligned with business objectives. But at times the intrapersonal level finds itself in need of additional sources such as another person. This dynamic is opened up within the second category referred to as the interpersonal level in which two or more people (e.g. employees, vendors, superiors) will exchange their ideation regarding a subject matter (Hynes, 2016). Within this sandbox of discussion, everything from discussing information and advice to maintaining a social relationship between two or more people takes place. And yet there are times when additional resources and voices are required to effectuate the quality of communications.
During those times, the third level of managerial communications brings attention to the group dynamic which is typically manifested in the form of a meeting between a manager and staff (Hynes, 2016). Such meetings, whether planned with an agenda or impromptu, can be either formal or informal and are measured in quality by the attendees and the investment of their participation. And still, there are times when a group cannot meet the demands of managerial communications alone—requiring the next level of gathering. This, in turn, speaks to the organizational level of communications which is delineated by the interlinking and interfacing of a wider array of company employees across different departments and sometimes across other organizations (Hynes, 2016). It is at this fourth level that focuses rests upon the operational cadence of different moving parts—diverse groups—and how they impact the effectuation of outcomes for a project, program, or high-visibility job effort.
And yet there are times in which diversity rises up to a broader array of conflating thought leadership, communication, and interaction. This last and fifth level of managerial communications, intercultural, harnesses the interplay between different cultures (Hynes, 2016). With advances in technology—across the spectrum of electronic communications including voice, video, and collaboration—this area is becoming more prevalent in modern times. Innovation across different media has enabled the gathering of differentiating thoughts and ideas from larger environs of disparate cultures, each offering other perspectives across clusters of subject matters. The ingenuity of real-time messaging, telephony, video conferences, collaborative virtual environments, and of course electronic mail have successfully invited a multicultural audience from the far stretches of the globe into discussions along with their distinctive social ideals. With this said, the intercultural level often requires additional training to embrace an expansive collection of cultural cooperation promoted through effective communications.
The Strategic Managerial Communication Model. In order to bring about an operative quality of communications through each of these levels, the governance of a strategic approach is required to direct these efforts. The linkage of corporate communications to a business model is rudimentary to the success of all business operations (SHRM, 2018). And with a variety of moving parts that impact managerial communications, it remains important to further understand that each variable functions in congruence with one another for sending, receiving, and interpreting messages. To better understand the strategic approach to managerial communications, it is best to compare this schema to that of an onion. As shown below in Figure 1, this strategic model encapsulates the comprehensive ecosystem of managerial communications. Similar to the layers of an onion, each layer within the strategic managerial communication model represents another moving part that affects and is impacted by others within the integrated design of communications.
Climate and Culture The first layer of the model pivots on an organization’s climate and culture. Within the communication climate, elements such as openness and trust play a key role in bringing about the fluidity of communications, improved job performance, and overall successful outcomes (Hynes, 2016). In parallel to this, and within the first layer, all of these conversations occur within a culture that provides the cohesive means for joining members of an organization through the sharing of values and ideals. Therein lies the absorption, alteration, sharing, and spreading of ideas, thoughts, instructions, and more.
Sender, Receiver, and Purpose The second layer moves deeper from climate and culture while considering the actors, the sender and the receiver, as well as the fundamental purpose of the communication (Hynes, 2016). In many ways, underlying differences in cultures will influence the sensitivity of those people creating and sending messages. This requires mindfulness to that which segregates one ethos from another while staying in alignment with the overall communication aim (Aggerholm & Asmuß, 2016). It is best to think of this as a sender’s sensitivity to his or her receiver(s)—communicating in a manner in which it will be properly received. Within this layer, as shown in Figure 1, a manager has the responsibility of encoding the meaning of a message in a manner to be not only received and understood by the targeted audience but to mitigate misinterpretation. In consideration of the interaction of the sender and receiver while remaining tethered to the defined purpose, the successful transmission of communication relies on several key factors including relationship, status difference, receiver’s interest, receiver’s emotional state, receiver’s knowledge, and the receiver’s communication skills (Aggerholm & Asmuß, 2016). These behaviors offer analysis into the receiver of the message and can inadvertently cause distortion to the integrity of the original message, sometimes referred to as noise. Understanding the demographics, personalities, and overall behavior of the audience is paramount to ensuring the successful delivery of communication.
Additionally, inside this layer, the impetus for the message must be clearly defined to assure that the communication effort was not ill-fated. To guarantee the intended outcome of the message, a manager must analyze his or her goals, decide on message logistics (i.e. the best way to distribute the communication), and conflate one of the following reasons for communicating the message: pleasure of communicating with another employee, presentation of information, gathering of data, or persuasion of a targeted receiver of the communication (Hynes, 2016). Lastly, and essential to the primary goal behind the message, seasoned managers must be cognizant of their purpose as this will harmonize the message to the defined strategy for producing favorable outcomes.
Content, Environment, Channel, and Time This brings the manager to the third layer of the communication strategy which applies its attention to the specific content, message channel, environment, and time of the overall communication (Hynes, 2016). In exploring the specific content, the manager must consider the following questions: (1) Will the message be perceived as positive, negative, or neutral? (2) Is the message based on fact or opinion? (3) Will the receiver regard the message as being important? (4) Will the message trigger a sentiment of controversy? While remaining aware of these questions, the manager is simultaneously considering the proper channel for the communication—should it be oral, written, oral and written, or visual, or other combination? Additionally, depending on the nature of the message, the manager will be compelled to choose from options—of either informal or formal settings—across a landscape of technology media from email to a webinar or even a private face-to-face meeting. In many ways, the message channel works in unison with the selected environment for presenting the communication; and this can be impacted by not only the privacy or publicity of the venue but the physical or virtual distance between the sender and the receiver (Hynes, 2016).
Supplementary to these components that impact the quality, integrity, and transparency of the message, the element of time also influences the overall successful outcome of the communication. Not only does it have a universal effect on the essence of the communication, but it also plays a role in affecting all peripherals within and about the choreographed message. Managers are heedful of both the time required in creating a message as well as the duration required for its presentation to an audience. Such factors will oblige a manager to decide on the channeled methods (e.g. face-to-face, email, video conference, or collaborative virtual environment) in addition to the structure of the actual message in order to affect optimal results.
Concluding Thoughts It remains critical that managers bind their communications to a strategic plan which may even require alignment to the overall vision of the organization they represent (SPHR, 2018). The most common objectives for ensuring a successful strategic plan for managerial communications creates awareness, edifies, involves stakeholders, encourages participation, cultivates passion, and guarantees positive results through an efficient and clear message gauged by encouraging feedback (Weaver, 2019). Furthermore, effective managers must incorporate other tools into harnessing effective strategic communications. Some of these include keeping messages simple but with a depth of meaning, influencing enthusiasm, coaching, reinforcing key points, enhancing with state-of-the-art media, and telling a story that captivates (Everse, 2011). But to harvest a positive impact while reducing the potential for failure of managerial communication, one must provide the due diligence of time, thought, research, and comprehensive effort to maximize the greatest return on investment from the targeted audience. And this, in turn, is validated through the resonance of feedback from the receivers reflected by the rhythm with the desired goal of the manager.
Case Scenario In retrospect of the managerial communication process and its cardinal strategy, the opportunity to evaluate its segmented layers can be assessed through the application of real-world scenarios. In an examination of this, the following situation demonstrates how a manager, working as the titular head of operations and human resources, severely compromised the managerial communication strategic process and afforded an outcome of both mistrust and toxicity. With no formal training or discipline within the realm of human capital management, this manager exercised her authority through both crude and unethical methods. During a series of product marketing meetings, the manager exuded her dominance by creating channels for contention instead of harmony, offering no supporting data for a concocted campaign event, and publicly excoriated a subject matter expert who backed his findings with factual research. It became evident that the manager had a disdain for the targeted employee by refuting all of his scholastic efforts which were supported by corroborating evidence. His product marketing campaign was both comprehensive and objective while skillfully detailing project management with expectations and deliverable dates. It became noticeable that the manager felt inferior to the employee who manifested a great depth of knowledge in the area of brand awareness, influence management, and product marketing. This began to create trepidations among fellow employees in the department.
The manager regularly ostracized the employee from future meetings which required his attendance to address takeaways that fell into his area of responsibility; from graphic designs to vlogs and similar digital marketing tasks. In a review of the dysfunctional approach exhibited by the manager, each strategic layer was compromised in the process. To begin with the first layer, the manager compromised the communication climate by exploiting mistrust among the staff who witnessed the abhorrent behavior. As a result, employees found themselves trying to gather information through clandestine methods, meeting outside of the office while feeding the “rumor mill” (Hynes, 2016). Job performance was negatively impacted as anxiety consumed the employees; absences increased, and job searches were on the rise as staff feared impending terminations. And the “social glue” that helped nurture a collaborative team environment was fractured with the incessant dichotomy from the manager resulting in the breakdown of structural harmony that once existed within the sales operations group (Hynes, 2016).
In regard to the second layer, the manager’s dictatorial messages and public shaming of various employees in her speech resulted in severing fealty among staff for the organization as well as reducing any passion that team members had in their individual roles. Instead of adapting the communication with the intent of connecting to the receivers, to foster a more nurturing environment, the manager was abundantly clear that she was going to lead the staff by rigidness in her communication methods (Aggerholm & Asmuß, 2016); the imperious approach to commanding allegiance. This crippled her personal relationship with receivers, degraded interest in her messages, created a negative emotional sentiment towards those messages, and put into question her ability to effectively manage the staff. And although the purpose of the messages was to promote marketing to increase revenue numbers for the fourth quarter, her authoritarian style of communication alienated employees from subscribing to her gospel—it ultimately sabotaged the department.
Finally, the third layer which deals with content, message channel, physical environment, and time also experienced a similar desolation. The content of the messages was consistently negative, offering little to remediate the damage she caused the department and the product marketing managers. Furthermore, all of her messages were based on opinion while blatantly ignoring any facts that questioned the legitimacy of her rhetoric (Aggerholm & Asmuß, 2016). And all messages had a timbre of controversy as they alienated proven marketers, who months prior to this form of management had displayed an unparalleled passion for their jobs. At the most basic level, the manager called for unplanned meetings with no agenda, no defined goal or direction, which added unnecessary tension and anxiety for the employees; poor use of time in facilitating effective managerial communications.
As a result of the communication shortcomings of the manager and being that she was also an equity partner in the organization, three of the employees working within the department submitted their resignations over the course of a four week period—one refused to give any notice and quit without offering a traditional two-week transitional period. Being that this company was boutique in size—approximately fifteen employees on staff—most formal organizational disciplines were absent in the organization. But what remained hard and true was not only the manager’s inability to achieve any part of the strategic communication layers but was accountable for the self-destructive approach that disrupted operational flow as well as the goal of increasing fourth-quarter revenues. Without proper strategic planning to forge effective managerial communications, most inexperienced managers will blindly shepherd an organization to the viral splintering of human capital through the disarmament of harmonized interactions.
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Everse, Georgia. “Eight Ways to Communicate Your Strategy More Effectively.” HBR.org, Harvard Business School Publishing, 22 August 2011, https://hbr.org/2011/08/eight-ways-to-energize-your-te.
Hynes, Geraldine. “Chapter 2: The Managerial Communication Process.” Managerial Communication Strategies and Applications, 6th ed., SAGE Publications, 2016
SHRM. “Managing Organizational Communication.” SHRM.org, Society for Human Resource Management, 25 July 2018, https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/toolkits/pages/managingorganizationalcommunication.aspx.
Weaver, Jenna. “How to Effectively Communicate Your Strategic Plan to Employees.” ClearPoint Strategy, Ascendant Strategy Management Group LLC., 13 June 2019, https://www.clearpointstrategy.com/communicating-strategy-be-effective/.