The Strategic Approach to Managerial Communications
Updated: Aug 20, 2021
Affecting Improved Resonance Between Sender and Receiver
By Ian Ségal
15 November 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.
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.
Aggerholm, Helle, and Birte Asmuß. “A Practice Perspective on Strategic Communication.” Journal of Communication Management, Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2016, Volume 20 No. 3, pp. 195-214, https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/ JCOM-07-2015-0052/full/ris.
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/.
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