2012 transport canada - internal comms manager's toolkit

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Internal Communications TOOLS for MANAGERS

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  • Internal Communications




    MANAGERS ROLE IN INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS 5 Your role as a communicator 5 360 feedback 5 Internal communications 6

    EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT 7 Benefits of an engaged workforce 7 Cost of disengagement 7


    COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR EMPLOYEES 10 Communications planning 10 Communications channels 11 Effective communications: Traps to avoid Tips to follow 11 Larger scale evaluations 14 Smaller team approach 13 Getting the answers you need 13 In-person communications 15 Individual (one-on-one) meetings 15 Communicating in writing 16 Using technology for communications 17 Training and learning 20

    SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS 22 Alternative work arrangements 22 Communicating bad news 23 Crisis communications 23 Change management 23


    YOUR INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS TOOLS 25 Managers self-reflection checklist 26 Managers self-reflection checklist Results 27 360 checklist 28 360 checklist Template 29 Employee motivation 30 Tips on how to engage your employees 31 Listening skills Dos and donts 32 Communications skills and competencies 33 Communications planning worksheet 34 Communications planning questionnaire 35 Preparing to communicate 36 Communications channels 37 Communications plan template 40 Open questions 42 Running a meeting Tips and techniques 43 Harvard Business Team meeting trouble shooting guide 44 Feedback guidelines 45 The Praise Sandwich 46 Sample praise statements 47 The DESC Model for corrective feedback 48 Best practices Written communications 49 Best practices for remote employees 50 Communicating bad news 50 Communicating during a crisis 50 The importance of communications in change management 51



    Managing people is not always easy. Internal Communications: Tools for Managers brings together tools, best practices, templates and tactics to help you in this important role.


    The success of a united and effective team is built on good communication skills. These tools will help you be a more effective leader and enable you to present organizational strategy at the program and project levels in a way that is meaningful to your team.


    Effective communication with your employees is always important. But it is even more important during times of change because you must share information clearly to ensure your team properly understands and adopts it; all while keeping a positive and dynamic work atmosphere.

    Note: While this tool is designed mostly for project leaders, supervisors, managers and directors; it can be a useful resource for all employees.


    The art of communication is the language of leadership. (James Humes)

    Your role as a communicatorAs a manager, you can spend nearly 70 per cent of your time communicating! And if communicating does not come naturally to you, you may feel that many of your messages come out wrong or that your employees ignore, resist, or oppose them.

    Effective managers:

    Talk and meet with employees on a regular basis.

    Are able to deliver different types of messages.

    Understand Transport Canadas vision and how employees fit in. Are available have an open door policy.

    Expect tough questions and prepare good answers.

    Regularly celebrate employees successes.

    We believe this tool will help you become more effective in this important function.

    The WHAT TOOLS TO USE sections point you to resources in Your Internal Communication Tools section, located at the end of this guide.

    The JUST A THOUGHT sections describe workplace scenarios for reflection.

    The WANT MORE? sections provide links to other valuable resources.


    The Managers self-reflection checklist will help you identify:

    Your communication habits, preferences, and patterns;

    Your strengths and your weaknesses;

    Areas for growth; and

    Areas of communication you may not be aware of.

    Once you have done the self-reflection, go to the Results on the following page.

    360 feedback360 feedback is an informal way to involve peers, employees, and supervisors in performance evaluations. It focuses more on improving future performance and less on past mistakes. 360 feedback can also provide you with helpful and specific feedback on your strengths and development opportunities from yourself, the person you report to, your peers and your staff. Be prepared to accept both positive and negative feedback and try not to be defensive or justify your behaviour. Take the information away and reflect.

    WHAT TOOLS TO USEStart small Ask a group of employees or individuals to complete the 360 checklist to get a better idea of how you are getting through to them. Understanding how people take in and interpret your messages is a great place to start improving how you work.


  • Internal communications

    Like a human being, a company has to have an internal communication mechanism, a nervous system, to coordinate its actions. (Bill Gates)

    Internal communications relates directly to the heart of your organization: your people. Internal communications is the exchange of information between an organization and its employees, as well as between employees. It creates and increases understanding, as well as promotes attitudes and behaviours that help achieve success.

    Your organization will be most effective when every member holds the same values, understands the work policies and procedures in the same way, and focuses on the same mission.

    Good internal communications:

    Achieve results

    Improve service

    Build better teamwork

    Keep employees informed of goals and priorities

    Keep employees informed of changes and initiatives that affect them and their work

    Help the organization manage more effectively

    Allow for access to a larger pool of intelligence and expertise

    Support external communications

    Increase drive / productivity

    Empower employees to make some decisions themselves

    Give employees a greater sense of making a difference, which helps increase effort and efficiency

    Reduce work silos and duplication of efforts, since programs will share more resources and information

    Support safety, security, efficiency and environmental responsibility as it relates to Transport Canadas mandate

    Improve loyalty and retention

    Reduce day-to-day conflicts, since most conflicts stem from poor communications



    Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work. (Aristotle)

    Employee engagement stands on two legs employee satisfaction and employee commitment.

    Employee satisfaction is the level of contentment or happiness people assign to aspects of their job/position and their organization.

    Employee commitment is the pride people feel for their organization as well as the degree to which they:

    Intend / hope to remain; Desire to serve or to perform at high levels; Recommend their organization to others; and Work to improve results. (Schmidt & Marson, 2007)

    Benefits of an engaged workforceEmployees:

    Are more productive and innovative;

    Stay longer, get better;

    Have a greater ability to solve problems; and

    Enjoy and maintain a more positive, energetic and enthusiastic environment.

    Cost of disengagementEmployees:

    Lose trust and confidence;

    Miss work more often;

    Become more negative and generate more internal conflicts;

    Let service quality suffer, miss deadlines; and/or

    Want to find another workplace.


    Frank, a 46 year-old accountant, has enjoyed a long and good employment history with Transport Canada. His morale is low because he no longer feels that his contributions mean anything to his employer. He is jaded and negative in his outlook, which affects his work performance. As his manager, you noticed his detachment and requested a meeting with him. Frank shared that while he works within a large organization, he is aware of only the small slice of the corporate pie to which he is assigned.

    Recent changes in direction of the organization had not been communicated to him. And what he did learn, was through the internal rumour mill. He feels that being unaware of the basic direction of the organization makes it impossible for him to act in its best interests.

    As Franks manager, what would you do?

    What happened It only took a few basic changes in the internal communication strategy to bring Frank and all employees back into the inner circle where they belong. Increased employee involvement, and open sharing of internal information are key to increased team spirit and employee engagement. When employees believe they are truly part of the corporate team, they will work toward increasing the collective health of the organization.


  • 8WHAT TOOLS TO USE Frederick Herzberg was an American psychologist who introduced job enrichment and the Motivator-Hygiene theory in present-day business management. Our checklist, adapted from Herzbergs Motivators/De-motivators will help you learn what really motivates and de-motivates employees, as well as what information they really need.

    Our Tips on how to engage your employees will remind you that your employees are your greatest assets. Their ideas, feedback and enthusiasm will help you and the organization grow. To have a sense of purpose about what they do, employees need the guidance of skilled managers who embrace their ideas, ask for feedback and generate enthusiasm.

    WANT MORE?TCs Counseling Services offer help and support to managers dealing with difficult situations or employees.


    Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions to affect other people. (Jim Rohn)

    Its important that you understand the messages going to employees (internal), to stakeholders and to the public (external). Why? Because people will ask questions, and its your role to anticipate their questions, prepare clear answers and share them with your staff as soon as possible.

    Make your written messages short, clear, relevant, timely and true. Your readers should be able to read and understand the basic message quickly. You can then provide details, as required.

    WHAT TOOLS TO USE Being an effective manager takes good listening skills. Check out a few Listening skills dos and donts. Your success as a manager depends, in part, on having these Communications skills and competencies.


    Robert and Allison each has a team of employees working within the same department. Roberts team is made up mostly of junior staffers, fairly inexperienced, with little knowledge of the changes that take place in a new government. Allisons team, on the other hand, includes veteran employees, well versed in the politics that can affect the organizational direction.

    Major changes to the department were announced to the public during Question Period. The team leaders quickly formed an action plan to announce these changes to their employees.

    How should Robert and Allison communicate these changes? Should they word their messages exactly the same?

    What happened Allison gave her employees a brief synopsis of the changes in a quick informal meeting followed by an e-mail with all of the necessary details. She knew her team would be able to adjust quickly and implement the changes immediately.

    Robert, on the other hand, met with the team to explain the changes and hold a Question and Answer session. He then followed up with written details including a Frequently Asked Questions section. He knew that his group needed to have the changes explained more than once.

    WANT MORE?The National Managers Community for the Government of Canada offers Coaching Practices for Managers that will help you bring out the best in others. The eight practices included in this publication are practical and easy to use both in and out of the workplace. Improve you writing style by using the plain language tips in Easy Does It! Transport Canadas Plain Language Guide.


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    Good communication does not mean that you have to speak in perfectly formed sentences and paragraphs. It isnt about slickness. Simple and clear go a long way. (John Kotter)

    Communications planningSo, you know what you need to communicate. But what is the plan? Communications planning is the process that helps you make sure that your audience can understand and apply your message.

    WHY? What is your goal for this communication?

    WHO? Who is the communications coming from?

    Who is the communications going to?

    Are there any considerations to take into account? (new or seasoned employees, etc.)

    WHAT are your KEY MESSAGES? What does your audience want and need to know?

    What do you want to tell your audience?

    Where will the audience be able to get more information?

    What is the whats in it for me? message?

    HOW are you going to COMMUNICATE? What useful tools are available? (face-to-face, intranet, newsletter, e-mail, etc.)

    What tools are most effective for your audience?

    WHEN do you want to TELL? Will your messages compete or be affected by other events?

    When will it be too late to communicate?

    When will the different products be rolled out?

    WHERE? On-site or off-site?

    What is the most appropriate venue?

    WHAT is the RESULT? Did you meet your objective?

    How well did you reach your audience?

    Have you seen a change in your employees behaviour?

    What feedback did you get?


    The Communication planning worksheet can help you define your communications needs.

    The Communication planning questionnaire addresses factors such as intended outcomes, objectives, audience and the current environment.

    The Preparing to communicate worksheet can help you determine the how, when, where, why and what for your message(s).

    The Communications plan template is a more formal document that you can use for the approvals process.

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    Communications channelsThere are many ways to share your message with your audience. The method you choose depends on factors such as the complexity of the issue as well as your audiences ability to receive it. For instance, you might choose to:

    Send an email or hold face-to-face meetings to share day-to-day internal communications with your staff.

    Hold a town hall assembly to address urgent issues, or share a large volume of information to an entire organization.

    Produce newsletters, brochures and posters to address on-going changes that affect many people.

    You may find that using social media (i.e. blogs, social networks, microblogs) and other communications software and tools is your best choice. If these tools are new to you, it may be a good plan to assign your duties to, or work with, communications experts. Contact the Internal Communications Unit to learn more.


    The Communication channels strategy chart may help you choose the best medium for your situation.

    Effective communications: Traps to avoid Tips to follow Trap: Purpose of the message unclear

    Tip: Explain your messages very carefully, and keep it simple. Trap: Negative body language

    Tips: Remember that body language, proximity and eye contact are important. Keep smiling! This can send a warm and friendly message. A smile is also contagious. Sit up straight! Slouching, leaning and crossing your arms can send a message that

    you arent interested.

    WANT MORE?To learn more about body language, check out Your Body Language Speaks Louder Than Words!

    Trap: Message not heard

    After all, when you come right down to it, how many people speak the same language even when they speak the same language? (Russell Hoban)


    Paraphrase what you have understood. Try to view the situation through the eyes of other speakers. Try not to jump to conclusions. Asking threatening questions to clarify meaning. Listen without interrupting.

  • Trap: Misinterpretation

    Two monologues do not make a dialogue. (Jeff Daly)


    Take your time to speak clearly and thoughtfully. Ask questions to confirm what your listener heard. Ask your listeners to repeat what they think they heard.

    Trap: Lack of buy-in

    Tips: Keep the conversation and messages alive and ongoing. Discuss the reasons for the initiative openly. Find out why your listeners are not buying in.

    Trap: Message not reaching your audience

    Tips: Take into account age, gender, disability, language, culture. Use language that fits your listeners (a message to a 24 year-old will be different

    than the same message given to a 60 year-old). Keep in mind that male and female brains are different. Men tend to value logic, reason,

    winning; while women tend to value relationships, harmony, and cooperation. Use the most specific and accurate words you can to overcome language barriers. Avoid projecting your own background or culture onto others. Remember that certain behaviours do not mean the same thing to everyone. Dont let cultural accents cause language barriers. Create a level of trust among

    your staff so people can ask one another to repeat words or phrases until everyone understand the same thing.

    Trap: Use of the wrong communications channel Review Communication channels

    Tips: Know your people. Respect and understand their communications preferences.

    Trap: Distractions in meetings

    Tips: Hold conversations in private/quiet settings. Choose a time that works for others (i.e. do not set a meeting to talk about something

    when they are in crisis and you are not). Turn off phones and hand-held devices during meetings.

    Trap: Overactive rumour mill

    Tips: Be proactive. Control information flow so your message isnt misinterpreted,

    forgotten or overlooked. Identify yourself or an appointee as the only source of official communications

    to employees.


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    Trap: Organizational snobbery

    Tips: Dont keep employees in the dark. Share the overall picture with everyone. Dont speak about what you do not know. Admitting you dont know is a strength

    if you are willing to seek out an answer. Trap: Distrust in management

    Tips: Trust your employees. Do not withhold information. Be honest. Listen to your employees and act on their feedback.

    Trap: Disinterest

    Tip: Look for a hook to help your listener identify with your message how does it affect

    their job, income, health, family, or security? Trap: Use of the wrong leadership style

    Tip: Adjust your leadership style to each situation and employee. Styles include: Participative: the best leadership style to adopt. The leader takes the final decision based

    on team members suggestions. Charismatic: the leader puts energy and enthusiasm into the teams project. While this type

    of leader does motivate and helps employees; leaders tend to boast much about their leadership skills and abilities.

    Autocratic: the leader takes decisions alone. This style is appropriate for team members who require close supervision to get the work done.

    Laisser-faire: the leader leaves his/her team members do their work. This is a good style to use with skilled members who properly understand their responsibilities.

    WANT MORE?Read this article in the Canadian Military Journal, Transformational Leadership: Something new, Something old.

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    Larger scale evaluationsInternal evaluations can help you measure your level of success in achieving your communications goals and objectives. This will help you make sound decisions about future communications strategies. Conduct evaluations on an ongoing basis and involve the entire staff. You can conduct (formal or informal) surveys, online polls, focus groups, analytics, etc.

    Whatever method you use, you should:

    Decide what tool / medium to use (online, print or verbal feedback);

    Tell staff why you are conducting an evaluation;

    Decide on how often you are going to measure;

    Measure only what matters;

    Ask short, simple and clear questions;

    Set a deadline for when you need the results; and

    Share the results.

    Smaller team approachAsk your employees for feedback on your performance as a manager and on the effectiveness of your communications.

    How? You can use:

    A tool like the 360 checklist; and

    Frequent two-way discussions (both formal and informal) with your employees.

    Getting the answers you need Getting the answers you need depends on asking good questions. Two basic types of questions are called closed and open.

    Closed questions ask for specifics and are leading When do you want this? and ask for a yes/no answers. Too many closed questions can:

    Put people on their guard; or

    Get people to answer without thinking (i.e. a yes set where a series of questions get you to answer yes in agreement over and over).

    Open questions ask people to dig into what they know, value and feel to come up with answers. For the most part, when you want good feedback, ask open questions.

    WHAT TOOLS TO USEFor more help on using open questions, check out Open ended questions A thought from Rudyard Kiplings The Elephants Child.

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    In-person communicationsTo get the most out of your staff meetings, you should plan before, manage during, and follow up after.

    WHAT TOOLS TO USE Running a meeting Tips and techniques can help you run an efficient and effective meeting with your staff.

    Team meetings can get caught in the weeds. The Harvard Business Team trouble shooting guide can give you ideas for getting your team unstuck.

    WANT MORE?The National Managers Communitys Tools for Leadership and Learning: Building a Learning Organization offers some practical and easy ways to engage others in dialogue and build a learning culture.

    Individual (one-on-one) meetings Talking to your staff regularly encourages each employee to contribute to the team effort. Regular one-on-one meetings with your employees are an effective way to:

    Mentor and learn;

    Discuss issues, problems, and progress in work and the workplace;

    Give and receive feedback; and

    Build the manager-employee relationship.

    Individual meetings can also:

    Ensure you have regular contact with each of your employees;

    Honour competence and reinforce best practices;

    Help align/clarify expectations and priorities;

    Fill gaps in knowledge;

    Let people know where to improve; and

    Build trust.

    WHAT TOOLS TO USELike staff meetings, a one-on-one meeting works best when its organized.

    Feedback guidelines The Feedback guidelines can help you give your staff constructive feedback and information about the nature, quality or impact of their behaviour and performance.

    The Praise Sandwich Follow the recipe for a Praise Sandwich before your next one-on-one meeting.

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    Communicating in writingYour messages compete with many other business and personal messages your employees receive every day. Earn a reputation for sending out clear and relevant messages.

    E-mail vs. telephoning vs. meeting vs. paper

    E-mailing tends to be less formal than on-paper communications.


    E-mails allow people to print out the message and attachments as well as reply immediately and ask questions.

    An e-mail acts as a paper record, something a phone conversation lacks.


    People can easily copy, change or forward e-mails with no trace of the original. In other words, others can misrepresent you.

    People may experience e-mail overload, or misinterpret the content due to the lack of body language/verbal tone.

    E-mails are permanent records subject to access to information policies.

    Telephoning is a good way to get an immediate reply or feedback from one person.

    One-on-one meetings are great ways to get non-verbal information as well as to:

    Develop and maintain working relationships; and

    Allow for creative exploration, humour and other personal interactions.

    Paper communications can seem to be:

    The final word, so people may not ask questions. This is why it is so important to be complete and clear.

    Wasteful. This is why you should respect your employees opinions about paper products.

    WANT MORE?Learn how to energize your e-mails by reading:

    Energizing your e-mail!

    Three fantastic e-mail tips you need to know now!

    Learn about Official Languages phone etiquette. Find samples of bilingual voice mail messages (RDIMS #3861273). Learn how to hold green meetings.

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    Using technology for communications

    Technology Description Use it for Limitations

    Social networking An online platform that:

    allows employees to provide work profile information

    allows others to search and find staff with specific skill sets, competencies or common interests

    connects public servants through shared experience or knowledge

    allows closed or open groups to share documents (including RDIMS references), bookmarks and have discussions

    GCconnex is the official Government of Canada (GC) social network. The GC group on LinkedIn is a professional network of GC employees.

    Building communities of interest

    Creating professional networks

    Collaborating on projects within TC, or throughout GC and regions

    Sharing information

    Promoting an event

    Virtual teams

    Lack of widespread use

    Learning curve can be steep

    Lack of video support

    Information overload from features and options

    GCconnex (in 2012) is still in a pilot phase, so features may be added or removed as time progresses

    Users must create an account to participate

    Blog A website with articles (also known as posts or entries) listed in reverse-chronological order.

    Can be written by one or more authors

    Authors receive feedback through reader comments

    No fixed publication schedule

    GCconnex provides a blog feature.

    Communications with staff members or working groups

    Announcements to staff members

    Internal marketing campaigns

    HR announcements

    Means of getting feedback on specific topics

    Staying current on information relating to your job

    Does not normally provide private functionality

    Not ideal for questions or topics that require fast answers

    Blogging interface can be hard to understand

    Need frequent updates to retain readership

    Creating content regularly can be challenging

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    Technology Description Use it for Limitations

    Microblogging (e.g. Twitter) An online platform that allows users to post images, videos and short messages (around 140 characters) and converse with other users via their mobile phones or web browsers

    Can send updates using an e-mail account or via text message

    Messages can include links (often shortened), photos or videos

    Hashtags act like keywords that allow users to find and sort information easily

    Broadcasting information in real-time

    Crisis communications

    Getting feedback on specific topics

    Asking crowd sourcing questions

    Networking with colleagues across TC or the GC

    Building online relationships with stakeholders

    Messages are usually limited to 140 characters

    Not ideal for discussing sensitive topics

    Limited audience

    Steep learning curve

    Users must register for an account

    Discussion forum A web-based version of a newsgroup or electronic mailing list that allows users to post messages, comment on other messages and share documents.

    Discussion threads can be locked once a consultation/discussion period has ended

    GCForums is a collection of web forums that facilitate open as well as closed discussions related to a particular topic or community within the GC.

    Promoting open collaboration among many stakeholders

    Gathering opinions on a topic

    Holding consultations or open dialogues on a topic

    Sharing documents

    Discussions do not occur in real time

    Limited audience

    Users must create an account to participate

    Limits to the types of files that can be shared

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    Technology Description Use it for Limitations

    Wiki A wiki is a webpage that anyone can create or edit

    The word wiki is Hawaiian for quick

    GCPedia is the official GC wiki. It is open to all federal employees, and is only accessible from the GC network. It encourages collaborative work across the federal government.

    Drafting materials collaboratively

    Promoting open collaboration among multiple stakeholders

    Gathering information on a topic

    Providing input on draft products

    Holding consultations or open dialogues on a topic

    Creating workspaces for individuals or virtual teams

    Sharing information resources with others in TC or the GC

    Limited audience

    Users must create an account to participate

    Does not normally provide closed groups/private functionality

    Steep learning curve

    No integration with RDIMS

    Should not be used for drafting/sharing sensitive or classified information

    Instant messaging Real-time direct text, voice or video-based communications between two or more people using personal computers or other devices

    Helping to maintain close, collaborative team cultures

    Helping with multi-tasking

    Holding short private discussions

    Creating virtual teams

    Can be distracting

    Users must create an account to participate

    Privacy concerns if not using security protocols

    Video sharing A website that allows individuals to view, share and easily upload video files

    Video files can be tagged with keywords by the author to enable searchability

    Users can subscribe to channels hosted by other users or organizations

    Viewers can comment on, rate, and discuss videos on the host site

    Spreading public service announcements

    Sharing educational and instructional videos

    Enhancing community engagement

    Holding internal marketing campaigns

    Accessibility barriers

    Can be filtered or blocked by your institutions network

    Bandwidth can slow the departments network

    Users must create an account to participate

    You may not control all of the peripherals (e.g. ad space)

    Potential for spoof videos to appear, mocking original videos

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    Technology Description Use it for Limitations

    RSS (Really Simple Syndication)

    A family of web feed formats used to publish frequently updated workssuch as blog entries, news headlines, audio, and videoin a standardized format

    Includes full or summarized text, plus metadata such as publishing dates and authorship

    Keeping informed and up to date

    Researching your market or business

    Providing others with fresh content regularly

    Building back links for your sites

    Managing crisis communications

    Some users prefer receiving an e-mail rather than an RSS feed

    Graphics and photos do not appear in all RSS feeds

    RSS feeds may create higher traffic and demands on the server

    Training and learning

    Transport Canadas Lets Talk learning program

    TCs Lets Talk learning program is a two-day workshop that helps TC managers and employees improve their communications skills by using practical and innovative communications tools.

    The workshop allows participants to:

    Share experiences and ideas;

    Develop and practice their interpersonal communications skills; and

    Build a personal action plan so they can continue developing their communications competencies in the months to come.

    Please read the Lets Talk: Communicating for Results (#RDIMS 7134724) information sheet to find out when the course will be offered in your region.

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    WANT MORE?Visit TCs Learning website and select your regions tab at the top of the page. Here you will find many useful resources, including Learning Roadmaps for Managers and related sites.

    The Canadian School of Public Service offers many courses for managers. The School breaks down the public service into six distinct learning communities. Each community is identified by colour and shape. Look for these symbols when selecting courses for managers, supervisors or senior managers. Here are just a few:

    Coaching for Effective Leadership

    Providing Effective Feedback from a Coaching Perspective

    Having Difficult Conversations

    Conducting Structured Interviews

    The Centre for Excellence in Communications (Ottawa) offers the following courses:

    Communicating Change and Transformation

    Employees Engagement: Strategies and Techniques

    The Niagara Institute and the Banff Centre also offer similar courses and programs.

    Transport Canadas Communications and Marketing Group offers free plain language writing training.

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    Alternative work arrangementsIt can be hard to keep motivated staff who have alternative work arrangements. These are employees working from home or off-site; who have no fixed office; or have flex-hours, a compressed or part-time work week. They may feel more isolated if they have less social contact with their colleagues. This means that they need more information not less. You should make special efforts (regular meetings) to keep them aware of what is going on back at the office.

    Technology can also help you engage your remote employees. Here are a few examples:

    Mobile devices

    Blackberrys combine phone, e-mail and calendars into one handheld device. It also allows instant messaging between two or more blackberry units, which creates as close to an office environment as possible.

    Since these hand-held devices keep your staff connected 24/7, do your best not to cut into their personal time.


    Teleconferencing allows many people to dial into a meeting. This is more personal than using e-mail and can promote stronger team spirit. Be sure to send them any agenda or visual presentations before the meeting.

    Keep in mind that callers often multitask, so they may not always be paying attention.


    Videoconferencing adds video to a conference call with cameras posted in conference rooms or at individual workstations. This is even more personal as you can see gestures, expressions and body language.

    GCPedia (or similar wiki technology)

    GCPedia is an online tool for uploading files that allows colleagues and staff to access them and provide input. Since GCPedia makes it easy for many users to edit files, it is a great way to gather feedback or updates from many people.

    WHAT TOOLS TO USECheck out Using technology for communications to learn more.

    WANT MORE?Read the Ontario Regions Telework Program Guidelines (#RDIMS 4853954). You can also consult the Wireless Voice Communications Policy.

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    Communicating bad news

    Communicating bad news to employees is one of the most important and difficult challenges organizations face. (Dennis R. Ackley)

    As a manager, you will sometimes have to give your staff bad news. How you do this challenges your management skills, as well as your relationship with your staff.

    WHAT TOOLS TO USEWhen you have good communications with your staff, you are in a good position to deliver bad news effectively to them. Here are some tips for Communicating bad news.

    Crisis communicationsWhat is a crisis?

    A crisis is a sudden or evolving change that results in an urgent problem you must address. Examples are natural events of catastrophic magnitude (earthquake), health and environment-related disasters (H1N1), employee strike, etc.

    Being able to manage crisis is an important part of your role as a manager.

    WHAT TOOLS TO USEHere are some tips for Communicating during a crisis.

    WANT MORE?Make your staff aware of Transport Canadas Business Continuity Plan to ensure little or no interruption to providing critical services and protecting assets.

    Change managementWhile change is a normal part of any successful system, it can become a problem if not managed properly. Communications during periods of change are vital.

    Change communications:

    Reduces the disruption of day-to-day operations;

    Ensures that the change project is on time and on budget from beginning to end;

    Increases the organizations learning and capacity for change;

    Encourages reliable feedback;

    Unites the organization around the project objectives;

    Keeps people from riding madly off in all directions;

    Promotes a common language;

    Stakes out signposts for success;

    Maintains and improves morale; and

    Deals with the number one obstacle to change employee resistance.

    WHAT TOOLS TO USEOur Best practices on change management may help you manage the next change initiative in your workplace.

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    INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS UNIT The Internal Communications team works closely with senior management, including the Deputy Ministers Office, the Human Resources Directorate, the Technology and Information Management Services Directorate, and other program managers to communicate work- and employee-related information to Transport Canada (TC) employees across the department. This energetic group works hard to provide clear, effective and timely internal communications advice and support to all TC employees.

    Visit their website to learn more about their services and how they can help you.

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    Im a great believer that any tool that enhances communication has profound effects in terms of how people can learn from each other, and how they can achieve the kind of freedoms that theyre interested in. (Bill Gates)

    Managers self-reflection checklist 26 Managers self-reflection checklist Results 27 360 checklist 28 360 checklist Template 29 Employee motivation 30 Tips on how to engage your employees 31 Listening skills Dos and donts 32 Communications skills and competencies 33 Communications planning worksheet 34 Communications planning questionnaire 35 Preparing to communicate 36 Communications channels 37 Communications plan template 40 Open questions 42 Running a meeting Tips and techniques 43 Harvard Business Team meeting trouble shooting guide 44 Feedback guidelines 45 The Praise Sandwich 46 Sample praise statements 47 The DESC Model for corrective feedback 48 Best practices Written communications 49 Best practices for remote employees 50 Communicating bad news 50 Communicating during a crisis 50 The importance of communications in change management 51

  • 26

    Managers self-reflection checklist

    Use it to honestly assess your own communications skills and pinpoint areas of strength and weakness. Then turn to the Results page that follows to see how you did.

    File it when you are done, and repeat it in six months, in a year, and so on. Compare how your perceptions shifted and where you have improved.

    Y N

    1. I provide clear, concise and timely messages.

    2. I hear what my employees say.

    3. Employees know what I expect of them.

    4. I regularly confirm that employees understand me.

    5. I often talk with employees about their concerns.

    6. I am approachable.

    7. I deliver constructive feedback.

    8. I regularly express appreciation for work well done.

    9. I deliver bad news effectively.

    10. I engage employees in their work.

    11. My employees often approach me to speak one-on-one.

    12. I recognize achievements appropriately and at the right time.

    13. I listen well.

    14. I usually mix electronic, face-to-face and paper communications channels.

    15. I communicate both up and down the organization.

    16. I appreciate and encourage feedback.

    17. I coach and help employees meet their goals and objectives.

    18. I hold regular meetings where I feel the pulse of the group.

    19. I enjoy communicating with all employees.

    * Source : Public Works and Government Services Canada

    Turn to the Managers self-reflection checklist Results on page 27.

  • 27

    Managers self-reflection checklist Results

    If you answered To question Refer to...

    No 2, 4, 5, 6, 11, 13 and/or 16 Listening skills, 360 feedback, Feedback guidelines and the Praise Sandwich

    No 1, 3, 14, 15 and/or 18 Communications channels and Best practices Communicating in writing

    No 7, 8, 9, 10, 12 and 17 Communications skills and competencies

    No 19 Use this tool to better acquaint yourself with the value of good internal communications and to find tips and tools.

    * Source : Public Works and Government Services Canada

    Plan to return to the checklist every six months. Even if you ignore the results, you may adjust to fill in gaps without even knowing it! If you take courses or workshops to increase your communication skills, use this or other checklists to periodically review your progress.

    WANT MORE?Here are some tools and resources to help you increase your communication skills:


    Transport Canadas Lets Talk: Communicating for Results (#RDIMS 7134724)

    Improving Your Listening Skills, Canada School of Public Service

    Interpersonal Communications Skills, Canada School of Public Service


    Talk to Me: Listening between the Lines, Anna Deavere Smith, Random House.

    The Distance Manager: a Hands On Guide to Managing Off-Site Employees in Virtual Teams, Kimball Fisher and Maureen Fisher, McGraw-Hill.

    The Leadership Solution: Say It Do It, Jim Shaffer, McGraw-Hill.

    Interesting website Face to Face: Transport Canadas Philosophy on Employee Communications

  • 28

    360 checklist This tool will give you a better idea of how you are getting through to your staff. Understanding how people take in and interpret your messages is a great place to start for improving how you operate.

    If your employees wish to remain anonymous, simply put this questionnaire in separate envelopes and give one to each. Instruct them to give it back to you in the same envelope.

    Turn to page 29 to view/print the checklist.

    Follow up

    Discussing the feedback with your staff can give you even more insight on how to improve your management style.

  • 29

    360 checklist TemplateDear colleague,

    One of my most important responsibilities at work is communicating with you and others at Transport Canada. You can help me communicate better with everyone by filling out this checklist.

    Please be honest. Your answers will give me a better idea of my strengths and weaknesses and I will be in a position to learn, improve my skills and work better with everyone. I will view my communications practices from 360, all-round, from other peoples point of view, not just my own.

    While not required, you may identify yourself.


    Y N

    1. Do I provide clear, concise and timely messages?

    2. Do I understand you and others?

    3. Do you know what I expect from you?

    4. Do I regularly confirm that you understand me?

    5. Do I discuss your concerns with you?

    6. Am I approachable?

    7. Do I deliver constructive feedback?

    8. Do I regularly express appreciation for work well done?

    9. Do I deliver bad news effectively?

    10. Do I engage employees in their work?

    11. Do you feel you can approach me to speak one-on-one?

    12. Do I convey recognition in a timely manner?

    13. Do I listen well?

    14. Do I usually mix electronic, face-to-face and paper communications channels?

    15. Do I communicate both up and down the organization?

    16. Do I appreciate and encourage feedback?

    17. Do I coach and help you meet your goals and objectives?

    18. Do I hold regular meetings where I feel the pulse of the group?

    19. Do I enjoy communicating with all employees?

    * Source : Public Works and Government Services Canadae

  • 30

    Employee motivation (adapted from Herzbergs Motivators/De-motivators)

    What really motivates employees

    Opportunities to learn/grow/develop

    Meaningful work

    Clear work expectations and objectives

    The ability and proper material/equipment to do the job well

    An environment where opinions matter


    Recognition for good work

    Opportunities for advancement in the organization

    Good/adequate salary

    What de-motivates employees

    Poor manager/supervisor-employee relationships

    Lack of trust and/or integrity


    Lack of coaching/support

    Poor supervision

    Too many/not enough organizational policy and procedures

    Inability to make decisions (due to too many approval requirements red-tape)

    Lack of job security

    Inadequate salary

    What information employees need

    According to the 2008 public service staff survey, employees need:

    Better information flow from senior management, especially on goals, objectives and priorities

    Better ways of rewarding and counseling staff

    More opportunities to participate in decisions and actions that will impact their work

  • Tips on how to engage your employees

    Give them credit for their work, protect them from blame in failure, enable them to apply their talents, sustain them during tough times and recognize and reward their successes. (Hillier, 2010)

    Lead by example

    Get up and wander. Know what your staff is working on, issues and challenges they have come across and what they have succeeded in doing

    Say good morning (EVERY DAY)

    Talk, listen and get to know your staff

    Say thank you


    Trust, support and empower your employees

    Offer praise daily. Ensure you pass on compliments (to your employees as well as your manager)

    Set clear expectations. Make sure your employees know what you expect from them

    Give credit where and when credit is due

    Encourage employees to praise their colleagues good work

    Give public recognition

    Order take-out or organize a potluck for a communal lunch or go out

    Listen and act on your employees ideas for improving efficiency and/or effectiveness

    Provide training and professional development to employees

    Involve employees in decisions that directly affect them

    Find out what your employees need and provide them with the right tools

    Go out of your way to help employees

    Go to lunch with each one of your employees (individually or as a group) on a regular basis

    Ask questions; listen to their answers

    Remember birthdays

    Be sympathetic to personal problems

    Have regular meetings to let employees know what is going on in the organization


  • 32

    Listening skills Dos and donts

    To listen well is as powerful a means of communication and influence as to talk well. (John Marshall)

    Do Dont

    Face the speaker and maintain eye contact. Multitask or rehearse what you will say while someone is speaking.

    Ask open questions to encourage dialogue. Rush to speak as soon as someone pauses.

    Paraphrase to ensure you understand. Interrupt except to clarify.

    Probe for underlying thoughts and feelings. Assume an accusatory or interrogative tone.

    Ask what prompted someone to take an action and what happened next.

    Ask why. Doing so can make people defensive and encourage them to offer a believable but untrue explanation.

  • 33

    Communications skills and competenciesHaving these communications skills and competencies will help you communicate well as a manager.

    Skill/Competency You

    Insight Understand TCs business priorities and problems

    Line up TC priorities to your teams goals

    Define individual performance objectives

    Explain the rational and benefits of major changes

    See the connection between TCs and other departments work

    Understand large audiences

    Credibility/influence Interpret organizational goals in a way that makes sense to your team

    Recognize your strengths and weaknesses and use these to influence others

    Build a network of experts

    Always tell the truth

    Champion talented people

    Challenge decisions / answers

    Act as an agent for change

    Listening to your employees (active listening)

    Stay focused on the employee, maintain eye contact

    Try to understand their position before reacting

    Never interrupt except to ask for clarification

    Ask clarifying questions to start a dialogue

    Try to anticipate employee reaction

    Probe to determine root causes of problems

    Listen for underlying thoughts and feelings (be sensitive to body language)

    Understand blocks to communication

    Avoid distractions

    Listen first and evaluate later

    Communicating, diplomacy, relationship building (face-to-face/writing)

    Prepare your message

    Make the point using simple, direct language

    Write clearly and concisely

    Align words and actions

    Consider who else needs to know

    Engage employees towards action

    Explain expectations

    Feedback and coaching

    Identify ways people can be more effective

    Delegate when possible

    Trust your staff

    Give helpful feedback

    Recognize and reward good performance

    Prepare people for future assignments

    Point out available tools and resources

    Help others learn and adapt

    *Source: Coaching Practices for Managers

  • 34

    Communications planning worksheetUse this worksheet to help define your communication needs and determine why you should or should not send messages to whom, when, and how.

    What do I want to communicate?

    Who should I be communicating with?

    What will happen if I dont communicate?

    What are the benefits to employees, to each unit or team, to the organization, to me?

    Is this a recurring matter? If so, will I promise to keep employees up-to-date?

    Will my audience see the topic as good news or bad news?

    What questions have employees been asking about this topic before I prepare new messages?

    Do I know everything I need to know about this topic?

    Where can I find out more?

    * Source : Public Works and Government Services Canada

  • 35

    Communications planning questionnaireWhat are your intended outcomes, objectives, audience and the current environment?

    Step 1: What is your objective?

    To inform? Yes / No To direct? Yes / No To motivate? Yes / No To recognize achievements/milestones, etc.? Yes / No

    Step 2: Who are your audiences?

    Peers? Yes / Many / Few / No Employees? Yes / Many / Few / No What differentiates them?

    Step 3: What is competing for your audiences attention?

    What other messages may get in the way of yours?

    Are your audiences distracted, preoccupied, upset or committed to another project?

    Is this a repetition of a tired old message?

    Step 4: What communications channel will you use?

    See the Communications channels.

    Step 5: Evaluate and get feedback always, and as quickly as possible.

    Evaluation and feedback help you find out if your audience understood your message. If you ask several people to explain your message and most miss the point, you need to speak up immediately and clarify or even go back to the drawing board.

    There are many ways to get feedback. Face-to-face oral feedback is best although shyness or fear may prevent some people from giving valuable feedback.

    Here are a few techniques:

    Test your message on your staff and colleagues.

    Ask people to explain the message to you or their colleagues.

    Prepare a set of specific questions for immediate dialogue and discussion.

    Adapt and prepare the 360 cheklist for feedback, especially for touchy issues.

  • 36

    Preparing to communicateYour first steps are to determine the how, when, where, why and what of your communications initiative.

    Who is my audience?______________________________________________________________________




    What are my goals?




    Why am I doing it?

    What do I want to say?




    Hook: How can I get people interested in the subject?




    What reactions can I expect and how can I best reply?




  • 37

    Communications channels

    Strategy Benefits Weaknesses

    Intranet Best for short, quick information retrieval

    Is fast and consistent

    Has multi-media capacity, with endless possibilities

    Is good for storing/retrieving information

    Can increase reach of print products

    Makes it easier to control (update) information

    Can be used to share and discuss information (wikis, blogs)

    Can track who is reading (web analytics)

    Is harder to read than print

    Can cause information overload

    May not be accessible to everyone

    Relies on people seeking out information

    Can become unwieldy, hard to navigate, and full of outdated information.

    E-mail Best for speed and retrieval

    Can quickly reach mass audiences

    Is cost effective and simple to use

    Can deliver consistent and controlled messages

    Is good for information, awareness or instruction

    May not be accessible to everyone

    Is impersonal

    Can be misinterpreted

    Can cause information overload

    Sender may never learn if messages were read or understood

  • 38

    Strategy Benefits Weaknesses

    Meetings Best for change

    Town halls/events Allows key people to reach mass audiences face-to-face

    Can build team spirit and motivate

    Is a good way for the best communicators to address controversial issues

    Can include questions and answers sessions, break-out groups and involve people

    Assembles people with different levels of understanding

    Is a difficult venue for receiving feedback (can become a one-way tell session)

    Requires a lot of organization

    Brown bag lunches/information sessions

    Allows participants to inform, clarify and exchange ideas

    There is often no control over how many people choose to attend

    Staff/team meetings Is an efficient way to inform or clarify messaging to more than one staff member

    Is personal and relevant to the team

    Provides an opportunity for staff to discuss, give feedback, ask questions and put forward ideas

    Is easy to plan

    Allows use of audio/visual aids

    May assemble people with different levels of understanding and abilities

    Success depends on the leaders skill

    May produce content overload if the leader is not well-prepared

    One-on-one Is the most valued form of communications

    Great for briefing individual team members or to check on work progress

    Allows for mentoring and coaching

    Provides outlet for feedback

    Promotes behavioural change if required

    May discourage staff from using other channels that could be misleading

    Is time-consuming

  • 39

    Strategy Benefits Weaknesses

    Print Best for communicating complicated information

    Newspaper, magazines, newsletters, annual reports, posters, brochures, etc

    Can reach the entire organization with a consistent message

    Is an easy portable communications vehicle

    Acts as an official record

    Gives time for reflection and feedback

    Stresses and elaborates on important messages

    Can support face-to-face activities

    Can launch events for initiatives

    Has a far reach (to regions)

    Is costly

    Is not environmentally friendly

    Is time-consuming

    Becomes out-of-date quickly

    Is hard to make relevant for all audiences

    Provides no opportunity for discussion or checking understanding if it is the only channel used

    Audio-visual Best for complicated information that requires further explanation

    Is more engaging than static print

    Is interactive

    Supplements face-to-face activity by making people and places accessible for a mass audience

    Can be used as a training tool

    Can provide a consistent and controlled message

    Is expensive

    Is not interactive on its own

    May require the help of technical experts

    Requires technical tools/mediums

    Social media Best for sharing ideas and team collaboration

    Blogs, podcasting, social networking, wikis, etc.

    Refer to Using technology for communications

  • 40

    Communications plan template


    Briefly describe the issue and explain: where you are now, any previous communications and how effective it was.


    Describe what you are trying to achieve. Establish when to review and update this document if required.


    Explain what you hope to achieve as a result of your communications activities. Use SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) objectives.


    Name anything that could pull you off-track.


    Who are you trying to reach? Who are your sponsors those leaders and people in positions of influence who are supporting your work?

    Who are your champions and allies those people who have a vested interest in the success of your project?

    Who are your early adopters those people likely to support you in the early stages?

    Who will be most affected, positively or negatively, by your project?

    Who will be most resistant?

    Key messages (2-3 maximum per target audience)

    Outline what you are going to say to your audience. Keep messages simple, direct and to the point. Think of headlines in a newspaper. When communicating with your audience, follow this simple checklist and ask yourself:

    Is my message passionate? Does it really show my enthusiasm?

    Is it optimistic? Is it positive and forward looking?

    Is it inspirational? Will it move someone to take action?

    Does it challenge? Does it confront the issues?

    Is it credible? Will people believe me?

    Is it accountable? Does it reflect honesty and trustworthiness?

    Is it persevering? Does it prove our commitment?

    Is it delivering results? Does it show what we have achieved?


    Describe your approach. Explain:

    Who will deliver your key messages.

    How they will be delivered.

    When you want it to happen.

    Where you want it to happen.

  • Tactics

    Decide which communications tools/activities you are going to use, i.e. print materials, audio-visual presentations, special events, speeches, speaking notes, etc. Include e-communications such as multi-media, surveys, feedback mechanisms and social media.

    BudgetCalculate how much it will cost.

    EvaluationExplain how you will measure success. While it is often hard to get quantitative data; finding the answers to the following questions will help you get great qualitative data:

    Did you reach the right people within the organization?

    Did they understand your message? What type of feedback did you get?

    Did they do what had to be done?

    Did you use the right tools?

    To learn more about evaluation, contact the Internal Communications Unit.41

    Activity Responsibility Timeline Resources required

    Indicators of success

    Date completed

    Print newsletters, magazines


    Posters, banners

    Intranet, blogs, webinars

    Electronic newsletters

    Electronic boards, messaging


    Multi-media presentation

    Town halls

    Brown bag lunch meetings

    Face-to-face small meetings

    Virtual meetings

    Off-site meetings, retreats, events

    On-site events, speeches, training, e-mails, lobby displays, lobby screens

  • 42

    Open questions

    A thought from Rudyard Kiplings The Elephants Child: I keep six honest serving men (They taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When And How and Where and Who.

    Put Kiplings serving men to work for you, along with Which. For example:

    What do you think of? A great question for getting rational answers if there are any.

    Why do you think we should do it this way?

    Be careful with Why because it asks for a reply based on values. Set the context as corporate values so people know you are not exploring their personal values.

    Why can also lead to a never-ending spiral of connected why-because answers: Why A? Because B. Why B ? Because C. Why C ? Because D, and so on.

    When do you think we should do this? When questions will help you develop a timetable.

    How can you get this done? This will prompt answers that can include where, when and logistics.

    Asking How do you feel about? may be seen as asking about values and beliefs. It may seem too personal since you used the word feel.

    Where will/should it happen?

    Who did it? / Who will do it?

    While Which is not included among Kiplings serving men, it serves a useful purpose. It suggests that options exist and asks for a choice or opinion as in, Which plan do you prefer?

  • 43

    Running a meeting Tips and techniquesThis checklist may help you keep your meetings on track and make them as efficient and effective as they can be.

    Step 1: Get comfortable with the content

    Step 2: Prepare for the meeting

    Get access to a meeting room

    Check to make sure there is sufficient lights, chairs, equipment

    Decide on audio-visual equipment

    Display the agenda for all to see (or have handouts ready)

    Optional: Offer treats (perhaps a box of donuts be mindful of allergies)

    Step 3: Manage the meeting

    Clearly explain the purpose of the meeting

    Go through the meeting agenda

    Have someone draft minutes

    Hold back from interrupting to encourage an open session, while making sure people dont ramble and the meeting stays on track

    Summarize discussion points regularly

    Identify themes as they emerge

    Review ideas or issues positively

    Step 4: Encourage open discussion

    Encourage the team to listen actively assign someone to note ideas for later review

    Make sure everyone gets the chance to contribute while limiting the time people have to speak

    Use Post-it pads to capture big ideas or key issues and put them on the wall or a flipchart

    Involve quieter people by inviting their opinion

    Acknowledge all contributions positively

    Encourage different points of view there is no such thing as a bad idea

    Step 5: Handle questions and feedback

    Listen to questions and acknowledge understanding

    Make replies concise and on topic

    Answer questions when possible or promise to find the answer

    Do not get defensive with any hostile participants. Stay calm, maintain eye contact and respond in a direct, positive way

    Encourage team members to find answers to their own questions by throwing those questions to the group

    Step 6: Conclude the meeting

    Summarize the meeting

    Identify top priorities

    Determine next steps, deadlines, next meeting date and agenda

  • 44

    Harvard Business Team meeting trouble shooting guideMeetings are a great opportunity to listen, learn, make plans, and negotiate. They can also be stressful and ineffective. Below you will find common problems, warning signs, as well as tips on how to solve them.

    Problem Warning signs Try this

    Unhealthy conflict

    Personal attacks and sarcasm


    No/little support for others

    Aggressive gestures

    Interrupt personal attacks and sarcasm; confront them directly

    Ask members to focus on behaviour instead of attacking character

    Set / agree to rules of meeting conduct

    Trouble reaching consensus

    Holding rigidly to positions

    Same arguments with no new information

    Look for smaller areas of agreement

    Ask what needs to happen to make progress or reach agreement

    Discuss the consequences of no consensus

    Teams fail to communicate

    Members interrupt or talk over others

    Some remain silent

    Problems are hinted at but never formally addressed

    Set / agree to rules of meeting conduct

    Actively ask for views

    Consider using an outside facilitator

    Low participation Assignments not completed

    Poor attendance

    Low energy at meetings

    Confirm that members share the leaders expectations for participation

    Ask why there is such low involvement

    Assess the fit of members with their tasks

    Lack of progress Meetings seem a waste of time

    Action items not completed on time

    Continuing to revisit closed issues

    Restate goals and assess what remains to be done

    Ask member to identify causes of late work; brainstorm solutions

    Move members from closed issues to next steps

    Poor leadership Leader does not ask for member contributions

    Leader does not delegate

    Leader has no vision

    Leader represents only one of many points of view

    Meet with leader to discuss leadership styles

    Volunteer to share the load

    Push for a group consensus on the vision

    Bring irresolvable leadership problems to the team sponsor

    Based on Harvard Business Essentials (2004).

  • 45

    Feedback guidelinesThese basic guidelines may help you give more effective feedback to your staff. Give feedback on their strengths and successes as well as areas for improvement.

    Steps for giving effective feedback


    Prepare Have a clear picture of what the problem is

    Know why you want to give feedback

    Determine the best time and place

    Get the information you need

    Present Advise that you want to discuss an important issue and explain why

    Offer specific examples

    Do not find blame

    Explain the impact on the organization and on you personally

    Ask if they believe that the issue should be discussed

    Listen Ask for their opinion of what broke down

    Hear the other persons point of view

    Listen with open ears

    Ask questions that help you understand their point of view

    Dont agree or disagree, just be curious and gather information

    Engage in dialogue Hold a conversation

    Give your opinion of what broke down

    Talk about the issues

    Plan for action Search for solutions that you can both agree to

    Identify what both of you can do to make this learning opportunity a success.

    Acknowledge Thank the person and acknowledge what you have learned and accomplished together

    Adapted from Maurer, Rick (1994), Feedback Toolkit, CRC Press Taylor and Francis Group, Boca Raton, Florida.

  • 46

    The Praise Sandwich Or How to Deliver Criticism in an Appetizing Way

    Some people find that giving negative feedback is tough. The Praise Sandwich is the easiest way to serve and receive tough feedback.

    Making a Praise Sandwich

    There are two outer layers of bread (praise) with a middle layer of filling (positive criticism).

    Lay down the first slice of bread by saying what was good about a persons actions even if it is only the fact that the person tried, but always stay truthful. Save your highest praise for what they did best for the end, the top slice of bread.

    What I found good about

    Im happy that

    You did very well when

    Im impressed that you tried to tackle this

    Youre one of the hardest workers I know

    Now, the middle layer: what you can improve on and learn from this. Introduce this with and or now. Avoid using but and however. These last two transition words are like a bump in the road and can set up defensiveness and conflict.

    Now, from what I saw, this is what you could have done better/differently/instead

    Or, instead of telling them, ask what they could (not should) have done. People are often harder on themselves than you would be.

    And what do you think you could have done better/differently/instead?

    Now for the top layer, another slice of praise, the highest level what the person did best, brilliantly, fastest. This anchors that persons perception of you and the conversation as positive and supporting unless you ring insincere.

    Notice that the second sentence in the example below leads the person into the future; they are not being punished and you clearly expect more of their best.

    What I think is extraordinary is your tenacity in the face of resistance. Keep it up because that kind of persistence will serve us all well, as you continue to learn and grow in your work.

    * Source : Public Works and Government Services Canada

  • 47

    Sample praise statements (in alphabetical order)

    a significant contribution accept my gratitude for accept my sincerest a direct result of your efforts a job well done an asset to our appreciate having you are to be commended for as a result of your efforts best wishes for can take pride in cannot overestimate the value of commend you for competence and sensitivity congratulations on congratulations to continue to excel continued success in count it a privilege to done a magnificent job done expertly and thoroughly enjoy the rewards of exceptional job you did expertise and diligence express our appreciation for extra time and effort future association with gain further recognition for gain even more visibility good luck with hard work and commitment have been invaluable have been very pleased have come to depend on have set a standard for hope other opportunities will how much we value how impressed I was how much I appreciate keep up the good work let you know

    look forward to made the difference making a great contribution to making quite a name for yourself must compliment you on must give you the credit for our best wishes professional approach to reap many benefits from sincerely grateful for such a fine job support you gave to taking the initiative talent combined with thank you thank you for time and effort to go the extra mile to take the lead in the contribution you make the enthusiastic way you the excellent quality of the professional manner the outstanding success of very impressed with very proud of vital to our success want to commend your was most pleased with will be watching your will prove to be of great value to wish you continued success wish you similar success with your ability to your contribution to your dedication to your future accomplishments your future endeavors your happiness and success your influence on your positive impact on your willingness to

    WANT MORE?Visit the Six Words Recognition Tool on TCs Awards and Recognition Program site for more tips on effectively recognizing your employees.

  • 48

    The DESC Model for corrective feedback Another communication model you can use to give criticism or corrective feedback is known by the acronym DESC. This model gives you an opportunity to focus on the situation and to plan your response.

    D Describe the behaviour accurately and concisely. Be specific and avoid words such as always and never.

    E Explain the impact/effect of the behaviour on you, the team or your organization.

    S Suggest the change(s) you would like. Invite a solution or propose one if the person is unable or unwilling to make one. You may ask them for what you want, tell them what you want, or brainstorm for solutions together.

    C Commit to change. State the benefits or state the consequences if you see no effort to change.

    Examples of preambles to a DESC statement

    I read your draft report, Kim, and I have some positive comments to make and also some suggestions on how to improve it.

    You gave your first presentation about our project to the management team yesterday. Its probably a good time to go over it while its still fresh in our minds. There is one element that really surprised me

    Tim, we always work well together. Yesterday you made a comment during our meeting that made me uncomfortable and Id like to talk about it with you.

    Keep in mind that no matter how well you deliver feedback, the outcome will also be influenced by:

    Characteristics of the person receiving feedback

    Self-image and self-esteem

    Past experiences baggage

    Objectives what do they want to learn?



    Characteristics of the relationship

    The level of trust between the two of you

    The basic respect and esteem that you have for each other

    The formal relationship between the two of you (peer/subordinate/superior)

    The moral authority the person receiving feedback believes you have

    The overall history of your relationship

    WANT MORE?Visit TCs Awards and Recognition Program to learn more about how you can recognize your employees work.

  • 49

    Best practices Written communications

    Online writing

    The title of your online piece is important. It should exactly describe the content.

    Use frequent headlines, subheads, navigation and hyperlinks to break up the content (easily scanned).

    Be concise. Less than ten per cent of readers will actually scroll down the pages.

    Restrict to no more than two pages or 500 words.

    Be clear. People scan the visual elements and skim read the content.

    Group sentences together in short, logical, easy-to-read paragraphs.

    Each small paragraph should focus on a single idea or concept.

    Cut line length to no more than 10 words.

    Use bold, bullet points, numbering, indentation to make text stand out.

    Provide opportunities for comment and feedback.


    Subject lines are headlines and very important. It should reflect exactly what the e-mail is about.

    Be short and concise; try to keep each e-mail to one point.

    Clearly state the response you expect.

    Choose your audience carefully. Do not cc everyone.

    ALL CAPS is difficult to read and can be perceived as rude.

    Use hyperlinks rather than big attachments.

    Review and check for mistakes before pressing send.

    Think twice before sending.

    Think more than twice before you reply.

    Read everything you receive and send through to the end.


    The audience will remember only up to three messages. Reduce the number of your slides.

    A picture is worth a thousand words still holds true today. Use visuals when you can (pictures, graphs, tables, props), but skip distracting, moving graphics.

    Use a large typeface and reduce the number of words and bullet points.

    No more than seven words across. No more than seven lines down.

    Make sure the equipment is working before you present.

    Turn off the projector when talking and not presenting.

    Provide handouts.

    Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.

    WANT MORE?The National Managers Community Network Start-up Toolkit takes a step-by-step approach to starting or improving a network of managers, complete with tips and ideas, sample letters, meeting agendas and other useful tools.

  • 50

    Best practices for remote employees Try to hold project kick-off meetings face-to-face.

    Hold regular conference calls with the entire team.

    Use webcast or video conferencing for team meetings.

    Agree on a response time for messages (i.e. return phone calls within 24 hours.)

    Devote face-to-face meetings to team-building activities at least once a year.

    Celebrate successes virtually.

    Take time to get to know your remote employees.

    Consider time zones when planning meetings.

    Communicating bad news Tell it straight. The information must make sense and be easy to understand.

    Choose a top-level, credible spokesperson.

    Present a balanced picture.

    Be visible and honest. The information must convey that things are not being disguised, spun, or held back.

    Present the information in a way that causes the audience to want to discuss it now (versus attack it later).

    Do not speculate. Rather communicate the process:

    What went wrong How is the problem being solved How the solution supports organizational goals How decisions were made, who was involved, what effort went into the decision What the alternatives were and why they were not chosen

    Deliver the message without delay.

    You do not want the employees to hear about the issue through the newspapers, the rumour mill or at the water fountain.

    Listen to your employees and address their concerns.

    Communicating during a crisis In advance

    Identify and prepare for likely crises (brainstorm the possibilities) Identify your crisis communications team Test action plans and act on any problem areas you find Offer crisis training Include internal communications Keep up-to-date contact lists Identify and train spokespersons Have a staff meeting location and establish notification systems

    On the day of the crisis

    Assess the crisis situation Be decisive and quick, but do not jump the gun Gather information quickly and share with staff Identify key messages Deal in fact, not guesswork Brief staff often Be prepared for quick changes Learn from the crisis and adjust action plans

  • 51

    The importance of communications in change management

    Best practices

    If you need to communicate to a large audience, contact the Internal Communications Unit.

    Analyze the current environment and possible employee reactions.

    Start thinking about effective strategies and tools.

    Draft a strong communications strategy that includes transparent and timely communications activities.

    Develop a change management strategy.

    Deal with and communicate challenges quickly.

    Set up networks and identify and prepare intellectual capital: champions, leaders, centres of influence, etc.

    Identify and prepare material resources.

    Create a roadmap for key stakeholders, champions, sponsors and role models.

    Integrate change and project management.

    Commit to regular meetings.

    Communicate, communicate, communicate.

    Do not speculate.

    Measure feedback, compliance and performance.

    Act on feedback.

    Celebrate successes at stages along the way.

    Close the project and shift back to day-to-day operations.

  • 52


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    Colorado Nonprofit Association (ND), Crisis Communications Nonprofit Toolkit.

    Corrado, F. (2008) Communication with Employees, Improving Organizational Communications, Axzo Press, USA.

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    DeVolder, Dr. Mark (2009), Get Engaged! A practical guide for improving employee engagement, BetterTogether, Vernon, BC.

    Grellier, J. & Goerke, V. (2010), Communications Skills Toolkit Unlocking the Secrets of Tertiary Success, 2nd Edition, Cengage Learning Australia Pty Limited, Australia.

    Harvard Business Essentials (2004), Managers Toolkit The 13 Skills Managers Need to Succeed, Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation, USA.

    Hovland, I. (2005). Successful Communication, A toolkit for Researchers and Civil Society Organizations, Overseas Development Institute, London.

    Hume, J. (ND), Internal Communications Toolkit, Civicus: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, USA.

    Keller, G, The listening Skills of Court Judges: Lessons for Managers and Leaders, Cardinal Stritch University, Milwaukee, WI USA.

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    Maurer, Rick (1994), Feedback Toolkit. CRC Press Taylor and Francis Group, Boca Raton, Florida.

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    Smith, Lyn (2008), Effective Internal Communication, 2nd Edition, Kogan Page Limited. Great Britain and USA.

    Szpekman, A. (2008), Help Managers Master the Art of Communication : Leadership Communication. Volume 12, Issue 4, p. 12.

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    What do I want to communicate: Who should I be communicating with: What will happen if I dont communicate: What are the benefits to employees to each unit or team to the organization to me: Is this a recurring matter If so will I promise to keep employees uptodate: Will my audience see the topic as good news or bad news: What questions have employees been asking about this topic before I prepare new messages: Do I know everything I need to know about this topic: Where can I find out more: b: c: d: e: a: f: g: h: i: j: k: l: m: n: o: p: q: r: s: t: u: v: w: x: y: z: aa: bb: cc: dd: ff: gg: hh: ii: ee: kk: ll: mm: nn: jj: pp: qq: rr: ss: oo: tt: uu: vv: ww: xx: yy: zz: bbb: ccc: aaa: eee: fff: ggg: hhh: ddd: iii: mmm: lll: kkk: jjj: nnn: ooo: ppp: qqq: rrr: Yes _ 1: Yes _ 2: Yes _ 3: Yes _ 4: No 1: No 2: No 3: No 4: No_6: No_5: Many: Few: Few_2: Many_2: Yes_6: Yes_5: Are your audiences distracted preoccupied upset or committed to another project: Audiences: Another Project: Message: Who is my audience: When: Where: How: Goals 1: xxxdxSDGoals 2: Goals 3: Text1: 1_2: 2_2: 3_2: 1_3: 2_3: 3_3: 1_4: 2_4: 3_4: