Addressing communication skill challenges as an IC Transitions to Manager

Henry Hsu

Head of Engineering at Trade Coffee



I was developing one of my ICs to become a manager and I gathered from his 360 feedback and from my own observations that he had a problem on communication - seemed to be both on listening and communicating his ideas. One piece of feedback was he wasn't sure how to direct conversations so the group couldn't understand where the discussion was going. In other cases, he would freeze when asked a question in a group discussion, or would reply with a number of different things that seemed unrelated or a bit off-topic.

Actions taken

As his manager, the first thing I did was to sort through the feedback, analyze the scenarios, and come up with some theories that could possibly explain what was going on. Second, during our 1:1, I discussed with him the consolidated feedback and clarified the possible reasons why he reacted this way when people asked him questions, as I needed to understand his thought process. Was it because: ** He didn't understand the question? ** He was not familiar or prepared to hear the question? ** He didn't know what to reply so he just said what comes to mind? ** Didn't have time to process the question? ** He knew the answer to the questions but didn't know how to frame his answers. He confirmed it was a little bit of all the scenarios mentioned. So for our third step, we came up with a strategy on how he would communicate/respond to questions: ** Communicate his solution first, followed by his supporting arguments ** Come to the meetings prepared - know what to expect, anticipate the questions, do research Lastly, we agreed on a monitoring process where I would be observing him during meetings and we would debrief after. He also started to analyze himself and the scenarios and soon enough I could confirm that his communication improved.

Lessons learned

It was a good thing this IC acknowledged his communication challenges and how important it was to be able to communicate effectively; especially, if he were to become a manager. He also agreed it was essential for employees to be self-evaluating themselves in all aspects of their development. The more he saw how I analyzed and provide feedback to him, the more he learned how to do it for himself. Finally, as their manager, it is important that we create the learning structure to help them grow not only in communication but in other development areas as well.

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Henry Hsu

Head of Engineering at Trade Coffee

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