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Lifting their performance: helping your team write well

Learning to write well is like preparing for a marathon. A few hours of training will provide a good foundation, but to complete or win the race will take sustained effort.

Many people will make significant improvements after an initial writing skills training or coaching session. Following training there is much managers and supervisors can do to help team members continue to develop their writing skills.

  1. Tell them what they’re doing right. Team members will quickly become demotivated if they are told only what they are doing wrong. Give your team regular positive and constructive feedback; for example, ‘Your polite tone is excellent and will help build strong relationships with our clients’ or ‘I can see a real improvement in your use of commas.’
  2. Fully brief your team. When you instruct a team member to write a particular communication, tell them the aim of the communication and as much as you can about the intended audience. What outcome do you expect from the communication? How much does the reader know already? Will the reader be receptive to the message or will they need to be persuaded?
  3. Don’t make unnecessary changes. There are many ways to get a message across, all of which may be appropriate. Your team member may not write the communication exactly as you would. But if the communication is to the point, is grammatically correct and has an appropriate tone, there is no need to change it.
  4. Do instruct and guide your staff members. If a communication is not up to standard, give it back to your staff member to re-write explaining why it is below standard. Correct grammatical errors and provide guidance to your staff member, but resist the temptation to re-write the communication yourself.
  5. Encourage your staff to check their work. Sloppy written communication with grammatical, spelling and typographical errors gives a poor impression of your organisation. Paying attention to detail in written communication gives the reader confidence that your organisation pays attention to detail in all aspects of your work. It’s imperative that you encourage your team to take a rigorous approach and to check their communications before sending them.

When pressed for time, it is often tempting for managers to take over the communication and re-write it themselves. Although this might seem the easiest solution, it robs you of time and your team member of the opportunity to develop their writing skills. Guiding and encouraging your team to improve their writing skills is an investment well worth the effort.

Concise Writing Consultancy provides writing support to managers and staff in government and private organisations. For help with all your written communications, contact Patricia Hoyle on 02 9238 6638 or patricia.hoyle@concisewriting.com.au