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5 Ways to Help Your Leaders Improve Workplace Communication

Published Wed Jan 17 2024


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HR and L&D professionals can equip leaders with the skills to cultivate a culture of effective, open workplace communication. DDI’s five key principles for effective interactions are an evidence-based framework to set leaders up for success. For this reason, they should be the foundation of every successful communication strategy.

What Are DDI’s 5 Key Principles for Effective Communication?


DDI’s key principles serve as a powerful framework, shaping an organizational culture of respect, inclusivity, and empathy. They go beyond individual actions, collectively creating a psychologically safe work environment.

When leaders use key principles, they cultivate a safe, collaborative, respectful, and trusting workplace for employees to do their best and grow. To be strong workplace communicators and drive a positive company culture, leaders should:

  1. Maintain and enhance self-esteem.

  2. Actively listen and respond with empathy.

  3. Ask for help and encourage involvement.

  4. Build trust by sharing thoughts, feelings, and rationale.

  5. Build ownership by providing support without removing responsibility.

Maintain or Enhance Self-Esteem

When employees feel respected and valued, they also tend to be more motivated and committed to their work. High self-esteem makes employees more likely to share responsibility, confront challenges, adapt to change, and offer new solutions. While it’s critical to maintain a team member’s self-esteem if they are struggling with low performance, it’s also essential to enhance self-esteem by recognizing great work.

Example #1: Maintain Self-Esteem in a Low-Performance Conversation


Leaders should consider the right time and setting for conversations about low performance. Make sure there is enough time to fully discuss the challenge and next steps in a neutral and comfortable setting. Start by acknowledging the employee’s strengths and contributions and highlight specific examples where the employee’s work has positively affected the team:

“Sam, I appreciate your dedication and the effort you’ve put into our recent project. Your attention to detail and creativity have been valuable to the team.”

Next, it is important to share observations in a nonconfrontational way. Use specific examples to illustrate concerns, focusing on behaviors rather than personal attributes:

“I’ve noticed some project deadlines are not being met, and the quality of your work seems to have decreased. I want to understand if there are any challenges you’re facing.”

Leaders should involve the employee by asking for their perspective. This fosters a sense of ownership and encourages open communication.


“I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on what might be causing these challenges. Is anything hindering your ability to meet deadlines or produce your best work?”

Leaders shouldn’t forget to offer support and resources to help the employee:

“I want to help you overcome any obstacles. Do you need resources or additional assistance? Let’s work together to find solutions that can help you regain your usual level of performance.”

Then, conclude by reaffirming the employee’s value and express confidence in their ability to improve:

“Sam, your contributions are essential, and I believe in your ability to overcome these challenges. Let’s work together to ensure you have what you need to succeed.”

Next, learn how to enhance self-esteem in a recognition conversation, and get more information about key principles for effective communication in DDI’s blog.

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