Published: 06/05/2004, Volume II4, No. 5904 Page 34

Communicating with staff is essential to good leadership, so make yourself visible, says Ruth Spellman

Poor leadership is the issue raised most frequently with Investors in People's practitioners and assessors when they talk to employees.While opinions cannot be changed overnight, there are some simple techniques to improve relationships with staff.

Be visible If your employees do not see you, they will not believe in you.Build your profile with employees, by walking the floor, talking to them in the lift or queuing with them in the canteen.Make sure employees see you as part of the place and as involved and committed as they are.

Communicate Good communication should be the most basic tool in a manager's armoury, yet it is incredible how often it is neglected.A constantly closed office door, a low profile or failing to seek feedback suggest that a manager does not value employees.Think about the signals you are giving off and how they may be interpreted.

Ask, ask, ask Gaining feedback from employees and acting upon it is vital to your credibility.Approach employees informally, consider question and answer sessions over a sandwich or even running topic-based 'surgery'hours.Give your people a voice, and make sure they know it is being heard.

Invite ideas and input Harness employee talents by encouraging them to provide ideas on how to improve the workplace.Some of the most effective improvements could come from small amendments to working practices.You could even offer a monthly prize for the most useful idea.Your employees will appreciate the opportunity to be involved.

Be consistent Do not be all smiles one day and a tyrant the next.Treat people consistently.Make sure the rules are clear, and apply them to everyone: respect and commitment comes from clarity and equality.

Reward success Show genuine appreciation for good work and improvement.Employee commitment and enthusiasm are priceless assets, but they are easily destroyed.And although everyone would like more pay, research shows that a simple 'thank you'and recognition for the effort they have put in goes a long way.

Ruth Spellman is chief executive of Investors in People (UK).She will be writing a monthly column on being a better employer.