Effective communication is the backbone of any thriving business. Without it, you’re just asking for a heap of trouble.
Communication is fundamental to building trust and relationships and building motivated and engaged teams who will go over and beyond to deliver exceptional results. It can be argued that the lack of effective communication causes more problems in business, and life in general, than anything else.
In a small business it can be easy to make assumptions about communication, it’s effectiveness and what type of communication is either wanted or even required. You might assume that everyone knows their roles, or that email is always the way to go, or that you simply don’t have time for certain communication methods. You may underestimate the benefits of clear communication, such as building strong relationships, boosting employee morale, and enhancing customer service. But these misconceptions can be detrimental to your business’s growth and success.
5 Assumptions / Misconceptions about Communication
- There’s no need for formal communication processes in a small business – Assuming that more formal communication processes like regular team meetings, 121s, and performance briefings simply aren’t necessary because you work in a small team. It’s easy to think that everyone is fully informed because you believe you share and tell your team everything. However, formal communication processes can help in the way a message is delivered, heard, received and prioritised by the team or the individual. In NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) there is a pre supposition that says we cannot not communicate i.e. that there is no such thing as not communicating. Staying silent or being inconsistent is communication too, and it sends your team two clear messages: that you don’t know what you’re doing, and that your employees aren’t your priority. A lack of communication creates distrust in the workplace and takes team members away from their actual tasks.
- Micromanagement – I’m not micromanaging I’m just checking in and letting them know I’m around- When you work in close quarters with your team it can be too easy to just stick your head around an office door or pop your head up over a desk and ask “how are things are going?” …..or “have you done xxxx yet?”, ….Or “I could see you were busy so I’ve just done xxxx for you” …checking in too often just because you can. Perhaps, you feel that there is a lack of communication between yourself and your team members. Maybe you aren’t being updated or informed as often as you would like or perhaps you feel excluded from the rest of the team and their conversations. In this case it’s common to overcompensate in an attempt to fix the problem. For example, because you feel that something may be lacking, you might end up calling your team constantly when you’re off site, or scheduling back-to-back meetings to address it. Checking in too often and overcompensating for a lack of communication only leads to burnout and a lack of trust between you and your team.
- I don’t over share = sharing too much information – This may be unintentional however, it can be very easy for conversations to be overheard and for information you really shouldn’t be sharing with your team or didn’t intend to be shared ……to be overheard and misinterpreted, especially if you work in close quarters like in an open plan office or your walls are thin. When you overwhelm people with an abundance of data, instructions, or news, it becomes like white noise. And without the facts or wider context, they can start to create their own story of what is actually going on and rumours start. Consider the layout of your office, the everyday conversations you are having, and their nature. Think about closing a door if you have one, or perhaps holding those conversations that are more personal in nature away from the premises. If there is lots to share, have a point and get to it quickly and concisely. Your team shouldn’t be left wondering what just happened or what needs to happen after attending a meeting or reading an email.
- I’ve told them once so they ought to understand / I don’t have time for a 121 today / I’ll just tell them = Not Listening – Listening is crucial, especially during times of crisis or urgency. Workplace communication problems start with a naïve assumption that employees understand every piece of information they are given and never have anything to ask. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and yet, some managers still go for a communication approach that offers no option for questions, comments or feedback. Give your team a voice through regular forums such as121s, team meetings, suggestion boxes, group discussions, feedback forms, engagement, and pulse surveys. And leave some time for questions at the end of the meetings too. Feeling listened to is an important human need. We all want to feel heard and listened to and it’s especially crucial in times of crisis or urgency.
- Remote / hybrid working makes communication hard – Remote and hybrid working can present unique communication challenges however, we have just lived through 2 plus years of practically 100% virtual working. What lessons did you learn about your business during lockdown? Make sure to practice active listening (with your eyes and your ears), ensure consistent messaging, use communication tools such as video conferencing, messaging apps, and project management software to improve collaboration and communication, and invest in training and development opportunities for yourself and your team to improve communication skills.
10 Tips for Improving Communication in Business:
- Communication Channels and Tools: Set up clear communication channels and ensure briefings, meetings and 121s are in place, have a clear purpose and are run well and consistently. Use communication tools such as video conferencing, messaging apps, and project management software to improve collaboration and communication.
- Practice active communication: Engage in regular communication with your team, customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders. This will help build strong relationships and keep everyone informed and on the same page. Keep it punchy and interesting.
- Seek feedback: Ask for feedback from your audience to improve your communication skills. This will help you identify areas where you can improve and make adjustments as needed either with your own skillset or with the content.
- Consistent Messaging: Ensure that your messaging is consistent across all channels, including meetings, email, social media, and in-person interactions.
- Know your audience: Before communicating with someone, try to understand their background, needs, and expectations. This will help you tailor your communication to their specific situation.
- Use clear and concise language: Avoid using technical jargon or overly complicated language that may confuse your audience. Use simple, easy-to-understand language that gets your message across clearly and concisely.
- Be a good listener: Effective communication is a two-way street, so make sure to actively listen to your audience. Encourage your team to ask questions, and be open to feedback and recommendations.
- Use visual aids: Visual aids such as charts, diagrams, notice boards and images can help illustrate your points and make your message more memorable.
- Follow up: After a conversation or meeting check understanding. Perhaps follow up with an email or phone call to clarify any outstanding questions or concerns. .
- Training and Development: Invest in training and development opportunities for yourself and your team to improve communication skills.
Points to ponder:
- What assumptions are you making about the effectiveness of communication in your business?
- What would make the biggest difference?
- What would you improve if you could?
- Would you like a strategy call to talk it through?
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