George Bernard Shaw got it right: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
You probably became a small business owner because you’re passionate, smart, informed and likely very obsessed with your company’s success. You live it. You breathe it. You sleep it. It’s easy to get so engrossed in your own experience and services/products that you may not have the perspective necessary to effectively communicate to your audience, be it employees, stakeholders or your community.
I came across this great little test in Canada’s Profit magazine to help you determine whether people understand your message or whether they are just nodding along. Keep track of whether you answer “true” or “false” to the following questions:
I’m aware of my own communication style, thanks to consistent feedback from employees, peers, clients and third parties such as consultants.
When I ask questions, I listen carefully to the answers (even if I think I already know them)
I frame my questions positively to that people know what I want them to do and not what they shouldn’t be doing
I communicate to key stakeholders both inside and outside my firm using layman’s terms and not industry jargon
I avoid stating vague motivational imperatives that offer little guidance, such as “Let’s all reach for the stars!”
The more “true” answers you had the better you are at communicating with your team. If you feel you had too many “false” answers then consider the following tips on how to better communicate with your team:
Half of communication is listening. I know we’ve all heard this before but with so much on our plates these days it’s easy to let your mind wander when other people are talking. As a result you miss out on valuable information. Here are a couple of techniques to help you take in everything your staff, customers and investors are saying:
Play it back – repeat what you’ve just heard to ensure you’ve understood it correctly. You might be surprised how often you haven’t got it right.
Write it down – taking notes has been proven to increase your ability to recall the information. It also signals that you think what people are saying is important enough to write down.
Make time for employees:
Regular one-on-one meeting with staff members are important. If they work remotely then organise a phone or video meeting. From my experience, its best to try and do these once a week (depending on how many staff you have) as it keeps you informed of what’s going on and keeps staff focused as they want to ensure they’ve made progress and have updates for you. Make sure they have your undivided attention – turn off blackberry’s – otherwise this could be defeating the purpose.
That’s just a start. But hopefully the above tips will ensure you’re a better communicator so that those around you understand where you’re taking the business and how you’re going to get there.