For small businesses, communication is essential to making sure your team is working effectively.
When internal communications are good, there is a strong sense of collaboration. Employees relate better to each other and to their clients. Effective internal communications also result in substantial productivity gains from your team. Everyone’s efforts are dovetailing, and processes are running like clockwork.
On the other hand, businesses with bad communication are wrought with employee frustrations and missed opportunities. Bad communication can result in a client’s needs not being met, deadlines being missed, tasks being done incorrectly and even misunderstandings about what the goals are. This costs your company time and money; therefore, adding some effort to your internal communications is often good for your bottom line.
Whether it’s peer-to-peer communication or between a manager and employee, following these guidelines will help your business be more successful and a better place to work. And who doesn’t want that?!
Let’s break down some tips on how you can communicate better in the office.
Managing and Delegating
“Over the years, I never met a manager who wasn’t a good communicator,” said Victor Lipman in Forbes Magazine. “It’s a foundational management skill,” he added. While good communication skills may seem like just common sense, he explained: “When it comes to management, just because something is common sense doesn’t mean it’s commonly practiced.”
Good communication between managers and employees is not defined by interactions that are elaborate or extensive. Lipman said that reliable and normal communications are what work. It’s about being available to talk and responding to messages. “Over the years, I learned that simple communication one can count on goes a long way to building manager-employee rapport. And rapport builds trust … trust builds engagement … and engagement yields productivity,” he said.
And while an open door policy and timely responses to messages create a good framework, there is another important guideline. By knowing the people in your group, you’ll be able to best accommodate the variety of communication preferences. Some people have a natural preference for face-to-face communication and some would rather do it in writing.
But even with the variety of interactions and communication preferences, it’s a good rule of thumb to always delegate tasks in writing. It can be a simple email or a more complex flowchart, but having the task in writing means the recipient will have something to use as a reference while completing the task. Also, having it in writing puts everyone on the same page; there is less chance for missed components or misunderstandings.
Even though written delegation may take more time than just describing the task in a conversation, the time spent writing it down is a good investment. As the saying goes, every minute that you spend planning saves 10 minutes in execution.
Both the business and self-help sections of bookstores have endless titles about how to communicate better, but there are very few titles about listening. Because listening is half of the conversation, it seems to be a valuable point of attention.
While at first it may seem one-sided, listening is beneficial for both parties in the conversation. Not only will you be hearing what the person is saying and gaining the information and insight they’re sharing, but the person who is talking will actually feel heard, a satisfying experience compared to those conversations where you feel like you’ve been talking at a brick wall.
One of the biggest aspects of being a good listener is to check your assumptions. Don’t assume that you already know everything that’s going on in the speaker’s head. A Fast Company article suggested this strategy on how to train yourself to become a better listener: “Get in the habit of repeating back at least some of what colleagues have said to you when you are dealing with important issues. Give that summary before you launch into your own solutions.”
The article explains that in order to be able to repeat back what someone has said, you have to have actively listened to what they said. Additionally, confirming to the speaker that you have heard what they said will increase their likelihood to trust your response.
Listening may not seem like an obvious path to success because it’s outwardly passive, but in the workplace, a good listener is likely to be more productive and more influential. “Ultimately, the ability to extract what people mean from a conversation is one of the most important tools of any leader. It takes a lot of work,” the FC article stated. ”And it requires curbing your natural tendency to jump right to a solution to people’s problems.”
Whether it’s in a department meeting or managing a complex project cycle, adding structure to your communication is an effective way to increase overall satisfaction in the workplace.
Structure helps keep things organized, fair and streamlined. For example, in meetings, there may be some people who dominate the floor while others can’t get a word in edgewise. Have an agenda item for which you go around the room so the group can briefly share updates or contribute to some of the issues at hand. The structure then brings new voices into the conversation and provides an equal and even format to do so.
And for meetings, keep in mind how valuable the structure of an agenda can be — even if it’s only five bullet points handwritten on a napkin. Knowing what needs to be discussed and then following your list will prevent meetings from becoming time drains.
But communication structure is more than just for meetings. Project management software is an important way to keep your team’s communication organized. By keeping conversation threads focused on a single task, your team will be more effective and efficient in its work. The focus will help tasks get resolved quicker and save time because people won’t be searching for the relevant communication. Additionally, it makes collaboration more intuitive.
Once your project management system is established and the structure is clear, the chore of digging through the endless internal emails will be over. The structured communication will make everyone’s job easier and more pleasurable.
If these tips are valuable, follow the Ooma Small Business blog to stay up to date on the latest business trends and ideas, and visit Ooma for Business to learn more about our telephone communication