Tackling Communication Breakdowns: When Good Enough Beats Perfection
Being a small business leader is a lot of things: It ranges from hiring and mentoring a diverse team to making sure your product or service is delivered to your customer’s satisfaction. While we all know communication is important, taking time to communicate workplace culture, expectations, or feedback can easily be missed when there are seemingly higher priorities. Even the smallest of teams, teams of three or four, must have a work atmosphere that’s productive and aligns with the business’ values. Achieving perfect communication health may seem like a daunting, unattainable task when it’s so easy to get caught up in “the work.” For a realistic yet effective approach, start out by establishing a communication model with three, achievable components. A little in the right places goes a long way.
First, think about how often and how clear you communicate roles and opportunities with each team member. In small business, people often wear multiple hats as it’s aligned with the mentality, “we’re all in this together.” However, this can get murky when it boils down to who is doing what, causing confusion over role and responsibility amidst the workday. The business leader should make clear what hats employees are wearing and when. This isn’t to create divisiveness and fracturing, rather it supports transparency and accountability.
Employees have a need for clarity when it comes to their position within a company; clarity that ultimately must come from the top.
A second aspect to this spotlight on communication is goal-setting. If there aren’t goals, how does each person know if they are doing well or need to improve? Business leaders should make sure each employee is striving for at least one goal so there’s a path to work towards. Even further, this should be established clearly within the business culture. Objectives, measurable targets, and intentions gives an employee tools for growth. Communicate goals in a way that is logical to the individual role and how it ties into the bigger picture of the business.
Finally, a third element is feedback exchange. This can flow in both directions, breaking that age-old one-way feedback delivery mold, helping to answer the question, “How can we do this better?” A culture that supports productive feedback is crucial in this respect; feedback not only on performance, but also for new ideas.
A likely effect of a poor feedback exchange system is misalignment of your employees to your company. If they don’t feel included or they don’t feel their ideas are being heard, they may start to disengage, causing you to miss out on potentially great performance. Be sure to communicate how feedback can most productively be exchanged. Without clear direction, you run the risk of not receiving feedback at all, creating a workplace culture where it isn’t valued.
The consequence of no feedback? No growth.
When these examples of communication are established and delivered consistently, you’ll have a team operating with knowledge and fewer blanks to fill in on their own. They will also feel their voice is being heard, which improves motivation. Great ideas or problems you never knew existed may bubble up through improved communication. Whether it’s the good or the bad, you’ll be informed and able to act on it.