18
Jan

The Secret to Creating a Great Company Culture: Open Communication and Feedback

The Secret to Creating a Great Company Culture: Open Communication and Feedback

The Secret to Creating a Great Company Culture: Open Communication and Feedback

Image credit: Shutterstock

In the early days of her consultancy career, IBM performance marketing expert Jackie Bassett was assigned to a project that, she’s written, she “didn’t like very much like.” She was obliged to work crazy hours alongside a demoralized team with minimal instruction as to the expectations of her role.

Although Bassett knew deep down that her performance wasn’t up to scratch, no one said anything. It wasn’t until her written performance evaluation, which was handed to her more than a month after the project ended, that she realized her superiors were unhappy with her work.

Bassett was left wondering, “Why didn’t she [her team leader] say anything?

Sadly, this is far from an isolated incident. It’s not unusual for companies to provide scheduled feedback — such as when a project wraps up, or during a yearly review — yet fail to offer it when it’s needed most, and is most valuable: in real time.

Don’t reserve feedback for “special occasions” like yearly reviews or the point at which something’s gone wrong — or spectacularly right. A simple “great job on xyz today” will go a long way toward boosting morale and creating a workplace in which feedback becomes part of the culture.

In fact, employees who receive regular feedback have been shown to work harder, be more engaged and offer greater loyalty to their employers. And the most successful companies have built a strong culture of feedback by making it a normal, everyday part of company life.

Let’s take a look at how some of them do it.

They don’t label employees.

(And they often avoid performance reviews, too).

In an interview, Bill Sims, the author of Green Beans & Ice Cream, described how Microsoft had ended the use of a system known as “forced rankings.” Part of performance reviews, forced rankings used a scoring system to identify the best- and worst-performing employees. The worst-performing employees might then be fired.

The problem with such a system (aside from its glaring brutality) is that performance reviews tend to focus on isolated examples of each employee’s work. They’re often carried out by top-level management with little, if any, direct contact with their employees’ day-to-day performance. Instead, those managers rely on third-party reports from lower management and team leaders.

In short: performance reviews are ineffective at improving performance.

Instead the way to go is to empower and encourage those who work directly with your staff. In this way, you can appraise and praise employees’ work as it happens.

They separate positive and negative feedback.

A popular management strategy is to cushion the blow of negative feedback by wrapping it in positivity. This is more commonly known as the “sandwich approach.”

At first glance, the sandwich approach seems logical. It certainly feels like the kinder way of delivering bad news, but in the long run, it devalues positive feedback. If you need to address poor performance, focus on the issue at hand. Likewise, offer positive feedback when it’s called for — don’t ever “save it” in order to soften its bad-news component. Research has shown that aspects of both positive and negative feedback are best shared as soon as possible.

They ensure that positive feedback outweighs negative feedback

Both positive and negative feedback are very important. Positive feedback helps boost staff morale, while negative feedback allows you to address problems head-on. Both forms of feedback serve to improve performance.

That said, a staff member on the receiving end of so much negative feedback that it outweighs the positive will understandably start to feel its brunt. If this happens, chances are there are one of two issues at play:

  • A genuine problem with the staff member’s performance
  • A problem with management’s approach to feedback

The first example is a separate issue that is unlikely to be resolved solely by feedback of any sentiment. The second example is the fault of management, which needs to overhaul its approach to ensure that positive feedback significantly outweighs the negative. How “significantly” should that be?

Research conducted by academic expert Emily Heaphy and consultant Marcial Losada found that the average ratio of positive to negative comments for the highest-performing teams included in the study was 5.6 (nearly six positive comments for every negative one).

They devise unique systems for encouraging trust and feedback.

An effective culture of feedback has to be built on trust. If your staff members don’t trust one another, or trust you, how can you expect them to take feedback seriously?

To get around this, Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke implemented a system called the “trust battery.” The trust battery is “charged at 50 percent when people are first hired,” he’s written. “And then every time you work with someone at the company, the trust battery between the two of you is either charged or discharged, based on things like whether you deliver on what you promise.”

The concept stems from the fact that humans already work that way; the battery simply serves as a metaphor.

The trust battery helps to strengthen the impact of another system that’s unique to Shopify: an internal wiki that openly displays each employee’s strengths and weaknesses. The wiki helps accelerate the process of learning about colleagues and how they work best (and how best to work with them). It’s a great idea, but one that can only work under a culture of complete openness and trust.

It also explains why Google executive Larry Page can get away with “bursting into a room and making a big show of announcing that a set of ads sucked.”

Most execs would terrify their employees with such an outburst, but Google has spent so long building an open, communicative culture of trust that in this context, it works. What’s your company’s unique system for encouraging trust?

18
Jan

3 Key Steps for Crisis Communication

3 Key Steps for Crisis Communication

3 Key Steps for Crisis Communication

Image credit: Shutterstock

Regardless of your company’s size, character or the industry it belongs to, no brand is immune to enduring a business crisis. The findings of an ODM Group study indicated that 59 percent of business decision makers have experienced a crisis in either their current or previous company. And 70 percent of those companies go out of business within one year of that crisis.

However, if and when one strikes, it does not mean the business is doomed to sink. With the right response, a brand can withstand the troubled waters and come out sailing smoother than before. Rescue your brand using these three crisis communication tips:

  • Respond quickly.
  • Answer honestly.
  • Be accountable.

Respond quickly

The longer it takes for you to respond to a critical situation, the more time rumors have to manifest and the more frustrated customers will become as they are left in the dark — so respond as soon as possible. Do make sure, however, all information you are providing is truthful and accurate as you don’t want a hasty reaction to backfire later. If you don’t have all of the answers yet, address that there is a problem and that you’re working hard to get to the bottom of it. Typically, social media channels are the fastest way to reach your audience. The app Buffer had the misfortune of a security breach that resulted in thousands of accounts posting spam messages on Facebook and Twitter. Buffer immediately began posting on social media platforms that the app had been compromised, also mentioning that all scheduled posts would be placed on-hold until they could investigate further and find a solution. Buffer even published a blog post and updated it every time progress was made on the hacking dilemma until, 10 updates later, it was eventually resolved. Even though this mishap inconvenienced their followers, nearly all of the Twitter feedback was positive and encouraging, thanking the app for its quick response and constant communication.

Answer honestly

While it can be tempting to go into hiding by refusing to answer the phone and deleting posts of concerned or angry users on social media, avoidance will only exacerbate the issue. Show your customers you care, you’re trustworthy and you value them like family by providing transparent, honest answers. Additionally, having a crisis communication team in place before one ever occurs will ensure that you have enough staff to reply to an influx of emails, calls and social media posts when needed.

Be accountable

Regardless of who or what caused the crisis to occur, the leader of the organization should always assume responsibility. Whether it’s through a press release, company video or email, produce a statement owning the error, sincerely apologize and explain what further actions will be taken to remedy the situation. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver salvaged the association’s reputation after the L.A. Clippers owner was recorded making racist comments that lead to a public outrage. Silver apologized on behalf of the organization, fined the owner several million dollars and banned him from basketball, stating that the league stands for diversity and inclusiveness. His reaction earned respect not only from within the league but also from society as a whole.

As business magnate Warren Buffett explained, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” So when faced with trouble, take a deep breath and put these crisis communication tips to good use.

Written by Phillip Thune

18
Jan

An Introvert’s Guide to Communicating With Results

An Introvert’s Guide to Communicating With Results

An Introvert's Guide to Communicating With Results

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

I am a serial entrepreneur and CEO with extrovert tendencies, married to a serial entrepreneur and CEO with introvert tendencies. This has made life interesting, especially as we’ve built a few businesses and other enterprises together.

Although we are fundamentally different, we actually complement each other’s strengths and I have observed considerable professional advantages to my husband’s quiet tendencies.

Although conventional wisdom believes you need to be an extrovert to succeed as an entrepreneur, my experience and recent research say otherwise. There is also a false perception that introverts don’t communicate and lead with great influence or effectiveness.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Just look at introverted entrepreneurial leaders across business, literature, science and activism who have changed the world — including Bill Gates, J.K. Rowling, Rosa Parks and Mark Zuckerberg to name a few.

Over 50 percent of the U.S. workforce self-identifies as introvert and 64 percent of workers believe their organization does not fully harness the talents of introverted employees.

So whether you are an introvert yourself, or leading a team that includes introverts, you’ll benefit by understanding the opportunities and advantages available for introverts who want to communicate for greater results.

Here are seven tips to unleash the advantage of your introverted tendencies at work:

1. Know yourself, your tendencies and strengths.

That’s the key to maximizing your talents and putting yourself in the zone of stimulation that is right for you. You may think you are an extrovert, but may be an ambivert, which is a mix of both. That describes me; I’m energized by people, but also love to find big chunks of quiet time to think and problem solve.

There are a few quick tests you can take to see where you fall. The results may surprise you and will give you insights on how to leverage your strengths and identify areas for improvement.

2. Embrace quality over quantity in conversations.

Introverts naturally prefer smaller groups and one-on-one interaction. This tendency is actually an advantage because leaders and aspiring leaders must build trust and rapport with their management teams, key customers, analysts and even media who cover their business, and that happens one conversation at a time.

Make sure you spend time with the most important people — those who are critical to your business success and personal happiness. Your depth and thoughtfulness will be appreciated.

3. Equip yourself with a variety of tools.

For those inevitable, yet essential social occasions (networking events, your spouse’s board meeting socials, etc.) have a few open-ended questions on hand that can deepen the conversation. Try these from introvert expert Jennifer Granneman:

  • “Are you working on anything exciting lately?”
  • “What has been the highlight of your week?”
  • “What are your thoughts on [insert recent issue in the news lately]?”

Open-ended questions invite the other person to say more than just a few words.

4. Invest in your communications skills.

Great communicators aren’t born — they work at it. Learning new skills doesn’t mean denying your introvert qualities, or being someone you’re not. It builds confidence for the variety of unavoidable situations you encounter. Every single person in the workplace would do well to invest in improving their communications, whether they are introverts or extroverts.

There are scores of training programs, books, conferences, online courses and coaches to meet your unique needs. Whether you’re already a CEO or on your way, you’ll be required to step up to bigger platforms and share your vision and message.

And if you think introverts can’t become extraordinary public speakers, be inspired by Susan Cain, introvert and author of Quiet in her TEDTalk about introversion; one of the most viewed TEDTalks of all time.

5. Give yourself alone-time to think, imagine.

Go with your flow and make it a priority to carve out some alone time. This is where most of your best ideas emerge — ideas that are powerful, unique and will differentiate you and your business. Guard this time by blocking it out on your calendar.

According to Marti Laney, author of The Introvert Advantage, introverts are thoughtful, imaginative, tend to work independently and think outside the box.

6. Make meetings work for you.

While it’s true that too many meetings are poorly planned and poorly run, they are still opportunities for you to influence outcomes for the good. First, if you must attend a meeting, think in advance what ideas you’d like to share.

During a meeting, know that it is perfectly acceptable to not immediately answer a question. According to Val Nelson, a writer about introverts, you might say, “I’m hearing some good points, I have some thoughts brewing and would like to come back to it a bit later.” This may feel awkward at first, but both you and your colleagues will appreciate the thoughtfulness in your approach.

Also, don’t hesitate to set boundaries around how many meetings you will attend. My observation is that if you are proving yourself valuable with your ideas and work in general, you can be excused from attending a lot of unnecessary meetings.

You can even suggest changing the structure of a meeting. If someone wants to have a brainstorming session, consider doing it as an online brainstorm so that you have time to think before you contribute.

7. Go easy on yourself outside your comfort zone.

If a conversation didn’t go according to plan or ended on an awkward note, keep your sense of humor. Most people don’t notice — and if they do, they soon forget. Spend a few moments reflecting and you’ll probably find at least one takeaway lesson for next time.

As Denis Waitley writes, “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker.” Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

These seven ideas will empower you, or the introverts you know to maximize their inherent strengths and your entire enterprise will benefit.

18
Jan

How Employers Can Bridge the Communication Gap With Veterans

How Employers Can Bridge the Communication Gap With Veterans

How Employers Can Bridge the Communication Gap With Veterans

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Imagine as a young adult you moved from where you grew up to a place where everything was different: the language, culture, dress code and how people behaved. Nothing is what you are used to but you spend years working in this new place, testing and refining your skills, talents and mental stamina. Then, one day you return to where you grew up but now you feel like a complete foreigner, unfamiliar with everything around you.

For military members separating or retiring from service, this is a real experience. They volunteered to step out of their civilian lives and into a subculture with its own rules, dress code, language and protocol. Reintegrating back into the civilian workforce can feel overwhelming, frightening and sometimes demoralizing for our nation’s veterans.

Smart employers want to attract employees with high standards who are loyal, dedicated and resilient. Often times, employers seek out veterans because they are known to have these qualities, but the challenges of communication, cultural fit in the company and skill transference cut short the hiring process.

The differences between military and civilian life.

There are many differences between the military and civilian work environment, language and protocol. For instance:

Civilians can confidently articulate their value proposition. They know how to navigate an interview, highlighting their best qualities and helping recruiters see them as a fit for the employer. On the job, civilians know that to compete effectively, they need to build relationships and stay focused on adding value to the organization and getting credit for it.

To someone leaving the service, saying “I” can be challenging. Veterans tell me that speaking about their accomplishments feels like they are taking credit for those who served alongside them. Instead, veteran candidates express humility in a civilian interview or on the job. This is often mischaracterized as lack of confidence or standoffishness, instead of pride.

In the military, jobs are classified by codes, not descriptions. The Army and Marines use MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) classification, the Air Force calls it AFSC (Air Force Specialty Code), and the Navy refers to their jobs by NEC (Navy Enlisted Classification). For a civilian hiring manager unfamiliar with this coding system, a military resume can be blinding and appear irrelevant.

Jobs in the military are often relatable to civilian careers, but because they are performed in a much different environment, they are hard for recruiters to understand. A sharpshooter in the Army might not look like an obvious candidate for a construction manager position unless you look at their unique skills and training: focus on a mission, calm under pressure, team leadership, and capacity to perform under stress with multiple unknown variables.

Protocol in the military is built around respect, hierarchy and pageantry. While some businesses follow rules and systems, there is typically no consistency. A tech firm in Silicon Valley might interview candidates on the beach, whereas a financial firm in New York interviews in their boardroom.

The lack of consistent rules is challenging for veterans who try to be relatable and show that they fit in. This often leads to feelings of awkwardness and formality, such as answering questions with “Yes, ma’am” or “No, sir.”

To the soldier who saw combat, the technician who managed complex systems or the airman who brought supplies to “hot zones” around the world, stress has a different meaning. When a business owner talks about high expectations, business pressure and deadlines, veterans imagine life or death situations. Business challenges pale in comparison.

Understanding that stress and crisis are different in military versus civilian environments is part of the transition process. With time, veterans learn that deadlines are still real in business, but no one’s life is at stake.

Promotions and career advancement in the military is more predictable. They don’t “interview” for new jobs. To advance in rank, integrity and reputation matter, but HR Command handles the promotion for the soldier. In the civilian workplace, networking and relationship skills, as well as technical skill and experience are important factors in considering someone for advancement.

How to bridge the communication divide.

For companies seeking to engage and grow veteran employee, the most important thing is to acknowledge that there is a cultural difference between the civilian and military work environments. By training hiring managers, recruiters and managers to recognize those differences and leverage new language and tools to embrace the veteran employee, it ensures long term success for both the civilian employer and the veteran. Here are some tips:

Ask the veteran about their service. What did they do in the Marines? What meant the most to them about their work in service?

When asking about their background, refrain from asking about their detailed military training unless that training will obviously transfer to the work in which you’re hiring. Instead, ask them to relay examples of their responsibilities and tasks while in service. Were they in charge of people, process and budgets? What risks or opportunities impacted their ability to succeed, and how did they handle them? This can help you identify abilities that can come across to their civilian work.

Share your personal connection (if any) to the military. Even a family member who served in WWII gives you insight and can help you build rapport with a veteran. Don’t compare your experience or connection to the veteran’s, but show yourself as relatable.

When discussing the company priorities, always tie goals to values. Veterans are very values-focused (consider their last employer!), and they will relate the job to a larger mission if you can articulate the company values. This also helps when on-boarding a veteran to a lower position than they might be used to in the service. If they can see the path to a greater sense of purpose for their work, veterans are typically patient employees.

Help the veteran onboard by providing a sponsor or ally. In the military, buddy-to-buddy support is at every turn. They appreciate that level of care in their civilian job.

Let them know it’s okay to ask for help. As an employer, you want employees to succeed, and veterans might need to be reminded that they don’t have to go at this alone.

While the communication gap between veterans and civilian employers may feel large, it is manageable. Successful businesses – large and small – are attracting, on-boarding, and retaining veteran employees in large numbers because of a commitment to tap into the skills, talents, and passion of this unique workforce.

18
Jan

5 Ways to Effectively Communicate With Employees

5 Ways to Effectively Communicate With Employees

5 Ways to Effectively Communicate With Employees

Image credit: Shutterstock

Effective communication with employees takes effort, repetition, thoughtfulness and most importantly needs to come from the heart.   Communication needs to be something business leaders seek to do whenever they can rather than considering it a check box before getting back to the “real work” of running the business.

Currently, I serve as the CEO of a local marketing solutions company that was created by combining two business units that were previously part of a bigger company. I was tasked to manage this complicated company carve out with the objective of transforming a legacy print business to a thriving digital business.  A major challenge was the employee base was more than 5,000 people with offices in 34 states, which meant regular and effective communication across the organization was critical to success.  From day one I chose to create an environment of open, transparent dialog about the company, our progress and what we need to do to win.

Here are five strategies I recommend putting in place for creating a culture of communication and alignment:

1. Send weekly correspondence to all employees in the company.

Every Monday without fail for the last three years I have sent a personally written email to every employee in the company about things I am thinking about and important topics for the business.  This kind of communication serves as an opportunity to truly connect and engage with the entire organization.

2. Build comfort in talking about what is not working.

Many companies have a culture of looking for the positives and avoiding calling out and discussing the negatives.  Great companies focus on what is not going well so they can dig in and get better. This approach allows employees to feel they have a say in their company’s culture and their ideas are valued.

3. Hold town hall meetings.

Whether you have offices in one city or nationwide, plan for travel to have face-to-face conversations with these groups no matter the size. Make sure you aren’t just lecturing. Foster a two-way candid cialog. You will be able to learn a great deal about what is really happening in the business from these sessions, which can help you and your leadership team make better decisions.

4. Put on an annual senior leadership conference for your top leaders.

This type of conference is a working session where every leader can hear the company strategy, plans and messages together and bring the information back to their teams.  An equally important value is the informal network building that takes place that enables leaders to have effective communication with each other throughout the year.

5. Answer every employee email within 24 hours.

We are all busy but always have time for communicating with employees that work hard every day to serve your customers and build your company. Your team wants to be heard and feel appreciated.

Commit to effective communications and you’ll be glad you did.

18
Jan

7 Communication Skills Every Entrepreneur Must Master

7 Communication Skills Every Entrepreneur Must Master

7 Communication Skills Every Entrepreneur Must Master

Image credit: Pixabay

Your success as an entrepreneur is determined in large part by your ability to communicate. You can be the best at what you do, but if you’re not communicating effectively with clients, staff and the market, then you’re missing opportunities.

There are many different ways to look at communication in the small-business world — from the individual formats such as writing and speaking, to different contexts such as client communication and employee management. But I’d like to take a closer look at a handful of overarching themes that transcend specific situations. Mastery of these different communications skills ensures that you’ll be effective at every level.

1. Listen deeply

Are you a good listener? Studies suggest that our daily communication breakdown is as follows:

  • 9 percent writing
  • 16 percent reading
  • 30 percent speaking
  • 45 percent listening

Yet, most of us are terrible listeners. The reasons vary, from being distracted by our own internal monologues to superimposing meaning on what’s being said before we allow others to finish. Instead, try this: focus on the person speaking, and verbally play back a summary of what was said to make sure you understand, before proceeding to build on the conversation with additional points.

Solid listening skills help you more effectively serve clients, make sales and manage employees because you’re picking up on and connecting to people’s most urgent concerns.

2. Interpret non-verbal cues

You’ve heard the refrains on the importance of body language. Sit up straight, think about your facial expressions and remember to lean forward when listening to show interest. But how good is your ability to interpret others’ non-verbal cues? It turns out that it’s essential.

One study from UCLA suggests that as much as 55 percent of the meaning in face-to-face interactions is conveyed non-verbally. Don’t just practice awareness of your own body language. Analyze specific cues — such as posture, expressions and gestures — being made by others when they’re speaking.

3. Manage expectations

“Under-promise and over-deliver” might be the most on-point summary of managing expectations ever devised. As an entrepreneur, you have many people asking for significant accomplishments from you in short time periods with limited resources (or so it often feels!). The easiest way to alleviate pressure as an entrepreneur is to manage expectations.

Be clear about deliverables, timeframes and results. If issues arise, communicate clearly and frequently. It’s always better to commit to less than raise people’s expectations and fail to follow through.

4. Productive pushback

Conflict management is an essential part of being an entrepreneur. The Washington Business Journal reported that managers spend between 25 to 40 percent of their days resolving conflicts. A major component of successfully resolving conflicts is your ability to productively push back.

Whether you’re dealing with scope creep in a client case or dealing with management challenges, the ability to communicate under pressure is a key entrepreneurial skill. Pushback should always be polite, productive and non-personal. Focus on clarity and resolution.

5. Be concise

Whether it’s statistics on how little time people spend focused on a single issue (according to one source, eight seconds) or simply the need to get more done in less time, concise communication wins out. Even the technological context supports this. As screens get smaller, we have to say more in fewer words.

Develop the ability to get to the point in a sharp and focused manner and communicate that across mediums. Find ways to cut the fat off your verbal and written communications and notice whether it gets you better results.

6. Confidently state your value and differentiation

Branding and selling are all about being able to confidently communicate both your points of value and what makes you different than anyone else on the market. The same skills are essential to helping you motivate yourself on a daily basis, hire the right employees, and ultimately even connect with friends and partners.

Spend time getting clear about the value you bring to the table and your unique selling points, and build your ability to confidently share that in different contexts. Practice boiling that proposition down to no more than two to three sentences.

7. Know your why

Most people focus on what to say and how to say it. How can I sound smart? How can I deliver this speech for maximum impact? But it’s more important to know why you’re communicating. What do you want people to take away? What action should they take after you interact?

Every communication should have a call to action, even if that call to action is to leave with a positive feeling about your or your brand. Ask yourself why you’re communicating before you write, pick up the phone or step into your next meeting and make sure your tone, word choice and delivery are in service to that goal.

Conclusion

Developing the soft skills needed to succeed as an entrepreneur takes time. Focusing on your communication skills — from reading body language to summing up your value in a few sentences — is one of the most powerful things you can do to advance your career and success.

Work to find the gaps in your communications arsenal and then mindfully practice until each of your skills is up to par.

18
Jan

How Successful Leaders Communicate With Their Teams

How Successful Leaders Communicate With Their Teams

Choosing your medium — text or in-person? — and keeping your message decisive and focused are just two of the key strategies.
How Successful Leaders Communicate With Their Teams

Image credit: Shutterstock

One of the most critical factors for your success as a leader will be how you communicate with your team. On a primary level, communication is all about exchanging information, whether that means brainstorming as a group, delegating responsibilities, setting expectations or alerting others to a problem.

The completeness, accuracy, timing and form of your messages will directly affect how your plans are carried out.

Beyond that, how you communicate can play a massive role in the morale of your team — how you treat your employees will have a direct impact in how they respect you, respect one another and ultimately perform on the job.

So, what is it that makes successful leaders so good at communication? What strategies are they using?

Strategies for success 

Take a look at some of the most successful communicators around you (and those in a bigger spotlight), and you’ll see the following traits:

Choose your mediums carefully. First, make sure you’re considering your medium(s) carefully. Being able to send out a mass text or voice message to your employees is important. These channels are appropriate for notifying your team of a last-minute meeting change but wouldn’t be for sending out the scope of a new project.

In the same way, email isn’t the best way to start a long back-and-forth conversation — especially if it concerns a sensitive subject. Learn to read the situation and decide on the appropriate medium; in the right form, your message’s effectiveness will spread.

Consider your tone and direction. This is especially important when speaking to someone face-to-face. When delivering messages, remember what you’re trying to accomplish and how you may come across. For example, if an employee has done subpar work or missed a deadline, you want that person to improve so the problem doesn’t happen again; you don’t want this employee to merely feel guilty about the error.

Frame your wording to achieve this goal; instead of scolding or reprimanding, use a friendlier tone with a corrective direction. You’ll accomplish far more, make your intentions clear and preserve morale this way.

Be as concise as possible. Good leaders strive to remain as concise as possible. Speaking and writing concisely is all about conveying as much information as possible in the smallest possible space, which saves time and maximizes the effectiveness of your writing. Grammarly has a fantastic article worth the read if you’re interested in digging into how to become a more concise communicator.

Keep your messaging decisive and focused. When writing or giving a message, you need to be decisive and focused, which means avoiding rambling, or working through a problem out loud. Speak only when you have something meaningful to say, and make sure your point is clear to whomever you’re speaking with. You can use a service like Evernote to better organize your thoughts, tasks and goals, and work on defining your thoughts in firmer frameworks this way.

Be proactive. Telling someone about a new project requirement isn’t effective if that someone is already halfway through the job. Try to be as proactive as possible by telling your employees early on what you expect from them. Set your expectations long before any actions are taken; and when something comes up, let your team know about it as soon as possible.

One easy way to put this into practice is to set more alerts on your phone and make use of calendar apps; this will force you to consider the timing of your messages, especially for things like follow-ups.

Always be available for conversation. This is important for building morale within your team. You can’t possibly be available for conversation 100 percent of the time, but you need to make your team feel comfortable communicating with you. Show patience and appreciation for their thoughts and opinions, and they’ll be more willing to share with you when they have a problem, when they need help or when they see something that can be improved.

Listen actively to every team member. Finally, listen actively to every member of your team. All team members are valuable, and their diverse range of opinions will open you up to new ideas and help you see flaws and inconsistencies you were previously blind to. Do this early and often to build trust within your team.

Executing the model

If these actions look intimidating to you, or you don’t have a track record of successful communication, don’t worry. Nobody is born an effective communicator; just as it takes us time to develop our understanding and use of language, it takes time to refine our skills as efficient communicators.

With practice and dedication to improving your abilities, you can become a communicative and respectable leader in your environment.

18
Jan

5 Easy Ways To Enhance Communication at Work

5 Easy Ways To Enhance Communication at Work

5 Easy Ways To Enhance Communication at Work

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There’s a fantastic video on YouTube of babies vigorously talking to one another. It’s impossible to watch that video without cracking a smile. They’re trying so hard, but they just can’t quite seem to get their meaning across.

It’s a lot less funny when it’s two grown adults yelling at one another in the office. Or, even worse, a whole team failing to communicate in a healthy way and devolving into “Let’s see who can shout the loudest and interrupt the most often.”

Communication is tough. Ninety-seven percent of of employees and executives agree that a lack of team alignment negatively impacts performance, and 86 percent believe that ineffective communication leads to workplace failures.

Since Tailored Ink is still small, communication hasn’t been too difficult. At a startup, everyone knows everything. But as we scale, keeping in touch with everyone will become harder and harder.

If you are struggling with team communication, try out these five ways to enhance communication:

1. Get it down in writing.

The first rule of office communication: Don’t expect anyone to remember what you say to them, even if you are the boss.As our personal and work lives become increasingly digital and filled with online distractions, human attention spans have gotten shorter and shorter. At last count, the average adult has an attention span of eight seconds — worse than a goldfish. On top of that, stress negatively impacts our short-term memory.

If you have a particularly old school manager who refuses to write things down and expects you to take dictation, do just that. Write down what they say as soon as they say it so you can hold them accountable for things they didn’t say.

2. Know your personality types.

Another great way to communicate better both in one-on-one interactions as well as team meetings is to know the Myer’s Briggs personality types of each of your coworkers.

For example, I’m an INTJ (“The Architect”). The “I” in “INTJ” stands for “Introversion”, and if I’m to be totally honest, I prefer as few in-person meetings and phone calls as possible. My partner, on the other hand, is the exact opposite and we’ve had to compromise to figure out the right communication balance.

If you’re rolling your eyes right now, or if you believe that personality tests are inaccurate, science disagrees with you. While it is true that our personalities can change slightly through life via learned behaviors, big personality traits like introversion and extroversion are determined at birth, and are based on how you process dopamine.

In other words, don’t try to force someone to communicate the way you do. They could literally be hardwired differently.

3. Have an open-door policy.

We’ve all worked at corporations or cubicle farms where managers in corner offices always keep the door closed, and can be visited by appointment only. One of my managers was so ornery during work that she would snap at anyone who distracted her in a shared office space.

Guess what? A closed door is like the Black Death of team communication. Leaders set the tone and culture of their teams, so if a manager is inscrutable and impossible to pin down for a chat, the whole team clams up in turn. No one will have the confidence to speak to anyone, the office will become as quiet as a library, and morale will plummet (along with productivity).

Instead, keep your door open. Just do it. Even though it may lead to a few more distractions, few employees will abuse an open-door policy. And you’ll be amazed at the conversations you never had with people you thought you knew.

4. Do a daily stand-up meeting.

In what feels like another life, I interned at an indie game studio. And what stood out to me the most (aside from the awkward coders and the whimsical break room) was the daily morning scrum.Also called a stand-up meeting in non-tech circles, this type of daily meeting should never go over 10 minutes and is mostly for the sake of managers who will get a quick status update from everyone on their teams. It’s a fantastic way to make sure everyone is on the same page and also a sneaky way of project managing without having to rely on messy schedules and timesheets.

Another, less obvious benefit of the stand-up meeting is that it keeps everyone accountable. Instead of forcing someone to follow a static, complex schedule, you give each team member personal responsibility for finishing their work on time.

5. Encourage team members to blog.

Finally, you don’t have to be a content manager or marketer to find value in keeping a lively company blog. When only 28.9 percent of millennials are engaged at work (71 percent are not), being able to contribute on a regular basis to a part of the brand that’s very public, like a blog, is incredibly empowering.

As I mentioned earlier, not everyone’s a talker who can dominate an in-person meeting or conference call. You’d be surprised at what your coworkers will say and contribute when they’re given the freedom to write on company time.

There’s also a lot of great team communication software. I believe in understanding and internalizing the reason for doing something before learning how to do it. That being said, there are a lot of fantastic and affordable team messaging and project management software solutions.

You probably already know about Slack, Trello and Asana — but have you tried Smartsheet, Wunderlist or Zip Schedules? Since most of these apps have free trials (some are even permanently free for small teams), you should try out as many as you can. Find out what works best for you and your team.

And remember the old saying — people quit their bosses, not their jobs. Communication is what ultimately determines whether you retain talent or lose valuable team members to competitors. If that’s not worth investing time and effort into, you’re doing things wrong.

18
Jan

10 Communication Secrets of Great Leaders

10 Communication Secrets of Great Leaders

10 Communication Secrets of Great Leaders

No one ever became a great leader without first becoming a great communicator.

Great leaders connect with people on an emotional level every time they speak. Their words inspire others to achieve more than they ever thought possible.

Great communicators are intentional about it, and there are 10 secrets they rely on to deliver a powerful message. Put these secrets to work in your communication and watch your influence soar.

1. They Know Their Audience

Great communicators don’t worry about sounding important, showing off their expertise, or boosting their own egos. Instead, they think about what people need to hear, and how they can deliver this message so that people will be able to hear it. This doesn’t mean that leaders tell people what they want to hear. Quite the opposite—they tell people what’s important for them to know, even if it’s bad news.

2. They Are Experts In Body Language

Great communicators are constantly tracking people’s reactions to their message. They are quick to pick up on cues like facial expressions and body language because they know this is the only feedback many people will give them. Great communicators use this expertise to tailor their message on the fly and adjust their communication style as needed.

3. They Are Honest

The best leaders know that for communication to be effective it has to be real. They can’t have people parsing every word trying to separate fact from spin. When great communicators can’t share certain information, they come right out and say it because makeshift, half-truth answers breed distrust and anxiety. In good times and bad, honesty builds trust.

4. They Are Authentic

Great communicators don’t try to be someone they’re not just because they’ve stepped behind a podium. There’s a reason Mark Zuckerberg presented Facebook to investors in a hoodie and jeans. Great leaders know that when they stay true to who they are, people gravitate to their message. They also know the opposite happens when leaders put on an act.

5. They Speak With Authority

Great communicators don’t try to cover their backs by being ambiguous, wishy-washy, or unassertive. Instead, they stick their necks out and speak very directly about how things are and how they need to be.

6. They Speak To Groups As Individuals

Leaders rarely have the luxury of speaking to one person at a time. Whether it’s a huddle around a conference table or an overflowing auditorium, great leaders know how to work the room and make every single person feel as if he or she is being spoken to directly.

7. They Have Ears (And They Use Them)

Great leaders know that communication is a two-way street and what they hear is often more important than what they say. When someone else is speaking, great communicators aren’t thinking ahead and planning what they’ll say next. Instead, they’re actively listening, fully focused on understanding the other person’s perspective.

8. They Use Phrases Like ‘It’s My Fault,’ ‘I Was Wrong,’ and ‘I’m Sorry’

When great leaders make a mistake, they admit it right away. They don’t wait for someone else to find and point out their blunder. They model accountability for their words and actions, even when they could have easily “gotten away” with the mistake. And they do it matter-of-factly, without drama or false humility.

9. They Solicit Feedback

The best communicators never assume that the message people heard is the exact same one they intended to deliver. They check in to verify that their message was understood correctly, and, if it was not, they don’t blame the audience. Instead, they change things up and try again.

10. They’re Proactive

Leaders with the best communication skills don’t waste time playing catch-up. They’re quick to head off the rumor mill by sharing bad news in a timely manner. They also give clear, concise goals and directions so people don’t waste their time heading in the wrong direction.

Bringing It All Together

Great communicators stand out from the crowd. They’re honest. They’re authentic. They listen. They excel in communication because they value it, and that’s the critical first step to becoming a great leader.

18
Jan

The 10 Communication Skills Every Entrepreneur Must Master

The 10 Communication Skills Every Entrepreneur Must Master

The 10 Communication Skills Every Entrepreneur Must Master

Image credit: Shutterstock

Contrary to their portrayal in pop culture, entrepreneurs aren’t purely “idea people,” dreaming up revolutionary new concepts and introspectively coming to profound conclusions about their industry — though they are that, at times. Instead, entrepreneurs spend most of their days in the trenches, working hard with others to make those ideas a reality. How entrepreneurs communicate tends to dictate whether or not they are ultimately successful; even great ideas can flounder if a leader isn’t communicating effectively.

That said, there’s more to communication than just “communication” — there are actually several distinct skills within the subject that you’ll have to master, sometimes independently:

1. Conversing

Conversation is one of the most basic forms of communication, but don’t underestimate it. A simple, friendly conversation with your employees can build trust and expose issues before they become serious. An innocuous bit of small talk with a stranger can turn into a sales opportunity. Learn to speak in an approachable, friendly way that you can apply to any situation.

2. Body Language 

Much of communication is nonverbal, so mastering your body language presentation is a must. In any situation, posture matters — sit or stand up straight with your shoulders back and your head high and straight. Look people in the eye. Don’t fidget. Keep your hands out of your pockets. And these are just the basics! Mastering body language can allow you to command a room.

3. Writing

You don’t have to be a perfect writer, but you do need to learn to be direct and concise in written forms. You’ll be emailing and texting people within and outside your organization regularly, and it’s important that you communicate your ideas clearly in this medium, with minimal opportunities for misinterpretation.

4. Presenting

You’ll be presenting in a few different formats as an entrepreneur, but they can be collectively grouped into one skill. You may be presenting company financials to your top employees or investors. You may present your business’ services to an interested buyer. You may even give a speech about entrepreneurship at a speaking event. In all these cases, clarity, conciseness, confidence and poise are all key.

5. Negotiating

You have to negotiate for almost everything in a business, so the better you are at negotiating, the more successful your business will be. You’ll be able to secure better terms for your office’s lease, more reasonable salaries for your most talented employees and even more lucrative options for your top clients. Negotiating effectively is more than just using the right words; it employs timing, a knowledge of the right facts and the ability to remain confident throughout the process.

6. Mediating

Though your role as a mediator will be less often necessary than your role as a converser, for example, there will be times when you have to step up and resolve a conflict. It might be between two employees with differing opinions about whose responsibility something is. Or it might be between two competing vendors who suffered a lapse in communication. In any case, you’ll have to acknowledge both sides and help them work out their own problems.

7. Debating

Debating here doesn’t necessitate arguing. It can be a healthy discussion of two or more alternative options in a productive, respectful setting. Your job in a debate isn’t to win against the enemy — it’s to present your case and opinions clearly. Doing so, whether you’re dealing with investors, partners or employees, can help you elucidate your ideas with greater strength and clarity.

8. Leading

Your responsibilities as a leader are multifaceted, but from a communications perspective, your biggest responsibilities are instilling confidence, trust and passion in your team. You’ll be inspiring people through everyday messages, public and private, and retaining your poise as a leader throughout those situations is key to achieving and maintaining a powerful image.

9. Cross-platforming 

Today’s field of communication is much wider than the fields available to generations past. Phone calls, texts, emails, video chats, instant messages and other mediums are all commonplace, and you’ll need to know which ones are appropriate for which applications. Choosing the right medium and implementing it properly is key.

10. Listening

Listening might be the most important communication skill of all, since it ties into so many applications and situations. Active listening can help you converse, debate, lead, negotiate and mediate, and it makes you seem more thoughtful, empathetic and invested in the people around you.

If you have a reasonable mastery of these 10 critical communication skills, you’ll be in a good position to succeed in your position as entrepreneur. As happens with any other skill, it’s impossible to perfect these abilities without practicing them; you’ll have to practice them actively, honing and fine-tuning your approach along the way. Don’t expect perfection right away; just do the best you can and be aware of how you present yourself, and the rest will come in time.