All leadership skills are important to a small business owner but if we had to rank them, one would be right at the top of the list— effective communication skills!
Why? Because there are more consequences from poor communication than any of the others combined. Misdirection and misinterpretation are common, leading to time spent resolving misunderstanding and even conflict.
The Importance of Communication
As a small business owner, mastering the skill of effective communication can change the productivity, profitability, and possibilities for your business.
This skill alone can help you to build loyalty in staff and clients, promote team play, ignite creativity, encourage performance, and resolve conflict. It can influence change and tease out top performances.
On the flip side it— poor communication or ill-prepared-for messages can cost you time, money, and promote conflict where none should exist.
Too Busy to Be A Good Communicator?
The fact that solid communication it is so important makes it surprising that most business owners I have surveyed rate themselves low in communication.
They admit that in an effort to save their valuable time they are often unprepared, dashing off cryptic text messages, leaving a snarky emotional voicemail, or sending a rambling e-mail without taking time to think through the purpose of the message, what they really want to say, or considering the person that will be receiving it.
The outcome of these poorly conceived and often hastily sent messages are left to the receiver to receive and respond based on their own interpretation. This means the outcome of the communication is left to chance.
Stop! Take the time to communicate the message that the circumstance requires.
5 Ways to Improve Your Communication Skills
As a leader, dedicating time to improve the way you communicate with your team and clients can be so helpful in the long run. Here are a few tips for effective communication:
Tip #1: Be clear on your message.
Before you can share anything, you must know what the objective, purpose, and content of the message will be. What do you need to say? What do you want them to know? If need be, write the message out and edit it before sharing.
Tip #2: Deliver your message based on the receiver’s preference.
Match the message, the complexity, the importance, and urgency to the receiver’s preferences. Urgency can have an impact on the message vehicle and delivery (text vs. in person or other) but it should always be considered.
If you cannot deliver the initial message in the receiver’s preference (they are verbal and visual and need to you speak to them in person but need it in the next three minutes and are not in the office) do your best to follow-up in the preferred method.
Tip #3: Don’t over communicate.
Be concise. Be clear. No more. No less.
Texts should be just a couple of lines. Emails no more than 300 words. In person should take no more time than is necessary to share the message and offer them an opportunity to ask questions or give feedback. Anything else is over-communication.
Tip #4: Be positive.
No matter what you decide is the best way to communicate be sure to make it positive, polite, and as personal as possible. People respond to those qualities even if the message is negatively charged.
Open discussions with, “Can I have a moment of your time?” or “I would like to discuss something with you?” Asking for permission is a sharing of power.
E-mails can be written with an opening line that sets a positive tone such as, “I would like to share some information with you.” Or “While I know you have been hard at work on the xx project, I need to you to shift your attention to xx.”
Even a text can include a polite beginning such as, “Hi” or “Please…”
Tip #5: Always clarify.
Sharing information or sending messages is useless if the right message is not received. Always, always, review the message before you share it.
If it is written, read it out loud before you hit the “send” button. That is the best way to check for tone and accuracy. If it will be a spoken, in person or by phone message, jot a few notes.
Once the message has been received, ask for clarification. In writing that can be a request to respond with agreement or questions. In person that can be, “tell me what you just heard.”
A Coach Can Help You Succeed
If you are one of the thousands of small business owners that claims they are not an effective communicator, don’t despair. Effective communication can be learned.
It takes practice and patience and requires feedback but you too can master this skill. You must! It is critical to the success of your business and to you as a small business leader.