Communication is one of the cornerstones to a successful startup. If you incorporate it as part of your company culture from the start, you’ll build a solid foundation. If not, you’ll constantly be trying to fill the cracks in that foundation rather than focusing on your business’ growth.
These tips are designed to help you be a better communicator, as well as encourage your staff to come to you with concerns, questions, and ideas.
1. Hold Regular Check-Ins
It’s important as the business owner to stay in touch with your employees. That doesn’t mean you should hold endless meetings with every single staffer each week. But do hold quick, company-wide meetings, as well as departmental and even one-on-one appointments to ensure that you know what’s going on at every level. Do less talking in these meetings so that you give your employees a chance to express themselves. You might be surprised at what you find out.
2. Exercise Honesty
Communication is a two-way street. In order to build trust with your staff, you need to share what’s going on with the company so that they feel invested in its well-being. Employees look to you to lead the way in open, honest communication, so don’t hold back. If honesty is your policy, practice it.
But what if you’ve got bad news? Should you be completely honest about that? Realize that if you don’t tell your team first, the rumor mill will. It’s better to break the news yourself than to have your staff resent you for keeping it from them. Just find a tactful way to tell them, and try to find an upside to the news. For example, if you’ve just lost a major client, lace that news with the fact that you just had a meeting with another bigger potential client.
3. Take Action on Staff Suggestions
When an employee comes to you with an idea or complaint, don’t just make empty promises; act on them. Show your staff that you care about their input and that you will execute on their ideas personally. Many employees at companies feel like their boss’ “open door policy” is a farce, and that they’re not really willing to do anything about what their employees want. Be different.
4. Use Multiple Channels of Communication
Some of your staff prefer to communicate via email. Others prefer the phone. While it may be difficult — if not impossible — to match each employee’s personal communication preference, you can use a variety of channels to better reach them. And choose the appropriate channel for the situation: a performance review should never be done via email or phone. Likewise, you don’t need to stop by an employee’s office to ask for a report. A simple email should suffice.
5. Do More Face-to-Face
Given how busy you are as a startup owner, you might be hard-pressed to schedule many in-person meetings with your staff. But take the time, because you’ll communicate better and foster more trust if you hold the conversation face-to-face. These rendezvous don’t have to be long: you can still get the benefits of face-to-face with a five-minute meeting for something easy to address.
6. Give 100%
How many of us have infuriatingly sat through a meeting with a boss or co-worker where the individual refused to stop checking his email or accepting calls? It’s rude and unnecessary. If you’re in the habit of multitasking during a meeting with an employee, break it right now. Devote all of your attention to the person sitting in front of you. Shut off your computer and phone. Let your employee know that you value her time, and that you’re truly listening.
7. Ask for Feedback
While it’s often difficult to get employees to say what they really think, consider creating an anonymous survey where they can give feedback on how you’re doing as a communicator. The goal here is to understand if you’re where you want to be with your communication efforts. If you’re way off base, reassess your strategies and figure out what you need to do to improve.
The more effort you put into improving your own communication skills, the more your employees will strive to improve their own. With better communication all the way around, you’ll find it easy to help your startup succeed.