How you communicate with others is a major component of your success or failure. Yet very few of us invest time or money towards improving our communication. In business, many managers rely on an assumption that the employees will figure it out once they get started. Business owners assume the managers will fix problems once they see the problems. This lack of communication and operating on assumptions leads to failures, small and large. It is often the major hurdle that holds a business back from success.
There are many professions where those in it must have good communication or people can die or lives ruined. These are doctors, financial investors, lawyers, and judges, to name a few. If the members of these professions miscommunicate, are unclear, or operate on assumptions, the consequences can be disastrous. Your profession may not have such high stakes regarding poor communication, but poor communication in your business can be the catalyst to a downward spiral. It is time to start thinking and planning for the communications that really matter.
Three types of communication are important for business owners: Meetings, Written Correspondence, and Voice Mail.
Meeting with Managers/Owners: Plan ahead for these meetings. One way to force the planning is to put together an agenda and distribute to all meeting participants at least 12 hours in advance (18-24 would be more courteous). Be specific – do not just allocate 15 minutes for one person to bring up their issues. Put the specific items that need to be discussed on paper. This allows participants to formulate questions and prepare remarks ahead of time and not on the fly. If participants want a particular item discussed, have them communicate to you in advance in order to place it on the agenda. This preparation will result in better communication.
Meeting/Training Employees: This is crucial to the way your business functions. If you are fumbling through a discussion, orientation, or training with an employee, you are sending the wrong message. Employees can think “this must not be that big of a deal” and consequently tune out or do not invest time. However, if you are precise in your language, on-point with your topics, and follow a clear plan that is focused on the goal of the meeting, your employees are more likely to “take notice,” realize that this impacts the future of their continued employment, and improve the results that flow from this meeting.
Meeting with Financial Advisor/Investor: Know what you want and ask for it. The worst they can say is “no.” If your words are unclear or if you never make a direct request, then why should you be surprised when no action is taken? These meetings should also include a pre-distributed agenda. This will allow both you and your financial advisor or investor to be prepared to answer specific questions at the meeting. This increases the productivity of your time and the value of your meeting.
When it comes to meetings, you want to maximize the value of the time spent in the meeting. Using agendas can help you track progress over time and can keep you on track and focused.
Anything you put in writing must be proof read for clarity, spelling, punctuation, and yes, even grammar. In a society that relies on email, text messages, and other instant forms of written communication, what you put in words is everlasting. Many of the modes of instant communication have led us to communicating without punctuation, correct spelling, and poor or lack of proper grammar. This is not acceptable for business communications.
Any important email should be read aloud at least once. If that is not possible, have a secretary or trusted co-worker proof read it at your desk or print off a copy to read and mark up. It is best not to send the email for them to proofread, because they can easily forward it to the intended recipient before you are ready.
Think carefully about how you use text messaging in your business. It can be a good method for communicating with friends and family, but not the best method for securing a business deal.
Here are some helpful tips.
- Leave your name and phone number
- Date and time you are calling
- Reference why you are calling and if you need a return phone call
- Be concise and direct.
- Leave emotionally charged voice mails
- Ramble on as if you are having a conversation
- Say anything that you do not want shared with others (after all, you are recording a message)
- Be caught-off-guard by the voice mail. If you were not expecting to get voice mail, hang up, think about what you want to say, then call back and leave the message.
With so many ways to communicate, it is important not to undervalue the power of prepared words. Take the time to think about what you want to say. Jot down notes if you need to. Investing in how you communicate about your business is never a bad investment.