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. Meetings
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.
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.
Individuals and businesses can spend thousands of dollars securing their digital data. You can get the latest anti-virus software, use encrypted emails, and have secure firewalls. All of this is money down the drain if you do not have secure passwords. Passwords by their nature are supposed to be secure and a method to identify someone with permission to access a particular account.
The problem and danger lies in the fact that everyone and their mother wants or needs you to create a user account with a password. For ease or sanity, you end up using the same password for everything. This is done out of a fear of forgetting, wanting to minimize the hassle of remembering, or the concern that if your write it down it is less safe.
Though passwords are not the end all, be all of security, they are a first line of defense. It is important for businesses who grant employee access to sensitive data to evaluate their password security. Many of these strategies can and should be employed in your personal use of passwords as well.
Today, it is not uncommon to see businesses which require users to log-in to their workstations, to implement a mandatory new password program every 90 days. Though not a guarantee to security, it is far better than how most of us individually and many small and mid-size businesses manage passwords. While every 90 days may be too much for you and your business, there are some key things to consider when it comes to protecting your online or software passwords.
If you are a business that has a lot of turnover due to seasonal or temporary hires, it is in your best interest to employ a 90 – 120 day password strategy for your employees. This will improve the security of your systems and reduce the chance of a terminated employee accessing information in your system after their employment has ended.
For businesses with several portals or computers for employees to log-in, whether to record time or order parts, a password strategy may also be in order so as to protect you and your employees from rogue customers who watch employees log-in and steal their log-in information.
For individuals, if the website has your direct banking information or stored credit card that allows you to shop and buy in a matter of a few “clicks,” then you would be safer if you changed your password more often. If you like the convenience of not having to dig out and punch in your credit card number each time, then take the steps to protect yourself.
There are many digital methods to keep up with your passwords – whether through the internet browser feature that remembers passwords, password storage apps, or software that you can install on your computer to track the expanding universe of passwords. Some people use a rolodex or address book stored in a conspicuous location.
A tip: When writing down the password, do not write it out in its entirety. Use only the first two and last two characters or the first, middle, and last character. When you see it, you’ll know. Second tip: When you change your password, be sure to scratch through, blackout, or delete the old password.
The key with passwords is to not fall into the trap of easy memorization. Avoid number sequences (12345, 98765, 0000), generic phrases (password, login, iloveyou), your initials and birthday, your kids names and birthday, the names of your pets, names of your parents, or even where you work. Many have shared with me that they look at passwords as a chance to make them laugh or smile, give them motivation, or are a reminder of someone they care for when they type it in. Be creative with your passwords, change them regularly, and improve your chances of keeping your information safe.