As a small business leader, you know just how influential your presence is on your business. Your team relies on you to guide culture, set the tone, and steer the company to success. One of the best ways to chase that success is to focus on how to improve your communication. It’s an area where everyone can improve and one that pays off broadly across a business. When communication is improved, everyone benefits, from entry-level team members to executive employees.
Here are a few ways small business leaders can improve communication with their teams.
Ask For Criticism— And Embrace It
Honest feedback is one of the most valuable things an employee can give their leaders; unfortunately, many leaders react negatively when accepting less-than-stellar feedback. Small businesses, in particular, might be sensitive to input from impatient customers.
Still, you must remember that if your team is giving an evaluation of you, you can’t afford to ignore it, especially if they have negative feedback— accepting criticism graciously and taking action after the fact is one of the most powerful things a leader can do. It builds trust with your direct reports, encourages you to embrace a growth mindset, and, importantly, develops your emotional intelligence.
At a certain level, leaders and executives stop getting feedback. They no longer have peers; instead, they have subordinates. These people might not feel comfortable giving you feedback for fear of threatening their position in their roles.
The good news is that you can bridge the gap between yourself and the people you want feedback from. You just have to take the initiative to start the conversation.
Embrace Honesty and Authenticity
If you want to improve communication within your organization, honesty is the key to making that happen. Small business leaders must make themselves available to their teams through large and small conversations.
Hold company-wide town halls. Share progress and pitfalls, encourage questions and discussion, and create a new cadence of communication.
Leaders should ensure that they’re open for individual conversations as well. Making time in your schedule for coffee chats and conversations will help your employees get to know you as a person and not just as their boss. It can also help you learn about the company’s dynamics that you aren’t yet aware of, possibly staving off conflict before it can fully develop.
Develop Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is one of the most important keys to improving communication. It’s the ability to sense, understand, and effectively apply the power of acumen of emotions to facilitate higher levels of collaboration and productivity.
Developing emotional intelligence helps prevent burnout, improves your mindset, and enhances communication. When you are more aware of yourself and others, you can read the room and take the emotional temperature of the people around you.
The ability to pick up on the emotional states of others is crucial for leaders because it helps them empathize with their teams. People are often on their best behavior in front of ‘the boss’ and might feel nervous or stilted around their leaders. Being able to put them at ease and read their reactions will go a long way in building effective communication. Emotional intelligence also improves your listening skills, allowing others to speak without interrupting or judging.
The great benefit of leading a small business is your influence goes a long way. If you can model emotionally open communications, others will follow your path and move forward.
Ask For Anonymous Feedback
If your team needs help to step into this more open communication style, find ways to gather feedback anonymously. Tools like eNPS surveys will be invaluable in this process, which lets employees rank your company with a Net Promoter Score. This survey allows leaders to see if their teams feel inspired by the company mission or if they are detracting from the culture with negativity.
The most important thing here is that you’re making an effort. Receiving and implementing feedback from others improves emotional intelligence by helping you evaluate yourself against the information given to you by others. It’s a self-serving cycle; once you begin seeking out and implementing feedback, it becomes easier to grow and change.
Take a Direct Approach
In general, when communicating with others, the simpler, the better, especially if you have a hybrid team or are meeting virtually.
Leaders might get caught up in trying to impress and doing things ‘the right way’, which can lead to distanced relationships and assumptions. Leaders might be tempted to embrace business jargon and drop information-dense communications on their teams, and taking the approach of trying to impress the people around you with your business prowess is common but likely to have the opposite effect.
Remedy this by taking a clear and confident approach. Share regular updates on company-wise progress, strategy progression, and company news to connect departments and demonstrate transparency at every level. Be clear about what you expect from people, and go out of your way to acknowledge work that is well done. The compliment will mean something concrete from a leader who communicates directly!
Move Forward With Better Communication
Small business leaders are capable of shaping the business’s culture for the better, and that starts with improving communication. It’s crucial for the success and development of any organization, especially ones with smaller teams.
By embracing honesty and authenticity, taking a direct approach, enhancing emotional intelligence, and asking for anonymous feedback, leaders can foster a culture of open and impactful communication and lead their teams to success.