Communication between individuals is a two-way street, but communication between a small business owner and his associates is a multi-lane highway. Navigate it successfully and you will increase associate loyalty.
How many times have you seen a business with an exceptional product or service experience tremendous associate turnover? Unfortunately I have seen this more often than I would like to admit. Eleven years ago, when I decided to take the plunge into self-employment, I made a pledge to myself that when I hired associates I would commit to them as fully as they committed to the success of the business. As the business grew and made more money so would they! However, as great as that may sound, I knew it would only be as successful as my ability to honestly and consistently convey that message to each associate. Providing a true “open door policy” is sometimes easier said than done. It takes a tremendous amount of patience and focus to live up to the expectation of such a policy. Just because you say you have an open door policy and you are open to communication, does not mean that your associates will blindly believe or trust you. It is your responsibility to ensure that you prove it and that you utilize the necessary communication skills to support your claim. It isn’t always easy to manage a business and multiple associates, but an effective leader or supervisor must embrace that 75% of the job is managing and communicating with associates. It is your responsibility to ensure that they have the information, guidance, support and understanding that is required to successfully perform their functions. This of course means that you need to be extremely effective with managing your time so that you are able to complete your own tasks and job functions –but that’s a completely different conversation.
Communication is about what you say, how you say it and, most importantly, about how well you listen to the real messages that are being communicated to you. When an associate is angry about a new process or about a fellow co-worker, a good communicator doesn’t look to say the right things to make that person feel better but rather allows that associate to share their emotions and frustrations, then looks to clarify the root cause. The ultimate goal is to help them to find a reasonable solution. Remember, this is about COMMUNICATING with them, not choosing sides or making decisions for them. The worst thing you can do is become the “problem solver” because you will find yourself involved in a lot of drama. A good Communicator actually understands the power of Great Listening! I stand behind my theory that good listening is not something that simply happens in silence, but is an actual decision!
In your next communication with an associate –no matter if the discussion is a difficult or positive one- make the decision to be a Great Listener. Don’t judge the information, but rather take the time to listen and understand what is being said. Great Communication is a combination of body language first, followed by tone and then words (in that order of priority), understanding that the actual words hold the least value. When you embrace this way of communicating you will open yourself to a world that is much clearer, more precise and includes less stress or drama.