Tips for Effective Team Communication as Your Business Grows (Guest Contribution from Will Cotter)

The following post comes to us from Will Cotter, the COO of HappyCleans, a professional cleaning service company based out of Oklahoma City. Will oversees all aspects of the business’s operations and is continuously searching for ways to improve how the business functions on a daily basis. And one of these critical areas is team communication! Keep reading for Will’s first-hand advice for establishing effective team communication in your own business.

Communication is essential to running any business. Whether you are the owner or the operations manager, communication with staff at all levels is critical. As a business grows, effective communication becomes even more vital yet far more difficult. You could lose important customers through simple miscommunications if systems aren’t in place to ensure nothing slips through the cracks. Check out these tried and true tips businesses have used for effectively communicating as they grow.

Set Reminders to Check in With Staff Regularly

Effective communication generally requires frequent communication. One of the most significant problems with communication comes when staff and administration do not communicate regularly. Staff begins to feel that their issues and concerns do not matter or that their ideas aren’t taken seriously. Issues are left to fester and eventually become a big problem, but regular communication can stop issues before they get out of hand. Sometimes a member of your team might not realize that they are not performing their duties below their employer’s standards. If management doesn’t provide clear instructions with easy-to-use systems, things tend to fall apart. Likewise, when the owner isn’t aware of things that are confusing or bother a team, they cannot rectify the issues. Many problems in businesses are essentially caused by a lack of communication.

Delegate to Senior Staff

One of the most challenging things for business owners to do is delegate responsibilities. This challenge is especially true for owners who have meticulously built their businesses almost entirely alone and fear handing over responsibility. If this is you, you already know that letting go is not easy but it is essential if you want your business to grow. Lack of delegation will strangle your business’s growth and also affect the motivation of your team. The best people want to feel like you trust them so it’s important not to micromanage your staff.

Have a hierarchy in place so senior management can monitor new staff and have regular meetings with your senior staff to ensure your goals for the company are fed through to the entire team. Don’t get too wrapped up too much if they’re not doing things exactly as you want; pick your battles and focus on the point of diminishing return. Even if a task gets done 90% of the way you prefer, it’s much better than not getting done at all and this will free you up to handle other parts of your business.

Provide Feedback Regularly

In addition to the delegation and regular communication to discover the needs/priorities for your business, you also need to provide feedback on performance, projections, and business changes. Weekly or bi-weekly meetings are a great way to spend a little time catching up with significant business concerns. One smart idea is to implement a weekly bonus system based on scores of 1-5 for things like attention to detail and initiative. If they score over 4.5 they receive a bonus on their usual pay. This also takes the emotion out of monitoring the progress of all staff as you now have hard numbers to refer to when making decisions about who to promote or let go.

You should also let your senior staff know what is going on with new business partners, your newest projects, and projections for growth. One of the things that can happen as a business grows is that people can lose that immediate connection with one another, so it’s important to ensure no one feels left out. A company with five people is very different from a company with twenty or more people!

When someone is performing poorly, we are often ready to speak to them. However, when they are doing well, we often forget to say something. Feedback should include praise rather than only criticism of performance.

Create a Communication-Friendly Environment

If you want all of these communication suggestions to work, you must create a communication-rich environment. One very simple way to do this is to talk to your staff about how their day is going and take an interest in their projects. Speaking to people regularly about issues outside of the company can help optimize communication and generate goodwill.

For example, you can have a channel on Slack where you can leave messages or ask questions when they arise without having to wait on a return to the office. Perhaps, even have a channel for general chit-chat so everyone has a place to share news and vent when needed. You can, and should, set communication boundaries as well. While you want your team to feel comfortable communicating with you, you should never set a precedent where you need to answer messages at all hours of the day or address questions that they should be asking someone else.

When you Criticize, Make it Constructive

Sometimes, you have to discuss difficult things with staff. Be sure that you approach difficult situations as openly as possible, but also be direct. You should always speak to staff with respect and provide them with a “compliment sandwich” rather than focusing on everything they did wrong. Speak only to their performance and do not get personal. Be sure that when you have a criticism, you provide insight into how they can improve. Rather than saying “You shouldn’t do _____” and leaving it at that, you should say, “rather than doing ______, try ________.” You should let them know what your expectations are and how to better meet them while encouraging them to give feedback on how they think processes can be improved.

Final Thoughts

You should communicate with your staff and partners clearly and help them understand your expectations of them. Communication can make or break a business, and you must make a conscious effort to communicate effectively. Effective communication means clearly outlining your expectations and policies. Your team is only as good as the training they receive, and it is your responsibility to ensure that they are ready to meet your business expectations. Communication works both ways and you need to make sure that you are listening to people just as much as you expect them to listen to you!

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