It’s All About Communication

Michael Gallagher, .

Man at a whiteboardIt is said, rightly, the most important aspect of a relationship is communication, and the same of course is true in business. Communicating is crucial, whether creating a clear vision of your company for investors and clients or instructing employees in proper procedure. It can also be one of the more difficult aspects of business; just like in a relationship, it’s not really just what you say that matters – it’s how you say it. You may think it’s a good idea, for instance, to tell your partner, “You look fine,” but as we have all experienced, that probably doesn’t mean the same thing to her (or him) that it does to you.

Miscommunication in business results in more than hurt feelings, though, those plays a role.  It can also cause confusion, delay, inefficiency, loss of clients, loss of productivity, missed deadlines…the list goes on. Knowing what to say is just the start. You have to know how to say it and to whom.

Managers have to be able to communicate to a variety of different people.  Not only are individual personalities different, but the needs of groups are different.  How do you scale communication to speak or write effectively to executives?  Labourers?  Front-line employees?  How do you adjust your style when speaking of complex matters?  How do you speak to everyone without pandering to one audience and patronizing another?

The first critical element is to have a very clear idea of your audience.  You can’t always say things the same way to both front-line employees and executive colleagues – but this presents another potential danger.  You don’t want to appear to be condescending or patronizing to the front-line employees.  Studies show employees are far more satisfied with every aspect of their workplace if their managers are effective communicators. One study of nurses (Trombetta and Rogers, 1988), for instance, found that “participation in decision-making and information adequacy” was directly related to their level of job satisfaction. Another survey (Watson and Towers, 2009) found that the best companies “invest is in helping managers communicate with their employees.”  This, in turn, resulted in 47 percent higher total returns to shareholders over companies that had less effective communicators.

You really want to make sure communication with employees is handled by direct managers on a one-on-one basis.  When this is not possible, be very concerned with avoiding patronizing language.  Don’t talk down; these are the people who make your business work, and it is important not to forget that.

In management or executive meetings, it is often more appropriate to talk about more technical aspects of business.  You will find another difference; with employees focus communication on goals and actions, whereas with executives, you will need to work through planning and strategy.  Know what you need to communicate to whom, and deliver the information in a way that is clear, concise, and, most importantly, human.  Communication is about rapport and rapport builds relationship!

Are you communicating your needs, goals, initiatives, and directives clearly?  This may be the obstacle continually in your way.  We can help you clear it by helping you to speak with the people that matter, whether labourer or executive, in an effective, respectful way.

Implementing some of the ideas mentioned here can be challenging. If you would like to discuss them in the context of your own specific business please contact us. We’d be glad to help.


Michael Gallagher

Mike Gallagher, President of Michael Gallagher Advisory, has spent the past 20 years helping small business owners and managers develop and implement strategic business plans, achieve sustainable, targeted growth and solve the problems that keep them up at night.