by James Craft, Enterprise and Development Manager at TEDCO
They say no man is an island, and this is especially true for entrepreneurs. Taking a business from strength to strength requires teamwork . . . and successful teamwork requires a healthy dose of communication.
This is the topic I’ll be covering in my latest piece for the TEDCO blog. Every month, I’m taking a closer look at the qualities required in leadership roles and asking whether leaders are ultimately born or made. By outlining the skills needed to run an SME, I hope to help entrepreneurs make the most of their abilities and resources for greater business success.
The importance of communication in running a business
It’s hard to overstate the importance of good communication when it comes to starting, running and growing a business. The best leaders are those who are able to communicate well, making every member of their team feel valued, and ensuring that customers feel like they are receiving the full attention of the brand with whom they’re shopping.
Effective communication from an employer promotes trust, loyalty, engagement, productivity and innovation. It gives staff the confidence they need to share ideas and work together effectively, resolving issues and driving new growth. When employers display a strong communication blueprint with staff, team members can go on to use this blueprint to form better working relationships themselves.
The rise and rise of technological leadership
Today, communication is more varied than ever. This is due, in large part, to the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw countless organisations turn to digital platforms to maintain a sense of togetherness. For some, electronic leadership and online etiquette were wildly new concepts, while others were more accustomed to it. Two years on, many organisations still utilise remote working and digital platforms to a large degree, which makes online collaboration and communication skills essential.
Hybrid working is now a staple of modern businesses. As summarised by business authors Dasborough and Scandura in their 2021 article about leading hybrid teams: “Leaders must be able to lead in person, lead virtually, and perhaps most challenging of all – lead using a hybrid approach. Clearly, the role of a leader has become a lot more complicated than it used to be.”
It’s true that technological leadership has led to a fresh wave of challenges for business owners. Leaders, who in the past were predominantly face-to-face and were well versed in body language, tone, eye contact and general observations now need to be better listeners and generally more inquisitive.
Newman and Ford touched on this in a 2021 paper, arguing that communications must be varied in mode and frequency to ensure effective, and well understood communication. In other words, leaders must now strategically choose what to say, when to say it and in which format it will best be received.
Making communication count
Rapid global change over the past two years has required entrepreneurs to upskill and diversify the ways in which they communicate with customers and staff. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, leaders were able to observe staff wellbeing, morale and team working at the coal face. Remote and hybrid working could be offering blinkered leaders a smoke screen of peace and tranquillity, with a quick phone call or video call merely providing a false positive.
As such, leaders now need to adapt their listening skills and learn to ask more questions. Even when working remotely, leaders must be more visible and available than ever before. This is arguably easier for small business owners, who have a smaller workforce to manage compared to large organisations or even global enterprises.
There is no blueprint for effective business communication, as it will depend on your specific team and their specific needs. Taking the time to listen to your staff and customers encourages return in kind, creating effective channels for communication across your entire organisation, even when working remotely.
Perhaps ironically, agile leadership is improved when leaders have several projects in mind before engaging in workforce discussions. Careful consideration into the range and scope of projects before inviting wider staff input can keep things moving at an even steadier pace. In other words, in order to be truly agile in your approach to business, you need to plan ahead.