Culture is foundational to everything that we do in our businesses. Whether we’re designing a logo, picking out shirt colors or putting potted plants in the corners of our offices – we are creating culture. A key component to any business is finding which type of culture is needed to make you successful, and then sticking to it. When quality culture exists in your business, employees feel part of a team, productivity is higher and your company stands out above the competition. This month we want to talk about communication and how it might be one of the greatest barriers for the perfect culture your company is trying to create.
Obviously everything we do during our day contains some aspect of communication. Whether you’re saying “Good Morning” to your team when you first see them, writing an email to a client about a potential job, texting your foreman during the day about a work issue, or talking with your mechanic about a truck part —all of these routine scenarios rely on proper communication. If communicating is something that we do all the time, why do so many leaders and teams struggle with it? Perhaps it’s time to rethink our communication strategies.
In all of my experiences of working on a team, the greatest examples of communication started with people just being approachable. It sounds like an easy thing to do, but leaving your door open or keeping your phone out of view when your coworkers are around are simple things you can do to make yourself open to your team.
Take this scenario for instance: You are the one responsible for getting your crews out in the morning. A good thing to ask yourself is — did I allow an opportunity for everyone to ask questions about our jobs today? Was I available for others thoughts or feedback? Unfortunately, it’s not all that uncommon for bosses to charge out ahead with orders and demands and not allow time for other’s responses or ideas. Similarly, it’s all too easy to just write the work orders on a whiteboard and assume everyone will understand what to do. Consider being more available in the mornings and the evenings when crews are around. Ask questions about the job, about their experience that day, any concerns for tomorrow.
For sure there will be times when you need to bear down and get work done, but leaving yourself available allows the channels of communication to flow between you and your team members. Not only will you gain a broader understanding of the work being done, but your team members will develop a higher degree of ownership in the company.
Any good communication starts with observation. We have all been a part of scenarios when someone arrived on a job site, or came into a meeting, and immediately started making decisions without taking the time to understand the bigger picture. It can be frustrating when people try to communicate in a vacuum. Decisions made without observation can be detrimental to workflow and can really drive down team morale.
One way to be more observant is to practice active listening. Have you ever found yourself losing focus in a conversation because you’re more concerned with your answer than what the question is? Questions from team members are often windows into a greater issue. What might be a simple question about emailing a client could be a window into a greater customer relation issue.
Here are two thoughts on active listening. First, make sure you’ve removed yourself from all minor distractions (phone, email, etc.). Second, pause long enough to understand the question before giving your answer, keeping in mind that your response might have a long lasting effect on the business. Sometimes being a good communicator is as simple as listening to understand, rather than listening to respond.
Great communication is an art. It is not something that comes naturally to us -and it is definitely not something that comes with the territory. Just because someone has a management level position does not mean that they have a management level of communication. Therefore we need to constantly be working on our communication strategies. We must look for ways to be more approachable by clearing space in our daily schedule and we should take advantage of every conversation, email and text message to learn more about our the people on our team. Now that’s great culture.