To be a successful leader, it’s important to know when to speak up and when to listen
When you’re leading a team of people, communication is key. However, knowing what to say and when to say it is an undervalued tool in some entrepreneurs’ arsenals. When it comes to how I interact with my company, the way I communicate and the tactics I use depend most on the environment that I find myself in.
When our company was smaller and I could turn to my left or right to speak to my entire team, communication was fairly simple. If I needed questions answered, I simply asked them. If I needed to deliver a new initiative or protocol, I stood up and wrote it on our whiteboard, hammering home important points with a couple extra exclamation points.
But as our company expanded into several distinct teams with their own needs, so has my need to tailor my communication to each setting. The way I speak, listen, respond and question employees in an organisation-wide meeting is very different than when I speak to a specific department or in a one-on-one meeting. Below are some guiding principles I try to stick to when meeting with employees under different circumstances.
Having one-on-one interactions
Every individual you hire, manage and work with is unique, no matter how similar his or her role within your company may be. But keeping a specific set of guiding principles when meeting with your employees can help you maximise efficiency while still getting the most out of people. Set expectations in advance, and don’t set up a meeting with an employee and ambush them. Give them adequate preparation time maximises the potential for learning on both ends. Know when to listen, because sometimes a situation calls for you to do the talking. Other times you need to be the listener. Regardless of the scenario, you need to make sure to keep the meeting’s agenda paramount, close up loops, ask specifics and get to the bottom of things.
Addressing a team or department
When you’re working with an entire team, especially one that’s outside of your specialty, be a fly on the wall, but one that is willing to speak up when necessary. There’s a reason you hired these people, and there’s a reason they’ve been placed on their respective teams. Have faith that they are (hopefully more than) capable of laying out whatever information needs to be conveyed without you forcing it out of them. The goal of any form of communication should be to gain quality information out of the interaction, making your employees feel comfortable, valued and capable. This will also reduce the likelihood of them saying what they think their boss wants to hear.
Speaking to the entire Company
When I address our entire company, whether it’s at an all-hands meeting or a work outing, I always try to frame the conversation with a macro mindset, no matter how granular the topic. You can’t always get to every issue or respond to every query, but if you stay true to the overall focus, your employees should feel like the time was well spent.
However, you never want people to feel like you’re simply delivering a speech. Keep the lines of communication open, and give your employees a chance to respond or ask questions. Stay laser-focussed on the topic at hand. Simplify your speech, especially when speaking across channels. Coders, for example, aren’t going to benefit from hearing about specific lead generation goals. Conversely, your sales team isn’t going to understand dev talk.
Remember that every meeting with your people, no matter the size or scope, is important. As the executive, sometimes you have so many items on your plate that it’s easy to forget the humanity of things, especially when an interaction or circle up is just a footnote in the epic novel that is your daily agenda. Every interaction with your employees is a potential to further their buy-in to your organisation, and help them be the best possible version of themselves.
Manick Bhan, a former banker at Goldman Sachs, is the CEO and CTO at Rukkus.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organisation comprising the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship programme that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
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