While there are many factors that can contribute to the success or failure of a business, effective communication is necessary if the business is going to succeed. Good communication includes clear verbal communication, excellent listening skills, and effective business writing. Without these elements, it is very likely that there will be a breakdown in communication.
All businesses, big and small, can be negatively impacted by frequent conflicts caused by miscommunication. Small business owners have an advantage here, though, because they are better positioned to see potential communication problems and address them before damage is done in the business. The tips below will help you improve your communication process with employees so you can avoid problems stemming from miscommunication.
Make Sure Every Meeting Has an Agenda
Meeting overload is bad for every business, but meeting overload with no discernible purpose is even worse. Also, it can be a trigger for miscommunication. Instead of scheduling meetings and hoping things will get accomplished during that time, be purposeful about meetings from the beginning.
Create set agendas for every meeting that you schedule, and share it with your employees well before the meeting to set the stage for the discussion. It's also a good idea to invite your employees to add agenda items they want to be discussed before the meeting.
Share All Presentations/Documents
Not everyone takes notes well during meetings, and not everything discussed will be retained when the meeting ends. This is why it's so important to make sure all participants receive a copy of presentation files or any documents discussed during the meeting. It's even better if you can share these files before the meeting so your employees can take notes and review the information in real-time.
Streamline Your Email Messages
Have you ever received a business email that was so long and touched on so many different topics that you were utterly confused when you finished reading it? Email is one of those modes of conversation that is excellent for productivity, but it can also lead to confusion and miscommunication. Simple habits like keeping one topic per email message, breaking down your message into subheadings and/or bullet points, and being very descriptive when drafting a subject line can be the difference between clarity and confusion.
Listen Carefully and Watch for Non-Verbal Cues
Not all communication—and miscommunication—happens verbally. We touched on email communication best practices above, and those span to other types of written communication as well. But what about body language? It's vital that you are in tune with your employees and able to pick up on non-verbal cues. This can help you actively address issues that an employee may not be 100% comfortable bringing up with you directly. Remember that along with non-verbal communication, it's important that as a manager you not only communicate effectively with your employees but that you also listen effectively.
An open-door policy can be a benefit to businesses of all types. Being accessible to your employees says that you care about their concerns and want to hear their feedback. An open door empowers your employees to speak to you about things happening in the business that may not be readily visible to you. This type of accessibility can make the possibility of miscommunication less likely in your small business.
Miscommunication can occur very easily in a business environment, but being proactive about the way you communicate with your employees—and empowering them to communicate openly with you—can help you avoid the problems that often stem from miscommunication. When used in tandem with these business communication tips, you are setting the foundation for a business that has the potential to thrive and not be held back by poor communication.