I have been working with others in my business for years now. And trust me, initially, I didn't see myself as someone who ever wanted a team. I imagined myself as a solopreneur when I first started out. However, I have come to realize that having a team is the best decision, and I cannot run this business without them. That being said, managing people, whether they are contractors or employees, is not always easy. There are challenging moments, particularly when it comes to a remote team. So today, in this short episode, I'm going to share three strategies for enhancing communication with your team. Whether you're struggling with your team or even if things are going really well, these tips can help improve company culture, team communication, and your relationship with individual members. Doesn’t that sound good?
And hey - these are small tweaks. They're tweaks that I'm thinking maybe you haven't considered before, as I know they weren't on my radar years ago when I hired my first team member. But now, managing people day in and day out, I think about them constantly.
I also want to clarify what I mean when I say "team." I don't necessarily mean a W-2 employee. They don't have to be on your payroll service. All I mean is people in your business, paid by your business, who work for you on a regular basis. They could be contractors, or business owners themselves whom you hire, or they could be a W-2 employees. The strategies we're discussing apply to all scenarios, as long as there's that team dynamic within your business.
Before we dive in - are you in the Breakthrough Brand All Access Facebook Group yet? It’s free to join, and it’s where we take conversations like this one about team communication and go even deeper. Pop in and ask questions, share insights, and even peek behind the scenes of my own business and what I’m trying lately. I would LOVE for you to join!
LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE NOW:
1. Don’t fix (or “tweak”) things without communicating with your team members.
When a team member makes a mistake, big or small, and you want to fix it, consider this: don't just silently correct the error. If you do, they might feel discouraged, thinking, "Why bother doing well if my boss will just change it without telling me?". Or alternatively, they might not even notice the change, which means they won’t do it differently next time. Over time, this can create a bottleneck in your business at best and strain the relationship with your team members at worst.
As a business owner, you don't want to be constantly fixing everything. So instead, communicate about the mistake and work together to prevent future errors. There are a couple of ways to do this:
- When you fix a mistake, tell the person what you changed and why you changed it. Let’s use a Canva graphic as an example. If a teammate has designed Canva graphics and you're the final step, exporting and publishing, you might come across issues like text misalignment, color combinations you don’t love, fonts that are too big, or cropped images. You can go in and edit, but also highlight and comment on the graphic with an explanation of the changes you made. Let them know you made a few changes (and explain why), and then let them review the updated graphic at their convenience.
- Ask them to change it themselves. Instead of going in and editing it directly, provide clear instructions on what needs to be changed. Use tools like Loom, a screen recording software that shares a link. Record a video with or without your face, where you showcase your screen and explain the changes to team members. Then you can ask them to let you know when it’s ready to review again.
All of this to say, do not create a habit of secretly editing someone's work. When you first hire someone, make sure to schedule dedicated time to OVER communicate with them. This will lead to better team communication overall. This includes explaining how to perform tasks, having frequent meetings, creating loom videos, and providing detailed written instructions. Sharing your processes through various means like tutorials, meetings, and written directions helps align expectations from the start, reducing the need for corrections later on. This approach leads to a stronger working relationship, increased clarity on expectations, and ultimately helps avoid you becoming a really big bottleneck in your business.
2. When there is a problem, the first time someone hears about it shouldn’t be when you’re firing them.
This might seem obvious, but it's often skipped. You'd be shocked by how many people leave a position and only find out it wasn't going well when they're told, "Hey, this isn't working out. We're not going to work together anymore." There are usually no prior signs where the boss says, "Let's work on this. What's not going well?"
If you're having trouble with a team member and considering letting them go, there could be many reasons - work performance, relational issues, etc. You may decide to let them go or not. Regardless, they shouldn't hear about the problem for the first time when you're firing them. As a leader, you need to have better team communication skills than that. Address those problems, have improvement plans, and provide coaching and mentoring. Talk to them, let them know what's not going well.
As a business owner, check in with yourself - is your heart in this? Sometimes, when things aren't going well with a team member, it's like you could have given up on them months before actually letting them go. If your head is going to that place, I suggest either changing your mindset or terminating their employment earlier. Don't spend months operating with someone you feel is doomed without taking action. Instead, create improvement plans, provide more coaching, and communicate clearly about the issues. You want to avoid silently resenting them and counting down until you can let them go.
Supporting New Team Members
Something I like to do with new hires is meet 1:1 every 30 days for the first 90 days just to discuss how things are going. These are on top of the regular meetings we may have scheduled and are dedicated specifically for us to talk about how things are going, and they are encouraged to let me know ways I can improve too. I’ve found it to be a big help to have intentional time to talk about things that aren’t going well. If you feel like you never have an opportunity to critique and tell what’s not working, implementing something like this would be a good idea!
Here are some examples of questions to ask:
- How do you feel that the job is going?
- Is there anything that isn't going well for you, big or small?
- Is there anything you feel like needs to be changed?
- What's your single favorite thing you've done so far?
- Is there anything you don't enjoy doing that I've asked you to do?
- Do you feel like the hours you're working are sustainable? Do you want more? Less?
- How do you feel about the work schedule and deadlines on things?
- Is there anything I can do to better communicate with you and better lead you?
- Could you come up with one to three ways that could better support you?
- Could you come up with one to three things you want to do in this position that we haven't done yet?
Something else to note: I am sending these questions in ADVANCE of our meeting. I highly recommend doing this with team communication so that when you both come to the meeting, it won't be like you're asking how she feels about the job and she feels put on the spot. It's not the first time she's seen the questions; she was able to think about them and make some notes.
3. Change your language from “I - this” and “I - that” to “THE BUSINESS” or “OUR CUSTOMERS”
If that sounds confusing, let me explain. This is one of my favorite tips for team communication. It's a matter of aligning the business or our client's needs with my role as the business owner. For instance, when a team member does something I don't like, I’ve found it more effective to discuss it in terms of the business or our clients. Instead of saying, "I need you to respond faster to emails" or "I need you to have more attention to detail," it's better to communicate it in terms of the business, our clients, the brand, and the company's standards.
The main point is not to make things about personally pleasing yourself or doing things “your perfect way.” As a business owner, when you ask someone to change something that isn't working, it's for the benefit of the business, not just for yourself.
For example, if a team member is not responding to emails quickly enough, don’t say, “I would like you to respond quicker,” say, “As a business, we value customer service and quick response times. Is there anything you need from the business to help you respond faster?”
Another thing I'll add is that using inclusive language like "our business," "our company," or "our product" gives ownership to your team and makes it clear that you're all working together. I've used this approach with my team for years, saying "our" instead of "my." It might feel unnatural initially, but it's a subtle shift that emphasizes the collective effort we're all putting into creating and improving everything.
Which of these strategies will you use for better team communication?
Here’s a quick recap:
- When a team member makes a mistake, don't just fix it without explanation. Communicate what was fixed or encourage them to fix it themselves.
- Don't wait until you're firing someone to address a problem. Consider implementing regular check-ins, like a 90-day meeting, to address concerns early.
- Shift your language focus from "I" to “the business” and “our customers”.
I hope these tips are helpful to you! I know growing a team can be challenging at times, but it is SO worth it (like I said at the beginning, I originally saw myself as a solopreneur and can’t imagine a business without my team now!).
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August 15, 2023