Do you remember the game telephone? It was a common one when we were in elementary and middle school. The basic premise was that the first person in a line of people whispered a phrase into the ear of the next person in line, and they whispered what they heard to the next person, down the line. When the phrase got to the end, the last person announces what they heard to the group, erupting in a fit of laughter. Why? Because the end result was rarely anything close to the original phrase. Not by a mile. And it usually didn’t matter how many people were in the line, either – even just a few people could cause the message to be misheard.

In your business, especially a small business, the messaging between supervisors and employees, owner and leaders, and owners directly to employees can be as difficult to get right as the phrase said in the telephone game. Without a clear, established communication system for the whole team, you risk a breakdown of the entire process. Here’s some ways to combat the communication conundrum:

DOCUMENT CONSISTENTLY

Let’s say you own a Veterinary Practice, and there are multiple doctors that have several vet techs working for the practice. One tech likes the doctors to let them know the follow-up on a sticky note. One likes the instructions on the white board, and another wants the doctors to communicate face-to-face. While communicating differently to different people based on personality type and learning style is a great tactic for leadership, when it comes to customer and patient care, there needs to be just one way. Not only is streamlining the documentation more efficient, it leaves less room for the ball to be dropped and service failures to happen.

In any industry, documentation of communication is crucial. Our coaches after a coaching session will often send a follow-up email with the “homework,” or the actions that the leader needs to take before next session. That way, when the conversation is over, both parties can easily go back and refer to it.

USE FREE TOOLS

There are a bunch of free or low-cost communication tools out there. It’s a great way to keep communication open, at a very low cost! We have a client that uses Slack for everything from reporting attendance to communication between employees or departments. Slack is free and allows each user to join appropriate channels, such as all company or departments. Even using email to follow up with instructions or follow-up items is easy and quick. We have other clients using Trello, which is essentially an online daily planner, with automation capabilities. This is also a free service.

Simple systems not bound by technology are whiteboard to-do lists, paper to-do lists, and more. The crucial component here is that it is able to be seen by all and utilized by all. The documentation of who’s working on what, who’s bringing the supplies for the next job, and what goals the project needs to accomplish can make or break a business’s growth. Even if the leader has an idea of to whom they delegated certain tasks, that employee may not have gotten the message, or got the message and didn’t remember.

ACCOUNTABILITY

Why would we take all the time to write all of these things down, put them in a scheduling tool, or enter them in an app? One answer: accountability. On our team, it’s called DWYSYWD. Do What You Say You Will Do. If the expectations are not clear, then there is no way to hold the team accountable to DWYSYWD. Sam was supposed to bring the paint to the job site? Great job, Sam! Pat was supposed to bring the ladder to the exterior job. The ladder didn’t show up, so the leader knows exactly who to talk to. And the team is going to be exponentially more likely to accomplish the goals if they know that the leader is going to ask about the results.

If there’s not one singular person who has a specified job, that has a deadline, and a clear expectation, then finger-pointing can happen quickly. They didn’t tell me I needed to bring the ladder! I thought that job was interior! Terry didn’t tell me which job to bring the ladder to! As you can imagine, the implications to team culture can be disastrous. Team members blaming, denying, and making excuses are a recipe for poor morale.

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With a clear system that the entire team embraces, a path to accountability, and utilizing the tools out there to get the job done, you’ll have a happy team, massive business growth, and a relaxed, drama-reduced work environment. It also results in less stress, management duties, and drama for the Business Owner, which we know everyone wants!

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Do you need help developing communication strategies? Are you consumed with fighting employees? Are team members blaming each other for everything? We can help. Schedule your FREE, no-obligation business analysis today.

About the author,

Director of Marketing, ActionCOACH Columbus

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