Running a small business comes with great responsibility. Not only does it oblige you to serve your customers and clients in a way that brings them coming back for more, but it also calls for you to step up as a leader. As a small business leader, your most important job is to guide and motivate your team to work toward achieving common goals. And that requires communicating with impact. 

Now more than ever, your employees are dealing with countless distractions vying for their attention. As a leader, you are competing with technology, social media, 24/7 news cycles with sensational headlines, and everything going on in the personal lives of your employees — all while they have a job to do. Attention spans are short and the noise is loud. If you want to break through, you have to do what it takes to be heard. 

The Cost of Poor Communication

Poor communication in the workplace comes with costs you may not have considered.

First things first, poor communication impacts your bottom line. It costs real money — as much as $62.4 million per year for large companies and an average of $420k per year for small businesses. Research findings show that small businesses spend approximately 17 hours of downtime per week, clarifying communications and dealing with misunderstandings; and we know that time is money.

No matter the size of your organization, lack of communication competency is an expense you may not be accounting for, and it’s one that can be avoided.

Poor communication can also cost you your team. Ineffective communication eats into the productivity, motivation, and job satisfaction of your employees. A recent study, based on over 11 million survey comments, found that the driving force behind employee turnover can often be traced back to communication-related issues. 

Lack of direction from management, failing to communicate change well, and overall poor communication will leave employees feeling lost, frustrated, and unappreciated.

Transparency, responsiveness, and feedback are key to fostering a sense of belonging and loyalty. Your team wants to be in the know and they want to know you respect their input.

Avoiding the costs associated with poor internal communication requires avoiding common communication pitfalls.

Communication Pitfalls to Avoid

When communicating with team members, you will want to avoid common communication pitfalls that can work against you.

Pitfall #1: Not Having a Clear Message

Many business leaders understand the importance of clear messaging when it comes to marketing — your customers need to know exactly what you offer, what you stand for, and why they should buy from you. Otherwise, your sales will suffer. But you also need clear messaging internally because a solid message sets the foundation for everything that follows.

Not having a clear message leads to confusion, frustration, and lack of direction. Without a clear message, your employees will waste time making mistakes, going down the wrong path, or focusing on the wrong objectives. 

You can avoid this pitfall by doing some upfront work to get your message aligned with your desired outcomes.

All effective messaging starts with getting to know your audience; don’t assume you know them or what they expect from you — ask. The better you know your employees, the better you can communicate with them. To ensure the message is received well and understood, develop multiple ways to communicate it. When you think it’s ready to go, go back and simplify it again. When you’re ready to communicate your message clearly, be sure to deliver it through the right vehicle at the ideal time.

Pitfall #2: Not Checking Your Emotions

Emotional awareness is an important skill for any great leader. Feelings play a major role in communication, influencing the way we give and receive messages.

The ability to understand your feelings and notice how others are responding to your message will help to make your communication more effective. The more aware you are of emotions, the better you will be able to connect and understand what others expect from you, what they are communicating to you, and why. 

If you have ever tried to hide your feelings, you know that it’s difficult to do. Most people pick up on your anger, frustration, disapproval, and a whole range of emotions, whether you want them to or not.

Instead of ignoring how you feel about a situation at work, it’s best to focus on becoming more aware of your feelings and checking in to see how they are affecting your communication.

You can avoid this pitfall by slowing down, sitting up straight, taking a few deep breaths, and imagining the conversation going well. The trick is not to ignore your emotions or push them aside, but to get grounded in your intention and focus on creating a positive outcome. 

Use this positive mantra and say to yourself: “I’m thankful to be here. I’m here to help. Whatever I don’t know, I’ll learn.” 

Pitfall #3: Not Varying Communication Enough

Another problem that interferes with the effectiveness of employee communication is simply not varying communication enough. The truth is, your employees don’t want one-dimensional leaders. They don’t want all of your messaging to be perfectly polished and impersonal. If you keep your guard up, they will naturally assume you have something to hide, that you don’t respect trust them, and that you don’t value their contributions. 

You can address this pitfall by communicating both formally and informally, learning how to address large and small groups privately, and sharing both positive and negative messages with confidence. 

Ask thoughtful questions, visit with employees in their office or in a breakroom, or sit down for coffee together. Be vulnerable. Let down your guard. Show them that you’re human, humble, relatable, and someone they can trust. 

Pitfall #4: Not Being a Good Listener

Not listening is one of the most common and damaging ways employers fall short of being impactful with their communication. Effective listening skills allow you to not only make sense of what the other person is saying but also gather the meaning and emotion behind their words — whether it’s through oral or written communication. 

Being a good listener earns employee trust and allows you to develop more effective messaging. Listening, as a leadership skill, applies to one-on-one communication as well as picking up chatter or gathering the overall sentiment about an issue. It’s your job to find out what people are thinking and feeling.

You can address this pitfall by focusing on both active and reflective listening and minimizing distractions to be present to what matters in the moment. Most importantly, work on listening to learn, rather than listening to respond.

Keep in mind, listening takes patience and it takes time. When you rush into communicating, you miss out on this valuable opportunity.

Now that you know what communication pitfalls to avoid, let’s take a look at communication strategies effective leaders use to make a positive impact.

Communication Strategies Used by Effective Leaders

Great small business leaders know how to use communication to make the impact they want to make. Here’s how you can model their best practices. Powerful storytelling and clear, unambiguous language can go a long way in making a difference.

Be Strategic

If you’re bogged down in the day-to-day operations of your business, it’s easy to downplay the importance of being strategic in your communications. You want something done. You’re dealing with a challenging issue. You have a lot on your plate. But you can’t afford to let this prevent you from taking the time to think your messaging through from start to finish.

Don’t leave them guessing about your intentions or reasons. Always explain the what, the why, and the how.

Prepare and Practice

While there are times when you will be engaging informally and speaking off the cuff, when you need to communicate an important message, it deserves proper preparation.

If you have a difficult or important message to convey, craft your messaging in advance and always practice delivering it multiple times.  

Seek Feedback

Remember, your employee communication should never be a one-way conversation. Yes, you are in charge and will make the final decisions about your messaging, but opening yourself up to input will always make you a more impactful communicator.

Ask for feedback from multiple sources before publishing organizational changes and your message is sure to be more effective.

Lead by Example

Impactful communication is not only about what you say, it’s about what you do. Integrity goes a long way.Actions speak louder than words, so act in a way you want others to act and inspire the kind of behavior you wish to cultivate. 

Be the kind of leader you would want to follow and your messages will be more well received. 

Learning to Communicate with Impact

Communicating with impact isn’t easy; it’s a learned skill and performative art. If you’ve ever felt like you’re talking but nobody is listening or your message is falling short, you can use proven techniques, exercises, and practice to improve. Something as simple as working on the sound of your voice can make a powerful difference.

Check out one of my favorite Ted Talks, by sound expert Julian Treasure to learn more — click here to watch

At the end of the day, any small business leader who sincerely cares about their team will continually work to improve their communication skills to be more impactful.

  • Avoid muddled messaging.
  • Brush up on your writing skills.
  • Be concise and consistent.
  • Check your tone and volume.
  • Be mindful of your facial expressions, gestures and posture.
  • Ditch distracting movements.
  • Make eye contact.
  • Stay up-to-date on the latest communication technologies.

It takes practice and effort to communicate with impact, but it’s worth it and your team deserves your best. 

Do you want help communicating with impact in your small business? Contact us for a free consultation today. We love this stuff!