We’ve all been there – pulling our hair out because of our peers and colleagues and their apparent inability to communicate properly. Nowadays we have fewer opportunities and second chances to get our point across (there’s less time, people are increasingly distracted and on top of all that our words and actions can live in the digital world for an eternity) so it’s vital that as a business leader you get your communication right first time.

Don’t be the leader that everybody is moaning about because of your lack tangible instruction. There are some fast and easy wins when it comes to communication….

Here are our top 5 tips on how to communicate more effectively when you’re an SME leader:

Be Trustworthy: In a small business it’s imperative that you are or your employees won’t open up to you if they don’t feel that they can trust you. When people have a sense a leader is worthy of their trust they will invest time and take risks in ways they never would if their leader had a reputation built upon poor character or lack of integrity. Sounds simple? Yes, it can be.  While you can attempt to demand trust, it rarely works (and even if it does you won’t earn much respect). Trust is best created by earning it with the right acting, thinking, and decision making. Keep in mind people will forgive many things where trust exists, but will rarely forgive anything where trust is absent.

Get Personal: Stop using corporate communications as your only channel of speaking to your employees. Start to have conversations with them instead. If you are stuck in an office all day with your head buried in your laptop you are going to miss the opportunity to connect with your employees and here’s the thing – the more personal and engaging your conversation is the more effective it will be.

The majority of papers and guidance on this subject will advise you to stay at arm’s length when it comes to your employees but totally isolating yourself from your employees will leave you in the dark receiving a watered-down (or worse, exaggerated) version of the truth. If you don’t develop meaningful relationships with employees, you’ll never know what’s really on their minds until it’s too late to do anything about.

It’s a cliché but, having an "Open Door" policy where your employees feel comfortable bringing anything to your attention, at any time, can be immensely beneficial to you and your business, not to mention make you more approachable.  One of the biggest obstacles that employees face is how they can communicate with managers, Directors and CEO’s and as a result of this apprehension, many employees may choose to avoid bringing up important points and this could be blocking the flow of communication in your business.

Be Specific: I have never come across an individual who likes ambiguity and it’s unlikely that you have either.  Learn to communicate with clarity. Simple and concise is always better than complicated and confusing and your employees will thank you for the direct approach (even if sometimes they don’t like the message!). Time has never been a more precious commodity than it is today and it is critical that leaders learn how to cut to the – it’s also important to expect the same from others. Weed out the inconsequential information and relay the important parts of your message.

Shut-up And Listen To Your Employees!: As a leader you should know when to dial it up, dial it down, and dial it off.  Simply broadcasting your message or making announcements in the middle of the office will not have the same result as engaging in meaningful conversations. Remember that the greatest form of discourse takes place within a conversation, and not a lecture or a monologue, knowledge is gained by listening and engaging in meaningful conversation and not simply speaking at your employees. When speaking to your employees keep an open mind, good leaders takes their game to a whole new level when conversing with employees with opposing positions with the goal not of convincing them to change their minds, but with the goal of understanding what’s on their mind. Don’t be fearful of opposing views, try to have open dialogs with those who confront and challenge you. This in turn this will stretch you, and develop you and your business.

The best communicators are not only skilled at learning and gathering information while communicating, they are also adept at transferring ideas, inspiring action, and spreading their vision. The key is to approach each interaction with a servant’s heart. When you truly focus on contributing more than receiving you will have accomplished the goal.

Take Advantage of Social Media: It’s 2016 and time for all of us to realise there are some messages you can send on Twitter, others that should be sent via email, and then those that need a face to face conversation. The secret in any business is getting this right.

Using the right medium to send a message can make all the difference when it comes to how your message will be received. Social media is likely to have proven to be a powerful tool for you to communicate with your customers yet it may be overlooked when looking at your internal communications. Employees can like, comment, and share with one another interesting posts that may relate to you and your business and this provides them with a constant stream of updates and communication with little effort on your part.

Today, more and more people are using smartphones and tablets for everything. Mobile technologies aren't going away, and since many modern employees find themselves outside of the office on a regular basis, embracing them when communicating with your employees is of the utmost importance.

If, after all of this, the communication gets messed up, don’t let it fester. Fix it. Of course there will times when no matter how hard you try, the communication with your employees will not go as planned but instead of ignoring the situation and potentially having it get worse try to do something about it. 

Always try to take a moment to put yourself in your employees shoes as it can positively impact your communications with them. Communication skills are the foundation of almost everything you do in your business and your ability to master effective communication will largely contribute to your success, not only at work but in life.

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