It takes a lot to build a successful business. Cash flow, process and systems, good people, good products and services, marketing, a solid customer base. Perhaps most important of all is strong communication among the team. Too often this is overlooked, as leadership becomes too focused on all the other moving parts of the business. While poor communication practices, like delivering messages and information in the wrong way, can sometimes be at fault, issues can also arise from a simple lack of communication. The old saying may be “no news is good news,” but when communication with your team is involved, no news is often bad news.
I have a client who encountered this very situation. Through working together, he realized that his own lack of communication with his employees was contributing to some of the company’s issues. He simply wasn’t keeping his team informed on the the company basics, like numbers, goals, and management decisions. It wasn’t through any malicious intention, or a feeling that the information was above his employees’ pay grades; he simply didn’t think they wanted or needed to know. In his words “it just didn’t occur to me that they might be interested in hearing it.” The issue in having a gap in communication is that people will always fill those gaps. Employees will draw their own conclusions on why management is not sharing information and come up with their own answers to the questions they have. This can lead to rumors and misinformation, distrust in leadership, and, ultimately, a disengaged workforce.
I experienced the flip-side with a company a few years ago. Employees were beginning to grumble loudly about how much money they thought the company and the owners were making at the employees’ expense. The COO called an all-company meeting where he laid out a simplified version of the P&L, sharing with everyone where the money went (including that nearly of company income 60% went to payroll every month) and demonstrating that while the owners were earning a good living, they were not making the vast sums of money that some employees suspected. In the end, the employees agreed that the numbers were fair, and even came away with a better idea of how their performance could positively (or negatively) affect bottom line. . . . and their own income in the process.
This was a relatively easy conversation to have, and no great company secrets needed to be revealed, yet it still had a significant and positive effect on employee morale. Sharing information with your team fosters team involvement. When employees are kept in the loop, they feel like they are part of the process; they have a better idea of how they fit into and impact the organization. Sharing information dispels rumors and eliminates potential for distrust, leading to better relationships between employees and leadership and a more committed and engaged workforce. Of course, owners and leaders cannot share all the information at hand, but it is always better to err on the side of over-communication.