Communication is one of the most crucial aspects of management.
Running or managing a small business can be especially taxing.
You can be short on manpower, low on cash (we can help you there), or handling dozens of other problems that all need your attention at once. On top of everything, you need to figure out how to retain your best talents, minimize turnover, develop new leaders, and attract new talents.
Once you begin developing a strong internal culture with minimal internal communication issues. You’ll start being envied even by businesses in different industries. And before you know it, you’ll have more people wanting to work with you than you need.
And the best place to start is by perfecting your own communication style as a leader.
The first thing that needs to be addressed is ownership, when you run operations or a major part of your role involves managing people, you are a leader. And if management isn’t done well, then cracks will start to show in your organization.
Once you’ve come to grips with that, it’s time to talk about communication. The need for good communication is an undeniable part of running a business. As someone in a leadership position, it’s essential to understand the different styles of communication that can exist as well as how to apply them in your business environment.
Constructive vs Critical
To be constructive is to take a hand-held approach when managing your employees. Being critical is more straightforward and gets right to the meat of the matter without any extras.
Both styles of communication are equally important and are very situational.
In one instance, constructive feedback can skyrocket an employee’s performance. A simple assertion on a few positive highlights with some feedback can go a long way into instilling high levels of self-esteem. This will eventually materialize into a much higher level of competence in your employees.
While in other circumstances, critical feedback could potentially diminish productivity levels for the employee when not delivered in the right manner. Even small remarks that are objective and non-personal can easily rack up into a paralyzed employee who trembles every time he sees you.
The key to knowing clearly understanding the difference between the different communication styles is empathy.
It helps to have a good sense of the relationship between the two of you and consequently make conscious adjustments to how you communicate with them.
In this article, we’ll cover the both of them.
‘ Catch someone doing something right. ‘– trainingmag.com
Being constructive is to guide, while being critical is to be clear.
To be constructive is to both point out the wrongs, and the rights. Even when it seems difficult to point out the rights.
A common concern is that you are afraid of sugar-coating it. In reality, if you are not diluting the critical part of your feedback with statements that contract from the meat of your message (‘but you did this well’ or ‘its okay’ ). You’ll be developing a lot more than basic competence in your employees.
A major challenge in many small organizations is developing leadership internally.
Feedback becomes vital when it comes to mentorship and coaching. The way you provide feedback decides if they grow, or just get really good at delivering work at their current skill level (How to Keep Employee Motivation High)
Sometimes employee motivation can be running very low, and someone could be one critical feedback away from resigning due to low self esteem.
Ways to Offer Successful Constructive Criticism
- Feedback sandwich
Start and end your critical feedback with something positive. Whilst this method has been called a ‘BS Sandwich’ by certain critics, the main thing to keep in mind is context.
Just like almost any other important but specific concept, it has its places and time.
You’re not going to be authentic to someone who clearly wants to scam you.
At the same time, the feedback sandwich has no place in situations of significant error. For example, if the employee has done something unethical or something which costs the business too much.
- Don’t sugarcoat things
While keeping a consistent emphasis on the positives helps, inflating an action to something more isn’t good practice. This means certain employees will go a long way with a simple ‘Nice work’.
It’s a natural tendency to over-compliment certain things when initially attempting to offer constructive feedback, but over time it will get refined.
- Be sincere
It’s also easy to be generic and surface-level in the initial stages.
Authenticity is something you can feel, especially in the dynamics of a manager-employee relationship. Put in real effort into noticing the strengths of your employees and place timely comments to acknowledge these points.
It will instill a healthy sense of realistic optimism which makes you grow into a more well-rounded manager that employees can relate to and feel safe around.
- Provide actionable steps
Always end with immediate, actionable outcomes. Without being clear about what needs to be done next, feedback won’t exactly help. The last thing you want is an employee who’s smiling but isn’t sure about where he went wrong.
In a small business, if an employee doesn’t understand how they should do their job differently, you would have to repeat your whole interaction with the employee which just drains time and adds the tension onto your relationship.
- Understanding types of personalities
Having a sharper eye with the types of employees you’re dealing with helps too. With somebody who’s a little more extroverted, you can cut down on the positive feedback. Using a more serious tone and descriptive language helps as they may not take you seriously when it comes to feedback, thinking it to be conversational banter. While the opposite rings true for introverts as they may understand your message really quickly, but may not express it very well.
Being critical can really surprise you in times where you least expect it.
After all, it is one of the toughest ways we can receive feedback. Saying ‘don’t take it personally’ won’t do much to cushion the blow either.
There is a lot of merits for leaders to learn to utilize this style of communicating especially for small businesses. And when time and resources are scarce, there can be very little time to be constructive.
But tread carefully, the line between a personal comment and real feedback can sometimes be very fine.
Ways to Offer Successful Critical Feedback
- KISS – Keeping It Short & Simple.
“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” – John D. Rockefeller
Sometimes an attempt at cushioning the blow when it isn’t necessary can result in something that’s overly complicated.
Leave out as many repetitive details as possible and when you catch yourself in the act, just a simple recap of what you just said in a concise manner does the job. Being repetitive is a sign of not having a core message. Time is a common constraint among any managerial level executive, however, the amount of time spent in repairing the damage done from ineffective communication can be disastrous.
- Be objective
Avoid giving feedback that is attached to the personal identity of the employee. Instead, you want to attribute their weak points to their actions.
Wrong – ‘You are inefficient.’
Right – ‘Your current approach to the project is not exactly ideal, maybe you can consider a different approach as our deadline is closing in. ’
Employees are humans too, and as such, they take things personally on default. Even the highest of executives still fall vulnerable to misunderstanding critical, objective feedback.
Again, being aware and empathetic with your employee goes a long way in avoiding these problems.
- Ask for permission
People generally are not aware that their current behavior is not ideal, coming right off the bat with telling them what they’re doing wrong can be quite abrasive. Asking them for permission can help them feel safer.
Asking an employee if you could offer some feedback before offering it, can greatly increase the result of the interaction.
They will receive your criticism a lot better and can turn out to perform as well too. When you ask permission, they understand that you care and will take your feedback a lot more seriously and objectively.
At the end of the day, being able using the perfect communication styles at the right times boils down to one thing.
The ability to be authentic with a generous dose of realism.
Having family-like relations is great but is difficult to maintain when your employee is grossly underperforming. Being clear about the importance of being KPI-oriented, and understanding the consequences from a lack of it can go a long way.
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