Improving Communications in a Small Business

Effective employee communications in a small business can increase efficiency and create value within the employee-employer relationship.

As a business advisor, I have noted time and again that effective employee communications in a small business can increase efficiency and create value within the employee-employer relationship.

Let’s start with a short story:  Two co-workers are discussing an issue. Each one is confident their point of view is ‘right’.  In order to resolve it, the first worker states he is going up to ask the wise old man who lives on the hill. He goes up there and makes his argument to him. The old man agrees with him, “You’re right,” he says. The second co-worker can’t believe it so she heads up to go see the wise old man. After presenting her arguments, the old man says, “You’re right”.

During both of the conversations, the old man’s wife has been listening from the other room. She comes in and says to him “You can’t tell those workers they are both right”. He considers her argument and states, “you’re right”!

How can the old man agree with both co-workers? It’s because the world appears in different ways to different people. We all have filters, paradigms, beliefs and life experiences that shape the way we see the world.

When we are ‘right’ we are only ‘right’ according to the way we view the world.

While discussing an issue in the workplace, it is important to listen to the other co-workers to determine how they view the issue.  The exercise is to put yourself in the employee’s shoes and look at the issue their way. It is also beneficial if the employee is provided with an understanding of your views.  Stephen Covey describes the habit as, “seek first to understand, then be understood” in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.

In the story we started with the issue could have been how to better organize the business’s warehouse. The first co-worker worked in the stock room and preforms deliveries. He wanted to organize the heavy stock on the lower shelves so it was easier to move.  The second co-worker was in sales. She needed to be able to walk back and check inventory as quickly as possible in order to reduce customer waiting time. It is now clear how they could both be right in their own view of the world.

It is also possible the boss has one ‘right’ and a team member has a different ‘right’.  Before defaulting to “I’m right because I’m the boss”! It may be beneficial to listen to and understand the team member. The listening exercise is simply:

Seek first to understand, then be understood.

I wonder if this applies outside the workplace as well?

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