You may have the best product or service in the world and the most committed and capable team imaginable; or you may be a star performer at the top of your game… but it can all come crashing down if you can’t communicate effectively between yourselves or to your customers.
That’s why it’s imperative us business owners first set the standard for how we communicate internally and externally, then ensure everyone - from fellow owners / directors down - maintains those standards.
The question is: how do we want to communicate with each other?
In my experience, when it comes to communication, most businesses want to:
- Be respectful of all team members, acknowledging that we’re all different and possess unique skills
- Avoid conflict, or jumping to conclusions - we need to work as a team
- Facilitate the open exchange of ideas across all levels of the business
- Keep our eyes on the prize: providing an amazing experience that attracts new customers and delights existing ones
Several years ago, we developed guiding principles for The Practice. If your mission statement is your purpose for being in business, and your why is your driving force that separates what you do from competitors, then your guiding principles provide a framework for how we want to communicate.
Our guiding principles:
- Presume best intentions. Rather than jump to negative conclusions, we always trust that our team members are doing the best they can.
- Focus on each other’s strengths. We all have different skills. Where possible, we allow each other to ‘operate in our genius’.
- Authentic success. We value significant achievement over perceived success (being good rather than just looking good).
- Make each other look good. It can be hard to blow our own trumpet, so we focus on making colleagues look good in the eyes of customers.
- Respect our differences. We are richer for the unique viewpoints, skills and life experiences that our diverse team bring to our organisation.
- Seek first to understand, then to be understood. We all face personal or professional challenges at different times; we try to look beyond an issue and truly understand the situation our team members may be facing.
- Ubuntu – we’re all in this together. This South African term is the opposite of apartheid, and means ‘my happiness rests in your happiness’. This philosophy underpins the sense of togetherness we want to foster at The Practice.
- Collaboration. We know that together, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
How we use them
These guiding principles have transformed how we interact. They’re a practical tool that apply to our daily business operations. (It’s no exaggeration to say I refer to the guiding principles every single day.)
We have them on our website, in marketing collateral, and they’re plastered all over our walls (including a feature wall along with our mission statement, core values and why). It’s also vital to refer to them regularly - for example, at most team meetings. I’d recommend appointing a senior internal champion with the responsibility to continually reinforce their usage.
Your guiding principles provide a common language to facilitate more open and honest dialogue, and give ‘permission’ to behave in the right way. It takes the sting out of calling out inappropriate communication; before long you will hear phrases like “Let’s pause, and seek first to understand their position”, or “How can I help you to operate in your genius?”
Communicating effectively and appropriately is easy in good times; but when times are tough, these guidelines will help you navigate challenges with far less friction.
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