Communicating with your employees and colleagues

iStock_000020557146LargeThe team

All successful small businesses need to have their owners, management and employees work as a team. That means quite a degree of commitment from everyone and that has to be based on mutual respect.

When I was a manager in someone else’s small business, and indeed when I was in charge of a department in a larger firm, I always believed in a relatively hands-off approach. I didn’t tell people what to do, although I helped them if they asked. I tried to be approachable and friendly, and I always thought that I got the best response.

I found that way of managing because it worked for me. I think one’s charges respond better if they like their manager. That doesn’t mean that I am making out I am a wonderful guy. I did it because it was the easiest way and I knew it worked.

Everyone wants to feel included as part of the team and to help each other. I know I did when I was further down the ranks, and I also remember (confession coming up) not trying nearly so hard when I was getting blamed unreasonably for things going wrong which were entirely outside my control. The fact I was blamed was a communication failure in the managers not taking the trouble to get to the bottom of a problem. It was counter-productive of course.


Businesses do not always run smoothly and sometimes owners and managers will feel that there needs to be a change in working practices. If they do need to be implemented then it is far preferable if the employees are consulted properly and are on board. If they have specific issues they need to be met.

Communicating the need for change is not always easy. Gini Dietrich, writing here in her excellent blog, highlights how badly Yahoo! recently got it wrong and how they should have done better in asking their work-at-home people to work in the office in future.

It’s good to talk

A well-known telephone company if the UK used to have a strap-line “It’s good to talk” and it is, if you are talking with your employees on a level of respect and understanding. They need to appreciate why change is needed, and “management” needs to empathise and understand what problems their staff may have in making the change.

Do you agree it’s good to talk?

Related posts:

What the BBC can teach us about management and team work

Why managers and workers need to respect each other



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Why we need to be realistic about our business ambitions

Not quite Green Gables

“We pay a price for everything we get or take in this world; and although ambitions are well worth having, they are not to be cheaply won, but exact their dues of work and self-denial, anxiety and discouragement.”

LUCY MAUD MONTGOMERY, Anne of Green Gables

Or, as we might say, there is no such thing as a free lunch.


Lucy Maud’s comment really sounds like a bit of a downer, but it is always realistic to expect that our best-laid plans might not work out every time. However well we plan we are bound to have set backs now and again. They will be discouraging, but we can learn and adapt.

Many of us have a little free time at the moment, just before the New Year. Perhaps we have already made plans for our business for the coming year, and of course it is foolish not to plan ahead. I think it is worth looking back and remembering what did not work out in the last twelve months, and what we might have done differently. Was there anything which worked quite well but could be improved?

I cannot give you all the answers because I don’t know your business. If you asked me in help you, it would be for me to encourage you to answer your own questions. Of course I could connect you with some very good people to provide you with services you may require.

Do make those plans. If you need help, ask someone you can trust. Don’t just let it ride. You know the cliché.


In my long business experience (does that make me sound old?) I have seen business owners ride rough-shod over their employees, exploiting them, not considering their feelings and disposing of them when they are no longer needed. One problem we have had in more recent years is where large businesses get permission to open stores such as “local” supermarkets in high streets and along the main drag. These stores damage small retailers badly and indeed can put them out of business. The large corporates do it because they can. Their overheads and stock costs are lower and they can employ part-time workers at low cost. You may have one of those businesses which is damaged or destroyed by this. If you do, you need to adapt, because there is no point in expecting compassion from big business.

However, one advantage we do have in running a small business is that we can be in tune with what our customers need. Perhaps compassion should not be our first thought, because we have to make a living. Just the same we can empathise.

I am not saying that compassion should not play a part in our lives. We should always try to help those in need, whether it be our employees who may be struggling, or our friends, or someone in the street, or those in lands far distant. Perhaps we can even do it without huge financial cost. Often it is our time which is valuable. Sometimes in helping others we help ourselves by boosting our creativity.

Grasping the nettle

The economy is really tough, whether you are reading this in Europe or in much of North America. We need more than usual to plan carefully for next year’s business. We need to have new projects and ideas. We need to be careful not to waste money on ploys that didn’t work last year. We need to remember to listen to our employees who are in this with us. We do need to consider those less fortunate than we, and to help them. We need to step outside our comfort zone. We need to be brave, don’t we?


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