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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How can we hang on to a dream?

How can we hang on to a dream
How can it be the way it seems
How can we hang on to a dream

Musical themes

Songs help me relax and think and sometimes a line or a couplet will set me thinking more as you may have noticed recently. To have dreams in the sense of hopes and plans is something we all have and especially in business. We have objectives and targets and aspirations as to where we want to be in a year’s time, or five years or ten years.

The fact is that none of these things will happen if we do not have a detailed road map as to how to achieve it. Just working hard doesn’t necessarily do it. In fact the harder we work with our heads down, the less we plan, because we don’t have time. We need to work hard with clear vision and to have people or systems working for us so that we have time to think. Those people and systems are part of how we get what we want.

Our people

Of course the people who do work for us, whether employees or subcontractors also have their aspirations so we need to help them with theirs and they will help us with ours too. The more they like us, the more they will want to help us. That is the easiest way of managing people, the most-laid back, and as I have always found, the most effective. We will have a united team without having thought in terms of assembling one.


A new year is when people traditionally think about turning over new leaves and having new plans. I think we should always be reviewing and adjusting our strategies to meet our objectives, and of course having fun so that we can hang onto our dreams.

Oh, yes, here’s the song which is actually about lost love.


Remembering the few and many others

A photo of The Nutshell pub in Bury St Edmunds...
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As I write this there have been commemorations and memorial services remembering The Few, those who fought in the Battle of Britain seventy years ago, and without whom I probably would not be here running my business in a free society. It is almost unimaginable what might have happened to European politics and culture in the intervening period, and what suffering there would have been beyond the terrible things that happened back then.

Of course very little in modern society can quite compare with what The Few did, but we should be very grateful to those in the last seventy years who have helped preserve our freedom with their courage.

It struck me recently that there are so many people making all sorts of contributions to our society including the business fabric of the modern economy. They did their bit and are so easily forgotten. My Dad spent time in North Africa, the Middle East, Italy and Austria during the Second World War. If it sound a little lame to say “spent time” it is because he has never talked about it much. I know that those years were mostly pretty unpleasant. The desert was a very uncomfortable place to be. Dad was in Signals, but was still a target landing on the beach in Sicily. He did his bit. Later, he worked in the City for a well-known bank (not one of the infamous ones), but he retired a long time ago and no one there today would know about his contribution.

My wife’s Dad joined the Navy in the Twenties and to his chagrin was injured on duty before the start of the Second World War and he was invalided out. He became a salesman, and a good one. He was the first to sell the beer produced by a well-known (then just local) brewery to non-ties outlets, free-houses, clubs and so on. The company is now huge and international, but to give you a clue it all started in Bury St. Edmunds. His son, my brother-in-law carried on the good work, but it would be nice to think my wife’s Dad, whom I never knew, was still remembered by more than just his family.

We work with others through our lives and their efforts help our employers and often our own businesses thrive. We have learned from other workers from the day we started in the working world. We always must owe a lot to those with whom we have worked, and maybe we have made small contributions to their lives too.

Isaac Newton was perhaps thinking more in terms of science and maybe philosophy when he said “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants” but everything we have in business and in our society is from standing not only on the shoulders of Giants but on the shoulders of the little people, many or most of whom are forgotten. I think we owe it to ourselves and to them to remember while we can how we have come to where we are.

© Jon Stow 2010

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