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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2 Responses to Communicating with your employees and colleagues

  1. I started my business at a much too young age. In retrospect, I really had no business doing so. But the things I’ve learned about leadership and communication may not have come without the School of Hard Knocks. During our eight year history, I’ve learned to *always* get to the bottom of an issue and hear all sides of the story before coming to a conclusion. I’ve learned email is the worst possible way to deliver bad news or have a hard conversation. I’ve learned some people just need to talk out loud while they figure out the issue themselves. I’ve learned that simply asking questions – instead of providing answers – always empowers people. Sure, there are days where I forget these things because I’m overly tired or it’s been a hard week. But I am pretty conscientious about leading by talking…and sometimes that means someone else is talking.

  2. Jon Stow says:

    Listening to other people talk is often difficult for a driven business owner, but listening so often provides the solution.

    Email is so dangerous because there is no room to reconsider and no way of getting it back whether or not it is confidential. I remember in my last job in a major firm a partner actually emailed in a spreadsheet the entire staff pay review to the whole office. She was very unpopular.

    Yes, asking and then listening will get you the whole story. Thank you so much for your comment, Gini.

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