By Alena Hilbig
Many issues I deal with during my coaching sessions with founders and teams can be boiled down to the same thing: Miscommunication at the workplace.
When we don’t communicate clearly or honestly, we’re irritated by or frustrated with each other, misinterpret or make false assumptions about co-workers’ behavior.
Our fast-paced ecosystem underestimates dialogue and instead prioritizes speed, performance, and autonomy. This may lead to numerous issues we could’ve avoided: People are frustrated or even leave, morale and motivation are low, and silos become the norm. All that happens because we simply don’t talk.
We tend to forget that we’re all still social beings, even at work. We thrive on connection and communication. If you don’t proactively prioritize communication as a founder, people on your team will fill the gaps their way, and chaos is near.
Let’s explore simple but powerful things you can do to ensure communication gets the focus it deserves.
How do I communicate?
There are two attitudes you should adopt:
- Listen to understand, not reply – most of us listen with little attention. We’re busy preparing our answers or opinions while the other person talks. Good communication requires active listening: Focus on understanding the other person, ask clarifying questions, and don’t interrupt or interpret immediately. You have two ears and one mouth – use them proportionally.
- Ask to understand, not judge – help the other person understand and reflect on what they need, think, or feel. Be open and curious, and avoid leading with answers.
Reflect before speaking
THINK before you speak. Pause, reflect for a moment, and only then react. Use this checklist to remember what’s important, and ask yourself if what you’re about to say is
True • Helpful • Inspiring • Necessary • Kind.
Check out Matthew Rechs’ inspiring 11 Promises from a Manager. This helpful list offers insightful tips for empathic leadership and clear communication:
When do I communicate?
To ensure communication is effective, integrate it into your day-to-day interactions.
For founders, I’d recommend adding these four types of meetings to the calendar:
All-hands or Town hall (starting with 5+ employees)
- When: Weekly
- Who: All team members
- Why: Great chance to celebrate key milestones and acknowledge the team’s hard work by showing what they’re working on. Allocate time for updates and encourage people to ask questions.
- When: Weekly
- Who: Founding team
- Why: Discuss and align on strategic topics, and use these for feedback, support, and holding each other accountable. Don’t be tempted to turn this into a status update.
1:1s with direct reports
- When: Weekly or bi-weekly
- Who: Your direct reports
- Why: Focus on three key pillars: Performance, development, and motivation. Lead with meaningful open questions and understand where you can support people in achieving their goals.
Coffee of Honesty
- When: Ad hoc; when your gut feeling tells you something is wrong.
- Who: Any team member
- Why: The goal is to clear the air, create space for honest opinions and feedback, address potential issues proactively, and show you genuinely care.
Where do we communicate?
Pick the tools: Do we use IM apps like Slack, Teams, or WhatsApp? When do we switch to email? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each tool? Remember, the fewer tools, the better.
- What response time do we expect from one another?
- Are we active on weekends?
- When do we prefer verbal communication (like meetings) over written form, synchronous/asynchronous?
- How do we enable (anonymous) feedback?
Time to reflect on your business: Have you been prioritizing communication with your team? If you did, what’s already working well, and where do you feel you need to invest more time and thought into shaping better structure, process, or patterns?
Imagine you can only implement one suggestion we detailed above—what would it be?
We’re excited to introduce Project A’s exclusive Personal Coaching and Development Program for founders. The program is a unique opportunity to work one-on-one with an experienced coach, set personalized goals, and achieve sustainable change.
Have questions about communication? Need more input about our program? Let’s continue the conversation on our social media channels.
Which coaching or personal development topic would you like to read about next?