If you have worked in a startup, you would have experienced this. The team has a great culture and cordial bonding. People stand up for each other and strive to make the business successful.
Yet, the communication between team members is absolute mayhem. Employees are working on their own tasks while another team is expecting something different altogether.
I started my first business when I was 22, and I have been in those situations. Our venture had communication gaps all over. The development team had no idea what the users were feeling about the product. Even within the developers, not everyone was clear about what another team member was working on.
This is what our coordination looked like:
It took me many years to realize that though the conversations between people in a startup are smooth, a significant gap exists with communication. Effective communication is not just an exchange of words. It is making sure everybody knows and speaks about the right things.
After experimenting with different methods and learning the hard way, I identified 5 ways leaders could improve communication between team members in a small business.
During my first venture, I was so focused on getting tasks done that we had no clear idea on what we wanted to achieve. All I thought about was tasks, tasks, and tasks alone.
Quite often, the team members in a startup are clueless about the direction of the organization or product. Sure, everyone realizes what the target is, but only a handful know the definition of success.
As a leader, you must share the vision of your company to your people. You must find a way to define, quantify, and measure success. You cannot only do the activity once and forget about it forever.
You need to reiterate the vision at frequent intervals to etch it in the minds of your people. Do not assume people already know where you are headed. Quite often, they don’t.
2. Hold Sync-Up Meetings
After the chaos of miscommunication, we started having short sync up meetings before we started the work for the day. This made a gigantic difference in bringing everyone to the same page.
The meetings would last 5-10 mins at most. They would occur while standing up so that we winded up early and spoke only the relevant things. Each person talked about what he worked on the previous day and what he intended to complete that day.
Depending on the interaction required, you can define the participants and frequency. I used to conduct a 5-10 minute meeting with all the key people of each department, like sales, development, design, and so on. The size of the team does not matter. For example, the design for our venture was handled by one single person.
After that meeting, we held one 10 minute meeting with all developers. This ensured each developer knew what another team member was working on. Also, I would bring in essential inputs provided by the other teams. In 15-20 minutes, we started the day in synchrony and clarity.
Spending a few minutes each morning to realign priorities makes a heck of a difference to your results.
Sharing the vision is only the first step. Time and again, you need to speak about where the team stands in terms of progress.
A good practice for a small business is to discuss the overall progress once a month. Depending on the nature of your business, you can space that out if you like. In any case, you must talk about the status at least once in a quarter.
Speak about what areas did the team exceed expectations in, which goals were just achieved and what aspects is the organization falling behind on. Speak about the reasons and the plan of action to continue the good work and correct mistakes.
A great leader holds the team together and leads them to the desired destination.
4. Create Work Buddies
In a startup, people have an excellent rapport with each other. People are more than willing to help each other out. Yet, most startups fail to utilize that culture.
In my startup, people would work on their own tasks and helped others when necessary. There was a ton of knowledge to share between people. No one had any concerns sharing it, but neither did anyone make an effort.
Buddy up people in pairs of two. If you have a bigger team size, you can even consider grouping people in bigger sizes. The purpose of the pairing is to share what one person knows with the other.
You do not have to pair people from the same domain either. You can combine people from sales with the designers. Once a week, all members of the team can discuss the lessons learned and the ideas they had.
Such a practice opens people up to the knowledge which exists right next to them. Next time, they need help in a specific area, they know who can help them out.
5. Send out a Newsletter
No matter how small your team is, send out a newsletter about the happenings in the company. You do not have to restrict the updates about work alone.
You can talk about any notable events in the personal lives of people. You can include anniversaries and birthdays. Heck, you can even mention a funny story that happened with a team member recently.
On one end, such information lightens the mood. On the other, it brings people together to share their personal lives and events. Overall, it increases the bond between the team members.
Startup owners make a mistake of assuming that communication between the people is running smoothly. Unfortunately, founders start a business, and focus on tasks while the employees remain unaware of the critical information because leaders fail to share it.
As a leader, you must ensure the right information reaches the right people. Over communicating is never a problem because there is rarely a need for confidentiality in a small business.
Keep an eye on your people and guide them in the right direction. If not, you will end up with a bunch of people who put in tons of effort but never see the much-desired results.
business communications concept -DepositPhotos