I occasionally listen to advice columnist Dan Savage’s podcast and have noticed that he regularly comes back to a piece of advice in regards to relationships that we’ve all been hearing since we were children. Use your words.
It’s surprising how well Dan’s advice applies to relationships. A little honesty when its difficult can go a long way to strengthening a relationship.
This bit of advice is just as effective when talking about running a small business because lets face it, there are many relationships involved. A small business is a family and family dynamics can vary greatly.
So just like in a relationship, we often have a hard time being honest in business relationships. The person having an issue might be our friend. They might be dealing with any number of problems outside the business that you’re concerned for them about. Heck, you might just be a really positive person that doesn’t like to make anyone feel bad.
However, when there’s a performance issue or other problem in the business, not being honest hinders the business and the employees individually.
Here are some tips to help you use your words, become a better team, and grow.
The best way to help you avoid any discomfort in the first place is to do these two things.
1. Strive for a common goal. Each year (or more regularly) openly discuss your goals as a business. What you want to do, who you want to be, what you want to be known for, etc. Really its a mission statement of sorts. This informs all your decisions. It also helps them in recruitment. The business keeps their goals in mind when hire. If an employee doesn’t agree with or support the team goals or they don’t meet the level of quality the business has set for itself, the employee doesn’t get hired (or doesn’t apply in the first place).
2. Create an expectation of honesty within the team. Along the same lines as goals, you can discuss the importance of honesty as a group and set an expectation for it. Establish that honesty in meetings is not bad. It’s never meant to be a personal attack or negative. It’s constructive and always in support of the group goals. And then back it up.
Be blunt… often.
Be honest in a matter-of-fact way so that everyone gets used to the freedom honesty can provide.
If everyone is always being honest, everyone will get used to hearing the truth and won’t freak out when someone tells them they are doing something wrong. Face it… it is hard to hear exactly how you are performing. The manager or the people watching you are in a better position to help. Trust them.
The Benefits of Honesty
1. Honesty will make your team and your employees better. When you are constructively made aware of issues with your and/or others’ performance(s), you will become a better member of the team. You’ll also understand more about how you fit into the business.
Additionally, you’ll trust each other and grow to become an organism instead of just a bunch of individuals. This is a big component of why some companies are amazing.
2. Honesty can save you time and money. What if someone who normally performs one role is asked to do something they aren’t strong at that they really want to do? If you have a culture of honesty, asking that person to switch back to their strength hopefully won’t crush them emotionally. Honesty can limit the amount of wasted time in the business.
Use your words… 🙂