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Get some communication skills if you're an entrepreneur and want to retain the best

Updated: Sep 13, 2019

Without it, team and business performance will suck big time. There’s really no other way for me to put it. If it’s so essential, why do we not hear more about communication skills for entrepreneurs and startup founders? Well, insight for one. People only know what they know and often it takes failed relationships or someone being brave enough to say you need to work on your interpersonal skills. Let me give you and example. *Warning* you may be offended.

Sometimes, I work out of a very techy co-working space. And what I “overhear” (accidentally on purpose) never ceases to surprise me.

Boss: “This is total sh!t, you’re work is awful…F'ing disgraceful!” (Boss says this with passion via video to his employee located elsewhere, in middle of the co-working space).

Employee: …says something back.

Conversation continues for about 5 minutes. Boss eventually reaches a normal non-abusive tone.

You might be wondering, how the hell does the Boss even have an employee? The last time I saw this type of behaviour I was working in the banking sector in London about 7 years ago. I thought it had been stamped out, but no it is in fact still alive. Thankfully for most of us, it’s at more moderate levels compared to the example above. Let me give you an example of what I mean plus an example of the language that could have been used to foster a better outcome:

Situation: Employee continues to come to work late and while this is irritating to the team and the boss, no one says anything, because who likes having awkward conversations? Finally, the Boss decides to ‘have a chat’:

Boss: “You’re late, in fact you’ve been late almost every day for the last month” (said with some frustration and disappointment).

Employee: (gets a bit defensive) “What are you talking about, I work harder than anyone else here, who cares what time I come in if I’m getting all this work done”.

Boss: (gets defensive as well) “What are YOU talking about? Even if that were true that doesn’t give you the right to just turn up when you feel like it. I’m here 24-7, and you earn more than me!”

As you can imagine, this is not productive, and they may as well have walked away from the conversation as soon as the word YOU was said aloud. Why? As soon as you use the word “you” the other person feels like they need to defend themselves.

This is how the conversation could have gone much better, had the word “you” not been used so much, and if each one took a bit of ownership – that is, if they employed excellent communication skills:

Boss: “Hey John, I need to have an awkward conversation with you, is now okay?” (No one ever says no to this).

John: “Yep, sure” (slightly taken a back).

Boss: (calmly says) “When 9 am rolls around and it’s just me, Sam and Sally here, I’ve noticed myself getting a little irritated. And it’s been like this for a while now.”

John: (being receptive) “Um, right. So, because I’ve been getting all my work done, and I think it’s good work, I’ve not really seen the need to start right on time.”

Boss: “That’s true, you’ve been doing a good job. I guess I feel like I have a never-ending amount of work, and I’d like to think that as a team we’d come together more.”

John: “Good to know, that makes sense, I didn’t realize. How about I come chat with you to see how else I can contribute? I just don’t want to necessarily work harder than everyone else just because I’m able to get my stuff done faster.”

Boss: “That’d be great - it’s about being fair of course, but it would help me drive a positive team culture if the other’s saw you pitching in some more too.”

In the video above I give some example of "should statements" which, as well as the word "you" need to become a trigger for you to do a deep dive into what's really going on.

Effective communication skills for entrepreneurs can be taught and learnt, and it’s essential that you use them daily, even when you don’t particularly feel like it. Your employees will be thankful, but it will also help you develop your staff and retain the best and brightest.

This is such an important skill set, I’ll soon be doing a few videos on it and adding to this post. If you don’t want to miss out, join me on this journey.

- Alexandra Whitehead


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