When startups scale their business, it is essential to make sure your employees join you on that journey, rather than leave them behind. Beyond memos and inevitable slack message, most communication depends on what your employees hear and observe.
I have spent the last six years working with startups to help them with their communication strategy and outreach. One of the most interesting observations has been their commitment and focus on external communications and a rather lacklustre approach to internal communications.
This might be easier when you’re a small company with just enough employees to fill a small phone booth, but as you scale making sure your employee grow and evolve at the same rate of your business, involves a very precise internal communications strategy.
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Rather than go into the strategic aspect of the matter, here are some simple things to keep in mind when leading a growing company.
Different communication methods are necessary
We all have different ways of taking in information and being able to process it well. Some of us prefer to read, others prefer to listen, while some may even require charts and graphics, as they are more visual in nature. Personally, I prefer a mix of visual and written to get a good sense of the matter and visualise it.
If you want to be an effective communicator to a growing team, you need to be able to communicate on different channels, using multiple methods to get your point across in the most effective manner.
Body language matters
I have a problem with folding my arms when I’m concentrating. Folding your arms sends a subconscious signal to those around you that you are closed to new ideas or being defensive, so be aware of the unspoken messages you communicate to employees through your body language.
It is quite well-known that more communication occurs through body language than words. Smiling while talking, the way you listen, facial expressions and even walking fast communicate far more than you realise.
When creating rules or exceptions, always be clear
Growing startups have many similarities, regardless of industry. One of the similarities is that the pace of business quickens and decisions need to be made quickly. This is true for every single layer in your organization, from junior executive to VP to the CEO.
Being able to make a decision without fear of repercussion is crucial if you want the company to grow at any sort of pace because decision bottlenecks can kill companies.
So, remember to set your rules and exceptions very early and be explicitly clear on the core aspects of both. Your employees may need to make some judgment calls by themselves, but giving them the right framework is a key component of communication.
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Develop and share your growth plan
Your employees are either your partners in the business or a 9-5 person, whose job is to do what they’re told and collect a pay cheque at the end of the month.
I know which type of business I want to work for, so don’t forget to keep your employees in the loop throughout the entire process of growth. Developing a plan and vision for the company is essential to get people onboard the startup journey with you.
Sometimes people “not getting it”is your fault
One of the first mistakes I made at the beginning of my journey with SYNC was not being able to understand why some staff just did not seem to understand what I was saying. I’d repeat myself and then let frustration get the better of me.
After some self-reflection and an honest look at how I was running my own business, here’s what I realised:
- I was not being as clear as I thought I was. So explaining things with examples, analogies and even breaking out the whiteboard to diagram it out was useful explaining complex aspects of the business to people.
- SYNC has changed the communications and content game a lot, so a few people I hired were afraid or apprehensive of the difference in how we went about doing our work. This led to confusion and them “not getting it”. I took the time to first address their concerns rather than try to explain the concept, which helped remove the barriers to accepting the concept.
- The last and most brutal reason was that maybe some of my employees didn’t fully trust me. They were putting their career in my hands and their lack of trust can prevent my message going through clearly. There is no quick solution to this problem, but I’ve always maintained constant and open communication throughout, which has helped my employees understand my vision better and know that I want them on the ride with me.
About the author
Terng Shing is the Founder and CEO of SYNC PR, a PR and content marketing startup that uses technology to reduce time wasting and administrative tasks in delivering results. Based in Singapore, Terng Shing has been focused on helping startups and SMEs build their brand story through media and content.
His experience includes a decade of work in PR and communications agencies, managing top-tier fortune 500 companies to the leading startups in Southeast Asia. Terng Shing has a passion for innovative communications and is convinced that PR is the next great industry to see positive disruption.