When a manager in a startup isn’t effectively communicating, trust breaks down. When you don’t have trust, people question the decisions made and productivity lags. When speed is inherently important – especially in technology startups – poor communication can drive a startup towards failure, rather than the path to success
This is important for startup managers to recognise — when your team consists of 10 people, as losing just one person due to inept leadership can seriously harm the company.
I’ve seen the pitfalls of bad communication firsthand in growing our content-marketing company Influence & Co. from two to 50 employees in three years. I’ve learned that it’s much easier to effectively communicate when you have four people sitting in the same room overhearing every conversation, than it is when you’re managing offices in three different cities.
While managers – including myself – have struggled with communication, I’ve learned (through a lot of reading) that I’m not alone. Reading and staying informed is one component that I believe sets managers apart.
Yes, managers can gain some of this information by speaking with their team, meeting with experts in the industry and attempting to gain inside knowledge of the competition, but the most effective way will likely involve a lot of reading.
Managers need to keep up with industry trends, so they can prepare for changes that could affect their organisations. They must know what their competitors are doing and where they’re headed. And they need to read customer feedback, questions that come in through their website and even the transcripts of customer calls. All this matters and helps a manager take a company’s vision to the next level.
Depending on the industry, managers should be reading some (or all) of the following on a regular basis.
Niche and trade publications.
To know where a company is going, you must understand its product and industry. Niche publications that cover the tiny nuances of your industry are important, because they ensure you know enough about your industry to make good decisions.
Articles written by thought leaders.
Managers should have an idea of where the industry is headed. Reading content from respected thought leaders in your field provides you insight into what those ahead of the curve are thinking and challenges you to bring these thought processes back to your team.
Although it would be nice to pretend that competitors don’t exist, it’s more effective to know what they’re doing. Reading competitors’ newsletters gives you an understanding of what their stakeholders – customers, prospective customers and board members – are seeing, and it can potentially give you a heads-up on areas where you may be lacking.
Customer reviews and feedback.
While the best approach is to have managers pick up the phone and ask for verbal feedback from customers to gain a true understanding of how the company is performing, that’s not always possible. When that is the case written customer reviews are a great place to start. This is the best possible R&D you can do as a manager.
Managers are frequently told that they’re running a small business within a larger company, so understanding the basic principles of keeping this company afloat is rather important. A good place to get a sense of what is deemed a good business book and what isn’t, is to check out a publication, like The New York Times, and read their reviews and lists.
Managers need to motivate a team. Psychology books that focus on what makes people tick, how to get people to do what you need and the psychology behind being a good manager can help you understand specific motivations.
I absolutely love when I’m scheduling a meeting with one of my team leads and see a section of time blocked out on her calendar that says ‘reading time’.
By encouraging your managers to read during business hours, you’re investing in their knowledge and signaling that continued education and intellectual curiosity are important to the organisation.
The Buzzword Isn’t Disruption, It’s Determination
Every other headline and insight demands that you become the ultimate sword in the disruption battle, but the real focus should be on determination.
The biggest business conversation that the entrepreneur should be having today is around disruption. The problem is that being disruptive – invading a traditional space and reinventing every part of how it is done and perceived – isn’t as important as being determined in your methodology and focus when it comes to achieving disruption. Uber, the ultimate disruption example, didn’t miraculously appear overnight. It was the determination and foresight of its founder that saw the company completely transform an industry.
Decide to disrupt
If you want to disrupt, you need to make a conscious decision to change the way things are done and the way people engage with a specific market, niche or solution. If you want to disrupt your business model you need to understand exactly what that means and how it will impact on your people, your company and your clients.
Disruption isn’t just about being the next Uber or Airbnb. It’s about improving and changing the way people do things in a fundamental way that means something, that delivers value.
It also has to happen at speed.
You aren’t going to disrupt an industry if you’re still dithering over decisions. Slow isn’t usually associated with disrupt.
The reason why disruption is associated with determination is because it will make you extremely uncomfortable. Changing things and redefining how you work, do business and live, requires that you completely change where you are right now. You need to be open to transforming the way you do business and this process can be both awkward and uncomfortable.
Go to war
Disruption is going to war with industry on behalf of your customers. It’s also the need to look internally and constantly question your market, how you engage with your clients and the solutions you deliver. This is not an economy that allows for the entrepreneur to rest on their laurels – someone will quickly disrupt you. You need to be determined enough to succeed that you can relentlessly reassess your business, your systems and your goals.
This is the challenge that’s affecting the large enterprise today.
These behemoths risk being easily disrupted as they don’t like change. It has left many doors wide open for those entrepreneurs who are open to opportunity, but if they step into these new spaces they are under pressure to remain agile and aware or they run the risk of becoming the next incumbent that’s disrupted.
Change your thinking
As you ponder the relevance and value of disruption, both as a business and as an internal benchmark, there are a few questions you can ask to refine your process and your thinking:
- Do I deliver the same impact on my customers every day? Impact is important – is your product or service still impacting on your clients the way that you (and they) want.
- What questions are clients asking and how is my business answering them?
- Do you need to fundamentally change the way you manage certain systems and solutions to ensure there is value?
- Is my value proposition still meaningful and does it attract the talent I need to drive my business forward?
- Does my operating model still deliver to the scale and efficiency that I need or does it need improvement?
Business Leadership: Leading A Culturally Diverse Business Team
The question every successful business leader needs to consider – How do we collectively experience joy and manage and/or avoid suffering as a business and as a team?
As I witnessed the rain dancing against the window panes of the Mega mall in Midvalley, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia I started reflecting on how to lead a culturally diverse business team.
Thousands of Malay, Chinese, Japanese, and Europeans passed me in the hallways of this gargantuan construction and the Dalai Lamas’ wise words reminded me that at the core of it all, irrespective of what your nationality is or what your belief system is, in general:
“We all want to experience joy and avoid suffering”
A key question that every team leader should carefully consider is how do we collectively experience joy and manage and/or avoid suffering as a business and as a team?
How can we as a diverse team be united in the joys of experiencing an expanding and successful business with a wonderful and constructive culture and avoid the suffering of a failing business and the negative experience of a toxic culture? These are of course ‘loaded’ questions because inherent within these questions are the birthing of other key challenges –
How can we as Leaders create a relatively stable and inspirational environment from within which it is easier for each individual to unlock their vast potential when vast differences in upbringing, schooling, world views, and religious beliefs exists within one team. Especially when considering the ever changing and evolving business environment within which we operate?
Fulfilling the role of a Business Leadership coach, trainer, or life coach as the situation demanded over several years I have coached, Lead, or trained Pilipino, Chinese, Malay, African, and European people. A very key learning from my experiences is that a “cross cultural and shared understanding” can be created that transcends any spoken language or any national culture.
This common language and culture has many elements but for the purpose of this article I will focus on the three key aspects:
Have a united and focused purpose
When a united and focussed purpose exists for the business team that they collectively place higher than themselves the barriers of differences in upbringing, schooling, and world views can dissolve within their shared purpose. As business leaders we cannot refer to purpose too much, even more importantly that that, we must be living, walking and talking examples of the businesses’ purpose.
To simplify the concept of purpose it can be said that purpose is the highest intent for, or the very good reason why we do what we do. That reason is or should be even more important than ourselves. When we really love what we do and sincerely so our performance is likely to be very good, on the other hand if we totally dislike the line of business that we are in or totally despise our role within an entrepreneurial venture we are likely not going to unleash our unlimited potential.
It could be argued that the sole purpose for having a business is to make a profit. Through this article I argue that that is not a strong enough reason to sustain you and make you thrive even through difficult times. The strange thing is that when you truly live your purpose with all your might and tirelessly inspire your team to do the same the money comes anyway…
Servant heart and attitude
Rabindranath Tagore famously said:
“I dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold service was joy.”
A servant heart is universal and transcends cultural difference, a sincere and giving smile is a beautiful language of its own that needs no translation. If that ‘servant heart and smile’ is underpinned by well-developed people and technical skills it multiplies into a potent combination of character, experience, and wisdom that has great influential power within any culture.
Whether it is through the use of interpreters, and even if it takes great patience, even when a lot of mistakes are made, persevere until everyone in the team understands that servant leadership is the key to winning the minds and hearts of others.
When all in the team becomes aware that we were only ever meant to master ourselves and thereby become better servants to all, this heightened awareness can unlock the unlimited potential within individuals in the team.
Respect for people and their worldviews
My favourite poet Rumi said:
‘The wound is where the light seeps in’
Respect all as we could not understand each individuals’ pain and hardships unless we went through it ourselves. Have compassion for all as we, in general expect compassion when we go through hardships. We can only imagine what sets of beliefs we would entertain where we to grow up in a completely different culture.
My endless curiosity and determination to learn has served me well as a coach for when your interest in others is sincere they tend to ‘open up’ to you and share and thereby you fasttrack your own learning and gain insights into your co-team members worldviews which in turn greatly enhances the team dynamics.
Be authentic and acknowledge your vulnerabilities, ‘wounds’ and shortcomings and be proud of your strengths for then your team members will help you to overcome your weaknesses and learn from your strengths.
15 Ways To Command A Conversation Like A Boss
If you’re the one talking, it’s your responsibility to make sure others are listening.
Conversations can elicit a range of emotions. They may be daunting, or they may be dreaded. They may be awkward, or they may be monotonous. The good news is, you, as a participant in any conversation, have more control than you think about whether these emotions overtake the dialogue.
Having a successful conversation is about striking the balance between preparedness and flexibility, between explaining your thoughts clearly and knowing when to pause or check in. It’s about being upfront about your preferences and ideas while being open to adapting them based on what comes of the discussion.
A fruitful conversation stems from establishing a rapport with someone. Show them you know where they’re coming from. Clarify that you understand what they’ve said. Be respectful of their time and don’t dictate back to them how you perceive them to be thinking or feeling. Keep questions open-ended. Experiment with new conversation settings or styles. And don’t give in to the internal voices that try to convince you to defer too much or suffer in silence.
To help you get your points across and help others convey theirs, read through the following 15 tips, which expand more on the ideas above.
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