One of the most common complaints of staff is that there is no communication in the company, yet the leaders say all they do is to explain and communicate.
As I write this article, I am sitting on Richard Branson’s Necker Island, surrounded by business people from around the world, including the legendary man himself, Richard Branson.
So I decided to discuss the topic of communication with the General Manager of the world’s most famous private island, seeing that he also works for one of the most recognisable individuals and brands on the planet. When asked if they had a similar problem and any advice to share, his response was this; yes, indeed, communication is a challenge he admitted.
I cannot help myself to think that if a manager on an island in the Caribbean feels communication is a struggle, how much greater is this struggle be for companies in stressful cities where the pace of business is extreme.
Stop and talk
Speaking to the GM of Necker Island on what they do to improve communication, he shares that they often just stop themselves from what they are doing and especially in times when everyone is too busy and frenetic, they stop more often to discuss matters. He makes it a priority in exceedingly busy and stressful periods, to just stop and talk.
All staff come to a halt and regroup to ensure they are still focussed on the big picture and the vision, this ensures that staff do not get wrapped up in the busyness and forget what they really have to do in the business.
This is the opposite of what many businesses do; when there are crazy busy periods and times of major crises, little or no communication happens as everyone is so busy putting out fires or trying and get the “to do lists” done.
In the long-run, not stopping to communicate becomes counterproductive.
All eyes on the Leader
If the leader focuses on the big picture and doesn’t get caught up in stress-drama, the staff quickly follows suit. He uses the example of the year the main house on the island caught fire.
The fire blazed for about a week and while they were still attempting to extinguish the fire, Richard phoned to ask when the architect would be there. While at first it sounded crazy to get the architect out before the crises was even over; but it immediately gave everyone something else to focus on and got them through a terrible experience and into seeing the future.
The culture you as the business leader create in your organisation will dictate the communication strategy and how it will be carried out. Your DNA must be felt throughout your organisation by means of clear delegation to what the expected outcome is. Richard Branson believes in employing the best people and then leaves them to create something extraordinary.
Breaking it down
The business owner must understand the long-term picture and the steps how it will be achieved and break his plan down into annual and quarterly plans. The trick here is to filter the right amount of information and delegation to the appropriate levels of staff in the organisation.
Each person should have sufficient information to be able to perform effectively and not get overwhelmed with the leader’s big picture.
In many start-ups or smaller companies, there is not enough detail in what is expected and not even the leader has a clear plan of what he or she wants to achieve. It creates great confusion when the message communicated to staff varies often and leads to uncertainty as to what it is they are working towards.
As with Richard Branson and his senior team, do not tolerate drama or anything that will distract the company to achieve the ultimate goal. It is the drama (or politics) in many companies, more than the communication issues that more often creates the problem and derails plans and strategies.
I believe if people know they are building something extraordinary, they will figure it out for themselves and their leader will keep them on track to achieve the bigger goal.
So this is what I learned from Richard and his manager:
- In all of his businesses his first rule is to find the best person to run that business. No compromises. He hand selects each CEO personally to ensure it is the person that will be able to achieve the desired results.
- He shares his vision and ensures the person is capable of the task at hand.
- He then leaves it up to the designated person to achieve what needs to be achieved.
- They are given the space and opportunity to shine.
- Mistakes that are made are addressed and fixed by the individual whom the task was delegated to.