Small Business Leaders Under-Estimate Power of Their Communication

Workplace Success

shutterstock_195028946Someone on LinkedIn last week commented on an article I published in 2014 about “open-door” policies saying, “I used to work for a boss that told us that HE had an ‘open-door policy’ with ‘My door is always open… So please walk by quietly!’ ”

“This manager did often joke about things and this may very well have been a joke, even though he acted quite serious to us when he said this. But, since no one was really sure if that was his actual policy or not, and nobody tested the waters.”

People in positions of power in small business (e.g., owners, CEOs, Vice-Presidents, etc.) hold “perception power” in their organizations that they take for granted and don’t understand.

One spring during my baseball career our sales team surpassed its sales budget eight weeks before the campaign was scheduled to close. While visiting our office and hearing the sales team celebrating, our team owner poked his head into the conference room hoopla, proclaiming, “that’s great, congratulations, and you know our other team in Minnesota has already surpassed their sales goal, too, by more than $100,000.”

The comment, upon further review and discussion I learned, was supposed to foster competition, motivation and inspiration. All the comment did was deflate the enthusiastic celebration demotivating the sales manager and her team.

The executive assistant of a former client, the CEO of a regional ice-skating multi-rink facility, came to me expressing frustration that she could get none of her important work done, like processing payroll twice each month, because her boss would continually delegate his work down to her.

Every time he would put something on the top of her in-box, she took it as a priority to be worked on ahead of her own work. It was overwhelming her creating high levels of stress and frustration.

I asked my client if that was his intention, and he said, “no, I’m just getting off my desk to move it forward.”

Through my coaching he agreed he should just put a post-it note on the top of each piece with a date as to when it needed to be done by. This allowed his executive assistant to prioritize those tasks around the key things she needed to do to keep the business running.

It worked like a charm.

When bosses speak, subordinates know those words can impact their future employment, so those words are taken to heart.

Despite claims to the contrary by bosses who don’t mean to be mean, demanding, or cause employees stress and anxiety, when a request comes from someone with control over one’s livelihood, it is natural to take those words seriously.

Bosses need to understand the power they possess by the nature of their position and choose their words more carefully.