I read an article recently about communication in family business. According to the article, family business managers spend almost half of their time on communication. Frankly, I was surprised the number was not closer to 90% if you take into account both direct and indirect communication. Positive, effective communication is the key to success in every family business. If you struggle in this area, try these six strategies for effective communication.
You can acknowledge you heard a request and accept the person who asked without agreeing with it. Acknowledge outrageous statements or requests with responses such as:
“That’s an interesting idea.”
“That’s a novel request.”
“What an intriguing question.”
This is an opportunity, as a family business manager, to understand what the other person is saying and let them know you value their input. Then you can move on to other topics without attempting to argue.
People judge others by their actions – not their words. So you are judged by the other person’s perceptions of your words and actions. Here are a two examples.
If you act angry, even though you feel otherwise, you will be judged as being hostile.
If you sound helpless, even though you feel otherwise, you will be judged as being ineffective.
Keeping this mind when you are communicating to a family business team member, choose actions and words that convey the impression you want to make. The message you communicate will be clear and not be received in a way you did not intend.
People judge themselves by their intentions.
This hardly seems fair, does it? After all, if the other family member is not communicating effectively, how are you going to understand their intent? Here’s a trick of active listening: Repeat what the person said to you back to them – in your own words. This way, they can correct any miscommunication and you can find their true intent. It also acknowledges that the other person’s actions or words are, to them, correct. Even when someone’s behavior appears completely absurd, that person most likely believes it is justified.
Everyone deserves courtesy and respect. This is especially true in family business where the lines between work and family life often become blurred. As the family business leader, be the example and treat others with respect. After all, no one has ever had to apologize for being courteous. Begin a dialogue and remember diplomacy is more effective than hostility.
Everyone has valuable ideas. Each member of the family business staff has unique talents and are, most likely, expert in their area of the family business. Effective family business managers excel at helping family members express their ideas. Ask questions. Show interest. You need to make the other person the star of the conversation.
Realize that you can always learn more about the other person’s needs, priorities, and situation. Do you think you know everything about your brother, father, cousin etc. who work with you in the family business? Not so! You need to strive to learn more and understand them better each day. Ask questions. Seek solutions. Think positive. Don’t be too quick to react based on your own perceptions. Quick reactions often lead to apologies. Start by being thoughtful and seeking to understand fully.
Keep these six strategies in mind when communicating with family members in the family business. If you practice these strategies in every communication, you will soon find you are a highly effective communicator and family business manager.
Ready to learn more? Take a look at this video How To Have Better Communication.