How to lead a team, business or any other organization requires many things. Respect. Productivity. Accountability. Maybe even profitability.
But several business owners I know unanimously agree that effective communication is at the core of how an owner will lead a team successfully.
I'm one of them: I have been an entrepreneur for more than 15 years, and the biggest communication skill that I have learned along the way is listening to my team members. It's very easy to believe that as the owner you alone know how to execute a strategy. But when it comes to how to lead a team effectively, I think you need to be both a responsive and an active listener.
Some of my best strategies came from "the boots on the ground" (i.e. my team members). They were closest to the client and they heard clients' concerns directly, and that feedback proved to be invaluable.
—Robert S. Choisser, president and CEO, Choisser Import Auto Services
Another aspect of listening is asking great questions. As a business coach, I have learned the art of asking an insightful question. Asking for feedback is an empowering tool that you can use as a leader of an organization. It can engender goodwill amongst your employees because they know that their feedback is critical to the success of your business.
I wondered what other business owners would have to say about the importance of communication in leading teams successfully. Here's what they had to say.
1. Use technology to create consistent communication.
"Communication is critical for the effective collaboration and connectivity of a team. People often ask how to lead a team in a virtual work environment, and I state that we remain engaged consistently via email, GotoMeetings, Skype and other communication tools. Working independently on projects and deadlines has its place. However, the collective engagement that is fostered through consistent communications is critical to a project's success and the overall viability of business operations." —Michelle Taylor, president and CEO, BETAH Associates
2. Pick up the phone when necessary and schedule meetings.
"With offices in three locations, which are staffed by different generations, effective communication has been an evolving journey. One of the things I have learned is that while email and communication platforms like Basecamp play an important role, they often create an environment in which the power of listening to others' ideas is diminished. This can make the creative process extremely difficult and lead to the breakdown of teams.
"We have two policies to help elevate this challenge. The first is that if an email doesn't clearly answer a question or concern, a phone conversation is required. The second is that we have team meetings weekly and company meetings monthly, which focus on creative brainstorming, as well as periodic offsite team-building activities. The end result is a strong sense of team, more efficient processes and best of all, a more energized creative process." —Marci Brand, owner, Creative Marketing Concepts
3. Support information sharing.
"Communication and information sharing is a major component within a team. This is the true 'tie that binds'; [it] fosters trust amongst team members, and thus creates a productive team." —Sean Robinson, president, AMS Technologies
4. Lead by example.
“How to lead a team? Of course you must lead by example! I love getting my hands dirty and only asking of my team members what I would do myself. I believe it reinforces the teamwork mentality, and fosters open collaboration." —Chris Barber, chief nerd, Cheaper Than A Geek
5. Listen to hear instead of listening to respond.
"In developing as a leader, I have learned many lessons. The most important is that clear communication is paramount to the success of an organization. I believe that learning to listen to hear verses listening to respond has been the shift in mindset [that] has allowed me to lead in a proactive way. This skill, although not mastered, produces the most successful outcomes when utilized effectively." —Robert S. Choisser, president and CEO, Choisser Import Auto Services
It seems as though implementing effective communication tools will always be the foundation of how to lead a team to optimal performance.
Read more articles on leadership skills.