Communication is one of the most important ingredients for the success of any entrepreneur.
It’s how you’re going to meet and persuade new clients, how you’ll assign tasks to employees, and how you’ll navigate issues with investors and partners.
If you aren’t concise, clear, and efficient, it could cause both short- and long-term problems for your business.
This is true of practically any business or scenario, whether you’re a landlord communicating with a tenant or an account manager trying to salvage a relationship with an upset client. But for entrepreneurs, it’s even more important, for two main reasons. First, you’ll be responsible for wearing a number of different hats (and talking to a wide variety of different people). Second, you’ll be setting an example for the rest of your team.
Despite this, there are many common communication problems that new entrepreneurs struggle to defeat.
The Biggest Communication Problems Faced by New Entrepreneurs
These are some of the most common—and most problematic—communication problems faced by new entrepreneurs:
- Allowing communications to overwhelm you. Entrepreneurs try to stay on top of everything, all the time, but this can work against them. If you’re constantly getting email notifications, new instant messages, phone calls, and interruptions from coworkers, you’ll never be able to focus on your other work. Instead, you’ll be perpetually distracted. The best way to fix this is to disable notifications when you can, and dedicate specific time to catching up on communications.
- Being exhaustive instead of concise. People have an understandable tendency to try and explain themselves as effectively as possible. However, too many people end up being exhaustive instead of concise; they overload people with unnecessary details and long-winded explanations, rather than getting to the point. It’s important to edit your messages when you can, and try to find the fewest possible words with which to articulate your ideas. It will save time for you and your listener, and reduce the chances of confusion.
- Using the wrong mediums. There are countless ways to communicate with others, but each medium has its own strengths and weaknesses. For example, it’s not a good idea to use email for a conversation that requires input from multiple people, and it’s not wise to host a time-intensive meeting when you can simply send a short message to get people up to speed with new changes. Using the wrong mediums will waste time and diminish effectiveness.
- Talking to everyone the same way. Different people have different styles of communication—and different values, preferences, and expectations. To maximize effectiveness, your style needs to adapt with them. For example, some people appreciate bluntness, while others require a softer approach. Learn the difference if you want to succeed.
- Making assumptions. So many communication errors and points of confusion could be eliminated with a simple clarification. Don’t allow your assumptions to create blind spots; ask people for verifications, and provide extra clarifications for subtext that might not be obvious.
- Failing to listen actively. Active listening is vital for any business leader. You need to pay attention to what the other person is saying; otherwise, you’re likely to misunderstand them, or appear like you aren’t listening. Fortunately, active listening is easy if you genuinely care what other people have to say; give them your full attention, ask critical questions about what they’re saying, and repeat what they’re saying back to them in your own words to show that you understand them.
- Being indirect. As an entrepreneur, you’re expected to be a leader, and leaders are expected to be decisive. Being indirect with your requests or desires will likely work against you. For example, if an employee is consistently late to work, don’t be passive aggressive or beat around the bush; instead, confront the employee directly with something like, “I’ve noticed you’ve been late to work a lot lately. Punctuality is important here. What can we do to make sure you’re on time in the future?”
- Not setting proactive expectations. Some forms of communication require setting proactive expectations. For example, you can let your clients know that they can expect weekly update meetings from you, or you can train employees on the “right” way to send an email. The more thorough and upfront you are, the more success you’re likely to have.
Perfecting Your Communication
The good news is that communication is like any other skill; with attention, practice, and commitment, you should be able to improve over time. Your first priority should be recognizing your own strengths and weaknesses, identifying the areas you truly need to improve and targeting them with new strategies. Then, take ongoing measurements of your progress, so you know whether your tactics are working.