When meeting with founders and directors of social enterprises, one struggle that comes back to me every time is their poor communication within the team. Most social enterprises are small businesses, with usually 2 to 3 individuals highly involved in the major decisions. This often means that teams resort to endless to-and-fro strings of emails, leading to ‘Funding App FINAL Draft 4.0’ attachments and, simultaneously, time wasted in catch-up meetings because things…just aren’t clear enough.
Poor communication slows down progress, makes you miss deadlines, and leads to confusion. I believe communication is absolutely vital for the success of your business. If I was to put it in order, from highest to lowest importance: communications > execution > idea. The idea is nothing. Execution trumps ideas. Communication expedites execution.
Check the ego
To be a leader in communication you must first check your ego at the door and put on your team members’ shoes. You may have founded the company, and you may be a director, but you cannot do everything on your own. You may see yourself as the maestro and the composer, but your masterpiece will not be played to the world without a synchronised orchestra.
Exploit the momentum
How many times have you felt incredibly motivated to do something, but you’re not exactly sure what that something is? More often than not, it is because the path ahead looks foggy and you can’t tell what the next step to take is. Strong communication with your team ensures that you tap into and capitalise on your team’s moments of highest motivation. If you’re a leader, you must ensure that you’re on top of everything without needing a prompt. You must be the prompter. You must take the initiative to create the optimal environment for your team to thrive. The best way to do this is to keep them on par with the enterprise’s progress and provide them with direction. Compound that momentum.
Stirred, not shaken
To further improve communication, establish cross-team talks. Certainly get different members to focus on individual tasks, but ensure that each knows exactly what the other is up to. Although focus will fall on their own individual work, one can continuously provide an outsider perspective, by positively questioning and challenging the other, driving the team towards excellence.
What’s a weekend?
Keep in contact during the weekend. If you view the weekend as sacred, dedicate at least 2 hours of your Sunday to prepare for the following week and let your team know what the plans are. This way, you don’t waste time getting back up to speed: you will wake up on the Monday knowing exactly what to do, ready to tackle the week full steam ahead. If you’re not prepared to enforce this discipline, chances are that your heart’s not in the game.
My recommendation would be to first prioritise what needs to be done and categorise these as projects. Second, establish a file sharing system to allow you and your team to store, edit and share files in real-time, accessible from any device. Third, get yourself and your team on board with a project management application, ideally one that is also web-based.
A combination that I have found that works well with small social enterprises, especially those on a budget shoestring or startups or simply in the early testing stages, is Google Drive with Trello. If you learn to work with these, and integrate these together, you can have two very powerful tools that facilitate progress.