Interior Plantscaper’s Guide: The Art of Communication

It is a daunting and even lonely task running your own company. Churning out fresh ideas while establishing a role as an excellent leader, in addition to the myriad of other tasks are challenges business owners all know well.

Over the last few years, I have made it my priority to continuously build my leadership skills with the growth of my company. Part of the skill sets required is managing people correctly and effectively. It’s not always an easy deal. Despite best efforts, both triumphs and failures are expected when you run a business. Looking back, I’ve noticed the area of communication is where it all tends to break down. By following a few key rules, I’ve honed in my communication skills, making it a big game changer for me and my business.

It starts by giving each employee a written job duty and a list of responsibilities to set up your team members for success. So many businesses still miss out on this essential tool. As owners, we are constantly on the move and usually think at the same rate, fast and furious. We tend to overlook that though we might know what each role in the company does, the team member might not fully grasp what is required. No one person thinks alike or processes information the same way. It needs to be understood that as a business owner, we see things from an angle of profitability and keeping the company running. Employees, on the other hand, receive a paycheck on a regular basis whether or not quarterly sales reflect an increase in business. And once they leave the office, employees leave it behind them to enjoy their lives. This is unlike owners who are constantly, if only in our head, working at the business.

The book, “The E Myth” by Michael Gerber gave me so many winning angles to run a successful business. I can clearly see why I experienced some of the downfalls along the way in my company. He speaks repeatedly of building a successful small business by setting up strategic objectives and I’d like to share several of them with you.

WRITE DOWN YOUR STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES

  • Start by setting up an organizational chart that begins now and flourishes into your future for your intended growth.
  • List all the job duties and responsibilities necessary to create growth and give them a job title and description.
  • Organize each description into a job manual so anybody can pick the book up and understand what needs to be done. The role of office manager, the installation team, technicians, sales, or even the president’s role needs to be clearly stated in print to understand each function. This gives a clear picture on what each person is responsible for in their work day. It might be a lot of work in the front end, but inevitably it is the best way to succeed and grow.
  • Ask yourself, “What is everyone’s role in the company?” and “How do we get it done in our daily, monthly and yearly tasks?” To help with the answers, take the attitude if anyone in your company won the lottery and was gone the next day to tour the world for the rest of their life, what needs to be done to keep the position flowing until it is filled.
  • Set up a “Position Contract.” It’s for clear communication and to provide an acknowledgement between you and your employees, expectations and accountabilities within the job. Basically it is a summary of the rules of the company’s game plan and strategies.
  • Keep the contract updated as the company naturally shifts and moves with time.
  • Be sure to create a job description before hiring new team members. It defines what you need to fill the position. And will in turn be a great training manual for the new hire and set the person up for success.

CONFLICT RESOLUTION

  • communicationSet up the type of discipline used when someone does not meet their job requirements. Be very clear on the procedures and how it will be displayed. All managers must use the same format and parameters.
  • Don’t ever be afraid to have tough conversations with team members. Deal with any miscommunications immediately. Sometimes all it takes is just talking it out. Be sure to get both sides of the story and includes both customers and/or employees.
  • Encourage team members to work things out between themselves and only come to you when they can’t resolve it.
  • Discourage talking behind people’s back. This is a cancer in a company and must not be tolerated. There is no power behind it since it is idle gossip and just nasty.
  • The first time you feel the need talk to a team member is actually when you need to do it. Do not procrastinate, as the once small issue will snowball until it festers and becomes much worse than when it started.
  • Stick to the facts, not the drama!
  • Ask your team members to bring solutions to you. Ask good solid questions to help spur them to work it out.
  • Go back to the job descriptions and point out the work process and who is responsible. Sometimes that is all you need to do.
  • Be short and sweet and to the point.
  • If more than one co-worker is involved, talk to all parties and have each of them share their concerns. Help them come up with solutions. This way everyone feels involved and becomes a win-win solution.
  • Sometimes conflict can be a good thing, if it is done in a non-threatening manner. Steve Jobs, though known for his “heated” staff meetings, challenged his team to come up with bigger and better solutions and ideas. The success of the company is attributed to his constant push to make things better.
  • Conduct meetings in a conference room and when it is over, leave it in the room. Don’t hold any grudges. Realize business is business.
  • Remember as leader of a team, it is ok to not have an answer readily available. Sometimes a situation is too big or cloudy to make a final decision quickly. Give yourself permission to think over the question or problem and come back later with an answer or solution.
  • Be clear in your communication. For instance, how can you expect your co-workers to complete a task properly if you only think things in your head but fail to take the time to share them eloquently so they are understood? What ends up happening is it sets them up for failure. Always encourage your staff to ask questions and time-lines when you give them instructions. Be prepared to answer them properly without being abrupt or condescending.
  • A good leader is clear and concise in their communication. But we are human. We wear many hats and sometimes don’t realize we are not getting our points and instructions across very well.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

  • When the time is right, always acknowledge for a job well done.
  • Text, email, write letters or tell a team member they did a task well. Ask this of everyone. As an owner, getting acknowledgment for a job well done doesn’t always happen. It’s lonely at the top. If you foster an environment where team members acknowledge each other, you’ll find kudos come your way as well.
  • Acknowledge team members in staff meetings. Being acknowledged in front of peers is profound.
  • Celebrate anniversaries within your company. This is a big deal! The end results are priceless.
  • Set up special milestones such as 5, 10, 15, 20 year anniversaries. Acknowledging length of service means the world to your employees.

Successful communication is not always easy. However it is both powerful and rewarding. I heard someone say the other day, “I’m so tired of having to communicate all the time.” In my book, a good leader wouldn’t be making such a statement. Building a business requires good communication at every turn of the dial. And as we grow with our company and continue to embrace our personal lives, remember there will always be triumphs and failures. It is part of life. Be sure to keep your perspective clear. It’s highly recommended that great leaders hire consultants to guide them through problems and to plan for future growth. Trust me, problems will not go away and only get bigger as time passes. Applying the art of communication to everything you do provides well-earned rewards of continued company growth and success. Go out there and communicate, powerfully and honestly!

Julie Davis Farrow is the CEO and founder of Plantscapers, Inc, an award winning interior plantscaper company located in Southern California. She is an active member of numerous trade associations, including Green Plants for Green Buildings and is also a registered speaker trained by GPGB to present “Authentically Green Interiors: Optimizing Nature’s Design.” To learn more about Julie and Plantscapers, Inc. visit www.plantscapers.com.

Fiberglass Planters

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