SCORE column: Lead with communication and share the dream

The owner is the boss but that isn’t enough, you can’t build your organization without employees with the right talents that can be developed into a powerful team.

An overhead view of a newspaper on a desk with a cup of coffee and a computer nearby
The trick to being a good listener is to listen to understand and not listen to respond.
Contributed / Metro Newspaper Service

As a business leader, one of the lessons I had to learn early on was the importance of communications with my employees and what works best.

Every organization has a hierarchy, different levels of responsibility and authority. The owner is the boss but that isn’t enough, you can’t build your organization without employees with the right talents that can be developed into a powerful team. As a SCORE mentor, I see owners that too often have discomfort and a reluctance to confront their employees with issues that need to be discussed, issues dealing with individuals and the organization. Sharing your dream for the organization is of utmost importance because it defines purpose and sets the basis for measuring results for both the organization and team members.

Sharing your dream. This starts in the hiring process. Share with excitement why the company was started, the progress that’s been made and where the organization is going. What are your values that all employees will practice? Discuss together the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) for the new hire. The WIIFM requires listening on your part. Listen with both ears and eyes. Keep in mind that leaders are chosen not appointed.

Some thoughts on listening. This was hard for me to learn. The trick to being a good listener is to listen to understand and not listen to respond. I sometimes ask the person to repeat back to me in their words what I just said. Keep focused on the person(s) to whom you are talking, read the body language and listen to the tone. Watch your body language and alertness too. It is also important to practice the KISS (keep it simple stupid) principle in your part of the conversation.

Going back to the employees and WIIFM, the priorities will be:


1. Leadership. Employees want a solid leader they can count on,

2. Fair pay that responds to the market and their personal goal,

3. A safe working environment,

4. A sense of inclusion, appreciation, and the feeling of having done a good day’s work and,

5. A belief that they can grow with the company and that this is a good investment in their time and talent.

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You should be visible. Your employees will read you like a book. What a wonderful way to give them a message. Randomly walk through your organization showing confidence, don’t go there if you’re mad or upset, that will put them on edge. I remember the time at one company with serious troubles that the president would take a slow walk in front of the building with his head down and be visible to the office staff. The vice president of human relations got the message from people how upsetting that was and he counseled the president on how that was scaring the people.

I truly liked walking through the plant talking to people and watching eye contact. I knew there was trouble when the people wouldn’t make eye contact. Also, it was a fun time to stop and talk to people and, when legitimate, give them a well done.

Having group meetings is also a productive communication time. It gives you a chance to talk about the good and the not so good in the marketplace and about the organization’s performance. This can be done without exposing confidential data. Andersen Windows has a great tradition of the vice president of manufacturing walking the floor at shift change. The fellow taking us through the plant told us the employees love it and it gives the vice president an opportunity to build morale.


One final thought. Having a database from which to build your conversations is one of your best tools. Here again is where you follow the KISS principle. You don’t need a thick notebook of facts. List and measure the key performance indicators for your business and each job. develop bills of materials and job descriptions that define what is the purpose of the job and expected performance. All job descriptions should include a statement that the employee will perform other duties as directed by the supervisor and the employee can perform.

Let’s summarize with your WIIFM (what’s in it for me). With improved communication skills, you will be more confident as the leader, you will feel less stress, and will have a more cohesive team. You will experience more of your team coming forward and making good things happen. I have seen this happen often. Go for it.

SCORE is here to help. Go to , or 218 251 4413.

As a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration, SCORE - which offers free business mentoring and education -- notes the organization has helped more than 11 million entrepreneurs through mentoring, workshops and educational resources since 1964. The nonprofit SCORE was previously known as the Service Corps of Retired Executives.

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