For those that have experienced poor communication at a company, you know it isn't pretty – especially for smaller companies.
When a manager in a startup isn’t effectively communicating, trust breaks down. When you don’t have trust, people question the decisions made and productivity lags. When speed is inherently important -- especially in technology startups -- poor communication can drive a startup towards failure, rather than the path to success
This is important for startup managers to recognize — when your team consists of 10 people, as losing just one person due to inept leadership can seriously harm the company.
I’ve seen the pitfalls of bad communication firsthand in growing our content-marketing company Influence & Co. from two to 50 employees in three years. I've learned that it’s much easier to effectively communicate when you have four people sitting in the same room overhearing every conversation, than it is when you’re managing offices in three different cities.
While managers -- including myself -- have struggled with communication, I’ve learned (through a lot of reading) that I’m not alone. Reading and staying informed is one component that I believe sets managers apart.
Yes, managers can gain some of this information by speaking with their team, meeting with experts in the industry and attempting to gain inside knowledge of the competition, but the most effective way will likely involve a lot of reading.
Managers need to keep up with industry trends, so they can prepare for changes that could affect their organizations. They must know what their competitors are doing and where they’re headed. And they need to read customer feedback, questions that come in through their website and even the transcripts of customer calls. All this matters and helps a manager take a company's vision to the next level.
Depending on the industry, managers should be reading some (or all) of the following on a regular basis.
Niche and trade publications. To know where a company is going, you must understand its product and industry. Niche publications that cover the tiny nuances of your industry are important, because they ensure you know enough about your industry to make good decisions.
Articles written by thought leaders. Managers should have an idea of where the industry is headed. Reading content from respected thought leaders in your field provides you insight into what those ahead of the curve are thinking and challenges you to bring these thought processes back to your team.
Competitors’ newsletters. Although it would be nice to pretend that competitors don’t exist, it’s more effective to know what they’re doing. Reading competitors’ newsletters gives you an understanding of what their stakeholders -- customers, prospective customers and board members -- are seeing, and it can potentially give you a heads-up on areas where you may be lacking.
Customer reviews and feedback. While the best approach is to have managers pick up the phone and ask for verbal feedback from customers to gain a true understanding of how the company is performing, that’s not always possible. When that is the case written customer reviews are a great place to start. This is the best possible R&D you can do as a manager.
Business books. Managers are frequently told that they’re running a small business within a larger company, so understanding the basic principles of keeping this company afloat is rather important. A good place to get a sense of what is deemed a good business book and what isn't, is to check out a publication, like The New York Times, and read their reviews and lists.
Psychology books. Managers need to motivate a team. Psychology books that focus on what makes people tick, how to get people to do what you need and the psychology behind being a good manager can help you understand specific motivations.
I absolutely love when I’m scheduling a meeting with one of my team leads and see a section of time blocked out on her calendar that says “reading time."
By encouraging your managers to read during business hours, you’re investing in their knowledge and signaling that continued education and intellectual curiosity are important to the organization.