If you want happier clients and staff, communicate. Obsessively and honestly, especially when it’s hard. We didn’t do this at Nona. In fact, we avoided the hard conversations with clients and staff alike, and amongst ourselves as the founders. It was easy to think that we were protecting people by keeping the ‘bad reality’ data from them, and to assume that we could just fix the problems without them noticing. Wow, were we wrong!
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place
— George Bernard Shaw
Nona’s been through some laughably bad experiences in the past year and if we are honest, they can almost all be traced back to us not having had the difficult conversations early enough. So here’s what we are doing to remedy the situation.
1. Have every person in the business in a daily standup
We got our (service) leadership team into a rhythm of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual meetings in order to ensure a close connection between all the leaders in the business. Daily huddles or standups were also implemented for the various teams within Nona.
2. Hold a weekly CEO’s open comms session
Every week, a different member from each of the Nona teams joins the CEO to raise and discuss any issues, blockers and suggestions. These are recorded and shared, and become the basis for an improvement priority list. Most of what we now focus on is as a result of the feedback in these sessions. We also use this time to discuss and debate our core ideology. There are only two rules in these sessions; don’t attempt any problem solving, focus instead on raising the issue and recording it, and don’t bad-mouth anyone — play the process not the person.
3. Send out a fortnightly mailer from the CEO
Here, we share updates on as many things as possible. This includes financial data, team changes, policy updates, new and potential clients, client feedback, our Net Promoter Score etc. The idea is to communicate to everybody what is often only known to the leadership team and to regularly repeat the information that forms the DNA of the business, like the core ideology.
These practices and disciplines have been really great for us and we have seen a dramatic increase in the communication elements at Nona as a result. Feedback from the Nona team has generally been good — “we seem to have run out of frustrations to air in the weekly comms sessions and turned our attention to more positive discussions around the company values, which is great! Being open about our financials, client relationships and general status has encouraged questions from everyone and turned keeping Nona out of trouble into a company-wide effort.”
But we are nowhere near done. This is a never-ending quest that needs to become part of how we do things, and as a result, we have made it one of the core values that guide everything we do. Check yourself and your leadership team, and ask yourself if you’re communicating obsessively and honestly, especially when it’s hard.
Have you experimented with communication techniques in your company? I’d love to hear about your experience, drop me a line in the comments.