This article addresses the frustrations and complaints of entrepreneurs and SBOs (Small Business Owners) about communication with employees being difficult and getting them to understand what you want and to execute your commands. It also addresses issues of overwork and not enough time to rest. If employees cannot be trusted to do the work willingly, the employer has no choice but to do or to supervise the doing of it, thus giving rise to stress and burnout of the SBOs.

If your business is to grow and expand, ultimately you would have to rely on your employees who are your agents when they interact with your customers and suppliers. With products, it is easy to assess quality, with services, the assessment of quality rests with your consumers, your customers as well as your suppliers.

Here, my focus is not on HR issues, which should be delegated to an HR professional. But I shall focus on important strategic issues: How you relate to your leadership team and they in turn relate to the lower ranks throughout the organization.

You know that choosing good employees is important.

However, do not choose an employee just because he has the job skills required. You should choose your employees for diversity and innovation and for teamwork. So other characteristics of the employees such as behavioural and personality traits become relevant. And if you have difficulty finding skilled manpower, that’s why this consideration is important.

The cost of manpower is not just the recruitment but the added cost of training them to do, handle the work processes, and work as a team. The way you handle staff is critical so as not to increase your business cost. With the trend towards automation, you would have fewer employees to manage but with a greater incentive to retain them because of the high cost of recruiting them. 

With automation too, you need programmers, and it is a well-known fact that the best programmers are behaviorally challenged individuals such as autistics and dyslexics. The whole organization will have to acquire the behavioural skills to handle them well too. That’s how you can retain and motivate them both to be loyal to your business and contribute positively towards it.

The very basic motivation of employees is pay. You should pay them a decent wage. If your wages are the lowest rock bottom pay in the industry, your employees will be looking for the first opportunity to leave you for a better job with better pay. They are also not interested in doing the best for your business. 

If your business is doing well, you should pay them well.

Or at least slightly above the median wage for your industry so at least they will stay with you. Then other considerations below will apply.

These include each individual’s self-esteem reflected in feelings of satisfaction and purpose. Simple recognition of their status, responsibilities and contribution to the business can go a long way to support such positive self-regard.

How do you manage your employees such that you can get the maximum productivity out of them? That will depend on the organizational culture you foster and the whole range of employee benefit and reward systems you have instituted in the business. Together they constitute the health of your business organization.  

Organizational culture is influenced by the organization’s vision, values, norms, systems, symbols, language, assumptions, beliefs, and habits.

It is the behaviour that you exhibited as a living expression of all the above, and the behaviours you encouraged in your organization as well as behaviours you discouraged because you do not want such negative behaviours and associated values to be a part of your organization.

More importantly, you and your leadership team have to be role models for the kind of values, beliefs that your company’s vision dictates. When you walk your talk, you will find that your employees will mirror these values in social interaction within the organization and in interaction with the external world of customers and suppliers.

Besides behaviour, you must also pay attention to the health, safety and wellbeing of your staff especially when they are deployed in situations that entail physical risks and dangers. Your employees will feel safe and taken care of. Not only that, in case your employees fall sick or injured in the cause of duty, the way you provide for their treatment and recovery. Moreover, as you provide for their health needs, that will contribute to their loyalty and commitment to the organization.

Your (and that of your leadership team) communication with them is important. You have to be positively encouraging, empowering and supportive of their efforts for the business. This is called conversational intelligence.

Words can trigger an emotional reaction, and conversations can impact a person’s life permanently.

This is because of the emotional baggage each one of us carries associated with words. Thus, a listener will infuse into the communication a different layer of meaning different from that of the speaker. 

Because we use words for various purposes, words are signals of how we explore, navigate and survive the environment. Conversational intelligence is the ability hardwired within each of us to navigate successfully with others6. The more it is present, the more we are successful in moving others to align themselves with us.

We may not as individuals be naturally intelligent in our conversations, and that is why in my coaching with business owners, this is one of the many issues I stress on. Why? The more conversationally intelligent you are, the more your business will prosper because your staff are one with you.

To become a master at Conversational Intelligence is not about how smart you are, but how open you are to learning new and effective powerful conversational rituals that prime the brain for trust, partnership, and mutual success.

When you listen to your staff feedback on any issues whenever they talk to you, and you encourage them to express themselves without fear of their feedback being rejected, you have the first requirement of being conversationally intelligent or exhibiting C-IQ. 

Your verbal responses cannot be negative, cutting them short, critical or showing in your body language or otherwise that you are disapproving. If you do that, you will lose their trust and confidence in you.

The key is to be supportive and to give good encouraging and supportive feedback.

Even when they are wrong, you should give them a question or statement to encourage them to think or reflect deeper into the issues involved and which you are pointing them to. 

When they failed, you want them to learn and internalize the lessons, and reflect on what they can do better if they have to do it all over again.

The right responses conversationally is very important, and I have it as a download which you can get by clicking here: Conversational Intelligence Guidelines and 20 questions. They set out the kind of atmosphere you need to foster with simple guidelines, and 20 questions you can use to encourage and to support your employees, encouraging them to think better and be better versions of themselves. Apply them in the way you communicate with your employees, and you will show improvement in your C-IQ.

When you can do this, and your employees feel secure, they will initiate improvements in the way they work, and to suggest innovations knowing that they will not be penalized but encouraged. This assumes that your employees are with you which in most instances they are if you are a good employer to them.

The reward system is also something that is crucial to employee satisfaction.

Money, though important is not the only reward to motivate your staff. Besides monetary rewards, there is a whole range of social and psychological rewards.  

Thus praise and appreciation, whether expressed individually or in a group setting, when combined with monetary incentives are very powerful. We know that social rewards have been shown to be a powerful motivator of performance and loyalty.

A few business owners I know exactly did all the above. One of them has an annual reward ceremony during their annual dinner where he invented all kinds of awards for his employees, Best Employee in Doing X, Most Fastest Employee in Doing Y, and Best Employee in Reducing some indicators eg Z, etc. These interesting and innovative awards are an indication that he noticed their contributions, often accompanied by a cash sum. It is obvious that the ability to give praise and rewards is essentially a C-IQ skill.

In my work with business owners, I help SBOs to be aware of the various nuances in behaviour that rewards systems can engender. This will enable them to engage more positively with their employees with C-IQ. The SBOs can eventually mould their business organization to be a formidable organization delivering great results: greater productivity and greater value to their customers and clients. 

This is particularly true of service organizations where the quality of conversations creates loyal customers for greater profit for the business. Committed employees will cause customers to be committed and loyal. Your business’ reputation will be enhanced and accompanied by increasing testimonials and endorsements from loyal customers attracting more customers to your business.

You would like that for sure, so work towards it, learn and adopt C-IQ as a standard to be a part of your communication repertoire. You will not regret it.

If you wish to discuss with me how to make this real in your business, do schedule a call.