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Silence Kills: How opening your mouth can save your business (and your butt)

Almost as surely as the sun will rise, business owners will go to work and be welcome by one or more dilemmas to trouble shoot. It is the nature of the beast. This is why you get paid the so-called “big bucks.” As the owner, executive, or manager of a business, your employees look to you for guidance, leadership, expertise, delegation, vision, and decisiveness. Yet, the even most skilled, accomplished, and talented corporate executive, despite their wealth of knowledge in developing and implementing business plans, face challenges that prove their business plans are not entirely fool proof. The reason being is that while entrepreneurs research the latest market trends, behaviors and traditions of other industry leaders, the stability of the economy and consumer spending, and constantly study the movements of our competitors, we, alas, forget that a crucial component to ensuring the successful execution of our business plans and hence, the future of our business, which is to devise a reasonable and effective method of trouble-shooting. This includes not only solving problems with overall maintenance and function, but problems that arise among the individuals who work within the company itself. Entrepreneurs set out to tackle dreams and thus feverishly race to grab the gold, but often overlook the meat and potatoes of the business, which are the people associated with the business, and dig right in to dessert—the profits and other measurable results of financial success. If the business is making money, the business is doing well; however, if the employees and employers are failing to communicate with each other and work cohesively, together, the business will not be doing well for long. No amount of strategizing on paper will matter if people do not communicate with each other, and thus facilitate collaborative effort to resolve issues. Team work in problem solving is as equally crucial and applicable as it when striving toward accomplishing a company mission or objective. In other words, silence kills.

To counteract the adverse affects of failing to communicate, open your mouth and speak up—communicate. There are few things, if anything, worse than a problem that festers because a resolution has been prolonged by the unwillingness of involved parties to communicate with each other, much less communicate with each other in an effective manner. It sits and simmers until it boils and spills over, creating a larger mess than before thus exacerbating the initial problem. Talking about our feelings may stereotypically be a “woman thing”, but never underestimate the power of good, honest, and effective two-way communication in a business setting.

A recent study released earlier this month suggests that 85% of high-stakes business plans and initiatives fail when employees, as well as employers, fail to discuss issues together; when communication fails to take place.

According to the study—Silence Fails—business functions, projects, and even businesses as a whole fail when “team leaders and members don’t admit there are problems [...] and wait for someone else to speak up about it.” It continues further, stating that problems can often be avoided, or at least prevented from escalating, if companies recognized the consequences of not communicating. “Team members perpetuate dysfunction when they are unwilling or unable to support a project and team leaders are reluctant to discuss their failures with them candidly.” Furthermore, the study reports that more than 93% of corporate executives admit to working with an employee that “gets away with anything” because there lacks a willingness to engage in crucial conversations for fear of confrontation.

Joseph Greeny, co-author of the New York Times best-seller Crucial Confrontations suggests that because most people do not know how to approach certain issues, fueled by debilitating desire to avoid potentially confrontational situations, the corporate leaders ought to re-evaluate themselves, both from a professional and personal standpoint, and learn that confrontation is not synonymous with contention. Greeny suggests that, as with any communication, to approach a problem within the workplace is to demonstrate respect, care, concern, courtesy, and professionalism. People are far more likely to listen to constructive criticism from someone they respect, and who feels reciprocates respect, than listen to a list of complaints or demands. He says that communicating respect within the first 30 seconds of a conversation establishes trusts and allows both parties to feel safe. Employers ought to approach a problem with an employee, as if they were attempting to resolve and issue with a friend. In doing this, the other key components to effective communication and problem-solving will fall into place naturally, which include: inviting dialogue, leading with facts, listening (as well as talking), and accountability.

In sum, silence is never a solution, rather it is a cop out; an outright refusal to solve problems. Silence indicates additional underlying problems which can only perpetuate a vicious cycle than leads to inevitable failure. So, remember that good business owners not only posses business degrees, coupled with the fuel and fervor of entrepreneurship, but know, appreciate, and value the importance of communicating effectively. No one goes into a business with the expectation of failure, so open your mouth and communicate. After all, silence fails. Silence kills.

About the Author:

Author Bio: Danielle White is a client account specialist for 10x Marketing and VitalSmarts, the leading innovator of corporate training and organizational performance. VitalSmarts has been developing revolutionary training tools to assist corporate leaders with devising innovative, effective business strategies for over 25 years. To learn about the Silence Fails study, check out VitalSmarts today.

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