One of my top 10 scaling tips for CEOs as they take a business from startup to scaleup keys in on communication patterns. As your company grows from 0-25 employees to a place where you no longer work hands-on with most of the team, which is really >25 but gets more and more true at every step beyond that, you need to rethink how you handle employee conversations in many ways. My tip sounds confusing, but let me break it down.
Spend less time talking. The less you know about the day to day details of everyone’s job and experience, the more time you need to spend learning and keeping in touch with those details from others. The only way to do that is by asking questions, listening to responses and watching body language, and then asking follow-up questions. As I mentioned here in Inquiry vs. Advocacy, you know what you have to say…what you don’t know is what the other person has to say! The more you listen and learn as your company scales, the more effective you can be at steering the ship.
And yet…Spend more time talking. This isn’t as contradictory as it sounds. What I mean by this is that the further away you are from the front lines and the smaller the percentage of the team who really know you and have casual interactions with you, the more time you need to spend repeating key messages – things like what the goal is, critical metrics and progress, how each team and person’s work rolls up to the big picture. I always appreciate the “rule of three” around things like this, which is simply that people need to hear the same message three times before they start to internalize it. What that means for you is that just as soon as you get tired of saying the same thing over and over in various groups internally…it’s finally starting to hit home, and you need to keep doing more of the same.
How and when you communicate with the company may also change – the mix and frequency of 1:1 meetings, small group meeting, large group meetings, and email/written communications will need to evolve. But that evolution of the “what” is secondary to the above principles of the “how.”