The Do’s and Don’ts

There are a few communication patterns, often occurring on a daily basis, which impact the “feeling” of the organization. In these interactions, what you say and how you say it makes all the difference:

  • It’s We, Not I. It’s Ours, Not Mine. This is your baby. It is your vision. It is your passion. You gave birth to it. You live it and breathe it. You are the only one that burned through your life savings. There is no doubt about your commitment and dedication. Now what about everyone else that you want to be dedicated to the cause? Why will they be committed? Why will they be committed when they are being paid below-market compensation, or only equity, while working crazy hours? When you use words like “my” or “I,” you may not realize the message this sends or the impact it has on people who have invested time and energy in the business and made sacrifices for its success. For employees of an entrepreneurial venture, when you use these words, the message reads: “Even though you continue to commit your blood, sweat and tears to the company, it is mine not yours.” When you are communicating with constituents, always say things like, when “we” started the business and “our” plan, “our” team. Speak of resources as a “team” even when you are doing 100 percent of the work. This may seem like a minor point but it will get noticed by everyone you interact with—including your team and investors.

“We WILL be there with you every step of the way.” 

  • Instill Confidence. Despite the challenges of your organization, always communicate with confidence. How often do you walk out of a meeting and say to yourself, “If they only knew how screwed up we are”? It is fine to have those conversations with yourself, but not out loud. Even though your balloon is full, resist the temptation to communicate in any way that undermines the confidence of your team, customers or investors. Confidence does not mean that you are not candid, that you don’t outline challenges or that you create unrealistic expectations. Confidence is about how you deliver the message.
  • Avoid Cockiness. To accomplish many of these lofty goals the job requires, as noted above, you need confidence. When that confidence shifts to cockiness, you run a great risk. There are times people do business with you because of your business value. There are other times they do business with you because they like you. When you demonstrate cockiness, you make customers and employees think to themselves, “Do I want to do work with this person?”

The way you say things has a huge impact on your team and company. Pay attention.

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