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MICHAEL DEVENNEY: East Coast business leaders: Be frank, open and hear from all to innovate effectively

Is it worth it to become an entrepreneur?
Is it worth it to become an entrepreneur? - RF Stock

How ready are East Coast businesses to face the future?

We asked dozens of owners, entrepreneurs and leaders over four weeks in August and September, and will be asking more in the weeks to come.

Here are some key takeaways.

Well, we are slow in agility, lagging in vitality and seem to be trying to build resiliency through complacency. We can and need to do better.

Leaders had the greatest confidence in the productivity of their people. This is excellent. There is no question leaders have done right for employees during the pandemic by protecting them. Yet, employees are saying they are not only open to change, they want it. Now is the time to push ahead.

By supporting strong relationships between employees working virtually and giving greater autonomy and authority to own how they work, leaders opened the doors for people to ask questions and work together openly and honestly. These factors created connection, control and, most importantly, the sense of composure to manage their emotions and responses to the pace of change around them.

Ross Argante and Greg White, owners of Integrated Staffing, an innovative Atlantic Canadian company providing contract and temporary staffing solutions, see relationships as the foundation of their business: “Communication became critically important as we adapted to the changing economic climate presented by the pandemic. In a time of vulnerability, we did what we do best: communicate openly and honestly with our clients, our candidates, and our team. We increased the frequency of our team huddles in a virtual environment and continued to share goals, progress, and challenges as a team. No one has a roadmap to navigate this pandemic, but strong communication allows us to take steps forward together.”

Argante and White also engaged their teams in conversations about innovation and changing how things were done.

We found caution was greatest around revenue generation; leaders only had a confidence level of 67 per cent in the readiness of their businesses for the future. Leaders showed responsiveness to supporting employees in new working arrangements yet have not been as agile generating revenue. One critical concern was the perceived inability to form partnerships, collaborating with other organizations and companies to create new business opportunities. Challenges to work with and invest in other businesses held leaders back, denying them one of the proven paths to improving results in tough times.

Those entrepreneurs who excelled at partnering saw a 24 per cent increase in revenue generation readiness, yet very few said they took the partnership path.

The key issue uncovered in our survey of business leaders was the impact of communication. Without a clear and consistent message, confidence in leadership dropped by 23 per cent in all areas. People are looking for purpose, what they are doing and why it matters, communicated regularly. Employees and teams want to know what is important, what the priorities are, and hear it more often. Without clarity of message, everyone drifts to what is in front of them, and doubt grows.

One action leaders can take to position their company for success is to focus on a clear and consistent message. People want to hear from leaders more and about the purpose of the business, to bring everyone together. And not just one way; employees want a conversation. And this is where more of a leader’s time should be placed.

Rob Lane, CEO, and Mike Reeves, president, of Mobia Technology Solutions know communications supports growth. Mobia offers fully integrated solutions for digital transformation from culture to technology, infrastructure to security, and has continued to grow over the last six months through their authentic investment in communication.

“Communication isn’t one direction; in a healthy environment it is multidirectional. Above maintaining a solid cadence of communication . . . the value in being an authentic leader, meaning honesty — sometimes brutal — and transparency (is) more important now than ever before. People don’t want to be fed false information and partial truths to make them feel better,” they said.


In the coming weeks, WorkInsights will be surveying leaders again about positioning businesses to outperform, creating a stronger entrepreneurial community in Atlantic Canada. Your opinion matters and will make a difference to many business owners, who often feel they are on their own, so share your thoughts at In return, you will receive a customized report for your business.

“We are not saying we have perfected this, but we are working hard to create a culture that encourages people to share how they feel free of judgment. What am I worried about? What am I excited about? What inspires me? What am I doing for my company, my customers, my business partners that I am proud of? These are the roots of good communication and authentic leadership.”

The message from our first survey of business leaders is clear: invest time in communicating a message of purpose and support people to be connected to each other, to take ownership of their work, and to encourage two-way conversations. Do not just talk to the same people and hear the same voices; be open to hearing new perspectives and finding routes to innovation. Leaders need to communicate to earn the committed contribution of teams.

There is also one action that produced outsized returns to companies. We will share that in an article next week.

Michael DeVenney, CFA, ICD.D, is president of WorkInsights, a company dedicated to analytics to develop insights enabling productive and profitable working environments, and can be reached at [email protected]


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