Communication with employees has always been a critical part of running a business, but it’s even more important in stressful times. If your business is facing a crisis, you need to maintain constant, quality communications with your team. If you fail to communicate effectively, problems are almost guaranteed to arise.

At its core, communication is simply a give and take of information, which doesn't seem difficult, but there is more to it than that. How you give and receive this information can make all the difference in the world. Here are some hints to help you become a better communicator:

1. Be an Active Listener

Perhaps the top mistake made by business leaders is failing to listen to what their employees have to say. Don't be the kind of boss who simply gives orders without listening for feedback. Communication is a two-way street, and listening to what your employees have to say could spark big ideas, or at the very least provide important knowledge that can help inform further proceedings. Don’t just listen to the content of a message – try to interpret the feelings that may be behind it. Is the person anxious? fearful? angry? If you’re not sure, dig a little deeper and ask questions. It may take a little time, but it will be worth it if it heads off problems further down the road.

2. Be Open to Feedback and Ideas

Part of listening is being receptive. This goes for feedback on assignments or jobs in general, as well as ideas that employees may have. Be open to fresh perspectives that may provide some insight that you hadn't considered. This is especially important now that businesses may be facing challenges they’ve never encountered before, making it vital to be nimble and innovative. You've likely made it a point to hire people with smart minds. They're already on the payroll, so take advantage of this valuable asset.

3. Think Before Responding

Even if you don't like what you're hearing, it's important to pause and think before responding. If you get bad news, try not to overreact immediately, but give yourself time to contemplate the situation from different angles and view it from other people's eyes. If the communication isn't happening in real time – via email, for example – don't respond right away. Give your brain some time to linger on the issue.

4. Give the Recipient a Clear Call to Action

If you're communicating your expectations to staff, make sure to give the recipient(s) of your message a clear call to action. They should be able to read your communication and understand exactly what you are expecting of them. Never assume that people will act in the way you'd like them to, unless you make it absolutely clear what you want them to do.

5. Make Sure All Relevant Parties Are in the Know

Unless everyone is present at the same meeting, it's important to make sure that all people involved with a given project or task know what the project or task is and what their role involves. This is often easily solved by simply copying people on relevant emails or sending a group message about what happened at a meeting.

6. Respond to Communications in a Timely Fashion

While it is true that you should give yourself time to think before responding to important communications, it's equally important not to give yourself too much time. Keep in mind that people are waiting for your response, and you may be holding up important progress by taking too long to answer questions or provide your input. Some projects or tasks may come to a screeching halt because employees are afraid to move forward without approval or input. Another risk of taking too long to respond is forgetting to do so at all.

7. Proofread All Your Messages

If you are communicating by the written word, whether it be email, letter, instant message, or text, take a moment to read back over it and make sure it's clearly written and free of typos. For external communications, it’s generally a good idea to have them reviewed by a second set of eyes. The last thing you need is someone getting the wrong idea because you didn’t proof it or because autocorrect took some unwelcome liberties.

Being an effective leader means being an effective communicator. If the people with whom you work can't get a clear read on your needs, can't get through to you about important issues, or feel that their concerns aren’t being heard, productivity will suffer, and so will your bottom line.