The key to the success of any team is trust.
You need trust in your team when delegating, to know that you are placing responsibility into the right hands. You need to trust those leading you, to know that they have the best interests for you, your colleagues and the business. Open communication is the gateway to fostering this culture of trust. It also opens the door to mutual respect, creativity, more efficient problem solving, increased productivity and enhanced wellness for you and your team at work. But what is ‘Open Communication’ and how can you go about implementing the culture in your workplace?
So, to answer the first question, what is it? Well, ‘Open Communication’ in the workplace is all about flow of information and creating a focussed and cohesive vision across your whole operation. All too often, especially when expanding rapidly, employees in organisations come to the realisation that they have no idea what is going on in other departments from day-to-day. This can lead to factions of a business focussing in slightly different directions, making the ethos and functionality of the business cloudy and sluggish. It can also lead to small teams, or even individuals, becoming extremely stressed. The disconnect from the rest of the business can make it feel like issues cannot be shared or discussed. When we communicate openly in business we make sure important information flows through the appropriate channels and that problems can be solved together through conversation and creativity.
How to foster this culture then? Here are a few ways to start creating an atmosphere of ‘Open Communication’.
1. Open Door Policy
We are all familiar with this phrase, but what does it actually mean to say, ‘my door is always open’? What is should mean is that any employee should be able to come to a colleague with information, problems, ideas, complaints or successes and to be engaged with and listened to. Very often the door is open, but the person behind that door is not. If you are going to operate this policy take the time to really listen and respond clearly and productively to the requests brought through your door.
2. Encourage Debate
So-called ‘Yes Men’ have their place in the workplace. However, just as important are ‘No Men’. Disagreement and debate is key to a flourishing business. Many employees may feel uncomfortable challenging ideas in the workplace, you must discourage this tentativeness. Debate in business is good for so many reasons, it harnesses the collective experience of your team, galvanises your colleagues and sharpens the focus and goals of your organisation. It also gives your colleagues an opportunity to be part of the solution, part of the company’s vision. They are much more likely to get behind ideas that they believe and have had a hand in. The wellbeing of your workforce thrives on this kind of community and teamwork.
3. Respond in Good Time
You may be very busy, but be mindful of the fact that others are also busy and that you are all working towards the same goal. If you receive an e-mail, memo or voicemail, do your best to respond to this as soon as you can; within 3-4 hours is reasonable. Apart from being common courtesy, it is important for the efficiency of the business; the person waiting for your reply can move on to the next task knowing the issue is being dealt with. When you reply, you may not even have the answer yet, but acknowledging the communication and assuring the sender that it is on your list helps them to move through their workload and signals a respect for their query and their time.
4. Kindness and Respect
It may sound obvious to say that you should treat others with kindness and respect, but we know it doesn’t always happen in the workplace. If you have a reputation for flipping out at people when things go wrong, then the likelihood is that your colleagues will start to withhold information from you. If a problem arises, take a deep breath, centre yourself and deal with it calmly and professionally.
5. Community and Equality
Of course, there is hierarchy in any business, but that doesn’t mean there has to be separation. ‘Open Communication’ is about fostering a culture of togetherness, working for a goal as a collective. Sure, you might have the final word on any given situation, but that doesn’t mean the contributions coming from the rest of your workforce are less important. Celebrate success together, go on a work outing, open your office layout, do group lunches; be creative, but whatever it is, do it together.
These things are a fantastic start when looking to grow a community that communicates effectively and openly. Try them out and see what happens!
By Chris Thomson
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