Open and positive communication is a necessary component of success in business. Of all the successful CEOs with whom I have worked, not one has said that their success was the result of operating in vacuum. Each has credited the teams they have built, developed, and led by nurturing professional relationships and fostering two-way communication.
Here are 3 basic strategies, which, when put into daily practice, will change the culture in any organization to one of positive communication.
Ask Questions and Listen To the Answers
Even when only assumptive, too often managers tell their staff what happened, what caused it to happen, how they should feel about it, what they should learn from it, and what they should do about it. This shuts down communication. It is much more powerful when we ask what happened, what the employee thinks caused it, how they feel about it, what they learned from it, and how they think they might fix it. Asking “what”, “why” and “how” questions instead of assuming you already know the answer fosters open communication and development. Managers who already know it all don’t grow, and neither do their employees. Learn to ask questions and to really listen to the answers. And, keep in mind that HOW we listen can either encourage or discourage further communication and interaction.
Ask; Don’t Tell
Employees often tell me that they wish their managers would give them autonomy to do their jobs their own way. Unless you’re running an assembly line, presumably, it’s the outcome, not the process, which really matters. People create productivity in different ways and have developed their own work habits that really work for them. Trusting your employees to get the job done, and to come to you when they need to, goes a long way in establishing open communication. Employees should not be afraid to try something new or even to make a mistake, as long as they are achieving the desired outcome. There’s a big difference between “Finish this project.” and “What is your plan for getting this project completed?” Allowing for creativity in the process and providing support and guidance when asked is a sign of a communicative and collaborative leader.
Too many managers don’t say what they mean, mean what they say, or follow through consistently, leaving their employees (and likely their customers) feeling discouraged. Set and communicate reasonable expectations, decide what you will do, and then do it. (Point of Information: Decide what YOU will do, not what you will make your staff do.) This is a natural part of setting your team up for success. Following through means taking action and keeping your word. It is a perfect way to avoid power struggles and other barriers to positive communication. An example might be letting your team know that you will begin your training session at exactly 10:00, instead of asking them to be on time. By the way, in this example, you really need to start your session at 10:00, even if only two of ten people have arrived. That’s the “follow-through” part.
These highly effective leadership tools will help you create and retain a successful organization based on trust, cooperation and collaboration.
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