The goal is to provide inspiring information that moves people to action.
Developing a Culture of Communication
When people work together, communication is essential to their collaboration and it is a foundational and core skill we need to develop if we are to have success in our endeavors. Strengthening communication skills takes practice and commitment and can deliver a high return on the effort put forth. I will attest that communication is a skill that can be learned and it is not a skill that just a few people possess.
A culture of communication takes intentional effort at all levels in an organization and can be seen when people contribute their ideas, solutions and thoughts openly and freely. If leaders are intentional about fostering an environment where communication is counted upon, promoted, clear, honest and relevant they can create an atmosphere that is active, energetic, lively and functional (a place where people feel part of something and enjoy being).
Leaders can leverage communication throughout their organizations by establishing processes and systems, being committed to keeping people informed in a timely manner and establishing an environment where ideas and opinions, even when they diverge, are freely shared.
Create Communication Processes and Systems
In small organizations, communication often seems easier to achieve, however, effort must still be put forth to establish an environment where communication is effective. It’s probably not something that should be left to chance and it is just as important to discuss communication in a start-up and a new product development project as it is in a large organization where it becomes significantly more complex. Consider these approaches to help an organization strengthen its communication systems more broadly:
- Your communication strategy should be aligned to your organization’s strategy and structure. For example, in a matrixed organization where cross-functional collaboration is an important trait, information that moves smoothly and quickly to decision makers helps the organization operate more efficiently and effectively.
- Does your business plan take into consideration strategies for effective communication? A business plan that explicitly defines the type of information sharing and feedback that is needed to help achieve goals makes the plan to achieve goals more complete and credible. Being detailed about how people will be kept informed can help you strengthen your plan,
- Find out if efforts to improve and strengthen communication systems are viewed as more work and an order from above. Involve people throughout the organization in developing and evolving communication systems so that they sustain as the environment changes. Doing this enables others to participate and this is a way to encourage people to be part of shaping culture and builds trust.
Foster an Environment Where Communication is Relied Upon
In a successful organization, ideas, points of view and opinions are openly exchanged. Try to recall situations where problems have gotten worse and possibly tragedy occurred because people feared delivering the truth or bad news, which was counter to the thoughts of those in charge and were not offered because they differed from established norms. Our fast-moving world has created an environment for many organizations that is causing them to constantly reassess, modify and reorganize so they can forge ahead and capitalize on opportunities. An organization’s ability to freely exchange information and ideas is essential to making this possible. Here are a few suggestions to foster this kind of environment:
- Encourage people’s hearts by asking them to share their ideas and suggestions. When this happens, listen to what they have to say and offer sincere thanks for providing their thoughts. Whenever possible, incorporate these ideas and suggestions and provide recognition when ideas and suggestions are successfully implemented.
- When people make recommendations, ask them about other options they considered and whom they spoke with to obtain multiple perspectives on the subject. Doing this will reinforce the desire for people to share information and exchange ideas.
- If someone has a tendency to cut-off or rain on others’ ideas, point out the behavior and discuss strategies that can help them to be more open to people’s ideas.
Keep People Informed
Providing people with information, one of the seven factors of performance, needed to perform their duties enables them to be more efficient and effective at carrying out their tasks. Here are a few ways to strengthen information sharing:
- Provide people with the information they need to know in order to perform in their role. For new colleagues, this may involve organizational policies, procedures, the industry that the organization is a part of and where the organization fits into the marketplace. Having this information facilitates knowledge transfer and understanding when people need to learn the specifics of their role. This helps people to develop a big-picture mindset and understand their role in a broader organizational context. Another example is when delegating a task to ensure the person understands the outcome they are expected to achieve and to encourage them to ask for what they need to know in order to meet those expectations.
- Model the way for information sharing and point out examples where not sharing information has led to inefficiency and duplication of effort.
- In an organization where communication is strengthened, people know how to get in touch with each other and this simple operating mechanism enables home office staff to communicate with field-based colleagues, telecommuters, contractors and suppliers.
- Consider establishing a knowledge management task-force so that the organization’s information and knowledge can be systematically stored and easily accessed by those who will need it on an ongoing basis. Doing this can make a very positive contribution to the conditions that exist in an organization and the time spent to complete this task is well worth the effort.
Organizations that are intentional about establishing communication processes and systems, who foster an environment where communication is relied upon and where people are kept informed create the right conditions for collaboration, problem-solving, decision-making and world-class execution. By enabling people to develop these three areas of communication, leaders can build trust and strengthen their organizations’ capabilities, teamwork and results.