Building Collaboration with Open and Honest Communication

Effective communication is the lifeblood of an organization, so it is critical for leaders to create a safe and trusting environment where people can share information freely. In our new book, Collaboration Begins with You: Be a Silo Buster, my coauthors Jane Ripley and Eunice Parisi-Carew and I offer tips for listening, giving feedback, and encouraging people to seek information and ask questions.

We use the UNITE acronym to introduce the five key elements needed to build a collaborative culture: Utilize differences; Nurture safety and trust; Involve others in crafting a clear purpose, values, and goals; Talk openly; and Empower yourself and others. In this post, let’s look at the importance of Talking openly.

As a leader, you probably already support your staff by working with them to create clear goals, supporting them, and removing roadblocks that hinder their ability to get things done. I hope you also praise them for their progress toward goals and redirect them when they get off course. But other components of communication need attention, too. Collaborative leaders need to develop their listening skills to truly understand what their direct reports are saying and to determine whether underlying issues exist. I suggest leaders also have an open door policy to encourage spontaneous interaction where people can speak candidly and ask questions. In turn, leaders must share all relevant information, give constructive feedback, and be open to receiving feedback from others. This kind of clear, honest communication will build the respectful and trusting environment necessary for a collaborative culture.

Think about how you interact with colleagues and your team. Now ask yourself these questions.

  1. Do others consider me a good listener?
  2. Do I share information about myself with my teammates?
  3. Do I seek information and ask questions?
  4. Do I give constructive feedback—and am I open to receiving feedback?
  5. Do I encourage people to network with others?

If you answered yes to these questions, you have probably created a trusting environment where people can talk openly. But pay attention if you answered no to one or more questions—because that’s where you need to start improving your skills on your way to become a collaborative leader.

Collaboration Begins with You Book coverTo learn more about Collaboration Begins With You: Be a Silo Buster, visit the book homepage where you can download the first chapter.

2 thoughts on “Building Collaboration with Open and Honest Communication

  1. I agree that open communication is key to leading in a collaborative environment. Where I am steered off course is the simplistic nature in which this is presented. In a work environment it is not always just a matter of you as a leader showing you are open to communication and building the situations where that can occur. What about the organization impact on how leaders and followers approach and treat each other? Isn’t it important to make sure the organization as a whole is following a vision of being open and honest with all employees? If you are the only leader following the key components to be open to employees, how is that going to be effective if the company itself doesn’t support this mandate? How will employees react when they are able to communicate openly with you as a leader but when they meet with the CEO there is a completely different approach to management/leadership?

  2. Effective communication is an indispensable factor in building collaboration in the workplace. Communication, to be effective, need to be honest and open among the parties involved. Collaborative leaders need to create an atmosphere of trust and dependability for the followers to be open in voicing important issues relevant to the success of the team’s goals. Collaborative leaders must ensure that the team’s goals are communicated clearly and understood by everyone involved, and that top management continuous support is visible and practical. It is important to have an effective socio-technical systems in place that bring all collaboration processes together, namely: sharing information; having a discussion; managing project, and providing and receiving updates and/or feedback, among all parties involved.

    Understanding team dynamics and communications are essential in building a successful and high-performing collaborative team. Team members need to be trained in these areas to develop skills in team process, leadership, decision-making, problem-solving, and conflict resolution, which lead to goal success. There are three communication techniques that are crucial in effectively handling conflict. The first technique is observation and the ability to objectively see what is happening in a relationship. The second communication technique is listening or the ability to “hear and understand” what is being said and not said. The final communication technique is questioning or the ability to get information or feedback from another (Beyerlein, McGee, et al, 2003).

    Transformational leadership encourages open communication as this leadership process engages a person with others and creates a connection that raises the level of motivation and morality in both the leader and the follower. This type of leadership is attentive to the needs of and motives of followers and tries to reach their fullest potential (Northouse, 2016). This type of leadership also leads with empathy and upholds the principles of ethical leadership, hence, it’s the leadership approach that the twenty-first century organizations will benefit greatly.

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