Open interaction with your team is a vital ingredient in a successful, efficient workplace. If your people can’t speak honestly with you, you miss out on their perspective. Further, you create a divide between leaders and employees that unnecessarily limits everyone. Use the best methods of encouraging open dialogue to create a united and productive team.
Define an Open Door Policy
Even if you’ve got one and your team is well aware, have you made it clear exactly what people can expect when they come through your door? Simply stating you have an open door policy without defining it, may mean no one uses it at all. Worse, they may come to you with things that waste your time. Define whose door is open, when and for what types of conversations.
Consider an anonymous method of contact to include in your policy, so that team members won’t hold back out of fear of retribution or job security. Make sure that your whole team, however small or large, has the details of your policy. Consider putting your open door policy in writing, so it’s both clear cut and easy to disseminate.
Differentiate Between Dialogue and Discussion
When your team needs to make a decision, you should have a discussion. People can weigh options, argue their points, and so on. However, when you want to foster an open dialogue among your team, you can use a few tools to keep it from veering into discussion territory. Acknowledge what each person has to offer. This will help everyone focus on each member of the team and value what is being said.
Connect related or similar input put forth by multiple team members. If you can demonstrate the connection with examples, even better. This helps pull ideas together and give momentum to the dialogue. Ask questions to help clarify ideas, not only for yourself, but the whole team. Encourage others to do the same. While you shouldn’t be the main speaker in these situations, you can help steer dialogue to make it more productive and cooperative.
Be Part of the Team
Similar to keeping your door open, behaving as part of the team, instead of an authority figure will help foster an environment where open communication is the norm. Your team will be less likely to feel unsure of approaching you with pertinent concerns or ideas if you approach projects as a team member. This means being more hands on. It may require you to adjust your management style a bit. Also, be conscious of maintaining some boundaries. Building team cohesion is worth the effort you’ll put into keeping a balance.
Compliment and Critique Effectively
To foster communication, your team needs your input as well. Praising employees who share great ideas or approach issues with a positive attitude will encourage them to continue doing so. Be sincere, prompt, and if it’s appropriate, praise your people in public.
Though it may seem counter-intuitive that critiquing employees would improve communication, it does. You must deliver it in a way that benefits you and the team member, without being condescending or demeaning. Don’t criticize when you’re emotional. Anger negates any benefits. Cool off, then take the team member aside to talk privately. Avoid making it personal by focusing on the action that needs changing. Include solutions or suggestions when you critique someone.
Fostering communication within your team costs you nothing and is rewarding for everyone. Work to provide a respectful, cooperative environment. Your people will see you as an ally and feel confident in giving their best to the team.