Many founders and team leaders would agree that clear communication, combined with genuine transparency, is critical to inspiring employees and, ultimately, growing as a company.
Transparency, on the other hand, is important for more than just inspiration in a truly collaborative environment comprised of powerful, capable hires. It is critical for providing your employees with the tools they need to do their jobs effectively. You will stifle your employees if you do not share data, plans, or concerns with them. Instead, you must empower your employees to make the best decisions possible in their areas of responsibility.
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Employees, on the other hand, must be transparent about where they are in terms of progress, what resources they need to get their job done, and the challenges they are facing or anticipate facing in completing new projects. When this occurs, everyone in your organization has a chance to thrive.
However, cultivating and sustaining a culture of two-way communication and trust is difficult, and it becomes more difficult as the organization grows. As a company leader, you must constantly prioritize and reinforce these values.
If this is something you're struggling with right now, Honey, here are some steps we took to improve it at our company that you might find useful:
1. Hire Someone Who Is Exclusively Responsible for Internal Communication
To truly prioritize strong internal communication, you must invest in it.
At least, that's what we did at Honey. We hired someone to set the cadence of internal discourse, fine-tune leadership messaging to ensure we're communicating things correctly, and facilitate back-and-forth between teams. We realized, especially as we approached the 100-employee mark, that this was something we simply weren't equipped to do on our own––especially not while also performing the duties of COO, CEO, CTO, and so on.
The truth is that communication must be treated as a separate department or vertical. That's because it's just as important to your company's success as your product, marketing, or sales.
If people on your team don't understand the reasoning behind certain decisions or company direction, or if they don't have the information they need to do their job––if you or your teammates ever arrive at meetings surprised by what's being discussed––you won't be as efficient as you could be.
Do not allow this to happen. Approach communication with deliberate and deliberate orchestration.
2. Be Sincere and Honest with Your Employees
Of course, you can't simply outsource communication and transparency and hope for the best. As a company leader, you must do your part.
That includes being truthful and sincere with your people in your messaging and conversations with them.
Communication, as we all know, is based on trust. Your employees will only be completely honest with you about their needs and challenges if you are completely honest with them. They will only be concerned about your company and the integrity of your communication philosophy if you appear to be concerned.
This means that you should share information and updates across departments. Share executive-level updates with your engineers. Inform your team whenever you have a potentially exciting conversation with an investor or advisor. Engage with them if it is appropriate.
Communication is essentially a two-way street.
However, it is also true that it is not always possible to be completely transparent with employees. If you're in the middle of an acquisition, for example, you might not be able to.
Employees, on the other hand, will give you the benefit of the doubt if you are sincere with them––if they know that honesty is a core value of the company.
3. Create the Correct Flow During All-Company Meetings
To get a little more technical, how you relay information and conduct conversation is critical. But you can't simply state that communication is essential. You must also plan on communicating effectively.
The most likely scenario is that you will do so during meetings.
It is therefore critical that you hold and conduct meetings correctly. Things like whether everyone in the room is at ease, whether your delivery is engaging, and meeting lengths––we find that people can only focus for 90 minutes at a time––all matter.
In fact, as a leader, your attention to detail will determine how effective you are at facilitating internal communication. Even small changes, such as requiring presenters to use specific templates and formats in their presentation slides, made a big difference in our company.
You can say all you want that communication is important, but it won't matter unless you're communicating correctly.
4. Allow for Question and Answer Periods with Your Employees
Aside from all-hands meetings, you should also set aside time for question-and-answer sessions.
These could be one-on-one meetings (if you have a smaller team) or forum-style meetups where you as a leader have no agenda other than to field and answer questions from your team.
If you haven't already, give it a shot. You'll be surprised at how much your employees want to use their voice––how many concerns or questions they have.
5. Conduct 360-Degree Reviews
Finally, in order to truly encourage and sustain a culture of transparency, you must subject yourself to the same reflection and appraisal expectations as your employees.
This entails conducting 360-degree evaluations.
Most people dislike receiving negative feedback. That is true for executives just as much as it is for managers and engineers.
We become defensive and withdraw because we believe we are being attacked. However, structuring feedback sessions as two-way conversations ensure that the person on the other side of the table understands that the purpose of providing feedback is to help the entire company improve and become more effective.
It also demonstrates to your employees that you truly value transparency and equality in your culture.
At the end of the day, improving your internal communication processes is a never-ending project that you can always work on. Prioritizing communication and transparency––and investing in it to demonstrate that it is important to you––remains critical for inspiring your employees, assisting them in improving, and increasing the overall effectiveness of your company.
It promotes the development and asks everyone to “level up” in order to be the best teammate they can be. It is, in other words, a critical component of your overall strategy. Don't ignore it.
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