How to Create Two-Way Communication in Your Organization
Guest Blogger - Vince Mirabelli - Process Innovator | Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt | PMP | CBAP | CCXP
In a LinkedIn post from July of 2016, Don't Sweat the Soft Skills, I wrote that the top two traits I look for in a project manager are the ability to coach, and the ability to communicate.
This skill is so vital to personal, team and organizational success, yet it can be the most misunderstood and difficult of any professional skill.
Why is communication so hard? Interpersonal communication flows two-ways, between the sender and the recipient. When communication involves a team, or an entire organization for that matter, the number of flows increases, as does the complexity of managing communication. The opportunity for two-way communication, on the other hand, decreases.
How can you bridge the communication gap between individuals, teams and management levels within an organization? I’ll give you some ideas.
Start with Individuals
Integrating employees into your organization and culture is one of the most important pieces to employee success, and can foster long term organizational success.
Share with employees from day one about the mission, values and strategic goals of the organization. If these core aspects of your organization are imparted and encouraged, employees will become more engaged and will more likely become ambassadors for you.
Encourage new employees to reach out to others in the organization for information and assistance. Create an open door policy to create an environment of immediate inclusion.
Spread the News
Share with established employees that they should encourage new employees, colleagues, and staff to reach out to others, share their ideas as well as voice concerns. If seasoned individuals are given permission to approach new employees, this will encourage formal as well as informal exchanges that will enhance communication at a grass roots level.
Create Community Within and Across Teams
The first definition of community according to Webster is, “a unified body of individuals”.
An organization of employees unified under the mission, values and strategic goals of the organization creates a culture where everyone is rowing in the same direction.
Teams are smaller communities within the organization. Keep these communities and the individuals in those communities linked.
How? Here are some ideas:
- Create cross functional roles across teams that share positions with similar duties. This could be as simple as cross training employees as a back-up for teams that have similar administrative functions.
- Include people from across teams on projects and process improvement efforts. Bringing teams together on projects creates buy in and will help ensure successful implementation and long term adoption.
- Create informal as well as formal opportunities for employees from different teams to interact. Celebrating individual as well as organizational milestones will bring employees together, allow for more open communications and help in developing relationships between individuals and teams.
Avoid allowing your teams to become gated communities. Open the gates and encourage others to walk in and smell the flowers.
Plant Seeds - Develop Your Organization from Within
Wouldn’t it be great to look around your organization in ten years and see a management team around you that grew through the ranks?
Promote leadership development and mentoring, and you will see this become a reality. Engage employees from the start and challenge them to improve not only themselves, but share improvement ideas with their teams and the larger organization.
Show employees there is not only opportunity for personal and professional leadership growth, there is encouragement to lead.
Look for ways to show your investment, such as:
- Encourage mentorship and coaching
- Ask for volunteer mentors and coaches at every level of leadership
- Encourage attendance at professional and leadership conferences
- Reward active mentorship as well as contribution to process improvement
Grow your leadership from the moment people become a part of your organization. This sharing will help communication up and down the organization, and solidify two-way communication in the years to come.
Lead, Lead, Lead
Remember, the top two skills for leaders is coaching and communication. As a leader, it is your responsibility to take the initiative and show others in your organization your commitment to communication.
You should strive every day to encourage community
· Be an outspoken advocate of two-way communication
· Be a mentor and coach to others
· Encourage sharing of ideas for improvement
· Encourage continuing education and training
· Have an open door policy for your employees
Be the change you want to see.
Technology to Enhance Communication and Collaboration
In the age of the developing remote workforce, I would be remiss if I did not include ideas for remote workers who may not have the opportunity to have scheduled time in the office. Online tools are important, but especially to those who do not have a chance for direct engagement through the approaches I have mentioned.
Think about how internal electronic resources or cloud based collaborative tools are used in your organization and provide guidelines and encouragement to everyone to utilize the tools to their advantage.
Provide a central resource website as a hub for communications and tools. These might include:
- Statements and example of company mission, values and strategic goals
- Guides and resources for usage of collaborative tools, such as document sharing, online meetings, and instant messaging
- Performance KPI
- Training resources
- Calendars of important dates and deadlines
Always allow channels for communication to flow freely across teams, whether this is in the form of direct team interaction or through online collaborative tools.
Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
I want to leave you with a reference to a study on forming habits.
Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London performed a study to figure out exactly how long it actually takes to form a habit. Her study results published in the European Journal of Social Psychology stated that it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit.
Of course I do not want to imply organizational change can happen in 18 days, but I highlight this study of individuals to show there is no magic with respect to change.
The key to success? Repetition.
Consistently encourage communication and create the open channels for it to happen. Two-way communication will happen.
Communicate with me how your organization is doing. I’d love to hear from you.
Vincent Mirabelli CBAP, CCXP, MBB, PMP is a frequent speaker and workshop facilitator, host of the podcast, “In Process”, and co-host of “The Vince and Mike Coffee Experience” podcast. He is an occasional writer on LinkedIn, Medium, and his own blog on the topics of Process Improvement and Innovation, Lean Six Sigma, Project Management, and Business Analysis.