18 August 2015

How leaders foster an open workplace

Workplace engagement prospers when open communication and relationships are strong. Forrest Bell, an outsourced sales and marketing firm based in the UK, highlights that being open in the workplace means having the capacity to talk freely, (yet respectfully and constructively) about needs, opinions and concerns as well as being able to listen receptively to (rather than just hear) new ideas, questions and feedback.

The firm believes that having a culture of openness is hugely beneficial in the workplace because it helps to build trust and advance initiatives, activity and projects that involve more than just one person. It also ensures transparency and simplifies how things are done in an ever-changing business environment.

Forrest Bell has listed key techniques that a good leader can use to encourage openness within their team:

Don't assume people hear what you say
Forrest Bell believe that it's totally acceptable to ensure the other person got your message clearly by asking something like "So what do you think of that idea…" or "Any initial thoughts on how we proceed with this…"

In return, don't assume you hear what the other person said. Forrest Bell recommends checking with the other person to validate what you think you have heard using phrases like "Let me make sure I've got this right…" or "So what I'm hearing you say is…"

Be honest, but do it skillfully and tactfully
Blunt, straight-talking managers frequently close down relationships leading to loss of productivity and motivation. Instead, Forrest Bell recommends that the leader ensures they express their message in a manner that people will be receptive to by using techniques such as making the audience the starting point of conversation, asking for feedback on an idea and if there are any issues to address. Never blame or accuse but instead encourage a problem-solving exercise.

Encourage employees to express their needs
It's better for employees to open up and articulate their needs as opposed to keeping them under wraps and trying to meet them at the expense of others. This can be done via proactive feedback in 1 on 1 sessions or in a group setting such as monthly meetings. Forrest Bell believes it's important to give thanks and recognition every time. Forrest Bell's Managing Director Rebecca Bell strongly believes in this exercise and often runs 1 on 1 meetings, breakfasts or dinners with the team to make it possible for them to express their needs.

Remove judgment
Forrest Bell believes that in most cases what the other person is saying is true for them. The firm suggests not judging prematurely or saying something without thinking, even if you disagree or know what they are saying is inaccurate. Let them finish and then talk it through. This will maintain trust and ensure they come back to you next time rather than going to someone else.

'Walk the job' on a regular basis, but don't encroach on people
Forrest Bell advises leaders to stop by and ask their team how they are or if there is anything they can do because this shows them that they genuinely care. One of the mottos of the company that is regularly used in passing is that, 'People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care.' If something is on their mind they will be more than likely to bring it up and then you can schedule a time to talk it through. However, invading their workspace and talking specifics will appear blunt and micromanaging – even if you have good intentions.

posted from Bloggeroid