A lot of organizations talk about the importance of fostering creativity and openness within their workplaces. Great ideas can come from any level of the company, and these organizations recognize that there is a real danger in leaving decision making exclusively to the upper echelons. However, despite their best efforts, many organizations suffer from company cultures that don’t, necessarily, support a great deal of sharing and openness.
Here are some best practices for building a business climate that is supportive of open communications.
Lead by Example
“When leaders are authentic, demonstrate vulnerability, admit to not knowing and come clean that they, too, make mistakes, this sends a powerful message to others,” says Julie Winkle Giulioni, writing for SmartBrief. Employees need to feel confident that, when they’re open—when they, for example, identify problems or share concerns—there won’t be negative ramifications. “When they see that there are no negative ramifications and maybe even positive effects, the door is open to taking the risk of putting themselves out there, too,” says Giulioni.
Employees should be encouraged—and not penalized—for pursuing ideas that are innovative, even if those ideas don’t ultimately work out. When organizations ridicule or dismiss those who take chances and fail— whether consciously or subconsciously—a culture of openness is damaged. Supporting employees in intelligent risk-taking is a good way to build a climate of trust in which they will be more likely to share ideas in the future.
Promote a Safe Environment for Constructive and Respectful Debate
New and innovative ideas won’t always find a welcome audience. That’s understandable. Change is frightening for some. And even among those who embrace the concept of change, the specific path to take can be a contentious topic. These are important decisions that should be discussed and debated. But that discussion and debate should be conducted in an environment and manner that make everyone comfortable in participating. If only the loudest and most forceful are allowed to participate in a debate, companies will fail to get the well-rounded and inclusive input they need.
Nurturing and supporting a positive attitude among management members toward an open and collaborative workplace are great. But if the culture doesn’t share those values, efforts and collective thinking and brainstorming will invariably fall short.
Keep in mind that it’s not what you say that matters, it’s what you do. Employees are watching. That old idiom about “walking the talk” is all too true.