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Is Open Communication Actually Achievable?

One would think that adding more ways to communicate and collaborate with teammates would make things easier.

The saying “teamwork makes the dream work” is trite, insipid—and accurate. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about little league baseball, sled dogs or financial advisors, the saying rings true 100% of the time. 

Building and managing a high-performance work team isn’t quite as simple as coaching a little league team or compelling a bunch of sled dogs to run in the same direction. One would think that adding more ways to communicate and collaborate with teammates would make things easier, but we’ve entered into 2023 with less certainty and cohesion than at any time in recent memory. And while the residual effects of the pandemic and the smoldering resentment of commuting again has something to do with this lack of unity, it doesn’t change the fact that we need to elevate our teams back to their productive potential. 

So what can we do to ensure 2023 is a more collaborative and productive year?

Open Communication: Is It Actually Achievable?

We all have Outlook, Slack, text, landlines, cellphones, homing pigeons, smoke signals and who knows how many other methods to communicate with each other. That should be enough to allow teammates and managers to communicate openly and effectively in theory. In practice, though, meaningful communication isn’t so simple. 

How many meetings have you attended that could’ve been summed up in an email? How many emails have you sent that, apparently, went unread until you called a meeting to talk about the subject?

Providing multiple methods of communication should help, but in practice, it often becomes overwhelming, leading employees to stick to one form of communication while potentially missing important information shared on other platforms. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to this problem, either. Everyone has their own preferred means of communication that they will naturally gravitate toward, and trying to force them to use a different approach rarely works as intended.

As a manager, you have a few different choices:

  • You could devote your waking hours to monitoring every single communication channel to make sure important information is conveyed and received in a timely fashion; 
  • You could narrow down the number of channels to just Slack and/or email; or
  • You could have your employees create something akin to this personal communication user guide. (Hint: Try this one.)

Everyone having their own personal communication guides may take some getting used to, but it should go a long way toward encouraging open and effective communication.

Collaborate Effectively

New technologies have enabled more participation by different departments on any given project. This could be a good thing, or it could lead to a confused mess of contradictory edits, irrelevant suggestions, long waits between steps to give everyone a chance to have input and any number of other issues. 

It’s difficult to solve for an abundance of cooks in the kitchen when everyone has integral ingredients to contribute, though it is possible to streamline the process and keep a coherent record of what people need and who’s done what at any given time.

Collaboration software like Todoist, Asana, Podio, Airtable and Trello may offer exactly what you need to take the confusion out of collaborating. Not every software is suited for every setting, so some testing is necessary—and it would be wise to run it by your team. But you’re bound to find something that can help improve your team’s workflows and make sure nothing slips through the cracks.

Positivity Persists

Maintaining a cooperative and collaborative work environment isn’t easy. Every member of every team has their own wants, needs, strengths and weaknesses. As a result, cultivating cohesion is challenging, but there’s one principle that helps no matter the situation: Make work a positive experience. 

Encouraging open communication and fluid collaboration, providing support and understanding, restraining from harsh criticism and recognizing that mistakes happen, and generally being a decent manager will do more for your team than any software ever could.  

Matt Reiner is CEO and co-founder of Benjamin; partner at Wela Strategies LLC and Capital Investment Advisors.

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