Communicating for collaboration

How often have I heard someone say: “We’ve talked about it a lot! The employees know about it!” You’ve announced sweeping changes at the annual meeting, sent out emails and posted on your website. Yet for some reason, you feel alone in your quest.

Communicating is not the same as... communicating

This vision of yours, this transformation, you’ve been dreaming about it for months, thought about it day and night. The transformation you are undertaking is complex, and you need your employees’ hands, heads and hearts.

You feel as though you’ve communicated it well. The employees listened to your ideas and seemed enthusiastic. And yet, you get the impression nothing is happening. But did you communicate to inform them, or to engage them?

For maximum confidence that your message is being heard, communicate it more often, in a variety of ways. Adapt the content of your message to your audience, and use different forms of messaging.

Communicating to foster collaboration

Instead of communicating to inform or engage people, communicate to foster their collaboration. Here are some tips:

  • Respect where they are at: Give people time to go through the same process you did. Don't talk to them about the concerns you have now, first talk about what you were worried about a few weeks ago, so they, too, can go through the process. Explain the issues and the vision, so that they can translate them into their daily lives, with their clients, colleagues, etc.
  • Be curious: You can’t afford not to hear what your employees have to say. When you talk about it, you tend to give YOUR point of view. Curb your enthusiasm: It can blind you and prevent you from giving space to your colleagues and their perspective. Avoid saying things like: “Yes, but...”, and instead say something like: “I don't fully understand your perspective, tell me more...”
  • Don’t be afraid to admit that you don't know everything: Contrary to what you may think, your confident leadership (“This is the way, this is how we're going to do it”, etc.) may be keeping your team from becoming involved. If you want them to offer solutions, dare to be vulnerable. Talk about the mistakes that have led to the choices you’re making, and admit that you don't know everything and that you need everyone's collaboration to achieve the results you are looking for.

Opt for authenticity

If you opt for dialogue tinged with humility, transparency and authenticity, you will create a safe space.

For people to feel involved, they must have the impression that all opinions are valid, that it is totally okay not to understand, not to know, or to make mistakes.

Be open to what they have to say and the questions they ask, and give them time to go through the process, to evolve, to get to where you are at. The results might surprise you!

Sophie Legendre
Senior Director
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