Trust provides strength against adversity for a business. People just seem to pull together when they trust one another. Problems are addressed head-on--with no excuses made or expected. Work becomes play in high trust companies. It is fun to see what can be accomplished when everyone works together to achieve a common goal.
Trust-building begins with honest and transparent communication. Business leaders need to integrate transparent communications into their businesses. Here are 5 tips for establishing a transparent communications culture within your business:
1. Make It a Project--Like the other fundamental business strategies, the building of a transparent communications program requires full-time commitment. A business can't expect to put together a meaningful communication strategy on the fly. There are simply too many issues to consider. So, be deliberate about:
- Establishing the transparent communications program a project to be staffed, funded and executed;
- Requiring executive sponsorship the effort;
- Assigning a project manager to drive the effort;
- Forming a small team to do the "leg work" of the project;
- Translating the team's program recommendations into subsequent projects to be staffed, funded and executed over time.
In this way, the effort is sure to get the attention that it deserves within the company.
2. Solicit Opinions from Stakeholders--An assessment of current company communications practices should be conducted sometime early in the project. A good cross-section of suppliers, distributors, customers and internal staff should be tapped to give their impressions on the frequency, quality, effectiveness, variety, and, most importantly, the integrity of the communications of the organization. By gaining stakeholder perspectives, the project team is positioned to quickly understand the issues at hand. This will give them a running start towards identifying improvement strategies.
3. Establish a Baseline - Once the stakeholders are polled, a baseline of the current communications within the enterprise should be established. It's important for the project team to know what communications devices are already in place. They can then determine which ones work well, and should be used in the future, and which ones need improving or elimination. In all likelihood, some of the existing communication devices will be combined to form more effective ones, while others will be retired and replaced by new ones. The baseline effort helps to outline some of the options available to the business.
4. Vividly Describe The Target Transparent Communications Environment - This work product should include details, like:
- A working definition of transparency and transparent communications;
- A set of operating principles that define the expected behaviors, rationale and actions required to be adopted by management and staff in order to communicate transparently;
- An overview of the types of communication vehicles available (i.e., phone, web, e-mail, text, intranet, etc.) within the firm;
- Standards on when and how each type should be used;
- Policies governing the regularity in which certain types of communications should be delivered to, or solicited from, specific stakeholder types;
5. Craft a Roll-out Plan--This plan must delineate all of the follow-up activities into specific projects that must be done in order to institutionalize transparent communications within the business. While the implementation responsibility is not necessarily that of the original project team, it is always an option to keep the team in place until the communication program is fully realized. A better scenario is to appoint the project manager to oversee the communication program's roll-out. This way, the person closest to the details will assume the role of institutionalizing the program--centralizing project accountability while improving the probability of its ongoing success.
To close, great things happen when people who work together trust each other. It's our responsibility as senior leaders to act and communicate transparently and to establish a transparent communications culture within our businesses--think of the effort to do these things as an investment in the future growth and nurturing of the company.