Creating a great work environment that is both highly focused and achieves the outcomes you want takes input and involvement from your staff. This process takes active and open communication from every area of your company to work, so that's exactly what you need to encourage more of -- not less.

By creating an environment that makes it safe for people to speak up, you will be well on your way toward building a company filled with employees who feel safe to speak up without hesitation. And guess what? Employees who feel safe to speak up will identify problems to be solved before they become even bigger problems, as well as opportunities that can lead to a thriving bottom line for your business.

Here are 5 powerful ways to break down the communication barriers in your business and encourage your people to speak up:

1. Build new bridges.

Shake up the rigid communication channels and organizational silos that have become established over the years. Create teams that draw from different departments and sponsor events that get together people who don't normally interact at work. The more bridges you build, the more communication there will be.

2. Reorganize for better communication.

You can take teambuilding an extra step farther by organizing your people by project instead of grouping them together by department. Taking this step will help you minimize the "us-versus-them" vibe that pervades many organizations while creating an environment that encourages open communication and everyone working toward a common goal -- the success of your company.

3. Be an effective role model.

As a leader, you set the standard for those who work for and with you. What kind of role model are you? Remember: it begins with you. If you are open and honest, people will follow your example. If you want your employees to communicate freely and openly, then first be sure that you're freely and openly communicating yourself.

4. Reward transparency.

Make it safe for your employees to communicate freely and openly by rewarding (and not punishing) them when they do. Publicly praise them for their candor in meetings with others, and thank them whenever they bring you news -- whether good news or bad news. And make effective communication a part of every employee's performance appraisal and criteria for promotion.

5. Stop judging and begin to really listen.

Encourage your employees to tell you what's going on in the organization -- really listen and learn from what they are saying. You don't necessarily have to agree with everything they're saying, but don't criticize or punish. By listening instead of judging, you will encourage your employees to communicate more freely and openly, which is a good thing for you, your business, and your customers.