The end goal remains the same in every type of collaborative environment: to make progress towards a collective goal. Regardless of what that specific goal may be, achieving it depends on having every member of the team working in synch and making valuable contributions to the overall effort. Communication is one of the keys to establishing the kind of collaborative environment you need to succeed.
Yet, effective communication always comes with its own unique set of challenges. One such challenge is the need to be open and honest with colleagues when addressing the reality of specific situations. How many times have you been in a collaborative meeting and had a team member speak in cryptic euphemisms or sugar-coat an obvious truth in an effort not to upset the group dynamic?
Such approaches may save feelings and spare egos, but that often comes at the cost of making forward progress. In fact, more often than not, such strategies actually set the collective cause back, leaving other team members to pick up the slack to get things moving in the right direction again. Again, this runs the risk of upsetting the productive spirit of the collaborative environment.
So how do you communicate honestly, yet effectively in such situations?
Strategies for Effective Yet Honest Communication in Collaborative Environments
Successful collaborators share three key characteristics:
- They draw out the strengths of their peers and colleagues
- They welcome diversified perspectives, alternative ways of thinking and divergent viewpoints
- They adapt to new situations quickly, and are prompt in implementing productive changes in course
These three attributes provide vital clues to uncovering an effective overall strategy for honest yet productive communication, especially when facing challenges and setbacks. The keys to effective communication include:
- Focusing on the strengths of participants, rather than weaknesses, failures and shortcomings
- Seeking the opinions and input of other members of the group, and taking their thoughts and ideas into account even if they diverge or differ from your own
- Being open to changing to the overarching plan, or to the allocation of duties, in order to better play to the strengths of all group members
In other words, keeping an open mind, drawing on a diverse range of opinions and maintaining a positive collaborative environment are essential to effective communication and the creation of a productive group dynamic.
How “Action Plans” Aid Effective Communication
Clinging to dead meeting plans and ineffective agendas just lead you around in circles. When your team has hit a bump in the road, you have to adjust your action plan to overcome immediate challenges. This speaks to the single most important aspect of every meeting plan:
Focus on the present.
What is important right now, today? What can be done right now, today, to help get things back on track? What specific actions can individual team members take right now to help move things towards the end goal of the collaborative effort?
Having an action plan helps every team member act with clarity of purpose, and being able to clearly communicate each team member’s job and role within the structure of the group is essential to successful collaboration.
Without an action plan that speaks directly to immediate obstacles and challenges, your collaborative effort will only veer further and further off course. Clinging to a dead meeting plan is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Remember: successful collaborators adapt to new situations quickly.
The Takeaway: The Essentials of Open and Honest Communication
Honest and effective communication is built on these pillars:
- Look at problems from all angles. If someone has a different point of view, take the time to listen to what they have to say. Listening is an extremely important part of effective communicating.
- Take responsibility. Lead by example. Take ownership of your role on the team, and make sure your voice is both heard and understood by other members.
- Err on the side of caution. It’s always better to over-communicate than under-communicate.
- Address misunderstandings immediately. If there’s been a mistake or a miscommunication, clear it up right away. Don’t let it linger.
- Use positive reinforcement. Every team member needs to feel that they’re valued. Recognize and reward positive efforts.
- Communicate with heart. “‘Honesty’ without compassion and understanding is not honesty. but subtle hostility.” – Rose N. Franzblau
What’s the one thing you can put into practice that will make your collaborative efforts more open in order to move collective goals forward?
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