We need to talk about OPEN communication.

The proverb – It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It – no longer applies.

It DOES matter what you say and HOW you say it. This is something people oftentimes take for granted.

And people communicate differently; part of learning how to work with them involves learning how to communicate with them. But all forms of communication can have boundaries.

UK entrepreneur, Richard Branson, explains it well:

“What matters is working with a few close friends, people you respect, knowing that if times did turn bad these people would hold together.”


Communication is underrated…

…if it doesn’t take into account the individual person participating in the communication, focusing only on how to send a message.   

Communication is overrated…

….as there are more equally important parts for effective teamwork to take place.

A high performing team should be as a basketball team – if you don’t play together you cannot win.

What is a team?

If you want to work in a team and be a part of one, you need to create an atmosphere in which open communication can happen.

YOU are a piece of a puzzle and you alone need to make an effort to turn a group of people into a team.

Most of the time people have a general idea of what they want to say, they say it, and move on, easily making room for misunderstandings, missed opportunities, unintended consequences, stress, and general frustration.

Take nonverbal communication for instance – it’s even more difficult to understand the cues that are given off while listening to someone else speak – body movements and orientation, a tone of the voice, facial expressions, etc. A person could be shy and not make eye contact which others can interpret incorrectly.

Open communication means we are not afraid to take it to a personal level. 

And how to make it personal?  

Don’t Forget: Your Attitude Matters

All of us can make communication mistakes and send confusing messages.

We can experience clear, honest, authentic, and to-the-point communication when we choose our words wisely paying attention to who the receiver is.

We need to think about the specific person at a specific time and deliver the message in the right form.

Build Trust And Respect

If you don’t trust people who work with you, how can you expect of them to give their best or to trust you or your business? Would you trust them?

Do you expect them to follow you? They won’t unless you trust them too.

Without trust and respect, you can only count on limited success.

Is the captain of the ship only to blame for when the ships start sinking? The stronger the trust, the better the team will navigate the ship, even when the captain is not on board.

Individual effort equals team effort

Have you ever heard a person say: “Although I think differently, that’s the policy of the company?” Or “That’s the opinion from the top.”

I oftentimes get confused with this way of thinking. Are YOU not the company? Who is the company?

If you think someone in your team is shy or afraid to speak openly, help him or her. Your personal effort equals team effort. By making the first step, you can push the people on your team to do the same.

Explore the “I” in “We” 

Misunderstandings can occur at any stage of the communication process. But if you have a genuine interest in your team and if you WANT to be a team player, you can minimize potential misunderstandings and overcome any barriers.

Your individual actions have an impact on your team members, and vice versa. The way you behave, talk, act and work impacts the way your team members will behave.

If you demand honesty, respect, trust, and hard work, make sure you are as good as your word.

You get what you give.

Fulfill your promises.

Working with friends can be one of the most rewarding aspects of work. But, not all teams are made up of friends and they don’t need to be. Even teams made of friends have their ups and downs. Nevertheless, open communication should be your priority.

Open Communication: What’s next?

This is a short list of tips you can start doing to create a fruitful ground for open communication.

  • Share your vision on work, relationships, communication and ask them to share theirs
  • Establish team goals and align them with individual goals
  • Talk openly and make an example
  • Show them you are not afraid to take the communication on the personal level
  • Pay attention to details
  • Prepare for retrospective (assuming you are a Scrum Master)  
  • And, be honest

As a manager, Scrum Master or a team member, you should make an effort to create a better environment for everyone.

So, how about you? What’s your take on the subject?