My post, encouraging managers to Promote a Culture of Asking in the workplace, brought this back to mind too, another posting I’d originally written for Lifehack.org back in 2007 about six ways we managers end censorship.
While ‘censorship’ may not be the word we specifically hear, if there are feelings that our freedom of speech and expression are in any way suppressed or squelched it pretty amounts to the same thing. So might this be time to revisit this?
Your people will roll their eyes and snicker, if you ask them to speak up more without assuring the health of these basics. Worse, they’ll keep quiet. If you want optimal communication within your workplace, conditions for it must be optimal too. So, back for a repeat performance, with a few new links connected to our recent discussions…
Great Managers End Censorship
In this, the alive and well revolution of blogging and print-on-demand publishing, censorship is something we think of as very dark ages; surely it doesn’t happen anymore!
That may be true in the freedoms of your personal, unshackled life, but how about at work?
The freedom of self-expression is one we say we cherish most of all, for we are sensitive, intelligent, and thoughtful human beings. We know stuff. We represent. We define. We influence. We stand up to be heard, and we should, for we have important opinions which should count. People need to hear us, and we need to hear them, so that the blending of our voices can clarify intentions, and thus smooth out all the rough edges of our challenging world.
Alaka‘i managers are fully aware that each of the people they manage embody a voice which needs to be heard in the world’s neighborhood we call At Work. Full, open expression enables the ‘everything else’ of essential communication, and it’s no different on the job if the work which is done is to count for something great too.
Having this awareness, Alaka‘i managers ensure that they end any hint of censorship, and that when people have something to say they feel they have every freedom to say it. Censorship at work takes the form of self-censorship. For some reason, people feel inhibited and they don’t speak up.
This is a picture of what you, as a great manager, must create in your purposeful ban of perceived censorship:
1. Your ‘Open Door’ policy is alive and well. Your workplace is abuzz with all-engaging conversations about everything and anything, and people feel confident that as their manager, you can handle it. There are no limits. Some conversations may be challenging, but they are always entered into with optimism and not with fear or dread.
2. ‘Channels of communication’ simply do not exist in terms of organizational hierarchies; instead, they are defined by working relationships, decision-reaching partnerships, and fluid project team dynamics. People talk to who they need to talk to so their work is best achieved, and they don’t look for an interpreter to accompany them. Everyone values messages where the messenger is the source.
3. Fear of repercussion has been banished, replaced by coaching. The Head Coach in healthy communication practices is you, the Alaka‘i manager, with the understanding that mistakes will be made, screw-ups will happen and unfortunate things will be said, but they all can be corrected with practice in a safe environment. Everyone at every level needs practice. No practice, no mastery.
4. ‘A good time to tell you’ is every time and any time. You’re approachable. Great managers communicate with everyone in the workplace with remarkable consistency, even when they’re in a bad mood. The temperament of your responsiveness is predictable for people, and ‘predictable’ means pleasantly handled in a level-headed way, no matter when.
5. Constant conversation is part of the culture. People exercise their voice by means of a workplace expectation like The Daily 5 Minutes. Innovative engagement happens because people converse constantly, and not just when something comes up which needs to be fixed. Conversation is to create synergy, not merely to solve problems in a civilized way.
6. “Put it in writing” isn’t said anymore, except for within the context of a multi-detailed, still-complex project. The spoken word is good enough, for one’s word is one’s honor, and follow-up happens. Email confirmation clutter decreases, idea mind-maps systematically replace progress reports, and your HR department stops asking you for your documentation.
Alaka‘i managers understand that having a workplace like this is something they must purposefully and diligently create: It doesn’t just happen by itself, no matter how good the atmosphere seems. They manage catalytic workplace practices that are valued as company best practices; the ideas may not be original, but they have teeth to them, and they aren’t academic or business-speak, they are real. This is the work of great management; it’s your work.
To start, I give my Daily 5 Minutes Resources to you freely: Adopt the D5M and reap the benefits. Release the voices of those you manage from their self-censored silence, then listen well for the contributions they are sure to start offering you.