A Secret Sauce for Communities

We’ve been diligently searching and testing recipes for the secret sauce that will strengthen community leadership, collaboration, and innovation.

Trial and error, research, a brilliant CEO, a dynamite team, trailblazing partner communities and the learnings of the past year were combined in a proposal asking for significant project funding. 

You can just imagine the excitement when we learned that corporate and government funding was approved clearing the way for a $6.5 million community development initiative designed to enhance quality of life in rural communities across the province

Bubbling with excitement we fully expected the national organization with whom we had submitted the proposal to be equally so.

Truth be told, it took them just a little while longer to wrap their heads around it.

Unfortunately, as the result of their recent staff and board changes and the less than desired internal communications that are typical of that kind of change, key players had been left out of the loop and knew nothing at all about the proposal.

Quite understandably, the initial meeting between our respective organizations wasn’t quite the celebratory event we had envisioned.

However, as of last week, things are rocking - largely in part because of some clear, forthright, and honest conversations among the principals.

All of this reinforced the key role of communications and how, when it’s lacking, things are at risk of falling apart even when all the planets seem to be aligned. 

Ultimately, it is communication that brings people together and establishes a team environment of congeniality, support and understanding.

Communication helps ideas move more efficiently and effectively from concept to application and ensure sound decisions, ideas and approaches. Without it, the relationships and trust that will ultimately determine success or failure won’t be in place.

The other reminder for me was the importance of openness and transparency in our communications.

Those at the table yesterday didn’t play any games. The dialogue was authentic and real.  Challenges were acknowledged and put on the table. And while some might question being as honest as we were, ultimately it was this honesty that strengthened the relationship.

While such honestly sometimes takes courage, it’s also liberating for those involved to put it out there.

Somehow it seems that when you speak the truth—and you know it’s the truth—you can better trust that people will respond appropriately.

My experience shows that this openness or transparency in sharing successes, failures, ideas and thinking is an important factor in gathering support from others, as is a demonstrated willingness to listen. People are just more likely to engage when they feel they are being heard and if there’s honesty about what’s going on.

And just as we respond to authenticity, it’s also clear we are pretty good at spotting and turning away from a phony. 

An open and inclusive communication style also results in a culture of acceptance and flexibility, one that promotes warmth, support and a willingness to listen.

Although it may sound pretty straightforward, establishing open and healthy communication is not always an easy endeavor.  When pushed by other priorities, communication too often gets put on the backburner.

Leaders need to make conscious efforts to continually ask themselves, “Who else needs to know about this” and then to make sure it is communicated.

Regular updates via meetings, emails, newsletters, and e-bulletins need to be made a priority. Even informal social events can further communication.

After all, if we don’t work together to fill in the blanks, there is a human tendency is to fill in our own. And, the inaccuracies of a do-it-yourself-fill-in-the-blanks approach often results in something we might do well to avoid. 



Posted on 05-11-08

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