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How to Boost Team Performance with Transparent Communication

How to Boost Team Performance with Transparent Communication
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As many founder and team leaders would attest, clear communication––coupled with genuine transparency––is key to inspiring employees and, ultimately, growing as a company.

But in a truly collaborative environment that consists of powerful, capable hires, transparency is important for more than just inspiration. It’s critical for giving your people what they need to effectively do their job. If you don’t share data, plans, or concerns with your employees, you’ll hamstring them. Instead, you need to equip your people to make the best possible decisions for their area of responsibility.

But this needs to work the other way around, too; employees themselves need to be transparent about where they’re at in terms of progress, what resources they need to get their job done, and the challenges they’re facing or foresee facing in completing new projects. When that happens, everyone in your company has a chance to thrive.

That said, fostering and sustaining a culture in which this kind of two-way communication and trust exists is difficult, and it gets harder the bigger you grow. It requires you as a company leader to constantly prioritize and reinforce these values.

If this is something you’re struggling with right now, here are some steps we took to improve this at our company, Honey, that might be helpful for you:

1. Hire Someone Who Is Solely Focused on Internal Communication

This is what it looks like to truly prioritize strong internal communication: you have to invest in it.

That’s what we did at Honey, at least. We hired someone to set the cadence of internal discourse, fine-tune the messaging from leadership to ensure we’re conveying things the right way, and to facilitate back-and-forth between teams. Especially as we crossed the 100-employee threshold, we realized this was something we simply weren’t equipped to do on our own––not while also doing the work of COO, CEO, CTO, etc.

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The truth is, you have to treat communication as its own department or vertical. That’s because it really is as crucial to your company’s success as your product, or your marketing, or your sales.

If people on your team lack essential understanding around the reasoning behind certain decisions or company direction, or if they don’t have the information they need to do their job––if you or your teammates ever enter meetings surprised by what’s being discussed––you won’t be as efficient as you could be.

Don’t let that happen. Approach communication with careful and purposeful orchestration.

2. Be Honest and Sincere with Your Employees

Of course, you can’t just outsource communication and transparency and hope it improves or sustains. You have to do your part as a company leader.

That means being honest and sincere with your people in your messaging and in your conversations with them.

As we all know, communication hinges upon trust. Your people will only be 100% honest with you regarding their needs and challenges if you are 100% honest with them. They will only care about your company and the integrity of your communicative philosophy if you genuinely seem to care.

That means you should share news and updates across departments. Share updates from the executive suite with your engineers. When you have a potentially exciting conversation with an investor or advisor, tell your people. Engage with them if it’s appropriate to do so.  

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Communication is very much a two-way street.

But it’s also true that sometimes it’s hard to be 100% transparent with employees. If you’re in the midst of an acquisition, for example, you may not be legally able to to.

But employees will give you the benefit of the doubt in these situations if you’re sincere with them––if they know that honesty is a core value of the company.

3. Establish the Right Flow During All-Company Meetings

To get a bit more in-the-weeds, how you relay information and conduct conversation is very important. But you can’t just say that communication is important. You must also set out to communicate effectively.

The most likely way you’ll do that is during meetings.

It’s important, then, that you hold and conduct meetings the right way. Things like whether everyone in the room is comfortable, whether your delivery is engaging, the lengths of meetings––we find people can generally only focus for 90 minutes at a time––all matter.

In fact, your attention to detail as a leader will go a long way in determining how effective you are at facilitating internal communication. In our company, even small adjustments like asking presenters to abide by certain templates and formats in their presentation slides went a long way.

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You can say communication is important all you want, but unless you’re communicating correctly, it won’t matter.

4. Allow Q&A Time with Your Employees

Aside from all-hands meetings, you also need to schedule time specifically for question-and-answer sessions.

These could look like one-on-one meetings (if you’re a smaller team) or forum-oriented meetups where you as a leader don’t have any specific agenda other than fielding and answering questions from your team.

If you’re not already doing this, try it. You’ll be surprised how much your employees want to utilize their voice––how many concerns or questions they want addressed.

5. Do 360-Degree Reviews

Finally, to truly encourage and sustain a culture of transparency, you must submit yourself to the same expectations of reflection and appraisal as your employees.

That means conducting 360-degree reviews.

Most people don’t enjoy receiving constructive feedback. That’s as true of executives as it is of managers and engineers.

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We get defensive and fold inward because we feel like we’re being attacked. But designing feedback sessions as two-way conversations helps ensure the person sitting on the other side of the table understands that the purpose of providing feedback is to help the whole company improve and become more effective.

It also proves to your people that you really do value transparency and that your culture really does value equality.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, improving your internal communicative processes is something of an ongoing project which you can always work to improve. But prioritizing communication and transparency––and investing in it to prove it is important to you––is still crucial for inspiring your employees, helping them improve, and elevating your company’s overall effectiveness. It encourages growth and asks everyone to “level up” to be the best teammate they can be.

It’s a critical component, in other words, of your overall strategy. Don’t neglect it.

More Resources to Boost Team Performance

Featured photo credit: Romain V via unsplash.com

More by this author

Glen Allison

Glen is the Chief Operating Officer at Honey. He focuses on a culture of excellence and shares entrepreneurial tips.

How to Boost Team Performance with Transparent Communication

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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