Over the holidays, my family and I spent two weeks at my in-laws’ farm in Ecuador, which also serves as the base for the family business of growing and exporting flowers to the U.S. and Europe.
I love visiting the farm during the holidays because we get to participate in the annual Christmas and Año Nuevo celebrations with the farm’s 110 employees, who work hard 7 days a week to grow flowers that stay fresh, strong and beautiful for days after they are harvested and shipped.
On New Year’s Eve, my mother-in-law Juanita invited team members including – the engineers, accountant, field supervisor, sales people, medical team and HR manager – to toast the Año Nuevo with a glass of wine. It is an Año Nuevo tradition in Ecuador to share one’s wishes for the new year, and Juanita was very clear with her team that her wish included more frequent, deliberate and informative communication between the office and field staffs.
Her statement to them, which I have (loosely) translated below, was:
In the absence of communication, there is a space that gets filled with mis-communication. – La Jefe Juanita
Frequent, clear and informative communication is as important to growing teams as healthy soil and clean water are to growing flowers. Without it, the space will be filled with rumors, gossip, assumptions and incorrect information.
What leadership techniques help communication to grow within teams?
- Clear expectations: If you want your employees to share information with each other, tell them so. Being specific, too. Provide examples of the kinds of information others need from them for the team and business to succeed.
- Structure: Don’t wait for your team to take the initiative to share information. Set up the structure for regular touch points for everyone who needs to be, “in the know.” If communication still lags, provide a brief list of questions or topics to address, such as problems to be solved or information/help needed. This doesn’t have to be a long meeting; to be effective, however, it has to happen regularly, with the right people in attendance.
- A shared big picture: Sales people need to know what product is ready to harvest and ship. HR needs to know how many workers to schedule, and when. Engineers need to know the irrigation and fertilizer schedules. Field workers like to know which flowers are being sold, and to where. No team or individual on the farm works in isolation. Sharing goals, objectives, logistics, schedules and successes creates a big picture for everyone can see the connections and cross-pollination needed across teams and departments.
Flowers don’t grow without nutrients, water and care, even in a place as beautiful and lush as Ecuador. And communication doesn’t grow without the same kind of nurturing and critical nutrients. La Jefe knows that.
Heather Nelson is a partner with PeopleResults. Her favorite flowers include gardenias, hydrangeas, and anything grown by her mother-in-law. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @HeatherGNelson1. Sign up to receive the PeopleResults blog at Current.