We feel like perhaps we’re not getting information that we would love to have had or even needed to have because it’s not being shared with us, or even that there’s too many means of communicating and we don’t even know which way to use or where to look for information because perhaps it’s shared, but we’ve missed it. It’s a great question.

When we feel isolated, when we feel information is not being shared with us and it’s things that we need to know, how do we break apart those silos and actually create open communication? And then how do we communicate more effectively? Kind of a two part question for us today. And just like with anything, I truly believe it starts with us. Can we look inwards to ask ourselves, what am I perhaps doing that feeds into this? Am I actually asking for the information?

If there’s information that I needed and it hasn’t been shared with me, have I first asked for it? Have I perhaps discredited going and asking for that information from certain individuals because I don’t like them, because they haven’t been readily open with me in the past? What plays into me specifically that may feed into the silos that we have?

I think that’s a great question, because often our behavior can influence how we interact with others, the communication that happens, and how they feel in turn about us as well. It’s a great place to start with us. What are we doing objectively that perhaps creates a breakdown in communication and feeds into having silos and information not being openly shared? It’s kind of a great question.

Am I actually openly sharing information with others that they need, or do I also keep things close to the chest? When we are talking about silos, let’s look at us first. Once we objectively do that, then we can look at others as well. Who else is involved? Who do we need information from? Is it within our own business unit? Is it different business units? Is it different teams? Is it our own team? Where do we find these silos and what causes them to exist?

Very similar to looking at ourselves inwardly and saying, “What am I doing perhaps that feeds into it?” We can extend that same type of questioning in inquiry to others as well. Do we have a tech lead who is really good at what they do, but very much likes working by themselves and doesn’t see the need perhaps to bring others into the fold, and so therefore, they do not share information? What feeds into that for them?

What can we open up that may break down that silo and help them see the importance, the value, and the necessity in sharing information openly with others? That exact same technique that we’ve done within ourselves to answer those questions can then also be turned to use towards others to help understand what creates these silos. Once we’ve fully explored that and objectively explored it, then we can start putting into place something I like to call the rules of communication.

It’s kind of like the rules of engagement, if you will, but the rules of communication can help us handle everything that is on our plate today of different modes of communicating, text message, phone calls, email, direct messaging, video calls. There’s a lot of different ways to get hold of us and to talk nowadays. How do we actually effectively use each way of communicating, each mode of communicating? We can set what I, again, like to call the rules of communication.

For our team, what works best? Perhaps we have a lot of people prefer direct messaging over say email or video calls, but maybe we have a mix of both and that causes so many different things to come in, so many Slacks to come in. I’ve got a hundred different emails to respond to as well, and then I’ve got people who are pinging me to set up meetings, and then also have a ton of meetings already set up and some phone calls in between.

There could be a lot of heartache that comes with that. What I mean by that is stress, overwhelm. I’ve got to respond quickly. I’ve got to respond to everything that’s on my plate. I can’t get to it. I don’t have enough time throughout the day, and I’m stacked meeting to meeting to meeting. How do I respond? I’ve got a multitask, and then I miss things.

Part of the rules of communication is not only about how do we communicate, meaning what means, what mode, text, email, but for what purpose? Do we have an immediate absolute need that’s true? Meaning let’s say there’s a cyber attack in our organization right now and data is being stolen real time. That’s a very real immediate threat and that’s going to require an immediate response. In situations like that, perhaps that’s a phone call, right?

You want to get ahold of me. I know if you’re calling my number, it’s something that’s immediate. If it’s something that is a quick short question that doesn’t have an immediacy to it, perhaps that’s a direct message. Maybe you Slack that to me. If there’s a longer amount of information and more background that’s required, perhaps that’s an email. And even in the way we communicate, can we set an expectation for when is that information needed.

Or even in our response, if that’s not provided, setting that I will ask, when is that needed by? I can get to this by Thursday of next week. How does that work? We can start putting into place these rules of communication.

And not only does this help break down silos and set context for sharing information and by what means we expect information to be shared and what information to be shared in terms of timelines, as an example, we can also do this within our teams to communicate more effectively, to help alleviate the overwhelm of everything that’s coming through, the text, the Slack, the emails, the meetings.

It can help us have some peace of mind already knowing, hey, I do have to take this because this is an emergency because someone is calling me versus Slack messages that in all likelihood, somebody might jump in and answer that question before we have an opportunity to do it, and we didn’t need to respond to doing it. It could have waited a couple hours. The rules of communication can also greatly help in the team setting, but also set those expectations for those silos.

If we break open that just a little bit more in terms of silos when we talk about that expectation, if there’s a joint product or project that’s being done by say multiple teams or business units at the initial beginning of that project or product creation, we can set those expectations as well regarding rules of communication. Here’s what information I think both of our teams are going to need. Here’s how we can share that. Is there a centralized location perhaps to keep things updated?

This can help from beginning set the context, ensure open flowing and free information versus siloed information. Within all of this, as I mentioned earlier that it starts with us, it truly does. Because even in these rules of communications that we’re talking about or creating say a common workspace or shared space for us to share information over, if we never use it, we don’t set that example, then we just feed into that problem. It does get back to our own behaviors.

What am I doing that perhaps perpetuates the silos and breaks down communication versus what actually allows it to flow freely, get over silos, and to be more effective? Leading by example, holding true to what we set and we agree upon and not feeding into the problem is also a key component of silos. It’s very natural for us to feel like, “You know what? They’re not giving me any information. Why would I share with them?” We can fall trap to that.

If we do, does it actually help our cause, or does it just feed the problem when we fall into that trap? These are good questions for us to ask because it allows us to objectively see where do those silos really come from. Now, one last thing I want to share on that in terms of the silos. This could be a question of like, “Steve, I’ve tried this, but I’ve had these conversations.” In that situation, what I would ask is, when we’ve had these conversations, how do we come across?

We’re talking a lot about communication in this episode and in some past episodes and some upcoming episodes as well and a lot of it has to do with language, the way that we conveyed it. Have we used trigger words that create defensiveness in people? Have we been very abrasive perhaps or direct about it that has turned somebody off and caused them to not want to communicate with us?

In these asks, in these conversations that you’ve previously had, what have we done as well that perhaps has either perpetuated the problem or started to fix it? It’s a really good question. Even with all of these tricks in communication as a whole, we can set ourselves up for the best chance possible, really resonating and engaging with that other person, but there’s ultimately other people involved.

If someone truly has their heart set on not sharing information with you and we have tried tips and tricks that we’ve talked about, be really engaging, collaborative, using that kind of open language that will elicit responses and they still are resistant to it, then that does trigger next steps and different steps. That is a good indication that that person truly isn’t open to it and we’ve got to find something that they do care about that’s going to cause that to open up.

In a business setting, that could be, “I’ve really tried to work with my peer. I’ve tried to get that information. I’ve asked very kindly. I’ve got my emails, let’s say, that document, how I’ve done that. Unfortunately, maybe now I have to escalate this and take this a step further. Take this a step up and ask my manager perhaps to step in with their manager to address it.” I share that because a lot of times we can get that question. “I’ve tried. I’ve done it, but they’re just not sharing.”

Within those instances, what have we done, perhaps that’s fed into it? Can we objectively look at that and try some additional things to help bring them into the fold and rehash that relationship to be more open sharing versus siloed? And then is it truly, truly at that point that I have to take additional next steps like we just mentioned to escalate? These are some great questions to ask that we don’t often explore. I hope you enjoyed today. Breaking down silos is truly possible.

There’s a lot of tips in today’s episode that can help us explore how to do that and even set effective ways of communicating by just some basic upfront work of rules of communication. I hope you enjoyed it. And until the next time, be the movement in your life.


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