Double the communication Featured

8:00pm EDT March 26, 2009

While becoming an open communicator may sound simple enough, your insecurities could hinder the process.

To overcome that challenge, Birgit Radin, general manager of The DoubleTree Hotel Chicago Magnificent Mile, says that you need to remember that you are not the most important person in your organization.

“The people that you work with are the ones that really are making it happen,” says Radin, who led the unit to 2007 revenue of about $28 million.

Smart Business spoke with Radin about how communication can help you build an open work environment.

Q. How do you build a team environment?

The biggest issue is to communicate openly and honestly, and communicate based on the premise that the more somebody knows, the better they are equipped to understand the overall goal for whatever unit they are in.

If they understand the total direction and the goal and the big picture — and that comes from getting good, open, honest communication — then the more the individuals will be able to participate in the decision-making, as well as making right decisions in their own individual units.

Sometimes it comes across as overcommunciating, because you might tell somebody something that doesn’t directly affect them in their work unit. But if you know how everything works together, you can be proactive and maybe assist and maybe catch something that is on the verge of falling through the sift.

Q. Can you ever communicate too much information?

Obviously, you wouldn’t communicate confidential information. But I don’t think so. Of course, you have to filter through what is it that you are going to say, and sometimes you have to be cautious how you communicate because you don’t want to send negative signals.

You might have gotten a communication or feel a certain way about things, whether that is your ownership or shareholders or that might be whoever you report to as an individual. You might have gotten information in a very different way than the way you need to communicate it down. If you just push it down, it’s not very effective.

Q. How do you communicate bad news?

Always look at it as the glass is half-full rather than the glass is half-empty — always the positive side of it. Look at it in a way of, ‘How can we make it better? What can we contribute to make it better?’ versus looking at it from a negative angle.

Q. How can a leader learn to communicate more clearly?

One of the fundamentals is to make sure that you know that person has the understanding of what you are saying, maybe having somebody summarize or repeat in their own words — ‘This is what it is I understood to have heard.’

A good way is for somebody who is able to summarize this and tell me what it is that actually we want. ‘Where is the goal? What did we just communicate? How did we understand this?’

Or ask the question, ‘Where are we not clear in whatever was said?’ Sometimes you ask the question, ‘Who is not clear?’ People are concerned that they don’t want to sound ignorant, and they don’t ask the question.

It’s important to create an environment where nobody feels threatened. That’s … why you need to communicate with people, so that they feel they can communicate back to you and make it a very comfortable environment because people don’t ask for fear of sounding ignorant.

Q. How do you create an environment where people feel comfortable asking questions?

By being open yourself and allowing people to express themselves in terms of you asking for feedback and having them participate in the decision-making. Allow them to fail and don’t punish somebody when somebody fails, but try to see how can we prevent it from happening the next time. Or, ‘What went wrong; why did it happen?’ instead of giving the impression that, ‘Oh, my gosh. If I make a mistake, I’m going to be punished.’

Q. How has open communication benefited your company?

If you communicate openly … a lot people know what the general expectation is and people know what the general goal is and where are we going; that people feel it is important that I know this because my actions and my decisions are important to the organization.

With that, you have a certain automatic empowerment that makes you be a better person and makes you be a better member of the unit.

How to reach: The DoubleTree Hotel Chicago Magnificent Mile, (312) 787-6100 or www.doubletree.com