Honest and Open Communication

I travel to a lot of schools every year.  I meet thousands of people who are involved in athletics in a variety of ways.  And when it comes to diversity in sports, most people want to be able to talk about it…they just can’t.  This seems to be almost universal.  At some schools there is a culture of silence.  The student-athletes, coaches, administrators are all aware that it is not a safe space to disagree, ask questions, and/or discuss hard topics.  At other institutions there will be pockets of people who enjoy honest and open communication, but only with the people of their “in” group.  However, these smaller clusters within the larger group rarely tackle topics like diversity in the larger forum.  Then there are always the places where I am assured many times before I even begin my workshops (this is especially true of working with student-athletes) that they talk about the tough stuff all the time.  In fact, they cannot figure out why I am even there to present on topics they need no help communicating about.  The interesting thing is – I have been to very few schools where this open atmosphere is actually the case.

Honest and open communication amongst teammates, coworkers, employers, fans, etc. can sometimes be difficult.  We don’t want to draw attention to what we don’t know.  We don’t want to hurt people’s feelings.  And sometimes we simply don’t know what to say or ask.  But supporting each other and communicating is critical.  We will never know what we don’t know if we don’t ask questions and listen to the answers.  Supporting this kind of system begins at the top.  It is not enough to tell student-athletes, coaches, and staff that honesty and openness is important.  As leaders we must demonstrate our tolerance and acceptance of questions and comments.  Leaders play a vital role in setting the tone for the creation and sustentation of a culture which values communication, honesty, and ultimately diversity.

Take a moment to critically reflect on the culture in which you live, work, and/or play.  What is the unspoken policy of that space?  It is a place where you feel comfortable asking questions?  Speaking your mind in a respectful way?  If not, what needs to change?  What can you do to help create a more open and honest environment?

On September 20th, 2015, posted in: BEST PRACTICES

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