The Power of Candid Communication: A Lesson from the WordPress Community

The Power of Candid Communication: A Lesson from the WordPress Community


Let’s look at the importance of candid communication in fostering diverse, inclusive, and effective workplaces, as illustrated by Pixar and a recent WCEU incident. This article emphasizes that open and respectful dialogue is critical in communities like WordPress, enhancing collaboration, innovation, and trust while building a people-first culture.

Introduction: The Role of Candid Communication in Professional Interaction

It’s been a hot few weeks in WordPress. I have to confess that in the moment, rather than contributing in a positive way, I froze. I didn’t know how to respond in a way that would be constructive so I stayed silent. I wish I could do better at these things but have reflected and made the decision that moving forward, I’ll take a more active role in trying to facilitate a healthy exchange in these conversations.

Here’s what happened, as WCEU announced new speakers for their 2023 event, community member Michelle Frechette highlighted the lack of representation—only 25% women and a scant 15% non-white individuals. Regrettably, this observation was met with dismissive responses, echoing a broader issue of ineffective communication and lack of transparency in professional environments.

The High Cost of Ineffective Communication

Ineffective communication can cause significant issues in any work environment, leading to decreased productivity, low morale, and high employee turnover. According to a Harvard Business Review study, poor communication can result in an average loss of $62.4 million per year in large companies—an alarming figure that showcases the importance of addressing this crisis.

But the issue goes beyond ineffective communication. The incident with WCEU’s speaker announcement strategy reveals the consequences of not fostering an environment of candid communication, leading to trust issues, transparency deficits, and representation disparities.

Pixar’s Success Story: Candid Communication in Action

A practical example of the transformative power of candid communication comes from Pixar Animation Studios. Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar and author of “Creativity, Inc.,” stressed the importance of creating a “safe space” for everyone, from interns to executives, to share honest feedback. This principle was manifested in their “Braintrust” meetings—feedback sessions where candid communication was the norm.

The Braintrust, including some of Pixar’s most successful storytellers and directors, served as an advisory body rather than a top-down control mechanism. They helped directors see potential problems without prescribing solutions. This candid feedback loop was instrumental in creating some of Pixar’s most successful films.

Fostering a Candid Communication Culture in the WordPress Community

Candid communication brings numerous benefits to any workplace, and these advantages can be even more impactful in volunteer-based communities like WordPress. In these environments, team members contribute their time and skills out of passion and dedication, making open, honest, and respectful communication crucial for both individual experience and collective output.

Enhanced Collaboration and Innovation

Candid communication allows all voices to be heard, fostering a diversity of thoughts and ideas. In the WordPress community, this can lead to more innovative solutions and improved collaborative projects. Contributors’ varied perspectives and experiences can help push the community’s boundaries, from developing new features to optimizing existing ones.

Increased Engagement and Satisfaction

When people feel their voices are valued, they’re more likely to feel a sense of ownership and commitment to their tasks. This leads to higher engagement and satisfaction levels, reducing turnover and increasing the longevity of volunteers within the community. Long-term volunteers often possess a wealth of knowledge and experience that contributes to WordPress’ continuous growth and success.

Greater Trust and Transparency

Candid communication fosters trust and transparency, vital in a community like WordPress, where many collaborations are happening concurrently, often across different time zones and cultural contexts. Open and honest communication ensures everyone is on the same page, preventing hidden agendas or misunderstandings that could undermine the community’s efforts.

No community is immune to conflict, but how it's handled makes all the difference. Candid Communication encourages individuals to express their concerns openly, facilitating constructive dialogues instead of destructive confrontations.

Resilience in the Face of Conflict

No community is immune to conflict, but how it’s handled makes all the difference. Candid communication encourages individuals to express their concerns openly, facilitating constructive dialogues instead of destructive confrontations. This approach helps teams and by extension the WordPress community navigate challenges and disagreements with grace and resilience, turning potential obstacles into opportunities for growth and learning.

Promotion of Diversity and Inclusion

As the WordCamp Europe incident shows, candid communication is crucial for promoting diversity and inclusion. By encouraging open dialogues around these topics, the WordPress community can work towards a more diverse and inclusive environment. This not only enhances the community’s creativity but also ensures that WordPress remains a platform that truly represents and serves its global user base.

Building a People-First Culture

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, candid communication is integral to establishing a people-first culture. This approach signals that every individual’s thoughts and feelings are respected and valued, whether they’re a seasoned contributor or a new volunteer. In the WordPress community, this could help to combat toxicity and ensure that all contributors feel welcomed, valued, and empowered to make their mark.

By fostering a culture of candid communication, our teams, and by extension, the WordPress community can continue to thrive and grow, benefiting not only the individuals who contribute their time and skills but also the millions of users worldwide who rely on WordPress for their websites and businesses.

Practical Recommendations to Foster Candid Communication

So how can leaders foster candid communication in their teams? Here are some practical recommendations:

Set the Tone: Leaders should set the example by being open, honest, and respectful in their communication.

Provide a Safe Environment: Create an environment where team members feel safe to express their thoughts, ideas, and concerns without fear of retaliation.

Encourage Feedback: Regularly ask for feedback from your team and genuinely consider their input. Make communication a two-way street.

Respect and Value Differences: Encourage diverse viewpoints and respect the unique perspectives that different backgrounds bring.

TeamWP’s OpenTeam Framework and Culture Compass can assist leaders in fostering candid communication in their teams. The OpenTeam Framework emphasizes the importance of open, honest communication as one of its core principles, while the Culture Compass provides a way to measure and decide on strategies for improving these principles.

The Role of OpenTeam Certification and TeamSync Toolkit

Candid Communication is also a critical component of the OpenTeam Certification. The certification assesses an organization’s communication practices, ensuring they align with the principles of candid communication. Moreover, it underscores the interconnectivity between candid communication and other OpenTeam principles, reinforcing the importance of a holistic approach to a healthy and effective work culture.

TeamWP’s TeamSync Toolkit can also play a significant role in fostering candid communication within teams. It’s a collection of workshops and guided conversations designed to streamline team communications, making it easier for team members to share ideas, provide feedback, and collaborate effectively. By using a tool that facilitates open and easy communication, organizations can make candid communication a natural part of their everyday operations.

A Call to Action: Embrace the Power of Candid Communication

The incident at WCEU is a stark reminder of the challenges we face in fostering open, inclusive, and honest communication. As leaders, managers, or team members, we must understand the value of candid communication and make every effort to integrate it into our interactions.

To build inclusive, diverse, and innovative workplaces, candid communication must be a priority. Leaders should actively establish an environment where everyone feels heard, valued, and respected, promoting a culture of mutual respect and empowerment. Employees should be encouraged to voice their thoughts and concerns, knowing their input is valued and respected, and they should actively participate in shaping a culture of openness, honesty, and respect.

The Power of Candid Communication: A Journey Worth Undertaking

The path to candid communication may be challenging, but with conscious effort, commitment, and the right tools, it’s a journey worth undertaking.

We’ve seen the transformative power of candid communication at Pixar and other successful organizations. Now, it’s time for us to bring this potent approach into our own workplaces and communities.

The Impact of Candid Communication: A World of Difference

By embracing candid communication, we can transform not only our workplaces but also our communities, contributing to a more inclusive and diverse professional world. The challenge is significant, but the rewards—healthier, more productive workplaces, and inclusive, respectful communities—are well worth the effort.

Every conversation we have is an opportunity to practice, promote, and propagate candid communication, serving as a vehicle for change, inclusivity, and healthy work culture.

The Future of Work is Candid

The WordCamp Europe incident serves as a wake-up call and a call to action for all of us. We must strive to foster an environment of candid communication, where diversity is celebrated, and every voice is heard.

By taking the first step today, we can make a significant difference. Let’s make candid communication the norm, not the exception. After all, the future of work depends on it.