Culture November 6th, 2017

Our Common Core: Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication

Think back to the last time someone smiled and said: “Hi, how are you?”

What was your reply? Did you gloss over and just say, “I’m fine,” and leave it at that? Or did you launch into your latest ailment, making the store clerk wish she’d never asked? Professional speaker or not, open and honest communication seems to be the most challenging skill for anyone to master. And it all starts from within.

Core Value #6: Build Open And Honest Relationships With Communication

Fundamentally, Zappos believes that openness and honesty are two ingredients that fuel healthy, trusting relationships and emotional connections. Remember: Communication encompasses a whole lot of actions, including verbal and nonverbal exchanges. You may give a good speech, but are you a good listener? Can you write with the best of them, but fail to read between the lines? At Zappos, we embrace diversity in thoughts, opinions and experiences. Yet every single day Zapponians strive to build even better open and honest communication in everything we do.

These four individuals have also embraced open and honest communication, albeit in very different ways.


James Corden

James Corden is one of the funniest Englishmen I’ve never had the pleasure to meet. His “Late Late Show” is on long past my bedtime, but I often catch his stints on YouTube the next morning.

In “Carpool Karaoke,” what you see is what you get, including Corden’s infectious laughter, emotions and enthusiasm for a job he loves. Corden reminds us that we don’t have to be serious to be taken seriously. Sometimes when you communicate in other forms of speaking, people will be more prone to listen. Corden weaves interview questions amongst the songs bringing light, love and laughter to his guests and the audiences that watch.

Oprah Winfrey

All the world knows and loves Oprah Winfrey. As a child, she interviewed her corncob doll and the crows on the fence of her family's property. As an adult, she spoke with the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson, and touched upon many sensitive topics. Her grandmother was the one that encouraged her to speak in public and gave her an affirmative sense of herself.

For decades, Winfrey was (and still is) open and honest about her intimate life events, which in turn, made her a personable and appealing TV personality. She didn’t just listen to people; she embraced them with her eyes, ears and body language. Winfrey embodies communication and honest relationships in everything she puts her mind to, and she communicates it all with grace and style.

David Hassell

David Hassell is a serial entrepreneur. He’s founded technology companies, kiteboarding tours, and a company called Strategy Day that helps CEOs develop focus and accomplish strategic plans. Around the same time, he started to toy with the idea of assisting other companies to learn to communicate better. Hassell named the venture 15Five. The premise behind the company is that employees should only spend 15 minutes to write a report and managers should spend no more than five minutes reading them.

Since Hassell is an avid kitesurfer, snowboarder and all-around adventurer, he wanted his employees to feel he was still communicating with them even though he was rarely in the office, pursuing his hobbies. Hassell was practicing this core value since he was open and honest in the fact that he didn’t want work to get in the way of his fun!

Jeffrey Swartz

Jeffrey Swartz, former CEO of The Timberland Company, held his first leadership position as a factory manager at a high-tech manufacturing consulting firm. His primary role was to cipher technical information between teams that made mechanical parts and teams that didn’t. For three months, Swartz ate lunch by himself, not because of a lack of commonalities, but because of a lack of understanding.

To speak the high-tech language of the guys in the white coats, Swartz adopted a different lunchtime approach. He set up a conference room by pulling the table over to the bank of windows, leaving the chairs facing outwards. As his coworkers came into the room, their main view was the traffic below. When Swartz came back into the room, he said: “That is your manufacturing floor. Can somebody describe for me the algorithm that describes why the traffic is stalling? Why aren’t they going 55 miles per hour?” The tech-heads gave him the math in a style that was familiar to each of them.

Sometimes you need to learn new ways to express yourself. Whether its learning a new language, understanding your nonverbals, or merely communicating by listening. Whatever it is, do it openly and honestly. After all, that’s the most efficient way to build relationships.