Is team communication achievable or just a myth?

| October 7, 2015

Is team communication achievable or just a myth?

Whether you working to create a new product, trying to publish your monthly newsletter or planning your company´s next social event, you will not be able to complete your task successfully if your team lacks strong and efficient communication practices.

Team communication skills are critical to ensure the success of a team effort, whatever its nature and whatever the size of the team. Communication, both verbal and nonverbal messages, can influence everything, regardless of the medium in which they occur – from the interactions of team members to participation in the tasks, to the outcomes of team goals.  It can also contribute to resolve conflict within the group or to clarify rules, regulations and procedures.

When team communication skills are strong, it raises the chance that good ideas and best practices will be shared openly. Teams that can establish an open, positive and supportive environment among members are in a better position to hear those good ideas and learn from the best practices of the group. Teams with strong communication also experience greater cohesion, where members identify with and feel proud of the team. Strong communication within a group also results in greater creativity and higher productivity on the part of members.

But is team communication just a chimera? Can it really be achieved?

Team communication in its most pure state may very well be merely a chimera, but it´s certainly something all business owners should strive to achieve. No  communication or broken communication equals higher risk of conflict and more potential for unfinished or poorly finished tasks.

Effective team communication can be simple if proper best practices are well grounded and implemented. In most cases it comes down to common sense and good manners, but very often not all team members see eye to eye in this regard.

So how do you establish effective communication practices in your team?

Communication starts with the team leader. This person will work with the team to establish ground rules and bring the team together to accomplish its goals. When team leaders and managers establish a culture of open and honest dialogue among their team members, the percentage of ‘actively engaged‘  individuals rises.  So since engagement is overwhelmingly linked to positive business outcomes, it is important  for managers and team leaders to utilize various best practices for communication success:

1. Clearly convey your  values, your mission and your strategy

Do so from the day your employee walks through your do. It is imperative they understand your objective/s and how you plan on achieving them through the establishment of honest, open and cordial communication channels between management and the employees and among employees themselves.  Explain to them how they fit in this picture. Articulating the value each employee brings to the overall business strategy will keep employees engaged as they´ll feel they have a purpose.

 2. Promote honesty and accountability

Another best practice to help you enhance communication includes being honest and accountable.  Managers and leadership should make sure they are always truthful when speaking with employees.  They should hold themselves responsible for promises made. If something is preventing you from executing a promise you made, inform employees as soon as possible, and present an alternative to resolve this issue.  Otherwise, employees’ trust in management will suffer, causing a dip in engagement levels.

3. Encourage employees to be vocal

Make yourself available to your employees and assure them you are expecting open communication about any work related issues.  When dialogue occurs between supervisors and their team members, active listening should be the norm. When employees realize managers want to talk to them and answer questions, they will be more willing to ask.  Misunderstandings will decrease, and engagement is likely to rise. Regular meetings and catch-ups  should be established as well to keep the dialogue flowing.

4. Use performance reviews

Reviews are exceptional opportunities to evaluate each individual’s unique engagement level. The team leader can then leave the meetings with an idea of how to improve engagement levels among employees, creating a more actively engaged organization as a whole.

Open, honest, and effective communication among the business and its employees should become the “new normal.”

But how about employee communication?

How do you promote fair and effective communication between your employees?

Encourage simple basic communication rules. People have very different communication skills, expectations and values. But you need to expect a bare minimum from day one, which is based in respectful, polite conversation:

  • Make sure employees listen carefully to what other team members are conveying and don’t interrupt until they finished talking.
  • Make sure every member of the group gets the chance to speak.
  • Employees should be encouraged to be open minded. If they walk into a meeting with their mind already made up, there’s little point in having a discussion.
  • When responding to someone’s question or statement, repeat it to make sure you have heard and understood correctly.
  • Do not tolerate condescension, ill-manners, mockery or any discriminatory or pejorative remarks. There is no place for such practices in a team working hard to achieve their goals.
  • Make them aware of their body language as it is almost as effective as what´s being verbally said.
  • If there are any misunderstandings, they need to be cleared in a calm manner.
  • When considering the pros and cons of any issue, study the exact pros and cons and not the opinion of the majority.

If you want to make sure communication is as it should be, you could conduct a Communication Audit. Employee Engagement tools can help managers and team leaders identify breakdowns in communications.  Your goal should be to discover where messages get trapped, so that communication processes may be improved.

But above everything else you have to help team members feel respected. Set clear behaviour expectations for your team.  Let them know that you expect them to treat each other with respect.  If a team member feels disrespected and isolated, do your best to bring them back into the fold.  Speak privately to employees who make others feel excluded.  A respectful environment is the best for encouraging creative, productive work.