Team communication strategies are vital to developing a productive team. It’s that simple (and that powerful), yet a huge number of teams in workplaces all around this globe still find themselves operating in a confused and inefficient manner due to poor communication habits.
Clear communication is the core principle of smooth-running teams, and this guiding principle becomes even more crucial in virtual teams where team members are operating outside the conventional office space.
Here are some techniques to revolutionise your team’s communication style.
1. Improve your communication tools (and cut down on email)
Successful companies increasingly utilise various team communication tools and their own intranet so that all team members can easily see what others are up to, read comments left on tasks, and communicate easily on one central platform. There are multiple tools available to do this from Slack to Yammer and all points in between.
All shared work documents and resources are also easily accessible, as well as important day-to-day details such as when someone is away from the office. These tools dramatically cut down on duplication of tasks, confusion, and time spent hunting for documents or impatiently waiting for a response from someone who is on vacation.
These shared programs also reduce the need for consistent back and forth email trails. When you consider that an average 28% of an employees’ day is spent wrangling their inbox, this is a powerful productivity advantage.
2. Take a dispassionate appraisal of how YOU communicate.
If you want to change the way your team communicates, the only place to start is at the top.
Though it might come as a surprise a team will often mirror the style of its leader and will watch and analyse your style before they start to adapt theirs.
What could you improve?
- Could you be seen around the office more?
- Use email less, and either phone or video conference more?
- Develop a clean and to the point style of communication in emails and meetings?
- What about your feedback style, can this be improved?
3. Deliver important messages one-on-one.
If you’re discussing important issues in a meeting format, responsibility for the problem/solution often gets diffused between all the people present in the meeting. If you want true accountability and ownership of projects, it’s important to follow-up group meetings with quick one-on-one meetings to explain what you want from them. That can be physically or over the phone or by video conference.
4. Document what you do
From goals to office conduct rules to ideas for next month’s office party, things should be written down and circulated. Verbal communication is great (and in fact the most authentic and inspiring form of communication) but it needs to be written down as well so that there’s no miscommunication.
5. Simplify your communication style.
Some people talk in circles or unintentionally confuse their audience by using vague language.
“They said that we need to do Y.” The question is then; who are they? Clear concise communication is the order of the day.
Simplify your communication style and your goals will be understood. Always send a follow-up email confirming what was said. This is one area where emails are important.
In emails and reports, use bullet points, short sentences, and plenty of white space to make what you are communicating easier to understand- particularly if the subject matter is complex. Remember in today’s online world smartphones and tables display text in different ways.
6. Talk to the team—and often!
Seek their views on how tasks are going and if they have any ideas for improving the team’s performance. This will make them feel valued, included, and totally invested in the team’s success. You should also be giving feedback regularly, with praise followed by constructive points for their improvement.
7. Leave your ‘door’ wide open.
If you want your team to work seamlessly, you need to remove the traditional barriers to communication. The first place to start is making sure everyone knows you are there to help, and that your door (whether physical or virtual) is always open.
Do be aware however, that introverted employees will often struggle to approach you with an issue or idea regardless of your invitation, so be sure to approach all your team regularly to offer your assistance. Don’t always wait for them to come to you, as some simply never will.
8. Communicate the goal.
An inspired team knows exactly where they’re headed, why, and how to get there. If there’s any confusion on your goals, it will instantly reflect in the way the team works. Explain the goal in a way that motivates each individual team member.
9. Reduce meeting time.
Does everyone really need to be there for the entire meeting? Consider sending out a pre-meeting agenda, which everyone has to read prior so they can enter the meeting knowing what is being addressed. Everyone then has time to prepare, come up with ideas, and crucially, not waste meeting time introducing the topic. This can improve your meeting outcomes significantly.
10. Consider a work retreat or fun staff day.
Communication is easier when there is a genuine relationship there. Hold external staff days to build bonds, and remember that the activities don’t need to be work-related. For virtual teams, team days are even more important, so schedule get-togethers and joint conference attendances where you can, or set aside some time for informal chatting/birthday celebrations etc at the beginning of your virtual meetings.
A great team is made up of capable communicators, so if you’re trying to improve your team’s morale and performance, you must start with addressing how you communicate first.
Until next time