Getting your team to open up might be easier than you think.
The 4-hour meeting week and 25 other secrets from innovative, fast-moving teams
An organization can have the most talented team on the planet, but without good communication, its power is limited.
“Even if a team is made up of experts, it can still fail,” American Psychologist asserts, “if they do not know how to cooperate, coordinate, and communicate well together.”
Good communication is a key component of successful company culture. Understandably, this motivates good leaders to improve communication on their teams. To do so maximizes the many ways individual team members’ talents interlock and increases their odds of success.
In this post, we’ll look at how to improve communication on your team.
But first, what is good team communication?
In a nutshell, team communication is the imparting or exchanging of information or ideas between team members. Good team communication is typically focused on achieving shared goals. Additionally, according to the Journal of Applied Psychology, good team communication is relevant, complete, clear, equitable, fluent, and prompt.
Today, there are more methods of communication available than ever before. Verbal exchanges, body language, written correspondence, videoconferencing, and even emojis are just a few communication tools teams have at their disposal.
Good team communication, however, isn’t measured by which tools are used. Instead, good team communication happens when team members effectively communicate their knowledge and ideas using whichever communication method most supports collaboration. The ability to do this relies heavily on a culture of open communication between team members.
All the communication tools in the world won’t help a team stifled by company culture. To encourage open communication between team members, leaders must create an environment that supports it.
This may require some self-reflection. How has leadership responded to honest feedback in the past? Are team members’ ideas, concerns, and voices treated with value and respect? Team members have to believe that what they have to say is valuable and will be heard, or else they won’t speak up.
To encourage open communication between team members, you should:
Lead by example. Respond to honest communication the way you’d like team members to respond to one another in their exchanges. Listen without interrupting, and think before replying. Say thank you, especially for communications about something hard, like bad news or a mistake. Supporting team members communicating tough information will foster a sense of safety in speaking up and open communication lanes.
Schedule 1-on-1s. Regular 1-on-1 meetings with your team members do more than just demonstrate that you value their work and process. They also give individuals a chance to have your undivided attention. In large meetings, it isn’t uncommon for the most outspoken person to communicate the most. With 1-on-1’s, quieter team members with just-as-important ideas can be heard.
Ask for honest feedback. There’s a good chance your team can help identify existing communication barriers, so ask them for feedback. If you’re not convinced they’re ready to be honest with you about this, an anonymous survey may help. Remember: the goal here is to create a safe space where you can receive communication, thank team members for it, and take action that demonstrates that their input matters.
Encouraging open communication, but still seeing team members with their guard up? Don’t force it—that goes against the goal of creating a culture of safety and respect.
Open communication between team members requires trust. To build on trust and get your team to open up, you can try:
Active listening. “Active listening is all about building rapport, understanding, and trust,” PsychCentral explains. It’s much easier for a team to open up to someone who is a good listener. Take some time to brush up on your active listening skills, or even offer the skill as professional development for the whole team.
Engage the people, not the talent. Team members are whole people beyond the talent that brought them to the organization. Remote work may have made this easier or harder to remember for some workplace structures. Either way, it’s worth asking team members how they’re feeling each day, whether their work-life balance is manageable, and allow for a little informality in communications from time to time.
Team building. Team building activities sometimes get a bad rap, but even if teams bond over a lame exercise, at least they’ve bonded! Jokes aside, team building has evolved a lot in recent years and now includes experiences like Escape Rooms and Amazing Race-like challenges. Check out these team building companies; you may find your team opening up in ways you never expected.
Team meetings are a great place to improve communication on your team. Have an outspoken person who dominates meetings? Speak with them separately and ask if they can make space for quieter members. You can also use a roundtable format for meetings where the expectation is that everyone will participate.
Allowing team members to comment on and add to meeting agendas ahead of time also helps open up communication. This is especially true for introverted or junior employees. Interested in giving it a try? Check out our meetings tool for notes features and more.
Whether through meetings, active listening, team building, or all of the above, open communication between team members isn’t out of reach. Create an environment that encourages honesty and respect, and you can improve communication on your team.
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