Great team communication is a critical aspect of any high performing team. To achieve great team communication, you need to make sure you remove any barriers that will stop you from getting there.
We’ve already seen that teams that communicate well do less work. In this post, we’ll take a slightly different angle and look at the ingredients for great team communication.
Common Signs of Poor Team Communication
Some of the common signs of poor team communication are fairly obvious. Others are more difficult to notice. Do you see any of these signs in your team?
1. Your team doesn’t share knowledge. If your team doesn’t share information about who is working on what or how to address common challenges, you’ll be doing a lot of rework, or starting from scratch each time. I’ve worked with teams of remote workers who share information better than some teams that are sitting in the same location!
2. Your team doesn’t tell you about problems. Some teams keep issues to themselves. Instead of raising them with their manager, they’ll just work around them. This is a big problem, because some leaders think that “no news is good news”. But if your team aren’t telling you about problems, that’s not true!
3. Your team doesn’t ask for help. People in teams who communicate well will ask for help when they need it. This might be from you, or from their coworkers. If they aren’t asking for help and are keeping it all to themselves, this can be a sign of poor team communication.
Ingredients for Great Team Communication
In any great meal, you need the right ingredients. It’s no different for team communication! In my experience, these are some of the ingredients that help teams communicate most effectively.
1. Mutual Respect Between Team Members
Respect is an important factor in teams that communicate well. When team members don’t respect each other, they are less likely to share information. Instead, any helpful tools or techniques will be kept to themselves, because they don’t want to give their coworkers an advantage.
Disrespectful behaviour can also stop team members from asking for help. If one team member is regarded as incapable or inefficient, other team members will be annoyed and may tend to isolate them. This will only lead to trouble in the long run.
Good ways to encourage mutual respect in your team:
- Ensure that training or coaching is provided to team members who are struggling with their role. You need to make sure everyone can do their job.
- If there are performance issues with a team member, make sure you address them quickly. Otherwise, your team will feel that nothing is being done to improve the situation, and they will feel resentful.
2. The Right Tools For Sharing Information
To communicate effectively, teams need to be able to share information easily. If information in your team is only kept in everyone’s heads, or stored in twenty different places, it’s hard for people to find the information they need.
When sharing information becomes a hassle, people will stop doing it.
Good ways to ensure your team can share information:
- Create a central repository to store information. It could be part of your intranet, a Google Drive or a dedicated software application. Bring all your existing information into the same location.
- Enforce a rule that everything goes into your central information library. Team members shouldn’t need to look anywhere else.
- Make sure that team members document their knowledge as part of their work. This is particularly useful for common issues they might face, or instructions for completing common tasks. Then everyone can learn without needing to start over from the beginning.
3. Respect For Your Leadership
This is a big one. If your team don’t respect your leadership, you are in trouble. A team that respects their leader will be more open and honest, and more likely to communicate freely.
A team that respects their leader will believe that they can help them solve their problems. Teams that have no respect for the ability of their leader will start to think their situation is hopeless.
They won’t be able to help me. There is no point telling them about it.
Good ways to ensure your team has respect for your leadership:
- Make sure you work to address issues in the team promptly. Don’t ignore them. Ignoring problems or avoiding conflict will simply make you seem ineffective. Read more about conflict avoidance here.
- Find out the long-running problems in your team, by speaking with your team members. Then work to fix them. Start small, with something easy. This will show the team that you can make positive change happen. Once the team sees this, they’ll start to believe in you.
There you have it. Team communication is an important part of any functional team. If you don’t get the right ingredients in place, you’ll experience ongoing problems!
What are your common team communication issues? And how did you solve them? Let me know in the comments below!