Growing up, I remember the game “telephone.” The purpose of the game was to pass along a message that you heard. However, the challenge was that you could only hear the message one time, and then pass it along. Depending on who whispered the phrase, you were likely going to get a different version of what was said. By the end, the last person receiving the words yelled out what they “think” heard.
Most of the time, the final message was drastically different than what was said initially. I like to think that current communication and teamwork culture works a lot like this. The messaging you are hearing depends on who is saying it, and your professional and cultural lens.
Today, everyone’s mission seems to be to improve team communication. However, I have witnessed many scenarios that make communication and teamwork a challenging process. How many of the below scenarios can you relate to?
- “The Not-Seen-Email”– I cannot keep track of how many times a colleague did not respond or “missed” an email I sent to them. For example, years back, I remember sending an email relating to a project deadline to a vendor. I waited a couple of days, followed-back up, and they said they had never seen it.
- “Forgetting to Inform Team Members About Vacations” – One of the hallmarks of communication and teamwork is letting your team know when you will be unavailable. Unfortunately, past colleagues have slipped on this one. There were times where we even had a physical calendar in the office, and someone would still inform the team only a few days in advance.
- “Spam Folders” – This one still happens to me. A client or coworker will not receive an email because it immediately went to spam. The same has happened on my end as well.
- “Deadline Miscommunications” – It is crucial to be clear about your expectations. For example, I had a supervisor ask for a project at a specific time, but they didn’t plan backward to adequately prepare for the time it would take to complete the project. As a result, the stated deadline was not realistic or well-thought through.
If these have happened to you, or if you are guilty of being the one responsible, don’t feel bad. The first step to improve team communication is to understand what isn’t working. If the scenarios above are commonplace, then it is time to develop strategies to prepare for the communication hiccups.
The Importance of Team Communication
According to Salesforce, 86 percent of corporate executives, employees, and educators say that ineffective communication is a big reason for failures in the workplace.
Think about it; everything you do involves communication and teamwork at your company. Dialogue and messaging allow you to fulfill the tasks that you need to.
Active communication increases trust, makes collaboration straightforward, and causes everyone’s job to be easier.
When I was working for a previous employer, the moments where we were at our most productive when we had short meetings where everyone was brought up to speed on what they needed to handle. They were then given the space to do what they needed to. However, to truly capitalize on communication, improving it has to become a priority.
Five Ways to Improve Team Communication in a Workspace
There are a variety of benefits of team communication, but to truly realize them, you have to fix your approach to communication. Here are some ways I have observed savvy leaders taking the lead to improve team communication.
Create a Culture of Feedback and Have an Open-Door Policy
If something goes wrong, can your team members come to you? What if they have questions? I have worked in environments where team communication suffered because leaders were not open to answering questions or hearing about how practices could be improved. To combat this, you have to make feedback sessions and an open-door policy a part of your company culture. For example, have feedback sessions where employees discuss how the company can improve, and set times during the day where individuals can come in and ask questions.
Invest in a Robust Collaboration Tool
A necessary component of any attempt to improve team communication is investing in a reliable collaboration tool. You need something that makes it possible for your team to communicate regardless of where everyone is and where tasks and expectations can quickly and easily be seen. For example, our tool, flujo, is meant to be a productivity multiplier that facilitates communication and teamwork. Whether you need to delegate tasks, create a list of to-dos, or instantly reach out to a team member, flujo can facilitate any critical business process. The processes surrounding work shouldn’t be hard, invest in a collaboration tool that makes them more easily accessible.
Make Meetings Count
Excellent communication and teamwork rest on dialogue. However, it would help if you had organized processes surrounding how you conduct gatherings like meetings. Here are some ways you can use meetings to improve team communication:
- Set goals for each session.
- Have an agenda, and distribute it ahead of time.
- Have a time limit
Using a collaboration tool like flujo can help you keep meeting dates and documents related to them organized and in one place.
Be Clear and Explicit about Tasks and Delegation
One of the most frustrating things I—and other colleagues—experienced in the workplace was a lack of communication around tasks and delegation. In many workplaces, there was no set place to find out what to do, long meetings without any action items, and situations where I had no idea what my coworkers were doing and vice versa. When you are working with your team members, be clear about what you need and when you need it. Leave no ambiguity about deadlines, responsibilities, and who is taking the lead. Doing this one thing can instantly improve team communication and enhance teamwork at your workplace.
Understand the Personalities of Those You Work With
We all communicate differently. Each of us interprets messages through our cultural lens, which is impacted by the experiences we have had. Understanding the personalities of those on your team can help you know how to reach them best.
For example, certain physical gestures may have different meanings in one culture than they do in another. The same can be true for symbols. As a result, to better handle this situation, do the following:
- Have everyone take a personality test
- Always take potential cultural and generational differences into account
- Encourage everyone to find out how their colleagues like to be communicated with
Communication and Teamwork are Vital to Your Company’s Success
Are you wondering where to start? Step one and two on this list can help you hit the ground running. The first step is investing in a collaboration tool that can help you institute a culture of communication, feedback, and fluid dialogue.Creating a culture of communication and teamwork in your workspace starts with developing an infrastructure to support it. So, take a look at a system that puts you on the fast track to improve team communication.
6. Recognize and reward
Recognized employees are satisfied employees, according to this recent survey. And satisfied employees do better at work (you can find out more here if you’re interested). If you want a happier, stronger team, recognition is key – are this doesn’t refer to a monetary reward.
Here are some of the ways employees want to be recognized and rewarded:
- Company or team-wide emails recognizing individuals/teams
- In-person recognition and thanks
- Extra vacation days
7. Office space
How constructive is your workspace for the growth of teamwork? Research from Herman Miller shows that the physical workspace needs to evolve to support collaboration.
“Project rooms that teams can use for months, conference rooms equipped with the latest remote conferencing tools, and areas of benching, where people can do heads-down work but also easily confer with each other support the various needs people have when collaborating.”
The needs of your teams should be reflected in your workspace. Look around your office and consider what could be done to encourage impromptu huddles for productive conversation, accessibility to knowledge experts, and semi-permanent spaces for group projects.
Though, once again, the research stresses that “people must feel they have permission to linger in informal collaborative areas and that comes from watching how other people, especially managers and executives, use or ignore those areas.”
8. Take a break
Team building doesn’t have to happen while you’re actively working. In fact, it’s proven that taking breaks together can result in a higher level of productivity and help reevaluate goals as needed.
One week, you could round up the team and grab a coffee together, or pick-up some sweet treats for your team on the way to work and gather for a morning chat. Getting together in a less formal setting will encourage better communication, sharing, and bonding between team members. If you want to start small, break up the day by stepping outside to have one of your team meetings on foot.
9. Focus on strengths
Focusing on the weaknesses of your team members can seriously affect engagement and consequently lower the team’s productivity. According to Gallup research, employees who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged in their jobs.
Everyone is different – we have different strengths, passions, and weaknesses. One of the cornerstones of a good team leader is focusing on individuals’ strengths, and bringing together a team of people that has a combined skillset to get the job done. As long as everyone contributes by bringing a strong skill to the team, their weakness should not be dwelt on.
10. Show gratitude
How much gratitude do you show? A survey of 2,000 people, found that people are less likely to express gratitude at work than any other place. In fact, 60% of those people said they “either never express gratitude at work or do so perhaps once a year.”
It’s quite surprising then, to discover that people actually want to be thanked. 70% of the surveyed people would feel better about themselves if their boss were more grateful, and 81% would work harder. Gratitude is actually proven to lead to an increased sense of self-worth and trust within the workplace.
So, next steps? Start saying those magical words! Be thankful for the big and the small things that your colleagues bring to the table each day. (Don’t go overboard though. It’s important that your thanks are genuine and timely. Think quality, not quantity.)
11. Accept differences
“At some point almost all of us have had that moment in the workplace where we wanted to strangle the person sitting next to us.” I love this line because it’s so very true – when you’re so frustrated by one of your colleagues because their opinions, mannerisms, or approach to work seem completely alien.
But, what happens next in the scene? That’s the important thing to focus on here. If your colleague next to you in a meeting is saying something you completely disagree with, do you:
- Tune out
- Dismiss their idea
- Talk over them
- Embarrass them
- Walk out of the room
- Actually try to strangle them (Inside tip: it’s not this one)
In fact, it’s not any of these. It’s actually this secret answer:
7. Come to a compromise/understanding
At some point, there are differences of opinion in every organization – that’s only natural (you’re human, you know what the world is like). Differences of opinion can lead to frustration, disagreements, and sometimes even conflict. Conversely, they can also benefit a project or final product due to unique perspectives and influences. The difference is all in your approach.
Problems arise when differences of opinion aren’t dealt with correctly – when people feel unheard, bullied, or disregarded. If you want to keep your team together (and stay sane) consider a few of these handy tips:
- Remember the importance of balance: Think of Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street. They’re best friends but polar opposites – one represents Chaos, the other represents Order. Our lives, workplaces, and output benefit from a mix of both of characters. A workplace with just one or the other would become monotonous and less robust.
- Embrace disagreements: These are often learning opportunities. Opposite opinions should be dealt with respectfully and carefully to ensure everyone is happy and innovation is maximized.
- Appreciate the differences: Both Bert and Ernie bring something to the table. One is smart and logical, the other is playful and fun. Even though your team members have different attributes, they should be recognized for the strengths they bring. Don’t play favorites based on your own personality.