10 tips for better team communication

Published Jun. 19, 2020 by Andy Leverenz in Communication

10 tips for better team communication

No matter the size of a team, communication remains the most viable quality. A team that communicates well can build processes and patterns that allow them to work together in harmony.

While at work we often forget some good principles for being effective communicators. This list is a small portion of ways teams can communicate to maintain that harmonious quality.

1. Communicate

It is easy to become submerged in our work. Remembering to post a status, ask a question, or seek counsel will yield much better results than leaving your team in the dark. When issues arise it's often a result of miscommunication or simply not communicating at all.

To communicate well you must first start communicating.

2. Write it up

Writing reigns king in the world of communication. Through writing, we can expand on ideas that would otherwise be hard to communicate verbally.

With writing, you can rehearse and revise before sharing it with an audience. This is often a great time to validate your thoughts and ideas by pouring it out on paper or your favorite text editor.

A team that communicates through writing provides a source of truth for each additional member. There is always a paper-trail that retains the context of the entire conversation. This is extremely useful to refer back to when the need arises.

A team member can refer to this source of truth on their own time allowing for communication to happen around the clock (asynchronously) as opposed to only in real-time.

In the case of verbal communication, unless you take notes, there is nothing to refer back to.

3. Ask more questions

Communication is a cycle. To learn and understand new things you must ask for help. Asking questions enables the ability to understand the processes and patterns a team has in place.

A lot of people are scared to ask questions because they don't want to sound inferior. We all battle this issue. Remember that no question is a bad one. No one will judge you for asking about things you don't understand or haven't yet learned. Just ask.

4. Don't expect immediate responses

Our society is obsessed with getting their needs met fast. Services like Amazon Prime, Door Dash, Instacart, and more only validate this frame of thought. We've conditioned ourselves to believe we can get anything we need as soon as we need it.

This type of mindset is hazardous to the workplace. The best thing you can do is communicate your need and go about your day like normal.

Like you, fellow team members are trying to get their work done and can't be bothered the moment you require their attention. Your team member(s) will respond to your when possible.

Embracing asynchronous communication allows team members to respond when they can. Unlike real-time (verbal, chat, text message), the immediate expectation of a response is not prominent. A team meber can choose when and where they reply. This allows a team to scale while maintaining good communication and productivty habits.

5. Give it 5 minutes

Sometimes an immediate response. Without a period for reflection, the outcome could turn poor.

Giving any pending response at least five minutes allows you to reflect on the topic before reacting.

In arguments, for example, we often act rash and immediately say things we don't mean. If given just a bit more time to reflect, a person might weigh the pros and cons of what they could be communicating to another.

The next time you disagree with another person you might consider giving it five minutes. Pausing for five minutes allows you to gain more perspective. After the time is up you can proceed respond in a way that doesn't lead to conflict.

With big decisions, the same practice rings true. Give five minutes of reflection and there is likely a better outcome in your sights.

6. Respect privacy and timezones

Now more than ever teams are working together across the world. This leads to team members working from different time zones and during different hours. This is especially true for fully-remote teams.

If a team member is outside of your time zone and perhaps off the clock, be considerate of their off time. Don't expect an immediate response until the next business day.

If you use a real-time communication tool like Slack there is an indication of whether the person you are trying to reach is online or offline. Respect their privacy even if they are online. Before pinging them directly make sure they haven't said to otherwise.

Consider not using real-time communication tools. Whether we like it or not these tools present team members as always online. Sure, communicating in real-time is fast, efficient, and effective but it presents its own challenges with work/life balance as well.

Being always reachable means you're always at work.

7. Share outside of work

Being at work doesn't always have to be about work. Team members want to feel welcome and excited to be a part of something great.

It's important to get to know your teammates on a more personal level if you have the opportunity.

For example, you could prompt your team to share details about their day, what they do for fun, what they're listening to, what they're reading, and more.

Activities spent together, whatever they may be, help improve team culture and communication. If a team member feels both welcome and a sense of belonging they are likely more comfortable communicating when the need arises.

8. Meetings should be a last resort

A meeting should only take place when writing fails. If an issue is pressing, hard to understand, or extremely important, sometimes a meeting is called for.

Face-to-face conversations tend to clear the air if there are more pressing matters related to disagreements or something of equal weight.

Meetings, however, should not be something that just transpires for the sake of transpiring.

For example, there is little need to update everyone on your status in a meeting. A written version of the same type of communication could suffice.

A 30-minute meeting may seem like a short block but there is an additional build-up and cool-down period before and after a meeting many people don't acknowledge. These periods kill productivity and are quite costly in the grand scheme of things. Compound the number of people at a meeting by the time of the meeting plus the build up and cool down periods and that equates to a lot of time wasted.

Never meet for the sake of meeting. Period.

9. Prefer asynchronous

Previous tips have mentioned embracing asynchronous communication. If you can reduce your need for real-time communication, asynchronous communication is a blessing.

Imagine removing the constant notifications, context shifts, knee-jerk responses, and threads of messages that have nothing to do with work from your work day. Imagine then again how much time you would save being absent of those distractions.

Your team could get much more meaningful work done while still communicating well asynchronously.

With Compose we sought to embrace asynchronous communication through long-form writing. We aren't trying to replace your real-time tool but rather enhance your team's means of communication.

Real-time communication is short, sweet, and fast but often lacks meaningful input. Until you compete with a problem through writing will you begin to craft meaningful ideas on a subject. Sharing these ideas asynchronously promotes richer conversation, productivity and calmness in the workplace.

10. Quit rushing

Everyone is in a hurry to accomplish what they seek to accomplish. Taking a step back to see how far you and your team have come puts things in real perspective. We're only around for so long and getting to where we think we need to be faster doesn't change much. Stay consistent, keep communicating, and most importantly, enjoy the process.