Why good communication is important for teams
Published Jun. 25, 2020 by Andy Leverenz in Communication
One of the most pivotal things a team can do is communicate well.
Because communication can be performed in a variety of ways including face-to-face, written word, and even soundless gestures, it's no wonder what you communicate sometimes gets skewed upon delivery.
Be clear how your team communicates
As humans, we find ways to adapt to a means of communication that makes sense for a given situation or setting.
With so many means of communication available there is often overlap on which type of communication is best for a given group of people. Some people prefer verbal whereas others prefer written or a combination of both.
Because of this overlap, it helps to provide a few sets of guidelines in order to be efficient and also make sure everyone is on the same page.
Reaching a collective goal is the primary driver for most teams. If how and what you communicate is not consistent, there are bound to be speed bumps along the way towards achieving that goal.
Sticking to a few guidelines should increase the overall morale of a team as well as set expectations amongst each team member when the time comes for them to speak up.
Maintaining transparency reduces re-communication
Communicating well means making information available to everyone. As a team member, you need to address certain communications for all to see.
By being transparent you effectively prevent other team members from asking the same questions over and over. This of course assumes you made it accessible to them first.
Good transparency is the main reason you encounter internal team wikis or written communication tools. These are often a space to learn more about a team's goals, values, and operating requirements. They are also places to collaboratively manage projects, discuss ideas, and make important decisions.
Open information such as this allows each individual to learn for themselves and arrive at the same conclusions as the rest of their team. By doing this there is little need to re-communicate unless the team member is new.
Most questions should have answers
As your team grows there are bound to be more questions in need of answers. It might be best to document questions that get asked numerous times.
By answering these questions and making the answers accessible to your team, you can be more efficient and reduce re-communication. We've found written communication often wins here as you can host an archive of frequently asked questions for team members to review at any time.
Everyone should have a say
If you're a team leader and typically make the most impactful decisions, don't be afraid to seek counsel from the rest of your team.
Often times sharing your own thoughts on an idea results in more profound feedback from team members. Stemming from this feedback, a re-shaped decent idea could be promoted to a great idea after additional input. On the other hand, a bad idea could be called out and ultimately save your team a lot of time and effort had you kept driving forward on it.
By listening, teams can digest more and react less. There is a tendency to immediately react to new information that gets communicated. This is especially true if an immediate response seems like it is required.
Taking more time to listen and let things sink in allows for more thoughtful discussions where applicable. This gets challenging through verbal communication. Sometimes team members are put on the spot and aren't sure what to say.
Through written communication, more time can be taken to carefully articulate what was said and then begin to craft a more thoughtful response. Overall, this route is much calmer and less stressful.
It's important to note that not every conversation requires more time. There are situations when a decision needs to be made and handled right then and there.
The larger ideas and decision-making processes are better candidates for taking more time to listen.
Arriving at ideas with supportive feedback loops
If you're stumped about a problem or came up with a fresh idea it probably makes sense to share it with those who could weigh in.
At this stage, you can either request some time from your team members to meet or draft up a written message for review on their own time.
Writing tends to win for broad ideas here as there is more of an asynchronous expectation that prompts response cycles from your team. This method takes longer but usually results in more profound ideas and discussion.
If you need to arrive at a resolution more quickly then it might make more sense to request some time to meet and converse verbally. Verbally is faster but often results in loss of context. Be sure to take good notes so you retain at least some of the verbal conversation.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach
Every team is different. If there was a team communication playbook you probably would have heard of it by now.
Over a period of time, your team will evolve and so will how you communicate. You might need different tools, different processes, and different people to make it all work soundly.
Our team loves writing. We believe good communication equates to being a good writer. Expressing ideas, opinions, and more can happen through writing in a way that provides more context for entire groups of people to more easily digest. There are fewer context shifts and reduce the need to re-communicate. This is ultimately why we made Compose.