How you can improve team communication and save your sanity

team-communicationIf you work in a team, communication is always going to be a challenge.  If you’re in charge you get to choose the team yourself.  Even better, if you’re working with freelancers you can change personnel if something isn’t working.  But issues in team communication can still pop up.

I always think building a team is like organising a night out.  I have friends that I love but would never introduce to each other.  They’re just too similar.  I’d spend the whole evening stressed trying to keep them apart or refereeing an argument and that’s no fun at all.

Know your role

The first thing you can do to facilitate good team communication is to make sure that everyone has a defined role.  That includes you!

Most people who start businesses do everything themselves to begin with.  Handing things over can be a massive wrench.  You don’t know if a new person will work to your standards and they certainly won’t have the same investment in your business.  But if you’re busy, you need help or you’ll work yourself into an early grave.

On the plus side, it’s easy to give a brand new person a defined role.  You decide you need someone to do your admin so that’s what you search for.  It’s much harder to go into a team and reorganise responsibilities.  People always worry about their jobs if they’re being asked to give up certain tasks.

It’s much easier to communicate with someone who knows what they’re responsible for.  They know what you’re expecting and can talk to you and the rest of the team based on their area of expertise.

Share your goals

That said, you should always share the bigger picture with your team.  Team communication works much more smoothly if everyone knows what they’re working towards.  Otherwise they only see their little bit of it.  Then you end up with people who are defending their patch and can’t see when their approach is making someone else’s life more difficult.

I used to see this all the time when I was a solicitor.  Some clients would see me as an annoyance, always demanding information.  The ones who knew that I was only trying to make their claims go away quickly were much easier to work with.

Team communication during meetings

How many meetings have you sat in, completely bored and falling asleep?  I know I’ve been in a few.  If you absolutely must have a meeting, think about whether you can have it standing up.  Or even walking.  If you don’t need to refer to notes, try a walking meeting.  You and your team will be more alert and you don’t get bogged down in tiny details.  Walking or standing up also means that you can keep things short.

Choose your method

Think about your communication method carefully.  Some issues are sensitive and need a face to face discussion.  Other matters need an email or shared document that people can read and refer back to.

If you’re working on a project where lots of small tasks are shared out, consider a collaboration tool.  That way everyone can see the bigger picture but also keep track of where they’re up to.  If they’re waiting for one stage to be completed before starting the next they can see what’s happening immediately.  That means that they’re not interrupting a colleague to ask them.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that people communicate differently.  If you have a large team that can be hard to accommodate but it can make life a lot easier.

Are you in charge of a team?  What are your team communication strategies?  Drop me a comment and let me know!

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