Are poor communications sinking your team?

© Elena Duvernay |

© Elena Duvernay |

We all know that strong communications is important to effective team work. If you read through the description for any leadership position, I can almost guarantee it will include “strong written and oral communication skills.”

And yet, poor communication is one of the most common sources of broken teams. How common is it? Tell me if any of these symptoms hit home:

  • Molehills become mountains – seriously. Every tiny hiccup brings the team to a halt.
  • Infighting – finger-pointing, openly and behind people’s backs.
  • People don’t come to meetings – or when they do, they don’t participate.
  • Poor coordination – forget collaboration, simple hand-offs between teammates fail to happen.
  • No one asks questions – even when they should.
  • A general lack of enthusiasm, commitment or engagement for the team’s objectives.

While there are many factors that can contribute to a dysfunctional team, I’ve found that strong communications above all else are at the heart of getting the team back on track. Why?

  • Communicating regularly and completely builds trust (which cuts down on infighting).
  • Bad news can be put into perspective when the team has the big picture (so the molehills stay molehills).
  • The more informed people are about the project or objective, the more effectively they define their contribution (which improves coordination).
  • When communications are bi-directional, and team members feel they have a voice, they engage (in meetings and otherwise).

Here are 5 tips for setting up team communications that work:

  1. Make them regular and as often as practical. Weekly is a good place to start, daily for fast moving, agile situations.
  2. Make sure at least some of them are in-person. If you have a distributed team, make an effort to have some meetings “together.” Skype and Google Hangouts work well for helping your remote people be present.
  3. Make sure to share the good, the bad and the ugly. Some leaders think bad news will demotivate the team, but nothing disengages the team faster than lies of omission.
  4. Make an effort to solicit input from the team as often as is practically possible. Involving more people in the decisions takes a little longer, but it increases commitment from the team.
  5. End meetings with next steps. Make it a round table (where each person says what they are doing next), and you increase engagement and coordination among the team members.

So if your team is struggling, show off your “strong written and oral communication skills” and up your communications game.  It might just right your ship.

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