Keeping everyone on the same page can be difficult, especially with many teams switching to remote work. Tools can help, but they’re no substitute for strong teamwork. Here are 6 ways to improve communication with your team.
Even with email, messaging platforms, and corporate wikis, instructions and expectations can get lost in translation. Employees might be told to do one thing, only to realize the client or project lead meant something else.
If you’ve been struggling to keep team members in sync, these tips will help improve your internal communication with your team:
No matter where your team is physically located, consistent communication with your team to keeps everyone on track. This can take a variety of forms, whether weekly team meetings or brief check-ins at the start of each day. Meetings get a bad rap, but they can bring everyone up to speed and reveal who needs help, more work, or clarification.
In addition to team-level meetings, have regular one-on-ones with each team member. These conversations allow you to address relevant concerns with particular individuals without wasting other team members’ time.
If you need to talk to your web developer about code, for instance, you don’t need your marketing manager there. This approach lets people spend more time on their work rather than squandering it on meetings that don’t require their presence.
In that same vein, make sure to communicate any cancellations or changes to set meetings. A meeting schedule that’s constantly changing will erode the team’s trust and inhibit the ability to keep tabs on what everyone’s doing. Find a balance that best suits your team, both as a group and with one-on-ones, and stick to it.
2. Listen to What Others Are Saying
All too often, people listen in order to respond rather than to understand. Communicating well requires listening well. That’s one reason you shouldn’t rely solely on text communication if your team is working remotely.
Calling a team member on the phone or having a videoconference not only humanizes the conversation, but it provides important social cues. These cues, in turn, enhance your ability to listen. When you can see and hear someone, you can pick up on body language or changes in their tone.
Don’t be afraid to remain silent during these conversations. While remaining present, allow the team member to speak and give them ample time to respond. Gaps in conversation let both parties reflect and speak their minds more clearly.
While you’re listening, you can also gauge whether the person is feeling defensive, anxious, excited, or apathetic. From there, you can explore any other issues that might be lying under the surface.
Remember, your job isn’t to just delegate tasks to others, but to listen and coordinate with them. Improving your leadership skills requires listening well and gathering feedback.
By giving team members your undivided attention and allowing them to speak, you build trust and mutual understanding. This will make future Communication With Your Team even easier as you learn each other’s cues, concerns, and goals.
3. Gather Feedback Anonymously
For tougher conversations where team members might feel uncomfortable expressing their concerns openly, create a way for them to share anonymously instead. Letting them submit anonymous feedback gives you the chance to uncover hidden issues and complaints.
Team members might be hesitant to complain to you, their manager, for a variety of reasons. Maybe they fear they’ll offend you or otherwise damage your working relationship. While transparency is important, anonymous feedback mechanisms encourage people to offer insights that might be difficult to share.
You, in turn, can use this feedback to address tough issues your team might be quietly enduring. What you learn will likely provide opportunities for your own growth as a leader and communicator. By allowing your team members to communicate freely, you will build trust and encourage mutual growth.
4. Be Constructive
While receiving feedback and actively listening to your team members are important, be mindful of how you respond. Be constructive with your own feedback and criticism, steering clear of personal judgments or blunt assessments.
When providing feedback to employees, stick to observed behavior and use specific examples. Ask questions to gain perspective on why they did something a certain way.
The point of giving feedback shouldn’t be to put people on the defensive. Instead, use these sessions to discuss particular events or topics relating to the project at hand. Whenever there’s a problem, work together to find the solution rather than unilaterally dictating a course of action.
5. Over-Communicate Expectations
Whether it’s how work should be done or how it should be discussed, make sure your team understands your expectations. If team members don’t know when or how to communicate, important information is bound to fall through the cracks.
Encourage team members to keep you looped in on projects in ways that work for everyone. This could happen during scheduled meetings or check-ins or just via email or text. Not all projects require the same level of communication, so make sure your team knows how much is needed.
In terms of project management, make sure to explain why you’re asking someone to do something. Giving people assignments without a clear explanation can be frustrating or confusing, especially if a task is outside their wheelhouse. If you’re assigning a less-than-fun task (e.g., data entry), mitigate resentment by sharing the big picture and illustrating how the task, while tedious, is important.
When there’s not a way to make undesired tasks more meaningful, simply be honest. Sometimes certain jobs just need to be done. By empathizing with your employee’s situation and being candid, you will continue to build trust and understanding with them.
5. Be Authentic
All of these tips will be more effective if you communicate with authenticity. All too often, workplace communication feels rehearsed, shallow, and boilerplate. While you should always be professional, be your authentic self.
When you communicate sincerely and humbly, team members will become more comfortable talking and working with you. This comfort level will help build strong relationships between you and your people and increase your team’s cohesion.
Even if you’re working remotely, be aware of your body language and nonverbal communication. Things like smiling or keeping your arms uncrossed will affect how your team views and trusts you. When you’re able to speak face-to-face, make sure to give team members your undivided attention.
Most importantly, learn how each of your team members communicates best. One might prefer sitting in a quiet setting one-on-one. Others might enjoy walking and talking since they find direct eye contact intimidating.
Once you get to know your team members and their preferred communication with your team, you’ll naturally understand each other better. And with great internal communication, you and your team will be able to rise to any challenge.