Yeah, right. You understand how crucial it is to establish better team communication, but you suck at it because remote work culture was never ever your plan, and 2020 has been a bitch. Tell me about it?
But before we start bitching, let me tell you something- even before the pandemic, many companies embraced remote work culture. If only they had enough resources and time to train every employee for it, the world would have witnessed a shift in the work culture a long, long time ago! It was only never a necessity. But the COVID-19 crisis and social distancing trend sped up the entire process.
Most of us still struggle to keep up with effective team communication because we took it for granted when we used to work in the same room pre-lockdown.
And that’s a fact.
Effective team communication takes work. As a leader, you need to make sure that your team has streamlined and transparent communication. Otherwise, they won’t be able to work as a team akin to miscommunication, misunderstandings, internal conflicts, and many more.
Problems with team communication are frustrating. You may assume that your team is working, but you are only spinning your wheels. Your hours of work can go pointless if the right person isn’t available at the right time. It often happens with teams that don’t have an aligned working schedule and lack proper team communication.
39% of employees don’t believe that their organization has an effective system of communication.
75% of projects in any workplace get delayed due to poor communication among people.
Lack of cooperation is one of the Top 10 reasons for people quitting their jobs.
68% of employees feel alienated and bored in workplaces with strict rules regarding communication.
38% of workplaces have witnessed a decrease in productivity and employee satisfaction with lesser communication.
The statistics are not very surprising. Communication is no child’s play. Organizing team meetings and establishing good interpersonal relationships does not imply effective team communication.
Effective team communication means every person in the team knows what to do next. They know where to look up the information they need, and they are aware of the correct way to share the ideas or information.
Alright, that’s a lot of pep talk. Let’s get into how you can actually implement it on your premises now.
Why Talk About Team Communication?
Are Regular Team Meetings Not Enough?
For starters, when team communication breaks down, terrible things happen:
1. Meeting deadlines becomes next to impossible.
2. Employees lose trust in their leaders.
3. You waste hours trying to keep work on track.
4. Different teams work in conflicting directions and goals.
5. Some employees start duplicating their work while others may start missing them.
6. Finished projects do not come off very well in front of the clients.
As annoying as they may sound- these problems are way worse than you can imagine. At worst, they can cost your company thousands of dollars and put innocent jobs at stake.
Make sure that the people share information not only with their team but also with the other parts of the company. Information silos are HUGE suckers. Building healthy and effective team communication gives you plenty of benefits:
1. There remain lesser team conflicts.
2. You can always estimate accurate project timelines.
3. It becomes easier to be creative and discuss ideas more openly.
4. You establish employee retention by encouraging honest feedback.
5. Teams hit deadlines pretty consistently.
6. Finished projects are always the best.
Long story short, you get a hell lot done, and your company stays a perfectly sunny place to work.
Sounds dreamy. (I know, right?) Here’s how to do it.
05 Steps To An Effective Team Communication
There are two parts of communication:
→ Expressing your ideas in a way that other people get to understand them;
→ Understanding what other people want to convey to you.
When you lead a team, you have to make sure both of the things are happening regularly. Here are the 05 BEST strategies that make sure your workplace establishes the best team communication:
1. Company Culture and Team Assessment
Before you figure out your communication standards, it is helpful to start viewing everything through your company’s lenses. Company culture plays a pivotal role in influencing the communication that the manager or the team leader has with their team members.
Company culture is not something that you can label- it’s something that your employees define with their beliefs and behaviors. For instance, if your employee leaves early for the day but works late on the weekends to compensate, it’s a part of your company’s culture!
Your values determine how you work as a team. Companies that believe in work-life balance restrict excessive non-work-related team communication. You can use productivity tools like EmpMonitor to determine if your teammates stay in line during their working hours.
EmpMonitor tracks, records, and presents the actual working and non-working hours of your employees and presents you with a statistical analysis of the tasks that they perform. Get a detailed analysis of your distant team’s whereabouts and draft the perfect communication manifesto that falls fit into your company’s cultural beliefs.
A Communication Manifesto Answers Questions Like:
1. What tools should your organization use to gain and share knowledge?
2. When is it acceptable to interrupt an employee’s task to share information or ask questions?
3. How quickly should you respond to any queries or questions?
4. When to use private or public channels while discussing work?
5. Whom to include or exclude from conversations?
Bonus- Read, What Is Time Theft And How You Can Curb It?
2. Identify Your Pain Points
We already discussed your company culture, now let’s get into why we were discussing it in the first place. Every company faces barriers ahead of them that makes it difficult for them to accomplish their tasks.
Here are some of the reasons why team communication is still a HUGE pain for most of us, the first one being pretty obvious:
It doesn’t matter if your company is fully remote or has a few people working in distant locations- communicating with teams takes effort. You cannot rely on meetings, and clearing a single doubt sometimes takes more than an hour. The solution is to change the tools that you use to communicate and to stay in touch 24×7.
Occasional misunderstandings are harmless. But if you frequently notice that you say one thing and your team hears another, there exists an underlying issue. It could be a language or cultural barrier. Your body language and tone of voice might send mixed messages, or maybe everyone is highly distracted for some reason! Get to the root of the situation.
Lack of Information
If your colleagues frequently come back asking for more details on projects, it’s a sign of you not giving them enough information at the start. Even when you buy a bookshelf, it comes with detailed instructions for assembly. Contrary to this, managers often hand off work without sufficient detail in a hurry. Taking a few extra minutes to get back to the basics is no big deal.
When there is only one person (preferably the boss) with all the information, they need to be available to everyone else at all times. Such a person is known as an information bottleneck. Other people go dysfunctional until they get a response to their questions from them. It usually happens by accident but tends to continue for ages and millenniums.
Once you understand the barriers that hinder your team communication, it would be more feasible for you to rectify them. Read ahead to know how.
3. Be A Mediator!!
To get your team to communicate better, you have to become a better communicator among them first. Team members gradually pick and learn behavior from their leaders. Altering your own skills is tough- but it is worth giving a shot. Be prepared to polish your communication for a better foreseeable future for your teams.
Make communication a team goal. Treat it as a priority, ask everyone specifically about their ideas, and take them seriously. When you do so, employees get the impression that you care about them and start feeling more open in expressing their thoughts.
Take Feedback Gracefully
Effective team communication demands honesty. And you can never expect honesty if you react poorly to negative feedback and criticism. Ask your staff if they are getting enough resources and time to finish their assigned tasks. Ask them to be honest about the workplace’s shortcomings- so that you can start working on them ASAP.
Make Meetings Effective
Keep things short and crisp- never stretch your meetings for too long- especially with distant teams. Nobody would work for those 25 minutes of video call- make sure that the outcome is worth everyone’s sacrifice. Keep an eye on your team’s work and schedule a meeting during their idle hours when they are doing their least urgent tasks.
4. Invest In Communication Technologies
This point is as obvious as the noonday sun.
Communication tools are inevitable in maintaining a healthy distant workforce. You cannot rely entirely on video calls, team meetings, and face-to-face communication. You have to invest a few dollars in the required tools as well.
However, getting a new piece of software won’t magically solve your organization’s team communication issues. You still have to keep a constant check on the pain points and look for effective methods to mend them.
Nevertheless, here’s what you need to cover the basics:
Resort to using a single platform for communicating via texts. Make sure that all the employees of your organization create an account on it. Restrict them from using it as their personal accounts and only allow exchanging official documents with these accounts. Make sure you keep a close eye on the official profiles. Creating accounts on a safe platform like Telegram might help a lot.
Create separate groups, official channels, etc., for clearing doubts, sharing information, assigning tasks, and categorizing the given projects. Also, ask your employees to send regular work updates in task windows or specific groups.
Project Management Software
A project management software will assist you in answering all of your work-related questions. You can always answer questions that come to your head like:
1. How long will the project take to finish?
2. What is my next task?
3. Which employee is sitting idle?
4. Which employee is the most productive?
5. Which project is running late?
6. Which team member needs my help?
7. How do I balance my team’s workflow?
Once you know the answer to all the questions, it becomes a lot easier for you to build a better and more transparent environment for your colleagues.
A transparent and honest environment brings more employee satisfaction and better feedback. As a result, they feel more connected to their organization, and team communication occurs more authoritatively.
Other Handy Tools
You may need a few tools that solve some specific challenges for your teams.
Google Drive is for sharing spreadsheets and documents. Docs and Sheets allow multiple people to edit a doc at the same time. If you have files to share and organize, cloud storage through Box, Dropbox, or even Google Drive is a smart choice. They are secure and provide you bulk storage. For team meetings and video conferencing, software like Zoom, Google Meet, etc., works well if you have any team members working off-site.
5. Promote Friendship and Bonding In Your Team
Removing communication barriers becomes possible with a team that stays close and connected to each other regularly. It becomes easier for people to be honest and open when they trust their teammates.
They learn from each other and collaborate more effectively, so they know who to ask for help. Connect on topics outside of work and give them the freedom to chat. For instance, get up a group yoga class if you find out that your team enjoys yoga.
Start small. Accelerate to something big. Games are a viable mental break, but you have to participate, too. When your employees find you goofy, they feel more connected to your real self. If you don’t participate, you send a subtle message that you don’t approve.
Bonus: Introduce Reflective Listening
A bonus hug and a bonus candy for every reader who was patient enough to stick with me till here! Here’s a reward for you. You can encourage your employees to follow reflective listening.
Reflective listening is a communication strategy using which a listener grasps and understands your said idea gradually. Here’s how they do it:
1. Listen to the speaker carefully.
2. Think about what the speaker said to you in-depth.
3. Repeat back what they said in your own words.
4. Ask doubts and have a discussion. Clarify as needed with the same process.
When you teach your employees to use this process, they start analyzing and interpreting your said ideas in their own ways. Meaning, they would zone out less in meetings and pay more attention during doubt clearing sessions. Also, this way, you get more unalloyed inputs and get to look at an idea from multiple points of view.
The Final Steps
Are you ready to start working on your team communication? Here’s what to do next- GET STARTED WITH IT, SERGEANT.
Managing remote teams is one heck of a job, and we are no less proud of ourselves for doing it right. Get started with your communication manifesto TODAY. Start working on your teams and make the best out of them. Choose a communication issue that you want to tackle next.
Use EmpMonitor to analyze your staff’s activities and observe them closely to create your own team communication standards.