Communication is a central activity for all teams. In this post, we review five practical communication tips that lead to better teamwork.
- Make it common practice to revisit the goal.
Many team-focused articles talk about the importance of mission clarity and alignment, but too often, teams don’t actually ask, “wait, why are we doing this?” in the middle of their work. To infuse mission focus into teamwork, start meetings with, “Ok, today we are going to talk about X. The goal is to Y. This is important to achieve because it will help A do B. Any feedback on that before we start?”This simple teamwork activity can highlight differing assumptions on the team. Use this technique regularly to help the team ease into meetings and keep them focused.
- Identify a shared pain point and resolve it.
Nothing develops and validates communication skills like solving a problem together. When the team solves a problem that directly impacts team members, people become more committed and motivated to do it well. Take something simple like improving document version control or improving meeting management. Through this, team members learn each other’s communication styles and, when the problem is solved, have a shared success to reference. Success motivates success.
- Show appreciation.
Everyone wants to feel valued and appreciated. In the flurry of work, even the simple “Thank You” can be easily forgotten. Model and encourage team members to recognize and acknowledge the skills and contributions of others.
- Assume best intentions.
When something goes wrong or when there is conflict, effective teams try to assume best intentions about the actions of others. Placing yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to understand their actions in the most positive light possible naturally activates empathy. This eases the path to constructively and positively talk through the issue.
- Take care of physical needs: space and snacks.
Having a dedicated team space supports sustained team communication. If you can’t get a dedicated team room, set up a paper-based or electronic bulletin board to post schedules, contact information, and notices. This information sharing is a key type of communication. If the team is open to it, a team birthday list is also a great way to build in celebrations, and a natural way to appreciate others. This leads right into food! Teams that eat together generally build stronger relationships – there is a reason that so many human social rituals are centered around food. Trust the process and bring in some healthy snacks.
All good teams have both highs and lows. Practice the five tips above to build and maintain positive communication habits that support the good times and facilitate small steps forward when course corrections are needed.