In studies that explore high-performing teams, there is one metric that shows up again and again as a predictor of success: communication.
This suggests that teams that interact with each other effectively are more likely to function well. Ultimately, how well your team performs will affect the success of your business.
In this article, we’ll look at practical tips you can use to improve team communication.
Team Communication Strategies
Encourage Face-to-Face Interaction
In a study that explored what makes a high performing team, MIT researchers found that the most valuable form of communication was face-to-face. This was followed by video calls then messaging.
Based on this, managers should look to increase the number of opportunities teams have to communicate in person. The article pointed to several strategies businesses can use to do this. These are:
- Elongating tables so strangers are more likely to eat together.
- Scheduling a team’s breaks, so everyone is off at the same time.
- Encouraging managers to set an example by searching out time for face-to-face communication.
Of course, these are just some of many ways you can encourage personal interaction. Think about what will work well within your organisation.
Encourage Effective Team Communication
The same MIT study also suggested that the way teams interact is important. It identified two aspects of communication that can affect a team’s performance.
- Energy is the number and type of exchanges between team members. An exchange is defined as a comment and an acknowledgement.
- Engagement is the distribution of these exchanges among team members. The study found that teams perform better when communication exchanges are evenly distributed among all members.
Business owners and managers should take steps to ensure that people are communicating in the most effective way. The MIT study pointed to two ways managers can do this.
The first is to educate team members about effective communication techniques. For example, they should encourage members to listen more and to reduce interruptions. Another method was to move around members between teams.
Utilise Technology When Face-to-Face Interaction isn’t Possible
Face-to-face communication isn’t always possible. A recent report suggested that 70% of professionals globally work remotely at least once a week, with 53% doing so for at least half the week. This report is significant as it surveyed 18,000 employees across 96 global companies.
Luckily, there are plenty of tools business owners can use to encourage communication. Messaging software like Slack makes it easy for teams to communicate wherever they are, while productivity tools like Asana and Trello can help keep everyone on task.
There are many things you can do to encourage communication amongst remote workers. Setting up weekly video calls with all team members can be a productive way for managers to catch up with employees. This can also help build rapport.
Meanwhile, setting weekly meetings on the communication platform you use will ensure that there are times when the entire team is available to discuss issues together.
Before you have an online meeting, create an itinerary, and set up separate threads, team members can use to talk about each topic. This will reduce the chances of having several unrelated conversations going on within a single thread.
Ensure Everyone in Your Team is Comfortable Communicating
People communicate in different ways. Ensuring everyone in your team feels comfortable interacting with other members—no matter their level of experience, personality type, or culture—can form the basis of a successful team.
To ensure everyone in your team is comfortable communicating, you first need to discover the issues they may have.
Encouraging an introvert to talk more in a room full of extroverts will likely require a different set of tactics to helping newer hires who are intimidated by more experienced employees.
Create an Atmosphere of Trust
In a study on high-performing teams, Google found that effective teams were more likely to have members that feel psychologically safe. Google defined psychological safety as individuals feeling able to confidently ask questions, make suggestions, and admit mistakes.
There are many ways managers can encourage this. First, they should make it clear that they don’t always expect everyone to be perfect. Acknowledging their own fallibility can be one way of doing this.
Setting up a culture where all members know their input is valued is essential. As is creating rules for how teams should react to suggestions. For example, teams should consider all ideas, and that all team members are expected to do their fair share of both talking and listening.
Set up Communication Norms
Communication norms are guidelines that dictate how a team communicates, makes decisions, and resolves conflict.
The University of Pennsylvania’s Derek Newberry recommends several norms that teams should set.
First is that teams should set guidelines about the tools they use to communicate and how they use these tools.
Newberry recommends making a list of all the types of communication your team needs to perform, for example, project updates or budget reviews. You should then set appropriate forms of communication for each one.
While you may find it ok to perform project updates over a messaging app, budget reviews may be better suited to in-person meetings.
You should also take into account the frequency with which you communicate. Setting a meeting for each type of communication, for example, could end up overwhelming teams.
Effective Communication Improves Team Performance
Effective communication helps teams work together toward their goals. It reduces misunderstanding and ensures everyone on the team feels valued and comfortable sharing their opinions.
The exact ways you encourage teams to communicate will depend on the makeup of the group.
Teams with a lot of remote workers will require you to put in place strategies that let people communicate effectively despite the lack of opportunities for face-to-face meeting time. Close-knit teams in offices, on the other hand, will have a completely different set of challenges.