Enhancing communication in teams
Melissa Summer, The Myers-Briggs Company
4 min. read
This is the second of two posts about team communication from Season 2, Episode 1 of The Myers-Briggs Company Podcast and our interview with Dr. Marta Koonz. In the first blog, we discussed overcoming team communication challenges through gaining a better understanding of the psychological needs of team members and the benefits and key elements of effective team communication.
Here, we’ll dig deeper into practical strategies for improving team communication and overcoming the day-to-day challenges teams face in communication. Keep reading for tips you can put to use today to improve the way team members interact on the job.
Strategies for enhancing team communication
Fostering an open and inclusive communication culture can be a challenge, even for the most effective of leaders. Many people have had experiences in the workplace that have hardened them against allowing themselves to appear vulnerable. Past supervisors or coworkers may have been unkind or refused to allow a new employee to be a part of the “in” group. People often arrive with baggage.
This is why leaders serious about making their team a good place to work educate themselves on practical methods to build trust, open up, and foster relationships with colleagues.
For the best team communication results, leaders must establish clear communication guidelines and expectations. For example:
- If something is going to be late, tell the supervisor as soon as possible.
- Establish uniform standards for reporting accidents, malfunctions, and other mishaps.
- Observe appropriate communication channels (aka “chain of com-mand”).
- Create a fair system for recognizing and rewarding excellence and suc-cess.
- Establish a system for counseling team members on poor performance.
- Make it clear that everyone is to be treated with dignity and respect in all communications.
This is by no means a complete list or one that works for every situation.
But with a bit of thought, leaders can develop a set of standards that work for their organization and team. When everyone knows what’s expected, unpleasant surprises become rare.
Another thing leaders can do to enhance team communication is encourage active participation and engagement from all team members.
Some people have extraverted personality preferences by nature and have no trouble staying engaged in conversations in the workplace. Others (like those who prefer Introversion) prefer written communication. A bit of active inclusion, in the right professional environment, increases psychological safety and allows people to reveal their best qualities.
Without effective communication tools and technologies, it’s challenging to get the message to teams above a certain size. Maybe an old-school cork bulletin board isn’t getting the job done, especially in today’s remote work world. Communication tools like Trello, Slack, and Monday.com can streamline team communications and even track individual and team progress. For large teams, consider a newsletter, or even a private website where everyone can find the information they need, and send messages of their own.
One of a leader’s responsibilities is to train and prepare the leaders of the future. Providing communication skills training (like this communication workshop) and development opportunities for team members is a good start.
Whether or not someone harbors an ambition to take charge someday, good communication benefits everyone on a team. And professional development programs serve to level up employee skills. This boosts productivity and, in turn, a company’s bottom line. Organizations are made of people. Smart organizations invest in them.
Overcoming communication challenges in teams
Language and cultural barriers have been a source of friction between people for all of human history. But today, we have the knowledge and experience to overcome those obstacles. We also have the internet as a source of translation options and global cultural information. Some basic guidelines can help employees unaccustomed to working across cultures and languages:
- Translate relevant documents as needed. Tools like Google Translate make this simple, there’s simply no excuse not to do it. If you can, have someone know speaks the language glance through the document be-fore dispersing.
- Remind team members to be courteous and respectful. Ensure they know that joking about or mocking another employee’s challenges is un-acceptable.
- Be patient. Repeat yourself when necessary, slowly. Be willing to explain; what might seem obvious to you may not be to someone from another culture.
- Listen. Then listen again. You might learn something fascinating about another culture or language.
- Use simpler language when necessary, and never (ever) shout when someone doesn’t understand what you’re trying to communicate.
Remote and virtual team communication works for teams that don’t meet in person regularly, or during projects that put team members in remote locations. There are so many options today for connecting and collaborating with team members anywhere. Leaders who find themselves unexpectedly lacking in knowledge about modern technology—those of us over a certain age have been there—might want to spend some time getting up to speed. If that sounds like you, find someone on your team adept at using communication tech, and ask for their help.
Speaking of which…
Teams can stumble upon generation and communication style gaps. Language is ever-changing, and many of the terms popular a generation ago are not only out-of-date, they may be considered offensive today. It’s helpful for older folks in the workforce to stay abreast of the times. This works both ways! It’s useful to refrain from too quickly judging someone who may use an unsavory term innocently that they’ve used all their lives. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Then, take them aside privately (and kindly), and have a conversation about what isn’t working.
But what if a conversation doesn’t go well or backfires, causing bad feelings? Managing conflicts and misunderstandings is crucial to the smooth functioning of any team. Take a deep breath. Try again. And if people can’t find a way to see eye-to-eye, it might be time to find a mediator to help out—an objective point of view can often cut through the emotional conflict two people or groups are struggling with.
Tips for effective team communication
As promised, here’re with a few tips to enhance team communication. Researching these concepts on your own, in your own way, will inevitably lead to some breakthroughs. Now get out there and:
- Encourage regular team meetings and check-ins.
- Promote active listening and empathy.
- Use visual aids and tools to enhance understanding.
- Clarify expectations and provide context.
- Address conflicts and issues promptly .
- Foster a supportive and respectful communication environment.
Want more resources to improve team communication? Try these:
- Psychology of Teams ebook
- Connecting with the People You Lead podcast with Dr Martin Boult
- Overcoming team communication challenges blog