4 Ways to Improve Team Communication

By: Cheryl

Organizations at every level should aim to improve team communication. As the article on the ‘Importance of Team Communication Skills’ explains, excellent communication among team members helps in setting and attaining clear goals, promoting greater efficiency and better problem-solving, cultivating positive relationships, reducing and diffusing conflict, and creating a culture of celebration.

Excellent team communication, though, is something teams need to work on as part of a comprehensive and continuous professional development program that team managers anywhere and at any level must provide. As the blog on ‘Professional Development in Today’s Digital Landscape’ points out, people “should always look to absorb new skills and adapt to society’s ever-changing demands, regardless of where they are in the business spectrum. And today, the most in-demand skills seem to be digital skills, as they are said to fill in skills gaps in this increasingly digitalized world.

While that makes perfect sense, it would be foolish not to offer language training for those who want to learn a second language, and interpretation/translator training for those who are already proficient in at least two languages. Such training is especially important if your team is part of the industries mentioned in this article on ‘The Importance of Language Services in Various Industries’. These fields include finance, manufacturing, healthcare, legal, and education, and every one of them will benefit tremendously from some form of training in language, as well as in translation or interpretation. Incidentally, language training is a big part of the guide below on the different ways you can improve team communication. Take a look:

Institutionalize language training

An Entrepreneur article outlines how organizations can best benefit from language training, which in this case refers to learning a second language until such time that the learner becomes proficient enough to carry everyday conversations using that newly learned language. In particular, Ryan McMunn, the BRIC Language Systems founder, notes how staff who get this type of training become more confident because they can communicate with team members freely and comfortably without fear of misinterpretation or being ostracized. Open communication, in turn, allows staff to build trust that, ultimately, will result in rapport. And this rapport can then go a long way in improving team dynamics and communication.

The abovementioned training is more vital now for two reasons: First, organizations are becoming more diverse; second, it isn’t uncommon for companies to expand their business globally. It’s not surprising that a company like Nissan — headquartered in Japan, but with offices across North America — offers a variety of language proficiency programs for its staff, so they can communicate better not only with one another, but also with Nissan’s clients. The benefit of institutionalized language learning is, therefore, twofold, as it can improve internal communication and enhance external communication.

Find a rhythm… and develop it

Teams need an operational rhythm, described by Franklin Covey client partner Angus Patterson as a kind of workflow dynamic in which “certain vital activities are performed in a consistent manner to a high degree of excellence both across a business and within the business.” An example of this rhythm is scheduling start-of-the-week meetings, conducting daily check-ins at a certain time of day, and setting weekly 1-on-1s and monthly training sessions. This creates a structure for team communication that can incorporate opportunities to set goals, clarify expectations, provide feedback, and ask questions.

Here is an example: You can start every work week with a short meeting to set goals and expectations for the week (see below to make the most of these meetings). Give everyone their tasks, a timeframe for each, and the criteria for performance evaluation. Make sure everything’s clear, and allow everyone to ask questions pertinent to said goals and expectations. Then, schedule 10-minute check-ins every day, say, after lunch, and group chats on Wednesdays right before everybody signs off. Finally, have bi-weekly training sessions or workshops for professional development and to foster camaraderie even more.

Leverage meetings

Meetings don’t always turn out to be productive, and they can, at times, be a waste of everyone’s time. But meetings, when done right, are a great way to align goals, increase productivity, and improve team communication. A way to ensure all these is by maximizing every meeting, which you can do by:

• Limiting meetings to 50 minutes or less

• Creating a detailed agenda, and sending it to everyone beforehand

• Assigning a meeting leader

• Following the agenda to the letter

• Tackling important non-agenda issues as raised during the meeting

• End with an action plan.

For Annette Catino, chief executive of the QualCare Alliance Network, having an agenda gives her reason to attend the meeting and stay in it. “Give me an agenda or else I’m not going to sit there,” says Catino, “because if I don’t know why we’re in the meeting, then there’s no reason for a meeting.” And there’s a good reason why it’s so important to have an agenda: It serves as the meeting’s compass and can help everyone fall in line real quick. It will also push any meeting back on track in case conversations wander off course.

Just as important is ending a meeting with an action plan, where everyone in the meeting determines exactly what should be done and by whom. This is why MetricStream former chief executive Shellye Archambeau ends her meetings by asking, “Who’s got the ball?” and why Mark Toro, managing partner for North American Properties, popularized the acronym W.W.D.W.B.W, which stands for “Who will do what by when?” While Archambeau’s and Toro’s catchphrases differ, both are designed to make clear what everyone is supposed to do, along with the time required for each task. With this, your meetings are guaranteed to be productive for all involved.

Be honest but constructive

Your team will take cues from you, so it’s important that you show them how you want communication to go with the team. In particular, you’d want to foster a communication paradigm in which everyone can freely share their insights and be honest about everything — especially in matters related to work. This can only happen if you, yourself, are honest, but constructive in giving feedback. A good rule of thumb in this case, according to Kim Scott’s book Radical Candor, is to challenge directly, but care personally.

As the article ‘What Do Employees Want Most From Their Managers?’ says, being frank, yet constructive is one of the ways you can show honesty, and this characteristic is a trait that employees want from their superiors. This is why giving real feedback without being rude, along with following through on your word and not stealing credit, is crucial in increasing employee enthusiasm and engagement. It will, in turn, foster honest, transparent, and open communication, and encourage everyone on your team to be forthright with you and with one another.

As the tips above show, improving team communication isn’t remotely close to rocket science. But it isn’t that easy either, as it will take investments in time, effort, and resources. The tradeoff of a more engaged, productive, and satisfied team, though, makes all the effort worth it in the end.

Article written by Roxanne Jarrett

Exclusively for mcislanguages.com

More about the writer:

Roxanne Jarrett is a freelance journalist whose passion lies in helping organizations achieve their goals. When she’s not busy with work, you can find her trying out new yoga poses or reading up on the latest news in the world of business.