Effective Team Communication Tips for Agile Professionals in 2020
What is team communication? and how can you improve it? Here’s what agile professionals often overlook when they are actively engaged in project management.
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To work together, you need to communicate, and to work together really well, you need to communicate at the same wavelength. But what makes for good communication? Is team communication different than communicating otherwise in your daily life?
This guide to team communication tells you the what, why, when, and how to get your team communicating effectively.
Here Is a Quick Overview:
- What is Team Communication?
- Importance of Team Communication in the Workplace
- How do You Achieve Effective Communication?
- Types of Communication
- Communication Styles
- Benefits of Effective Communication
- How to Improve Communication within any Team?
So, let’s begin!
What Is Team Communication?
Before you can know what team communication is, you need to properly understand what constitutes a team.
Although you may understand a team as a group of people, this is an incorrect assumption when you are speaking of teams regarding the workplace.
As Baden Eunson stated, “A team is a collection of people who must work independently to achieve a common goal or output.”
You need to understand what “communication” is, especially because it encompasses so many different elements. Not all of them are necessary, and we often end up focusing on unimportant stuff.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines communication as “a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behaviors.”
Therefore, we can deduce that team communication is the transmission of meaning through the exchange of information that happens in a team.
Team communication stems from a team’s need to work independently while requiring independent cooperation to reach common goals.
Importance of Team Communication in the Workplace
Good communication is an integral part of any workforce. The importance of effective communication in the workplace can be seen by the effects it has in the following:
- It allows for work satisfaction
- It enables a more productive and talented workforce
- It enables your workplace to eliminate misunderstandings, questions, and ambiguities
- Effective communication is important to allow a workplace that helps your employees think creatively
- Good communication also increases employee engagement
So How Do You Achieve Effective Communication?
Your ability to communicate in the most effective way possible is based on the 7 principles of communication. In other words, you need to take care of the 7Cs of Effective Communication. By ensuring you follow these 7 principles, you guarantee good communication in the workplace.
Here are the 7Cs of good communication.
You need to ensure that whenever you communicate with your team or another workforce you are clear about your goal or message.
You need to make sure that your audience understands your meaning. You must provide clear information so that if any data or action is required your audience is clear in the action they must take.
Make sure that your communication is concise. Sticking to the point makes sure that your audience is clear on the information or message you are putting across.
A brief and to the point message is easier to understand and remember.
You need to make sure that the information or message you convey to your audience (this could be your team members or stakeholders etc.) is concrete.
You can only convey concrete information if you ensure that what you say is backed with data. This will allow your audience to have a clear idea of what you are trying to convey.
Make sure that your audience is not filling in blanks or left to imagine things. Provide your audience with factual material like data and figures.
It is important to make sure that your communication is error-free. This correctness is not only in terms of what you say, but whether the information you are relaying is correct for the audience you are addressing.
If you do not ensure the correctness of your communication, you only serve to confuse and misinform your audience which could create issues and problems for your workforce as a whole.
The point behind your communication will be useless if you are not coherent. Make sure that your communication is logical so it can be coherent.
Communication should be planned well and be sequential in manner. All points should be connected to the main topic of your conversation, with the tone and flow being consistent.
In communication that is complete, your audience (team members, stakeholders, and such) should have all the information they need to have a full understanding and be able to take action if required.
Be polite. Make sure that communication you have, especially with your team, is honest, respectful, and open.
To make sure your communication is courteous, take proper care, thus you will provide effective information, which can also be deemed important.
Types of Communication
Now that you know what makes for effective communication, it is time to understand how you can communicate. You need to understand that communication is more than just the words you speak. While you communicate verbally, you also do so nonverbally. For example, with sounds and actions.
For effective communication, the different forms of communication should all be saying the same thing. There are several different ways you may communicate. These ways can be categorized into 4 main types. These 4 types include verbal, written, nonverbal, and visual.
Let’s go over each type in turn so you can fully understand the impact your communication can have on your team.
Verbal communication is the most common type of communication. It is the use of language to relay information through speech (or sign language).
This type of communication is efficient. Often used during presentations, phone calls, and video conferences. Verbal communication can be supported by both nonverbal and written forms of communication.
There are certain tips you can adopt that will develop your verbal communication skills:
- Adopt a strong and confident speaking voice. Use a strong voice to make sure that everyone can hear you, especially in presentations. Also, be confident when you speak to allow others to understand what you say and your ideas to be clear.
- Make a conscious effort to avoid filler words. These are words such as “um”, “uh”, and “like”. Such words can be distracting for your audience and take away from your main idea or message.
- Use active listening skills. Verbal communication is not only your speech but also encompasses listening to and hearing others. Listening to your audience is a key part of any communication, and doing so will allow you to grow as a communicator.
The next type of communication is written communication. Written communication is the process of writing, typing, or printing words, numbers, or symbols.
Written communication is often used in the form of emails and chats in the workplace. This form of communication is beneficial if you wish to have a record of information.
There are certain tips you can adopt that will develop your written communication skills:
- Be as simple and clear as possible. Written communication should be as clear as possible to ensure that your audience understands what you are saying.
- Proofread your written communication. It is common to make mistakes when using written communication. Therefore, it is important to take the time to re-read what you write. As written errors can affect the impact of your communication.
- Be careful of tone. Written communication is different than verbal or nonverbal communication as you cannot see your audience. Thus, it is important to be wary of the tone you use, as it can be misread very easily. Keep your written communication as simple and plan as you can.
Nonverbal communication is the information you relay through the use of your body language, facial expressions, and gestures. This type of communication can occur both intentionally or unintentionally.
Not only does nonverbal communication aid the meaning behind your verbal communication, but it also lets you understand other’s thoughts and feelings.
Visual communication is when you use things like photographs, charts, drawings, art, and graphs to convey information. This type of communication is often used to aid verbal communication during presentations. Visual communication help individuals understand ideas and information.
Within a team, any combination of the communication types will be used. There is no set type of communication which is the right way. However, you do need to make sure that whatever types of communication your team uses, works for them and you.
Typically, as a team manager, it is your responsibility to decide which type of communication is appropriate for your team.
Apart from choosing the type of communication, as a team manager, you need to decide which communication style will work for your team.
Like considering the type of communication you choose, deciding on which style of communication you adopt should be with regards to your own culture and that of your team.
There are two assessments you and your team can partake in to help you evaluate which communication style will best be suited for you.
The first is a personality test. Taking a personality test can help you gain a better understanding of your team, giving you the information you need to choose which communication style you should adopt.
This assessment will also help create a stronger bond between your team members and yourself. One such personality test is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator classifies individuals as having one of 16 personality types. Recognizing your strengths and the strengths of others can help you decide which communication style will be best for you.
Another tool you can use to determine which communication style will be best suited for your team is the DiSC assessment.
This assessment can help you evaluate communication styles. According to DiSC, there are four main communication styles. These styles include:
Let’s go over each style briefly so that you can better understand what communication styles you can adopt with your team.
- A person adopting the Dominance style places emphasis on accomplishing results. Such individuals see the big picture, can be blunt, accepts challenges, and gets straight to the point.
- A person adopting the Influence style places emphasis on persuading or influencing others. Such individuals show enthusiasm, are optimistic and like to collaborate.
- Up next, those individuals who adopt Steadiness styles are focused on cooperation and dependability. Such a person adopts a calm manner and approach, they also encourage supportive actions and do not like to be rushed.
- Lastly, is the Conscientiousness style. These individuals emphasize quality and accuracy. Such a person enjoys independence, objective reasoning, and wants details.
Therefore, you can use frameworks such as MBTI or DiSC to help you evaluate your communication style as well as that of your team members.
Such an assessment will provide you with a good foundation that you can use to work on improving communication among your team.
Benefits of Effective Communication
Although we have discussed the importance of having efficient communication between your team, here are some benefits to effective communication.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise how proficient communication can bring a huge change in the workplace, especially considering the importance of communication within work cultures.
Good communication leads to:
- Healthy Workplace Culture
Fair communication leads to a development of trust which in turn creates good working relationships.
- Ability to Solve Conflicts
Communication is an easy way to get to the issue behind any conflict and resolve it into something creative.
- Clear Direction
Good communication will allow employees to be clear as to what is expected from them and what actions they need to take.
- Business Success
Happy employees result in a successful business. Business gains insights through lower turnovers.
- Higher Job Satisfaction for Employees
Communication helps employees feel fulfilled. They will deliver their best and also be committed to the organization.
- Increased Self-Esteem
Knowing their message is delivered and understood will allow team members to feel better about the organization socially.
- Stronger Teamwork
Good communication will help teams work well together and build rapport and trust.
- Reduced Misunderstandings
Important information will not be overlooked and a better understanding will be created. Each employee’s contribution to the company’s goals will be highlighted.
- Non-Threatening Environment
Employees will feel comfortable in the workplace when they know they have a safe place to communicate their thoughts, feelings, and ideas.
- Team Spirit
Positive communication can promote a desire within employees to work towards a common goal. As they know this will lead to a smooth work environment.
How To Improve Communication Within Any Team?
Now having an idea about why good communication is imperative for the functioning of your team, and the different types and styles of communication you can adopt, it is important to know how you can improve communication within your team to get results.
Here are just some tips and tricks to be able to improve your team’s communication.
1. Build Trust with an Open-Door Policy
Keeping a channel open for communication is crucial. When you allow management to be accessible, you show your team that they are valuable and an asset to the company.
An open-door policy indicates to employees that they can ask questions, pitch ideas, and voice concerns at any time.
Not only does this build trust between your employees and your management, but it also creates a safe work culture where workers want to contribute to the success of the organization.
Make sure that you do not only open figurative doors. Take an initiative to remove any physical obstacles between employees to increase productivity.
Any issues or problems which arise can be solved efficiently rather than being delayed and costing productivity while waiting for a meeting to bring up concerns.
2. Show Appreciation
Showing appreciation is a great way to deal with low employee morale. This again shows your employees that they are valued.
Receiving validation and appreciation lets employees have a good relationship with their colleagues but also feel comfortable at work. This in turn results in a more productive environment but also a decrease in absences.
3. Conduct Team Building Activities
Team building activities impact productivity as well as the overall collaboration of your team. Such activities help teams communicate together by building trust and positive relationships.
With the current situation of COVID 19, and the increase in employees working from home, team building may not be as easy to conduct as before. That is why we have put together this list of virtual team building activities.
4. Practice Active Listening
We touched upon this point briefly before, but communication is not one way. Active listening is an important aspect of making communication effective. This point is true for both yourself as a manager as well as your team members.
Team members need to listen to instructions and messages so that they better receive information. At the same time, as a manager, you need to listen to your employees so that you work well as a team. By listening you not only pick up on issues when they arise thus avoiding delays, but you are also able to take advantage of ideas from different members of your workforce.
To make sure that you are actively listening, adopt these habits:
- Make eye contact
- Respond to the speaker appropriately
- Examine your body language
- Listen to the information provided without interrupting the speaker
5. Identify Communication Gaps and Do Your Best to Fix Them
It is important to evaluate the communication between your team to see whether there are any communication gaps. This constant evaluation will allow you to pick up on issues and improve team communication.
Such evaluation also lets you pick up on minor problems before they escalate and turn into complete communication breakdowns. A way to do this, and a way to improve overall team collaboration, is to be open to reciprocal feedback.
Feedback will allow you to highlight any problems in your team but also open channels of communication.
It is important, however, to make sure that feedback is clear and detailed for all parties involved, so it can be taken on constructively. Simple criticism is unhelpful for everyone involved. You could also document feedback so that other members of your team can learn from it.
Moreover, remember that you are also a part of the team. There are things that you can improve on to help with the productivity of your team as a whole. Thus, while you learn to give constructive feedback, make sure that you are accepting to receive it as well.
Consider your role in the team and hear from your peers about how you can improve communication. If this seems difficult, you could always use anonymous feedback forms to get valuable insight into the working of your team.
6. Take Use of Communication Apps
Communication apps are becoming popular, and so it makes sense to use them to improve communication within your team.
It is time-consuming and often confusing to keep track of long email threads, especially if you are talking to different groups of people. This is where you can benefit from investing in a good communication app.
The digital transformation of the workplace and the increase in employees telecommuting is just another way that communication apps can help your team stay connected and collaborate effectively.
Communication apps let you streamline communication and make sure that nothing gets overlooked.
7. Invest in a Project Management Software
To keep a conducive work environment, it is imperative to clearly define tasks and responsibilities and ensure everyone is aware of what they need to accomplish.
No work can be complete if your employees are unclear as to what tasks they are responsible for. Such confusion creates gaps in your workflow and affects outcomes.
Moreover, you need to make sure that if you are working on a project, your team knows not only their tasks but the scope of the project. This way they can ensure that they do not go beyond what would classify as the scope of the project.
One way to do this is to use a project management tool. A project management tool will help with task management and keep transparency.
By using project management tools you can:
- Create and assign tasks, and track those tasks through task management features
- Identify and analyze risks your project could face, and create a mitigation strategy
- Manage project schedules and track project progress
- Define issues faced by severity, status, and priority
- Organize and manage meetings, and be able to set meeting agendas and follow up actions
- Communicate and collaborate with your team
Remember, effective communication starts with you!
Communication is the foundation of teamwork and therefore you should award it the importance it is due.
We hope this guide helps you understand the importance of good communication and how you can tailor it to get the most productive collaboration from your team.
Published at DZone with permission of Fred Wilson, DZone MVB. See the original article here.
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