How To Improve Team Communication 

Did you know that 54% of employees have left a meeting without knowing the meeting’s purpose? Or that 26% of employees think email kills their productivity?

We communicate from the day we are born, and yet, we still can’t seem to master it in the workplace. It may seem like team communication is hard – but it certainly doesn’t have to be.

Mastering communication is an art and a science. It takes patience and skill, but mostly, it takes practice. Together, let’s talk about team communication.

Defining ‘Good Communication’.

a cartoon depiction of effective team communication

A recent Salesforce study found that over 86% of respondents believe that failure in their workplace is due to ineffective communication. Yikes.

It’s no secret most businesses want to boost productivity in the workplace. And yet, ineffective communication is everywhere. It’s in unread emails, missed phone calls, and meetings with no purpose.

We are so used to bad communication that it’s hard to recognize effective team communication when we need it. So, before we talk about how to improve team communication, let’s fix that, and define ‘good communication’.

Good communication:

  1. Gets your message across
  2. Gives your listener a chance to respond
  3. Has a clear outcome

active listening boosts your hearing above the average level of 25%

Image via CNN.

Good communication is never the responsibility of a single employee. At its most basic, team communication requires conversational harmony between two parties. Let’s call these two parties the ‘listener’ and the ‘communicator’.

Firstly, we have the ‘listener’. The listener’s job is to hear what the communicator says. Then validate it. Secondly, we have the ‘communicator’. The communicator is the speaker or the conversation initiator.

Their job is to drive the conversation forward.

Finally, what do I mean by a clear outcome? A clear outcome is simply the ‘next step’ in a conversation. When you and your listener have reached an agreement, you’ll find that there’s a natural next step.

It might be a follow-up email that needs sending or maybe a project that needs prioritizing. It doesn’t matter! If both the listener and the communicator understand it, it’s a clear outcome.

As your team communication goes from ‘eh’ to ‘YEAH’, you’ll naturally learn to switch between the roles of listener and communicator. In fact, you’ll notice that these roles switch throughout your communication.

Don’t worry – it’s not a fluke. That’s a sign of effective team communication.

Look. I know that good team communication is really hard, and you may never be perfect at it. However, we can always get a little bit better. Now that we’ve defined good communication, let’s talk about how to improve team communication.

How to improve team communication

  1. Learn to listen

The best way to improve team communication is to get better at listening. Sure, the communicator’s job is important. But, without the listener, team communication simply can’t happen.

how to improve your listening skills - two women sitting at a desk practicing effective team communication strategies

Well, that’s easy! Great listeners are active participants in the conversation. That means that they make a conscious effort to do two things:

  1. Show they’re listening and understand the message
  2. Validate the message with feedback

Showing that you understand the message is simple. If you are talking face-to-face, you can show you understand by doing any number of the following things:

  • Nodding your head
  • Making affirming comments like “mm-hmm”
  • Facing the speaker
  • Making good eye contact
  • Smiling
  • Reacting where appropriate, including laughing
  • Sitting still and avoiding fiddling
  • Removing barriers

If you are communicating online, showing you are listening is still simple. You can try:

  • Reacting with an emoticon
  • Explain your reaction with comments like “sounds good” or “okay”
  • Asking a clarifying question
  • Responding promptly when directly addressed

You don’t have to understand what your team is saying right away to be a good listener. Always ask questions when you are unsure, and if in doubt, never assume.

Of course, that brings us to the second thing great listeners do: give feedback.

Learning to give feedback is difficult, but with practice, you’ll become a feedback master. In fact, one great way to give feedback is to use affirming statements. Of course, these statements don’t have to be complicated!

They can be as simple as “I understand” or “I see.”

tips for better body language to promote active listening

Image via CNN.

Sometimes, we need to give negative feedback, as well. Feedback that’s too harsh can shut down the conversation. And as you might imagine, that’s not a great way to improve team communication.

Instead, try sandwiching negative feedback between a positive comment and a solution. Like this!

I liked (insert thing you liked), but I’m worried that (the thing you didn’t like) might have (negative consequence). However, I think we can fix it together if we (insert solution).

See! Simple.

Effective team communication only happens when everyone feels welcome to contribute. Virtually, or not, be the sort of listener you’d want to talk to.

2. Master your virtual communication channels

Mastering online communication is absolutely essential for modern team communication. Don’t believe me? Over 83% of executives want to shift towards hiring more freelancers or intermittent employees that work out of the office.

What does that mean for your team communication? It means that you need to master your virtual communication channels and communication tools before you start managing remote employees as part of your team.

A virtual communication channel is a dedicated forum just for team communication – like a chat. Some of the most popular remote work communication tools include Slack, Telegram, and Microsoft Teams. However, these work great for non-remote teams as well.

Of course, each communication channel comes with positives and negatives. Which is why you need to act now. Finding the right choice for your team is going to take time, and most likely, trial and error.

Once you’ve settled on a platform, you’ll need to start a culture of communication. It might feel strange to start this bold mission on your own, but rest assured, your team will notice your efforts. As a team member, you can foster positivity and collaboration by:

  • Posting daily
  • Reacting to every message posted
  • Responding promptly when directly addressed
  • Giving feedback when asked for it
  • Praising others

But be careful! What starts as a team chat and quickly turns into a highly informal group chat. To keep things professional, make sure you limit your messaging to work hours, stick to work topics, and use professional language.

Emoji are fine, but memes… maybe not.

Mastering virtual communication channels can be hard, but with practice, your team channels will feel less like email, and more like a tightly-knit meeting. Speaking of which, that brings us to huddle rooms.

3. Set up a huddle room

Did you know that over 75% of all meetings in large conference rooms only have three to four people! That’s crazy, and also, crazy inefficient!

Thankfully, there’s a better way. It’s called a ‘huddle room’, and there’s already over 32 million of them worldwide.

Huddle rooms are private rooms designed for quick, effective in-office team communication. They aren’t the kind of rooms you sit in all afternoon. Huddle rooms are comfy, cozy, and suited to short meetings. They can be small offices, large meeting rooms, or even open spaces around the office.

To the untrained eye, a huddle room looks very similar to a meeting room, but there’s one key difference between them.

a team huddled around a table

Image via UC Today

Meeting rooms are formalized spaces that you have to reserve to use. Your huddle room should be reservation free. Huddle rooms are a free space for everyone to use and are a way to boost productivity in the workplace.

In fact, they’re the kind of places that teams can duck into for a morning standup, without worrying about running five minutes over.

How do you know if the huddle room isn’t available? Well, that’s simple. Huddle rooms are unavailable when there are people in there.

The best huddle rooms are designed to improve team communication. They include a way to map out and share ideas, like a whiteboard, or a wall with chalkboard paint.

They feature comfy seating that says ‘make yourself at home’, and soft lighting that puts people at ease.

If you want to improve team communication in your team, huddle rooms are a game-changer. According to Frost and Sullivan, they are even projected to replace 70% of existing meeting rooms by 2022.

If you want to embrace the future of team communication, try creating a huddle room out of an unused office area, or an old supply closet. It’s an investment in your team communication.

But you don’t have to take it from me! Nate Rand recently wrote a fantastic article all about huddle rooms. If you’ve got unused spaces and no reservation-free meeting rooms, I suggest you check it out.

The best team communication strategies are a team sport

Look. I understand that you want one solution that shows you how to improve team communication. The truth is, communication is a team sport.

Everyone plays a role in encouraging healthy, open dialogue in their team. As an individual, you can’t bear the responsibility alone. However, your behavior will influence how your team reacts to one another.

Ultimately, the best way to improve team communication is to create an environment where everyone is a valued communicator and listener.

That takes patience, time, and (let’s be honest) coffee.

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