Did you know that collaboration is a key factor in priming our brains for success when working with others? While it’s no secret that successful teamwork requires successful communication, the full impact of a collaborative, communicative environment might surprise you. A Stanford study on collaboration found the participants who were asked to complete a task with others stuck with the task 64% longer than solitary participants. They also reported higher levels of feeling successful and task engagement coupled with lower fatigue levels.
Our brains are made to work collaboratively with others, but some communication mishaps can be difficult to overcome. Use these four questions to better understand where your teams excel in communication, and where there is an opportunity for growth.
1. How is information shared within the team?
Poor communication leads to unmet expectations when deadlines are missed or role confusion occurs. Frustrations like these can lead to blame and create barriers to future problem-solving. Team members may have different preferences for information sharing methods such as email, group messaging applications, phone calls, meetings, or in-person collaboration. Evaluating how information likes to be shared in your team can bring to light underutilized communication methods. Additionally, implementing standard methods for sharing information will increase accountability for team members.
Decide what methods and how day-to-day updates, urgent dilemmas, and team successes will be shared. Having a standard information sharing process decreases confusion, and increases team members feeling involved.
2. Do team members openly communicate with respect?
The best teams encompass a variety of different backgrounds, views, and experiences. Team member diversity brings increased creativity and problem solving, but also brings the need for trust. Teams that communicate with respect demonstrate a basic level of trust that is needed for teamwork to occur. Criticism, without respect, can divide team members and cause a lack of psychological safety. Teams that cultivate respect in every form of communication see higher levels of engagement and work-satisfaction. Opportunities to increase respectful communication are:
- Practice active listening. Feeling heard is a large step in feeling respected.
- Encourage Transparency. Ensuring important matters are communicated evenly to all team members will foster a team culture of equality and respect.
- Ask Questions. Having proactive check-is shows you respect and value your team members’ feelings and well-being.
3. How does the team share feedback?
Everyone has their own protective shell. How feedback is communicated can be the difference between a bruised ego with a fight/flight response, or an opportunity for learning, growth, and closer collaboration. To achieve the latter, foster a team culture that values feedback as a tool for improvement, not as a way to accuse others. When evaluating a team’s strengths and weaknesses, consider these methods when sharing feedback:
- Do team members frequently share positive feedback with each other when successes occur? Teams that acknowledge individual strengths will contribute to employees feeling valued in their contributions.
- Does the team notice nonverbals? Over 50% of communication uses non-verbal methods. Teams that acknowledge when someone is uncomfortable or upset can address communication roadblocks earlier and easier.
- Is criticism constructive? When communicating constructive feedback it is important to focus on the behavior and impact, in addition to strategizing how to avoid future problems. This will decrease a team member taking the issue personally, and further boost creative problem-solving.
4. How does the team manage conflict?
Conflict is a well-known communication killer. When conflict occurs, the typical response is to withdraw, causing the conflict to fester and grow beyond the initial issue. Team members that use conflict as an opportunity to clarify and resolve demonstrate their commitment to the team's success and longevity. Additionally, virtual environments provide a new set of challenges for conflict resolution. Virtual conflict resolution makes non-verbal cues more difficult to read when dealing with a bunch of heads on a screen. Nonetheless, all teams that manage conflict with a mindset focused on working the problem, over arguing with team members, will fortify the communication skills needed to thrive.
Clear and effective communication serves a necessary function for high-performing teams. Use these four questions to address where your teams thrive, and where opportunities exist for your teams to become communication experts!