I don’t think there’s a person in the workforce today who hasn’t experienced at least one communication breakdown in this pandemic. By breakdown, it could be as simple as a missed deadline to more serious issues such as unclear objectives or instructions. Communication at work can be a smooth process if you know where to start. Often, it boils down to a few keywords: clarity, simplicity, and leadership effectiveness.
Let’s apply each of those three words to these basic concepts so that you can improve the communication within your team with ease.
Clarify responsibilities and expectations
Does everyone know what’s expected of them? I know it can be frustrating to think they don’t. However, to assume everyone on your team knows what’s expected at all times may cause you to miss small details that later add up to big problems.
Clarify expectations in a way that lets your team know you’re not trying to lay down the law. Rather, paint the picture for them and help them see how their contribution/deliverable adds to that picture. In other words, tell them why their performance, behavior, or KPI is important.
Here is something that we all need to remember: We humans like to feel that 1) we are contributing to something greater 2) we are collectively coming out of a pandemic where many are re-evaluating the meaning of work. Give them that meaning. Coach them to connect the dots.
Seek no to avoid a fake yes
If you follow me, you know I’m a big fan of Chris Voss, and in his book, he talks about the three styles of yeses one hears in a negotiation. In fact, he does speak about the “counterfeit yes” as a common phenomenon where people will say yes just to get you going and off their backs. Sounds familiar? Moreover, this is something that is not limited to a negotiation table, sales, or fundraising; it happens in everyday team settings.
Just last week, one of my clients who is a senior director of engineering at a tech organization was venting about how to get his team to commit to deadlines. When we dug more, he realized that he was being the victim of this counterfeit yes. So we brainstormed no-oriented questions to ask his team- helping those non-committers feel safer to say yes and actually commit- and deliver!
Here are the questions that we came up with:
Is it an outrageous idea to ask you to deliver this project on x date?
Are you completely against completing XYZ deliverable by this date?
Have you given up on delivering this project on time?
As a pro tip, I like to suggest that after you use a non-oriented question, first make sure to allow for silence. Afterward, they will tell you what do they want to commit to, poke and clarify with other questions such as: What could get in the way? Finally, capture that commitment in writing. If possible, have them write it to you via slack or other mediums. Research suggests that commitments in writing tend to stick.
Embrace the 3 C’s: courtesy, coherency, and conciseness
The mark of an effective leader is knowing when to recognize legitimate weaknesses. One of your team members may simply lack the strong interpersonal strengths of the rest of your team. Showing them courtesy in this area of shortcoming helps to overcome any feelings of inadequacy they may have deep down.
Likewise, it also takes time to practice coherency — whether in writing, presentations, or one-on-one coaching, do your best to keep conversations on point and focused on the issue at hand, avoiding unnecessary side-trips into unrelated dialogues.
Finally, getting right to the point will keep frustrations at bay. Conciseness is particularly useful in written communication, even more so as you switch to team collaboration apps.
Find ways to boost morale
Did your team knock it out of the park last quarter? Then celebrate that. Do they all love Starbucks? Then surprise them with a coffee day on you once in a while.
Boosting morale will make your team members feel more at ease, more likely to open up, and less resentful of any economic hardships making their way through your industry. A friend of mine shared that one of his favorite memories from his first career job was when his boss took the entire team out to Buffalo Wild Wings for lunch. It made everyone feel appreciated for all of their small efforts and bottom-line improvements they had made earlier in the year. It might seem small, but it helps to humanize leadership and opens up the doors of communication down the road.
Communication within your team doesn’t have to be frustrating
The number of managers who feel that their team members just don’t get it is only matched by the number of direct reports who don’t feel as if their supervisor understands where they’re coming from.
Both of those reactions are driven by communication barriers. Improving communication within your team will help to reduce frustration, improve collaboration, and maximize your leadership effectiveness. It starts with clarifying responsibilities and encouraging new methods to collaborate together. This can come in the form of apps such as Slack or ClickUp, shared resource folders such as Google Drive or OneDrive, and full CRM systems.
Always embrace the 3 C’s while looking for ways to boost morale, whether through team outings or small things throughout the day. Finally, identify team members who need a little bit of coaching or if your team as a whole could use some additional training.
In fact, if you’d like to talk more about coaching or training methods, I would love to chat with you. Send me a note here and I’ll follow up with a time to speak so that I can help you improve communication within your team quickly and effectively.