If we define team as "a number of persons associated in some joint action", we illuminate the importance of each team being results-oriented, focusing on achieving the desired outcome from that joint action and bringing complementary skills together in working towards a common vision. The trust, accountability and interdependence of a team depends heavily upon how well the individual members can communicate, meaning each must "impart or interchange knowledge, thoughts, feelings, opinions, information and ideas by speech, writing, gestures or signs" in order for all team members' differing contributions to combine for producing greater results related to achieving their unified mission.
Whether your team is everyone in the same department at work, a volunteer committee for a non-profit organization or the members of your family, there is always a need for optimal communication, and we must put effort into continually improving this skill.
Here are best practices for your team to improve communication:
- Use the right tools at the right times. Research found that only 7% of any message is conveyed through words, 38% through vocal intonation and 55% through non-verbal elements, such as facial expressions, gestures and posture. Therefore, carefully consider the pros and cons of each communication channel before choosing which is the best for sharing what message needs to be conveyed: text, chat, email, phone call, video conference or in-person meeting.
- Speak in the language your audience will best hear. I don't mean choosing between English, Spanish, Japanese, Russian, Italian or Portuguese. Instead, I mean choosing words that appeal to the way your audience prefers to take in information, process it and make decisions based on acquired information. Some people prefer to take in information by using their five senses while others go beyond what is real or concrete and focus on meaning, associations and relationships to take in information that they trust. Some people seek to experience the world, not organize it, while others look at the world with an eye for what decisions need to be made, utilizing a planned approach to meet the deadlines set for decisions to be made in a scheduled way. Some people make decisions based on impersonal, objective logic while others use their personal values to understand the situation, focusing on relationships and harmony. Some people make decisions based off reasoning while others focus decision-making on emotions, responding to their gut more than their brains. When you customize your message for the person to whom you'll be saying it, you better ensure the message is received.
- Avoid overload. The age of the Internet gives us instant access to knowledge and correspondence, making us constantly susceptible to an information avalanche. It's easy for any individual message to get lost amidst the clutter, no matter how important it is. Effective communication shares the right information with the right audience at the right time. Since less is more, keep your message simple, brief and to the point, sharing updates only when appropriate.
- Help everyone stay away from making assumptions. Whenever there is missing information or we haven't been updated on the status of something, as human-beings, we automatically fill in the blanks. Unfortunately, we often fill those blanks with inaccurate or incomplete information. Focus on eliminating blanks in what you communicate to others, filling them in with what you want others to put in those blanks instead of what they'd assume from their own perceptions.
Are there certain folks with whom you struggle to communicate well? Which tactics from this list could you incorporate in communications with those people for greater effectiveness and to better achieve your desired results?