It seems that almost from the very first day at school, we are taught about the importance of teamwork and being stronger as a team, and yet we rarely think of teamwork as a muscle to be exercised or a skill to be developed.
If you carefully examine any good relationship or team, good communication will almost always be one of the reasons given. If you are determined to grow your business and make it successful, then good communication is not only important, it’s vital.
Some of the advice contained below may seem blindingly obvious and therein lies the problem. Good communication practices are easy to assume or take for granted. Think of the suggestions below as the first steps toward healthy team engagements.
This might seem the most obvious concept in the world, but does everyone in the team know who else is a member and what everyones’ roles are? Do all of the part time staff, or those who don’t work in the office feel equally included? If your team consists of over 20 people, would the team members be able to identify each other and how they will contribute? If people don’t know who is on the team how can they properly communicate with them?
Organize a friendly and informative event, during work hours that encompasses all team members, and makes everyone feel included. As people get to know other, their communication will explode, and along with it so will their productivity.
As an example, just imagine if Seth has an issue with Microsoft Word, but he now knows and regularly speaks to Peter in the IT department. Rather than waste time trying to solve the problem alone, he is much more likely to pick up the phone, call Peter and get the problem resolved in minutes rather than days. This benefits Peter, Seth and the company as a whole.
Take action on this recommendation by asking your team members to name everyone else on the team, you might be surprised at their lack of knowledge, but once you have identified the problem, you are then in a much better position to tackle it.
This may not be an easy solution, depending on your business premises and location, but wherever possible try and have an open office plan, rather than individual offices or cubicles. Doors and cubicles instantly present barriers physically and psychologically to good communication and teamwork. If you are limited by office space or design, try to ensure that everyone keeps their doors open and thus accessible. You are after all supposed to be part of the same team, not separate entities within the same office.
One of the biggest failings within any company is people assuming that other members of the team understand exactly what is being discussed. People very quickly fall into the habit of using acronyms which can be confusing to other members of the team, who may not seek clarification. This can lead to problems with upcoming projects, and create divisions within the team.
Take the time to define the key terms your team will use. Good communication and a positive atmosphere within the office will encourage people to ask questions and have confidence that they will be helped rather than ridiculed. Again this might seem like a minor point, but it can and will grow and develop into a much bigger issue if it isn’t tackled quickly.
The airline industry has become one of the safest ways to travel, by consistently learning from errors and mistakes. The infamous black box on a plane provides records of errors and mistakes, even when disaster doesn’t strike. Rather than sweep those errors under the carpet, the airline industry uses those mistakes to consistently improve, which is why as an industry their safety record is now market leading. More information on this subject can be found in the excellent and thought provoking book Black Box Thinking.
As a company that promotes feedback and criticism, creating safe spaces where people wpn’t be criticized or blamed for a genuine error, communication will improve and those mistakes can be used to benefit the company in the future.
These four relatively simple ideas are easy to adopt within the majority of business environments and unusually will not cost a great deal to introduce. The benefits and return on your investment can potentially be huge; it really cannot be exaggerated just how much these four tips will improve communication within your company. And as communication improves, so will productivity, team spirit and camaraderie. Give it a try, what have you got to lose?
Learn how active listening can also transform communication in the office.