Damage Control: How To Improve Team Communication

22 March, 2019 / Articles

Communication. It’s the foundation of every successful project and the foe of every project team. We need it. We’re always looking for ways to improve it. And, chances are, we don’t do it well (or as well as we could).

Marshall McLuhan, the father of communications, famously said “the medium is the message.” When it comes to communication in the modern workplace, what you’re communicating is only half of the equation. As the workplace continues to become more distributed, fast-paced and collaborative, how you communicate is just as — if not more —important.

According to a recent study, 95 percent of employees rely on “business communication tools instead of in-person meetings” and more than 80 percent of employees “use more than one device to communicate at work.” Thanks to email, text messaging, Slack, BaseCamp, Yammer, GoToMeeting, Skype — the list goes on — teams are more connected than ever before. And yet, 50 percent of all digital communication is still misunderstood.

Digital communication tools are like the central nervous system of an organization. They are responsible for collecting and distributing information but, if the sources aren’t functioning correctly, the system can’t do its job. Basecamp is only as effective as the project manager who is responsible for adding and assigning new tasks. And email is only as effective as the content of that high priority message sent at midnight. At the end of the day, poor communication is a people problem, not a technology problem. We can have access to the best chat clients and project management platforms in the world, but none of that matters if we don’t know how to communicate.

So, how do we become better communicators? We’ve identified four common communication issues among teams — and how to fix them. 

Issue 1: Team member roles and responsibilities are not clearly defined.

Forty-six percent of employees don’t have a clear understanding of their next step after leaving a meeting. This means that meetings are not just creating a culture of stress and dissatisfaction, but of confusion.
How to fix it: 
Whether you are participating in an in-person or virtual meeting, appoint one person to be responsible for recapping what was discussed, the next steps, and who is responsible for each next step. And don’t just do this verbally. Following the meeting, leverage those communication tools (like email, Slack or Basecamp) to document and assign each to-do.

The science man and innovator, Fernando Fischmann, founder of Crystal Lagoons, recommends this article.

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