Good communication is the foundation of any business, yet effective team communication continues to prove elusive for many organizations. Getting people to understand one another and communicate efficiently has been a problem since man started walking upright. In the workplace, the problem is compounded by differing goals, personal agendas, conflicting KPIs, office politics, and other factors.
To promote effective team communication, companies have to break down barriers that inhibit understanding, create common goals and objectives, and provide the right tools to promote frictionless interaction. However, those responsible for managing team communication still have misperceptions about what makes teams tick.
Seven Common Misconceptions About Team Communication
- Communication is about making your point – It takes two to communicate. Being able to express your ideas and opinions is only half of the battle. Real communication is in the perception of the recipient. Just stating your position may not engender clear communications, especially when using email. Be sure to repeat and reword your message to be absolutely clear. For sensitive communications, try making a phone call to build trust before sending an email.
- Listening is easy – Active listening is one of the most important components of team communication, and one that is seldom used. In a meeting or a conference call, most participants are just listening for a break in the conversation to make their own point. Instead, try active listening in which you concentrate on the speaker and really try to glean meaning from their words, their expression, their tone of voice, and other cues. Active listening also means providing feedback for clarity, whether it’s a nod of the head or restating the speaker’s premise: “You mean…” In team communication, active listening does more to promote understanding and agreement than everyone waiting to have their say.
- Business communications isn’t personal – Whenever you are communicating with other people, they will take what you say personally, no matter what the setting. Creating connection is important for team communication. Performance metrics are important, but remember that each member of the team is a person with feelings and an ego. Those who perform best are those who invest themselves in their jobs. That personal investment should be acknowledged and rewarded.
- Everyone has an equal say – Many employees will not participate in group collaboration because they fear upsetting their boss. If one of the team has a pet project or an executive is embracing a specific perspective, people will be afraid to disagree. It’s an understandable response. To overcome that fear, the team leader should ask for every individual’s input and create a safe environment to share ideas without repercussions.
- There is only one version of the truth – There is seldom one right answer to a problem. Conflicts will arise in any collaborative effort, and most of the time you are only seeing part of the big picture. Part of team communication is to exchange information as well as ideas so all can see there is more than one perspective or one solution to an issue.
- If we can’t agree, communication has failed – Argument and negotiation are healthy elements of team communication. If everyone doesn’t agree with you, you have not failed. The objective is to share views and insights, listen to different viewpoints, and negotiate to a solution that benefits everyone, especially the organization. If you can’t agree, it doesn’t mean you are not communicating, it just means you need to work harder to come to an agreement.
- Money talks – A common fallacy is that those who get paid the most get the loudest voice. Having a bigger salary doesn’t make you smarter or mean you have all the answers. In fact, millennials have demonstrated they are driven by job satisfaction more than money. In promoting team collaboration, be careful to put all the members of the team on an equal footing and remember that different people are motivated by different goals.
Fostering Better Communication
To build effective collaborative teams, you need to break down barriers to understanding to promote clear communication. Understanding and overcoming common misconceptions about team communication is important.
You also have to provide the communication tools necessary to promote better collaboration.
Some tools work better than others. Email, for example, has become the most common tool for exchanging information, but email tends to be misread when it comes to tone and emotional context. That’s why a telephone conversation is better for sensitive communications or issues that could be misconstrued. With a phone call you can hear nuance, emotion, and intent—something that does not come through in email.
You also want to adopt tools that your team is comfortable using, such as the smartphone.