Teams come in all shapes and sizes. Team members come with diverse communication habits and preferences. As a project manager or team member how do you accommodate these preferences and still have cohesive team communication? Here are 5 No-Brainer Tips for facilitating effective team communication:
1. Ask team members what works – Don’t assume there’s one best way – Yours! Make this a discussion item at the team kick-off meeting to get agreement on all aspects of communication; emails, calls, texts and meetings, etc.
2. Balance Participation in Meetings – How many times have you been in meetings where some team members are quiet because others are using all the airspace, but then speak up after the meeting? Seeing as the general population is 50:50 extraversion vs. introversion preference, there will be a mix on your team, leading to this dynamic. To balance the participation during the meeting, use the Round Robin technique of asking each person in turn to contribute something to the discussion versus a free-for-all discussion.
3. Consider the Generational Differences – At one end of the scale Millennials are fused to their Smart phones and tablets and are naturally connected virtually with many people through text, email and social media. At the other end, Boomers tend to prefer phone calls or face-to-face communication. Minimize the frustrations on all sides over perceived lack of responsiveness by discussing and defining when each mode of communication should be used: Examples: Email – when documentation is needed or for information sharing; Text – when a quick simple response is required on schedule, availability, confirm information, etc; Face-to-Face – when there are issues or complex problem solving involved.
4. Plan to be Spontaneous – Some people don’t like to be surprised and asked to discuss or make a decision on a topic or issue unless they are prepared. Others are comfortable winging it and giving input or direction. This can lead to poor input and decisions on both counts as some people won’t participate (until later!) and others may rush to judgment and reconsider later. Avoid this by sending out information on the topic and an agenda before a meeting or conference call. While not all team members may read it, there will be greater participation by those who prepared and a deeper discussion by everyone of all ideas.
5. Debunk Assumptions – Team relationships tend to go south when, in the absence of communication, people make assumptions as to the cause or individual motivation. Human nature is such that the worst case scenario is typically assumed or feared. Establish a positive team communication environment from the start with mutual agreement to: “If in Doubt, Check it Out” and “Don’t Wait, Validate”.