By RedBalloon for Business

How to avoid communication obstacles when working in teams

As someone who manages a team of diverse personalities and experience levels, you already know how communication strategies must be adjusted depending on the individual. However, there are some common communication barriers that must be fully understood in order to overcome them – especially when working in teams.

Why is effective communication so important for the overall business?

A high-functioning business is one that is constantly moving forward – employees understand their tasks and always strive to accomplish the long-term aspirations of the company. Central to all of this is effective communication. Without it, roles can become blurred and productivity wanes.

With one in five Australian workers having experienced major communication problems with either a co-worker or manager, it pays to recognise some of the common signs of ineffective communication:

  • No firm deadlines: There’s a difference between letting your employees be autonomous and completely leaving them to their own devices. Find a middle ground where there’s a definitive deadline for set tasks, but also freedom for the employee to take full control.
  • Failure to understand tasks: Just because you think you’ve explained something well doesn’t mean it’s actually sunk in. If a team member is worried about offending their manager, they may say they’ve understood your explanation even though they haven’t. Always ask for responses when communicating to ensure your points have been made clear.
  • Overly critical: There’s nothing wrong with criticism, especially when it’s warranted. However, it must be delivered in the right setting. A weekly or monthly feedback session is ideal – berating an employee at their desk in front of their co-workers is not.

Solid communication can build a cohesive unit

Issues will always arise, even in a business that has a monopoly in their market. There are countless challenges and hurdles you’ll be unable to stop on your own, but you can arm your team with the tools to overcome them.

As a manager, you need to lead from the front. That means boosting your own communication skills and being comfortable managing a diverse range of personalities. Once your team realises you are a master communicator, they will be more likely to take an active role in improving their own communication skills. And when the entire company employs open communication, the business can run at its optimal level.

Benefits of open communication

Aside from the obvious advantages – such as boosted productivity, better understanding of given tasks, and a more comfortable environment in which both employees and managers can speak openly – open communication delivers two major benefits.

First, it creates the idea of a flatter team structure. That means that even if your company has multiple levels of management within a dozen or more departments, the team members see it as a less-hierarchical workplace. A flatter organisation means there’s less unnecessary supervision, while the employees are given more involvement in decision-making.

Second, open communication allows for consistent ‘meetings of the minds’. Use your team’s expertise in various areas to your advantage. Goals-oriented tasks and weekly brainstorming meetings are ideal – and with clarity around open conversations, employees can be free to share ideas that drive the business forward.

What can you do right now to generate a more communicative team?

Business Victoria cites a number of common errors that businesses create with ineffective communication strategies. While it’s helpful to know the signs of bad comms, more important is recognising the solutions to those problems. Here are some ways you can create better communication between your employees:

  • Be honest: Feedback is crucial, but it will only improve the individual and the overall business if it is truthful.
  • Be prepared: In some instances, such as delivering bad news or giving delicate feedback, it’s wise to have a prepared script to follow.
  • Be timely: Giving an employee feedback about a mistake they made months ago isn’t relevant and is likely to do more harm than good.
  • Be passive: By all means take the reins when you need a team member to complete a task, but in day-to-day communications you can gain great insights when employees are allowed to steer the conversation.
  • Be feedback-smart: Always follow the golden rule: praise your team’s wins in public, and discuss how they need to improve in private.

The first step to overcoming communication barriers is recognising that they exist in every business. Once you know what to look for, you can define better strategies for interpersonal success.

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