Whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert, keeping up effective communication within your team is an absolute must. Being a great communicator is important, not only for coaching and giving clear guidelines, but also for building trust and employee engagement. Gallup found that the most highly engaged employees communicate with their managers on a daily basis.
When I started my career, I briefly worked in a sales team where everyone had a demandingly high target to meet each month. There was not much guidance from the top. Each person tried to meet their target on their own. We spent all our time talking to clients, and hardly with each other. We worked really hard but things just didn’t happen.
In hindsight, I can see what a dysfunctional team we were. We could have made it a million times easier for ourselves if we had communicated better.
All good managers know that communication is vital for their team’s performance. But do you know the key elements of communication that impact performance?
Energy characterizes the nature of exchanges among your team members. This includes frequency, scope and mood. Think about how your team communicates and ask yourself the following questions:
How often does your team communicate plans/goals/ideas?
Is there a daily meeting where everyone tells each other about their work plan for the day?
How often do you have 1-on-1s with your employees?
Do peers communicate and share knowledge on a regular basis?
Which is more common: peer-to-peer idea exchanges or top down feedback from managers?
How do people communicate during meetings? Does everyone have their say or are there certain people that tend to dominate discussions?
Do you know what your employees goals and strengths are?
Do people talk about non-work related matters?
Who sets the mood for team discussions: the manager or everyone involved?
What is the mood like when team members discuss work or chat during their coffee break?
Do people laugh and make jokes?
Do they sound relaxed?
Basically, you want to see a constant flow of energetic conversations in your team. Remember, it doesn’t have to be about work all the time. Sometimes the most valuable information is exchanged over an informal coffee break.
Engagement reflects the level at which each team member is involved in a conversation. Communication isn’t just about the words we say. It also includes the way we say it and the physical signals we use. Just being present at a meeting or during a 1-on-1 doesn’t always mean you’re actively engaged. Follow these tips to help you fully engage yourself in workplace discussions and send the appropriate signals to others:
Actively ask questions and encourage people to speak
Make sure you and your team members listen carefully when someone is speaking, give everyone the chance to communicate
Ask for clarification or examples to show you’re paying attention
Encourage people to come to you with questions
Provide clear detailed information and offer examples
Remember face-to-face communication is the most effective way to get your point across. Do you notice that enthusiasm is much more infectious when you talk with people face-to-face? The same goes with excitement, joy or any other types of positive energy. Being able to read people's nonverbal communication, such as body language and facial expressions, can give us a much deeper understanding of the message they’re transmitting. Make your nonverbal cues more effective by:
Making frequent eye contact
Facing your body towards the speaker (not just your head, but also your shoulders, knees and toes)
Using your hands to communicate (a study found the most popular TEDTalk speakers use twice as many hand gestures)
With Skype or Google Hangout calls, physical clues are limited to tones and, if the internet connection is good, facial expressions. Therefore, it is much more difficult to detect and influence the level of engagement in a Skype conference call compared with a meeting in person.
If you talk with a colleague on Slack or Hipchat you won’t be able to read their body language. Think twice about messaging someone on slack if you want to start an important discussion. Of course when you’re managing a team of remote workers you won’t always have the opportunity to speak face-to-face. See our tips on how to have 1-on-1s with remote team members and how to build a virtual feedback culture.
If you found this article useful, check out Impraise’s handy eBook on how to optimize feedback to motivate, engage and develop your team.
Motivation isn't the only consideration - of course. As a manager you're also legally responsible for your employees. Formswift's Legal and Liability Guide for Managers is a great guide, helping ensure you're covered.