Discover how to boost productivity by improving team communication. Our guide outlines strategies for fostering constructive dialogue and collaboration.
Table of Contents:
- Embracing the Power of Effective Team Communication
- Unproductive Conversation Versus Productive Teamwork
- Physical and Linguistic Postures in Team Discussions
- Discipline Yourself to Respect Team Members
- Don't Be Afraid To Pause Communication
Embracing the Power of Effective Team Communication
Team members don’t always agree. In fact, sometimes they argue and it can get heated. When heated conversations arise at Anthroware, I believe it's driven by the fact that we hire really passionate people that all want the end result to be great. They believe in the work they are doing and have a strong opinion about what’s best for the project. The big question is - how can we focus this passion toward constructive conversation?
It’s All About Posture and Communication
The simple answer to this is communication. But, maybe there is more to it than that.
It’s too easy to say we need to ‘communicate’ better and not get practical about how to open up our conversations to allow for more creative thought.
Posture becomes very important. When we are trying to solve a problem or come to a decision, we try looking at a whiteboard while standing side by side instead of sitting across from each other at a conference table. We are all on the same team and looking for a solution to the same problem, so let's face the problem and move in the same direction.
Unproductive Conversation Versus Productive Teamwork
Almost without fail, when I hear people in our office having a heated conversation they are seated across from one another. Just the other day this happened; two people were locked in an unproductive, heated conversation sitting across from one another. Later that same day, we had a meeting with the same two people concerning the same topic and all sat or stood in front of a whiteboard to work on the problem together.
We had one of the most productive meetings we’ve ever had, there was genuine collaboration, the personal “my idea against yours” posture was gone, and we stayed focused on the best way to accomplish the task. It was awesome! I’m not suggesting that not sitting across a table is the only thing that affected how that meeting went, but it helped.
Physical and Linguistic Postures in Team Discussions
Just like physical posture, we use certain words to frame a reaction from the listeners. Confrontational words like “but” and “I disagree” put up a wall between both sides of a conversation. The more walls we have, the less communication we have. Do you know how hard it is to “win” an argument? We have to stop framing differing viewpoints as being against one another. The solution to the problem is almost always a combination of ideas.
Instead of “but," we try “yes, and…”. Instead of “I disagree,” we encourage “We need to consider…”. The posture of our language can either divide or disarm. Everyone in the room has something to add. If they don’t then they’re in the wrong room! If everyone has something to add, then let's build from each perspective until we find the best solution. It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we remove “I disagree” and “yes, but” from our vocabulary as a leader or as team members.
Discipline Yourself to Respect Team Members
I am so bad at this one. The tongue is the hardest thing to control, and it is so easy to say “I disagree!“ Often, when we have great collaboration on ideas where team members have differing views, someone has taken on a bit of a moderator role.
With some gentle reminders, teams will change their language because, at the end of the day, we all want to do good work.
Anthroware Has Been There, and Done That
Jason (VP of Anthroware) and I are great friends and have been since we met. We both feel very strongly about meeting our customers’ needs. But, our approach to meeting those needs is very different because we come from different backgrounds and have different skills. As a result, we spent a lot of time early in Anthroware’s life biting each others’ heads off.
We hadn’t yet built a communication framework that allowed us to stay focused on how we could benefit the client. Instead, conversations would devolve into making sure our voice was heard. We joke about it now, but the reality is that with a few vocabulary updates, we could have avoided a lot of frustration and strain.
Don't Be Afraid To Pause Communication
Lastly, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Sometimes people (especially leaders/managers) can get frustrated when solutions or decisions aren’t made quickly. Often, for really big decisions, the ‘ah ha’ moment of clarity comes when you’ve walked away from the problem for a while and then come back. We do a lot of processing subconsciously, and it’s good to keep that in mind (pun intended). We often have half the meeting one day, then after everyone has had a chance to walk away from the subject, we come back and finish up the action plan. Better decisions are made, and it’s often less stressful.
Every Company and Every Team is Different
These are just observations I’ve made running our custom software and digital product development shop. There are so many cases where I have had the wrong posture and been very ineffective at these techniques. And while these simple cases will help, they don’t tell the whole story. Every person on your team is different; some are more straightforward, some are timid, introverts, extroverts, sensitive or thick skin, etc. It’s a challenge to foster great communication on your team, and I hope these ideas will help you out when trying to determine how to build effective team communication within your own business.