Communication is a critical element of effective teamwork. It distributes the needed information between team members and it enables team members to build co-operative working relationships.
Plus, studies have shown that teams trained on communication dimensions tended to perform better than teams that were not - so it's worth investing some time and energy in upskilling your team members to communicate more effectively.
Communication is essentially the exchange of information between two or more individuals. In the communication process, information can easily be misinterpreted for a variety of reasons, including language difficulties, different views, perspectives and biases, too much information (information overload), or simply through a lack of focus or attention.
Closed-loop communication is a technique for ensuring that information has been heard and accurately understood. It is a very simple process but it is essential for the flow of accurate information between your team members. It involves:
- The sender initiating a message.
- The receiver receiving the message, interpreting it, and acknowledging its receipt.
- The sender following up to ensure the intended message was received.
Open communication is where team members are free to share their ideas and opinions about work-related issues without fear of ridicule or reprisal. Team members can debate different perspectives and viewpoints but it's done in a constructive and respectful manner.
When team members communicate openly it helps to build better co-operative relationships, reduce team conflict, and leads to improved group decision making as people are free to share different perspectives and put forward alternative ideas. Further to this, when team members can participate in decision making and feel like their opinions matter, they show higher commitment and tend to invest more energy in their work.
To foster open communication in your team you should:
- Make open communication a team ground rule - open, honest and respectful communication should be at the core of how the team operates and interacts with each other.
- Manage the group dynamics - if you have a mix of dominant and passive personalities, you may need to manage group interactions and ensure the passive team members have the opportunity to contribute their opinions without being interrupted or spoken over.
- Practice what you preach - open communication starts with you. You can't encourage people to speak openly and then ridicule their ideas or get annoyed at them for expressing opinions that you don't agree with.