What A Manager Can Do To Get Their Team To Communicate

How far a manger can get is determined by how well the team communicates
How far a manger can get is determined by how well the team communicates
Image Credit: diane cordell

We all know what is asked of mangers: go out there and get the best team that you can. We do this – we try very hard to both attract and retain the best people to become members of our team. However, it turns out that that is not all that we need to be doing. Getting our team members to communicate is key to making the team successful. As a manager, you need to take a look at your team and if communication is not happening, then you need to make some changes.

The Importance Of Communication

A look was taken at 400 companies with at least 100,000 employees. This study found that each of those companies lost, on average, $62.4 million annually because of poor communication within their teams. Smaller companies may not drive enough revenue to lose such big sums, but that means that the cost of miscommunication affects their bottom line even more acutely. It was reported in 2018 that nearly half of the 403 executives surveyed experienced delayed or failed projects, with midlevel managers taking the brunt of the fallout from bad communication throughout their companies. Furthermore, companies led by executives with effective communication skills provide much higher returns to shareholders.

Why do managers tolerate bad communication, then? One reason is that the technology and tools that empower us to get our work done are the same ones that often lead our team’s communication astray. How many nuances are lost via your email every day? How many offices host team members who live and die by Slack — and others who refuse to use it? Another reason is that we let managers off the hook. We justify our lack of communication or lack of clarity by pointing out just how busy we are. Time is money and it’s much cheaper to let other teammates figure it out than pause what we’re doing. But this mentality not only hurts our communication; it also damages team member retention and happiness.

Too Much Shouting

This should really be considered “any shouting”. When team members have resorted to screaming at each other to feel heard, things have gone south. Do not accept this as a “communication style.”

Too Much Silence

This one is much more subtle than shouting, keep an eye out for silence. If team members refuse to talk to one another — or, worse, cliques are giving each other the silent treatment — that’s a sign that people are making their own calls. They’re not considering other teammates or factors that could critically impact how the team operates.

Interrupting Each Other

On just about every team there is that one employee who jumps the gun, unable to wait for others to finish. If during your meetings you sense frustration building because people aren’t able to make themselves heard, that’s not your imagination. Your people both need and want the floor, and their lack of ability to talk dilutes all your diversity-of-thought efforts.

Look For Negative Facial Expressions

Unless members of your team have a great poker face, most people’s facial expressions reveal their true feelings, no matter what they’re saying. If you see eye-rolling, flinching, drooping faces, or stony expressions, these are signs that people are only telling you part of the story – and they don’t feel psychologically safe.

Failures To Solve Problems

When your team conducts brainstorming sessions, they should result in numerous options to consider. If you find that you have few possible solutions or a lack of agreement on the end goal, then those are real problems. A less obvious problem is if team members negate others’ feelings during these problem-solving sessions.

The Use Of Sarcasm

So it turns out that sarcasm can easily be used as a smokescreen for more difficult feelings. Team members can make jabs at each other to discount one another in front of their bosses and pretend it was all in good humor – even when it is not.

What All Of This Means For You

As we all know, a manager is only as good as their team is. What this means, is that as managers we need to work with our team and help them to perform at their peak level. It turns out that one of the things that can hold a team back the most is poor communication. If your team is not doing a good job of communicating with each other, then they can’t deliver what they’ve been tasked to do. As a manager, you need to be able to recognize this when it is happening and you need to do something about it.

Studies of firms have confirmed that when teams don’t do a good job of communicating, the firm ends up losing money. In today’s high-tech workplace, managers can all too easily allow poor communication to continue for too long. Problems that teams can have include any level of shouting. Likewise, not talking to each other can cause problems. Interrupting each other or making negative facial expressions also indicate that communication within a team is poor. When teams get together and are unable to solve problems this means that they are having a communication problem. Finally, if team members are excessively using sarcasm when talking to each other then the team has a communication problem.

In the end, it’s a manager’s responsivity to make sure that their team is able to work well together. If the team is not doing a good job of communicating, then there is a problem that needs to be solved. Managers have to first realize that a problem exists. Their next step has to be to step in and solve the problem. Use these tips to see how communication is going in your team. If you have issues, don’t wait before making changes in order to improve team communication.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: How can a manager get their team to communicate better?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Managers are starting to realize that more and more often the teams that they are managing are not always going to be collocated. This means that they need to understand how to use their manager skills to deal with the challenges of a virtual workplace. This is not an easy thing to do and most of us don’t have any manager training on how to accomplish it. Managers need to learn how to build relationships with colleagues they’ve never actually met, work across multiple time zones, deal with technology that doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to, etc. If they end up handling any of these key items incorrectly then any of them can sabotage their team’s chances at success.