How you communicate can influence how others do in return. So if you want your team to continually improve their communications, it might be time to look at your own style. Here’s a recap of some techniques to try this week – which ones will you do today?

  • 1. Ask for feedback on how you are performing from the people you manage. Not just asking- ‘all ok?’ (which will often just get ‘yes, fine’, in return!). Ask for constructive, honest, specific feedback that will help you learn, and showcase to others how important it is to do this. Using open-ended questions can be a helpful tool here.
  • 2. ‘Close the loop’- confirm you have understood a communication or exchange. Make sure others confirm their understanding of your instructions or discussions with a brief summary of what they are taking from the exchange.

  • 3. Get into the habit of thinking ‘who else needs to know about this?’ and encourage your team to do this to by raising it as a regular discussion point.

  • 4. Communicate your understanding of a situation or task to make sure you share a ‘mental model’ of this (and aren’t on completely different tangents). You can structure this with questions and discussion on: where are we going (goal); what is important (priorities); who should be involved (roles); how will we do it (plan); who knows (expertise): what ifs (contingencies); what now (situation); and when (timeframes).

  • 5. Actively encourage others to speak. Even the quiet ones. Work out what methods work best for different members of your team. Some people will rarely speak out in a group but one-to-one are much more confident; others may need an activity as part of a group to oil the wheels and help them come up with ideas and solutions.

  • 6. Review, discuss and analyse wins as well as failures, helping you to recognise success, praise contribution and clarify how to cement this into future practice.

  • 7. Get together with your management team, whatever level that might be, to check on how well you are communicating. The greater the cooperation of managers, the greater employee satisfaction will be. You can’t take for granted that this is working well until you put the time into talking about it!

  • 8. In team meetings, make a conscious effort to talk less and listen more. Don’t let your voice be the only one that is heard.

  • 9. Find out if the debriefs are working. Ask what could make them better. Share responsibility for these, let others have a go, and as a team work out which approaches work best for everyone and which ones should be discontinued, so you can refine the style which works best for the team as a whole.

  • 10. On a learning topic, ask small groups within the team to think up a scenario to present to the rest of the team, which everyone then has to talk through in terms of what, why, how, who, when etc to resolve.

  • 11. In conflict situations, focus on what the problem is and how all involved can work together to resolve it. Take who is ‘right’ and who is ‘wrong’ out of the discussion, positioning it as ‘us’ against the ‘problem’ rather than the conflict being between individuals.

  • 12. Give positive feedback. Feedback has a bad reputation for being negative, so change the tone of openers such as ‘can I have a word’ or ‘can I give you some feedback’ by following it up with recognition of something well done. Until your team don’t assume you have something bad to say when you approach them like this, you haven’t done it enough.

  • 13. Always use the feedback sandwich (even at home!). If you have something unwelcome or challenging to share, it will be much less defensively received if you can book-end it with positives. For instance; ‘you worked really hard today. You might have done that last drill one more time as I’m not sure you quite had it, but you did the other drill really well’. Negative feedback needs to be presented in an acceptable way if it’s going to be listened to and actioned, so it’s worth the extra effort in how you get it across.

Reference: The Psychology of Teams: Enabling Teams to Thrive – Scott Tannenbaum and Eduardo Salas