There's a fantastic video on YouTube of babies vigorously talking to one another. It’s impossible to watch that video without cracking a smile. They’re trying so hard, but they just can’t quite seem to get their meaning across.
It’s a lot less funny when it’s two grown adults yelling at one another in the office. Or, even worse, a whole team failing to communicate in a healthy way and devolving into “Let’s see who can shout the loudest and interrupt the most often.”
Communication is tough. Ninety-seven percent of of employees and executives agree that a lack of team alignment negatively impacts performance, and 86 percent believe that ineffective communication leads to workplace failures.
Since Tailored Ink is still small, communication hasn’t been too difficult. At a startup, everyone knows everything. But as we scale, keeping in touch with everyone will become harder and harder.
If you are struggling with team communication, try out these five ways to enhance communication:
1. Get it down in writing.
The first rule of office communication: Don’t expect anyone to remember what you say to them, even if you are the boss.As our personal and work lives become increasingly digital and filled with online distractions, human attention spans have gotten shorter and shorter. At last count, the average adult has an attention span of eight seconds -- worse than a goldfish. On top of that, stress negatively impacts our short-term memory.
If you have a particularly old school manager who refuses to write things down and expects you to take dictation, do just that. Write down what they say as soon as they say it so you can hold them accountable for things they didn’t say.
2. Know your personality types.
For example, I’m an INTJ (“The Architect”). The “I” in “INTJ” stands for “Introversion”, and if I’m to be totally honest, I prefer as few in-person meetings and phone calls as possible. My partner, on the other hand, is the exact opposite and we’ve had to compromise to figure out the right communication balance.
If you’re rolling your eyes right now, or if you believe that personality tests are inaccurate, science disagrees with you. While it is true that our personalities can change slightly through life via learned behaviors, big personality traits like introversion and extroversion are determined at birth, and are based on how you process dopamine.
In other words, don’t try to force someone to communicate the way you do. They could literally be hardwired differently.
3. Have an open-door policy.
We’ve all worked at corporations or cubicle farms where managers in corner offices always keep the door closed, and can be visited by appointment only. One of my managers was so ornery during work that she would snap at anyone who distracted her in a shared office space.
Guess what? A closed door is like the Black Death of team communication. Leaders set the tone and culture of their teams, so if a manager is inscrutable and impossible to pin down for a chat, the whole team clams up in turn. No one will have the confidence to speak to anyone, the office will become as quiet as a library, and morale will plummet (along with productivity).
Instead, keep your door open. Just do it. Even though it may lead to a few more distractions, few employees will abuse an open-door policy. And you’ll be amazed at the conversations you never had with people you thought you knew.
4. Do a daily stand-up meeting.
In what feels like another life, I interned at an indie game studio. And what stood out to me the most (aside from the awkward coders and the whimsical break room) was the daily morning scrum.Also called a stand-up meeting in non-tech circles, this type of daily meeting should never go over 10 minutes and is mostly for the sake of managers who will get a quick status update from everyone on their teams. It’s a fantastic way to make sure everyone is on the same page and also a sneaky way of project managing without having to rely on messy schedules and timesheets.
Another, less obvious benefit of the stand-up meeting is that it keeps everyone accountable. Instead of forcing someone to follow a static, complex schedule, you give each team member personal responsibility for finishing their work on time.
5. Encourage team members to blog.
Finally, you don’t have to be a content manager or marketer to find value in keeping a lively company blog. When only 28.9 percent of millennials are engaged at work (71 percent are not), being able to contribute on a regular basis to a part of the brand that’s very public, like a blog, is incredibly empowering.
As I mentioned earlier, not everyone’s a talker who can dominate an in-person meeting or conference call. You’d be surprised at what your coworkers will say and contribute when they’re given the freedom to write on company time.
There’s also a lot of great team communication software. I believe in understanding and internalizing the reason for doing something before learning how to do it. That being said, there are a lot of fantastic and affordable team messaging and project management software solutions.
You probably already know about Slack, Trello and Asana -- but have you tried Smartsheet, Wunderlist or Zip Schedules? Since most of these apps have free trials (some are even permanently free for small teams), you should try out as many as you can. Find out what works best for you and your team.
And remember the old saying -- people quit their bosses, not their jobs. Communication is what ultimately determines whether you retain talent or lose valuable team members to competitors. If that’s not worth investing time and effort into, you’re doing things wrong.