Disruptions in work rhythms create many opportunities for both missed communication and miscommunication. Both exact tolls on workplace productivity and patience. Many team leaders and organizations have found this to be true through experiences such as a global pandemic. It doesn’t take a world event however to break or threaten flows of communication. Neither good nor vital communication takes place by happenstance. Whether a large disruption or a smaller one a team leader must consider communication highly as an intentional part of their weekly or even daily work. Here are some tips that can help ensure the people around a team or organization have the information they need so that they can do their best work.
- Regular Doses-The first working assumption is do not assume people know what you think (or expect) them to know. This is not a statement on lazy employees. There can be a variety of reasons smart and responsible employees do not have or understand important information. Many times it isn’t even their fault. What is important needs to be regularly communicated and often in more than one strategic channel where it might be seen. Don’t assume one email means everyone will magically be in the loop. The larger the disruption you are facing the more frequent the intentional communications will need to be.
- Choose the Right Channel(s)-How might you set up easy-to-find / easy-to-remember locations and methods to communicate important matters? What are the preferred methods of communication for your organization? Some work off email, others use communication solutions such as Slack. The best strategy, especially if there are several pieces of information, generally will be to combine all of it into a single communication piece. Whatever systems your team best responds to be sure there is somewhere that important information will be housed so that people may easily refer back to it.
- Cycles of Work-No matter how important or how urgent the information is you will want to consider the current state of the cycle of work for the team or the organization. When team members are pushed by other urgencies then the attention to incoming details can be lost or not seen as important. Times of the week or month when there may be a heavy load of deadlines or even downtimes when many people might be out will create holes in the overall organizational awareness. Consider before sending the audience’s current ability to take in the information. Sometimes waiting a day or two to communicate something important can actually get you more traction than acting immediately.
- Clarify the Clarity-No, that is not a typo. To build on the first point of not assuming people have the info you believe them to have one also never wants to assume people have the same understanding of the info you have. They may have read it in a hurry or simply read it very carefully but came away with a different understanding than what you meant. Read what you communicate through another perspective than your own and see what questions arise. It is also helpful to have a third party read it and ask “What did you take away from this?” or “What do you see as the action from this?” Everyone uses different words in different ways at different times so make sure the action or information you want to communicate is clearly stated.
- Follow Up- The urgencies people have, team members being out of pocket, or simple mistakes can lead to someone overlooking an important piece of information or a request. Do not assume the worst in people but assume that sometimes people are busy or distracted for a number of reasons. Make sure to have timely reminders of actions needed or the information you want to communicate. Schedule reminders to send out communication before important deadlines. It takes a little more proactive action on your part but it can serve to set the team up for success and do their best work.
At the end of the day, the objective should be for any leader to position people to succeed. Resist setting up “gotcha” moments where either incomplete or unclear messages set people up to miss deadlines. While it is true that team members bear responsibilities concerning important deadlines and information it is also the responsibility of the team leader to coach them toward accomplishing goals. Ensuring clear communication through assessable channels with defined requests for actions or understanding in regularly timed intervals can help set a team up to meet their goals well.