7 Questions to Improve Your Team's Communication

Nothing will improve your team’s productivity faster than better communication. Having a deliberate process and cadence of communication will save hours of lost time, productivity and drama.

If you don’t have a formal plan, or haven’t spoken with your team recently about how communication is going, it’s worth taking the time to communicate about communication. Gather your team together for a focused hour and talk about the questions below, and then build your plan. It’s helpful to revisit the strategy once a month to see how it’s working and determine if anything needs to be revised.

7 Questions to Improve Your Team’s Communication

“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
-George Bernard Shaw

1. What’s working/not working?

Start with the basics.

  • What is working well about the way we are currently communicating?
  • Where is co​mmunication breaking down?
  • What do we need to be talking about more? Less?

2. Who are our stakeholders and what do they care about?

Giving your stakeholders the right amount of information how and when they want it reduces their anxiety and gets them off your back. And let’s face it, when you stay in front of the need-to-know curve, you look smart.

If you don’t know what your boss (or her boss) really wants to know–ask. Also if you produce and distribute reports and updates, it’s often wise to ask who’s looking at them. I knew one manager who just stopped sending all the mandatory reports his team was producing for three months, and no one noticed! I’m not suggesting this approach, but a quick check-in may save you some valuable time.

3. What more information do you need from me?

Start with you to ensure you’re giving the team everything they need. Then it’s good to go around the room and have everyone ask this question. Be sure you’re clear on what you need from each team member and what they need from one another.

4. How will we use email?

If you haven’t talked about this explicitly, I’m sure there are strategies you could use to be more impactful.

5. When will we meet (in person or by phone) and why?

Every meeting should have a purpose (tied to improving results or relationships). If the purpose of some of your meetings is simply to update, brainstorm alternative communication strategies.

6. How will we ensure our meetings are effective?

Talk about the best way to monitor meeting effectiveness (see meeting NPS). Do you start each meeting with clear objectives and desired outcomes? Do you stick to the agenda? Are action items clearly documented with responsible parties and follow-up dates?

7. How will we resolve conflict?

Talking about how you’ll address conflict and disagreements before you have one can go a long way in improving team dynamics. Agreeing in advance that you’re open to feedback and the best way to deliver it will also help promote healthy dialogue. Introduce tools such as the expectations matrix to help structure discussion.

So many teams settle for good communication when it could be great. Or worse, assume miscommunication is just part of working in a team. Checking in on the process every now and then will reap huge dividends in future productivity.

3 Ways to Help Your Team Get 10% Smarter

Your team is smarter than they look. I promise. If they’re not learning as fast as they you would like, stop and consider. What if it’s not them– but you? Here are three ways to make your team 10% smarter.

1. Stop Interrupting

I didn’t get this right away in my growth as an executive. I figured these were seasoned leaders. If they were busy when I called, they’d tell me. But I soon learned that despite my best intentions, I was considered “the boss.” Yeah, you’ve got it– The “imperfect” kind. When I called, they answered–dropping everything to get me what I needed.

Of course every now and then that’s EXACTLY what you need. The sky is falling, the customer’s really ticked off, or your bosses’ hair is on fire. Got it.

Just remember, creative work and breakthroughs require concentration. No one does their best thinking in a constant barrage of interruption.

If it can wait, give back some mental energy by making ongoing lists for each person and setting a time to run through what you need. They’ll be in a better space to think and respond, and in the meantime they got on with their other priorites. Resist the urge to just pick up the phone and disrupt their flow.

2. Give Permission to Do

I recently met with the founder and CEO of a medium size company who had brought me in to do some leadership development work with the frontline team.  I shared the laundry list of amazing business improvement ideas that had surfaced as we talked leadership– literally side effects of deeper conversation. These were solid ways to improve revenue and customer service. His response, “Karin, what CEO in their right mind would be upset with them just doing these things? If they’re good ideas, why didn’t they just do them?”

His entrepreneurial spirit couldn’t imagine a mindset of waiting for permission, but he’d not said that out loud. Be sure if your team is busting with ideas they feel encouraged to share and try them.

3. Expose Them to More

In almost every company I’m working with one of the big asks is to help the team think more strategically. As I dig in the number one issue is almost always lack of exposure to the bigger context of the vision, the financial strategy, or how their work connects with other departments. It’s impossible to connect the dots if you only see half of them. The more your team knows, the deeper their thinking will become. If you want to grow big picture thinkers, give them something to think about beyond their current role.

The Rest of the Story

This is part four in a seven part series of how to outsmart the competition. If you’re just tuning in, here’s the rest of the story.

1. Get there early

2. Be an explainer

3. Pay attention to your own game.

 Looking for someone to help your team get a bit smarter? Please call me at 443- 750-1249 for a free consultation.