Working in a team can bring out the best and the worst in all of us. Teamworking can be fun, energising and creative; it can also be draining, conflict-ridden and demoralising.
Communication is at the heart of both effective and ineffective teamworking.
Effective teams thrive on authentic, assertive conversations with lots of healthy conflict. Ineffective teams leave conflicts to fester, allow back-biting between team members and have conversations taking place within cliques rather than between all team members.
Because communication is so central to effective teamworking, focussing on how to create good communication within your team is the first step in building a healthy one. Focussed effort in this area will achieve far greater and longer-lasting results than enforced social events that people attend unwillingly or “fun” team-building days where false camaraderie built in an artificial environment disappears as soon as the reality of work hits again.
Noticing problems with communication in your team can be an early warning of bigger problems to come – such as increased error rates, lower productivity, and more absenteeism and sick days.
What are some of the communication problems that indicate a team is in trouble, heading that way or just not performing at its best?
1. When something goes wrong, people get underway with blaming others – rather than asking questions to understand what went wrong within the team system and working to find a solution
2. Cliques form, breaking down the relationships that keep all team members joined up
3. When difficult topics come up people quickly move to distracting behaviours (humour is one of the most commonly used means of distraction) or shut down the conversation rather than working through the difficulty
4. Humour is used as a means to make barbed comments and undermine one another – rather than being genuine and appropriate
5. Only a few people really get listened to
6. Everyone waits to hear what the boss thinks before they contribute, or aligns themselves immediately with the boss’s view once this is expressed – even if it is far removed from the one they have just shared
7. People talk a lot about how well everyone gets on and emphasise regularly that they are all friends – teams where there are good relationships between members accept this as the norm and have no need to point it out
8. Discussions during meetings are based on people inputting their own views – rather than stopping to understand each other or ask questions to get deeper appreciation of different views
9. "Yes, but..." is frequently used during discussions
10. Everyone knows that the real decisions are made in discussions outside team meetings – despite pretence to the contrary during those team meetings
How does your team shape up in relation to these indicators of unhealthy communication? What can be improved? What is already working well? Leave us a comment below to let us know what you think.
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