Maintaining open and respectful channels of communication is the foundation to the success of any business.
I have seen many teams who are working together on a project, yet they do not even share the same vision of the project. What is more, they are not openly discussing their differences of vision so as to resolve them.
Or sometimes, certain key information is not shared with all members of the team. Not knowing all of the different factors that contribute to a decision regarding how a project will move forward can make it hard to get everyone on board with the decision.
When there is not enough time or space for everyone working on a project to raise and address concerns, chaos will inevitably ensue.
When concerns or differences of opinion that are raised get dismissed, rather than explored, people learn to stop raising valid points.
From my experience, any time that is not invested in exploring how decisions impact those directly involved in the project will be lost exponentially down the line.
When team members feel that their perspective is not even being considered, they start to become less invested in the projects they are working on. Ultimately, this leads to employee disengagement, high turnover rates, and lack of efficiency, as employees spend time venting their frustrations in the hallways, instead of completing productive work.
But how do we know whether the conversations being held are of the healthy variety, where everyone feels heard or whether they have crossed the line into the type of toxic conversations that slowly unravel the cohesiveness of your team?
Signs that your team may have a communication problem
1. People constantly agree with everything you (or someone else in the organization) say(s).
The chances that everyone thinks exactly like you do are fairly slim. If there is a person in the organization whose thinking is never challenged, it is likely that people do not feel comfortable sharing their true thoughts.
2. Certain individuals on the team do not engage in discussions or share their opinion.
Although some people are more comfortable sharing their opinion in a group setting than others, it is extremely important to find a way to solicit balanced feedback from all members of the team. This ensures that all angles of an issue have been considered and that everyone is ready to truly collaborate on next steps. If some members of your team are not comfortable sharing much in meetings, explore with that person individually what they would need to feel comfortable sharing their opinion.
3. People are confused about their roles.
A lack of clarity regarding who is supposed to do what on a project is a clear sign that communication could improve.
4. Issues are not addressed directly with person concerned.
Discussing issues that concern yourself and another person with an uninvolved third party is known as triangulation. Triangulation makes it impossible to truly resolve issues, as the other person involved in the situation may not even be aware of your concern. This tactic suggests that the person initiating the triangulation either does not have the skills to deal with the issue directly and/or does not feel the person involved will listen and address the issue productively.
5. Post-meeting hallway debriefs are commonly used to vent frustrations not addressed in the meeting.
This point also relates to triangulation, above. Although it is certainly ok to have small breakout meetings to follow-up on specific points from a larger meeting, any informal meetings whose function is solely to complain about dissatisfaction related to the previous meeting need to be stop immediately. Any concerns being explored in these informal meetings should be raised in the larger meeting.
6. People frequently respond defensively.
Although we all experience it from time to time, being defensive means that we are not in a receptive mode of communication. When we are feeling defensive, it is harder to truly listen to others and to consider their point of view. This inevitably makes productive communication challenging.
7. Conversations revolve around gossip, complaints and resentment.
It is absolutely normal for staff to have moments where they feel frustrated, disappointed, angry, or really, any emotion at all. There is also nothing wrong with sharing these emotions in a respectful manner. However, the vibe of an organization can slip into a state of constant negativity, where staff gossip and complain solely to discharge negative emotions without ever getting to a point where possible solutions are discussed. If this sounds familiar, it is likely that staff are not feeling empowered to share their dissatisfaction in more productive ways.
Developing a work culture where open and authentic communication is the norm is the only way to sustainably improve communication across all levels of an organization. If the goal of your organization is to develop and maintain a culture where effective communication is a top priority, give me a call so that we can explore how I can support this process, through workshops and coaching.
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