How to Shake Up Team Communications


An office is often comprised of every imaginable personality and communicating effectively with such a diverse range of people can be a troublesome task. The bigger personalities will more often than not rail road team meetings to get their point across and the softer-spoken individuals will be left to follow up over email (if at all) to get their voice heard.

It is difficult to accommodate everyone’s disposition when it comes to office interaction but it is important to get it right in order to get the most out of your team. There is no re-writing the rulebook on comms but practising the basics and keeping them consistent is key to effective team correspondence. Here are a few pointers to help narrow the task to bettering office exchanges.

Weekly one-on-one

When you’re managing a large team the individual catch-ups are tricky to honour week in and week out. Get creative when you fit these in. Maybe it’s walking together to get your coffee in the morning or sliding out the door together on your way home. The one-on-one exchange gives individuals the opportunity to air personal grievances and stresses they may not feel comfortable expressing in front of a larger group. Don’t, however, let this draw into long convoluted gossip sessions. Hear them out, make note of what they’ve said and follow up later with a thoughtful email. Waiting to respond gives you time to digest their situation without the pressure of irrational immediacy to give response for responses sake.

More often than not the weekly catch-up will not yield any major dramas. Don’t let this be reason to forgo the one-on-one time! Check in regardless and discuss something peripheral. Keep it brief but listen to their opinion or suggestions.

Five minute stand-up

The start to the day can often be slow and disoriented if people are still catching up on last night’s emails and figuring out whose done what on the project and where that leaves them. A five minute stand up at the start of the day kicks things off on a clear, concise note. Another positive is that it ensures people are on time and in the right place to get the morning download first hand. Have strict rules in place so as to keep the meeting as brief as possible. Only you speak and it’s as simple as a run through of who’s on what that day. Cover any changes to the schedule. And confirm relevant deadlines. Done.

Axe the email chains

Is there anything more loathsome than an email chain? Especially if you’ve been copied in purely to “keep you up to date on things.” There should be a rule about replying to a group email and the rule should be: DON’T. Inane back and forth covering finite details that are relevant to one third of the people copied on the email is horribly distracting. Be mindful of who is on the email. Reply to only those necessary. Start a new email if necessary. This should be basic etiquette of office email exchange. A stream of partially applicable correspondence is completely counter-productive not to mention frustrating.

Activity based working

Some people thrive in an open plan environment. Being among the office bustle and hearing bits and pieces of every other conversation can be advantageous from a transparent and inclusive point of view but some employees will find it extremely challenging to maintain focus. Giving employees the option to work in a quieter space when possible will help balance out the frantic buzz of the open plan when essential team work comes into play and you need everyone in the same crazy spot. This allows employees some autonomy in their communication engagement, which is always appreciated by millennial team members.

Project tools

There are fantastic cloud based, real time apps that allow team members to check in on the status of projects and who is doing what at any one time. Trello, Confluence and Jira to name a few will simplify the ambiguity around timelines and project status for staff and hopefully put an end to the barrage of unnecessary questions flying around. If, however, the thought of another window open on your desktop is wholly unappealing, go old school and get a white board to mark up the project milestones. Something tactile that staff will physically walk past, ingest and update together can be a remarkably effective asset.

Communication can make or break team productivity. Find what works best for your team, make sure all staff feel familiar and comfortable with it and reap the rewards of a more productive workforce.

Naomi Chan

Career Coach and professional career hacker at Team Vanna

3 min read

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