Communicating is a two-way process

Photo courtesy of gfpeck (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of gfpeck (Creative Commons)

Communication is such a key part of teamwork, and is one of the most effective tools in the leader’s toolbox.

It can be the difference in reacting calmly or with anger and frustration, in giving a reasonable explanation to a co-worker or client or in giving a conflicting answer. Communicating effectively heads off confrontations and confusion because at least people are aware of what is happening.

Communication needs to be a two-part process also. It’s important to give information, but also to listen and take it in. Giving information without listening is dictating. Being able to listen and work out solutions is a sign of a good leader.

Good leaders are willing to hear that the solution that seemed to perfect to them, might not fit all their team’s needs. Then they work together to find a compromise.

You can avoid the headaches of duplicate efforts when you communicate well, because each team member is aware of what the others are doing. It’s awkward and embarrassing when your team each has a different version of the situation. Good communication makes for a seamless presentation to your customers because everyone is sharing the same story.

Sometimes it’s important to give people a heads up that there’s been a glitch in the system, and even if you don’t expect any repercussions, you can alert them to be prepared just in case there are questions or issues.

It could be a quick email to say that the warehouse is out of that item but that it will shipped by the end of the week, or a note on the copier to let your co-workers know that tech support has been called so they won’t each call.

When I worked at a bookstore years ago, we would have a team meeting each morning before the store opened. It never lasted very long, but we would share any important information – this title is on back order, here’s the new sale, these are the new releases and this is where they are displayed. It gave folks a chance to ask questions too, and give suggestions.

It got everyone on the same page, and allowed us to offer better customer service and have higher sales because we could find those titles or share that information when we were asked questions. The manager on duty would follow up during the day as additional staff came in so that they had the same information too. You could feel the positive energy in the store, and customers noticed.

At one point, I transferred to a different store that didn’t conduct those kinds of meetings, and the atmosphere seemed strained and disjointed. The team wasn’t as informed, and were not as equipped to answer questions. The lack of communication made a huge difference in moral, and not surprisingly, that store did not stack up in terms of sales or customer service reviews until we started changing the culture to one of communicating.

How could you improve your team’s communication?