How To Improve Team Communication From The Top Down
Have you ever wanted to sit your team down and cry, "Can't we all just get along?" Group dynamics are tricky - there is no shortage of experts willing to spout their theories on how to cultivate better group communication. But when you manage a team that simply cannot seem to get it together, establishing open communication feels as likely as finding the Loch Ness Monster in your swimming pool.
It's not always easy, but strong group communication can be achieved when you approach it with the right mix of leadership effort, commitment, and old-fashioned practice.
Get Aligned: The #1 Tactic Leaders Can Use to Establish Trust
Cultivating a culture of trust and open communication starts with the leadership team. The way executives interact with one another sets the tone for the entire organization, as employees tend to model the behavior they see in their leaders. In order to set a high standard, the entire leadership team must be aligned, and they must have clarity when it comes to organizational goals.
When everyone is on the same page in terms of priorities, values, and process, there is less to disagree on down the line. While disagreements will always exist, they are less likely to escalate when everyone on the team is pulling in the same direction towards the same goals.
We Aren't Here To Make Friends
Groups with open and thriving communication channels do not necessarily have to be friends. Open communication and trust among coworkers is possible even if the group doesn't hang out together at the local pub for Happy Hour.
So, if the team doesn't have to be friends, how can you inspire great communication? The key is to build trust among the team. Encourage team members to understand from where others are coming and learn what drives their thought processes. Employees simply need to consider other perspectives and trust that the other members of the team are committed, pulling their own weight, and helping the group move in the right direction.
Every Group Needs A (Healthy) Devil's Advocate
Differing personalities inevitably lead to conflict. But not all conflict is bad and colleagues shouldn't necessarily avoid it. Constructive conflict can be extremely healthy for a group, and it can lead to an elevated level of trust and communication over the long term. In order to innovate and solve problems creatively, a "devil's advocate" - one who spurs healthy conflict - is actually necessary. Strong decisions are made when the team considers all sides of a problem.
The key to keep conflict constructive is to maintain a high level of self- and group-awareness. Encourage individuals to ask each other questions when they disagree. Promote active listening when others are speaking, and allow for equal consideration of all viewpoints. Always keep an eye on the devil's advocate to ensure that the disagreement is constructive and serves a purpose, and does not fall into destructive territory.
Developing trust in a group, especially in groups with conflicting personalities, requires some finesse. When the tone is set from the top down, trust can be developed even among groups made up of strong personalities and vastly different work styles. When everyone commits to a culture of understanding, open communication will become second nature.