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  • Published May 05, 2024

Building High-Performing Teams with Better Communication

Learn how effective team communication can elevate productivity and deepen engagement across your organization.

Megan Cook
Megan Cook

Happy Companies Cofounder & CAO

Four professionals standing in an office, one person smiling.

Effective communication is essential for building successful teams and sustaining a healthy organizational culture. However, barriers such as differences in communication styles, unclear objectives, or even technological hurdles are common and can lead to confusion and misunderstandings. This confusion often results in wasted time as team members struggle with clarifications. In fact, a McKinsey study shows that teams that communicate effectively can boost their productivity by as much as 25% by ensuring everyone understands their roles and responsibilities clearly.

Overcoming communication challenges is not merely beneficial—it's crucial for unlocking the full potential of every team. By removing these blocks, you open the door to not only improved collaboration and productivity but also significantly enhanced employee engagement, leading to greater organizational success. This goal of transforming communication within teams is not just an ideal; it's a practical, achievable objective that can fundamentally change the dynamics within any company.

The Challenge of Effective Team Communication

Whether it's a misinterpreted email or an unclear project directive, the cost of poor communication can be high, leading to frustration and disengagement among teams. Consider these common scenarios:

  • Misalignment on project goals: Different understandings of objectives and timelines can derail even the most promising projects.
  • Remote work complexities: Distance can often slow down the information flow, leading to feelings of isolation or neglect.
  • Virtual Miscommunications: In a digital workplace, non-verbal cues are often missing, leading to misinterpretation of tone or intent in written communications.
  • Vague Instructions: When tasks are unclear, team members may work based on assumptions, leading to errors and wasted effort.
A group of coworkers engaged in a lively conversation while seated around a table.

These are just a few examples of the communication roadblocks we face each day. Recognizing these challenges is the first step toward transformation.

Here are five actionable ways to address communication challenges, creating pathways to clearer and more effective team interactions.

Establish Clear Communication Channels

To ensure everyone is on the same page and working effectively together, it's crucial to establish clear communication channels within your team.

Start by deciding on the preferred communication tools for different types of needs. For example, urgent matters that require immediate attention are ideally handled through instant messaging. This allows for quick responses and real-time problem-solving. On the other hand, scheduled meetings are more appropriate for more detailed discussions, such as project planning or review sessions. These meetings provide a structured environment where all details can be thoroughly discussed, and everyone has the time to contribute thoughtfully.

It is also helpful to make sure that communication norms are clarified so everyone understands what is expected. This includes defining how often team members should check in with each other, how they should update on project statuses and the best ways to give and receive feedback. For instance, you might decide that team updates should happen bi-weekly via email or that feedback on ongoing work should be shared during regular team calls. Establishing these norms helps prevent confusion and ensures that information flows smoothly and consistently across the team.

By clearly defining how and when to communicate, teams can work more efficiently and avoid the common pitfalls of miscommunication. This structure supports better collaboration and helps everyone stay aligned with the team's goals and deadlines.

Cultivate an Inclusive Environment

Creating an inclusive environment where every team member feels valued and heard is crucial for effective communication. A survey by Salesforce revealed that 86% of executives, employees, and educators view ineffective communication as a major reason for failures in the workplace, while effective communication fosters an environment that encourages and shares new ideas, leading to innovation.

Woman giving a presentation to a group of people.

Start by encouraging everyone on the team to share their preferred communication methods. Some people might express themselves best in writing, while others prefer face-to-face discussions or video calls. Understanding these preferences can help tailor communication methods to suit each team member, making interactions more effective and enjoyable for everyone. For example, Happy asks users to define their communication preferences as part of their profile, so anyone who views it can easily understand whether they prefer a Slack message in the morning or a face-to-face meeting in the afternoon.

Additionally, foster a culture of openness by implementing an open-door policy. This means team leaders and managers are approachable and available to discuss concerns or ideas. When team members know they can freely ask questions, voice concerns, or offer suggestions without fear of judgment, it boosts their confidence and promotes a sense of belonging.

Integrating these approaches into your team's daily operations creates a supportive and inclusive environment. This enhances communication and builds a strong, collaborative team where everyone feels they contribute meaningfully.

Wrap Candor With Kindness

Speaking openly and honestly—what we often call candor—is crucial for team success. However, ensuring that this candor is tempered with kindness is just as important. This blend of straightforwardness and empathy can significantly transform team interactions and collaborations.

Business team members brainstorming and editing a document in a conference room.

For instance, during a team meeting where projects are reviewed, imagine team member Alex notices that Jamie has missed a critical detail in their task. Instead of bluntly pointing out the mistake, Alex chooses a kind approach: "Jamie, I see your approach here, and it's clear you've put in a lot of thought. There might be another perspective we haven't considered yet that could really make this shine. Can we go over it together?" This strategy addresses the oversight, maintains Jamie's dignity, and promotes cooperative problem-solving.

By consistently applying candor with kindness, teams can create a more positive and engaging work environment where members feel respected and supported in their collaborative efforts. This approach enhances both individual and team productivity by fostering an atmosphere of mutual respect and constructive dialogue.

Feedback with Compassion

When it comes to managerial feedback, incorporating compassion is vital—not just for improving individual performance but also for reinforcing a supportive team culture. Compassionate feedback is about nurturing growth and ensuring team members feel valued, even when addressing potential areas for improvement.

Consider a situation where a team member misses a deadline. A compassionate response from a manager would look beyond the missed deadline itself. The conversation might start with recognizing the individual's commitment and contributions: "I've noticed you've been juggling a lot, and your efforts are truly valued. I want to understand the challenges you faced with this deadline. Let's figure out how we can tackle these obstacles together." This approach addresses the immediate issue, bolsters the individual's morale, and reaffirms their value to the team.

This kind of feedback fosters a culture of trust and openness, where team members feel secure discussing issues and seeking support. It transforms feedback sessions from potential confrontations into opportunities for personal growth and team cohesion, ultimately leading to a more productive and positive workplace.

Nurture Psychological Safety

All efforts toward open and healthy team communication are part of building a psychologically safe environment. This foundational aspect underpins the approaches we discussed. Nurturing psychological safety within a team means creating an environment where members feel safe to express their thoughts and opinions without fear of being judged or penalized. This concept is crucial in any workplace, as it encourages open dialogue and honest feedback, which is essential for innovation and problem-solving.

To truly nurture psychological safety, leaders must actively foster a culture of respect and inclusion. This involves setting clear expectations that everyone's input is valued and mistakes or differing viewpoints are seen as opportunities for learning rather than reasons for criticism.

Consider this scenario: A team working on a high-stakes project encounters a significant challenge. In a psychologically safe environment, team members feel confident voicing their concerns and proposing innovative solutions. They know their contributions will be met with consideration and constructive dialogue, not ridicule or dismissal. As a result, the team can collaborate effectively, leveraging their diverse perspectives to navigate the challenge successfully.

Leaders can transform their teams into more cohesive, creative, and resilient units by promoting psychological safety. This makes tackling complex problems and achieving organizational goals easier, as team members are more engaged and motivated to contribute their best work.

The Happy Advantage

At Happy, we understand that overcoming communication barriers is more than just implementing new tools—it's about creating a culture that embraces continuous improvement and open dialogue. Happy uses the latest behavioral science and enhanced AI to build a "user manual" for every team member, helping you understand and leverage individual strengths and communication styles.

Business executives having lunch outdoors in city.

Here's how Happy can make a difference:

  • Personalized Insights: Get tailored advice on best communicating with each team member based on their unique Happy Workstyle.
  • Enhanced Communication Awareness: Happy encourages individual self-awareness by providing feedback on your communication styles and how they affect your interactions. This insight helps you understand your personal communication strengths and areas for improvement, enhancing your ability to adapt your approach for more effective collaboration.
  • Scalable Learning: Happy grows with you as your team grows, offering insights and support that adapt to your evolving needs.

The Power of Effective Communication

Effective team communication is more than achievable—it's a transformative force for your organizational culture. When you actively address and overcome communication barriers, you lead your team to higher engagement. This means team members are more involved and enthusiastic about their work. It also ensures better alignment on projects, as everyone clearly understands their roles and the goals they're aiming for, leading to enhanced project execution and outcomes. By prioritizing and investing in communication, you're not merely addressing immediate issues. Instead, you're tapping into your team's deeper potential, unlocking abilities and synergies that may have been stifled by miscommunication or misunderstandings.

Take this opportunity to turn your people into your biggest competitive advantage. By fostering a culture that values open and effective communication, you make your workplace more productive and a happier place where everyone can thrive. Let's work together to make work better—for everyone involved.

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