Good communication is an obvious and critical requirement for teams to work together yet it’s one of the first areas to look at when the team is not in ‘flow.’ the seventh ‘face’ of a high performing team.
Good communication starts at the top of a team and works its way down as team members always take their cues from how the leadership team interacts with each other and the team in general. If leadership communication is unclear and inconsistent, confusion arises, inefficiencies appear and, in due course, morale drops.
But the messaging must not only be clear and consistent, it must also be free flowing. If information is held too tightly or is only ‘revealed’ on a need-to-know basis, you can be almost certain that those who are out of the loop will feel like they are out of the loop. This is not conducive to high performance.
While it’s nice to expect that the free flow of information will trickle down to team members, people leaders must also look for signs of team members not sharing information between each other. Knowledge is power and often people hold on to information to give themselves a sense of power over others.
Sometimes though, it’s simply a matter of team members not thinking it important for specific pieces of information to be shared with others. Either way, the leadership team can play a role by inviting appropriate team members into conversations, affirming that the information can and should be shared and otherwise being proactive so other can follow by example.
Equally, it’s important for team members to solicit information when they are having difficulty with a task, a process or a stakeholder. Too often people hold back on seeking help, fearing it may make them look ‘weak’ or incompetent. Such behaviour is unproductive and retards the performance of the entire team.
Establishing a culture where it’s ‘ok to ask’ is a top down approach. Leaders can show the way by asking for help when they need it, by inviting questions from team members, and by sharing stories of how they asked for help while making their way through their career.
The final aspect of flow in team communication is the use of positive affirming language. Cynicism and criticism both foster negativity and division among team members. While this doesn’t mean people leaders should take on a Pollyanna view of the world, they do need to be on the lookout for signs of negativity. Do team members speak well of each other? Do they speak well of stakeholders and clients? Do they speak highly of the senior leadership team in the organisation?
Of course it’s inevitable that situations will arise that warrant critical review, noone is perfect after all, but it’s essential that a culture be established of an intent to improve. By removing judgement from a situation, especially personal judgement, all involved can rise to a place of shared understanding and learning, both of which are signs of flow.
We cover this subject more in this week’s episode of The People Leaders Podcast and if you’d like to explore the other faces of high performing teams, you are welcome to put your team through the paces of our High Performing Team Assessment Tool.
Leaders need to keep communication channels open with members so everyone can work efficiently.