Are you looking to learn how to improve teamwork skills? The benefits of communication skills in the workplace are often talked about. Increase your influence, improve your leadership skills, get buy-in from your team, and so on. But an underrated benefit of communication is that it can also positively impact teamwork.
“Better communication won’t just get you to better teamwork; it will allow you to redefine what ‘better’ even means,” says educator and consultant Daniel Juday, a leadership and people and culture expert.
“It will help you re-articulate that idea across teams, projects, and timelines. And, it will support you in remembering and reminding your team through tough seasons and new challenges. Good communication is generative; it continues to create value far past its initial effect. It develops a cultural momentum that the team can leverage.”
And if you think you need to be in a certain role to be able to help your team by improving communication, know that you can still leverage the ripple effect of opening communication lines–even if you work remotely. According to Juday, better communication doesn’t have to be bound by geography, time, or role.
Below he shares his insights on how to improve teamwork by communicating better, more openly, and with trust.
Understand that communication strategies aren’t magic pills
“Effective communication strategies aren’t magic pills. They don’t just make the pain go away. But, they do allow teams to more accurately diagnose the pain, which makes it more likely to be seen as a solvable issue,” according to Juday.
He shares the example of generational conflict in the workplace, a common pain point in organizations: “Right now we have more generations working together than have ever done so in the past. And, each of those generations comes with its own set of expectations and ideas around what work means, its role in society, and how individual team members should express those things.”
Without a culture of trust and transparent communication, generational conflict can become toxic and even breed the creation of cliques. “The in-fighting can create a toxic work environment, stagnates almost all innovation, and ultimately shows up at the bottom line. Almost all differing expectations and varied life experiences have the potential to either connect or divide like this.”
“Everything from race to sex to work-style to educative credentials to geographic footprint to tenure, etc. can represent opportunities for team members to divide and polarize, or, with an effective and compelling communication plan, unite around diverse perspectives and innovative ideas,” adds Juday.
Share information and ask a lot of questions
If you want to improve teamwork through the art of communicating, it’s important to share lots of information and keep the flow of information going by asking a lot of questions.
“The base layer of communication is information-sharing. That’s ultimately what’s happening when two people communicate; they are sharing information with one another,” explains Juday.
According to him, the fundamental vehicle of information-sharing is questions and answers. Questions open the conversation, invite participants in, create a frame for the dialogue, demonstrate vulnerability, and indicate a willingness to learn.
However, questions and answers don’t hold the same weight when it comes to improving teamwork through communication. Answers are important, but, in terms of communication, they signify an end.
“Working with teams to help them become better question-askers, and exploring what that might even look like, allows teams to become more effective generators of inclusive and collaborative conversations because all participants are focused on the process of inquiry, exploration, and framing rather than on the termination of that journey.”
Avoid engaging in one-way communication and create safety
If you solely speak to provide answers, you may also inadvertently create an unsafe environment that prevents collaboration.
“Becoming an ‘answer-person’ marks you as an unsafe communicator. If you never initiate the question asking, or participate in the exploration, you’re counting yourself out of the collaboration and innovation that happens along the way,” says Juday.
And creating safety is important to foster effective teamwork because it will encourage more people to ask more questions and address core issues that wouldn’t be addressed otherwise.
“If you’re unable to create an environment of safety– because all question-asking comes with an assumption of risk by the question-asker– then you’ll miss the magic that happens when transparency meets trust.”
Asking questions and listening with the intent to understand is one of the biggest ways to cultivate safety while communicating with your teammates, so keep that guiding principle in mind.
Examples of great teamwork skills
We can anticipate success in any project when each teammate takes responsibility for their tasks. A workspace that encourages people to share their commitment, timelines, and goals for the short and long-term have better performance rates and consequently high talent retention. Project management tools like Hive can help to cultivate accountability, by letting teams create visual and customized plans of action for each person and project.
2. Rapport-building skills
Dale Carnegie must be the first name that comes to mind when the topic is relationship building. His book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” sold over 15 million copies because his tips are easy and practical to follow. You will be at a great start by smiling, learning and pronouncing people’s names correctly, to offering sincere appreciation. In virtual set-ups it might take an extra dose of effort to make these interactions happen, you can try for example these virtual bonding exercises. If you use Hive as your project management tool, you can use custom emojis to express exactly how you feel.
3. Organizational skills
Teamwork involves understanding that each person works differently. They have their own pace, methods and personality traits. When collaborating together it is important to have a consistent way to track time and organize tasks. Hive’s “My Actions” is a helpful feature to accomplish just that. You can create a place where you can see everything that you need to do and prioritize your tasks.
4. Time management
Understanding how long a task would take to be completed can help teams to assess deadlines and keep track of a project progress. Hive’s time-tracking is a great way to measure how long it takes to complete a task and evaluate your performance.
5. Understand diversity
When a team with people from different backgrounds, nationalities, languages and beliefs collaborate something special and innovative can be created. In order for this uniqueness to arise, it’s important to respect and understand each individual. For example: use inclusive language and avoid references that can be alienating for people with a different career path and experiences.
6. Encourage open feedback
When getting buy-in from internal and external stakeholders on projects, setting up expectations is crucial. Open and ongoing feedback can help in this process. To run an efficient feedback session, first assess how your team engages better. Would they be more compelled to participate using collaboration tools such as form or survey? If so, Hive custom forms can be the right solution for your team.
This built-in Hive feature allows you to create custom forms that anyone (i.e., internally or externally) can fill out in their browser. But if your team thrives in a 1:1 set-up, schedule monthly or weekly meetings to encourage regular sharing of constructive feedback. Some groups prefer open sessions where everyone can come in and share their evaluation. Pro tip: Hive Notes allows you to take meeting notes, helping you to document the feedback sessions, measure improvement, keep track of progress and determine the next steps directly in Hive. Investigate what works best for your team and share with us in the comments.
7. Critique constructively and do it early
One of the beautiful things about humans is that we are all different. Being different means we all have varied ways of doing things and there are going to be times when we aren’t all on the same page. When we want to maintain good relations and help keep everyone encouraged to put forth their best efforts, the way we communicate our criticisms is crucial. Sometimes we have trouble seeing eye to eye with a colleague because their idea needs more clarification or perhaps it’s too complicated. How about inviting them for a voice chat? Remember to be patient and let them know your thoughts in a way that will help them to improve.
We also want to make sure that we take action with issues early on. If requests are vague or if goals aren’t clearly explained, misunderstandings can delay projects and cause damage to the team’s overall relationship.