In our 18 years of helping teams develop ‘communication’ has always been listed as one of the areas team members would most like to improve. In the case of the crew on US Airways Flight 1549 which successfully ditched into the Hudson River, it was the difference between life and death.
Despite all our high tech gadgetry it seems we could all be more productive if only we could communicate more effectively. Here are a few techniques we’ve discovered:
Bring back tea breaks – In the old days a bell would sound and the whole workforce would take a break, during which time colleagues could catch up with one another, seek advice and monitor progress informally and ‘off the record’. The senior team at a TV station we worked with realised, during an away day that they’d lost the art of conversation. Every email, agenda item and presentation had a definitive subject heading, meaning their days were full but lacked time for spontaneous sharing of ideas. From that day forward they agreed to get together for a 15 minute coffee every day at 10.30, without any agenda, just to catch up. Communication improved instantly!
Mix it up – At smoothie company innocent departments don’t sit together. Instead a sales person might sit next to an accountant on one side and an administrator on the other. Simply by overhearing what someone from a different department is doing can dramatically improve cross-functional awareness.
Email protocol – Have you ever had one of those days when the constant flow of email has meant you’ve not crossed a single item off your ‘to do’ list? Several organisations now have ‘no email days’ once a week. Alternatively simply make it known that you will spend time reading email before 10 am and after 4 pm, anything more urgent should be communicated face to face or on the phone.
Meetings in moments – There are numerous ways in which meetings can be improved but one of the best ways is to simply take away the chairs. People tend to make their point succinctly when standing up and this less comfy dynamic creates a clear sense of urgency therefore saving time.
Speak the truth – An enormous amount of time is wasted by office politics. All too often team members don’t know how to give and receive honest feedback. It’s a delicate process and should not be entered into without professional help. However as little as a day spent giving and getting input from team mates can heighten trust and transform a good team into a great team.