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When your team members don't talk to each other - it's your fault and not theirs

Is it too much to expect your team to actually talk to each other? How frustrating is it when you look around a meeting room and realise that the people who sit next to each other, who should have the same goals and objectives aren’t aligned at all? That they don’t care about each other, let alone care about how they could be successful together.

Maybe you’re seeing an environment of unhealthy competition – where people are keeping information to themselves as they think that’s how they get the results that will be recognised and rewarded.

It’s easy to say it’s down to them – that they’re adults and they’re paid to work well together.

When I led a team, who spent more time moaning about each other than coming up with plans, I would sit there thinking “just get the hell over it and damn well talk”. But I soon realised that I couldn’t make them share information and I definitely couldn’t force them to be best friends!

If communication is poor in your team, it’s probably time to take a long hard look in the mirror and think about the role you’re playing in this mess.

Leading teams is hard, but you have to face up to the fact that you may well be enabling the situation – at best you’re bridging the communication gaps, at worst you have ignored them.

You’re probably not the best role model (I get it – you’re busy firefighting, snowed under in meetings with a never ending to do list) which results in you not passing down information to your team or sharing widely and freely with your peers

Maybe you’ve simply not prioritised it – you assumed people would talk to each other, so you’ve not put time, energy or thought into what communication means for your team.

As a leader, you can make change happen. You can improve the environment and ecosystem – and create a place where communication flows easily. It is in this place where high-performing teams are born.

Here are 5 things you can do straight away to transform the communication of your organisation:

1) Spend more time communicating with your team than you do with your management

Right now, your people need you to lead the way. Make a regular time for informal huddles where people share what’s going on and where they can ask for help. Do these at least twice a week (on top of any regular meetings).

Add them to everyone’s calendars right now to make them happen. They don’t need to be long – just 15 minutes of quality sharing.

2) Double the amount of time you spend individually with each person

Get to know your employees and really understand what makes them tick. Learn about their family, their hobbies and their values.

Ask open ended questions and then listen, listen, listen. If you’re not sure what questions to go with, you could try these:

What did you do for fun at the weekend? What did you enjoy about it?

What’s the most amazing thing you’ve ever done?

What would you like to change about your week?

What are people within our team thinking that they’re not prepared to say yet?

3) Share your story with them.

Share your goals, how you’ve been successful and how you’ve failed. People leave managers not companies - be somebody they want to work for.

Leadership is amplified and enabled through vulnerability – it shows you are open to your mistakes, to learning from them and the feelings you experience. As your leadership grows, your team are more likely to demonstrate the behaviours you value.

4) Role-model the behaviours you want

How can you expect your team to be great communicators if you’re not doing it yourself? Demonstrate the value - communicate with your peers visibly and share what you know with your team.

Be the change you want to see in others and signpost it. It might feel odd and artificial at first, but I recommend highlighting passdowns to your team with “I met with xxx and learnt xxx – what could that mean for us?”. This shares who you’re talking with and the value you’re getting from it.

5) Make it important and fun

Your team aren’t mind readers – you need to set clear expectations and then recognise and reward great communication regardless of the result. Prioritise time for everyone to build the skills – which could be formal training sessions or intact team building and planning days where there is no way to avoid sharing!

For that team I led, where communication wasn’t as strong as it needed to be and relationships were becoming a bit dysfunctional, I implemented all of these over the space of a couple of months.

Team huddles and more 1:1 time helped, but what really made a step change were the full planning days I ran every 6 weeks with games to build communication skills (Lego, drawing and post-it notes were heavily involved) and getting really detailed on who was doing what and when. It didn’t take long to see a big shift in how people worked together and the results they were able to achieve.

Transforming the communication within your team isn’t easy but it’s so critical in order to build a happier, healthier, more successful team.

DGCoaching was founded to enable managers to become inspiring leaders, who focus on the health and happiness of themselves and the people who work for them. If this blog has resonated with you, book a complimentary 30-minute consultation where we can look at a current issue you’re battling with and learn more about the opportunities of working together. Click here to book now.

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