Poor Team Communication – How to deal with it
May 11, 2011 1 Comment
Individual contributors working on any project come in all forms and guises. They can be loud and enthusiastic, shy and reserved, or stubborn and defiant. Any team, like any group of individuals across the general spectrum, will have a wide range of different personality types and preferential communication styles.
Being that good communication is the cornerstone for any successful project, what should a project manager do when he/she discovers the team is not communicating well? What initiatives or methodologies can the project manager institute and spear-head to reduce the communication gap and create an environment where more active and viable communication occurs?
1. Discover which communication method works best and encourage its usage
Depending on the situation, people respond to different communication mediums in different ways. Other considerations, like geographic or timezone constraints make certain communication types more logical. Additionally, depending on regional issues, some individuals, especially in foreign countries may be far more comfortable communicating in written versus verbal forms. So it is important to be cognizant of all those factors when determining which method to utilize. Additionally, dealing with team members on an individual basis versus a forum setting is also something to consider for those folks that may be on the shy side and would prefer more private conversations to discuss their thoughts and ideas.
2. Delve into non-traditional methods of communication and see if they work
Periodically, a standard conversation, whether it be in a forum-based setting or in a private one-on-one may not be the best mechanism to utilize. Some folks are just not as geared towards standard back and forth dialog. An alternative is to use a task-based approach. In that situation, you can give the individual assignments to work on and the completion of the tasks makes up the crux of the dialog. When given something to do, it often lays the foundation for a conversation to manifest versus a more informal, brainstorming style exchange.
3. Exercise understanding and patience
Project managers are notorious for being somewhat obsessive-compulsive. (Trust me, I am speaking from experience and self-introspection) With that being said, they can often find it frustrating when they run into issues with communication amongst the team members. Some individuals are quick to respond while others take their time. Some show up for meetings in a punctual fashion, others are notorious for coming in late. In any sense, the project manager will need to keep their cool. It’s important to recognize certain character traits in individuals and understand that in many cases, it is just simply part of their personality. So rather than trying to change them, try to be more understanding. Of course, if the behavior is one that is actually causing problems, it needs to be addressed. But its important to recognize the difference between what is a fundamental issue versus something that is a minor nuisance.
4. Have a conduit to get important information when it is required
There may be times when you need to get information and get it fast. In those cases, make sure you have a ‘back door’ communication channel when necessary. That may mean having an individual’s cell phone number or maybe their messenger ID in your list. Whatever the case, ensure that if you do need quicker reaction times for certain pieces of information, those communication channels are available.
5. Demonstrate consistency and persistence
When you are communicating with your team, make sure that they are fully aware of what the difference is between listening to you speak versus needing to provide feedback. Often times, a project manager can drone on in a meeting and turn it into a giant monologue. But a meeting is meant to be a back and forth exchange, not a speech. So make a habit of having a consistent meeting style whereby the team members recognize which times they are being asked for feedback versus which times you are providing status or information. And agenda that breaks the meeting down into these areas can help make that more obvious.