Don’t wait - communicate!

We all know the feeling - you get a phone call from a friend that you haven’t heard from in a while. Your stomach sinks, and you wait in dread to hear what’s happened.

It can be much the same when you get a generic meeting request from the CEO for an unexpected company-wide meeting. Did the company get acquired? Is there going to be a restructure? Rumors start to swirl before the first person even walks into the meeting.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. You can avoid putting your staff through that “heart in my throat” feeling - and in the process make your company even stronger.

Just don’t wait to communicate.

As a leader, you should aim for frequent, open communications with your whole team - not only your direct reports. Whether it’s sharing an R&D update, business development, messages from HR (or all of the above), ensuring that everybody on the team has the critical information they need when they need it pays immediate dividends.

Here are five reasons to improve your team communication and an easy change you can make to realise these benefits:

1. Prevent or resolve problems

Do you remember the children's game called “telephone”? It goes something like this: one person whispers a simple sentence like “I have a red car” in the ear of the person next to them. That person whispers what they heard to the next person, and so it goes around the circle. The more people, the more the message gets changed. The same thing happens around the office. One person hears something and repeats it to another person, and soon an entire branch has a convoluted version of the original message, creating all sorts of problems.

With regular communication, you can prevent these types of problems. Regular updates let everyone on your team get the information they need directly from the people who have it. Plus it creates the opportunity for employees to ask for clarification directly from their leaders not just their teammates.

Regular updates let everyone on your team get the information they need directly from the people who have it.

2. Improve collaboration

Now think about another children's game: the three-legged race. Two people have one leg strapped to the other, and need to race to a finish line. Sometimes there are obstacles - but often, the biggest obstacle is the other person. How do you make sure you’re working together so you don’t end up falling on your face?

If you’ve ever done a three-legged race, you’ll probably remember that at some point you figured out to call out “inside, outside” to coordinate if you were moving your inside or outside leg to really hit your stride. Increasing your communication frequency and accessibility gives your staff the same opportunity to improve their collaboration, both within their teams and across the organisation.

3. Improve productivity

In both the example of the telephone game and the three-legged race, there’s something else in the mix besides the confusion and stumbling. It’s a real waste of energy and time, all leading to a decrease in productivity.

People are most productive when they’re aligned and not questioning what’s happening in the business around them. It’s simple to get people there. Just give them the information when they need it, not after the gossip and confusion have started distracting them.

4. Build engagement

According to Gallup, only 15% of employees are engaged worldwide. That means that 85% of your staff could be tuned out and potentially dissatisfied. This lack of engagement contributes to lower productivity and higher staff turn-over.

So what makes an engaged employee? That’s a bigger question than we’ll tackle today, but one simple way to improve engagement is to have leaders communicate is by opening the doors of communication through increased, accessible and timely communication, especially from the leaders of your organisation.

5. Build trust

Employees that trust the leadership at the company they work for make better decisions on behalf of the company day in and day out. Trust is built through knowledge and interaction. Unfortunately for most leaders, going out in the trenches and getting to know each individual staff member isn’t an option. But frequent, transparent communication can help bridge that gap.

This means more than sending the occasional email. Too many nuances and details get lost in a lengthy staff update email - and they’re too often skipped in favour of something else in the inbox that is seen as more urgent.

So - how do you actually improve your team communication so that you can realise all these great benefits?

Stop relying on trickle-down communications

Your employees want and need to build relationships with and trust your leadership team. And the best way to do that is to communicate regularly to your whole team.

Of course, with a distributed workforce and everyone’s different timetables, getting those meetings scheduled can be really challenging.

That’s where building a new model of asynchronous updates can benefit your business. Staff members can log in and watch your presentation on their own schedule - so they get the information they need directly from their leaders. Plus, your leaders can communicate anytime there’s something important to address - not on a set schedule when they can get on a plane to travel to every location.