By Dr. Robert Gordon, CPC  |  12/07/2023


team communication

To improve team communication, a high-performing team needs to start with trust, employee engagement, and effective communication. Since team members may not always know each other, it is important for everyone – especially leaders – to enhance communication within their teams.  

In order to create effective team communication, it is necessary to start with treating team members with integrity and respect. There is no substitute for treating other people respectfully.

However, some people need help in developing their ability to communicate respectfully and effectively. There are different There are different communication styles styles, according to Indeed.

Those communication styles can vary between different team members or even different teams. For instance, one team might use highly technical jargon common to their work, but this jargon may not always be understood by the members of another team.

Senior managers, team leaders, and each team member need to understand what good group communication looks like in order to build a great team. They also need to understand reflective communication and active listening.  

 

What Is Good Communication? 

Good communication is the ability to convey information effectively and efficiently to another person or group. It involves verbal and nonverbal skills, active listening, and correctly understanding and interpreting the information relayed by a speaker.  

Some characteristics of this type of communication include: 

  • Clarity 
  • Conciseness
  • Empathy
  • Respect
  • Honesty
  • Openness

For professional communicators, it is essential to consider the audience. Ideally, good communication should be tailored to their needs and preferences. 

In addition, good communication involves feedback and active engagement from both the speaker and any listeners. It also means that the speaker should be willing to receive feedback and adjust a communication style accordingly. Similarly, the listener should actively listen and provide feedback as well.  

Better communication is crucial for building and maintaining relationships, resolving conflicts, and achieving common goals in both personal and professional settings. For a team, effective verbal communication and written communication allows everyone to know what work is expected and when it needs to be done.  

Team communication is not all about the leader assigning tasks and laying down edicts and demands. Still, workplace communication should be something that naturally flows for everyone on the team to make it stronger and ready for any new challenges. 

 

What Is Reflective Communication? 

Reflective communication involves both active listening and reflecting to the speaker what you have understood. It is a process of clarifying and confirming the message the speaker expressed to ensure that both parties have the same understanding and are on the exact same page. 

A reflective communicator can also mirror another person's gestures if the communication is done in person. This mirroring can help put the other person at ease and to get more of the message.  

Reflective communication involves these strategies: 

  • Listen actively – To listen actively, give your full attention to the speaker without interruption or jumping to conclusions. Wait for the speaker to finish and then respond. Also, you must listen to understand and not just listen to answer. Remember to ask for more information if you miss a part of the message or don’t understand it. Too often, we only hear part of a team member’s message and forget the rest. 
  • Paraphrase the speaker – Repeat what you have understood from a speaker’s message back to that team member, using your own words. This paraphrasing demonstrates that you are actively listening and ensures you understand the speaker’s message correctly.  
  • Confirm the message with the speaker – Ask the speaker if you have understood a message correctly. This feedback allows the speaker to clarify any misunderstandings. Once a speaker’s message is confirmed, you are far more likely to have understood all of the information in it. 
  • Empathize – Reflective communication involves empathizing with the speaker's feelings and perspective. Showing empathy helps build trust and a deeper understanding between the parties. Make sure to demonstrate your understanding, and do not move the focus back to you. Many people express their empathy by finding a similar situation in their own experiences and talking about it. However, that is not true empathy. It is unlikely that any two people lead identical lives, so empathy should be more personal and focused on the speaker. 

Reflective communication is advantageous in situations when there may be potential for misunderstandings or miscommunications. These situations include interpersonal conflicts, negotiations, or customer service.

However, reflective communication strategies can be used effectively in teams because they are a part of effective communication.  

 

How to Improve Active Listening Skills 

Most people can use some improvement in their active listening skills. However, I have yet to see salespeople listen their way to success, so most people have learned that speaking is more important than listening.  

Improving your active listening skills is vital to avoiding poor communication and misunderstandings. Here are some ways I recommend to help you improve your active listening skills: 

  • Focus your attention on the speaker – Try to eliminate any distractions and give your full attention to the speaker. Pay attention to the speaker’s body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions to better understand what message is being conveyed. Also, remain alert and make good eye contact during the discussion. Speakers want to feel heard through reassuring body language from team members. 
  • Be present and fully engaged – It's essential to be present and fully engaged in a conversation. For team members, that means putting away phones, avoiding the urge to multitask, and giving full attention to the speaker. Avoid acting bored or tired when other team members are speaking; sometimes a simple nod of acknowledgment goes a long way to signal to the speaker that you are actively engaged in what is being said. 
  • Ask questions – Asking the speaker questions shows that you are listening and aware of a discussion's points. It also demonstrates that you are interested and participating in the conversation with your fellow team members. In addition, asking questions clarifies any misunderstandings and can lead to a deeper understanding of the topic under discussion. 
  • Repeat the message and paraphrase what the speaker said – Using your own words, repeat what the speaker said in a verbal communication. This technique reassures the speaker that you correctly understood the information being conveyed, which is especially useful if you're on a remote team and unable to talk with a coworker in person. It shows respect, an understanding of the discussion topic and that you comprehend an issue or concern in a team project. 
  • Reflect on your listening skills – After a conversation, take some time to reflect on how well you listened to a speaker. Ask yourself if you were present, engaged, and understood the speaker's message. This self-reflection can help you identify areas for improvement in your verbal communication or written communication. 

Improving your listening skills takes time and practice, but you can become a more effective and empathetic listener with dedication. It may be hard at first, but becoming a first-class listener will help you communicate with all people on a team and to resolve conflict when it occurs.  

Active listening requires practice, so do not expect perfection the first time you try. Work on developing one healthy communication skill then and move to the next to better understand what it takes to be a great listener. 

 

Best Practices to Improve Communication   

Effective communication is essential for building strong relationships, fostering collaboration, and achieving common goals. The better team members and leaders are with these best practices of team communication, the better a team will perform in its task management.  

From my experience and research, team conflict and varying communication styles lead to team inefficiency, which is the highest expense for a team. At the heart of all conflict is poor team communication; most conflicts are more often due to miscommunication than a clash of desires. Here are some best practices to improve your team's communication. 

 

Set Clear Expectations for the Entire Team

It's essential to establish clearly defined expectations for effective team communication. These clear expectations include the frequency of communications, the mode of communication, and its tone. That way, everyone on the team will be on the same page.

If no rules are set and nothing is enforced, then team members will be allowed to interpret – or more importantly, misinterpret – your expectations. As a result, different team members might have two different interpretations of the same concept.

 

Be Concise and Clear in All Team Meetings 

When you’re communicating with your team members during meetings, be concise and transparent in your messages. Avoid using jargon or technical terms that may be unclear to team members. For example, not everyone on your team will have the same familiarity with commonly used business terms.  

Part of being concise and clear in your team communication comes from choosing the right communication tools for your team members to use. For instance, you can use an email, instant messaging, a one-on-one video call, a video conference with multiple team members, or project management software for clear communication with your team members. 

These tools are especially useful for helping you improve team communication and team collaboration involving remote teams and multiple time zones. They can reduce confusion and improve how team members interact with each other.

 

Practice Active Listening during Team Meetings

Listening is just as critical as speaking in good team communication. Practice respectful, active listening by giving your full attention to a speaker and seeking to understand that person's perspective.  

Active listening includes being polite, avoiding personal attacks, and considering the impact of your words on others. No one likes a bully, so make sure you remain open to new information and do not force your opinions on others. 

 

Encourage Feedback from All Team Members

Encouraging feedback from other team members can lead to more effective team communication and better team collaboration. Encouraging feedback as a way to improve team communication includes regular check-ins (for instance, weekly meetings) or anonymous surveys to solicit more information.

It's also important to encourage honesty from team members. Some team members might be reluctant to give their honest opinion to the parties involved for fear that their communication styles and words might be misinterpreted.

However, such honesty is a vital part of ensuring that employees understand concepts and the need to ensure project quality.

Leaders also have the option of creating an "open door" policy. This strategy will allow each member of a team to privately speak in person with team leaders in one-on-one meetings and offer tips for improving communication.

Ideally, each team member should understand that all feedback should be considered as a gift and constructive criticism, rather than a personal attack. That way, team members can more gracefully accept feedback, objectively review the information they have been given, and act on it by modifying their communication styles.  

 

Celebrate Individual and Team Successes 

Celebrating team successes is an integral part of team communication and team building. Acknowledge the contributions of individual team members, and be sure to celebrate minor and major milestones to foster a collaborative, positive work environment.

Celebrating milestones also permits the team members to build deeper connections and allows better work relationships to form between individual team members. In addition, it contributes to team productivity, employee morale, employee engagement, employee retention, and the organization's success.

I feel that people do not do these types of milestone celebration enough. For team members, there are various ways to celebrate. For instance, you can buy everyone lunch when a milestone is hit or provide gift cards to each team member for meeting a tight deadline.

Another way to celebrate is through fun team building activities. For remote workers, additional creativity may be needed to include them on team activities. However, there there are many options available for many options available for team building activities, according to Museum Hack.

Most of all, recognize the hard work of each team member. 

 

Developing Strong Communication Skills

All of us have an infinite capacity for improvement. No matter what happens in your life, your skills, training, and education will stay with you.  

There are many tools and resources are available to help team members improve their team communication skills. Here are some examples of ways to improve team communication. 

 

Training Courses for Improving Team Communication Skills and Communication Styles 

There are many online or in-person courses available that can help you improve your communication skills, especially if you’re involved in team communication on a regular basis or work with a remote team. These courses cover various topics that are a vital part of learning how to communicate effectively, including active listening, empathy, and effective feedback.  

You can also look for a communications certificate or a bachelor a bachelor of arts in communication to help you with complex and more advanced team communication, knowledge, and skills.

For example, the COVID-19 pandemic helped us become skilled in working in a virtual environment. However, is every member of a team trained in the right communication style for effective team communication in a virtual organization? Do we all know the best communication practices for maintaining effective communication with remote teams?

 

Project Management Software 

There are various communication tools available to help teams and their communication practices. For instance, a project management tool such as Trello® and Asana® can help teams communicate effectively by providing a centralized platform for project management, task assignments, task management, and progress tracking.

These tools also help each team member to better organize their work tasks and stay in touch with all stakeholders. 

 

Conflict Resolution Tools 

Conflict can often arise between one team member and another, and it's essential to have tools available to resolve disputes effectively. Useful tools include the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument and the Five Whys method.  

 

Feedback Tools 

Giving and receiving feedback is an integral part of effective communication. Online tools such as 15Five® can help you help you and your team to give and receive feedback more effectively.

Also, there are many free training videos for improving your team communication skills.  

 

Consider Coaching and Mentoring for Improving Team Communication

Coaching and mentoring can be valuable tools for building strong communication skills. For instance, working with a coach or mentor can help you identify areas where you need improvement and could help you develop more effective communication skills.

There are many coaching services. If you are serious about professional and personal improvement, using a coach or mentor is a great way to improve. 

 

Growing Team Communication Skills Takes Time and Consideration 

Over time, you can grow your team communication skills and employ different communication styles, depending upon your audience. It’s important, however, to look at different options and to consider what areas of your team communication are most in need of improvement.  


 

Trello is a registered trademark of Trello, Inc.
Asana is a registered trademark of Asana, Inc.
15Five is a registered trademark of 15Five, Inc.
Impraise is a registered trademark of Impraise, Inc.


About the Author
Dr. Robert Gordon, CPC
Dr. Robert Gordon, CPC, is a faculty member of the Reverse Logistics Management and Government Contracting and Acquisition programs at the University. He holds a bachelor's degree in history from the University of California, Los Angeles; a master's degree in business administration from the University of Phoenix; and a doctoral degree in management from the University of Phoenix. Dr. Gordon also holds graduate certificates in information technology project management, information technology security and logistics management from American Public University.

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