Communication Standards - 7 Principles To Avoid Running Into Problems
Writer: Dejan Kvrgic
Effective internal communication is the foundation of your team’s success.
It might seem simple at a glance, but communication is a complex process – and that means that there’s a lot of room for it to turn into miscommunication. When that happens, the impact is felt across all aspects of the project and company. Think back to when you were part of a team that just worked well. Communication was easy, all your goals were met in time, and everyone felt understood and appreciated. Now, think about the times when communication was off. It was the complete opposite, wasn’t it? When communication fails, and your team is headed for total dysfunction, there’s usually a lot of “He said, she said” talk – which helps no one. In fact, it’s one of the first signs of failure. Worst of all, it’s to recover from – both as individuals and as a team.
Over the years, we’ve been able to identify specific weak links that always seem to be the first to crumble under pressure. When things go south, it’s typically one of these points of communication that fails – causing a chain of unwanted reactions. So, today, we’ll look at the seven fundamental communication rules, what we internally call seven samurai, that made Pastilla one of the 5000 fastest growing companies and keep our employees and clients aligned.
7 Rules Of Effective Team Communication
Whenever members of your team slip into miscommunication, be it due to misunderstandings or inefficient information sharing, the “hiccups” usually revolve around one of the following points of communication. You’ll notice that these are all relatively simple principles also called ‘SMART’ goals setting Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. That’s because there is really no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to effective team communication. The basic idea is this: Whenever you are assigned a task – or you assign it to another member of your team – it should go through and follow these seven rules.
Hard Rule #1: What Needs To Be Done?
Whatever the task may be, the first thing you should do is determine what needs to be done. If you can’t ensure that everyone involved is on the same page and properly informed as to what it is they’re doing, you’ll be off to a rocky start. If the task is clear and all the essential details are readily available, you may proceed to the next stage – deciding who will do it. And if not? Escalate to the person who created the task – and ask them to provide more information. One thing you want to avoid here is “half-baked” answers or incomplete information. It is imperative to get the complete answer and fully understand the intended functionality before communicating it to your colleagues – let alone a client.
Hard Rule #2: Who Will Do It?
Once you know what needs to be done, the next step is deciding to whom you will delegate the task at hand. It sounds simple enough in theory – but it actually requires solid communication and coordination among team members. Obviously, it starts with choosing the right person for the job. For example, if it’s something that requires a lot of collaboration, choosing someone who prefers working alone would be a recipe for disaster. Next, you have to ensure that there’s absolute clarity regarding who’s doing what. Sometimes a person can do only part of the task. It’s important to clarify that they can do the whole task and lock in all people needed to complete the task fully. Obviously, make sure that they all have all the necessary information and access to the tools and resources needed to complete the task successfully – which would be our next point.
Hard Rule #3: Do You Have All You Need To Do Your Work? If Not, What Do You Need?
When you assign a task to someone, one of the most important things is providing them with the right instructions. And by “right,” we really mean complete, detailed, and accurate instructions that leave no room for guesswork. Leaving them to fill in the blanks as they go is never a good idea. The same applies to giving them access to the tools and resources they may require. Be sure to check if they have what they need – and know how to use it. Most importantly, ensure they understand the full scope of the task and their role in it – from start to finish.
Hard Rule #4: When Will It Be Done?
And if you can’t give a definite answer straight away, then – when will you know? You should generally avoid vague, broad terms. For instance, instead of saying something along the lines of “You’ll have it by the end of this week,” try using precise language, actual dates, and, if possible, exact time. “I’ll have it done by 5 p.m. today” or “You’ll have it by noon on Wednesday.” Anything that gives the others a clear idea of when they can expect the task to be done is a plus. We get that you’re merely giving estimates here, though, and that sometimes, things don’t go as you initially planned. That’s fine, too. But if there are delays and your estimates change, be sure to communicate that and provide an update in a timely matter.
Hard Rule #5: Notify The Person Giving The Request About Delivery Or Time For Delivery.
When it comes to communication, one of the biggest challenges among members of any global team would be those little things called “time zones.” Obviously, you can’t expect everyone to be available at all times during the day. It might be right around noon for you – but keep in mind that other members of your team might live in a different time zone, and for them, it might be midnight, for example. An immediate response is not always possible. And while you don’t want to let anyone wait too long, you should decide on an appropriate “time frame” for a response. We generally recommend – and stick to – an 18-hour window as the most suitable, especially for a global team.
Soft Rule #6: De-Escalate Conflict
Conflict can – and will – put a negative spin on even the most positive of work environments and bring your team’s productivity to a screeching halt. Here’s something to keep in mind: There’s not much one can do to avoid conflict. It’s one of those things that simply happen. But while that’s out of your control, how you react to it and how you resolve conflict when it does arise is not.
The most important thing to remember is: It’s never your place to “bite back” and let it escalate into a heated argument, no matter how out of line the other party may be. Rational problem-solving, decision-making, and self-reflection will be key here. If the client continues being difficult and, despite your best efforts, you two cannot seem to reach common ground, you can redirect them to someone “higher” in your company – because you are not alone in this.
That actually brings us to the final rule:
Soft Rule #7: Ensure They Know We Have Their Back.
Everyone makes mistakes. “To err is human,” as they say. And yet, it seems that we are all too quick to forget this and start pointing fingers at others as soon as problems arise. That can lead to several problems: One, this creates an atmosphere where people are less likely to admit their mistakes due to the fear of consequences. And two, it distracts everyone from the fact that they are working towards a common goal – and instead of looking for a solution, they might be too busy playing the “blame game.” In short, it creates a bad work environment. Everyone should be encouraged to come forward and admit their mistakes – and know that you will have their back, no matter what. Honesty is, indeed, the best policy. On a related note, there’s another soft rule that kind of fits here nicely: Learn to filter out the stress. It doesn’t do anyone any good, it doesn’t help you come up with an appropriate solution any faster, and it doesn’t foster healthy communication. Stress may be hard to avoid – but it’s not impossible to manage.