Sometimes, the worst thing about working on a team isn’t balancing who does what, it’s making sure everyone is on the same page. All the emails, status reports and meetings in the world can’t stop people from occasionally butting heads. Thankfully, there are some easy ways to make sure everyone’s clear.
Picture: Paul Vasarhelyi (Shutterstock)
Elizabeth Grace Saunders explains over at 99U that most communication problems are caused by people failing to hit the sweet spot between too little and too much communication, or the wrong kind of updates that actually cause confusion and frustration instead of serving to clarify.
For example, having a status meeting every week that devolves into brainstorming or people just complaining about their work on a project instead of actually updating everyone on the status of the project is generally a waste of time. At the same time though, sending daily status updates with the minutae of the project, where you say the same thing over and over again is not just too much communication, it’s enough to frustrate the people that get it — or make them ignore it, which leads to even more problems.
She suggests tackling communication problems head on. Clarify the deliverables you’re going to provide, and make sure to set (or reset) everyone’s expectations on what forms of communication they’ll get and when they’ll get it:
Each individual has a natural communication style, but to work effectively within a team, you need to determine how much communication needs to happen to make everyone comfortable. This could mean requesting weekly status meetings or progress reports at certain milestones. Or it could look like setting up a series of “If, Then” communication triggers.
For example: “If you will be out of the office for a week, then give me a status report a couple of days before you leave.” Or, “If you encounter an issue that will lead to a delay, then notify me as soon as possible.” You can also ask for people to not communicate with you about certain things. For example: “Please, don’t CC me on every e-mail between you and the printer.” Or, “Please don’t tell me about issues if they’re problems you can fix yourself.”
The latter point is the most important. Making sure you tie your communication to the deliverables and the updates that people actually care about is one of the most important (and time-saving) things I did as a project manager. You avoid sending people too little information, or boring them with the same updates over and over again. For more tips to cure common communication woes, hit the link below.