Recently, I was engaged in change project in a company that clearly had performance problems.
After interviewing leaders and looking at their ways of working and their metrics, I realized that one of the main challenges the company had was the communication from leaders to teams and inside teams and between teams.
One simple thing that struck me was the fact that a team leader was not able to explain what all the KPIs meant. She was looking at numbers each day, but the definition of these measurements was unclear. So as a result, the people she worked with did not take them into account in daily leadership decision-making.
After I discussed the situation with her and other employees and managers, it came out that most attempts by employees and managers to get more clarity in communication were never realized.
In another company, the owner and CEO put together a plan. It was a simple and good plan. Naturally, he wanted to communicate this plan to his management team to support it. The communication he sent was a flop. It was almost like a novel, sent via email, and leaving his busy managers puzzled.
The company owner turned to me to communicate the plan.
Communication and clarity are cornerstones of team performance.
Leaders put a high emphasis on building up teams and making sure that they are constantly improving the teamwork. Yet too often, they neglect communication as part of their teamwork efforts. Excellent, accurate and timely communication is the key to team performance.
Communication with clarity means:
- A leader knowing what he wants
- A leader keeping the message straightforward and clear
- A leader delivering a consistent message, continuously and regularly
- A leader understanding that she can only empower and give freedom to team members if she is crystal clear what the goal is
Some of the CEOs I have met struggle with the first point—and simplifying, without losing the key message, is always a challenge.
Time and again, I witness in corporations bad communication habits that do not enhance team performance: Daily emails that have several emails attached and the sender basically refers to one or to several of the emails attached. An intranet that team members second guess because it is not informative and accurate.
All the time that team members use to really find out what actually is meant with communications results in a substantial waste of time and less coherent action.
Email is a great tool; however, it has a huge potential to confuse people.
During good team-building and leadership events, coaches set the priority to enhance the communication skills of the team leaders and team members. These events focus on essential information and how it should be conveyed further to other team members and back again.
Timely feedback is critical, particularly whether a task has been achieved or not. All tasks cannot be executed as planned, hence conversations about challenges or not achieving the goal is important so the team can potentially adjust their own work accordingly.
This is what I learned in the military. You get a task, you execute it and give feedback when executed. This is for some reason mostly forgotten in corporations. Tasks are left hanging. One team member is forced to ask after certain actions: What is the status? Responses are not available and finding perhaps critical information takes a long time and effort.
Clarity is immensely important in teamwork. Communicating clearly without clutter, without jargon and acronyms brings team performance several steps forward.