Apply Effective Communication Skills

Investment of time and energy to successfully communicate with your team members and team leaders always pays rewarding benefits! These rewards are far reaching and mutually beneficial. The goals of your team and your personal goals can be reached through effective communication to prevent crisis situations, save time and effort, enrich relationships, and increase your effectiveness.

To maximize your success as a team and your success as a team member, follow these steps to facilitate good communication:

Focus on the goal. Put all your attention on your goal and your specific responsibilities for doing what it takes to accomplish it. Keeping your attention, and your communication, focused on the goal minimizes distractions. Nonetheless, some distractions may develop. The more quickly you can see distractions for what they are, the more quickly you and your teammates are able to push them aside and move on with actions that help you progress toward your goal. When you and your teammates encourage each other to focus on the goal of your team, outside and inside distractions are greatly minimized. When communicating with team members, talk about the goal and the steps required to reach the goal, not the obstacles; talk about solutions, not problems. Focusing on the goal in all your discussions is the first step toward using everyone’s skills and abilities to reach the team goal.

Make communication a top priority. To improve in any area of life, you must move from mere talking and wishful thinking to setting goals and taking action. This is especially true for enhancing your communication ability. Setting goals for improving your communication abilities often involves developing or strengthening certain intangible personality characteristics like empathy and understanding. Setting specific action steps for these kinds of intangible goals is challenging, but possible. When learning empathy, for instance, you can develop creative action steps for integrating this characteristic in your personality. Begin by improving your listening skills — a very important skill for becoming an effective team member, or for that matter for becoming more successful in any endeavor. Another step would be to concentrate on learning to ask open-ended questions. Develop a greater understanding of the communication strengths you already possess, find opportunities for improving these strengths, and put them to good use. Stay focused on the goal of the team and your personal responsibilities for reaching that goal. Also choose the method of communication that is most appropriate for the message you want to send or for information you are requesting. Consider face-to-face conversations, e-mail, the telephone, conference calls, or fax.

Handle conflict right away. Whenever people come together as a group, it is only natural to have different points of view and differing opinions. Instead of letting these differences build into disagreements or barriers to progress, use them as stepping stones toward clearer communication, an improved way of reaching the goal, and more effective teamwork. The most effective approach is to identify the problem and talk through it to come up with viable and mutually agreeable solutions. To resolve conflict constructively, follow these guidelines:

  • Focus on the problem, not people or personalities.
  • Be sure to study and examine the situation from every angle.
  • Consider all the best suggestions for dealing with the issue.
  • Actively give and receive feedback.
  • Treat others as you would like to be treated as you work through the conflict.

Seek to understand the other person. “The greatest human need is to be understood and appreciated,” according to William James, who is considered the founder of modern psychology. As a responsible team member, your job is to do your utmost to understand what other people are saying and what they mean. When you do that with them, they will tend to do it for you. The result is mutual understanding, a good basis for making progress toward the team’s goal. Understanding what someone is saying does not necessarily mean that you agree with what that person says. The feeling of mutual understanding is possible even when two sides have different answers to the same problem. Listening is an important skill closely aligned to willingness to learn. Those who believe they already know everything of importance are functionally unable to listen. When you listen and seek to understand the other person, you may discover a new appreciation for what this person has to offer to the team.

Inspect what you expect. If you review and evaluate the work as it progresses, whether it is your work or the work of someone else on the team, you will know almost instantly if you are on track or if some adjustments need to be made to improve the performance. Clearly it is much easier, less expensive, and less time consuming to fix things when they are slightly cracked than waiting until they explode into a full-blown catastrophe.

Leadership Management® Institute
Reprinted with permission
Strategic Essentials is a Managing Partner for Leadership Management® International, Inc.

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