What the Research Says about Team Communication – Robert Everett

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Did you know that companies with effective communication are 3.5 times more likely to outperform the competition? Across the board, it’s evident that team communication is the single most important factor that contributes to the success of a collective.

Communication relies heavily on freedom of speech, making this concept a priority, starting from classroom environments. Children who are encouraged to communicate freely consistently show better academic results than who are not.

Team communication takes a long time to build, but how can we learn more about this facet of the work atmosphere? To educate yourself and contribute positively to your collective, you can look at scientific research.

Using comprehensive case studies and theoretical analysis, we can pinpoint the benefits of effective team communication. Utilize the knowledge provided and change the culture surrounding you and your colleagues.

What is necessary for establishing effective team communication?

Before we analyze the benefits of establishing a communication system, we must delve into what makes the system function.

To apply new methods and changes in the workplace, you have to know the determining factors that contribute to communicational consistency. So, the question is – what is essential for successful communication?

According to a study by Tarricone and Luca, the most pronounced factors are:

  1. Being committed to shared goals and team success
  2. Dependence on one another, with a trust-based mentality
  3. Development of interpersonal skills
  4. Freedom of expression and positive feedback
  5. Well-clarified roles
  6. Accountability, effective leadership and commitment

Upon looking at this comprehensive study from 2002, it’s evident that all of these factors can be viewed as simply “company culture.” Everything starts from the top and the leaders themselves determine the workplace dynamics.

Although it might seem simplistic, leaders do have the biggest influence and they set the tone with their effort. Employees almost instantly adopt an “If they can do it, I can do it” approach and decide to follow the existing communicational example.

Accountability also ranks high on the priority list. Every team member must know that their actions have real consequences, both positive and negative alike. To improve team communication, you must provide consistent feedback, regardless of the situation. This instills an atmosphere of parity and fairness, showing everyone that they will always get equal treatment.

A lack of fear of motivates every individual to communicate more freely. With the ever-present snowball effect, one employee will set the tone and everyone will engage in free communication amongst one another.

Therefore, you have to instill transparency and honesty from top to bottom and reinforce your brand culture. Only then can you expect an improvement in team communication.

Removing competition from the picture

A paper by den Otter and Emmitt focuses on communication in design teams. The authors mostly zero in on the ways synchronous and asynchronous communication work together. They’ve established the notion about the “resonating example.” What does this mean?

When one employee fosters healthy communication and urges other team members to follow suit, it’s hard to resist going down the same route. Moreover, every result-oriented environment (not just in the design niche) needs to have a healthy flux of individual ideas and characters looking to express themselves.

They praise the role of variety in team communication, giving the examples of managers letting employees choose between different design tools. When every team member has the ability to choose, it’s easy to improve communication and foster a culture of giving input.

The paper also delves deep into a particularly interesting topic – rivalry. When team members feel they are immersed in an atmosphere of competitiveness, team communication can be severely hindered. The conclusion is that team communication depends on everyone being on the same page. How can you accomplish this equilibrium?

  • Clearly defined roles. When two team members roles overlap, they will have their personal goals in mind, forgetting the goal of the team. Clarify roles within your team and there will be no negative competitiveness to affect overall team performance.
  • Competitive pay. A common problem in many workplaces relates to dissatisfaction with pay. If there is such an atmosphere, every team member will have one thing in mind – a promotion. Workers that are paid well will focus on team goals and you will see improved communication in teams across all sections of the company.
  • Performance-oriented bonuses for everyone. Motivation is important, as well. Promise team members bonuses only if team goals are accomplished. This will cause everyone to communicate better and work much harder, due to incentives being involved.

Focusing on non-work relationships and always being vigilant

Harvard Business Review recently released a research-based article on team communication and the so-called “it” factor. In it, they focus on one topic that is often disregarded when talking about team cohesion – chemistry. When looking for the missing pieces of the puzzle, managers focus too much on leadership, accountability and other aforementioned factors.

If a team is underperforming despite all this, it might be time to rethink your perspective on all of this. Chemistry has a profound effect on team performance and not just through team building activities. Perhaps the most important contribution of chemistry is building trust. It’s a human thing, first and foremost, but we can still draw a conclusion.

The more we know someone, the more likely we are to trust and support him. Team communication has been shown to directly benefit from team-building activities.

In the aforecited article, we hear about the example of a call center manager changing the time of the coffee break to help his team members bond. The increased time spent together resulted in better communication, on the basis of trust and team cohesion.

Additionally, vigilance is important for fostering consistent team communication. Leaders and managers have to be on the lookout for new solutions, like seminars and communication secrets. We’re returning to the notion of “resonating example,” yet again.

When team members see their leader always working hard to improve communication, they will be inclined to invest effort as well. The “snowball effect” has proven to be ubiquitous in all studies and efforts to improve team cohesion and communication.

Chemistry over performance?

An always hot topic in the business world is the ever dilemma between individual talent and how that talent fits together. What can we learn about this?

From the 2012 study by Baden Ian Eunson,from Monash University, shows that no amount of personal talent, nor directions from a leader can turn someone into a team player. Teams and collectives, regardless of the niche, must bank on potential and the way a person functions when in a team-oriented environment.

Contributions within a team are shown as, in a way, the “weight” lifted by each individual, in compliance with their role. To maximize team communication, you have to pick the right people and observe how they function together. No matter how talented a member is, if their personality doesn’t mesh with others – overall team performance will take a hit.

Concluding thoughts

Team communication has been a topic of research for many decades now, but we still have a lot to learn. We know that a productive team has to have the culture to match their goals and the right cohesion of characters. Competitive environments, contrary to previous research, have proven to be detrimental to overall performance, despite the fact that some people respond positively to such stimuli.

The bottom line is that leaders, as carriers of effective team communication, have to be on the constant lookout for new solutions. Trends are changing and it’s essential that we know how to adapt to individual and market demands alike. Don’t forget to clearly define roles, add motivational incentives and give your team members enough room and time to express themselves. It’s easier than it sounds.

Author bio: Robert Everett is a psychologist and expert in workplace communication and interpersonal relationships. He has written papers and blogs on the role of team communication in accomplishing professional goals. Through his lectures, Robert has contributed to many startups and ventures that were struggling with team communication and performance. His hobbies include fencing and yoga.