Our communication sucks!
Communication. For me it’s like a four letter word, because it’s the most complained about thing and yet the most difficult to measure improvement.
During COVID with split schedules, A and B teams, quarantines, remote work, and all the other general challenges that come with navigating the pandemic, communication is even more of a problem. If you had a problem pre-COVID, I can almost guarantee it’s gotten worse. So what do we do about it?
Step 1) Define the communication problem- Here’s why I hate the word communication. It can mean a lot of things. It can mean what information is communicated, who the information is communicated to, how it’s communicated, when it’s communicated, the method in which it’s communicated, and I could probably go on. So first decide which part is your biggest problem, here are some more specific and objective challenges to help you narrow it down.
- What problem- omissions, overcommunication, inaccurate information, exaggerations, embellishments, labels, feelings over facts, subjective observations vs. objective observations, lack of follow up, policy and procedure discrepancies
- Who problem- is there a peer to peer challenge, leader to team, team to leader, team to team
- How problem- tone, format matches learning style, emotional, no opportunity for input/discussion, forgetting consideration for others feelings
- Method problem- lack of access to information, format matches learning style, difficult to access/review/reference
- When problem- communication is too late, too early, not frequent enough, so frequent things are forgotten, not repeated, only happens certain days of the week
Our top three communication problems are:
Step 2) Develop a system with responsibilities- When developing a communication system remember that some people are visual learners (they often have no problem reading an email and committing it to memory), some are auditory learners (it’s better to talk about it with them or communicate in story form to activate their memory), and some or kinesthetic learners (they need to be active when processing the communication or just need to do it). You also need to make sure your system addresses which problems you’re experiencing. For example if you’re having an omission problem, what systems can you put in place so that it’s easy for people to communicate things immediately when they come up, instead of having to wait to input the information or tell someone. You also need to make sure your system includes who is responsible to communicate what, when. Use this checklist to make sure your system does everything it needs.
Our system is:
- Appeals to all learners
- Addresses our communication problems
- Outlines who needs to communicate what and when
Step 3) Hold a feedback workshop- If you’ve attended an Animals Amplified Strong Teams Strong Trainers workshop, we do a feedback activity to walk through how to give feedback. We watch strangers training animals and we role play giving them feedback as if we were there in person. Then other participants offer feedback on how they would have felt and/or perceived the feedback if they were the trainer. You can create your own activity where you can pretend you’re talking to strangers or just ask each other questions like, “If I find a diet you made wrong, how should I tell you?”
In our feedback workshop I learned _______________ about my team members and how they like to receive feedback. List your teammates below and one thing you’ll keep in mind moving forward.
Step 4) Implement your system and follow up- Once you’ve started testing out your system don’t forget to check in often and see if your problems are improving. Better yet, create SMART goals around your clearly defined communication problems and then measure if they are improving. For example, if you’re trying to reduce the number of omissions in your communication. Your SMART goal would be: I will have less than 5 omissions/month by June and the team will keep track of my omissions daily in a notebook.
What is one SMART goal for your system, when will you follow up, and who is responsible for following up?
My goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timebound.
You can’t do this alone and will require the effort of the team, but bringing these steps to a team meeting and working through them together can go a long way in improving your systems!