How do I improve communication between my team leaders and the staff?

A Brief Case

Anderson

Kevin Anderson

Milwaukee regional president
Old National Bank

“In the financial services world, we have acronyms for practically everything. My approach to effective intra-team communications is based on four ‘COOL’ life lessons.

“Celebrate. Communication improves when people feel their efforts are seen and recognized by leaders. Simple and genuine works best.

“One-on-one. Never underestimate the value of dedicated, regularly scheduled time to have focused discussions with team members. Organizations are running fast and lean today, so sitting down to allocate time between leaders and staff is critical in building trust, teamwork and accountability.

“Optimism. Be mindful of the adage, ‘People don’t always remember what you said; they remember how you made them feel.’ Being positive even in challenging situations and looking for solutions together help team leaders and staff achieve the maximum together.

“Lead by example. Open your ears and your mind. It starts at the top – set expectations about communication with all levels of the team and then you live out those same expectations. Be an active listener yourself and encourage clarifying questions to achieve consensus.

“At the end of the day, people at all levels of the team need to use basic blocking and tackling communication habits to improve the dynamic and be mutually accountable. Stay COOL!”

Durand

Dave Durand

Co-founder and CEO
Best Version Media LLC

“At BVM, we make a conscious effort to work with our leaders to communicate things the right way, with the right method and in a complete manner. Not all forms of communication are created equal. Bad news delivered via email can sting even worse than in-person. That same news risks sounding sarcastic in a text and is usually best in-person, one-on-one.

“It is often said that great leaders listen twice as much as they talk. This false bumper-sticker saying pigeonholes leaders into a bad place. The true formula for leaders is to talk as much as it takes to be understood and to listen as long as it takes to understand. This practical approach allows our leaders to be effective and efficient.

“Of course, communication must be readily available, and open, in order for it to be effective. At BVM, we make sure our leaders are accessible to their teams daily. In fact, we rarely need to have annual reviews because the weekly dialogue and interaction creates a real-time understanding of where progress stands. Finally, and most importantly, we foster an environment of compassion that encompasses BVM’s culture of understanding.”

Jessica Ollenburg

Jessica Ollenburg

CEO and shareholder
Human Resource Services Inc.

“Exceptional opportunity for improving communication lies in developing critical thinking. While leaders need to motivate employees to reveal information, the greatest gaps can be remedied by assessing and coaching all to better understand the informational needs of others. Failure to understand which information is most needed, when, and in what form, commonly creates communication downfall.

“Expecting every employee to fully understand the perspective and priorities of leadership job descriptions is unrealistic; therefore, organizational training must step up. At HRS, we coach leaders and teams in the nuances of participative, autocratic and laissez-faire management styles, and when/how to deploy each. Expectations then need to be managed, as each of these styles calls forth unique communication rules. Departmental cross-training, Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats and many more toolsets have been successfully deployed.

“Culture, communication and performance appraisal standards should all clarify how the hierarchy will be observed and when open brainstorming is appropriate. We typically find subcultures within the organization itself. Communication mode, delivery, technology use, nonverbal cues, timing and audience additionally need to be trained. Communication ‘misses’ are often manifested in what is not communicated or in the ‘noise’ surrounding the message.” ν

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