All teams, large and small, face communication issues now and again. With a variety of personalities, tools, schedules, projects, and tasks, it sometimes can feel impossible to stay in sync. But simple tweaks to the way you operate as a team—and as individuals—can not only impact your productivity, but your willingness to share at appropriate times.

As humans, we have a desire to communicate and interact. Some of us wait to find opportune times, and others can’t wait and communicate at the most inopportune times. As a manager, you want to find the best times for everyone on your team to share ideas, discuss work, and receive important updates. Check out these three tips, adapt them to your own use, and get in sync.

1. Don’t (ab)use email

Remember the good old days of office memos? Probably not, because that was a long  long time ago! Well, in those days, there was no instant email response. You had to read the memo and follow up with a phone call or a one-on-one meeting. In some respect, those old days were kind of great, because memos required a deliberate interaction to start a conversation, share an idea, or resolve an issue.

Nowadays, we abuse email by sending short, meaningless responses, responses that are related to a message that were 16 responses earlier in a thread, and so on. I’m sure we’ve all experienced the work “unsubscribe” email. It’s so easy to watch email communications go south quickly–people can become frustrated, lose interest, and just delete messages without finding the meaning that was meant to be received somewhere in a long thread. In fact, If you find that you’re discussing important points back and forth via email, you may need to look at how you’re using email. Why? Well, because email discussions can get long, hard to read,  and hard to follow when you’re busy.

Make rules for how you use email in the office…or ditch it altogether. One alternative to email is to use a communication tool to catalogue and archive conversations. These tools provide a visually easy way to view an online conversation as well. Or, get really old school with it: schedule a meeting once per week to cover all updates, announcements and discussions.

2. Conduct smart meetings

Many projects and people require discussion to stay on a positive path at work. You should always encourage those conversations to keep things moving. But beware, dear manager, because there will be people who abuse the “can I run this by you” meeting request. It happens in a few ways:

 

  1. They interrupt a coworker who’s doing something else, and being really productive
  2. They schedule meetings and include too many people (or the wrong people)
  3. They schedule meetings that are too long for the discussion needed
  4. They don’t create meeting agendas and waste time

By making a simple list of meeting guidelines, you can save your team from hours of wasted time. You can also reduce the time spent on these “got a minute” meetings by making a rule that any unscheduled meetings are to be done standing up in a common area (this will keep participants from getting too comfortable and wasting time). Or, take it further and say that only your weekly scheduled meetings are conducted in a conference room.

Meeting culture is different at every organization, so you’ll have to use your best judgment when making guidelines for your team. The best thing to do, regardless of those guidelines, is to tell your team you’re most interested in providing them the time and space to work out ideas together, but that it’s critical to share ideas back with the whole group. So, be sure that one person is always responsible for documenting meeting outcomes.

3. Promote real-time information sharing

If you’re worried about your team staying in sync, there are a couple of apps you can use to ensure that they’ve always got access to important information and people:

TeamGantt

Say goodbye to the project plan that’s controlled by one person and is only updates every so often. When it comes to projects, you want to stay in constant communication about the status of things. If you’re using TeamGantt, you can keep in sync about tasks, deadlines, and other important factors using the commenting feature. Check it out!

Slack

This multi-channel team communication tool has resolved many of these communication issues for organizations and teams alike. The tool allows project communications, collaboration, and camaraderie to happen all in one place, and it’s a beautiful thing. It’s not just any old instant messenger program, it’s a robust tool that facilitates better communication practices. Just like any other too;—including email and Basecamp—Slack requires that you operate with your own set of rules. And, it can be distracting, because it’s a nonstop stream of conversation. So, beware, but know it can be a great way to keep your team in sync.

Wiki

If there is baseline info that everyone needs access to, you should consider creating a simple, accessible, easily updateable wiki for your team. This type of site can host any kind of information: company-wide policies, guidelines on how to run meetings (hey, put that one into action now!), courses, human resources information, contact info, and more. Wikis are used far and wide in the work world to keep teams on the same page.

Stress the Importance of Communication

No matter what you do as a manager to keep your team in sync, be sure to stress the importance of communication to operating an effective, happy team. The more your team understands why you’re setting guidelines, trying new tools, and working toward better communications, they more likely they will be to hop on board.

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