Do you ever feel like you spend most of your days communicating with your direct reports or others who need your support? It's a huge task, and it can affect your productivity if it takes too much time away from the “right work.” It also affects your team's productivity if they have trouble getting the information and feedback they need from you.
Whether you're establishing practices with a new team or course-correcting with an existing team, you can manage communications in a way that respects everyone's time while still ensuring that essential information gets shared.
One of the keys to effective team communication is setting a regular cadence of group and individual meetings.
For group meetings, get your team's input on frequency and what topics would be a worthwhile use of the team’s time. We all have plenty of meetings to go to already, so before you add new ones, make sure each has a well-defined purpose and that a team meeting is really the best way to serve that purpose.
Group meetings work well if you need to share information across the team, get input or make important decisions. They can keep people from operating in silos and understand how what they do affects the team as a whole. On the other hand, status update meetings — which can eat up so much time— may not make the best use of the entire team’s time.
Use a clear agenda to clearly communicate the objectives and timeframe for each topic and keep the meeting on track.
How often you schedule and approach one-on-ones may vary with different team members. With each team member, think about how hands-on he wants you to be — or how hands-on you feel that you need to be. How long has the team member been in his role, and how much coaching and support does he require from you? Experienced employees might need fewer meetings and less involvement.
Don't take your high performers for granted, though. Some leaders don’t invest much time with high performers because they are so self-sufficient. But everyone needs feedback, recognition and some degree of guidance.
When should team members call you, and when is it OK just to send an email? What warrants setting up a special one-on-one, and what should be discussed in team meetings? You and your team members may have very different ideas about the answers to those questions. So, take time to clarify the most effective ways to communicate, to reduce confusion and stay productive.
This week, review the communication practices and habits that are already in place for your team. What might you change or improve? For additional communication strategies to help you in any situation, pick up a copy of my book "Show Up. Step Up. Step Out." You can download five free chapters now.