5 Ways to Foster Great Communication with Your Team

This is a guest post by Chris LoCurto. He is a Vice President at Dave Ramsey’s, host of the EntreLeadership Podcast, and highly sought after business and leadership speaker. You can read his blog and follow him on Twitter. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

There is no doubt about it: Great companies foster high levels of communication. When team members understand what is expected of them and what’s going on in the company, you win.

Group of Business People in a Power Meeting

Keep the communication from happening and you will find that fear soon sets in, which is quickly followed by gossip.

Why? Because when team members don’t have a clue what’s going on, they begin to panic—wondering if their jobs are in jeopardy or if the company is falling apart.

How can you keep it from happening? It’s simple … communicate!

And by communicate, I mean more than just asking how their day is going or what they did last weekend. It has to be intentional.

Here are five ways to start communicating better with your team.

  1. Key Results Areas (KRAs). It is vitally important for each team member to know what they are supposed to do each day. While job descriptions are great, we use KRAs to show specific tasks and responsibilities that are required. They define in detail what winning looks like in each position.
  2. Meetings. While meetings can sometimes have a bad rap, they are still one of the best ways to communicate with your team. You just have to make sure that you prepare for them ahead of time, set an agenda, stick to the agenda, and that the meetings are static.

    In other words, if you don’t have a set time every week, the crisis of the day will move it around and keep you from communicating.

  3. Storytelling – People respond well to stories. It’s just how we’re wired. You need to become a great storyteller of how your company came to be and the victories it’s had along the way. This will inspire team members and give them hope in the midst of their battles.
  4. Weekly Reports. Everyone on the team needs to be turning in a weekly report of what they have accomplished toward their KRA. This is for both the writer and the reader. It allows both to see what the team member has done to win in the position.

    The report also gives the team member the opportunity to add a high and a low of the week. You’ll be amazed at what they put down.

    BUT … and it’s a big but, you must respond to the report. If they have a great high, go celebrate. If there’s a bad low, go lead. If you don’t, it’s just become paperwork.

  5. Annual Checkup. I don’t believe in annual reviews. Why? Because you should be spending enough time with your team that you already know how they are doing. Therefore, an annual checkup is a great way to go over the year and discuss how well they’ve done.

    Rarely should this meeting include what they need to work on, unless they’re still really working on it. Reprimands should be done immediately when something is wrong. Don’t wait to discuss it in a checkup.

These are just a few things you can do to add to your current communication process. When done well, your team will feel more secure about their positions and, in turn, be considerably more productive.

Question: How have you seen a lack of communication hurt an organization? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://agents.metrobrokers.com/luis.vejarano Luis Vejarano

    I think a lot of the times we focus on the “Job Discription” rather than the ultimate goal, and this can hurt a company. I think that KRA’s is a great way to get your company or organization headed in the right direction. Great Post!

  • http://agents.metrobrokers.com/luis.vejarano Luis Vejarano

    I think a lot of the times we focus on the “Job Discription” rather than the ultimate goal, and this can hurt a company. I think that KRA’s is a great way to get your company or organization headed in the right direction. Great Post!

  • MarkJCundiff

    Chris, Great points. I especially like #5. I agree that we have it all wrong with the annual performance review system that is in place in most companies.  Research shows that you actually only review the last 2-3 months of work in most cases and that many times this is emotional driven conversations instead of fact based discussions on what has actually been done throughout the year. 

    You solution for consistent feedback on both the positive and negative aspects of their performance is far more effective for all parties involved.  Mark

  • Mike

    I am on board with everything this post talks about.  Where I think I need guidance is the annual checkup.  In my orginization the annual review is also the time we do merit pay increases (or not).  How then could we better design our merit increase system to better reflect the sucess they have had during the year.  I feel like having one opportunity for an increase the whole year puts more pressure on that meeting than is really necessary.  Thoughts?

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Great question, Mike!  For project-based team members, the timing of merit increases could be adjusted to pre-defined project outcomes if your organization is flexible enough to budget for merit increases at different times of the year.

      If you do stick with annual reviews, communicating like Chris suggests should take the surprise and therefore the anxiousness out of the annual review.  I’ve always preferred an MBO (Management By Objective) system similar to Chris’ KRA’s, where there are clear, definable objectives that are set up in advance (which can certainly be modified throughout the year).  Certain objectives may be pass/fail, but I usually prefer a 3-point scale that looks something like this:

      3) Exceeds Expectations = Performed above  (merit increase)
      2) Minimum Expectation = Met the expectation (you get to keep your job, but you don’t receive a merit increase)
      1) Needs Improvement = Improvement is needed to keep your job.

      I’ve seen 5-point scales work well too.  Those allow for degrees of successful performance and related merit increases. 

       The key is like Chris stated, to keep consistent feedback coming to the employee about where their performance falls on the scale, so that they’re not surprised on annual review day.  Surprises stink.  :)

  • http://www.abundantmichael.com/ Michael

    When I had employees in my software company we used to have weekly one-on-one meetings with direct reports, weekly all staff meeting and quarterly reviews and this seemed to help communication.  Our goal was “no surprises” at the reviews – any issues would already have been addressed at weekly meetings or when they came up. And I did find that the quarterly reviews gave more time and perspective for longer range issues such as training and where each person wanted to improve in the coming months.  Each person wrote their own review and was then given feedback on it by their manager. That way any blind spots of both people could be discovered and the review was more likely to be accepted by the employee.

    Now I have transformed my business to all subcontractors and I notice that I use less verbal communication (thought plenty through email and basecamp!). Though I still do telephone post project reviews with them. So! I think it is time to do more regular communication again. Thanks for getting me thinking!

  • Momtracisands326

    glad to have found your site; have a ton of people whom could very positively benifit from this.

    • http://www.manager-institut.de/ Sarah 187

      That´s right.
      I learned many things from this blog and I like to thank for sharing your knowledge with us.

  • Barney Lawn

    Could you give me an examples of typical KRA’s.

    By the way, I thoroughly enjoy your posts and find most of hem very informative.

  • Benjamin W. Jackson

    Invaluable insight for leadership, particularly number 3, humanize your communication. Take a break from reviewing progress, projects and focus on people. One of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned was to talk about my own experiences with my team.

  • Ryancstl23

    I need to figure out a way that is better than group e-mails to communicate with my team on a day to day basis while we cant come together as a group while forming a business.