#102 | 5 ways to streamline team communication

by Feb 12, 2019Uncategorized0 comments

I have had the privilege of working with many teams over the years – helping them to make positive change by elevating their collective thinking and ways of working. The first thing I look at is ways to streamline team communication. 

 When I start working with the team, the team leader or manager often says things like:

  • We are all overwhelmed with emails, meetings and the day to day grind.
  • My team is stuck – they just don’t seem to get traction.
  • Deadlines are missed and we don’t achieve the goals we set out to achieve

I know immediately what to look at. The ways the teams are communicating. There are 5 things I ask the team to do to get the focus and uplift they need:

1. Establish a team rhythm

2. Leverage social channels such as Yammer and Slack

3. Use your team email inbox wisely

4. Centralise note taking and actions by using notebooks (eg OneNote and Evernote)

5. Implement the 45 minute hour

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1. Establish a team rhythm

When I am working with teams, the first thing I look at is the rhythm they have established. This includes how they start and end their week. It also includes the meetings that they have established. A rhythm is important because it sets the pace at which the team works to, and provides some of the communication channels they use.

Having a good team rhythm can reduce the amount of emails and meetings. It also establishes a structure.

  • Monday morning – 15 minute check in. This is more of a social and wellbeing meeting. But it also sets the team focus for the week and to let the team know what each team member is working on.
  • Tuesday – Thursday 15 minute stand up meeting. The team should quickly articulate what they are working on today, and raise any obstacles that are in their way that the leader needs to clear.
  • Friday morning wrap up – again this should be 15 minutes, and it should highlight achievements of the week, and any help that the team need to meet the outcomes set at the beginning of the week.
  • Fortnightly Wednesday 45 minute team meeting. This meeting should be reserved for communication that needs to be passed on by the leader, and to discuss larger issues, opportunities or challenges that the team are currently facing.
  • The final regular meeting is a quarterly planning meeting where the team looks back retrospectively and determines improvements, lessons that can be carried forward, and outcomes they want to achieve in the next 90 days. This is usually a larger full day workshop.

You can use this idea for remote teams by  using technology such as Google hangout, Skype for Business, Zoom etc.

The success of the rhythm is determined by having a clear charter for each meeting and having a method to call out or highlight when the meeting has gone off track.

2. Leverage social channels such as Yammer and Slack

The social channels are consistently an under used resource, or a wrongly used resource within teams. Leveraged correctly, they can really streamline communications and provide clarity on the tasks ahead.

Yammer and Slack are like social media such as Facebook. It encourages collaboration. You post a thought or idea, and people respond to that post by adding comments to the thread.

This is a great tool if your team works to different timelines. It is also a great way to reduce email inbox clutter. Using Yammer or Slack for the informal or non urgent type of communication and announcement means that people are not swamped with additional information in their inbox.

It is more effective too, as team members are ‘self-serving’ the information at the time that best suits them – rather than the message being ‘pushed out’ in an email.

3. Use your team inbox wisely

Many teams that I have worked with also have a team inbox that they need to monitor and respond to. Much time can be wasted with each team member reviewing and responding to the emails. A more effective way to handle the team inbox is to assign the responsibility of monitoring of the inbox to one team member.

That team member is then responsible for reviewing and assigning tasks to people based on the need within the email. This can be shared on a rotational basis.

The other trip up with team inboxes is people leaving emails sitting in the inbox queue – rather than moving it to a folder immediately when it is responded to, or moved to a task if it needs actioning by someone else.

It is worth the time to set up the rules that your team will apply when using the team inbox. For further hints and tips on the rules that you could consider, download the Team Communication Channels Checklist.

4. Centralise note taking and actions

A frustration I see in many teams, is inaction. Team members not delivering on their promises and completing the actions. This often stems from unclear decisions and unclear actions during the meeting.

My favourite tool is Microsoft OneNote. I use this with all the teams I work with. It is a digital notebook that can be synced to all your devices such as phone and tablet. You can also share the notebook within the team.

When I facilitate team meetings I copy the meeting invite into a page within OneNote and use the page to summarise the discussion. I also use a tagging system that helps identify the ‘to do’ items and the ‘decisions’ that have been made.

The other tool I recommend is Evernote. I haven’t used this app, but I believe it has similar functionality to OneNote.

5. Implement the 45 minute hour

This is the biggest game changer in teams. Implementing the 45 minute hour. It doesn’t mean that you only work the 45 minutes, but you focus your attention for 45 minutes, then take a break – getting up and moving around.

It also means that your meetings are only scheduled for 45 minutes, giving plenty of space in the day to get to other meetings and to take comfort breaks. You will be surprised at how much more productive people feel.

It takes a bit of getting use to. There are times where you need to run half day or full day workshops. In this situation, I still recommend structuring your focussed discussion in 45 minute blocks, and then finding ways to inject movement and other activities.

It is a brain friendlier way of working which will increase the likelihood of people being in ‘flow’ and focussed.

For further hints and tips on the rules that you could consider, download the Team Communication Channels Checklist from sue-anne.com.au/team


Stay tuned for the episodes coming up:

#101 | 3 S’s to get people listening more

#103 | 3 tips to get your family talking

#104 | How to not freak out when speaking to your boss