Do you remember playing the game of telephone? Even with the simplest terms, things could get bizarre pretty quickly.
The purpose of the game was to show us the importance of clear communication. It taught us how easily ideas can be miscommunicated when we’re not actively listening or don’t have the skills, frameworks, or tools to communicate effectively.
The same can happen when teams (and teammates) don’t communicate effectively with one another. Information gets lost, ideas get dismissed, collaboration breaks down, and your team suffers because of it.
Practices that improve team communication — like asynchronous collaboration, team activities, open conversations, and appreciation — unlock advanced levels of team collaboration and dynamics.
When teams work well together, it has a positive impact on company productivity and engagement.
What does effective team communication look like?
Communication is effective when groups exchange ideas, thoughts, data, and knowledge with clarity and purpose.
Effective communication has many benefits, including:
- Improve collaboration. Almost half of employees leave their jobs due to poor alignment across teams, unclear priorities and expectations, and too many unproductive meetings.
- Increase productivity. A study by McKinsey found that employees who feel included in workplace communication are almost five times more likely to report increased productivity.
- Better problem-solving. When team members can communicate effectively, they can work together to identify and solve problems more efficiently.
These four practices will help you and your team enjoy the benefits of effective group communication.
1. Create a culture that encourages asynchronous collaboration
Meetings don’t have to be your only communication channel. Asynchronous communication can help add flexibility, increase inclusivity, reduce meetings, and improve the quality of teamwork and collaboration.
What is asynchronous communication?
Async communication is any form of communication where team members can contribute, exchange information, and collaborate at different times without being in the same place or at the same time.
Not every point of communication needs to be shared in a meeting, but async will take some deliberate effort to put into place and reap the benefits.
How to get started with asynchronous communication
Whether your teams are working in-person or remotely should help guide your company culture and communication strategies. The best way to get started is by evaluating your ideal communication norms.
When communicating an idea, ask these questions:
- Simple vs. complex: How difficult is it to explain? Can you provide clarity easily without a discussion?
- Low-stakes vs. high-stakes decisions: How important are these decisions? Who will they impact?
- Few vs. many people involved: Who needs to be involved? Is it a cross-functional task?
- Time-sensitive: Is this urgent? Is it a bottleneck for other tasks?
Async communication is a great tool for taking other team members’ schedules and needs into consideration, making it a great team communication skill.
Learn more: How to fix your team’s approach to meeting with async collaboration.
2. Show appreciation for employee contributions
Recognition of opinions and feedback makes employees feel heard and active in conversations.
This is because recognition encourages repeat behavior and cultivates a healthy company culture over time. Employees feel rewarded when they partake in conversations and, therefore, continue to do so. Recognition also contributes to employees feeling seen and heard. In turn, employees feel that their opinions and feedback are welcomed and will continue to chime in.
Recognition also makes employees feel like they have ownership and authority in a conversation. In group settings, it means that their opinions have value, regardless of their title or position. This translates into effective group communication because all perspectives are heard.
To show recognition, give employees space to voice their opinions. Thank them for their thoughts, but also actively listen to them. This makes employees feel seen and boosts their confidence when joining group conversations.
3. Prioritize psychological safety
Good communication can’t exist without team members and stakeholders feeling like they can share feedback and ideas openly without backlash or criticism.
This is a concept we call psychological safety, or a team climate of mutual respect in which team members feel comfortable with speaking their minds, taking risks, and trying out new ideas without fear of repercussions.
Psychological safety creates a work environment where constructive criticism leads to better communication and decision-making. Different communication styles are embraced, rather than one dominant style enforced. When employees feel supported and included in team meetings, they can bring their best selves to their work.
Related: Try implementing team check-ins to start building psychological safety.
4. Use team activities to build trust
Activities like icebreakers or games improve team communication and dynamics. Through activities, employees build friendships and partnerships that will spill over into collaboration on projects.
Over 63% of team leaders believe that team-building activities improve their team's communication.
These activities build trust between employees and break down barriers to show team members' personalities. Through team activities, employees learn how each member works and communicates.
- Icebreaker activities for small groups
- 100 icebreaker questions to get a conversation started
- 25 virtual-friendly icebreakers
For example, one potential activity is an escape room where your team has to solve a puzzle to “escape” the fictional situation. This challenge requires collaboration and communication to succeed. Escape rooms work as a team-building activity because learning and failing are safe. There’s no risk of losing a job or ruining a customer relationship, allowing teams to learn how to work together to problem-solve without real-world risks.
Set aside time for quarterly team activities — even things like team lunches or happy hours, or talent shows, can make a big difference if approached the right way.
If you don’t have time for a full-blown activity, you can engage teams and encourage communication with an icebreaker or a team check-in at the start of any meeting. It's a great way to get the conversation started and the team ready for the meeting.
5. Choose tools that facilitate easy communication
Group communication largely depends on the tools used to facilitate collaboration and streamline communication. The right tools remove the risk of barriers when it comes to reaching others.
Tools that facilitate communication provide a platform that supports interaction, helping groups share and spread information. There’s no back and forth of emails, and communication happens in the open, across team members — and even across multiple teams within an organization. This reduces the amount of information being lost.
Project management tools can help prevent project derailment due to miscommunication. Everything can be viewed in one place, with roles clearly defined around the team’s common goal.
Collaboration tools are another factor that plays into effective group communication. With a platform like Mural, group members can work through problems together and collaborate with visual whiteboards — developing their next great ideas on an infinite canvas. Because anyone can create, edit, and contribute to the mural, collaboration happens naturally as team members can work together on ideation and planning.
Consider both asynchronous and synchronous communication when looking for a new communication tool. Synchronous communication tools for video conferencing help employees bounce ideas and share feedback, while asynchronous tools help keep teams updated and informed. Need to see all the work that went into a decision? Mural lets teams look back at organized plans or past meeting points for future reference, making the process transparent and repeatable.
Learn more: How to choose the right collaboration stack for your team.
Use Mural to help teams collaborate and communicate
For teams to effectively communicate and collaborate together, sometimes all they need is a little guidance.
That’s where Mural comes in.
With hundreds of templates to choose from, Mural’s offers more than a digital whiteboard — we pair technology with proven techniques and best practices so that teams teams can work and collaborate more effectively together. With actionable frameworks and helpful prompts, teams can plan and bounce ideas off one another. Mural is the collaboration tool that makes team communication visual and actionable.
Start your Free Forever account today, so your team can start creating for tomorrow.
For more information on how to make asynchronous collaboration work, check out our guide on async collaboration.
About the author
About the authors