3 Communication Mistakes Screwing Up Teamwork

Jun 09, 2017 1 Min Read


“Oh she didn’t copy me on purpose.”
“He’s withholding information to make my life harder.”
“Making us guess what he’s thinking is just a big power play.”
“Why would she put something that important in e-mail?”
“What’s that supposed to mean anyway?”
“Why did she copy my boss?”

Some teams spend more time second guessing the intent behind poor communication than working to improve it.

“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” –George Bernard Shaw


1. Assuming mal-intent

Sure people play games, but not most of us, most of the time. Don’t let an innocent oversight, like being left out of an e-mail or meeting, degrade trust.

I’ll never forget the time a peer executive left me off a meeting invite. Our departments had some competing priorities, and I was sure it was intentional. I stewed on it for weeks. Finally, after I’d let the fuel from my fabricated fable of his intentions combust into full-on stupidity, I blew a gasket when he asked me to move one of my meetings around so he could attend. As the drama unravelled, it became obvious that the original oversight was just that, an oversight.

We cleared the air and it never happened again. I could have saved both of us a lot of angst by just picking up the phone and asking to be included.

2. Hiding behind e-mail

E-mail is fast and easy, but rarely effective for important communication. Never assume “they got the memo,” and your work is done. Don’t use email to communicate bad news, or to escalate over a peer’s head by copying their boss.

The best communication happens five times, in five different ways. E-mail may be a great supporting tool, but it rarely plays well as the lead medium.
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3. Failure to write down decisions

I’ve seen great teams with excellent communication skills break down because they miss this simple step. High-trust teams would often raise a lot of creative ideas, debate pros and cons, and then challenge the decisions some more. All healthy. Once the debate has concluded, be sure to summarise the final decisions, along with next steps and timeline.

After all that discussion, I often find that each team member would leave with their own memory of what was decided, which may or may not match the recall of other team members.

Writing down and re-reading key decisions and next steps are important ways to keep the team moving in the same direction.

Communicating well builds the most important ingredient of any successful team: trust. Take the time to establish clear expectations on how your team should communicate, and to discuss where it’s working best and how it’s breaking down.
Related article: Connecting With Customers: Keep It Short And Simple

Karin Hurt is a keynote speaker, leadership consultant, and MBA professor. She has decades of experience in sales, customer service, and HR which she uses to help clients turn around results through deeper engagement. She knows the stillness of a yogi, the reflection of a marathoner, and the joy of being a mum raising emerging leaders. To engage with Karin, e-mail us at editor@leaderonomics.com

Reposted with permission on Leaderonomics.com

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This article is published by the editors of Leaderonomics.com with the consent of the guest author. 

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