Team Talk

Do you and your team talk to each other?

“We communicate all the time in Slack.”

But do you talk to each other?

“Uh…yeah, sometimes.”

Team Talk should be ingrained into your company’s DNA.  People are social creatures and produce better as a team and when they know their work is important to a greater vision.

Sure they have solo work to do, but seldom is that work isolated from the rest of the company.   The solo work individuals do impacts the solo and team work done by others.

My work is with entrepreneurs, the founders of a company, and many of my clients have distributed teams — people living and working from many countries.  When we start our work together, I find out just how well they communicate with the people in their business.  Most seldom speak to their teams in the course of a month.  They rely on impersonal tools such as Slack to chat back and forth about projects.

This behavior gets passed on to team members too.  I’ve dramatically improved operations in companies just by having managers and team leads start treating their direct reports as a team.  Instead of isolating all the people into “team silos,” I get them to start communicating as a team including letting each person in the department talk to anyone on their team and other people in the company.

Here’s a quick example: a marketing department in one client’s company had vendors and employees working on their projects individually.  They would communicate with the manager only.  The manager communicated information he deemed necessary to from one team member to another.  They had never had a team meeting on a call, nor in person.

As a distributed team, they would sometimes communicate with each other on Slack, but even there communication was almost exclusively from team member to manager and back out to a team member — not marketing team member to team member.

They were spending a lot of money trying to get leads, but each person was acting alone.  Each marketing specialty was creating its own messaging into the same market.  At any given time, they could have 9 or more competing messages hitting their target market.

By getting them all to talk to each other and treating the department as a team instead of a collection of individuals, they started making integrated campaigns and pushing 1 message to their market at a time, which greatly increased their leads and the quality of those leads, which in turn helped sales to close more clients.

As the leader of your business, your example becomes a guidepost for the rest of your company.  If you don’t talk to them, they are unlikely to talk to each other.  You’ll lose a lot of ground and you’ll develop a disconnected workforce.  They won’t feel a part of the company and they definitely won’t be working toward the company’s vision.

Here are a couple of tools for improving your leadership communication…

Vision Videos
Do a weekly “State of the Company” video that’s about 5 to 10 minutes long.

I started sharing the concept for making vision videos to my clients with distributed teams, but even clients who have offices have done them and continued to do them.  If you have 100% of your team in your office, you could do a State of the Company address before your weekly meeting.  If you don’t do company-wide weeklies then the video will fill in.

What to put in the video:

  • Share a company value – preferably in a story format
  • Where is the company going — what’s the vision for the company
  • Goals set and goals reached
  • What can be done better
  • Anything noteworthy that happened such as a big customer account, successful ad campaign, touching customer story, great work by a team member, etc.

Think in terms of segments of a news show — you can even name the segments and do them each week.  This way you don’t have to spend too much time trying to think up topics and it gives you an easy transition to the next topic.

The weekly Vision Video will help you build culture by instilling what’s important to the success of the company and ultimately the benefit of the team.  It will also showcase you as the leader of the company.  You’ll be able to show your team that you truly care about the work the company and everyone in it is doing.

Last tip, do your best not to be boring.  Be yourself.  You don’t have to act silly or something if that’s not your personality.  To not be boring, be yourself plus just a bit more.

You have to show enthusiasm and on video that’s easily done by talking a little faster and louder than normal.  At parts where you’re serious — slow down and talk quieter.  It’ll grab the viewer’s attention.

Oh, and have fun with it.  Don’t turn it into a chore.

Acknowledgement Notes

Take 5 to 10 minutes each week to write a short thank you note (it can be digital) to team members who have done something praiseworthy.  You can write notes of condolences, congratulations, and more if appropriate.  The point is to acknowledge the people in your company because it lets them know you’re paying attention to them and that you care about the work they do.  These are meant to be private from you to the individual.  Let it be up to the individual if he/she wishes to share your acknowledgement with others.

Beware of creating “noser notes.”

A long time ago, when I was in the Air Force, I had a commanding officer who implemented an acknowledgement board in our office where Post-It notes with short messages thanking one of the airmen in the office for something that day were hung.  The office was at a particularly low point in morale and this was her way to improve it.  Unfortunately, what happened was no one believed she cared.  It felt like manipulation to help advance her career.   I nicknamed them “noser notes,” as in being a brown noser (American slang for sycophant).  They died shortly after.

If you start acknowledging people for their contribution, mean it.  Don’t treat them as “participation trophies.”  Really mean what you say.

Turn Team Talk Into A Habit

There are more areas of better communications such as how to run a meeting, how to coach employees to help them grow, and much more.  But just starting with these Team Talk activities will foster greater communication throughout your company.

Take the time to create purposeful communication channels throughout your company.  Most likely, there are places in your business that you assume proper communication is happening, but it isn’t.  Don’t make the mistake of doing this on your own.  Team Talk is the purview of the entire team.  Get their help and participation and you’ll find the gaps in communication much faster.

Lastly, make this a weekly practice.  You can’t talk once, or sporadically, and think that’s enough.  Team Talk should be an ongoing part of your leadership.