When your team is in silos and not communicating, how can you as a manager fix the problem?
Does any of this sound familiar?
- People on your team frequently have no idea what anyone else is working on.
- People are duplicating efforts without realizing it.
- Opportunities for efficiencies or collaboration are regularly missed.
- People don’t understand the value of other people’s work.
- Priorities aren’t aligned across your team.
- Information isn’t being shared.
If you guiltily recognized you or your staff on this list, you’ve got a communication problem on your team.
Typically, when managers realize their team has a communication problem, their first attempt to fix the problem is to institute more meetings – often group meetings for people to share what they’re working on and provide updates. Sometimes this works. But other times, it just puts more meeting time on people’s calendars without getting at the root cause of the problem. In some contexts, sure, team meetings can help– but they’re probably not a cure-all. Here are four other key things to think about trying as well.
- As the manager of the team, remember that you’re at the hub of the wheel. You have a big picture perspective and are uniquely suited to being able to spot opportunities where people should be sharing information or collaborating. You’re also ideally positioned to spot it when people have differing assessments of a situation or are on different pages about how to advance a project, and to flag it and suggest they connect about it. Consider it part of your role to keep your eyes open for these opportunities.
- Figure out where the pain points are. “We need better communication” is dauntingly broad. What, specifically, has been causing problems? Pick the two to three biggest areas that are causing issues and focus there. For instance, if you decide that the biggest issue is that people aren’t getting updates about clients that would be useful in their work, you might get people’s buy-in on a new protocol for what kinds of notes to include in your client database and create norms around what updates should be shared more proactively, with whom, and by when.
- Make sure people are using tools that play well with others. If you’ve got a staff member whose favorite tool sits on her desktop and only her desktop, with no one else having access to it, you may need to step in and help figure out how to give other people access to any important info it contains. It’s not unreasonable to ask people to use tools that integrate well with others and that are accessible to people who could leverage the information within them. Hint: QuickBase.
- Enlist your team in solving the problem. You might have loads of good ideas for how to address the problem, but your team will almost certainly have ideas that you haven’t thought of. After all, they’re probably the ones feeling the impact of communication issues more than you are. Lay out the problems you see for them and ask for their input. At a minimum, their insights will help shape the solutions you develop – but it’s very possible that they’ll come up with even better solutions if given the chance.