Globalization has found its way into nearly every business and ensuring that everyone in your business or on your team is communicating properly has become an integral part of the manager’s responsibility. Cultural differences, language problems and lack of communication skills can derail projects if the manager is not on the lookout for them.
Solving these problems is an ongoing concern for any company that works across the international borders but there are strategies that can minimize the possibilities of communication problems before they happen. Keeping your teams communicating is the first step in keeping them working together.
1. Learning to listen
There are times when everyone has this problem. Someone is trying to tell you something, but it is not important enough, at the time, to give it your full attention. You’ve had a bad evening, a project is nearing its deadline or thousands of other reasons mean that you don’t give the speaker your full attention. Effective listening is a skill and one that has uses both inside and out of business. It can be difficult to teach this as a skill, but the importance of it cannot be overstated. The first thing you should do, as a team leader, is to set an example. If you give someone your full attention, they will be more likely to focus on you when you speak.
2. Standardize communication practices
When merging two or more working groups, finding a common standard for communication can be difficult. If one team uses email communication while another prefers personal meetings to talk about what is important, there is a communication problem. When forming or merging a team, establish early what the communication standards will be. If you want daily emails with updates and current goals, tell your teams. If you prefer phone messages or face-to-face meetings, make that the standard and then stick with it. Do not ignore your own standards, it will set up a dynamic where a team or a member will feel like they have less or more access to you.
3. Be clear and concise in your communication
Understand the difference between work communication and personal messaging. You may be friends with your team members but work communications should be reserved for work. Again, you want to avoid team members feeling left out or raised up because of their personal relationship with you. Consider the cultural and language differences between members of your team. If you use an idiom that is not understood by some members they may be hesitant to draw attention to it or find it offensive. Creating a cultural divide should be avoided at all costs.
4. Give your team the tools it needs to succeed
Team networks through Skype, Slack or any of the myriad of networking tools can ensure that your team has the tools to communicate in an effective manner. A virtual phone system can add an additional layer of communication ability no matter where your team members are located. Basing your communication system in the cloud can solve many of the problems with devices communicating through local networks. With the tools in hand, training your team members to use them becomes a lot simpler.
Minimizing communication problems should be the team manager’s first task. Productivity and performance will always suffer if the different members of a team cannot understand each other in an efficient and standardized manner. Globalization, although adding layers of productivity to any project, also adds layers of difficulty that must be worked out prior to beginning their tasks.