You’ve probably heard the English proverb, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Just as relationships in life are often better when approached with a smile rather than a scowl, the same is true in business. When kindness is at the forefront of our mind and daily interactions, we focus on the power of “we” over “I.” When we prioritize positive interactions with others, we can improve team communication and organizational culture.
From my years working with teams in organizations of all sizes, I know it’s often the smallest actions that make the most significant difference. Everyone wants to feel that their contributions matter and that they matter. When we take the time to connect with coworkers — even if just for a few moments — we can transform our work environment.
Studies show that work friendships enhance performance, increase company loyalty and boost morale, among other benefits for improving team communication and culture. Employees and organizations benefit when colleagues spend time together in a relaxed atmosphere (e.g., lunch or chatting in the break room) as well as in organized, off-site team-building settings.
Four Relationship-Enhancers to Improve Team Communication
These four simple strategies will help you improve team communication and positive workplace interactions, brightening your day and someone else’s.
1. Avoid the gossip trap.
Making assumptions and telling stories is never a good idea, especially at work. It’s incredible how quickly things can spin out of control — much like the old telephone game played by children when the starting phrase never quite matches what the last person hears. There’s no easy or good way out of office gossip. It becomes circular, leading you down a never-ending spiral with a potentially harmful outcome.
2. Eliminate the words “always” and “never” from your vocabulary.
Think about it. Are you 100% always on time for every 9 a.m. meeting? Are you never on time? These words create a slippery slope when we start to view others or ourselves in an all or nothing fashion. We’re not 0% or 100%. When we turn these words against ourselves in our self-talk, it demeans and provokes negative impressions that feed on themselves.
“I never should have said that in the meeting.”
“I always mess this report up.”
“My boss will never see me in a position of management. I always come up short.”
It’s easy to put coworkers, clients, supervisors and others in boxes. Does it sound familiar to make statements such as, “He always” and “She never?” By avoiding these words, we can create a more balanced, accurate and positive environment for everyone, including ourselves.
3. Be curious.
Ask questions. What’s the “why” behind the reasoning for a deadline? Sometimes when we understand how our portion of a project impacts another person or department, working together improves. If you’re in charge of a project, be upfront about the timeline and offer the “why” behind the need. When others understand the overall situation, it’s easier to obtain their buy-in and trust.
4. Ask before you ask.
Need a few minutes of someone’s time? Ask if now is a good time before launching into a question or discussion topic. Often, we believe our issues are critical and require an immediate answer. While there are certainly situations from time to time that are urgent, many times what we think is important can wait a bit. Some individuals don’t mind interruptions, while others lose their concentration and effectiveness every time someone “stops by just for a sec.” It’s a show of respect when you batch your questions and ask for a time to meet.
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Ellen Nastir, M.Ed., PCC, BCC, CPCC, is a Certified Professional Co-active Coach with advanced training in organization and relationship systems coaching, tension and change management and appreciation at work. She received her coach training and certification from The Coaches Training Institute. Ellen holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida, and a master’s from the University of North Florida — both in education.
Ellen is a trained PeopleMap Systems educator who focuses on the “people side” of professional performance within the corporate structure. Her expertise is in the development of employees’ people skills to complement their technical skills and abilities, thus increasing productivity and retention, communication skills, problem-solving, and conflict resolution. Read more about Ellen’s extensive background and career.