With the global workplace transforming from an industrial society to an information economy where there is an increasing risk of industry disruption, employers are looking towards soft skills as the most desired qualities in employees. Teamwork is increasingly being identified as a key skill for success in the contemporary workplace as studies have indicated that soft skills, such as communication, can account for 75-85% of employees’ success within an organisation.
Soft skills such as communication skills are necessary for enabling team performance as they allow more effective working relationships between team members. Therefore, one method of improving team performance and your contribution as a team member is to improve your communication skills.
The way we, as humans, communicate is incredibly complex. Often because of these complexities, miscommunication can occur. Mediums and methods of communication can be overt, such as loud and aggressive tones with tense language to communicate anger, or more subtle, like the raise of one eyebrow and complete silence to communicate surprise or distaste. Communication becomes an issue for team performance when these subtle methods of communication are misinterpreted by the receiver/s. For instance, misinterpreting someone’s distaste for surprise could lead to team conflict. Additionally, the uncertainty of individuals’ attitudes and behaviour may lead to stress and conflict, which, when left unaddressed will inhibit team performance and individual effectiveness.
Another form of communication that often leads to miscommunication is virtual communication. Virtual communication refers to communication via technology such as email. These forms of communication remove many communicative cues, such as tone, facial expression, posture and body language as well as other environmental contexts. Ultimately the absence of non-verbal cues places limitations on what is communicated, as the accumulation of these elements denote emotion.
Additionally, our brains interpret information in line with our filters (attitudes, values, beliefs, etc.), differing contexts or environments between the communicator and the receiver will naturally influence the decoding of the message. This often leads to miscommunication and unfounded assumptions, which ultimately have a negative impact on team performance.
TOP TIPS FOR IMPROVING YOUR COMMUNICATION SKILLS
- Develop your communication skills. This includes active listening, self-awareness of communication style and acknowledgement of personal barriers (including inherent attitudes, values and beliefs).
- Learn to ask questions. The more questions you ask, the more information your brain has to draw from, mitigating chances of miscommunication. Asking questions is also a good way to not only clarify information but also to practice active listening.
- Check your understanding. Use your questioning skills to ‘check in’ with others’ before making assumptions about their behaviour. This is particularly important where virtual communication is used as the non-verbal cues are limited.
- Create engaging conversations. When team members need to partake in the discussion, rather being told to do something, the team members will be enabled to refine and retain information.
- Practice self-reflection. Understanding not only your own communication style but also other’s communication styles will minimise miscommunication. Take time to particularly understand your non-verbal reactive cues and how they might be interpreted by others.
With extensive and proven experience in team performance, TMS has the expertise to help your organisation improve team effectiveness through improving communication.