The incorrigible @juropel cc’d me on a tweet earlier today, and I realized that 140 is just too little for a real read on the topic. Her question was, Have personal best practices for effective team communication?
You’re only one person, with limited info. Remember to say that
Be sure to insert ‘as I understand it’ and ‘in my opinion’ into anything that isn’t a hard and fast fact. Remembering, and verbally marking things that are rock solid facts, vs opinions or views is very important in communication. You have limited info on a project, and you need to communicate how or what that is.
Break apart Listening, Analyzing, and Solving
It’s very easy, especially when working with less experienced humans, to mix your listening, your dissection (and analysis) and solving a problem. If you want to communicate clearly, one great tool is to break apart the listening phase, the analysis phase, and the ‘lets solve this’ phase. When listening, really listen. Ask for more info. Prevent yourself from jumping ahead to brainstorming or solving the problem. Once you’ve given your partner their say, and they have reached the end of what they can share, only then dig into tearing the problem apart, and solving it.
Let the least XP speak first
Let the least experienced person on the team speak first, and work your way to the most experienced. That style is sometimes called a ‘Japanese Meeting’, since it’s (in theory) a common technique in businesses there. Having the youngest person speak first solves a few things. It makes sure that the less experience folks don’t shut-down or shut-up when a older or more experience person speaks. Often young team mates will loose, or not speak out their ideas once they hear more experienced folks having contradictory ideas. You can also timebox a less experienced person more readily, if you need to limit discussion. That can set the tone for how long each participant will discuss the topic. Finally speak your turn in your best-guess of experience, instead of waiting to speak first, or just speaking last.
Over CC, over explain, and TL;DR
I try to always add 1-2 peoples on the ‘fringe’ of a decision to a thread, usually as a CC or a BCC, to make it clear it’s mostly for their information, not for them to reply. I usually write an email, or a discussion, and re-read it, adding more info. Remember, you might know a lot of facts, side-events, or situation that are not clear to everyone in the thread. And, when doing that, make a one sentence TL;DR (Too Long, Didn’t Read) for the skimmers in the audience.
Have private conversations, keep them private
Sometimes, you just need a private conversation to instruct someone on a correction, to listen to a detailed, or very personal problem, or to just give someone time. Take that time. Do those conversations. If you need to complain, or need to get something off your chest related to the team, find the time to talk to someone about it one-on-one. And when you are having a conversation one-one-one you must must must keep that conversation private. Make it a team rule that those private conversations are sacred, and whatever you (and they) say during that conversation is between the two of you. However, until you know someone well, be a bit careful, since some people may abuse that trust.
Read these two books
Read ‘How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk’ Hat-Tip to Jenny Lawton on recommending that one. It’s an amazing book for communication in general. It works well for kids, for adults, for anyone. It really should be How to Talk so Humans Will Listen. When you are done with that, try reading ‘Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life’ which is all about communicating the facts first, then communicating your needs as a person, and finally discussing what you are requesting to meet those needs.