Communication is a Key to Teamwork

Craig Wagganer  |  May 31, 2012
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Communication Is a Key to TeamworkTeamwork is a captivating concept and is a key to teamwork. The word also means different things to different people. I recently worked with a man who wanted a team building program for a group of individuals. When I asked about the team and how well they currently worked together his response was that they communicate well. I asked what he meant by that and he said, “Well, we talk to each other.”

Communicate- to convey knowledge of or information about; make known; to reveal by clear signs.” — Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

When a group of people talks to each other it is the lowest level of teamwork. How many teams have complained about their situation when the only quality to describe them is that they talk to each other? If a group of people is working together with goals and mission but yet the best description of their teamwork is that they communicate, or talk to each other, they are at the lowest level and their teamwork will not be very productive.

Good Communication is a Key to Teamwork, But Only Step #1.

I recently heard a story of a man and a woman in the church. The pastor asked for all the golfers to stand. The woman’s husband stood up, then sat down. He looked around at those standing and then stood back up again. When the man and his wife got home after the service the woman queried about her husband’s activity. His response was something like this, “When the pastor asked for the golfers to stand I thought I don’t golf very much but I do enjoy it. Then after standing I thought I haven’t been in a couple of years- I’m certainly no golfer. But then I looked around at some of the men standing, including our son, and if their standing I should be standing to, I can golf as good a many of them even if I haven’t been in years.”

The wife began laughing. It seems the pastor hadn’t asked for the golfers to stand but rather for the fathers to stand. His conspicuous behavior had left several people wondering.

You May Also Like: “How to Improve Listening Skills in the Workplace.”

A Common Understanding Is Also Important to Building Teamwork.

Communication is important to teams, but it is only the beginning. For communication to work there has to be understanding. Steven Covey admonished to seek first to understand and then to be understood. Good advice. Make sure that you understand the pictures others want you to see. Make sure you are not jumping to conclusions, taking things for granted, or making assumptions that were never intended.

Listen intently, ask questions to clarify, and understand and make sure you have all the information necessary and intended by the deliverer. Once you are sure and confident that you understand the other person, then take responsibility for making sure you are understood in the same way you understand.

Too often people say that their team has a communication problem when in reality they have a responsibility problem. With cell phones, texting, email, and all the modern technological gadgets that make us reachable at all times, communication is not the problem, taking responsibility to make sure adequate communication takes place is the problem.

The Last Part of Building Teamwork Requires Taking Responsibility.

For teams, communication is level one. It is the foundation that teamwork can be built upon. Many of the failings of a team can be traced back not to communication problems, but rather responsibility problems. Someone didn’t take responsibility for correct and effective communication.

Communication is the first level of teamwork. For it to happen effectively each team member must commit to two things…

  1. First, the commitment to understand. Each individual must be willing to do the work necessary to make sure they understand what others are saying and what they mean by what they are saying. This is the commitment to listen intently, ask clarifying questions, taking time to prevent misunderstandings, and guarding one’s self against jumping to conclusions.
  2. Second, the commitment to be understood. Each individual must take responsibility to speak clearly, understandably, and make sure that the audience, whether 1 or many, completely understands the meaning that is to be conveyed.

Great communication can be a terrific foundation for a team to be built upon.

For a fun way to help create an atmosphere of trust within your organization, take a look at our “Creating a Team Culture Workshop.” Available both in-person and virtually.

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