11 ways to improve team communication (+ be a great manager)
Communication is easy to take for granted.
There’s good communication...and then there’s poor communication. When workplace communication is good, employees are motivated, engaged, and understand their responsibilities. When it’s not, team members struggle with a lack of clarity, email and meeting overload, and a lack of feedback to help them improve.
Effective team communication doesn’t just happen—it’s a conscious choice leadership teams and managers make every day. In this guide you’ll find some best practices that, if implemented, will help improve communication across the board.
11 tips for managers to improve team communication
If you’re a manager who’s looking to improve communication across your team, these are the things you’ll want to pay attention to most days at work:
1. Have an open-door policy
Most managers would say they have an open-door policy, when most likely the open door isn’t open at all. But a genuine open-door policy is a powerful communication tool.
Your open-door policy sends the message that you’re a source of reliability for your team members. When your team feels they can approach you with candor, it leads to better work.
An open-door policy also:
Increases team morale
Helps you identify performance and productivity issues early
A public calendar is the best way to let your team members know when they can drop in or schedule a call.
2. Give and receive constructive criticism
Regular feedback allows employees to improve while creating a culture of transparency. Still, many managers save their feedback for quarterly performance reviews. When this happens, employees can often feel overwhelmed by the amount of feedback (or feedback they didn't see coming).
Give constructive and timely feedback instead—and create a strong company culture that allows people on your team to give you feedback, too.
3. Schedule regular one-on-one meetings
While your team needs to communicate as a group, individual face-to-face communication is crucial for well-being. Regular one-on-one meetings are a place where you and the members of your team can speak freely.
As a general rule, you don’t want to take on the role of a therapist during a one-on-one meeting, but you do want to check in and know how team members are feeling (and not *just* focus on what they're working on). Supporting your team members might mean giving them some time off to recover and come back fully energized, or helping them prioritize so they don't feel overwhelmed.
4. Encourage creativity
When you’re managing any team, remote or in-person, there’s a tricky balance to strike between micromanaging and complete autonomy.
But as a general rule, more creativity increases employee engagement. To encourage creativity, organize monthly workshops and brainstorming sessions to give employees space to discuss new ideas (or make this a part of your regular team meetings).
Show everyone that you value their ideas by keeping a log of them and prioritizing if and when they'll happen. This will make people feel like they have a real stake in the company and that their creativity is contributing to the team.
5. Be transparent
Good communication is transparent communication. If you can’t be honest with your team members, they most likely won’t be honest with you—and before you know it, miscommunication is the norm, which isn’t great for project management.
The best way to be transparent is to be open about business performance and to share information as it occurs. Find a way to connect your team’s day-to-day work with the company’s big-picture goals. Transparency can give people context and show them how everyone is working toward a common goal, increasing motivation and engagement (yay!).
6. Resolve conflicts fairly as soon as they happen
In a perfect world, everyone would get along all the time. But in reality, disagreements are common. If tensions are left unchecked and unresolved, teamwork suffers — and so does productivity.
As a manager, you should recognize and resolve any conflicts as soon as they happen. If you find they're happening frequently, consider hosting a conflict resolution workshop to teach team members strategies to manage disagreements.
Conflict resolution skills are especially important for remote teams, where misunderstandings happen because of a lack of in-person communication. When we communicate mostly through asynchronous text-based apps like Slack, we can’t pick up on body language or tone of voice, so it’s important to understand how conflicts can be prevented and resolved online.
7. Be clear about roles and tasks
Team members need clarity to communicate effectively. Miscommunication and role ambiguity lead to wasted time, conflicts, and an unpleasant work environment.
Avoid this by clarifying job roles and responsibilities for each team member. Here are a few ways to do this:
Assign tasks based on an individual team member’s skill set
Discuss role expectations early and clearly so that there’s no confusion about what a team member is expected to do
Avoid micromanaging by trusting that you’ve communicated tasks and deadlines clearly after you’ve done so (using a project management tool is a helpful way to keep track)
8. Keep team members in the loop
One of the greatest remote team challenges is feelings of isolation and loneliness. If you allow team members to fall behind on project updates and company news, those feelings will only intensify.
Still, sometimes people can fall behind through no fault of their own. Someone has to miss a meeting because of an emergency or because they had too many other commitments that day.
Tip: There’s a way to keep team members in the loop without lengthy meetings that disrupt workflows.
With Vowel, you can record and transcribe all your team meetings and get an automatic meeting recap as soon as you hang up (including AI-generated summaries, shared links, and action items). Anyone who was in the meeting gets the recap, so you don't have to worry about sharing.
9. Be culturally aware
Keep in mind that an international team of people from different cultures might have different communication styles. As a manager, it’s your job to be curious about other cultures and their work styles, rather than resort to immediate criticism.
If your team spans the globe, educate yourself about how your team members in different countries work—and never ask your staff to educate you, as this is beyond their job description.
10. Encourage communication training for employees
This is a high-cost item, but the benefits are worth considering if communication is a constant obstacle on your team.
Communication training is just as much about active listening as it is about speaking. During your training sessions, team members will learn about different types of communication and common communication barriers.
The result is a team well-versed in effective communication, and knowledgeable about how to avoid common communication problems.
11. Always set an agenda for your meetings
Video conferencing is arguably the most important communication channel for remote work. It gives remote teams a chance to discuss things in real time, which is often the best way to relay complex information.
But good meeting culture starts with a meeting agenda, which is key for productive meetings that don’t run over time and keep people engaged.
Types of team communication
We tend to think of communication as only verbal, but different communication styles can open your team up to more collaborative possibilities. These are the types of communication that you’ll encounter in any workspace:
Verbal communication is the backbone of remote workplace communication. Questions, statements, and informal chit-chat should be approached with thought, consideration, and emotional intelligence that takes into account how the recipient will receive the communication.
As a manager, it’s your job to be thoughtful of word choice. The power dynamic of the relationship you have with your employees places extra attention on the words you choose to communicate with your team, so choose wisely with compassion in mind.
Non-verbal communication are signals such as eye contact, body language, gestures, facial expressions, and posture. While verbal communication is more or less under our control, non-verbal cues are often involuntary, such as laughter or wincing at something disagreeable.
It’s especially important to consider non-verbal communication with remote work, which relies on remote collaboration tools that are often purely text-based. Make sure to include opportunities for non-verbal communication, such as video calls or occasional team off-sites.
Visual communication includes messages sent in the form of pictures. In a team, visual communication often happens alongside presentations.
Thinking about visual communication in a team is helpful to make meetings more engaging, especially because many people have a visual learning style.
Feedback is critique, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Constructive feedback is how team members improve their skills. Feedback can be informal or formal; the latter often happens during dedicated performance reviews.
For team engagement and cohesion, managers should give informal feedback, too, especially when it’s positive. Even a simple shoutout in a Slack channel can make team members feel valued.
A debate is a discussion about a certain topic where one side represents one opinion and the other side represents the opposite. Debates can be formal or informal.
In corporate settings, debates mostly happen at decision-making and brainstorming meetings. Respectful and healthy debate is a great way to discover and evaluate new ideas.
3 key team-communication models for managers
People with different communication styles exist within every team. Understanding these differences can lead to better overall communication, and understanding your style as a manager will help you discover your strengths and weaknesses in communication.
Of course, you’ll likely see yourself in all of the following styles of communication. They frequently overlap, and they change depending on the situation.
Those who communicate analytically focus primarily on numbers and data. Analytical communicators are fact-driven and analyze data and arguments objectively. They are the people who are always asking why.
Analytical people may not favor generalizations, vague language, or idealistic thinking — but they do provide a rational backbone to any team and project.
Unlike analytical communicators who focus on details and data, intuitive people focus on the big picture. They care less about small details and more about the ultimate goal of a project. As such, they can provide a lot of motivation and inspiration.
Artists, creatives, and leaders often have an intuitive communication style.
Functional communication is all about order and clarity. You’ll recognize these people (or perhaps yourself) as those who always have an itinerary, a map, or a plan.
Having a functional communicator on your team means other team members can relax a little. The functional communicator will keep a handle on most situations and remind everyone of important details and processes.
5 essential team communication skills for managers
Just like most things in life, communication is a skill that can be taught. If you notice you’re lacking in some areas, don’t think that you can't improve. Here are the five most important communication skills for a manager:
1. Listening: Active listening means being in the moment with the person you’re communicating with. You haven’t prepared anything to say — you’re reacting to what’s being said in a thoughtful way that considers the other person’s intentions and state of mind.
2. Leadership: A leader doesn’t give commands; they take responsibility and inspire others.
3. Clarity: Clear and thoughtful communication reduces the chance of misunderstandings.
4. Respect: It’s normal to disagree, but it’s always necessary to stay respectful.
5. Empathy: There’s a human being behind the Slack messages, and they deserve compassion.
Improve remote team communication with Vowel
Managing a remote team means holding many recurring meetings and relying on collaboration tools to facilitate communication. That’s why using the right meeting platform is important.
Vowel comes with everything you need built in. Think of Vowel as a meeting operating system with all the video conferencing features you need to hold meetings, but also the built-in ability to transcribe and record, make collaborative notes, generate automatic summaries, and create clear agendas.
Start having more productive conversations — sign up for Vowel for free!