Less frustration, greater clarity: tips for better communications
‘Effective communications’ takes practice, consistency, and intentionality. Everyone has experienced painful communications issues in the workplace. Changes in frequency, staff, workplace model, and tools can lead to changes that cause pain points to surface. Being intentional and creating structure around communications can help you to avoid the 6 common symptoms below.
Common symptoms of structural communications issues
The modern workforce can surface new communication issues, but the causes were likely lying just beneath the surface before the recent shifts in how and where we work. Several seemingly unrelated pain points can arise without effective communication fundamentals. Those pain points are symptomatic of structural communication issues. Some common symptoms include –
- Managerial Micromanaging or Ghosting: When managers are unsure what their staff is working on or the progress they’re making, their interactions can bounce between the extremes of micromanaging or being too hands-off.
- Out of the Loop: When they feel left out of the loop on a project’s status that they expect to be part of, staff can become frustrated or demoralized.
- Unclear Roles: When staff don’t understand the relevance of their own role to the information they receive, they find these communications confusing.
- Meeting Mismanagement: When your team members schedule too many meetings or meetings with no purpose or agenda, attendees feel their time is wasted.
- Unclear Follow-Up: When the meeting or discussion ends without clear follow-up tasks, attendees leave with conflicting ideas about next steps, responsibilities, and expectations. This can duplicate efforts or cause work to fall through the cracks.
- Unclear Accountability: When looking at various tasks, no one knows who owns or is accountable for results. This impedes project progress and causes confusion.
Build intentionality into communications
These symptoms result from a lack of structure around communications. The fix: intentionality. Why and How you communicate about work affects its completion. Unsure? Below we use an intentional approach to resolve the “Unclear Accountability” and “Unclear Follow-up” symptoms (and avoid the rest).
After any team meeting, each person should know what is expected of them (and each other). They should understand why they have been assigned their responsibilities. Everyone should be able to answer the following questions:
- What are the team’s goals?
- Which tasks are each person’s responsibility?
- Who’s accountable for results?
- Who’s involved in making decisions and who’s the ultimate decision-maker?
- Who consults or collaborates with whom?
- Who informs whom about updates?
Documented discussions and decisions together with right-sized communication channels and audience keep everyone posted and familiar with responsibilities.
Create structured communications
The DACI matrix is a decision-making framework that helps our clients avoid the symptoms listed above. Each letter represents a specific role in project decision-making and communication to help clarify communication:
- Driver: the project leader who moves a decision or process forward. They do this by gathering and/or providing information, assigning tasks, scheduling meetings, keeping the project on track, and communicating with stakeholders.
- Approver: the final decision-maker.
- Contributor: subject matter experts selected by the Driver for the knowledge, experience, and/or perspective they provide to Approvers.
- Informed: are not involved in the project but must receive status updates to understand impact on their work.
The DACI matrix helps everyone in the organization understand and clarify their respective roles and their colleagues’ roles. Responsibility and accountability for different aspects of a project are spelled out and divided. Taking the first step of considering who on your team belongs in each role can help you organize your team’s responsibilities and tasks. Doing so will help you plan, make decisions, and communicate with intentionality..
Intentionality is at the heart of getting back to square one with your communications. Regardless of workplace, putting structure around communications produces better results, more engaged staff, and saves time and frustration up front.
If you want to help your teams communicate more effectively, contact us for more information on how we can assess your structural communication issues to offer you actionable solutions.