When we map the cultures of teams and organizations, one of the most common themes is communication. Communication shows up as a shaper and a symptom of team culture. The quality of everyday communication is the key, one of the clearest indicators of how well the culture is doing. This is particularly vital as teams migrate to more remote work.
Strong team cultures don’t measure the vitality of communication by the volume and velocity of meetings and emails. They prefer to measure day-to-day communication in terms of how well people feel valued, connected, and free to do their best.
Communication is the key, at least as important to culture and performance as individual motivation and competencies. The psychology of communication and performance is that people tend to do the best they can based on what they know at the time. It’s a simple principle with important and actionable implications.
Knowing is the dog that wags the tail of doing. What we do depends on what we know. When communication works, we know exactly what we need to know, when we need to know it.
This leads to the pivotal question: for anyone to succeed at any point in their work, what exactly do they need to know at any point in time? This question sharpens our focus on communication in ways that are practical and meaningful. This shapes the way we think about who needs to know what, when, where, how, and why. Our communication initiatives, channels, and structures become efficient because they focus on knowing as the prime cause of doing.
The inherent problem with meeting and email overloads is that they can add nothing of value to how well people feel valued, connected, and free to do their best. These become possible instead with an emphasis on helping people know what they need to know, when, how, and why they needed to know it.
Here are three action steps to get started:
1 – Get the team together (virtually!) to map out times when they feel most and least valued, connected, and free to do their best.
2 – From this mapping, identify opportunities where people can better know what they need to know in order to feel valued, connected, and free to do their best.
3 – Select one or two of these opportunities and create experiments around how real-time communication can make these kinds of knowing more possible.
Do these on a regular basis and watch your communication flourish. Communication is the key, the heartbeat of team culture.
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