Communication – Trust and teamwork

Key principles

  • The team leader’s first concern must be to build mutual trust. Without a firm foundation of trust, all other team building activities collapse. Building trust between leader and led and between team members requires open communication, the continuing exchange of information, ideas and reactions so that all members, including the manager, establish and continue sharing a genuine sense of common purpose. This results in people feeling that they work with the manager rather than just for him.
  • The leader must set the example of open mindedness and encourage the frank exchange of ideas and opinions. This in turn encourages team members to share with each other their knowledge and experience, generating excitement and commitment to achieve both team and individual objectives. Of course, even among the most unified teams conflicts will arise. But these too should be openly aired and resolved.
  • Every person needs to feel reasonably safe and secure. Morale and performance suffer if people are not kept informed about what is going on, about changes in plans and many other matters affecting their working lives.
  • If the information supply is inadequate, people feel insecure and anxious. Information does not “find its way down” according to the law of gravity! It must be pumped down, pumped up and sideways and performing this important function is every manager’s responsibility.
  • The penalty for failure to keep people informed is a costly one - a vigorous GRAPEVINE which flourishes and feeds on rumours and damaging gossip. The fruits of the grapevine are poisonous – fear, suspicion, mistrust of management, low morale and defensive behaviour.
  • Nothing can eliminate the grapevine altogether but it is rendered harmless by managers and other team leaders keeping people properly informed about all matters which affect them. This means providing information on a day-to-day basis which is topical and relevant to the concerns of the group.
  • Communication is good only when it is a two-way process. Effective leadership requires that you provide and receive information from the team members. Simply spraying information over people is better than doing nothing, but it does not boost morale or contribute to performance. Nor does it contribute to team building because it places the team leader on one side of a divide and employees on the other. If employees do not regard their leader as an integral part of the team, other team building activities are seriously handicapped.
  • The so-called ‘Open door’ policy is meaningless when it implies, as it often does, the leader is simply making him/herself available. It is not enough to be accessible, the leader should take the initiative and go through the open door to demonstrate genuine interest in the people working the other side.

Five-point check

To be an effective communicator, take these factors into account when you transmit information:

  1. Purpose – what do you want to achieve?
  2. Effect – what do you want it to be? What damaging effect might it have?
  3. Recipient – allow for imitations, current attitude and possible misinterpretation
  4. Method – decide which is most appropriate for the purpose. Written (letter, memo, scribbled note); oral (telephone, face to face)?
  5. Timing - day of week and time of day the message is received may distort Purpose & Effect. Above.

Remember: good communication has not taken place if understanding has not been established.

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