Communication in Groups & Teams
There is no doubt the importance of teams. As our jobs and skills become even more specialized, it often becomes necessary for people from different disciplines to work together. Companies are commonly doing multiple projects, and people can be a part of multiple teams. This focus on group work and social learning has even been on the rise in the education system, beginning in elementary school, continuing to post-secondary and beyond.
It seems the way the trends are going that the future of business is going to involve more teams and more projects. Sometimes when looking at the makeup of the group or team you’re on, you may find yourself wondering “How can such a disparate mix of people work together?”, but you may be surprised. The goal of effective workplace communication is to bridge the gap between a diverse range of workers. As long as everyone remains open-minded and focuses on the overarching vision while balancing the group dynamics, there is no telling where the group can go.
Groups vs Teams
The words “group” and “team” are often used interchangeably, but I think there is an important semantic difference that makes them distinct from each other. A group can consist of any number of people doing any number of things. Groups are considered teams only when a group of people is working towards a common goal or cause. There’s a reason why they are called sports teams and not sports groups. Although a team is also a group of people, a group of people isn’t necessarily a team.
What is at the core of effective communication and positive group dynamics? The answer: Face-to-face interaction. Miscommunication is a very real threat to your group, and personal interaction with all the group members present is key to avoiding this. Just think about how easily a message can change and distort depending on how many people it is passed on through to the target receiver. Or how easily text messages or emails can be misconstrued. Things that are readily apparent when talking to someone, such as humour or sarcasm, can turn into potential landmines when written.
Personal interaction is imperative to a successful team. Groups by nature are social, so it makes sense that if you take away that element, you are risking the social bonds of your group, which often manifest as misunderstandings that lead to countless hours of frustration. Remember how they say that human communication consists of 93% body language and other nonverbal cues?
There is also the issue of response time, as some people can take forever to respond to an email or text. With face-to-face meetings, this isn’t an issue as you can talk to people directly.
Introverts and Extroverts
Personality is another issue that comes into play during group work. Some people are just naturally outspoken, while some prefer to listen quietly. To best use the skills of all your people, you need to make sure that everyone has a chance to talk, and everyone has a chance to listen. But you also need to be aware of and respect personal comfort levels as well.
Doing a quick self-evaluation can also reap many benefits. It is important to know yourself, your strengths, weaknesses, and values. Ask yourself questions such as:
“What kind of personality do I have?”
“What are my values?”
“How do I react to situations of stress or strong emotions?”
These will help give you a better idea of what kind of communicator you are, and your likely, or preferred, role in the group.
Working in a team can be exhausting, but with the power of communication in business, it can be extremely rewarding as well. There are things that we can accomplish when we work together that we’d never have been able to do individually. That’s why we work together. No matter who’s on your team, or what you’re working on, you should look at your group members and their individual personalities and skills, and strive to cooperate with each other to maximize what each and every one of you bring to the table.
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