Proper communication allows teams to collaborate more efficiently. However, teams usually dread meetings because they feel like their time is wasted, there is no time to converse in the meetings and ultimately, the meeting could be replaced with a short email or an update in a team management tool. If proper communication as a team is the end goal, learning to hold better conversations is the key. According to Arjun Buxi, an executive communication coach, there are 5 steps to improving conversations. These steps require the cooperation of the team as everyone needs to be willing to put in the effort for the steps to work.

Actively Listening

Conversations are a back and forth between any number of people. This means while someone is speaking, others should be listening. The type of listening people should do is active listening, which is the practice of listening to understand what someone is saying; however, most people listen with the intent to instantly retort. Listening should be done in such a way that even if you don’t agree with what the speaker is saying, you should understand where they’re coming from and why they feel the way they do. Being able to internalize this information will allow you to speak intelligently without any malicious intent, leading to an actual conversation.

Ask Clarifying Questions

Clarifying questions are questions that listeners ask the speaker in order to avoid any confusion or misunderstandings. They have the added effect of letting the speaker know you’re paying attention and understanding them. When in a group, clarifying questions can trigger others to begin thinking as well, leading to more clarifying questions that weren’t brought up or to comments that further the conversation. If everyone participates in this aspect of the conversation, it becomes easier to talk rationally and get things done, as everyone will be on the same level.

Share Your Perspective And Discuss

Just as the first speaker spoke their piece, take your turn to share your point of view. This doesn’t mean discounting anything that was said before, in fact, you can add to it. Make sure that it’s clear that what you’re saying is just your opinion, as there might be a chance that someone will defend their point as if it was under attack. In a similar manner to when clarifying questions were asked, the discussion step is a collaborative process where you can ask the other participants their thoughts on your opinions. This process allows you to further see into their viewpoint which sets you up for the next step.

Deciding Your Priorities

It is important to clearly state priorities when working on a team where a task flows down a chain. Having everyone on the same page allows for tasks to be ordered in a way that avoids any bottlenecks. Time and energy can be saved by proper scheduling and this can only really be achieved by having everyone discuss their workloads and suggested schedules as a group. Through proper collaboration, certain details may come to light that may shift the priority of certain members of the team, which is actually what needs to happen in order for the team to reach its goals. 

In an example, person A has two tasks, writing a blog and writing a script, person B is tasked with shooting a video and editing photos, and person C only has to be the subject of the video. Without getting into the due dates, the most logical way to prioritize the tasks of this team is to do the task that involves all of them, in this case, it’s the video project. Without a script, person C won’t have anything to do in the video that person B needs to shoot. Person A can prioritize the script over the blog because it will hold up the jobs of person B and C. This, however, isn’t the only way to create a priority list. If the due dates for each task are organized differently, the best way to go about making a priority list would be to go by those dates. In addition, other variables such as the working speed of each team member would need to be taken into account, which is why it is important to converse with each other in order to find the most optimized way of working together.

Planning And Action

After deciding priorities, sometimes it takes a bit more planning before the action can begin. With priorities decided, implementation would need a plan. Though the decisions made while deciding the priority are important, they aren’t always a concrete plan of action. By going a bit more in-depth, you get to set goals, metrics if needed, and people are then held accountable for the tasks they must complete. Due dates can also be finalized before everyone is sent off to do their tasks. This is crucial as people can voice out their concerns if the due dates are unrealistic. If collaborations are needed, this would be the time to set up get-togethers in order to have everything run smoothly afterward.

After all the planning is done, everyone can go off and complete their tasks. A successful conversation should result in everyone in the team having an easier time due to the planning and coordination. Everyone should know what is expected of them and who is delivering what on certain dates.

The Wrap Up

Learning to have meaningful conversations at work leads to a more efficient and productive environment. Members of a team will no longer need to argue who is supposed to do what and when, as a proper conversation will have all the necessary information disseminated. Meaningful conversations also strengthen the team and will promote a more collaborative working environment. Taking it a step further, you could incorporate this into your everyday life and see the benefits it has outside of the workplace.