Communication plays an integral role in the day-to-day operations of any business. It has a profound impact on the success of projects, campaigns, and companies as a whole. Ineffective communication wastes valuable time, resources, and can severely disrupt an organization’s performance. Not to mention driving employee frustration and unhappiness.
On any given day, you’ll likely communicate with several individuals, as well as a few groups. A group being “a collection of three or more individuals who interact about some common problem or interdependent goal and can exert mutual influence over one another,” as defined by Wilson and Hanna in their book, ‘Groups in Context.’
Notice that a group is not just a random collection of the first 5 people you see when you walk out of your home in the morning. Having a common problem or goal is a key part of the definition. For example, a group could be your Marketing team made up of a director, designer, writer, and campaign manager. As a group, the four of you share the goal of growing the business. This common goal impacts how you communicate about current campaigns.
What Influences How Effectively a Group Communicates?
Communication, like most things, is a skill. Try focusing on this skill, individually and as a team, in order to round out your flat sides. In honing your group communication skills, you can dramatically improve team performance. HBR identified three key elements to effective communication: energy, engagement, and exploration. By flexing your muscles in these areas, you and your teams can perform better over time.
Thinking about “energy” specifically, a group might be more or less able to communicate effectively, based on the topic they have to discuss. For example, if you’re anticipating feeling bored during a 60-minute administrative and legal meeting, you’ll probably bring low energy. This low level of energy fosters poor communication. Try to commit, as a group, to staying positive and bringing good energy to the meeting. Take frequent stretch breaks to raise the energy in the room. These energy-boosting tactics can make a difference in terms of your ability to communicate well.
Taking a broader look at the dynamics of the meeting, the distribution of energy across the group can be summarized as the level of “engagement” between the members. Ideally, each individual is bringing strong energy and a desire to engage with others. This inspires and empowers people to share their ideas and feedback.
For example, in a meeting of four people, you ideally want all four attendees to have their say. If two people dominate 80% of the conversation, you have imbalanced engagement among the group. Have you ever been a group where you need to be standing up or holding a ball before you can speak? This is just one example of techniques used to encourage higher engagement.
Last, the “exploration” factor that influences group communication relates to the way in which teams interact with other groups or individuals outside of their own. Let’s go back to the marketing team example: how well your group interacts with the product team can influence the performance of your next product marketing campaign. Being willing to explore new ideas with product actually enables marketing to perform better. Your understanding of the product increases when your group communicates well with the group that actually built the product.
How Knowledge Management Improves Group Communication
A group’s communication skills are not static. By focusing on improving these skills, a team can get better. We offered some quick tips above, but how do you do this at scale? Effective knowledge management is at the heart of group communication; by improving knowledge management, you can also improve how well a team demonstrates energy, engagement, and exploration.
Good knowledge management plays a big part in how effectively a meeting is run. And nothing drains energy than a poorly run meeting that goes on too long. If people have more context in advance of the meeting, less time is wasted on getting people up to speed. With greater clarity on the goals of the meeting, (as well as company goals), comes greater alignment. Clear goals and better alignment can help raise the energy of the group and ensure communication functions properly.
Giving people the right background information and clarity on goals also impacts engagement. If people understand the “why” behind a discussion, they’ll feel more empowered to share opinions. This context setting via knowledge management also helps people understand why they’re in the meeting. If they know what role they’re expected to play, they can share targeted input that keeps the group moving forward. Side benefit: this helps you avoid two frustrating, time-consuming situations: 1) a meeting that includes unnecessary people; these folks bring low energy and engagement because they know they’re not needed and 2) people chiming in with random input, just to feel good about having spoken in the meeting.
This aspect of group communication ties nicely into the way in which knowledge management relates to “exploration.” Departmental silos create walls that make knowledge transfer between teams more difficult. The default action? Create more meetings! However, trying to transfer tacit knowledge using copious meetings consisting of poorly formed groups will only cause further friction. Instead of creating lots of new cross-functional meetings with little context, try documenting what role each person is meant to play.
Many organizations struggle with team communication, but it’s an area you can get better at over time. Poor communication can often be solved with a little additional foresight and documentation. By leveraging a knowledge management platform that integrates with your current group communications tools, (like Slack,) you can make sure the right people are in the right meetings. By arming them with the right context, you can foster better levels of energy, engagement, and exploration. Find out more about how Tettra helps companies communicate better – and have more productive meetings – with a good knowledge hub.