the shape of leadership

Closing the Communication Gap

Five ways to keep team members informed

It’s no secret that communication is a challenge in any organization. Nothing seems to create more frustration than when team members feel out of the loop, or when important messages fall through the cracks.

As an organization grows, the communication challenge usually multiplies. It’s not that we don’t want to communicate, but the rate of our decision making often outpaces our communication. Failing to address the communication gap will lead to distractions, delays and division. A robust communication strategy is essential for three reasons:

First, it ensures clear messaging. Without a communication strategy, everybody is left to make assumptions and interpret the silence on their own. The result is confusion and the eventual spread of the wrong message.

Second, good communication improves teamwork around a focused vision. People more readily buy in to vision when communication is strong. And when everyone is on board and on the same page, teamwork improves. As communication increases, synergy and morale naturally increase, too.

Third, regular communication decreases frustration. People feel in the loop and engaged in what’s happening. Frustration decreases, and the rumors, gossip and distrust so common with poor communication begin to evaporate.

The fallout of unclear, inconsistent or nonexistent communication is exacerbated when an organization experiences rapid change or an unexpected crisis, or launches a major new initiative.

You don’t have to look further than the story of the Tower of Babel to know that’s true. “The Lord said, ‘If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other’” (Genesis 11:6-7).

Without communication, the team falls apart. So, how do you eliminate the side effects of poor communication and create a great communication strategy? Here are five ways:

1. Weekly Staff Meetings

I hold a staff meeting with our team on the same day and time each week. There’s nothing new about that. But during the meeting, we communicate three things: wins, updates and areas of focus. We celebrate wins, share important updates, and focus on major initiatives or staff development. Then, we pray together and have lunch together.

Failing to address the communication gap will lead to distractions, delays and division.

This enhances communication because everyone hears the same thing, at the same time, from the same person. We also strengthen relationships as we eat lunch together.

2. Weekly Oversight Meetings

Each of our team members participates in a weekly one-on-one oversight meeting with his or her supervisor. This 45-minute meeting provides an opportunity for each team member to talk about anything he or she needs to discuss (personal or organizational). It allows the supervisor to receive communication updates on goals or projects. The meeting also provides the supervisor with a regular opportunity to provide helpful one-on-one coaching.

3. Weekly Volunteer Huddles

Part of the communication challenge is getting the right message to key leaders and volunteers throughout the church. One way this can happen is through weekly volunteer huddles (a few minutes prior to serving). A huddle can happen collectively across the entire church, or it can happen by department.

During a 10-minute huddle, we provide information and inspiration. This happens by sharing brief updates (information), and then celebrating wins, testimonies, or reinforcing a team value (inspiration).

4. The Right Technology

It seems logical that technology would improve our communication. However, sometimes it only muddies the water. I believe the key to making technology work is selectivity and consistency. In other words, be selective about the technology tools you use (choose what’s right for your team), and then consistently use them.

This might be a project management tool, the latest app, a platform that connects the entire staff, Planning Center, texting … the list of options is endless. There will always be a seemingly better tool on the market, but if you constantly jump from one to another, you’ll only frustrate your team.

5. Intentional Repetitiveness

Finally, be intentional every chance you get. We’re in the middle of a construction project at 7 City Church, and sharing regular updates is critical to the process. Sometimes I feel like a broken record — saying the same thing over and over — but when I consider that most people only attend church once every three weeks, I have to be intentionally repetitive.

I work hard to make brief updates each week during services, share short construction videos on social media, and provide meaningful updates through our weekly newsletter and quarterly donor letters. I’ll also text pictures of building progress to our board members and give the latest construction updates to our staff. Intentionality and repetitiveness are the keys.

There are other ways to improve communication, but these five tips will get you started in the right direction.

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