Another important area in building morale , pride , and spirit is the communication among team members. Communication is a key link that bonds a team. It is fundamental to positive and lasting relationships. People want information about things that affect them; this is particularly true in the workplace. When team members have information communicated to them by the leader or by other team members , it makes them feel important and provides a sense of emotional security. This in turn increases their buy-in, ownership, and identification with the team and its vision.
Leaders are, of course, responsible for the communication processes of their teams . They should set the example by being more facilitative than directive. They should also ensure that each individuals thoughts and ideas are heard , be respectful and open to diverse and opposing points of view, and skillfully guide discussions with well-timed questions and explanatory comments.
The following communication practices effectively encourage morale, pride, and spirit:
Communication should be continual, open, honest, and safe. No opinion is discounted, no idea is silly, and maximum dialogue is encouraged.
Expectations and explanations need to be clearly communicated, possibly utilizing storytelling and metaphor.
Every meeting, scheduled or unscheduled, should be used to pass relevant information to team members. Because of its validating nature, information ought to be shared with the team at every opportunity.
Conflict must be dealt with effectively. When a team member has an issue with a colleague, it should be dealt with directly and as soon as possible. Failure to do so will generally escalate the conflict. Team members should hold each other accountable for solving problems with one another. They need to be able both to apologize and to forgive; this is enormously important to effective team functioning. Few things can undermine morale, pride, and spirit more quickly than conflict among team members. If it is allowed to go on unchecked, cliques will eventually evolve , and morale, pride, and spirit will disappear.
Feedback should be ongoing and routine, not only from the leader to the team members but also back to the leader and among the members. This should be encouraged and institutionalized by outlining the ground rules of the process in the teams standard operating procedures. CCLs situation behavior-impact (SBI) feedback model would be an excellent choice for giving and receiving feedback ( Feedback That Works: How to Build and Deliver Your Message; see Suggested Readings). Having feedback ground rules and a specific model will greatly increase the openness and reduce the defensiveness of those receiving the feedback. Feedback is valuable to the process of building morale, pride, and spirit because it provides an ongoing assessment, support, and accountability element for team members.
How communication is handled in meetings is extremely important to effective team functioning. Time limits need to be established and religiously followed for all meetings. Meeting agendas and read-ahead material on all the key issues to be discussed should be distributed prior to each meeting. Meetings should be held at appropriate times, with some conducted off-site. Some meetings should be held on the hoofwith everyone standing during the entire meeting (nothing keeps meetings shorter than this). It needs to be clearly established that a meeting is not the forum for one-on-one coordination between team members; this type of coordination should be done before or after the meeting. Finally, it should also be clearly established what information is to be shared in meetings and what should be shared by e-mail, memo, or phone. These rules promote morale, pride, and spirit by eliminating the negatives of disorganized meetings, such as inefficiency, wasted time, poor communication, too many or poorly managed meetings, and reduced confidence in the leader for allowing these things to occur.
Guidelines for interpersonal communication between team members should also be established. These could include agreements about active listening, asking questions, clarifying responses, requesting information, providing information, appropriate and inappropriate body language, meeting deadlines, ensuring closure, and so on. Having these shared understandings is critical to increasing efficiency, productivity, understanding, tolerance, and patience among team members.
Guidelines should also be established on how team members communicate with one another by e-mail, memos, and phonethat is, what kind of topics with what level of importance and what sense of urgency should be communicated by what means.
Team members should communicate with customers and clients with a strong sense of urgency, courtesy , cooperation, and goodwill. Without customers or clients the team would cease to exist, along with its morale, pride, and spirit.
The best way to ensure effective communication within a team is to have shared agreement upon its communication guidelines. These guidelines serve as a covenant between team members regarding how they will communicate with one another and with key stakeholders outside the team. It will require some time and effort to establish these guidelines. This initial investment will bring high returns, as many potential problems will be prevented or solved before they become major issues. Moreover, team members will be personally validated if they are involved in the creation of these communication rules.