Improving team communication is an ongoing, critical priority for every startup.
Your team should be able to collaborate effectively, share ideas, and make quick decisions. It’s also essential that your communication allows everyone to sync priorities and work towards the same goals.
Communication can be challenging when working with a small team in a high-pressure environment like a startup. No startup does this perfectly; it will take time and prioritizing communication skills to get it right.
We’ll explore five ways to improve your team communication:
- Use the right tools
- Foster an “open door” policy, no matter how your team is dispersed
- Be smart about your meetings policy
- Encourage (and practice) open feedback as a leader
- Set clear expectations for communication and then stick to them
Effective communication will impact every area in your life—far beyond your workplace—so nailing it in your startup environment will get you on the right path to success.
1. Use the right communication tools
As a startup, you have to be smart about your resource allocation, so it’s essential to use tools that allow you to maximize your communication’s impact. Here are some tools we recommend for the various needs you’ll have on your startup team.
Whether or not your team is in an office, it’s essential to have a platform that allows for the easy and quick exchange of information as you work. Here are some of our favorites:
- Slack: Otherwise known as your “digital HQ,” Slack was an early adopter of centralizing team communication.
- Microsoft Teams: Especially useful if you utilize the Microsoft Office suite, Teams is an easy-to-use platform that facilitates digital collaboration.
Chances are, even if your entire team is in office, you will still need a video conferencing platform for client calls, one-off work-from-home days, recording case studies, and more. There are two favorites in this category:
- Zoom: Most known for its video conferencing, the platform also has a phone, its own chat features, and email and calendar features.
- Google Meet: This is an in-browser video conferencing solution that is free.
Talent Optimization is essentially the collection, analysis, and application of “people data.” It’s critical to ensure your team is in the proper role, with the right responsibilities, so that you can achieve your desired business results. There are a couple of different solutions:
- The Predictive Index: The pioneer of talent optimization as a concept, The Predictive Index is a solution for better hiring, team creation, and talent analysis.
- Lattice: Lattice is a great solution for existing teams to conduct 1:1s, perform reviews, offer and receive feedback, and keep an up-to-date organizational chart for everyone to access easily.
2. Foster an open-door policy
Startups thrive on innovation and creativity, and team members must feel comfortable sharing their ideas and thoughts without fearing being shut down. To improve communication, your leadership team should consider establishing an open-door policy where team members can approach them with any concerns or ideas they may have.
This will only work if leadership shows an eagerness to hear out new ideas and concerns, so yes – you have to keep your office door open.
On remote teams, it’s challenging to demonstrate a proverbial “open door.” However, leaders can still encourage team members to send direct messages on Slack, Microsoft Teams, or whatever platform they use. Then, make a concerted effort to engage with those messages sincerely.
3. Be smart about your meetings policy
Regular team meetings are essential for keeping everyone on the same page and ensuring everyone is consistently aligned with your startup’s goals and objectives.
To ensure these meetings are a good use of everyone’s time, however, assign your desired goals and outcomes at the start so that clear action items drive the business forward by the end.
A growing trend among startups is to assign one day per week where no meetings are allowed. These days are not just about having free time or being able to transition into deep work. It’s an invaluable tool for learning about company culture and your organization’s ethos around meetings.
In another headline-worthy startup trend, Shopify removed all recurring meetings with more than two people “in perpetuity” while re-upping a rule that no meetings at all can be held on Wednesdays. The company’s leaders encouraged workers to decline other meetings and remove themselves from large internal chat groups.
There seems to be a growing consensus that large, long, unproductive meetings have become a scourge of today’s startup environments and the enemy of forward movement. If and when you schedule recurring meetings, be strategic about their purpose and cadence.
4. Encourage feedback and constructive criticism
Feedback and constructive criticism can help team members grow and develop, but providing it positively and constructively is essential. As a leader, encourage team members to give feedback to each other and provide constructive criticism when necessary. This feedback can help improve processes, products, and services and ultimately drive success.
5. Set clear expectations for communication
In a startup environment, time is of the essence, and miscommunication can be costly. If your team knows exactly what you expect and exactly what to expect from you, it’s one less energy drain on their subconscious.
Avoid ambiguity at all costs. Be clear about deadlines, when you will get back to them with an answer or project, and their priorities.
If you want a morning check-in with them, make that clear. If you abide by a “no news is good news” policy, ensure that’s also clear.
In essence, it is impossible to over-communicate in a startup environment. As a leader, it’s your job to distill these practices from the top down so that your team feels comfortable offering and receiving feedback, being open about their own processes and ideas, and empowering them to grow your business.
This blog was authored by Viaduct Talent Consultant Sarah Garcia.