What You Should Do When Your Team’s Communication Falls Apart

You’re not a mind reader, but you’re likely working in a team where you wish you were. Here’s how to communicate better with them.

What You Should Do When Your Team’s Communication Falls Apart
[Photo: Flickr user Daniela Vladimirova]

Regardless of our roles, most of us work in teams at one time or another. If we want to achieve our goals it takes coordination, cooperation, and collaboration to keep all the moving parts moving.


But what happens when the team starts to lose pace and unravel? Here are three tips to get you back on track:

1. Raise Issues With The Goal In Mind

You’ve come together as a team because you share a goal. Together, you’ll accomplish something fantastic that none of you could do on your own.

The moment you become aware that something’s taking your team away from your collective goal is the time to be extremely curious. Ask the entire team, “How is this bringing us closer to our goal?” Then share your perspective on why you think it is taking you all off course.

When you raise the question and share your point of view, you’re inviting a discussion with your teammates. You may not see why or how that something helps the goal, but others might.

When you raise issues in this manner, the context is crystal clear: it’s all about the goal. It’s a goal achievement issue, not a personal attack and an effective way to get everyone back on track.

2. Embrace Conflict

Even if you’re not the official team leader, in a collaborative work environment everyone on the team is responsible for its leadership and its outcomes. Not just the project manager.


Everyone needs to step up and ask the hard questions–the ones we all avoid because conflict is uncomfortable.

We’re so afraid of the negative feelings and images we associate with conflict that we forget its benefits: clarity, innovation, improved morale, increased understanding of yourself and others, even better working relationships, not to mention greater effectiveness and efficiency.

Change your mindset. Think of conflict as a stream that’s blocked by tree branches and rocks. Better to ask how you can tackle eliminating that block than to ignore it and watch the team, and the project, implode.

3. Discuss Roles And Tasks Up Front

Every team has a mix of people with different roles to perform. In many cases, people are assigned to teams based on their job responsibilities in an organization or department.

When we join or lead a team we make all kinds of assumptions about what we’ll be doing. And we do the same for other people based on what we know about them: their job title and responsibilities, outward appearance, behavior, and attitude. But that route is filled with pitfalls.

Just because Mike works in finance, is neat, organized, and quiet doesn’t mean his role on this project should be taking care of the project’s books or that he’ll enjoy doing that. It could very well be that he’s a brilliant and creative business strategist who is also adept at finding win/wins in conflicts. And that’s why he’s on the team. But unless you’ve worked with him before, how would you know that?


This is why at the outset of any collaboration knowing who of you is going to be responsible for what outcomes and tasks is vital. Playing to everyone’s strengths means tasks are done more efficiently and effectively. This helps speed you to your goal. But without defined roles and responsibilities, it’s easy to duplicate some efforts and neglect others.

Teams quickly derail when they lose sight of their goal, avoid confronting burning issues, and lack clearly defined roles and responsibilities. The sooner you nip those in the bud, the faster you’ll get back on track.

Scott Schreiman is the CEO of Samepage, the platform that groups and organizations use to easily share ideas, content and context with each other to get more done.