12 Communication Habits to Become a Better Team Leader

Let’s face it: Most professionals don’t have the gumption to point out to their boss habits that are killing morale, draining productivity, and building an emotional wall. In consulting with organizations for three decades and hearing clients complain about the communication—of lack thereof––from their boss or coworker across the hall, I’ve compiled the following list of communication habits to transform a work team.

Some may seem like common sense. But then again, common sense is not commonly practiced.

How to Communicate Better as the Team Leader

1. Make sure your team knows the results they’re expected to deliver. You can share your goals, ask team members to develop their own goals, or collaborate to develop mutual goals. But in the end, everyone needs to know what they’re expected to deliver at the finish line.

2. Avoid micromanaging people. Develop trust in your people, tell them the overall mission, and give them authority to develop the process. Micromanagement is a byproduct of fear and distrust; neither builds confidence—yours or your team’s.

3. Guide discussions with strategic, open-ended questions rather than know-it-all statements. Ask people to separate fact from opinion—and make it clear which is which. Allow plenty of time and silence for disagreement and collaboration to arrive at creative solutions.

4. Mediate conflict before it cripples your team. Unresolved, ongoing conflict can divert focus, drain emotional energy, and decrease productivity.

5. Respond promptly to questions or requests. Set a standard response time and live within those boundaries.

6. Become a coach, not a critic. Offer insight, mentoring, feedback, resources, encouragement, and accountability. People want to grow, improve, and do their best work. Give them that opportunity.

7. Reward great performance in ways that individuals want to be recognized: public or private praise, time off, money, gifts, attention, learning opportunities, increase responsibility. Make it personal.

8. Connect on a human level. Be approachable, transparent, and genuine in day-to-day interactions.

9. Make the meetings you lead matter. Plug power into your meeting agendas by using laser-focused questions that lead to solid analysis, clear decisions, and specific follow-up actions. If you’re going to waste time, do it on the golf course, the dance floor, or a gaming tournament—where it’s clearly fun, not pretend-work.

10. Give adequate notice when scheduling or cancelling a meeting. Last-minute meetings or cancellations communicate that no one’s time or activities count but your own.

11. Answer questions directly. Don’t play dodge ball with general answers that confuse and do not amuse.

12. Take responsibility for mistakes or poor decisions. Set the example for accountability. Team respect will be a sure by-product.

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