Skip to content

Group Communication: The Right Way

Read Time: 3 minutes 10 seconds



Share this

An article in Harvard Business Review points out that great group communications depend on the quality, not the quantity, of group meetings. Poor meetings undermine productivity, creative thinking, and—for a staggering 62% of those interviewed—they end up destroying opportunities to bring the team closer.

Great group communications are marked by:

  • A clear reason and purpose for the meeting.
  • Critical members present and they each know their role.
  • A common language, including explanations for jargon or highly technical terms.
  • Inclusive and culturally sensitive language.
  • Absence of distractions—a willingness to commit attention to each other.
  • Trust in each other.
  • The avoidance of pressure to agree or conform.
  • Leadership with active listening skills.

TIP: For a group to communicate effectively, they need to use words that everyone understands: defining terms, jargon, or inside references saves time.

Great group communications are leveraged through:

  • Technology

From microphone to video conference, technology helps all the group members hear the same message at the same time and be heard. Investing in high quality equipment and knowing how to use it are key to this solution. On the other hand, many groups find communications improve by banning personal technology (cell phones, laptops) from the group.

  • Rules

The same rules that work for mentoring people individually—being attentive, honest, direct, prepared, and respectful—also work well for group communications. The group should have the opportunity to establish its own rules in many areas: for example, the number and length of meetings; the need for every group member to participate in every meeting; or the type of technology employed, especially as members may have different levels of access to and comfort with technology.

Great group communications begin with:

  • Facilitation

Facilitation is an important activity during meetings. What is common in a meeting space is the person calling the meeting or the top-ranking team member facilitates. That is short-sided as they are not always the best person to facilitate. Facilitation takes finesse and a level of respect and trust from the entire group. Because, as a facilitator, you encourage the participation of quiet members by asking their opinion or by breaking a large group into smaller units to encourage more people to contribute, which might require the silencing of more boasterous talkers. You can help keep the group on topic by interrupting respectfully when side topics are introduced. You can help resolve conflict by summarizing objectively or suggesting next steps, such as gathering more data or calling in an outside expert. People will disagree. People will complain. Great group communications include a willingness to accept and deal with disagreement and to provide a forum—perhaps a dedicated check-in meeting—to deal with communications issues. Facilitators navigate through all of these dynamics and more so the group concludes on the best possible note.

  • Leadership

The leader in a group is/can be different from the facilitator. Leaders have a responsibility to plan and prepare for the meeting, to take with them knowledge, tools, and resources the group can use to stimulate discussion. While groups should allow people to disagree, make mistakes, and raise uncomfortable topics, if group communications begin to deteriorate, it is the leader within the group that must course-correct immediately. Depending on the group’s response, you may decide that the situation is merely an oversight, easily correctable, or so intolerable that you need to exert your authority. The group will inherently turn to the leader for this guidance.

TIP: Facilitators smooth the path of group communications; leaders make sure the path starts out and stays smooth.

  • Relaxation

A group may enjoy socializing outside of company hours. If no one feels either excluded or pressured to participate, non-work-related interaction often stimulates group cohesion and strengthens communications. In any case, every group needs a break from even the best communications. While there is no dependable research on attention spans—so much depends on where the attention is focused—by the age of 16, most people can concentrate for 32-48 minutes. In addition, we now know that long periods of sitting are bad for health and increases physiological stress. If a meeting goes past 45 minutes, consider a break for the group to take its collective breath.

Key Takeaways

Great group communications stem from meeting individual needs: for example, making sure there’s a real reason for each person to be meeting, using clear and inclusive language, setting rules that everyone agrees to, and demonstrating leadership with active listening, a willingness to intervene when communications falter, and respect for everyone’s time and attention.

Was this helpful?


Leave a Comment