• Mark Topley

Five essential communication ingredients that suit everyone's tastes

I’ve probably written more about teams and the need to pay attention to them in the past 2 months than I’ve ever done.


Because you simply will not make it out of the COVID 19 lockdown successfully without the consistent commitment and support of your team.

For this quarter, team wellbeing and communication are the CSR X-factors. 

It’s absolutely true that you have serious and important financial, clinical, organisational and operational goals right now. You cannot achieve any of these alone. You depend on your team to ‘do the do and do it well’. You need things done to a high standard and without fear or compromise.

Whether it’s direct work with patients, implementing of procedures, strong internal communications and relationships, you need it all delivered with pride and purpose.

The challenge we face is the range of things that your team are feeling. However well they may have worked together beforehand, this is a new reality. It requires very different ways of working, at least for the short to medium term. Here’s what I am hearing from clients about their teams returning to work:

  • Some are scared about contracting COVID-19 at work.

  • Some are feeling a bit lethargic and run down after 12 weeks at home with a range of family responsibilities.

  • Some are downright obstructive, having enjoyed weeks of sunshine and full pay, they  have an entitled mentality that needs strong handling. And some are willing, able and keen to get back to work.

What your team needs

Bringing all these groups of people together, and handling their feelings and varying levels of commitment to work together requires some careful planning. A range of personality types all have different itches to scratch, and so a blend of approaches is needed.

Trust - the primary emotional currency that you need to get people back to work successfully is trust. Hopefully you have spent a good amount of time communicating with them during lockdown, taking an interest, demonstrating you care. Transparency and honesty will help you ride out the stressful days ahead together. 

Understanding - as Stephen Covey advised - ’seek first to understand, and then be understood’ . Taking time to hear from people is important. As well as confidence in your plan and the risk assessments you’ve done, you must show empathy and understanding. That will lead to people feeling heard. So many problems can be avoided in teams by ensuring you spend time listening.

Patience - some people in the team want limited information, delivered succinctly, others take longer to process. They’re not being difficult or flaky, they simply need time to explore ideas and feel secure in what you’re saying. Be be prepared to follow up with these people - a genuine open-door policy as well as seeking out people who you know operate like this is vital.

Clarity - as well as being prepared to spend time explaining and discussing things to some people, you need to have a clear, simple and short way of sharing it with others. The people in your team who tend to be confident, direct and decisive will want to be confident that you’ve done the thinking. They want communication that is strong and succinct.

Have the detail up your sleeve - finally, you need to keep some information back for those who want to know where your information is coming from. Do your research and make sure you have the references ready for these people. Having this ready will win over your detail orientated people.

Bringing it all together

Whether you are about to start back, or a few weeks in and needing to re-establish confidence, combining the above approaches and aspects in your communications will be important.

In summary, be prepared, ready and aware to structure your communications:

  • Short and sharp for some

  • Patient and taking the time to explain for others

  • Rapport, relationship and a social aspect are all important too

  • Do your research and have the detail ready

This kind of communication will really help you let your team know that you have their backs. In my experience, staff will be as committed to you as they feel you are committed to them.

Good luck. For more advice, visit my Facebook Page.

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