Common Language, Common Ground: Improving Team Communication

Responsibility for communication falls to the leader, and often requires getting out of your comfort zone, to where one must attempt to speak in a language that is understood.

Common Language, Common Ground: Improving Team Communication
A volunteer on the Crossroads Community Church Media Team in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, works with ProPresenter while a new recruit looks on and learns.
Credit: Yeydi Jimenez, Crossroads Community Church

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When traveling, I usually find myself depending on those around me who know languages other than English fluently. At the same time, I do my best to at least learn a few common phrases in those other languages, like “Which way to the bathroom?” and “Do you think we should try IEM at my church?” Ultimately, though, I’m out of my element.

As important as it is to try to have a common language with your team, no one is fluent in all languages.

But I do have three years of high school Spanish! If I meet a native French or Italian or Shona speaker who also took three years of high school Spanish, we can have a conversation. While neither of us may be 100 percent fluent, it’s fun to dust off those lessons and try to build that sort of connection.

Common language is so important to basic communication.

When building a team, having a common language can make or break you. Everything from training, to problem solving, to team growth lives or dies on your ability to connect with your volunteers.

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses in how they express themselves, but thinking everyone on your crew communicates the same can be frustrating for all.

Responsibility for communication falls to the leader, and often requires getting out of your comfort zone. We must attempt to speak in a language that they understand, even on a high school level Spanish level. We want to reach everyone, without any “language barriers.”

There’s No Point Talking When No One Listens

Starting with a purely technical idea of communication: Everyone has a way they like to hear from the world, be it phone calls, emails, face-to-face meetings or carrier pigeons. Some people use everything, some people only a few. But if you pick a method your team just doesn’t get, you might as well just fax it directly to their trash can.

A few years ago, our crew did all scheduling by email, but it never really stuck. Even committed volunteers missed the emails. To figure out why, a short survey was sent out at Crossroads Community Church asking people to rank how they liked to get information. What we learned is email was the worst possible way to reach this team. But the survey also revealed everyone was on Facebook. We immediately swapped off email and set up a Facebook group. Communication improved overnight.

More About Adrian Gates
Adrian Gates is the Media Director for Crossroads Community Church in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. In his 16 years as a media professional, Adrian has served many different roles, including music producer, web master, videographer, consultant, social media “expert,” sound guy, lighting guy, stage hand, and roadie. His clients have included some of the largest tech companies in the world, New England churches looking to modernize, and dedicated weekend warriors. Adrian is a graduate of the New England Institute of Art and Communications.
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