One of the things that I’ve always loved about yoga is the emphasis on your breath. Each move is associated with an inhale or exhale and every movement should be supported and enhanced by deep breathing. Breath also serves as a safety for the practitioner. If a certain pretzel-y twist is too challenging to breath easily, then that is a sign that something is wrong- maybe that’s not the best pose for the person involved.
I’d invite you to view communication as the vital component that serves as an indicator of your organizational health. Just as if you were bent into a challenging yoga pose, you would find yourself holding your breath uncomfortably, when you are in an uncomfortable place in your organization, it can be easy for communication to become stunted or short. If resources are sparse or new projects require attention, it can take make it hard to communicate with excellence. Here’s a few ways we can work to improve communication, even when times are tough.
1. Make the best use of technology.
Communication doesn’t need to be face-to-face meetings to be effective. So many tools exist to help your team be more productive through communication. Cloud-based tools like Google Calendar can help your team plan meetings, set goals, and keep in touch with each other’s projects. Asana and Trello are task management platforms that allow you to assign tasks and track their completion. Nonprofits can access resources like Google Apps for free and there are usually low-cost options via vendors like Tech Soup. If everyone is held accountable, this could be a staple in your communication.
Our team checks in via a 15 minute G-Chat twice a week and we’re working on incorporating a task management software to keep us up to speed in between. This helps me, as a manager, to know what is accomplished and who needs help without gathering everyone into one room.
2. Make meetings sacred time.
How do you do that, exactly? Well, the first thing is to make sure that meetings are productive. No one wants to come to a meeting that feels as though it rambles on eternally or accomplishes nothing. Leave brief time for catch up, because team building is important, but try to tie that time to something tangible like sharing coffee at the beginning of the meeting. Make sure the agenda is published in advance so everyone can contribute.
Next, make sure that your meetings are safe spaces where everyone’s contributions are important. If a dominant voice talks over shy team members or a certain staffer seems to slink back instead of project forward, consider some facilitation methods to help everyone feel included.
Lastly, make sure that your meetings are regular enough that nothing gets missed in between, and that each one doesn’t need to stretch on for hours. If a meeting goes longer than an hour regularly, it is either discombobulated or poorly planned, or needs to happen more frequently. Since no one’s attention span can really span much longer than an hour, why not consider breaking it up or assigning some items to online tools?
3. Utilize the power of one-on-one.
If your board members, volunteers, and/or staff don’t hear from you often, they may begin to feel disconnected. But that doesn’t mean that every single meeting needs to happen in a large group. It can feel easier to get it all out at once, but it can be hard to plan. Why not schedule a quick call or face-to-face just to check in? You’d be surprised what people think is not worth reaching out to you about. Your team’s next big success could be a concept they are imagining and dismissing as impossible. A small hiccup that plagues a volunteer could be cleared up in a ten-minute call. The power of one-on-one gives people a safe space to ask questions or pitch ideas they wouldn’t feel comfortable doing in a group. Because it’s so much easier to plan a meeting with two people, or even to just make a call or pop by their office, it can be a big help in keeping teams connected.