Project Manager Lyndsay Ansell shares her latest Teams insights, focusing on how to ensure your team is communicating effectively. Find out how to prevent issues such as convoluted posts and thread overload with Lyndsay’s top rules to live by, based on her firsthand experience with the collaboration platform.
"With new tools come new rules; tech advancements mean these are ever-changing, which is another part of the challenge."
Once your colleagues join you on the Teams journey - and find out for themselves how empowering and effective the resulting enhanced collaboration experience can be - half of the 'business change' battle is won. I suspect the other half of the battle will continue to be fought throughout all eternity… the fight for good communication.
With new tools come new rules; tech advancements mean these are ever-changing, which is another part of the challenge. The writing-style of a 100-year-old document looks very different from the tweets of today. With 'chat' style groups and social media etiquette, there are now more ways than ever to communicate with the world. I'm not professing to be an expert myself in the art of communication but a key thing for me, particularly in the workplace, is clarity. Teams can help to get your messages to the right people, but are those messages clear?
Here are the 'rules' I try to live by for all my Teams communications:
Rule #1 - Stick to the point
You must have a good reason to have gone to the trouble of posting something in Teams, right? Keep in mind the purpose of your communication - what are you hoping will happen as a result of your post? Do you need a question answered or an instruction received and actioned? Or are you just sharing information that may be of interest? If you find that you are not seeing the results you want from your posts, try to assess whether you have clearly stated your purpose.
Rule #2 - Be brief
I'm of the 'don't use ten words where one will do' school of writing. Let's go for quality over quantity, people. Thread-space in the Teams client is easily eaten up by a lengthy post, and some team members may well be on mobile. Try to keep your thread contributions as neat as possible, while still conveying the ultimate ask or meaning. (Note; this doesn’t just mean 'cut out words' - posts still have to make sense!)
Rule #3 - Use the @mention feature
If you need a response from a specific person in Teams, try the @mention tactic. When you mention a person in a post, they will receive a notification in their activity feed, which will tell them they are needed. If you don't mention them specifically, you risk them missing the post altogether.
As an aside, if you only need to speak to this person about something that doesn't impact the rest of the Team or channel, you could consider using chat instead.
Rule #4 - Reply to threads (don't start a new conversation)
Sometimes in teams I'll see that one member has started a thread, and in response another member has started a new thread, instead of replying to the existing post. This fragments the conversation and can make things confusing. Hit 'reply' rather than 'start a new conversation' if you're responding to an existing channel conversation - keep everything joined up.
Rule #5 - Be specific with clear call-to-actions
Questions like this are easy to answer/action:
"Lyndsay, please can you provide me an updated Project Plan for customer X and project X by the end of the week? I am speaking to them on Monday and would like to know of any blockers or delays."
I've got my deliverable, a deadline and the context in a few short words there.
Questions like this are not easy to answer:
"Lyndsay, I'll be speaking to customer X soon, do you have a view on the current project activity with them? I'd like to have a sense of what's going on there so that I can speak to them about it."
There's no specific deliverable here, no deadline, and just a vague reason. I know which one I'm more likely to respond to…
Rule #6 - Have thread discipline
Once we're at 84 responses on a single thread, I personally feel that the conversation may have outgrown the platform. Find a time for a call instead and get that conversation wrapped up.
Rule #7 -If all else fails, GIF
The ancient Egyptians communicated with pictures, and so can we. A well-meant and well-timed GIF can breathe life (and all-important humour) into conversations. GIF them a go…!
Teams can enhance collaboration for sure but remember, the clear communication part is up to the team itself.
Have questions about Microsoft Teams? Share your experiences in the comments section below. I’d love to hear from you.
Lyndsay Ansell | Project Manager
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