Mastering Team Communication, Building High-Performing Teams

Introduction to Team Communication and Building High-Performing Teams 

Different teams shape work experiences differently, mainly depending on how individuals spend significant portions of their time collaborating toward shared goals.

However, today's teams are constantly evolving and cross-organizational, making traditional teamwork models obsolete.

To excel in this dynamic landscape, teams must cultivate two essential skills: assessing their current working patterns and course-correcting them in real time.

This is where team coaching comes into play, empowering teams to become high performers. Through awareness and intentional conversation, teams can transform their dynamics and unlock their superpower.

Let's delve deeper into the importance of conversational habits and how they can impact team communication and overall effectiveness.

Unveiling the Conversational Leadership Landscape 

Team coaching helps teams gain awareness of their conversational patterns. Lisa Blosser, a partner at NSP, describes her experience.

"A seasoned executive team believed they knew each other well until they participated in an exercise. Each executive shared a personal experience, and the rest of the team had the opportunity to ask exactly one question. The catch? The question had to begin with a "What." As they reflected on the types of questions asked, they discovered a common tendency to focus on action-oriented problem-solving rather than deeper exploration. This revelation shed light on their number one team communication habit and its impact on decision-making, strategy, and outcomes. They quickly realized their number one team dynamic habit was trying to solve the problem without listening or probing deeper. Team coaching exposes these conversational patterns that often go unnoticed, enabling teams to address them and enhance their collective intelligence."

10 Common Conversational Habits that Hinder Team Communication Effectiveness 

Often, one side may feel there is a broken promise, while the other side believes they fulfilled their end of the agreement.

These vague agreements often stem from embedded assumptions or incomplete communication. To overcome this, teams should strive to establish clear and detailed agreements, ensuring that all parties involved have a shared understanding of what is expected and how success will be measured.

Never forget - clarity in agreements fosters trust and keeps misunderstandings to a minimum.

  1. Unclear Conversational Purpose or Structure

    A conversation begins on shaky ground when there is no shared understanding of its purpose and structure. Are we engaging in an open discussion, or do we need to make a decision? Is there a clear framework in place to guide our decision-making process?

    In order to build high-performing teams, it is crucial to establish these parameters from the outset to ensure a productive and focused conversation. Without clarity, discussions can easily deviate or lose direction, hindering progress and leaving participants feeling uncertain or disengaged.

  2. Dropped Call: Imagine a scenario where someone in a conversation introduces an idea or comments, but it goes unnoticed or fails to be acknowledged by other participants. This phenomenon, a "dropped call," can have detrimental effects on team collaboration and creativity.

    Valuable insights and contributions may be lost, and individuals may feel undervalued or discouraged from sharing their ideas in the future. Recognizing and addressing dropped calls is essential for creating an inclusive and supportive team environment where every voice is heard and respected.

    Encouraging active listening and providing space for all ideas to be acknowledged and explored can foster a culture of openness, collaboration, and efficient team communication.

  3. Conversational Litter: In the midst of team conversations, it is not uncommon for someone to bring up a serious or vexing topic that demands attention. However, what often happens is that the team, consciously or unconsciously, avoids or ignores this conversational "litter."

    It may stem from discomfort, a desire to maintain harmony or a fear of addressing sensitive issues. Yet, by sidestepping these important discussions, high-performing teams miss out on opportunities for growth, understanding, and resolution.

    Creating a safe space where difficult topics can be openly addressed is crucial for fostering a culture of trust and transparency.

  4. Bystanding: Picture a situation where something discussed in a team meeting is unclear or confusing, but no one speaks up or follows up to seek clarification. This bystander phenomenon can occur when team members assume that others share their confusion or hesitate to slow down the meeting's progress.

    Unfortunately, this lack of proactive engagement can hinder the team's collective understanding and decision-making. To overcome this challenge, it is important for individuals to take responsibility for seeking clarity and voicing their concerns.

    Creating a culture that values curiosity and encourages active participation can improve team communication while empowering team members to ask questions, seek clarification, and actively contribute to the team's shared knowledge and success.

  5. Lack of Collective Accountability: When teams fail to hold each other accountable to follow team norms or agreements, it can erode trust, impede progress, and hinder the team's overall effectiveness.

    Merely documenting norms or agreements is insufficient; it is the collective reinforcement or neglect of these norms that truly matters. In taking deliberate steps to build a high-performing team, every member, not just the leader, should take ownership of the team's well-being and hold themselves and others accountable.

    Teams must ensure that everyone upholds their commitments, respects agreed-upon norms, and actively supports one another, ultimately strengthening trust and fostering a high-performing team dynamic.

  6. Unclaimed Victories: Celebrating team accomplishments and milestones is essential for reinforcing positive behaviors, acknowledging individual and collective contributions, and promoting a sense of achievement and camaraderie.

    However, sometimes, teams may neglect to celebrate their successes beyond the final outcome. By solely focusing on the end result, teams miss valuable opportunities to reinforce and internalize the positive patterns and behaviors that led to their achievements.

    Recognizing and celebrating the process, learning, and growth along the way fosters a culture of continuous improvement and encourages team members to embrace risk-taking and accountability. Therefore, in terms of team communication, it is important for teams to actively reflect on their wins, both big and small, and to intentionally reinforce the positive behaviors that contribute to their collective success.

  7. Direct to Solution: When faced with an issue or challenge, high-performing teams may exhibit a tendency to quickly jump to finding a solution without fully understanding the problem or exploring underlying assumptions.

    This rush-to-solve mode often stems from discomfort or uncertainty as team members seek immediate resolution. However, by bypassing the crucial step of gaining a comprehensive understanding of the issue at hand, teams may overlook vital information, make hasty decisions, and fail to address the root causes effectively.

    Encouraging teams to embrace a more comprehensive problem-solving approach, one that emphasizes understanding and exploration before moving toward solutions, can lead to more informed and effective decision-making processes.

  8. Assumptions/Hiding in the 'We': Teams sometimes fall into the trap of using language that assumes a consensus or shared perspective without verifying if everyone truly agrees or feels the same way.

    This habit of hiding behind the collective "we" can lead to miscommunication, misunderstandings, and unaddressed individual perspectives. It is important for team members to be mindful of the assumptions embedded in their statements and to seek input and validation from others actively.

    Team communication tip - Assumptions must be recognized, challenged, and ultimately replaced with a more nuanced and inclusive understanding.

  9. Conversation Off-Ramps: During team discussions, it is not uncommon for someone to introduce a new topic or idea that diverts the conversation away from the current focus.

    While exploring new avenues can be valuable, failing to acknowledge the unfinished conversation or neglecting to redirect back to the original topic can lead to fragmented discussions and missed opportunities for closure.

    Teams must ensure that each topic receives the necessary attention and that conversations flow more smoothly. Clear communication and effective facilitation are key in building high-performance teams and guiding the team back to the original conversation or deciding on a deliberate shift in focus.

  10. Vague Agreements: Ineffective agreements can create misunderstandings and disappointment within a team. When agreements lack clarity or specificity, it becomes challenging for both parties involved to meet their respective expectations.

Also read our latest blog - Addressing the Employee Mental Health Crisis

The Impact of Conversational Habits on Team Communication Effectiveness 

These conversational habits mentioned above have detrimental effects on team communication, dynamics, and outcomes:

  • Eroding team trust and psychological safety.
  • Wasting valuable meeting time.
  • Creating an environment where individuals feel unheard and undervalued.
  • Reducing collective capacity and stifling innovation.
  • Hindering intellectual honesty and progress on shared work.

How Leaders Can Improve Conversational Intelligence to Build High-Performing Teams 

It starts with a foundation of psychological safety. Any high-performing team member can self-assess with the following question: How safe do other team members and I feel to openly share thoughts without fear of negative consequences?

  • Unsafe/somewhat unsafe?
  • Neutral?
  • Safe/very safe?

To enhance conversational intelligence, teams must prioritize psychological safety, fostering an environment where individuals feel safe to express their thoughts without fear of negative consequences.

Here are some strategies for high-performance teams at different levels of psychological safety:

  1. Teams with a low degree of psychological safety: Seek the guidance of a team coach who can facilitate a process of noticing, experimenting, and practicing shared team ownership. This approach amplifies safety for difficult conversations, empowering the team to identify patterns and course-correct at any moment.
  2. Teams with a medium degree of psychological safety: Conduct regular meeting inventories to evaluate the effectiveness of conversations. Reflect on topics covered, inclusivity of all voices, and identify areas for improvement in future meetings.
  3. Teams with a high degree of team psychological safety: Embrace the practice of pausing, noticing, and naming the conversational habits present in the team’s communication. Choose one habit to work on and actively practice interrupting the conversation to discuss and make intentional choices about how to proceed.

Harnessing the Power of Team Coaching 

To break free from ineffective teamwork and communication that hampers progress and missed opportunities, teams must upgrade their operating patterns.

Investing in team coaching allows teams to cultivate a culture of high trust, accountability, intellectual honesty, and collaboration, ultimately unlocking their true potential.


Conversational habits are the hidden force shaping team dynamics and outcomes. Recognizing and addressing these habits is crucial for teams aiming to become high performers. With the support of team coaching, teams can identify their communication patterns, course-correct in real-time, and elevate their collective intelligence. Embracing the power of effective conversations and fostering psychological safety allows teams to unlock their superpower and achieve exceptional results.

Don't settle for mediocre teamwork; upgrade your team's operating patterns and unleash their full potential through the transformative practice of team coaching. Speak with a high-performance team-building expert today:

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