Activities to Improve Communication Skills in the Workplace

By Freelance Contributor | Strong Female Leaders

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Activities to Improve Communication Skills in the Workplace
Poor communication within a company doesn’t just lead to conflict or increase the likelihood of errors. It directly impacts the bottom line.

That is why many leaders scramble to create fun ways to improve COMMUNICATION IN THE WORK PLACE.

Good communication not only enhances business relationships; it also keeps the employee body engaged, stimulated and unified in reaching common goals, boosts productivity and shortens turnaround time, and increases collaboration and improves morale.

Employees who are kept in the loop and encouraged to share their ideas without fear of criticism are eager to continue innovating. When everyone has the courage and skillset to speak up and resolve issues, all team members are empowered to leverage their strengths and create a productive, happy and collaborative environment.

Open communication builds loyalty, trust and commitment to perform well. For all these reasons, it pays to learn and practice this often-overlooked skill. It takes continuous practice and fine-tuning to communicate well.

To get you started, we provided six activities to improve communication skills in the workplace.


1. Drawbacks
In face-to-face conversations, we have a whole toolbox at our disposal for conveying information or interpreting what’s being said: gestures, facial expressions, eye contact and body language. What would happen if we had to rely solely on the only words and tonality?

HOW IT WORKS:

In this exercise, two team members sit back to back. One has sketch paper and a pencil. The other chooses an image from a stack of pictures. Please keep the images simple. Examples include a lamp, a microwave oven, a traffic light or the Chrysler Building.

Without divulging from the object in the picture, one team member gives the other step-by-step instructions for drawing it. The artist can’t ask questions.

This forces the talker to be clear, detailed and patient. It forces the listener to correctly interpret and follow directions.

At the end, the artist gives feedback on what was clear and what wasn’t. Then, reverse the roles.


2. Rant
Nee a place to release steam now and then? Try "rant."

HOW IT WORKS:

Break the team into small groups of four or five. Give each participant a chance to rant about a pet peeve for TWO minutes. They can rant about the understaffed grocery store, pop-up ads, their mothers-in-law, or poorly written emails that needs spellchecking. Anything goes.

During each rant, listeners consider three questions to determine the underlying message: 1) what does the complainer really care about? 2) what does she value the most? And, 3) what matters most to him?

After either a brief conference or analysis alone, the listeners give their feedback regarding the questions about. Here's an example:

“Even in emails, you care about upholding the company image. You value professionalism and thoughtfulness. Respecting the English language matters to you.”

We recommend this exercise, because it teaches listeners to read between the lines during emotional conversations. It teaches your team to express themselves calmly and rationally when they feel frustrated. Lastly, it helps team members learn more about each other.


3. See You in the Funny Papers
This fun game helps to strengthen relationships, improve joint decision making, and spark creativity in team members. The drawback is that it requires at least nine participants.

HOW IT WORKS:

Break into small groups of three to six. Give each group paper, pencils and crayons. Each group must create a unique comic strip in which each person draws one panel. In a group of six, for example, the strip would have six panels.

Allow the teams five minutes to decide on the plot of the strip, the overall objective for each panel, and the artist for each panel. The players must then draw simultaneously without talking or peeking at others' work.

The benefit of this exercise is for teams to reach an ensuing discussion that covers the value of communicating well and involving everyone in group projects.


4. “I” Statements
This exercise aims to mitigate conflicts in the team.

Just like in marriages, discord in the workplace often results from team members feeling attacked and being defensive. We’re human after all, and not always open to criticism. We also sometimes deliver our criticism for others in a harsh and tactless way.

This exercise helps to reduce feelings of blame and teach team members on how to offer constructive criticism using “I” statements.

HOW IT WORKS:

Team Member: “When you (describe the behavior), I feel (name an emotion).”

Make up some typical altercations, and have the rest of the team reconstruct the discussions.

For instance, “You’re always late!” becomes “When you’re consistently late and fail to let the team know, I get anxious. I worry that you’ve been in an accident or that you’re having personal problems. What’s going on? Maybe I can help?”

“What do you expect? I’m only human!” becomes “When you give me a two-week deadline and ask the very next day if I’m finished, I feel overwhelmed. I feel slow and incompetent. Will you trust me to provide frequent updates?”

This exercise keeps the peace and boosts morale. When tensions flare, the team will be more open to handle situations more calmly and empathetically.

5. Mind Games
This exercise is ideal for team-building meetings or retreats.

HOW IT WORKS:

Ahead of time, do an internet search for card, domino or board games with complex rules. Examples are black jack or poker. Decide on a few favorites, and organize teams according to the number of players required.

Have players at each game table draw from a hat to select a reader and an explainer. Each pair will go into another room, and one team member will read the directions to the other. That person is responsible for explaining how to play the game to the other players.

Once the game is underway, the explainer can’t add anything. No questions about the rules are allowed. Even people who are familiar with the game must play according to only what the explainer remembered and communicated.

Afterward, players critique the explainer on clarity. The explainer critiques the players on how well they listened and followed directions.

The goal here is for everyone to remember the value of giving clear, concise and detail-oriented directions.


6. Mimes
One of the most important aspects of effective communication is open communication. Your team should both have freedom to ask questions and the knowledge ask the right questions. This exercise covers all the bases.

HOW IT WORKS:

Participants work in pairs and take turns being a mime or an asker. Assign the mime a topic, theme or activity that can be acted out. It might be diaper changing, welding or buying a new car. You could make it even tougher with a topic like "the Great Britain."

As the mime goes to work, the asker poses questions. This shouldn’t be a frenzied guessing game like Charades; the questions should logically follow the mime’s motions. The mime can only respond to questions by acting out the answer.

This teaches your team members to be accurate and thorough when they communicate, and to seek clarification when they don’t understand something.



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The Harvard Business Review Entrepreneur's Handbook
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