06/18/2012 01:40 pm ET Updated Aug 18, 2012

Talk Your Way to Greater Team Productivity

A topic I'm hearing lately from managers is, "My team is not as productive as they should be." It almost sounds like an epidemic out there. When I hear this I think to myself, that's right, it is YOUR team. So if there is a problem with your team, that makes you a part of the problem. The good news is that because it's your team, you can do something about it. In my experience, when teams are not as productive as they need to be, communication is usually the root cause. Why is that? You would think that with all the practice we get talking that communication wouldn't be the issue. It's not easy because people are wired differently. This is why the exact same message can get two totally different reactions from two different people.

Pop quiz: Do you know for a fact the preferred communication style of each of your team members? If no, then you're not as productive as you can be. Here are a few of the biggest stealers of your time when you don't know how to adjust your approach for maximum effectiveness and neither can your team members.

You play referee instead of coach. How many times are you pulled into disputes between two team members that you think they should be able to resolve on their own?
Groundhog Day, all over again. You have to say the same thing to the same person more than once. Not only is this not an efficient use of your or their time, it brings you that much closer to insanity.
Ships in the night. You're standing right in front of the person, being as direct and specific as you can be with your point or direction, and you feel like the two of you are talking right past each other. Tick, tick, tick.

Look at this from the perspective of a professional sports coach. I think we can all agree that by the time an athlete gets to the pro level, the x's and o's part of the game is something they all know. The level of individual talent is relatively equal. So it's up to the coach to get the maximum achievement from comparable talent. He or she can't do that if they treat each player the exact same way, expecting everyone to adapt his or her preferred style. So when you boil it down, the great coaches are great motivators and therefore great communicators. The best coaches know you must learn how best to communicate with each player so he or she can execute the game plan to the greatest extent possible. Execution leads to productivity, productivity to performance. So how are you going to get through to your folks so you can make things hum?