Enhancing Team Performance with Common Language

The penalty that is most frustrating for any hockey coach is that of too many players on the ice. Just look at the face of the coach when their team gets called for this mistake. It is almost always no single player’s fault. Fundametally, it is a penalty caused by poor communication. The team failed because they either didn’t have the language, or they didn’t use the language they had previously established, for communicating their intentions.

The use of common language will always enhance team performance. This is true because accurate communication is vital for both micro and macro decision-making. Imagine a surgeon not being able to communicate to her medical team what she needs because they have no common language for the tools they are using and the procedures they are performing together. Or, a lack of clarity of vision from the executive team to the support staff, resulting in organizational inefficiency and uncertainty of purpose.

The result of poor communication can be catastrophic or simply exhausting. Unclear expectations can lead to large-scale failure, or cause people to work with unnecessary added stress. Relationships become strained and teams can fail simply because they have not intentionally established a clear lexicon that supports their shared purpose.

Establishing common language in a team requires intentional planning.

It cannot be assumed that everyone is on the same page. Take time to discuss terms and words, and how they are used on a daily basis. Decrease the likelihood of miscommunication in times of high-stress and tight deadlines by deliberately working together on common language.

Take football as an example. When the quarterback calls an audible using a command unique to that team, every player on the line knows what’s about to happen, and what they are expected to do. The defence is caught off-guard and has to scramble because the offense is in sync with each other using common language unknown to the defence. This is all dependant on a pre-established set of terms that is understood by all team members.

Establishing common language will increase efficiency and the likelihood of success because it provides clarity of purpose and role for each person in any given task. Avoid the pitfalls that come with failing to communicate by creating a vocabulary for your team that supports the goals you are working toward.

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