As leaders, we must always be thinking about when and how and what we communicate with our team members. Finding our way here is critical to our short and long-term success as a leader. New leaders wonder how to do it and it can be even more challenging and complex if you are leading remotely. My solution is to create a communication cadence with your team members. In this article, I will explain what that is, and how to create one for you and your team.
What it is
A communication cadence is the flow or rhythm of communication between people, in this case between a leader and their team or individuals on the team. While this rhythm might not be the same with each team member, one needs to exist. Like a band that can’t stay together without a drummer creating and maintaining a rhythm, without a clear plan and cadence, communication with your team members will be less clear and less effective overall.
Keys to Creating it
Determine the right cadence. Not every song has the same tempo, and not every person requires the same frequency of communication with you. Think about the competence and confidence of each team member along with their personal communication needs. Consider the nature of their work, and both their needs and yours.
Think this through for yourself and talk with them too. Ask them how often they would like to connect and talk, ask them what they need from you to be successful. While you want to take their input, don’t ignore your needs either. Come to an understanding and create a plan for your communication cadence.
Factor in the informal. Some leaders leave this to chance, figuring that we will run into each other during the work day, and take care of issues and topics as needed. While we should hope that we will talk with our team members outside of planned communications (though this is difficult and a bad assumption if your team members work remotely), assuming this will suffice for communication is dangerous. All you need to do is look at the amount of poor communication in organizations to see that working without a plan isn’t working.
Create great one-on-ones. A big part of your communication cadence is determining the frequency of your on-on-one conversations. I’ve written some tips about these meetings before. Here are three specific tips that will help these meetings maintain your communication cadence:
- Have a schedule – it is one thing to decide you are going to meet every week, but another to actually meet. Get these meetings on your calendars and hold them as sacred times to connect and build better communication.
- Have a standing agenda – make sure both of you know the types of topics you will always address during these meetings.
- Keep a running list – as a leader keep a list of things you want to discuss with each team member and if they don’t get resolved in informal conversation, use time during your one-on-ones to do that. Encourage your team members to do the same.
Remember the bigger picture. With regularly scheduled one-on-ones your communication and success will improve. But there is also a need to think bigger and longer term with people too. Talking about goal and career planning and other bigger picture topics is important and doesn’t need to happen as frequently as the one-on-one. Schedule time for the long range and bigger picture topics beyond the regular work communication.
In most cases quarterly will be a good frequency here, but make sure you don’t go longer than once per year. In many cases the team member won’t ask for this conversation, assuming you will ring it up. Them not asking doesn’t mean they don’t want or need theses conversations. As the leader you are setting the cadence and make sure these bigger picture conversations are a part of it.
A Final Thought
Successful communication is hard enough when you have a cadence or a flow. When communication is sporadic and unpredictable it becomes even more difficult and less successful. As a leader you are the drummer, creating the right rhythm and flow for your communications. Set the tempo and make sure the beat goes on, and your communications will be more successful.
Questions about communications are just a small part of the questions new leaders ask us. If you have questions about this article or anything else about leading, especially if you are a new or front-line leader, join us for a special Live Q&A where you can ask your questions of both Guy Harris and me. March 28th at 2 pm ET. You can learn more and register here.