Everyone has heard the saying that “teamwork makes the dream work,” but it’s not always clear what makes a great team. When it comes to recruiting in any field, there’s often an easy emphasis on talented and high-achieving individuals — but how do you know those individuals are going to work well together?
Leading a high-achieving team relies on establishing trust and breaking down barriers between people so they can work together towards a common goal. To put it simply: great teams rely on great communication. As the world of business becomes more international and multilingual, leaders with the ability to jump between cultures and idioms to communicate will have a competitive advantage over their peers.
How Phil Jackson’s Communication Lessons Apply to Business
Some of the clearest examples of great team cohesion and leadership through communication come from sports. Reigning supreme among basketball coaches is Phil Jackson, coach of the Chicago Bulls from 1989 to 1998 and the Los Angeles Lakers from 1999 to 2004 and 2005 to 2011. As a result of his nuanced coaching style, he holds a record 11 NBA championship titles as a coach. He expounds on his coaching wisdom in his book Eleven Rings, but one clear lesson he taught was about communication.
When he was coaching the Chicago Bulls, he stressed the importance of communication by having his team practice in silence—and sometimes even in the dark. Though this is an extreme example, it highlights the importance of clear and easy communication as a path to success — and this effect is noticed in many different contexts.
According to a meta-analysis looking at 150 different studies and more than 9000 teams, strong communication was often correlated with better outcomes and more success. Furthermore, a Communication ROI Study done by Watson Wyatt showed that business teams with better communication had 47% higher returns over a five-year period than their competitors. While the data clearly show that streamlining internal processes can result in financial gain, the report also highlighted the cultural and emotional qualities of courage, innovation and discipline as factors allowing and driving good communciation. Though these specific values are important everywhere, they highlight an underappreciated aspect of good communication — namely, the emotionals benefits it can provide.
How Good Communication Boosts Team Morale
In interpersonal relationships, it’s easy to see why communication is so important. When speaking to friends, family or romantic partners, knowing what the other person is thinking and being able to safely express it leads to more trust—and with more trust, you can take on harder and harder challenges together. Though this explanation is simple, it’s a principle that holds at scale in organizations and that is backed up by research.
According to a study published in Public Relations Review, strong internal communications were associated with stronger, more positive emotional cultures. While a company’s cognitive culture largely determines how a group thinks and makes strategic decisions, the emotional culture dictates how they feel as they carry out their mission and goals. While our professional life is often full of challenges and difficult situations, a team’s ability to bond together and persevere beyond them is what separates good companies from great ones.
As the study explained, improved communication provided the groundwork for emotions like joy, pride, gratitude and even love to flourish in the workplace. In our personal lives (and in the athletic arena), it’s easy to see how positive emotions and being in a “flow” state can help us achieve things that we wouldn’t be able to otherwise. The same is true for business teams—and though getting everyone on the same page can be more difficult when team members span different cultures and languages, that diversity and strength is all the more powerful when harnessed correctly.
Using Language Learning To Empower Your Team
Though it’s clear to see that good communication makes for stronger and more effective teams, it can be difficult for even the best leaders to achieve these kinds of teams in a large, international context. Fortunately, language learning programs offer a potent solution. By using language learning programs like Babbel for Business, teams can strengthen their language skills to communicate across all kinds of cultural and geographic boundaries. By speaking to someone in their own language, you speak to their heart instead of simply speaking to their brain — and it takes heart to win the hardest victories.
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