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(c) Cleber Carvalho

Most of these “Leadership Proverbs” I’ve just picked up, absorbed and imbibed by some process of osmosis along the way and don’t know exactly whom they originated from. But when I know I’ll make reference, and when I don’t it’s not that I’m ungrateful or that I want to appear like a genius. It’s genuinely that I can’t remember. So if I’ve flogged something from you let me know and I’ll happily acknowledge it.

Team communication is exponential

Leadership is inherently about relationships. You’re always leading a group of people, and those people are following you so that together you can strive towards a future that is better than today. And because it’s so relational that also means that communication is central. You need to communicate with them and they will need to communicate with you.

And the thing is that communication is so hard. Not only do I need to crystalise in my own head what it is I think/want, I then need to extract that from my brain and find the words to articulate those thoughts in a way that communicates what I mean. But it’s not done once I’ve done that, because then the person I’m communicating with needs to receive those thoughts. And the receiver may very well misunderstand or mishear me, either due to my own incompetence or because of issues of their own. And then they will crystalise their thoughts and seek to articulate them to me and the whole process continues.

And this process of communication is even harder when there is more than one of us communicating. More voices. More opportunities for misunderstanding or mishearing.

But here’s the part that is often overlooked: the complexity of team communication grows exponentially. The lines of communication compound. When there’s 2 people you have technically one line of communication that both people travel on. In a 3 person team there are three lines of communication. In both of these situations you could have a one on one meeting with each of these people and relatively quickly you have everyone up to speed on what’s happening and everyone feels close to everyone.

If there are 6 people on your team then you suddenly jump up to 15 lines of communication. You could still meet one on one with each of these people but it’s becoming more unwieldy and the space between meetings will be increasing due to the increased volume of meetings you’re having and so people will feel less connected to you. Plus they are also communicating with each other and feeling less connected to each other as well.

If there are 16 people on your team there are now 120 lines of communication. It gets complex quickly, people feel left out and “no one told me” happens much easier. Having 16 one on one meetings is very difficult from a sheer time perspective, but also keeping the information communicated uniform over those 16 meetings becomes very difficult. Communication would be much slower and mid-course corrections  while keeping everyone informed becomes almost impossible.

If you double the number of team members so there’s 32 people on your team you don’t then just double the number of lines of communication. You don’t have 240 lines of communication. You have a staggering 496 separate lines of communication. This thing goes exponential.

Communication is vital for a team to function well. People need information and they need to know what is happening. The more people on your team the harder this is to accomplish. What is required is multiple, overlapping and redundant forms of communication. You’ll have group meetings, one on one meetings, emails, txts, Facebook groups, Facebook messages, paper copies and whatever else you can think of. And they’ll all communicate the same message each time. You’ll communicate the same information more often, in various forms and locales. Because the network is so complicated and in order to weave the net as tightly as possible so that no one drops through and feels as though “they weren’t told”.

Communication compounds in complexity. And so your communication needs to be multiple and redundant. And you’ll most likely need to consciously work harder on people feeling close to you.

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