Category: Communication

As we are all aware, communication is a big part of our daily life. Whether it be in the workplace, at home, or socially, effective communication is an essential skill for everyone. Communication does not ‘just happen’, for effective communication to occur in a team there has to be an effective communication strategy in place. Communication does not begin with talking and convincing, but with hearing and understanding. It is also important for your team to understand that when it comes to communication it is essential to understand that people respond to the world as they see it.

Improve Communication With Your Team By Asking Good Questions

Improve Communication With Your Team By Asking Good Questions

Good questioning skills are essential to successful communication with your team. In this blog, we will look closer at questioning techniques that you can use throughout the communication process.

Open Questions

Open questions get their name because the response is open-ended; the answerer has a wide range of options to choose from when answering it.

Open questions use one of six words as a root:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • Where?
  • When?
  • Why?
  • How?

Open questions are like going fishing with a net – you never know what you’re going to get! Open questions are great conversation starters, fact finders, and communication enhancers. Use them whenever possible when communicating with your team.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Closed Questions

Closed questions are the opposite of open questions; their very structure limits the answer to yes or no, or a specific piece of information. Some examples include:

  • Do you like chocolate?
  • Were you born in December?
  • Is it five o’clock yet?

Although closed questions tend to shut down communication, they can be useful if you are searching for a particular piece of information from your team, or winding a conversation down.

If you use a closed question and it shuts down the conversation, simply use an open-ended question to get things started again. Here is an example:

  • Do you like the Flaming Ducks hockey team?
  • Who is your favorite player?

Probing Questions

In addition to the basic open and closed questions, there is also a toolbox of probing questions that you can use. These questions can be open or closed, but each type serves a specific purpose.


By probing for clarification, you invite the other person to share more information so that you can fully understand their message. Clarification questions often look like this:

  • “Please tell me more about…”
  • “What did you mean by…”
  • “What does… look like?” (Any of the five senses can be used here)

Completeness and Correctness

These types of questions can help you ensure you have the full, true story. Having all the facts, in turn, can protect you from assuming and jumping to conclusions – two fatal barriers to communication.

Some examples of these questions include:

  • “What else happened after that?”
  • “Did that end the…”

Determining Relevance

This category will help you determine how or if a particular point is related to the conversation at hand. It can also help you get the team member back on track from a tangent.

Some good ways to frame relevance questions are:

  • “How is that like…”
  • “How does that relate to…”

Drilling Down

Use these types of questions to nail down vague statements. Useful helpers include:

  • “Describe…”
  • “What do you mean by…?”
  • “Could you please give an example?”


These questions are framed more like a statement. They pull together all the relevant points. They can be used to confirm to the team member that you heard what was said, and to give them an opportunity to correct any misunderstandings.

Example: “So you picked out a dress, had to get it fitted three times, and missed the wedding in the end?”

Be careful not to avoid repeating the team member’s words back to them like a parrot. Remember, paraphrasing means repeating what you think the team member said in your own words.

Speaking Like a STAR to Your Team

Speak Like a STAR

You can ensure that the message you are communicating to your team is clear, complete, correct, and concise, with the STAR acronym. This article will explore the STAR acronym in conjunction with the six roots of open questions (Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?).

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

S = Situation

First, state what the situation is. Try to make this no longer than one sentence. If you are having trouble, ask yourself, “Where?”, “Who?”, and, “When?”. This will provide a base for the message so it can be clear and concise.

Example: “On Tuesday, I was in a director’s meeting at the main plant.”

T = Task

Next, briefly state what your task was. Again, this should be no longer than one sentence. Use the question, “What?” to frame your sentence, and add the “Why?” if appropriate.

Example: “I was asked to present last year’s sales figures to the group.”

A = Action

Now, state what you did to resolve the problem in one sentence. Use the question, “How?” to frame this part of the statement. The Action part will provide a solid description and state the precise actions that will resolve any issues.

Example: “I pulled out my laptop, fired up PowerPoint, and presented my slide show.”

R = Result

Last, state what the result was. This will often use a combination of the six roots. Again, a precise short description of the results that come about from your previous steps will finish on a strong definite note.

Example: “Everyone was wowed by my prep work, and by our great figures!”


Let’s look at a complete example using STAR. Let’s say you’re out with friends on the weekend. Someone asks you what the highlight of your week at work was. As it happens, you had a great week, and there is a lot to talk about. You use STAR to focus your answer so you don’t bore your friends, and so that you send a clear message.

You respond: “On Tuesday, I was in a director’s meeting at the main plant. I was asked to present last year’s sales figures to the group. I pulled out my laptop, fired up PowerPoint, and presented my slide show. Everyone was wowed by my prep work, and by our great figures!”

This format can be compressed for quick conversations, or expanded for lengthy presentations. We encourage you to try framing statements with STAR, and see how much more confident you feel when communicating.

What Your Body Language is Communicating to Your Team

What Your Body Language is Communicating to Your Team

When you are communicating something to your team, your body is sending a message that is as powerful as your words. When talking about body language, remember that our interpretations are just that – common interpretations. For example, the person sitting with his or her legs crossed may simply be more comfortable that way, and not feeling closed-minded towards the discussion. Body language can also mean different things across different genders and cultures. However, it is good to understand how various behaviors are often seen, so that we can make sure our body is sending the same message as our mouth.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Think about these scenarios for a moment. What non-verbal messages might you receive in each scenario? How might these non-verbal messages affect the verbal message?

  • Your boss asks you to come into his office to discuss a new project. He looks stern and his arms are crossed.
  • A team member tells you they have bad news, but they are smiling as they say it.
  • You tell a co-worker that you cannot help them with a project. They say that it’s OK, but they slam your office door on their way out.

In this article we will show you how to use body language to become a more effective communicator. It is also important that as a team leader you learn to interpret body language, add it to the message you are receiving, and understand the message being sent appropriately.

All About Body Language

Body language is a very broad term that simply means the way in which our body speaks to others. We have included an overview of three major categories below.

The way that we are standing or sitting

Think for a moment about different types of posture and the message that they relay.

  • Sitting hunched over typically indicates stress or discomfort.
  • Leaning back when standing or sitting indicates a casual and relaxed demeanor.
  • Standing ramrod straight typically indicates stiffness and anxiety.

The position of our arms, legs, feet, and hands

  • Crossed arms and legs often indicate a closed mind.
  • Fidgeting is usually a sign of boredom or nervousness.

Facial expressions

  • Smiles and frowns speak a million words.
  • A raised eyebrow can mean inquisitiveness, curiosity, or disbelief.

Chewing one’s lips can indicate thinking, or it can be a sign of boredom, anxiety, or nervousness.

Interpreting Gestures

A gesture is a non-verbal message that is made with a specific part of the body. Gestures differ greatly from region to region, and from culture to culture. Below we have included a brief list of gestures and their common interpretation.

Gesture Interpretation
Nodding head Yes
Shaking head No
Moving head from side to side Maybe
Shrugging shoulders Not sure; I don’t know
Crossed arms Defensive
Tapping hands or fingers Bored, anxious, nervous
Shaking index finger Angry
Thumbs up Agreement, OK
Thumbs down Disagreement, not OK
Pointing index finger at someone/something Indicating, blaming
Handshake Welcome, introduction
Flap of the hand Doesn’t matter, go ahead
Waving hand Hello
Waving both hands over head Help, attention
Crossed legs or ankles Defensive
Tapping toes or feet Bored, anxious, nervous



Paraverbal Communication Skills for Team Leaders

Paraverbal Communication Skills for Team Leaders

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” – Peter Drucker

How you say something to your team is just as important as what you are saying. How you say something is known as paraverbal communication and include the pitch, tone, and speed of your words when you communicate.

The Power of Pitch

Pitch can be most simply defined as the key of your voice. A high pitch is often interpreted as anxious or upset. A low pitch sounds more serious and authoritative. Your team will pick up on the pitch of your voice and react to it. Variation in the pitch of your voice is also important to keep your team members interested. If you naturally speak in a very high-pitched or low-pitched voice, work on varying your pitch to encompass all ranges of your vocal cords.

The Truth about Tone

Did your mother ever say to you, “I don’t like that tone!” She was referring to the combination of various pitches to create a mood.

Here are some tips on creating a positive, authoritative tone when communicating with your team.

  • Try lowering the pitch of your voice a bit.
  • Smile! This will warm up anyone’s voice.
  • Sit up straight and listen.
  • Monitor your inner monologue. Negative thinking will seep into the tone of your voice.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

The Strength of Speed

The pace at which you speak also has a tremendous effect on your communication ability. From a practical perspective, a team leader who speaks quickly is harder to understand than one who speaks at a moderate pace. Conversely, a team leader who speaks very slowly will probably lose their audience’s interest before they get very far!

Speed also has an effect on the tone and emotional quality of your message. A hurried pace can make your team feel anxious and rushed. A slow pace can make your team feel as though your message is not important. A moderate pace will seem natural, and will help the team focus on your message.

One easy way to check your pitch, tone, and speed is to record yourself speaking. Think of how you would feel listening to your own voice. Work on speaking the way you would like to be spoken to.