Team communication challenges and how to solve them

Published: Thursday, 24 October 2019
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When communication breaks down, its impact is felt across the practice and recovery can be difficult. This article looks at common communication challenges, and the strategies to resolve them.


  • Poor communication can lead to duplicate work, incorrect delivery, and an inability to effectively hit deadlines, and more serious problems like HR issues and social media disasters.
  • Common challenges include misunderstandings,remote work, quick responses, and information sharing
  • For any team to function effectively, there must be open channels of communication. Dental practice managers can help by providing the tools to facilitate effective and time efficient team communication.

When everyone in the  team work together, great things happen. Whether you’re collaborating on a joint project or you’re a part of a busy team, an effective communication strategy is essential. Unfortunately, it’s ineffective team communication that often lets teams of all sizes down.

How can you encourage communication that’s going to take your practice on to new and exciting developments? In this article, Steve Burnage explores the importance of effective team communication.

The importance of good team communication

We all know how distracting (and inefficient) bad communication can be. When team communication breaks down, bad things happen. Poor communication can lead to duplicate work, incorrect delivery, and an inability to effectively hit deadlines. It can also lead to more serious problems like a confused image, HR issues and social media disasters.

Effective team communication can highlight issues before they begin to fester, providing checks, accountability, and proof of instructions and comments.

Team communication challenges and strategies that work

First, it’s crucial to identify the team communication challenges of your practice as that will help you to discover the appropriate solution. Whatever your practice is like, you will have your own unique barriers to effective communication. Let’s look at the most common challenges and the communication strategies that can be used to solve them.

Communication challenge: Remote working

Remote working does not have to mean working from home or even on a different practice site. In this age, remote working can mean having a dental practice team working miles apart or just in different workspaces. However, remote working can lead to lack of or insufficient communication.

Fortunately, the fix for insufficient communication can be relatively simple: change the tools and processes to centre around the best communication strategies.

Make the most of team conferencing technology such as Skype, Zoom and GoToMeeting. This will allow everyone involved in a meeting to talk as if they were in the same room. This type of tech also saves on costs of time and travel. Video conferencing calls also facilitate screen sharing and presentation delivery, making it easy for individuals to troubleshoot or brainstorm as a remote group.

However, make sure that you streamline your communication software. Make it available to everyone and be clear about which channel you’ll use to conduct meetings. Always assign someone to lead the conversations as this will prevent people from dominating or talking over one another. Master the art of remote conversation and everything should run a lot smoother.

“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.”

Lee Iacocca

Communication challenge: Misunderstandings

Misunderstandings at the practice can happen for many reasons. Perhaps there are language barriers. Or maybe a brief was changed, and this wasn’t communicated effectively to the entire team.

Such scenarios can lead to deadlines being missed, team members getting frustrated, and staff, senior leaders, pupils and parents getting a negative impression of the DPM team.

In order to solve this problem, DPMs need to be clear about who is the owner of a project. They need to ensure that team members regularly check in with the rest of the team and there need to be clear systems in place to ensure everyone is notified of any changes to project deadlines or specs. Using email to communicate a simple project plan (see template 1) which is regularly updated can be a useful first step.

Communication challenge: Quick responses

If you’ve ever been in the situation where all you need is a quick answer but can’t seem to get one, you’ll know how frustrating this can be. Nobody is around to ask, and the different strands of your project are a multi-tasking nightmare. Arranging a Skype call with a senior team member is awkward and inconvenient. If you don’t implement instant messaging for your team, this will cause problems. An inability to quickly communicate can lead to guesswork and misunderstandings.

In order to work effectively and more responsively, consider embracing team communication tools such as Google Hangouts. You could also set up a project WhatsApp group as this is the ideal way to get a quick answer. WhatsApp will also let you see if your message has been read; and receive an instant reply. However, one word of caution - remember who is in your group! Be sure not to forget and launch into internal dialogue. It is a good idea to clearly name your groups so there are no conversational slip-ups. 

Communication challenge: Sharing information

Those working on a project should have access to important whole information. A lack of details can delay projects and force team members to seek reassurance or additional information unnecessarily, which looks unprofessional. However, not everyone needs the same access levels.

Set up an area of the pracitce's network or a folder on a cloud drive that will hold all the essential information in one central location. Remember though, all sensitive information should be stored on a highly protected network with password access to restrict anyone sourcing confidential details.

“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.”

Anthony Robbins

How to improve team communication in the workplace: Next steps

For any team to function effectively, there must be open channels of communication. As a team leader and dental practice manager, it’s essential that you provide the tools to facilitate effective and time efficient team communication. Of course, we need to understand that some team members may communicate more than others and that’s ok. The key is to ensure that individuals understand the task, get access to the information they need when they need it, are able to work with others; and are comfortable reaching out to ask questions or raise concerns.


Use the following item in the Toolkit to put the ideas in the article into practice:

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