In “Outliers”, Malcolm Gladwell discusses “mitigated speech” and demonstrates how lack of clear communication, due to hierarchical structures within airline crews, has led to a number of crashes. We talk a lot with teams about setting themselves up in such a way that they effectively mitigate against mitigated speech being an issue and a couple of the regular recommendations go as follows:

1) You may have a titular leader, but Performance should be the focal point for the team, so all communication should be based around what you know about performance, from your position on the team, and it is your responsibility to communicate what you see, what you know and what you recommend to the team – failure to communicate your knowledge means you’re letting the team down. Always communicate with openness and honest, with a focus on collective performance and don’t let personalities get in the way of team requirements.

2) When establishing role clarity in your team, don’t just establish the actions that need taking by each person, but establish how each person needs to “be” in their role – what is expected of them in terms of nature, frequency, style and focus of communication. Equally each role needs to be absolutely clarified in terms of impact on team performance so it is 100% clear how the team cannot function fully without each role, therefore establishing the critical need for each person to communicate with confidence and authority from their expert perspective.

There’s more to build around these concepts, but as with all great teams, determining “how” you need to be as a team is the most important element of preparation for performance – most teams know what they need to achieve, but spend very little time formalising the manner in which their specific team needs to interact. Taking the time to establish the team recipe for success behaviourally definitely limits the likelihood of mitigated speech being an issue.