Monday, February 02, 2015

3 Tips for Communications for Mission Team Leaders

The fastest, most effective way to derail your upcoming missions project is to ignore all responsibilities for communication. I have seen this time and time again and it is unfortunate, irresponsible and easily fixed. Here are our better practices for communications when it comes to student mission teams.

1 - Be committed to over communicate.
I have, unfortunately, run into situations where communication with potential partners is almost nonexistent. Think like 2-3 months of nothing, even after we have agreed to work together, even when you try to reach them repeatedly. Sure I know they are in another time zone, they are busy with the day to day stuff, their personality lends themselves to being less structured, and blah blah blah. All of that is a bad excuse. I've pointed teams away from hosts that will not communicate with teams regularly.

In contrast, the very best partners we have worked with over communicate. Their interactions are timely - we interact when needed, sometimes multiple times a week. They use various mediums when needed - we jump on Skype, we text, we email. They are fully engaged and in the loop. Both sides do everything they can to make sure plans are clear.

Over communicating is not rocket science and I'm convinced that communicating well is more an act of the will than anything else. Having a habit or system to help you do this is good but at the core, it takes a commitment.

2 - Partners
For our partners, the best thing we do, I think, is send a letter of intent at the kickoff of a project. We send this letter to our partners/hosts at the outset of any large project - typically projects that are overseas, that are more than just a few people and that require significant travel and related logistics.

In this letter, we include:
+ Language that states that serving and working on this project is our intent, barring serious disaster or circumstance.
+ Rough dates for our travel for our teams.
+ What our major milestones are, such as support, team preps, and finalizing logistics.
+ Who the point of contact is.
+ What to expect in terms of communication moving forward.

For Ember, this letter serves as an internal kickoff for the project, making it official to our team. Hopefully it also serves as some kind of milestone for our partners and hosts too.

3 - Communicating with Your Team
Regular, consistent communication will do wonders for your team. When we are months away from departure, I typically send an email once a week. These include support levels, upcoming meetings and any developments about our project or hosts. I put together a travel packet about 3 weeks before departure that contains all travel details. In the week before we depart, daily emails are a habit. You might think it too much but you could never say that the information was not communicated.

If you are responsible to get a team of high school kids from one country to another and maybe one more, spending tens of thousands of dollars to do this and the vision of having students change the trajectory of their lives to serve a bigger cause through this experience, you should be committed to communicating clearly and consistently. Communication is one of the most easily neglected leadership habits of mission team leaders and when it isn't done well, most of the time, people have lots of excuses but no good reasons.

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