Team Communication Checklist: Getting Better As We Go

Communication within and across care teams has the potential to get pretty complicated and confusing. Well-intended team members with poor communication techniques often can get in the way of otherwise very dedicated work. 

Furthermore, many good team members hovering around a good idea can’t move from tension to action when they don’t create common ground, team intelligence, or trust because their dialog skills are not effective. 

This means our ability to have a conversation is key to working well together.

The fundamental communication skill on which all others are built and high performing teams is dialog: the interactive exchange between two individuals or groups. High performing teams are characterized by their transparency and free flow of information. 

Interaction rules typically already exists within a culture. Some of these rules are healthy and some are obstructive. 

“We practice listening” is an example of a rule that can drive good results. “You can’t disagree with doctors” is a rule that could cause some problems. So it’s simple rules to drive your many and varied interactions and conversations. 

If you’re going to be effective, the rules need to result in communication that is both honest and respectful. 

Healthy teammate-to-teammate interaction, the kind that triggers reward response loops in the brain, sets up the kind of physiology we want. The wrong kind of interaction is the one that puts us to flight or fight and shuts down healthier pathways. Considering the physiology of healthy interactions, good communication moves information, but it also literally creates transformation.

We’ve put together communication skills checklist for helping your care team transform and get better together. 

You can apply these foundational principles right now in all of your current communication structures, whether they’re huddles, debriefs, planning sessions, reviews, etc. Actively check your dialog skills and try introducing in real-time and practicing new skills in small bits.


Curiosity over criticism. Curiosity creates attention, which helps the brain learn and remember.

  • Am I/are we in a curious state of mind?
  • How do I/we know? (Did we ask others how we came across?)

Inquiry over inquisition. Inquiry drives insight and discovery, which also helps the brain learn and remember, rather than defensiveness, which reflects a threat response.

  • Are we asking questions with possibility, or are we framing an accusation as a question?
  • How do we know?

Horizontal balance or “low power gradient.” When there’s perceived power and control between two people in a conversation, communication worsens. But in an effective dialog, we bring equal value.

  • Are my/our conversations between/among “conversational equals?”
  • What am I doing to help create “horizontal balance?”
  • What feedback am I/are we getting that helps me understand horizontal balance or vertical imbalance?

Framing into common ground. Be clear about your intent and make it positive.

  • Am I setting context by framing to common ground so people understand?
  • How do I know it’s working?

Aspirational encouragement. Remember, people want to be good at what they do. Aspiration helps them get there and it doesn’t have to be grandiose.

  • Am I inviting and challenging people (in a supportive way) to believe in themselves, each other and our goals?

Listening. This one requires a lot of practice. And one of the best ways to do it is to reflect back to the speaker by saying, “I heard you say x, y, and z. Do I have that right?”

  • Am I/are we listening well?
  • How do we know we are listening?
  • Are we asking people if they feel heard?

Download the PDF version here to use in your next team interaction.

Did you find this resource useful for driving better team and interdisciplinary communication? If you’re interested in how to put expert coaching and development tools into the hands of every clinician, consider Getting Started.

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