Insights (Essays)

Insights (Essays) July 2019

8 Ways Communication Can Help Build Team Cohesion – Insights for Ontario Health Teams

Danielle Van Duzer, MCM


The transformation of Ontario’s Healthcare system has the potential to improve the health journey of patients and family caregivers. The new system which promises to bring healthcare teams together in a more integrated way is good news for Ontarians because, let’s face it, the disconnected system we have today isn’t working. But, let’s not underestimate what’s involved in this work. Let’s be realistic and recognize that collaboration isn’t easy. In fact, it can be complicated and messy.

In these early days of transformation, it’s critical that those sitting at the planning table see past their own interests and never lose sight of what this transformation is about – patients and those who support them.

Group decision making can be challenging and it requires effective communication throughout the process. While we often think of communication as intuitive, I encourage leaders to think of communication as a strategic driver for change. Let’s think about communications as a way to build trust between partners, to ensure mutual understanding and build cohesion among Ontario’s new health teams.

In a recent study, I asked coalition members who have been working together for at least one year about the effectiveness of their communications with one another. 38% of respondents said they don’t feel the committee has a common understanding of what success looks like and 45% don’t agree that committee members are open and honest in their communications with each other. Ontario Health Care team’s need to get this right early in the process because understanding what success looks like and building trust within the team is foundational for the rest of the work that needs to be done.

In the same research, coalition members were asked what they would change about how they communicate within the team. The result is the communication “wishlist”. By sharing this wishlist, I hope health leaders will pause and think about how they can incorporate these communication tips into their work.

The Communication “Wishlist”

I wish there was…

  1. more transparency in decision-making.
  2. greater accountability and more regular updates from members on task related items.
  3. a coordinated approach to communications – regular updates on how the team is tracking to goals and achievements.
  4. a centralized information source where information can easily be found.
  5. more opportunities to connect informally; building relationships goes beyond the boardroom table.
  6. more enthusiasm from partners.
  7. more engagement with those who will be most impacted by our decisions.
  8. more opportunities to celebrate success.

Collaboration isn’t easy and building trust and team cohesion takes time. I encourage health leaders to think about strategic communications as part of their toolkit for driving system transformation forward.

About the Author(s)

Danielle Van Duzer is the principal of Parallel Communications. A recent graduate from McMaster University’s Master of Communication Management Program, Danielle studied the role of communications in community coalitions in her capstone research.


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