Category: Building Teams

Promoting an Effective Work Etiquette in Your Team

Promoting an Effective Work Etiquette in Your Team

Etiquette refers to unwritten rules or norms of acceptable conduct within a professional environment. Violations of etiquette are not always punishable by company law, but ignoring etiquette guidelines have considerable consequences for the team member and team.

In this blog post, you will be introduced to some tips in practicing work etiquette in a team. In particular tips related to proper greeting, respect, involvement, and political correctness will be discussed.

Greetings

The seeds of civility can be planted in an organization by encouraging every team member to give their fellow team members, greetings befitting the professional nature of the work environment.

What rules of greeting etiquette are worth remembering? Consider the following:

Formal Greetings: Always give a formal acknowledgment of another team member’s presence, regardless of that person’s rank. Starting an interaction with greetings is a way of establishing rapport with new acquaintances and maintaining rapport with old ones. A “Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening” is an excellent way to both initiate and maintain a positive relationship with a co-worker, client, or business partner.

In the same vein, greetings are best followed by expression of sincere interest in the person that you saw or met. For example, you can reply to an exchange of Good morning with “How do you do?” or “How are you doing today?”

When used as a greeting, questions like “How do you do?” are not meant to be answered in great detail. You can consider them as a polite way people can get abreast of what it going on in people’s lives. An appropriate reply can be as short as “I am doing very well. My son graduated from high school yesterday and the family is very thrilled. How about you? How are things at your end?” You and your fellow team member can always schedule a longer chat at a more appropriate time.

Informal Greetings: Informal greetings can also be a great way of developing civility in a workplace. If familiarity is already established among team members, or when expressly invited to, informal greetings can set up positive working relationships in a team. The use of “hi” and “hello” can put team members more at ease with each other, and set the foundation for social awareness.

Nonverbal greetings such as smiles, taps on the back, a handshake, a high five are also ways to develop civility within the team. Note though that it is not recommended to assume any familiarity unless expressly invited to.

Other etiquette rules worth considering when it comes to greeting:

  • Give greetings the attention that they deserve. Saying good morning to an entering team member while you remain busily sorting folders on your desk can actually come across as uncivil instead of civil behavior. Instead, pause whatever it is you’re doing, even for a few seconds, to offer your pleasantries. Establish eye contact; stand up when greeting a superior or a client, even step from behind your desk to offer a handshake if necessary. Make the other person feel that you’re greeting them because you want to, not because you have to.
  • Remember that greetings are not limited to face-to-face conversations. Even when sending and receiving written correspondence, including electronic communication such as emails or an instant message, it is recommended that you begin and end your letter with a greeting. “Dear (name)” is traditionally greeting for written and electronic correspondence; the word dear is acceptable for both formal and informal communication. “Greetings!”, “Hope all is well at your end.” are also acceptable salutations. Letter closings can include a greetings like “Best Regards,” “In appreciation of your message,” and “Cheers,”
  • In business settings, rank and professionalism matters. Make sure that you’re always sensitive to the power dynamics in a team when offering greetings. For example, avoid addressing your boss using his or her first name/nickname unless given permission to.
  • The questions of “who should initiate a greeting?” and “when to offer a greeting? “are often debated, but a good rule of thumb is to always initiate a greeting as soon you see another team member, regardless of rank. After all, you can’t go wrong with courtesy! The exception is when the other person is otherwise engaged and will likely construe your greeting as an interruption instead of a pleasantry. Greetings must also be appropriate to the context; you can’t offer a cheery greeting when the mood is grim or solemn such as during the aftermath of a workplace accident.

Respect

It may be said that the foundation of civility is respect.

Respect refers to positive esteem for another team member, one that demands both deferential and considerate behavior. Respect is commonly perceived as something persons of higher rank demand from their subordinates.  In reality though, respect is something every team member, regardless of rank, both freely give to, and inspire in, those they interact with.

In many ways, respect can be summarized in terms of attitudes. When you respect another team member, you understand that he or she is a person of worth, which in turn demands that you treat him or her ethically. A team member’s worthiness of respect has little to do with his or her job performance. All people are deserving of respect regardless of their contribution to the team.

Respect may also be conceptualized in terms of boundaries; that is, we know that we can’t act just as we please when relating with a team member that we respect. Every team member, for example, requires work space in order to perform their task effectively. Intruding on this workplace, for instance, speaking loudly when you know someone is conducting a task that requires mental concentration can be a sign of disrespect.

What are the ways you can show respect for your fellow team members? The following are just a few ways to consider:

  • Practice active listening. Every team member deserves to be given attention when they’re communicating. In fact, it’s recommended for team members to make a habit of encouraging their peers in contributing more to the discussion. More importantly, give each team member’s message fair consideration. Just because a suggestion came from someone not considered as a subject matter expert doesn’t mean that the suggestion is automatically without merit. (Active Listening will be discussed in more detail in a later module.)
  • Respect your fellow team member’s property. Disrespect in a team plays itself, not just through face-to-face interactions, but also through lack of consideration for another team member’s belongings and work space and privacy. For instance, it’s not uncommon in offices to have issues regarding missing lunches from the kitchen, or missing pens and staplers from a desk! Clarify from the onset what is to be considered as office property and personal property.  Better yet, establish rules and guidelines when it comes to using any and all equipment and materials from the office. For instance, should reservations be first made before using a meeting room? These rules and guidelines can go a long way in maintaining civility in the team.
  • Respect the right to own beliefs. Most companies advocate diversity in the workplace. Diversity means that you’ll have people of different religions, political beliefs, abilities, traditions, and values working in the same team. For as long as a team member’s faith and beliefs do not interfere with his or her work performance, there’s no reason for said faith and beliefs to be an issue in the company. And definitely, no team leader or team member has cause to compel a person to convert religion and abandon belief systems. A healthy debate is okay, but only for social purposes and not as a way to discriminate or bully.
  • Use your fellow team member’s time wisely. A little known way you can practice respect in the team is by respecting your fellow team member’s time. On the job site, time is an important commodity, especially when there is much to be done and employees are paid on an hourly basis. Don’t waste your fellow team member’s time with idle gossip or unimportant concerns. Keep team meetings short and to the point. And set appointments instead of ambushing. These little acts of courtesy may not look much at first glance, but they will surely be appreciated by those with lots to do and think about.

Involvement

Involvement refers to an active participation in the activities of the team. There should be a feeling of personal investment in how the team is doing. Involvement also demands that you don’t just content yourself with getting the tasks in your job description done. Instead, you’re on the constant lookout for ways to make yourself an active part of the team system. When the system is experiencing problems, you don’t view yourself as merely “caught in the crossfire” or a “victim.” Instead, you see yourself as a potential “agent of change.” You jump at opportunities to better your team as soon as the opportunity presents itself. And you don’t wait to be told what must be done; you take the initiative to inquire how you can be of help.

Being Politically Correct

Political Correctness, commonly abbreviated as PC, is a way of addressing, and at times behaving towards, other team members that takes special care in not creating offense against others, especially against potential victims of discrimination.

Political correctness is based on the idea that language captures attitudes, and potentially insulting language, even if delivered unintentionally by a speaker, can communicate and perpetuate prevailing negative attitudes against people commonly discriminated against.

An example of political correctness is the use of the term “persons with disabilities” instead of “disabled person.” This is to ensure that the premium when addressing persons with hearing, visual, mobility impairment, and any other disability, is their personhood instead of their limitations. In fact, the word “challenged” is preferred in some social circles as opposed to “impaired” (e.g. vertically challenged instead of height impaired) in order to communicate the idea that a disability need not mean lack of capability.

Another example of political correctness is the use of gender-sensitive language. Titles that specify a particular gender, when a position can be held competently by both man and woman, need to be reframed in order to be gender-neutral. For example, the chairperson is preferred to chairman, and cleaner is more acceptable than cleaning lady.

Contrary to popular belief, political correctness is not lying. Neither is it sugarcoating the harsh truth for the people concerned, or patronizing individuals who could otherwise defend themselves. Instead, it’s a way of positively reframing statements that box some members of the population into negative stereotypes.

It is, however, possible to overdo political correctness, to the extent that the positive spirit behind it becomes an object of ridicule.

 

Ethical Decision Making for Teams

Ethical Decision Making for Teams

A team should always attempt to make ethical decisions. It is possible, however, for two ethical team members to make different decisions in a situation. It is important that your team understand ethical dilemmas and the ethical decision-making process.

The Basics of Ethical Decision Making

Your team members will typically use five different ethical standards to interpret the world around them. For the best results, put the different approaches together and choose the answers that best fit.

Ethical Standards

  • Utilitarian approach: This approach focuses on the consequences of actions. The goal is to do more good than harm in a situation.
  • Rights approach: Focusing on the rights of all involved defines this approach. It makes respecting the rights of others a moral obligation.
  • Fairness approach: Fairness expects people to be treated equally. A fairly based standard is used to determine actions that are unequal such as pay rate.
  • Common Good approach: The conditions that affect all people are considered in the common good approach. Systems and laws are created to ensure the welfare of everyone.
  • Virtue approach: This approach uses virtues such as honesty, compassion, love, patience, and courage to guide behavior.

Related: Decision Making Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Balancing Personal and Organizational Ethics

It is important to be ethical on a personal and organizational level. Personal ethics influence decision both inside and outside of work. These are based on personal beliefs and values. Organizational ethics determine workplace decisions. Team leaders and team members, both face organizational ethics, and the company should have ethical standards in place.

Organizational ethics flow from the top down. Those in leadership need to promote ethical decisions by their example. Occasionally, personal and professional ethics will collide. In the event of an ethical dilemma, it is important to choose based on what is most important and what will do the most good for the parties involved.

Common Ethic Dilemmas in Teams

There are many different ethical dilemmas in teams that are specific to industries. There are, however, common dilemmas that every organization will face.

  • Honest accounting practices
  • Responsibility for mistakes such as accidents, spills, and faulty product
  • Advertising that is honest and not misleading
  • Collusion with competitors
  • Labor issues
  • Bribes and corporate espionage

Law governs many of these dilemmas, but an ethical organization will make the right decision regardless of legal issues. Because these issues are so common, it is important to create ethical standards and train team members to behave accordingly.

Making Ethical Decisions

Before making any final decisions, the team should use the following steps to make sure that they are making ethical decisions.

  • Determine the ethics of a situation: Does the decision affect a group or have legal ramifications?
  • Gather Information: Learn as much as possible about the situation, and get the point of view from all parties involved.
  • Evaluate Actions: Make different decisions based on the different ethical standards.
  • Test Decisions: Would they be proud of this decision if it were advertised?
  • Implement: Implement the decision, and evaluate the results.

Overcoming Obstacles

There will always be temptation to act unethically. These obstacles are particularly difficult to overcome when other people are encouraging a team member to behave unethically. They may be in positions of authority or simply intimidating, but they do not have to give into them.

Overcome Obstacles:

  • Sympathize: Do not attack unethical people. Sympathize with their situation, but refuse to compromise the team’s standards.
  • Make them responsible: Do not quibble. Directly ask people if they want you to do something illegal or unethical. This removes their plausible deniability.
  • Reason: Provide them with logical reasons for your refusal to compromise your integrity.
  • Stay firm: Make a decision and stick to it. Do not let people wear you down.
  • Take precautions: Keep a paper trail of your encounters, and be prepared to defend yourself.

Implementing Ethics in Your Team

Implementing ethics in your team is a complex but rewarding task. Every team member has a unique set of ethical standards. Allowing each team member to follow his or her moral compass will result in varied results. Companies need to focus on implementing uniform ethical standards and rules throughout their organizations. Team members should never have to question whether or not they are doing the right thing.

Benefits of Implementing Ethics in Your Team

Implementing ethics in a team will also lead to better success and long-term growth. Unethical business practices can cause immediate financial gain, but they will cost companies, customers and employees over time. When unethical practices become public knowledge, it is difficult for a business to recover its reputation. Organizations with reputations for being ethical will also find it easier to earn credit, find investors, and expand into international markets. There are also benefits at the organizational level.

Organizational Benefits:

  • Convinces team members that the company truly value ethical decision-making.
  • Builds awareness of ethical issues.
  • Creates an ethical guideline for team members to follow.

Guidelines for Managing Ethics in Your Team

Managing ethics in the team require certain tools. Every organization needs a Code of Ethics, a Code of Conduct, and Policies and Procedures. These tools direct the organization as team leaders attempt to manage ethics in their teams.

Guidelines for Implementing and Managing Ethics in Your Team:

  • Give it time: Managing ethics is a process-oriented activity that requires time and constant assessment.
  • Focus on behavior: Do not give vague requirements; make sure that ethics management has an impact on behavior.
  • Avoid problems: Create clear codes and policies that will prevent ethical problems.
  • Be open: Involve different groups in ethics program and make decisions public.
  • Integrate ethics: Make sure that all management programs have ethical values.
  • Allow for mistakes: Teach team members how to behave ethically, and do not give up when mistakes happen.

Roles and Responsibilities

The roles and responsibilities necessary to effectively implement workplace ethics will vary with each organization. A manager should be in place to oversee the ethics program, but he or she will need the support provided by other positions. Smaller organizations may not need to fill all of the roles listed below; determine what your company needs before executing an ethics program.

Roles:

  • CEO: The CEO of every company needs to support business ethics and lead by example.
  • Ethics committee: An ethics committee will develop and supervise the program.
  • Ethics management team: Senior managers implement the program and train employees.
  • Ethics executive: An ethics executive or officer is trained to resolve ethical problems.
  • Ombudsperson: This position requires interpreting and integrating values throughout the organization.

 

Helping Your Team See the Big Picture

Helping Your Team See the Big Picture

Most team members, are responsible for specific areas, and they have little understanding of the impact their decisions have on other areas. When too much focus is placed on one aspect of the organization, it is difficult to make decisions for the good of the company. In order to make effective decisions, it is necessary for the team to examine the big picture.

Short and Long Term Interactions

When looking at the big picture, it is necessary for the team to consider long term as well as short term interactions. Short term interactions are immediate, single exchanges, and they are necessary for the team to survive. Without looking at the big picture, however, short term interactions may hinder the long term success of the team. For example, a team member may damage a business relationship by using aggressive sales techniques, costing the team sales in the future.

Long term interactions are processes or relationships that are essential to growth. Long term team success requires the long term interactions. The relationships with customers, vendors, and other team members need to be carefully cultivated. Failure to cultivate relationships occurs when there is a lack of communication or communication is not respectful. Long term relationships help guide the future of the team.

Improving Long Term Interactions

  • Build relationships: Relationships must be based on mutual trust, respect, and support.
  • Use feedback: Request feedback and listen to complaints.
  • Offer value: Provide value in product, services, and compensation.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Recognize Growth Opportunities

It is essential for every team to recognize growth opportunities to ensure long term success. An opportunity is any project that will create growth. Opportunities, however, can be overlooked when we do not pay attention to the big picture. If recognizing opportunities does not come easily for the team, there are steps to take that will ensure that the team do not overlook growth opportunities.

  • Identify market trends: Monitor changes in the market such as technological advancements.
  • Actively research customer needs: Conduct market research and anticipate customer needs, which you will fulfill.
  • Pay attention to competitors: Take advantage of a competitor’s weakness and learn from their strengths.
  • Monitor demographic changes: Changes in demographics indicate a potential shift in customer base or needs.
  • Consult team members: Do not overlook team members’ ideas; encourage brainstorming.
  • Monitor abilities of the team: Pay attention to the skills of the team. Offer training or hire new team members in response to growth opportunities.

Mindfulness of Decisions

Decisions need to be made carefully and mindfully. In stressful situations, it is easy to make decisions based on emotions or external pressure. The team should recognize these events which increase the risk of making a poor decision that can have long term consequences. Mindful decision making combines reason with intuition to come up with decisions that are based in the present.

Decision making Steps:

  1. Be in the moment: Pay attention to how you feel physically and emotionally. This allows you to reach your intuition and understand any feelings of conflict and their source. The source of the conflict may evolve as you become mindful. For example, conflict over the cost of change may shift to conflict that the change goes against team values. Naming the conflict will help the team make the decision without fear.
  2. Be Clear: Investigate for clarity. Begin by investigating your feelings and identifying the type of decision you are making. A neutral decision, for example, should not create a great deal of stress. Once the team identifies the decision, they should make sure they have collected the necessary information to make the decision. Additionally, they should consult the people who will be affected by the decision.
  3. Make a choice: Once they have all the information, they should write down their decision. Take some time to consider this decision. If you are still comfortable with the decision after a few days, act on it.

Related: Decision Making Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Everything is Related

On a team, it is necessary for each person to perform specific roles and functions. Every role in the team is related to each other. For example, poor production and poor customer service will affect sales. Too many sales returns cost the company money, damaging the profits. Each aspect of the business relies on the others. Most people only focus on their specific roles, without considering how they affect the other departments. Looking at the big picture allows the team to see how everything is related, and it begins with the leadership. The leader of the team is responsible for the culture and values.

Related: Leadership Outcome Based Team Building Activities

How to Relate:

  • Be Comprehensive: Monitor every area of the team to make sure each one is reaching their goals.
  • Be Balanced: Make sure that each area of the team is sustainable, and make adjustments as necessary.
  • Be Incorporated: Integrate every aspect of the team with the others. Show team members how they affect each other and the team as a whole.

The Attention Zones Model for Teams

The Attention Zones Model for Teams

There are four different attention zones: Reactive, Proactive, Distracted and Wasteful. The attention zone determines productivity as well as stress levels. Attention management allows teams to move out of stressful or unproductive zones and manage their time wisely.

Reactive Zone

Many people, particularly team leaders, spend most of their time in the reactive zone. Those in the reactive zone spend their time putting out fires and handling urgent needs. The tasks are important, but they demand time that takes away from scheduled projects. An example would be finding someone to fill in for a sick employee. The task is important and demands immediate attention, but it does not help the team leader meet any of his or her goals or deadlines. Occasionally, a crisis will need to be handled, but attending to one crisis after another should never be a way of life. In order for the team to move out of the reactive zone and stay in the proactive zone, they need to address the time they spend in the distracted and wasteful zones.

Proactive Zone

The proactive zone is where the team wants to be. Teams in this zone work strategically. They are able to plan and achieve goals. Spending time in the proactive zone reduces the amount of time that is spent in the reactive zone because contingency plans will be in place. The proactive zone maintains relationships, budgets, systems, and personal well-being. Review team goals and plan accordingly at the beginning of each week to improve performance in the proactive zone.

Distracted Zone

The distracted zone takes up far too much time. Things in this zone seem urgent, but they are not really important. The distracted zone occurs when other people monopolize the team’s attention. Things like emails and phone calls fall under the distracted zone. Important time and energy is given to other people’s priorities rather than team goals.

Leaving the distracted zone:

  • Turn off email alert: Emails do not always need to be answered immediately. Constant email alerts are distractions that take teams out of the proactive zone.
  • Create a time-blocked schedule: Schedule time to return phone calls and emails and build relationships. Work on projects during the time set aside for them, and do not allow yourself to become distracted by other people.
  • Set boundaries: Stick to the schedule. Do not allow people to draw you away unless it is a real Be firm, and people will learn to respect your schedule.

Wasteful Zone

The wasteful zone is exactly what it sounds like, the zone where teams waste time. Activities that waste time include checking personal email, looking at social media sites, online videos, and other activities that are not productive. It is important to note that people need to occasionally decompress. When time to relax and regroup is not included in a team’s schedule, more time will be spent in the wasteful zone.

Related: Time Management Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Leaving the wasteful zone:

  • Schedule personal time: Take the time to relax, meditate, eat, and socialize. It is not possible to continually focus on a single task, so schedule breaks and take them. It will increase productivity and prevent the need for mind numbing activities.
  • Limit temptation: Internet junkies should turn off their connection when they do not need the Internet, if possible. Turn off mobile devices when working, and indulge pastimes only when appropriate. Remind yourself that the wasteful zone keeps you out of the proactive zone and away from your goals.

Recognizing Learning Events as a Team

Recognizing Learning Events as a Team

Every day is an opportunity to learn something new as  a team. Successful teams are able to recognize learning events and take advantage of these opportunities. To be successful, a team must always be learning. As the team gathers knowledge, they will find themselves learning from their mistakes and improving their decision making process. The ability to recognize learning events will benefit the team as well as the organization.

Develop a Sense of Always Learning

Every encounter offers a learning experience for the team. The key to recognizing learning events is for the team to develop a sense of always learning. Identifying the eight different ways that we learn, will ensure that you do not overlook learning opportunities.

  1. Imitation: We learn from observing and imitating others, such as instructors or respected mentors.
  2. Reception/Transmission: Reception is the experience that requires you receive a transmitted message. It may be written or verbal, and it can include values as well as academic understanding.
  3. Exercise: Actions and practice create learning experiences. These can occur in any action that you practice such as writing, meditation, or computer programs.
  4. Exploration: Searching for answers or discovering information requires individual initiative. This comes from websites, interviews, books, etc.
  5. Experiment: Experimenting or assessing the success of a project shows different possible outcomes and influences problem solving.
  6. Creation: The creative process is also a learning process. These can be individual or team projects. The process ranges from painting to developing a new survey.
  7. Reflection: Analysis before, during, or after an action is a learning opportunity. This can be done on a personal level or with the help of friends and colleagues.
  8. Debate: Interactions with others cause us to defend or modify our perspectives. These are potential learning experiences.

Evaluate Past Decisions

Our past decisions often guide our current actions. Both successful and unsuccessful decisions need to be evaluated in order to identify errors in judgment as well as effective thought processes. The team should ask themselves a few questions after each decision, and learn from their mistakes and achievements.

Questions:

  • What was the outcome?
  • Did the outcome meet expectations?
  • Would they repeat the same decision?
  • What information or advice can they take away from this decision?

When the team takes the time to learn from all of their decisions, even the ineffective choices will bring them success.

Related: Decision Making Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Problems Are Learning Opportunities

People prefer to avoid problems or mistakes. However, problems are not always avoidable. When problems arise, you have a chance to learn from them and turn them into opportunities. The first step to learning from problems is to correctly identify the problem. For example, a shortage in cash flow may be caused by loss of sales or unexpected expenses.

Once the problem is identified, consider different solutions or opportunities. For example, a change in the market may provide you with an opportunity to introduce a new product you have been considering. If the problem is familiar, what were your past solutions? For example, did a price reduction help increase sales and improve cash flow? Once you consider the different opportunities associated with your problem, you must make a decision. If you make a mistake, embrace it. If you face the same problem again, you will know what to avoid.

Recognize The Blind Spots

Everyone has  blind spots in their lives, and they can easily transfer to the team’s success. Blind spots are parts of our personalities that are hidden to us. They may be deep-seated fears, annoying habits, or judgmental attitudes. Allowing blind spots to persist will cost the team in innovative ideas. Blind spots will also permit ineffective activities to continue. Recognizing your blind spots is not difficult, but it does require the courage to make necessary changes.

  • Request Feedback: Ask trusted friends and fellow team members for honest assessments.
  • Reflect: Take the time to reflect on your decisions, thought processes, and actions. If you are honest with yourself. You will identify blind spots.
  • Study: Use books, courses, etc. to help you become more in tune with your views and potential blind spots. Figure out what you don’t know and strive to learn.

Communication Skills for Building Teams

Communication Skills for Building Teams

Strong communication skills are essential for assertive interaction with others in a team. Humans are social animals and communication is a very important part of our daily life. Every interaction we have with another person including, face to face, over the phone, chatting online or even texting is communication happening, and having strong communication skills will benefit every type of interaction we encounter.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Listening and Hearing in Teams

Hearing is the act of perceiving sound by the ear. Assuming an individual is not hearing-impaired, hearing simply happens. Listening, however, is something that one consciously chooses to do. Listening requires concentration so that the brain processes meaning from words and sentences.

Listening leads to learning, but this is not always an easy task. The normal adult rate of speech is 100-150 words per minute, but the brain can think at a rate of 400-500 words per minute, leaving extra time for daydreaming, or anticipating the speaker’s or the recipient’s next words.

As opposed to hearing, listening skills can be learned and refined. The art of active listening allows you to fully receive a message from another team member. Especially in a situation involving anger or a tense interchange, active listening allows you to be sensitive to the multiple dimensions of communication that make up an entire message. These dimensions include:

The occasion for the message: What is the reason why the team member is communicating with me now?

The length of the message: What can the length of the message tell me about its importance?

The words chosen: Is the message being made formally? Is it with aloofness or slang?

The volume and pace: What clues do the loudness and speed give me?

The Pauses and Hesitations: How do these enhance or detract from the message?

Non-verbal clues: What does eye contact, posture, or facial expressions tell me about the message?

Empathy is the capability to share and understand another’s emotions and feelings. Empathetic listening is the art of seeking a truer understanding of how other team members are feeling. This requires excellent discrimination and close attention to the nuances of emotional signals. According to Stephen Covey in “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, empathetic listening involves five basic tasks:

  1. Repeat verbatim the content of the communication; the words, not the feelings
  2. Rephrase content; summarize the meaning of the words in your own words
  3. Reflect feelings; look more deeply and begin to capture feelings in your own words. Look beyond words for body language and tone to indicate feelings.
  4. Rephrase contents and reflect feelings; express both their words and feelings in your own words.
  5. Discern when empathy is not necessary – or appropriate.

Asking Questions in Teams

Active listeners use specific questioning techniques to elicit more information from speakers. Below are three types of questions to use when practicing active listening in your team.

Open Questions

Open questions stimulate thinking and discussion or responses, including opinions or feelings. They pass control of the conversation to the respondent. Leading words in open questions include: Why, what, or how, as in the following examples:

  • Tell me about the current employee orientation process.
  • How do you open the emergency exit door on an A320 aircraft?

Clarifying Questions

A clarifying question helps to remove ambiguity, elicits additional detail, and guides the answer to a question. When you ask a clarifying question, you ask for expansion or detail, while withholding your judgment and own opinions. When asking for clarification, you will have to listen carefully to what the other person says. Frame your question as someone trying to understand in more detail. Often asking for a specific example is useful. This also helps the speaker evaluate his or her own opinions and perspective. Below are some examples:

  • I can tell you are really concerned about this. Let me see if I can repeat to you your main concerns so we can start to think about what to do in this situation.
  • What sort of savings are you looking to achieve?

Closed Questions

Closed questions usually require a one-word answer, and effectively shut off discussion. Closed questions provide facts, allow the questioner to maintain control of the conversation, and are easy to answer. Typical leading words are: Is, can, how many, or does. While closed questions are not the optimum choice for active listening, at times they may be necessary to elicit facts. Below are several examples of closed questions:

  • Who will lead the meeting?
  • Do you know how to open the emergency exit door on this aircraft?

Body Language

Body language is a form of non-verbal communication involving the use of stylized gestures, postures, and physiologic signs which act as cues to other people. Humans unconsciously send and receive non-verbal signals through body language all the time.

Non-verbal communication is the process of communication through sending and receiving wordless messages. It is the single most powerful form of communication in a team. Nonverbal communication cues others about what is in your mind, even more than your voice or words can do.

According to studies at UCLA, as much as 93 percent of communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues, and the impact of performance was determined 7 percent by the words used, 38 percent by voice quality, and 55 percent by non-verbal communication.

In communication, if a conflict arises between your words and your body language, your body language rules every time.

 

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Build Your Team by Creating a Positive Core

If you want your team to be positive and confident, then you have to create it within yourself first. This can mean first focusing on yourself and your positive core and then creating a positive core among your team members. Building a strong core in yourself ensures that you can have the confidence you need to complete any job. Having a strong, positive core among the team ensures that team members can work together and still maintain their own confidence. A strong core can stick together despite rough problems that may arise.

Strengths

Identifying your team’s strengths can give them an instant confidence boost because it reminds them of things they can do that are really great. But sometimes when they don’t notice their strengths right away, they assume that they don’t have any, or worse, downplay the ones they do have. A common exercise to help them find their strengths includes making a list of everything that they are good at. Let them review this list several times and remind them of a time when they had to use each attribute. Let the team keep this list nearby to always remind themselves of them and remain confident.

Tips for finding strengths:

  • Analyze how the team handle situations
  • Determine what their desires are and how they go after them
  • Examine the ways you solve problems

Best Practices

Sometime the term ‘best practices’ can seem confusing if we don’t attach them to anything. In Appreciative Inquiry, best practices refer to the practices that work best for your team and what work best for the organisation. What practices make the team members more confident and positive? What practices make them feel successful when they finish them? What practices improve team morale and progress? Remember that these practices can be individualized to each team member, so what works for one person may not work for another.

Tips:

  • What practices make the team feel as though they have accomplished something?
  • What practices boost team confidence?
  • What practices make the team feel positive about the end result?

Peak Experiences

Peak experiences are commonly defined as moments in which the team feel the highest levels of happiness and possibility. They can happen in everyday situations or during extreme events. They can happen when the team accomplishes a new goal or finish a long project. The key is to remember how they made us feel and made us feel positive and confident. While they are not necessarily an ‘ah-ha’ moment in our lives, peak experiences can help the team notice key moments and how they felt when they experienced them. Keeping these memories with them at all times will ensure that the team can always receive a lift of positivity when they need it.

Successes

Sometimes personal modesty can keep team members from seeing their own successes, which can keep them from feeling fully confident or self-assured. Our past successes are often viewed as our roots, or the areas that be started from and built upon to progress forward. We often forget to use these successes to remind us what it took to get us to our personal level of achievements. But when we relive these successes, it can remind us that we can overcome almost anything and can feel ultimately better about ourselves. When we feel more confident in ourselves and our success, it can reduce our stress and serves as an anchor for positivity.

Remembering successes:

  • Keep a visual reminder, such as a trophy or chart.
  • Review these successes in your head constantly
  • Talk about successes with friends and learn from each other

Use The Power of Positive Imagery to Build Your Team

Use The Power of Positive Imagery to Build Your Team

Imagery can be seen in a variety of ways. It helps a team to create a full picture of an idea or situation based on details and facts that they are presented with. Positive imagery is a key tool in helping a team remain positive and have an upbeat look on any problem. The key is to find what imagery works for your team and using it to help them accomplish their goals and ambitions.

Shaping Team Performance with Positive Imagery

Positive imagery can often serve as not only a reminder of good work, but it can also serve as a reward for the team. You should be seeing an increase in performance and productivity through the use of positive imagery. Some physical forms of positive imagery include a shiny trophy after a race or a chart of how many products were sold last month. But the team can also have positive mental imagery that can help them along the way when they cannot see the physical rewards.

A team’s performance is based upon the kind of outcome they want, and if you can reinforce what they want with positive imagery, then they will not be afraid to go after it. Maybe it’s the image of having happy coworkers when they complete a project or the image of an empty desk at the end of the week. Remind your team of these positive images to keep them focused on the task at hand and doing their best to get it done.

Make Your Team Better Prepared for Adversity

Being positive does not mean that your team is oblivious to the outside world and the things that can go wrong in it. But, being positive does mean that your team can be prepared for the worst but keep a positive outlook for everything else. Being prepared for adversity simply means that the team does not lie to themselves about what can happen and that they see the situation for what it is. They know that things can be different and will change, but they don’t let it damper their outlook. When the team is better prepared, they have the knowledge to know that they may not be able to change the world and the problems that arise in it, but they can change their own life and have the choice to remain positive while dealing with any negative situation.

The Team Becomes More Flexible and Creative

When a problem is presented before the team, chances are, they cannot change what has already happened or the effect of the problem on everyone else. But as a team they are more flexible and creative and have the ability to manipulate how they view a problem and how to solve it. Realize that they have options and that they can control how they react to something. They should not look at the problem as though it only has a black or white solution and remember that there is a gray area too and they will find the best way for them to handle it.

Remember:

  •  You can change even if the problem can’t.
  •  You can control only you.
  •  There is more than one correct way to do things.     

Help Your Team Think of the Perfect Situation

When we see something as perfect, we generally see something that is free of flaws and makes us happy. Sometimes when the team faces a large group of problems, they have trouble deciding what to start on first. When this happens, a helpful exercise is for them to think about the perfect situation. When they do, what is the first problem they notice is missing? Not only does it help them determine which problem they should tackle first, but it lets them have an image of a perfect situation without the problem, so they know it is not impossible! Visualizing the perfect situation can propel the team in the direction needed to remedy almost any situation.

What is a perfect situation?

  • What makes the situation perfect?
  • What problem(s) instantly go away?
  • Can you do it on your own? Will you need help?

Build a Stronger Team Using Anticipatory Reality

Build a Stronger Team Using Anticipatory Reality

Anticipatory reality is helpful in team building because it makes the team focus on the future and what the team wants to accomplish. One of the first steps of anticipatory reality is creating an image of the future and determining what can help the team get there. We can change things, add new themes, and make goals – we are constantly fashioning our anticipatory reality.

Imagining a Successful Future Will Affect the Present

We know that our past does not always identify our future. But planning our future can affect the team’s  present. Thinking ahead to a successful future can increase the positivity in your team today and raise their confidence. When they focus on the successes they want to achieve and imagine them coming true, it can give them great hope for the future, which in turn gives them hope for today. The team can stay positive by knowing that they can achieve that successful future and always keep a positive attitude about reaching team goals.

Benefits:

Controlling Negative Anticipation

Many of us are the type of people who automatically assume the worst in any situation. We start to anticipate anything that can go wrong and try to determine how we would handle anything that comes up. But if a team can learn to control these negative anticipations, they can begin to see any situation from the positive side. When the team members view the positive aspects of a situation, they feel more confident about their ability to handle them. Because no matter how big or scary a situation may seem, remaining positive and changing how they view the problem can make anything possible.

Example:

  • Watch for hidden negative thoughts or assumptions
  • Avoid jumping to conclusions
  • Realize the problem is in the situation – not you

Current Decisions Will Be Influenced Positively

The decisions your team make today can influence how they see things later. When they limit their negative anticipations and concentrate on creating a positive outlook, their current decisions and thoughts begin to develop into a positive form of thinking, which can improve our overall confidence of the team. Worrying about what may or may not happen or what could go wrong in a situation can drain a team and make the team members feel as though they don’t have any hope. But if they change their thoughts today and limit the negativity they  allow in their planning, their decisions can be influenced by positivity and will help them make better choices.

Benefits:

  • More confidence in your decisions
  • Less negative or anxious feelings
  • Positive outlook on future decisions

Related: Decision Making Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Base It on Data and Real Examples

One of the negative things about anticipatory reality is that team members  often base their thoughts and conclusions on things that they have heard or have over-played in our own heads. They begin to think about the worst thing that could happen or anything that could go wrong, but they have nothing to base it upon. Instead, the team should always focus on the facts of a problem and realize what is actually there.

Avoid:

  • “Word of mouth” stories
  • The “maybe” or “what if” possibilities
  • Dramatized outcomes or over-reactions

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