Category: Managing Teams

How to Manage a Team to Success

How to Manage a Team to Success

Managing a team is a complex process, but developing your management skills will help you become an effective team leader who achieves significant results. Pay careful attention to talent management, change management and organizational management.

Talent Management

Talent management differs from employee management in the development process. Rather than abandoning team members to tasks, team leaders develop employee talent to benefit the team. Studies have shown that talent management can increase productivity and decrease turnover. There are many different strategies involved in talent management. Below, you will find a few strategies that will improve employee development and increase productivity.

Strategies:

  • Mentor: Develop mentorship programs, and team up new team members with more experienced ones.
  • Invest: Invest in effective training programs that develop individuals and make them feel valued.
  • Communicate: Communicate effectively, which involves active listening and being open and honest.
  • Evaluate: Choose tools and measures to evaluate the effectiveness of your strategies such as surveys, employee feedback, productivity, etc.

Change Management

Change is inevitable in any organization. Unfortunately, human beings are not wired to accept change easily, so tensions may run high as people resist changes. You can help alleviate the stress associated with change with effective change management. Smoothly implementing change will reduce lost productivity as well as improve workplace culture.

The Process:

  1. Prepare:
  • Define the change: Identify the change, communicate with the team, and assess the needs as well as potential resistance.
  • Choose a team: Find team members to lead the change.
  • Sponsor: Determine how leadership will actively sponsor the change.
  1. Manage:
  • Develop plans: Create a change management plan and communicate the details.
  • Act: Implement the change management plan, and continue to communicate the expectations.
  1. Reinforce:
  • Analyze change: Use surveys and feedback to determine success.
  • Manage resistance: Understand the causes, look for gaps, and communicate the need for acceptance.
  • Correct or praise: Praise team members who implement change effectively, and give corrective actions for resistance.

Organizational Management

Organizational management is unique to each team, depending on structure. It assumes that each singular element is linked to others. The individual unit as a whole must be managed effectively. It requires planning that will lead to team goals.

In organizational management, each team member needs to be part of the plan. You begin with a wide scale plan, and work your way down to the individual team member level. The responsibilities outlined in the plan should fall along the organizational structure of the company. The structure is what links the different positions. For example, there may be regional managers, divisional managers, departmental managers, and team leaders who oversee different teams. The plan should reflect the distinct divisions. When this is done correctly, all team members will understand the expectations on them and how they contribute to the success of the company.

 

Coaching and Managing Teams With Appreciative Inquiry

Coaching and Managing Teams With Appreciative Inquiry

Managing a team can be a difficult task by itself, much less trying to coach them in the right direction. Sometimes our good intentions can come across as critical, negative, or just plain mean. But when we use Appreciative Inquiry along with other coaching or management strategies, we can help our team find solutions to their problems while also making them more positive and confident in themselves.

Related: Problem Solving Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Build Around What Works

When we examine how our business is run, we notice what functions and works for everyone, and what doesn’t. The key to a well-managed team is building around what works and encouraging growth with it. As managers or team leaders we can try to change things that derail our team from what they usually do. While this is normally done with good intentions, it can often lead to a kink in the company plan and actually have the opposite effect of what we were hoping for. Notice what is working for the team now and how well they function. If changes are needed (or attempted), try to incorporate the current structure while leading the team in the new direction.

Like the old saying goes: “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.

Focus on Increases

As a team leader, we often look at our task list in a negative way. One of the first things we try to accomplish is to decrease certain areas, such as mistakes, tardiness, and complaints. But focusing on what we want to decrease normally includes negative attributes of the job. If we focus on these things for too long, we can drive ourselves to negativity very quickly.

Instead, focus on what aspects can be increased. By focusing on what can be increased, we are focusing on the positive attributes of the job, such as more sales, more goals, and more customer and employee satisfaction. If we approached a team member with the same problem, which route of improvement would they feel more confident taking – decreasing their typing mistakes or increasing their typing ability?

Encourage increases in different areas:

  • Sales
  • Moral
  • Productivity
  • Confidence

Recognize the Best in People

Another aspect of being positive is being able to see the best in people instead of being critical. Of course, no one is perfect and everyone has some kind of fault, but that does mean we have to define them by it. When we recognize the best in people, not only do we benefit from knowing what great attributes they can contribute, but it makes the team members feel more confident about themselves and their job skills.

When they feel better about themselves, they want to do better at their jobs and will work harder to make progress and get the job done. Don’t be afraid to compliment team members on their job skills and what they have accomplished. When you find yourself focusing on what they have done wrong, refer to your mental list of all of their good qualities and determine which list overpowers the other.

Limit or Remove Negative Comments

Using negative terms and phrases is one of the leading causes of poor performance and low team morale. These harsh words can damage any relationship and can often bring out a sense of defensiveness when approached. When you find yourself wanting to use negative phrases, either with yourself or a team member, stop and think of the words you’re using. Then rethink the sentence by removing negative comments and replacing them with a positive one. You’ll find that you can still get your point across without making the team feel as though they are being attacked.

Remove comments such as:

  • “It’s too hard.”
  • “I’ll/You’ll never finish this.”
  • “It’s too late to change now.”

Influencing Positive Change in Your Team

Influencing Positive Change in Your Team

Influencing your team members can have a ripple effect – it can start small but then the efforts begin to grow and grow. Of course you want to influence your team in a positive manner, not a negative one. Through Appreciative Inquiry, we can influence others by not only being positive ourselves, but helping your team members make changes in their lives and be more positive.

Using Strengths to Solve Challenges in the Team

Every problem or challenge a team encounters is different. Some of them the team can handle on their own. Some of them require help from others. Whatever the case, we know that we can solve the problem the best way we know how by using our inner strengths. Maybe your team thinks well when they look at the big picture or when they take a step-by-step approach toward any solution.

They key is for the team to find what their strength is and use it to their advantage. Use Appreciative Inquiry to ask yourself what kind of strengths has worked for the team before. Ask your team members how they felt when they used them to solve a problem and remind them how confident they felt afterwards. These Appreciative Inquiry exercises will help the team get to the root of the problem and then help them determine how to solve it!

Related: Problem Solving Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Confidence Will Promote Positive Change in the Team

The perception team members have of themselves, not only affect how other people see them, but it can affect how they view the world and act in it. Sometimes we can’t control these things, such as embarrassing moments or recent mistakes, but there are many things we can do that can boost our confidence. When the team remembers their earlier successes or imagine a goal they want to achieve, they get an instant confidence boost and can feel better about the choices they make. When team members are confident in themselves, they are more apt to make positive changes without being fearful and without their own criticism.

Tips to build confidence:

  • Dress nicely.
  • Present a confident body language.
  • Offer your opinion and insights.
  • Compliment other people – it makes you feel good too!

Inquiry is a Seed of Change

Many things in our lives have changed so much and continue to grow over time. But what makes them change? What steps do they take to make something different? We’d be surprised to know that the simplest way to make changes is to ask a question. Inquiry is the seed of change because it brings up the mental question of “what if?”
What if cell phones didn’t just make calls, but sent a message of typed text?
What if we sold fries with our hamburger and called it a combo meal?
What if new customers received a 10% discount when they sign with us?

Through Appreciative Inquiry, anyone in the team can ask a question that seeks to find another type of thinking. When different types of ‘thinkers’ come together, it can create various types of changes that can alter how we view many things in our lives.

The Team Will Gravitate Towards What is Expected of Them

When you look for a job opening in the want ads, what type of ads do you notice first? Chances are you read the ones that mention your type of skill set, such as a secretary, a chef, or even a construction worker. You feel confident reading these ads first because you know that they are in your area of skills and you’re confident you can do the job.

The same effect is true for anyone else. When team members have an idea of what is expected of them, they are more likely to drift toward that persona. If we are positive and helpful in our own actions, people will naturally want to join in when we encourage them to feel the same way. They feel as though they are expected to feel more positive, upbeat or confident, so they begin to review how they do things and ‘gravitate’ towards a different way of doing things.

Working on Problems in Your Team

Working on Problems in Your Team

The escalation of anger in ‘hot’ situations in the team can be easily prevented, if a system for discussing contentious issues is in place. In this blog post, we will discuss how to work effectively on the problem. Specifically, we will tackle constructive disagreement, negotiation tips, building a consensus and identifying solutions.

Using Constructive Disagreement

There is nothing wrong with disagreement. No two people are completely similar, therefore it’s inevitable that they would disagree on at least one issue. There’s also nothing wrong in having a position and defending it.

To make the most of a disagreement, you have to keep it constructive. The following are some of the elements of a constructive disagreement:

Solution-focus. The disagreement aims to find a workable compromise at the end of the discussion.

Mutual Respect. Even if the two parties do not agree with one another, courtesy is always a priority.

Win-Win Solution. Constructive disagreement is not geared towards getting the “one-up” on the other person. The premium is always on finding a solution that has benefits for both parties.

Reasonable Concessions. More often than not, a win-win solution means you won’t get your way completely. Some degree of sacrifice is necessary to meet the other person halfway. In constructive disagreement, parties are open to making reasonable concessions for the negotiation to move forward.

Learning-Focus. Parties in constructive disagreement see conflicts as opportunities to get feedback on how well a system works, so that necessary changes can be made. They also see it as a challenge to be flexible and creative in coming up with solutions for everyone’s gain.

Negotiation Tips

Negotiations are sometimes a necessary part of arriving at a solution. When two parties are in a disagreement, there has to be a process that would surface areas of bargaining. When a team member is given the opportunity to present his side and argue for his or her interests, anger is less likely to escalate.

The following are some tips on negotiation during a conflict:

Context is an important element in the negotiation process. The location of the meeting, the physical arrangement of room, as well as the time the meeting is held can positively or negatively influence the participants’ ability to listen and discern. For example, negotiations held in a noisy auditorium immediately after a stressful day can make participants irritable and less likely to compromise.

Before entering a negotiating table, do your research. Stack up on facts to back up your position, and anticipate the other party’s position. Having the right information can make the negotiation process run faster and more efficiently.

Make sure that you state your needs and interests in a way that is not open to misinterpretation. Speak in a calm and controlled manner. Present arguments without personalization. Remember, your position can only be appreciated if it’s perceived accurately.

It’s important that you pay attention not just to the words you and the other party are saying, but also the manner the discussion is running. For example, was everyone able to speak their position adequately, or is there an individual who dominates the conversation? Are there implicit or explicit coercions happening? Does the other person’s non-verbal behavior show openness and objectivity? All these things influence result, and you want to make sure that you have the most productive negotiation process that you can.

Lastly, enter a negotiation situation with an open mind. Be willing to listen and carefully consider what the other person has to say. Anticipate the possibility that you may have to change your beliefs and assumptions. Make concessions.

Building Consensus

Consensus means unanimous agreement on an area of contention. Arriving at a consensus is the ideal resolution of bargaining. If both parties can find a solution that is agreeable to both of them, then anger can be prevented or reduced.

The following are some tips on how to arrive at a consensus:

  • Focus on interests rather than positions.

Surface the underlying value that makes people take the position they do. For example, the interest behind a request for a salary increase may be financial security. If you can communicate to the other party that you acknowledge this need, and will only offer a position that takes financial security into consideration, then a consensus is more likely to happen.

  • Explore options together.

Consensus is more likely if both parties are actively involved in the solution-making process. This ensures that there is increased communication about each party’s position. It also ensures that resistances are addressed.

  • Increase sameness/ reduce differentiation.

A consensus is more likely if you can emphasize all the things that you and the other party have in common, and minimize all the things that make you different. An increased empathy can make finding common interests easier. It may also reduce psychological barriers to compromise. An example of increasing sameness/ reducing differences is an employer and employee temporary setting aside their position disparity and looking at the problem as two stakeholders in the same organization.

Identifying Solutions

Working on a problem involves the process of coming up with possible solutions. The following are some ways two team members in disagreement can identify solutions to their problem.

Related: Problem Solving Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Brainstorm. Brainstorming is the process of coming up with as many ideas as you can in the shortest time possible. It makes use of the diversity of personalities in a team, so that one can come up with the widest range of fresh ideas. Quantity of ideas is more important than quality of ideas in the initial stage of brainstorming; you can filter out the bad ones later on with an in-depth review of their pros and cons.

Hypothesize. Hypothesizing means coming up with ‘what if’ scenarios based on intelligent guesses. A solution can be made from imagining alternative set-ups, and studying these alternative set-ups against facts and known data.

Adopt a Model. You may also look for a solution in the past. If a solution has worked before, perhaps it may work again. Find similar problems and study how it was handled. You don’t have to follow a model to the letter; you are always free to tweak it to fit the nuances of the current problem. 

Invent Options. If there has been no precedence for a problem, it’s time to exercise one’s creativity and think of new options. A way to go about this is to list down each party’s interests and come up with proposed solutions that have benefits for each party.

Survey. If the two parties can’t come up with a solution between the two of them, maybe it’s time to seek other people’s point of view. Survey people with interest or background in the issue in contention. Find an expert is possible. Just remember though, at the end of the day the decision is still yours. Identify a solution based on facts, not on someone’s opinion.

 

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Dealing with Anger in the Team by Separating the People from the Problem

Anger is not just personal. It can be relational as well. When managing anger that involves the team, it helps to have a problem-oriented disposition, setting personal matters aside. This way the issue becomes an objective and workable issue.

In this blog post, we will discuss ways to separate people from the problem. Specifically, we will discuss the difference between objective and subjective language, ways to identify the problem, and how to use I-messages.

Objective vs. Subjective Language

One way to make sure that a discussion remains constructive is to use objective rather than subjective language.

Objective language involves stating your position using reference points that are observable, factual, and free from personal prejudices. Objective references do not change from person to person.

This is the opposite of subjective language, which is vague, biased, and or emotional. You are using subjective language when you are stating an opinion, assumption, belief, judgment, or rumor.

The use of objective language keeps the discussion on neutral ground. It’s less threatening to a person’s self-esteem and therefore keeps people from being on the defensive. More importantly, objective language can be disputed and confirmed, which ensures that the discussion can go towards a solution.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Here are some guidelines in the use of objective vs. subjective language:

Subjective: You’re an inconsiderate supervisor. 

Objective: You approved the rule without consulting with us first.

  • Avoid vague references to frequency. Instead, use the actual numbers.

Subjective: You are always late!

Objective: You were late for meetings four times in the past month.

  • Clarify terms that can mean differently to different people.

Subjective: You practice favoritism when you give promotions.

Objective: The employee ranking system is not being followed during promotions.

  • Don’t presume another person’s thoughts, feelings, and intentions.

Subjective: You hate me!

Objective: You do not talk to me when we are in a room together.

  • Don’t presume an action you did not see or hear.

Subjective: She stole my wallet. 

Objective: The wallet was on my desk when I left. It was no longer there when I came back, and she was the only person who entered the room.

Identifying the Problem

You can’t separate people from the problem if you don’t know what the problem is. A good way to move forward, in a discussion where anger is escalating, is through identifying the problem.  

Related: Problem Solving Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Identifying the problem focuses all energy on the crisis at hand rather than the persons involved in a conflict. The two parties focus their energies on a common enemy that is outside of themselves, a move that puts the two opposing parties back in neutral ground.

There are many processes you can use to identify the problem. Here is one of them:

STEP ONE:  Get as much information as you can why the other party is upset.

STEP TWO: Surface the other person’s position. Reframe this position into a problem statement. Example: “I can hear how upset you are. Am I right in perceiving that the problem for you is that you weren’t informed of the account being sold?”

STEP THREE: Review your own position. State your position in a problem statement as well. Example: “The problem for me is that I don’t have the resources to contact you. The phone lines are not working because of the storm.”

STEP FOUR: Having heard both positions, define the problem in a mutually acceptable way. Example: “I hear that you’d like to be informed of any sales. On my part, I’d like to inform you, but for as long as the phone lines are dead, I can’t see how I would do it. I think the issue here is about finding an alternative way to get the information to you on time while the phones are being repaired. Do you agree?”

If the two parties agree to the problem statement, they can now both work at the surfaced problem and take the focus away from their emotions.

Using “I” Messages

An “I-message” is a message that is focused on the speaker. When you use I-messages, you take responsibility for your own feelings instead of accusing the other person of making you feel a certain way. The opposite of an I-message is a You-message.

An “I-message” is composed of the following:

  • A description of the problem or issue.

Describe the person’s behavior you are reacting to in an objective, non-blameful, and non-judgmental manner.  

“When … “

  • Its effect on you or the organization.

Describe the concrete or tangible effects of that behavior. 

“The effects are … “

  • A suggestion for alternative behavior.

“I’d prefer … “

Here is an example of an I-message:

 “When I have to wait outside the office an extra hour because you didn’t inform me that you’d be late (problem/issue), I become agitated (effect). I prefer for you to send me a message if you will not be able to make it (alternative behavior).”

The most important feature of I-messages is that they are neutral. There is no effort to threaten, argue, or blame in these statements. You avoid making the other person defensive, as the essence of an I-message is “I have a problem” instead of “You have a problem”. The speaker simply makes statements and takes full responsibility for his/her feelings.

 

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How to Plan Small Team Meetings

How to Plan Small Team Meetings

Small team meetings could either be productive or total waste of time. Team members may come unprepared to share or participate. If your meeting does not have clear goals, objectives, and a clear time frame for each topic, you will surely lose control of the meeting and waste time trying to keep the team on track.

Having a set approach to planning small team meetings will assure that you will set up your meeting to be the most efficient and effective. Here is a quick checklist for planning a small meeting:

 Purpose defined: your team meeting should have a purpose. What is the reason for the meeting? What is this meeting going to accomplish? Defining the purpose will even help you determine if a meeting is necessary. Many times there are team meetings called to share updates. This could be accomplished with a simple presentation sent via email. Subjecting project teams to constant update meetings decreases the power of the meeting in general. Save your meeting time for brainstorming, problem solving, etc.

Objective of the team meeting determined: state what the result or outcome of this meeting will produce. For example, you could say that the objective of this meeting is to brainstorm ideas for overcoming the shortage of widgets. If you have several objectives, set time limits for discussing each objective. If the objective is complicated, then use the entire meeting time to resolve it, but try writing an agenda that will keep you on track of the topics you need to cover.

People to attend identified: once you set your objective, then you are able to determine who to invite. If major decisions are going to be made, then invite the right audience.

Checklist of supplies created: you may need flip charts and other items or resources to facilitate the team meeting.

Organize the resources: make sure all resources on your checklist are available and in working order. Make appointments with those you need to meet in order to acquire the resource.

Reserve a place or room: make sure you contact the keeper of the room schedule. Reserve the room well in advance to avoid being blocked from that room. Make sure you get confirmation of the reservation.

Notify the attendees: send a meeting invite to those attending the team meeting with at least a few days’ notice. Try avoiding last-minute meetings. In your message, state the meeting’s purpose, objective and place it will be held. Be professional in your invitation and avoid being too casual.

 

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How to Connect With Your Team Through Interpersonal Communication

Sadly, talking and listening has often been seen as a tool for simply communicating with other people, but not for building connections and networks. This assumption doesn’t recognize the fact that interpersonal communication is a great tool to connect with your team members on a deeper level and form a connection with them. Speaking interpersonally allows both parties to feel more at ease and open up to one another. Just remember to be an active listener and watch your own body language.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Give Respect and Trust

It is a common courtesy in any conversation to treat the other person respectfully and professionally. By treating their ideas and opinions respectfully and with due consideration, you are showing respect by hearing them out, listening to them, and considering what they have to say with an open mind. When communicating with your team, it is important to build rapport and trust by speaking with each other respectfully and giving each other your full attention. After all, they deserved to be treated with dignity and courtesy for their thoughts and opinions. In addition, give your trust to them and let them know that you feel confident enough to speak with them openly. The motions and feelings we put out into the world will come back to us, so don’t be afraid to speak openly with your team. They will be impressed that you can give respect and trust so freely and appreciate the effort you are trying to make with them.

Related: Trust Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Be Consistent

Consistency is a key factor that builds interpersonal relationships. Being consistent in what we say and do shows knowledge and reliability because it helps build a familiar base to start from. Your team members will want to communicate with you because you will become a factor they know they can trust and depend on. In addition, ensure that your actions are consistent with what you say – in other words– do what you say you’ll do. If you say you will meet someone after lunch to review a report, ensure that you are there early to greet them. If you volunteered to give a speech at the next work convention, be prepared ahead of time and be ready when the day arrives. Showing you are consistent in turn shows how reliable you are and what an asset you can be for the team. Take a few minutes to reflect back on your actions and note if they have been consistent over time. Are there behaviors you can change? What can you do differently in the future?

Always Keep Your Cool

Keeping our cool in tight or stressful situations can be tough and takes a lot of skill to make it through gracefully. It is perfectly normal to feel embarrassed or hurt when someone does something you don’t like, such as speaking rudely to you or pointing out a mistake you made. Our first instinct is to possibly lash out at them or try to retaliate by hurting them in return. But the key to strong and professional communication is to keep your cool at all times and not let the negative feelings take over. When something happens that may send you over the edge, take a minute to reflect on what was said and what happened. If needed, you should step away for a few moments to compose yourself. Don’t deny the other team member to their opinion, but let them know how you feel and how it affects you. Kinder team members will back track their statements and try to address the problem in less negative terms. If the team member is unwilling to give respect, realize that their opinion may not be worth the fight.

Tips for keeping your cool:

·         Try not to take words personally

·         Stop and reflect what was said, not how it was said

·         Make a note to learn from this experience

·         Ask yourself if the person had reason for what was said – if so, what can you do to change it?

Observing Body Language

Body language can speak volumes between people, even if it does not have words to accompany it. Many times people may say one message, but their body language can say another, meaning they may not be truthful in what they say. By observing and becoming more aware of body language and what it might mean, we can learn to read people more easily and understand some of their body movements. By better understanding their movements, you can be better prepared to communicate with them, while at the same time better understanding the body language you may be conveying to them. Even though there are times that we can send mixed messages, we can try to get our point across using certain behaviors. Our body language affects how we act with others and how we react to them, as well as how they can react to ours.

 

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Identifying and Understanding Social Cues in Your Team

Identifying and Understanding Social Cues in Your Team

Social cues are verbal or non-verbal hints that let us know what the members of your team maybe thinking or feeling. While some cues can be obvious, other may be very subtle, so we must train ourselves to be able to recognize them when they do appear.

Social cues can often enhance, or even downplay, what is being said or portrayed in a situation. But the social cue needs to be interpreted in the right manner for it to better a social situation – not make it worse. Team leaders who are better equipped to identify and understand these social cues are more likely to act appropriately to them, and will be better prepared to respond to them and adapt their behavior.

Recognize Social Situations

Social situations are not a ‘one size fits all’ situation. Because the people in each situation are different, we must learn to adapt ourselves to this ever-changing group – and know how to handle them. This does not mean we have to change who we are or hide our own personality, but rather we can change how we present ourselves around other people. Some of the best hints we can use are the ones we get from other people around you. How are they behaving? How are they ‘working through’ the event? Do you know all of them? Are there faces you do not recognize? With this information in mind, determine what type of social situation you may be in. Is this a formal gathering? Is it a business meeting or function with coworkers? The key is to recognize your surroundings and the people involved to help determine how to present yourself.

Questions to ask in a social situation:

·         “What is the gathering for?”

·         “Who is present?”

·         “Do we share common interests?”

The Eyes Have It

Not all cues from the team members can be seen right and may be well hidden, but the eyes will always give them away. Without blatantly staring at a team member (of course), try to observe how they are looking at you and others. Do certain words or phrases make them blink more or dart their eyes in another direction? Are they staying focused on a subject for a long period of time? Unfortunately, the eyes cannot lie – often. Many feelings or behaviors we try to hide in ourselves will often be shown through the eyes. Common eye behaviors such as rolling the eyes or looking around frequently can be signs of boredom or discomfort. If a team member looks at you while talking or moves their eyebrows while listening to you talk, this can be a sign of interest or curiosity. But since these feelings may not be said out loud, or even gestured, it is a key tool to remember when gauging the team members.

Common eye behaviors:

·         Eye rolling

·         Blinking too much or too little

·         Wandering eyes; not looking directly at a person

·         Long blinks

Non-Verbal Cues

It has been said that non-verbal communication is the most powerful form of communication since it can expand beyond voice, tone, and even words. It accounts for over 90% of our communication methods. Although the differences in non-verbal communication can be different in certain situations (amount of personal space or use of hand gestures), most cues can send the same message across the board. Nonverbal cues can include facial expressions, body movements, eye movement, and various gestures and usually are not associated with supported words or phrases.

Common non-verbal cues include folding the arms, gripping or moving hands while speaking, rolling the eyes and even misusing the tone of voice. Do you notice these gestures when speaking with your team? When thinking of your behavior, do you find yourself making any of these gestures when you are in a social situation? If so, think of ways you can try to eliminate some of them and replace them with more welcoming or outgoing gestures instead.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Common non-verbal cues:

·         Folding the arms

·         Looking around frequently

·         Tapping the feet or clasping hands

·         Fidgeting

·         Moving closer/farther away

Verbal Cues

Verbal cues are cues from your team members that we are more likely to pick up on and notice right away. They are usually done with some sort of emphasis or tone that causes an effect within us, and is mostly likely to stick with us in the future. Phrases such as “Did you see the new rules in the handbook?” or “I can’t wait to see the projections for this week” add emphasis to certain words to stress a point or effect. Other verbal cues can include appropriate pauses when speaking, pitch, or volume of the voice or even speaking too slowly or quickly. These are cues that we can control and use with our voices (hence the term verbal) to get a message across.

When in a social situation, listen to your team members and determine what verbal cues you can pick up on. Do they sound positive or negative? Do they appropriately portray the message being sent? Do you find yourself using these verbal cues on the team? Maybe you emphasized the wrong word or spoke in a higher pitch when trying to speak with the team. When we can recognize these cues in others and learn to adapt ourselves to them, we can learn to identify them in ourselves and ensure that we are not putting the wrong message out there.

Common verbal cues:

·         Voice tone or pitch

·         Word emphasis

·         Volume

·         Uncomfortable pauses or word inserts

Spectrum of Cues

As in all situations, there is always a possibility for going to one extreme to the other without having any middle ground in between. For social cues, it can be a fairly wide spectrum with plenty of variations. On one side of the spectrum, a team member can be very obvious with their cues, such as speaking very loudly or making very large and awkward hand gestures. These types of cues are easy to spot and can often make people feel uncomfortable right away. On the other hand, there are cues that are more subtle and can often be missed if not recognized right away, such as excessive eye blinking or adding a tone to their words.

Unfortunately, these types of cues may go unnoticed and can portray the wrong message when they may not be intended to. They key point is being able to recognize each side of this spectrum and the different ways a social cue can go wrong and right at the same time. When you learn the extremes they can reach, you’re better equipped to catch the cues in between and adapt your behavior faster.

Review and Reflect

It’s a natural behavior to want to react to a cue we may recognize and want to confront right away. Are you bored? Did I offend you? Did you understand? But these approaches are not the best solution to connect with your team and better understand their behavior. When you notice a social cue, such as someone rolling their eyes or speaking in a shrill voice at you, take a moment to stop and review the action. Take notice if it is being directed at you or if other team members are subject to it as well. Does the behavior continue? Maybe the behavior was a onetime occurrence?

Reflect on what you can do to adapt yourself to the situation. Was there something you said to trigger this feeling? Does this team member have something they want to share? Or maybe you just need to take a step back from this person. Sometimes they need a moment to review and reflect as well, and may need some personal space to do it. Whatever your results, remember to refrain from jumping to conclusions about the cues we encounter. Always take a minute to two before responding with your own actions.

Being Adaptable and Flexible

Even though there are times we can pick up on these social cues, we may be able to change them or even get away from them as soon as we’d like. These are the times we must learn to be flexible and adapt to the situation. We all know that not all situations will be comfortable for us and we may need to find a way to adapt until it’s over. Sometimes the room can have more people than we are comfortable with or maybe the other visitors are sending cues of boredom or annoyance, but don’t let these cues sink you. Be flexible to the team and reflect on what you can do to help the situation. Try to start a conversation with team members that seem distant or unsure. Lead by example and speak in lower pitches or in casual tones. Many times your team members will catch onto the cues you are sending out and will become adaptable as well. This great trick doesn’t always work in all situations, but it is one way we can help ourselves adapt and manage through a difficult situation.

Personal Space

Edward Hall was one of the first people to define and characterize the space around us – our different level of spaces. The outer most space around us is our public space, such as in a large room. Coming in closer is our social space, such as talking with a group of friends. The next inward space is our personal space, which is usually within arms’ reach of us. This space is usually on reserve for ‘invitation-only’, meaning we do not like for people to be in our personal space unless we initiate it and welcome them over.

In social situations, this can be a hard thing to maintain. The key is to refrain from being rude to someone who may have encroached on your space. If this person is too close, take a few steps to the side instead of backwards, which creates subtle distance and doesn’t appear as though you are backing away. If you must leave a group of people, or even just one, that are too close, always excuse yourself politely and move to an open area. If possible, take a few steps around the room every so often, which keeps you mobile and doesn’t allow for crowding. Remember, this is the time to be adaptable, so you may need to be flexible with your surroundings to feel more at ease.

Tips for keeping your personal space personal:

·         Excuse yourself politely when leaving a group

·         Step to the side a step or two to create subtle distance

·         Walk often or roam about the area – if possible

·         Opt for a handshake when greeting people – it allows for the other person to stay at arm’s length

·         Be aware of cultural differences in personal space

 

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The Right Tools to Help Your Virtual Team Succeed

The Right Tools to Help Your Virtual Team Succeed

The Success of any kind of team depends on the tools you use to make it work. After all, you can’t build a house without a hammer and you can’t change a tire without a jack. But having a lot of tools at your disposal does not necessarily mean you have the right ones to get the job done. The key is in knowing what you want to do and what kind of tool would help you do it.

Communication Software

On a virtual team, communication software is crucial to have and use well. Team members are far apart and cannot communicate in person with each other when they have questions. How do your team members want or need to communicate with each other? For quick and easy questions or comments, text messaging or an instant message program can be the key. But if an employee needs to ask lengthy questions to a coworker or manager, a phone call or tagged email may be the answer instead. Whichever way the team chooses to communicate with each other, it is just as important to know how to use and work the software, so be sure to ensure every team member has proper training and can come to you with questions.

Examples of communication software:

  • Telephones – landlines, cellular or VOIP
  • Email systems (AOL, Yahoo!, Gmail, Microsoft Outlook)
  • Instant messaging programs (AOL IM, GroupWise Messenger, MSN messenger)
  • Video chat room (Skype, ooVoo, Google Voice)

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Collaboration and Sharing Tools

Collaboration and sharing tools allow team members across a virtual team to not only share a project they are working on, but also to work with each other by editing and commenting on projects within the same program. It can be a hassle to try and email a project back and forth when one person is trying to suggest a change or add their notes. There are a number of software programs that can be added to the virtual team to help make the collaboration process go more smoothly among team members. Many of these tools allow employees to upload a file for several others to see at once. Others include comment or adjustment features and can save any progress made after each person touches the file. These types of tools can make a virtual team run better and allows them to work as a team rather than several individuals trying to reach the same goal.

Examples of collaboration and sharing tools:

  • Adobe Acrobat
  • JotSpot
  • Microsoft Office
  • Novell GroupWise email
  • Basecamp

Project Management Software

Project management software is aimed at managing the different aspects of a project, such as budgets, productivity, scheduling, communication, and even employee evaluations. There are many different ways of keeping track of this information, and companies normally take a different approach depending on the situation. Virtual teams generally have some sort of web based management program, such as a web application for clocking in and out or keeping track of employee absences.

Other software options can include a program installed on the employee’s desktop that can monitor their progress over a period of time and can show the employee what kind of progress they are making. Although we don’t want to feel as though we are micromanaging our employees, it is necessary to implement some form of project management software for the team to use. While some may not like the approach to managing their projects, they will feel relieved when the time comes that they will need your feedback and guidance.

Use What Works for You and Your Team

Every team leader has an opinion about what methods work and which ones do not for a virtual team. But only you can decide what works for you and your team. You know your employees and you know what would be the best way to communicate with them when you need to. Sometimes this can take some trial and error to see what forms of communication work best for the team as a whole. Some may communicate better by email while others are more comfortable talking on the phone. Many employees communicate using a number of different methods, depending on what kind of response they will need. The best part about having so many tools at your disposal is that you can use a combination of them to achieve what you and your team need to do.

Use the method, or methods, that get(s) what you need:

Email/text messaging/phone calls – short answers and quick information delivery, such as a meeting change or a quick clarification question.

Group meetings/individual meetings/video chats – in-depth and lengthy information given; usually requires explanations or discussions from both sides. This includes discussion of employee progress, business reports, or company changes.

 

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Tips on Dealing With Poor Team Players

Dealing with poor team players

When we manage a team, there will always be a time where we have to address a member, or members, that are not working well with the group. No one wants to be the bad guy, but if the employee is not confronted and not given the chance to improve, it can affect the other members of the team and could cause a ‘domino effect’ for productivity. Learn the techniques of approaching this delicate situation and look out for your team as a whole – not just one member.

Manage Their Results, Not Their Activities

It  is more important to monitor the employee’s results, rather than the individual activities. If the employee is delivering great work and it’s on time, then the process of how they finish it means very little.

For many team members, having this sense of freedom and trust can boost their confidence and improve productivity. However, if a team member is not completing work on time or is not turning in projects, then this is an indication of poor work habits and the team leader should investigate into what is causing the problem. Approach the employee and talk to them about their routine schedule. If needed, organize some form of an improvement plan to help them adjust their ways of completing their assignments.

Be Proactive, Not Reactive

It is better to be prepared for any mishap before it happens, which is why it is important to be proactive rather than reactive. If we wait for something to go wrong before we act on it, we cannot think clearly about what to do and it may be too late to fix. The same theory goes for team members. Do not sit back and wait for them to make a mistake before they are taught how to do something correctly. Monitor each employee’s progress and notice any minor problems they may have along the way. Speak to the team member early on when they problem starts and try to find a way to guide them on the right path. This will prevent the problem from getting worse and having to use more damage control later. Being proactive will always keep you one step ahead and ready to help the employee succeed.

Check In Often

On the same lines of being proactive, be sure to check in with your team members often. They may not always have the chance to contact you or may not want to admit they need help. Schedule some form of regular communication for informal check in times that best work for you and the employee. Check in can be done by a phone call or simply sending an email. This will help both of you stay on track and allows you to report any feedback that needs to be addressed. Think of it as keeping a close eye on your flock and ensuring that you are there for them if they happen to go astray.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Example forms of check in methods:

  • Email
  • Phone call
  • Recurring group meeting
  • Video chat

Remove Them

Sometimes after a team leader has tried several attempts to help a team member work well on a team, they come to realize that the particular employee is just not a great fit and will need to be removed. Some employees can be too disruptive to their teammates or are not able to work independently. This can cause problems for the whole team and should be addressed right away. Before you decide to remove the employee, make sure your ducks are in a row and that you have done all you can to help them succeed, such as personal help or extra training. If you have followed all of the correct guidelines and the employee does not show any type of improvement, then you can take the next steps in removing the employee from the team. Some employees may be reassigned to another department in the company while others may need to be fired altogether. Review all of their available options and determine which would be best for the company and the team.

 

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