Category: Managing Teams

Getting to the Root Cause of Team Conflict

Getting to the Root Cause of Team Conflict

Building a positive foundation and gathering information are key steps to resolving conflict in your team, but it is going to be difficult to solve the problem if we don’t know what the problem is! You need to delve below the current conflict in the team to the root of the problem. This is important for long-term resolution, rather than a band-aid solution.

Examining Root Causes of Team Conflict

Once the groundwork has been laid, it is important to look at the root causes of the conflict in the team.

One way to do this is through simple verbal investigation. This involves continuously asking “Why?” to get to the root of the problem. An example:

I was very upset when Sharon vetoed my idea at the meeting.

Why <were you upset>?

I felt that my idea had real value and she didn’t listen to what I had to say.

Why <didn’t she listen to what you had to say>?

She has been with the company for a lot longer than I have and I feel that she doesn’t respect me.

Now we have progressed from a single isolated incident to the root cause of the incident itself (and probably many more past and future incidents). Resolving this root cause will provide greater value and satisfaction to all involved.

Paying attention to the wording of the root cause is important, too.

Watch out for vague verbs.

Try to keep emotions out of the problem statements.

Creating a Cause and Effect Diagram

Another way of examining root cause of team conflict is to create a cause and effect diagram (also known as a fishbone diagram) with the person that you are having the conflict. To start, draw a horizontal arrow pointing to the right on a large sheet of paper. At the end of the arrow, write down the problem.

Now, work together to list possible causes. Group these causes. Draw a line pointing to the large arrow for each cause and write the cause at the top.

Now, write each cause on a line pointing to the group arrow. (Sticky notes work well for this.)

Now the people in the conflict have a clear map of what is happening.

Although this technique can be time-consuming, it is excellent for complicated conflicts or for team conflicts where there may be more than one root cause. The drawing should be updated as new causes are discovered.

The Importance of Forgiveness in Conflict Resolution

Forgiveness is a key concept in conflict resolution. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting that the conflict happened, or erasing the emotions that it created. It does mean accepting that the conflict happened. Accepting and working through how it made you feel, accepting the consequences that it had, and letting those actions and consequences exist in the past.

Successful conflict resolution should give the team members some feeling of closure over the issue. Participants should feel that the conflict has been resolved to their satisfaction, and that it will not likely reoccur. These accomplishments should help the team members put the conflict behind them and move forward, to more things that are positive.

These goals should be kept in mind during the resolution process. Ask yourself, “Will resolving this help provide me with closure? Will this action help me accept what has happened and move on?”

Identifying the Benefits of Conflict Resolution

There is no doubt about it – conflict resolution in a team can be hard work. Effective conflict resolution digs deep into the issues, often exploring unfamiliar territory, to resolve the core conflict and prevent the problem from reoccurring.

However, this process can be time-consuming and emotionally difficult. The team members that are in conflict may arrive at a point (or several points) in the conflict resolution process where they wonder, “Is this really worth it?”

When you arrive at these stalemates, look at why you are resolving the conflict. It can also be helpful to explore what will happen if the conflict is not resolved.

What relationships will deteriorate or break up?

If this is a workplace conflict, what is the financial cost to the company?

What will be the emotional cost to the participants?

Who else will be affected?

These questions should help team members put things into perspective and evaluate whether or not the conflict is truly worth resolving. In most situations, resolving the true conflict is well worth the effort in the long term. Visualizing the benefits can provide the motivation to work through the rest of the process.

For complex conflicts, there are some additional ways to stay motivated. It’s OK to break the resolution sessions into parts, with a different goal for each session. It’s also OK to take breaks as needed – a walk around the block or a glass of water can do wonders to refresh the mind and body.

Conclusion

We looked at the importance of getting to the root cause of conflict in your team to achieve long term solutions. The cause and effect diagram was discussed as a way of examining root causes. Then we also explained why forgiveness is essential in the resolution of team conflicts and how you can encourage your team members to resolve conflicts by identifying the benefits of conflict resolution.

Team building events are a great way of identifying conflicts in your team that you may not have known existed. It can also be used as a tool help team members who are in conflict resolve their differences by working together on a non-work related project.

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Connecting with Your Team Through the Art of Conversation

Connecting with Your Team Through the Art of Conversation

Engaging in interesting, memorable small talk is a daunting task for most people. How do you know what to share and when to share it? How do you know what topics to avoid? How do you connect with your team through engaging conversation?

Most experts propose a simple three-level framework that you can use to master the art of conversation. Identifying where you are and where you should be is not always easy, but having an objective outline can help you stay out of sticky situations. We will also share some handy networking tips that will help you get conversations started.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Level One: Discussing General Topics

At the most basic level, stick to general topics: the weather, sports, non-controversial world events, movies, and books. This is typically what people refer to when they say, “small talk.”

At this stage, you will focus on facts rather than feelings, ideas, and perspectives. Death, religion, and politics are absolute no-no’s. (The exception is when you know someone has had an illness or death in the family and wish to express condolences. In this situation, keep your condolences sincere, brief, and to the point.)

If someone shares a fact that you feel is not true, try to refrain from pointing out the discrepancy. If you are asked about the fact, it’s OK simply to say, “I wasn’t aware of that,” or make some other neutral comment.

Right now, you are simply getting to know the team members. Keep an eye out for common ground while you are communicating. Use open-ended questions and listening skills to get as much out of the conversation as possible.

Level Two: Sharing Ideas and Perspectives

If the first level of conversation goes well, the team should feel comfortable with each other and have identified some common ground. Now it’s time to move a bit beyond general facts and share different ideas and perspectives.

It is important to note that not all personal experiences are appropriate to share at this level. For example, it is fine to share that you like cross-country skiing and went to Europe, but you may not want to share the fact that you took out a personal loan to do so.

Although this level of conversation is the one most often used, and is the most conducive to relationship building and opening communication channels, make sure that you don’t limit yourself to one person in the team.

Level Three: Sharing Personal Experiences

This is the most personal level of conversation. This is where everything is on the table and personal details are being shared. This level is typically not appropriate for a social, casual meeting. However, all of the conversational skills are crucial at this stage in particular: when team members are talking about matters of the heart, they require our complete attention, excellent listening skills, and skilled probing with appropriate questions.

Our Top Networking Tips

Understanding how to converse and how to make small talk are great skills, but how do you get to that point? The answer is simple, but far from easy: you walk up, shake their hand, and say hello!

If you’re in the middle of a social gathering, try these networking tips to maximize your impact and minimize your nerves.

  • Before the gathering, imagine the absolute worst that could happen and how likely it is. For example, you may fear that people will laugh at you when you try to join their group or introduce yourself. Is this likely? At most business gatherings, it’s very unlikely!
  • Remember that everyone is as nervous as you are. Focus on turning that energy into a positive force.
  • To increase your confidence, prepare a great introduction. The best format is to say your name, your organization and/or position title (if appropriate), and something interesting about yourself, or something positive about the gathering. Example: “I’m Tim from Accounting. I think I recognize some of you from the IT conference last month.”
  • Just do it! The longer you think about meeting new people, the harder it will be. Get out there, introduce yourself, and meet new people.
  • Act as the host or hostess. By asking others if they need food or drink, you are shifting the attention from you to them.
  • Start a competition with a friend: see how many people, each of you can meet before the gathering is over. Make sure your meetings are worthwhile!
  • Join a group of odd-numbered people.
  • Try to mingle as much as possible. When you get comfortable with a group of people, move on to a new group.
  • When you hear someone’s name, repeat the introduction in your head. Then, when someone new joins the group, introduce them to everyone.
  • Mnemonics are a great way to remember names. Just remember to keep them to yourself! Some examples:
    • Singh likes to sing.
    • Sue sues people for a living.
    • How funny – Amy Pipes is a plumber!

Conclusion

Engaging conversation is an effective way to connect with your team and staying within the three-level framework will help you master the art of conversation. Our team building activities offer the ideal opportunity for conversing and connecting with your team in a new and more relaxing environment.

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What is Best for Your Team? Succession Planning Vs. Replacement Planning

What is Best for Your Team: Succession Planning Vs. Replacement Planning?

Succession planning and replacement planning are two different things. Replacement planning is focused on identifying immediate understudies in your team, while succession planning is focused on developing talent in the team to move forward.

What is Business Succession Planning?

Successful succession planning relates to leadership development. It develops a pool of talent so that there are numerous qualified candidates throughout the team to fill vacancies in leadership. Succession planning used to concentrate on developing leadership at the top level, but now it is building a strong talent base, which helps to increase team loyalty and ensure the longevity of the team. This strategy requires recruiting qualified talent, creating a talent pool, and instilling loyalty.

Benefits of succession planning:

What does succession planning require?

  • Identify the long-term goals and objectives of the team: The long-term goals directly relate to succession planning. Is the team’s goal to grow or maintain its current position? Will it expand into other fields? All of these questions need to be addressed before creating a succession plan.
  • Understand the developmental needs of the team and identify team members who fit these needs: The responsibilities of team members change over time. Some positions may be eliminated in the future while others will be added.
  • Recognize trends in the workforce and engage team members to build loyalty: Understanding workforce trends will help you predict the needs of your team. For example, are your key team members nearing retirement? Have you invested in talented team members to take on additional roles?

What Is Replacement Planning?

Replacement planning works under the assumption that the structure of the team will not change. This is easier to apply in small family businesses that do not have any goals to expand or grow in the future. There are typically two or three “replacements” identified in the organization chart. Each backup is listed with his or her ability to replace an existing leader. The team members are not necessarily developed to understand the new working environment or smoothly transition into his or her new responsibilities.

Differences Between

Many team leaders believe that they engage in succession planning, but in reality they are still using replacement planning.

The Main Differences:

  • Replacement planning focuses on finding suitable replacements only for top leaders.
  • Succession planning means that the team is easily able to fill vacancies throughout the business because team members are being empowered and developed.
  • There is a short list of candidates in replacement planning.
  • Succession planning builds a large talent pool.

Succession planning takes a little more time and effort from those in leadership, but it yields a high return on such an investment.

Deciding What You Need

There are several different factors that indicate when a team needs to implement or re-evaluate succession planning.

  • Turnover becomes critical: The number of high-potential team members leaving is higher than average team members leaving. (This can happen in any economy.)
  • Team members feel undervalued: When a majority of your team members feel that there is no room for advancement or that you choose too many outside hires, there is a succession-planning problem.
  • There are no replacements for key talent: Should a valued member of the team suddenly leaves, there is no one able to take his or her place.
  • Managers notice that there are not many candidates for promotion: Team leaders who are not developed for leadership will never be promoted.
  • The time to fill metric is high or unknown: The time to fill metric is the average length of time that it takes to fill a position. A high number means that the company needs to focus on succession planning.
  • The retention risk analysis is high: A risk analysis uses different factors to determine the potential number of team members who will leave. These will factor in retirement and other trends.

 

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.

Related: Making the Most of Team Meetings

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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