The Attention Zones Model for Teams

The Attention Zones Model for Teams

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

Reactive Zone

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

Proactive Zone

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

Distracted Zone

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

Leaving the distracted zone:

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

Wasteful Zone

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

Related: Time Management Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Leaving the wasteful zone:

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

Recognizing Learning Events as a Team

Recognizing Learning Events as a Team

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

Develop a Sense of Always Learning

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

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

Evaluate Past Decisions

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

Questions:

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

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

Related: Decision Making Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Problems Are Learning Opportunities

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

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

Recognize The Blind Spots

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

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

Dealing with Difficult Behavior in a Team

Dealing with Difficult Behavior in a Team

Each of us can probably think of at least one difficult personality with whom we have had to deal with in our teams. With a strategy, it is possible to learn what the team member does to annoy you, and what you might be doing to aggravate the situation.

Dealing with Difficult Situations

A difficult team member can be your boss, your co-worker, or anyone else on the team. He or she behaves in a way that is disruptive to business. In a work setting, often the functioning of a team is disturbed, leading to a disruption of the work flow, flared tempers, and gossip. The bottom line is that the work suffers and difficult situations cost organizations money.

To deal with difficult people on the team, we innately try to apply coping filters, such as:

  • Removing virtually all positive attributes about the team member. (“He was my worst hiring mistake…”)
  • Defaming the team member (We build consensus with others against the person)
  • Explaining the team member in negative terms.

Anger also plays a big part; feeling angry, we instinctively use anger to try to manage the situation.

To break the cycle of negativity, take time to answer the following questions:

  1. What observable behaviors or statements did the team member perform or say?
  2. What is the most positive interpretation an outside witness would make? The most negative?
  3. What will you gain by interpreting the difficult team member’s actions or words in as positive a light as possible?
  4. What would you do or say when you respond to the difficult team member if you viewed his or her actions in a positive light? What is stopping you from responding this way?

Key Tactics to Deal With Difficult Behavior

Three strategies will help you gather facts and use targeted strategies to deal with the team member or the situation.

Active Listening

The first tactic, and possibly the most important, is to listen with empathy, which is listening while trying to be sensitive to the various components and levels of the message. Try to listen for the following information:

  • The Why: Why is the team member communicating with me?
  • The Length: What can the size of the message tell me about the importance of the message to the team member?
  • The Words: Does the team member use formal, aloof language? Impatience?
  • The Volume and Pace: What emotional pressures can be sensed?

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Active

Note taking after a Discussion

A second tactic is to write down your recollection of the discussion that just took place. The notes can be used to support your next communication with the difficult team member. Note taking also gives you the opportunity to plan and organize before the next communication takes place.

Writing Your Communication

Putting your thoughts into writing has three important benefits:

  1. The difficult team member cannot interrupt with an objection
  2. It’s easier to provide orderly communication in writing than in a discussion
  3. Written communication is pure; there is no body language to shape the outcome, reducing the possibility of mixed messages.

Coping Techniques for Team Leaders

Coping Techniques for Team Leaders

An assertive, self-confident team leader uses a variety of coping techniques to deal with the challenges of interpersonal communication and to enhance influencing behavior.

Building Rapport With the Team

Rapport is the relation of harmony, conformity, accord, or affinity to support an outcome. The intended outcome is more likely with rapport than if it is not present. There is a sense of a shared understanding with the team members.

Mirroring – matching certain behaviors of a person with whom you are interacting — is the process used to establish rapport. There are four techniques of mirroring to build rapport.

  1. Voice tone or tempo
  2. Matching breathing rate
  3. Matching movement rhythms
  4. Matching body postures

Levels of rapport range on a continuum from a low of tolerance to a high of seduction. For business, strive for levels of neutral, lukewarm, understanding, identification, or warmth, all in the center of the continuum.

Related: Leadership Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Expressing Disagreement

Representation systems determine by the brain give us clues about how individuals process information. People can be classified as predominantly:

  • Visual  (The things we see)
  • Auditory  (The things we hear)
  • Kinesthetic  (The things we feel, touch, taste, or smell)

Both the types of words used, and the speaker’s eye movement provide indicators of the system type. In a conversation, once we understand which type our conversation partner is, we can use the same system language to match the person’s type, helping to ensure more reception to our message.

Coming to Consensus

Whether there is a disagreement on a particular issue, or you simply need to get the team to agree, Neuro-linguistics offers a solution. To plan, make the following decisions:

  1. What do you want your outcome to be?
  2. How will you know when the outcome is achieved?
  3. Who will attend the meeting? (Important: Each person invited to the meeting must have the information needed for two out of three agenda items.)

Then, establish rapport as the team members come into the meeting.

Now you are ready to use the PEGASUS model to achieve your desired outcomes.

Present outcomes

Explain evidence

Gain agreement on outcomes

Activate sensory acuity

Summarize each major decision

Use the relevancy challenge

Summarize the next step.

 

Feeling, Looking and Sounding the Part as Team Leader

Feeling, Looking and Sounding the Part as Team Leader

Being positive and feeling good about one’s self as a team leader is the key, you must feel the part. Positivity is a leading factor in one’s self confidence, it will help you keep a feeling of worth. Staying positive will provide you a great asset in regards to self talk and recognizing and working with your strengths. Everyone has weaknesses and by being positive you can recognize your weaknesses and then work on them.

A team leader who has a strong sense of personal worth makes a confident, positive appearance. Looking the part is important as it influences the team members. It will provide a boost to confidence and in turn a boost to your performance as team leader. Once higher performance is obtained it will then cycle back and make you more confident. Looking the part is an important part of being more assertive and confident as it is relatively quick and easy to do and pays off great dividends.

Feeling and looking the part would not be complete without voice. Given that we know that 38% of communication effectiveness is governed by voice quality, improving your overall voice message delivery to your team is worthwhile.

Related: Leadership Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Identifying Your Worth

Worth is defined as “sufficiently good, important, or interesting to justify a specified action.” Team leaders with a sense of self worth exude confidence in themselves. They feel in change of their own destiny, and are happy. To create a picture of your self-worth, take a self-concept inventory, analyzing multiple attributes in your life.

Creating Positive Self-Talk

Positive self talk allows you to recognize, validate, and apply your full potential with respect to all that you are, and do as a team leader. Also called affirmations (to make something firm), positive self-talk serves as your own personal accomplishment scale. Below are some tips for positive self-talk:

  1. Use the present tense; deal with what exists today.
  2. Be positive – rather than affirming what you don’t want.
  3. Remain personal; self-talk must relate to you and you only.
  4. Keep sentences short and simple.
  5. Go with your gut. If it “clicks”, then just say it. Self-talk should feel positive, expanding, freeing, and supporting.
  6. Focus on new things, rather than changing what is.
  7. Act “as if”; give yourself permission to believe the idea is true right now.

If self-talk is new to you, it is a good idea to first think about the things that are wonderful about you, such as:

  • I have someone I love, and we enjoy spending time together
  • I am a mother or father, fulfilled in this role
  • My career is challenging and fulfilling.
  • When I learn something new, I feel proud.
  • I am worthwhile because I breathe and feel; I am aware.
  • When I feel pain, I love, I try to survive. I am a good person.

Identifying and Addressing Strengths and Weaknesses

After you have listed words and phrases for self-attributes, they can be classified as strengths or weaknesses. This exercise also allows participants to re-frame weaknesses into messages that don’t feed a negative self-worth.

The Importance of Appearance

In the dictionary, appearance is defined as an external show, or outward aspect. Your confidence depends significantly on your personal thoughts and perceptions about the way you look. Appearance is as important today as it ever was. The first thing noticed when meeting someone new is their appearance. That is why it is important as you only have one first impression.

The Role of Body Language

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

One study at UCLA found that up to 93 percent of communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues. Another study indicated that the impact of a performance was determined 7 percent by the words used, 38 percent by voice quality, and 55 percent by non-verbal communication. Your body language must match the words used. If a conflict arises between your words and your body language, your body language governs. The components of body language include:

Eye contact: The impact of your message is affected by the amount of eye contact you maintain with the team member with whom you are speaking. One who makes eye contact is normally perceived as more favorable and confident.

Posture: Find comfortable sitting and standing postures that work for you; avoid any rigid or slouching positions.

Excessive or unrelated head, facial, hand and body Movement: Too much movement can divert attention from the verbal message. Your facial expressions should match the type of statement you are making; smile when saying “I like you”, and frowning when saying “I am annoyed with you”. Occasional gestures that reinforce your verbal message are acceptable.

First Impressions Count

It takes as few as seven seconds – and no more than thirty seconds — for the team to form a first impression about you. Like it or not, people make judgments about others right away based on a presenting appearance. And you never have a second chance to make a first impression. Below are some tips to help you make that positive first impression when someone.

  • Body language. Remember that body language makes up to 55% of a communication.
  • Dress and grooming. It’s less about your budget, and more about clean, pressed, and event-appropriate clothing with neat grooming.
  • Handshake. Use a medium to firm handshake grip, avoiding a weak handshake, or overly firm one that can cause potential discomfort to another.
  • Body Movement. Use a mirror, or enlist the help of a friend to make sure that your movements are not overly active –and that they support the nature of your message.

It’s How You Say It

We are all born with a particular tone of voice, which we can learn to improve. The goal is to sound upbeat, warm, under control, and clear. Here are some tips to help you begin the process.

  1. Breathe from your diaphragm
  2. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated; avoid caffeine because of its diuretic effects
  3. Posture affects breathing, and also tone of voice, so be sure to stand up straight
  4. To warm up the tone of your voice, smile
  5. If you have a voice that is particularly high or low, exercise it’s by practicing speaking on a sliding scale. You can also sing to expand the range of your voice.
  6. Record your voice and listen to the playback
  7. Deeper voices are more credible than higher pitched voices. Try speaking in a slightly lower octave. It will take some practice, but with a payoff, just as radio personalities have learned
  8. Enlist a colleague or family member to get feedback about the tone of your voice.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Sounding Confident

Since 38% of the messages received by a listener are governed by the tone and quality of your voice, its pitch, volume and control all make a difference in how confident you sound when you communicate to your team. Below are some specific tips.

Pitch (Pitch means how high or low your voice is.) Tip: Avoid a high-pitched sound. Speak from your stomach, the location of your diaphragm.

Volume (The loudness of your voice must be governed by your diaphragm.) Tip: Speak through your diaphragm, not your throat

Quality (The color, warmth, and meaning given to your voice contribute to quality.) Tip: Add emotion to your voice. Smile as much as possible when you are speaking.

The need for assertive, confident communication can occur at any time, in virtually any place. So how do you make this all come together? Here are some practice suggestions.

  • Start simply and gain some experience in safe environments, such as at the grocery store, or with family or friends
  • Set aside time when you can read out loud without being disturbed; listen to yourself
  • Challenge yourself to speak with someone new every day
  • Set a realistic time frame to make the shift; don’t expect to change your speaking style overnight.

Reducing Anxiety

Often, anxiety inhibits your ability to act and sound confident when speaking. Knowing how to perform a quick relaxation exercise can help diffuse anxiety and allow you to speak more confidently.

 

Do’s and Don’ts of Responding to Anger in a Team

Do’s and Don’ts of Responding to Anger in a Team

Anger is a natural, unavoidable, and instinctual reaction, and is important to respond to anger appropriately when it shows up in the team. In this blog post, we will discuss the do’s and Don’ts in responding to anger.

Unhelpful Ways of Dealing with Anger in a Team

The following are unhelpful ways of dealing with anger:

  1. DON’T ignore the anger.

Some team members respond to anger by not admitting, even to themselves, that they are angry. Defense mechanisms often used to ignore anger include laughing an issue off, distracting one’s self from the problem, and trivializing the trigger’s impact.

  1. DON’T keep the anger inside.

There are people who do recognize that they’re angry. However, they choose to obsess about their anger in silence rather than express it. They can bear grudges for a long time. People like this, also called ‘stuffers’, are more likely to develop hypertension compared to others. They are also likely to just ‘explode’ one day, once the anger has built to the point that they can’t keep it inside anymore.

  1. DON’T get aggressive.

The right to vent your anger doesn’t extend to doing it in ways that can hurt others, hurt yourself, and damage property. Aggression can be verbal or physical.

  1. DON’T get passive-aggressive.

Passive-aggressiveness refers to indirect and underhanded means to get back at the person who made you angry. Examples of passive-aggressive behaviors are gossiping, tardiness and backbiting.

  1. DON’T use non-constructive communication styles.

Avoid the use of indirect attacks and unproductive statements. These include blaming, labeling, preaching, moralizing, ordering, warning, interrogating, ridiculing and lecturing.

 

Helpful Ways of Dealing with Anger in a Team

The following are helpful ways in dealing with anger:

  1. DO acknowledge that you are angry.

It is important that you know how to recognize that you are angry, and give yourself permission to feel it. This can be as simple as saying to yourself “I am angry.” Remember, you can’t control something you don’t admit exists!

  1. DO calm yourself before you say anything.

There is a biological reason why anger can feel overwhelming — our body is engaged in a fight or flight response. It helps then to defer any reactions until you have reached the return to normal/ adaptive phase of the anger cycle. Otherwise, you might end up saying or doing something that you’d later regret. Count 1 to 10!

  1. DO speak up, when something is important to you.

This is the opposite to ‘keeping it all in.’ If a matter is important to you, so much so that keeping silent would just result in physical and mental symptoms, then let it out. If it’s not possible to speak to the person concerned, at least look for a trusted friend or a mental health professional.

  1. DO explain how you’re feeling in a manner that shows ownership and responsibility for your anger.

Take ownership and responsibility for your feelings. This makes the anger within your control (you can’t control other people).

 

Help Your Team Getting Things Done

Help Your Team Getting It All Done On Time

Prioritizing work, staying on track and accurate goal setting are essential elements to your team being able to deliver projects or tasks on time. In this blog post we will explore techniques that increase your team’s effectiveness in meeting deadlines.

Prioritizing Tasks and Projects for Your Team

When dealing with many tasks, prioritizing work becomes an important step for the team to perform.

Using the WRAP technique in prioritizing will help your team start their day on the right foot. The team should avoid approaching the day unplanned or haphazardly. Once they take the time to prioritize the things they have to complete in the day, the team will have a sense of direction. Let’s take a look more closely at the WRAP technique.

Related: Time Management Ouctome Based Team Building Activities

When the team starts their day, they should take inventory of the things you have to complete and Write them on a to-do planner. They may have things on their to-do list already. That is okay. They can just add the other tasks on them.

Once the task is in the to-do book, Rank each task by importance. You may use numbers or letter, but do not exceed more than three rankings. You want to be able to keep track of the most important tasks. Making your ranking system from 1-20 or from A to Z, will make it ineffective in determining which are all the important tasks. There are several questions you can ask yourself to help rank the tasks. Here are some examples:

  • When is it due?
  • For whom is it for?
  • Is it related to a specific project?
  • Can this be done later?
  • Is another task dependent on this one to be finished before it can move on?

Once ranked, Anticipate how long each task is going to take. If the team runs out of time for all the tasks, move those tasks, which should be low priority, to the next day and rank them higher by one category.

Once the time is set, Perform each task as planned, guarding against time-wasters. The prioritized list is the team’s guide for the day. Remember to calculate into the prioritized list the time needed to attend meetings and the time needed to make telephone calls.

The Secret to Keeping Your Team on Track

Aside from managing the schedule vigorously, the team should develop behaviors that help them enjoy their work. Becoming bored or frustrated could easily become distractions that will cause the team to lose sight of their daily objective of being effective and efficient.

Encourage team members to leave their home issues at home and leave their work issues at work. When they begin mixing the two worlds, they will experience fatigue and perhaps unnecessary conflict. These conflicts are major distractions that will easily take them off track, causing them to miss deadlines.

Another secret is for the team to schedule their creative work in the morning. Things like writing a proposal or presentation require creative thinking, and the majority of people are most creative in the morning. Most people have more energy and thrive in the early part of their day. Once the afternoon comes, they will probably have lost most of their zip. Save work that is repetitive or mundane for the afternoon. Tasks like running a report or filing require less energy. Trying to perform creative tasks in the afternoon could become a frustrating experience, causing the team to get off track.

Finally, track progress, check off things that the team have accomplished and celebrating completed tasks are helpful in boosting team morale. Many times team members do not get the pat on the back or recognition on a daily basis that helps motivate them to keep a high level of energy and productivity. Take the time to track and celebrate the team’s achievements. Whenever we check off a task on our to-do list, a chemical reaction takes place in the brain that gives us a good feeling. These chemicals are called endorphins. You get them all the time when someone tells you that you did a great job or when you take a moment and look over the job you just finished. Help your team members by triggering these chemicals through celebrating success, because becoming distracted or bored leads to losing track. Avoid it by following these secrets. Think of it. Whenever you do something you like and it gives you a sense of accomplishment, the time goes by fast and you get a lot done. The same holds true for your work. Make it a fun thing to accomplish tasks at work.

Goal Setting for Your Team

There are many ways to set goals. When dealing with project or task related goals, making the team members  accountable to each other is a huge motivating factor in reaching the goal. DART goal setting is designed to help the team maintain motivation in reaching the goal. It requires them to define or determine the goal, announce the goal, adjust it and time lock it. Defining the goal is probably the easiest step. Write down what the team wants to accomplish and review it. Ask yourself if it is too vague. If it is, then you may need to write it again to be more specific.

Related: Goal Setting Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Next, announcing or making a public statement about the goal the team wants to achieve puts natural pressure to achieve the goal. In addition, when the team publicly state their goals, they are inviting feedback that may help them revise their goal to be better. For instance, the team may state that they will complete a task by a certain date. However, a colleague may inform them that an issue exists that may hinder their progress. This is information that should help the team revise their goal with a better time frame.

Setting goals does not have to be a daunting task. It should be quick and easy with plenty of opportunity for obtaining feedback from peers and managers. DART is designed to help the team hit their target.

 

Time Management Skills for Teams

Time Management Skills for Teams

Building effective time management skills in teams require discipline and constant practice. It is easy to become fraught with tasks that are non-productive and time wasters. In this blog post we will discuss how teams can manage time better time with some very simple behavior modification.

Related: Time Management Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Managing Time

Developing good time management skills take discipline. It requires a conscientious effort from the team in knowing what they are doing for how long. It is defending the schedule and fending off distractions. If the team resolve to make time management their goal, they will be good at it.

Teach your team not be ashamed to let people know that they are conscience of their time. Furthermore, if they demonstrate respect for other people’s time, they will respect their time. Time management is not an art, it is a discipline. Remember, once time is wasted, you cannot get it back. We all are given the same amount of time per day. No one has more and no one has less.

Keeping the Team on Track

Almost every task that requires coordination among various persons could be deemed a project. A project is a temporary endeavor to reach a common goal by several entities. This could be interdepartmental, departmental, or externally with a vendor. Keeping the team on track presents both logistical and political challenges.

In project management, the project manager is skilled in holding project performers accountable and producing their task on time and in good quality. They accomplish this by documenting the name of the person responsible for the deliverable (item or task owed to the project). The work breakdown structure (WBS) document is the tool they use to monitor the deliverables of all project performers in an easy-to-read format.

The key to using a WBS is the level of detail you break down the task. Each task in a project should be broken down to a level where individual components and personal responsibility are identified. The start and end dates are then identified. To get this information you should meet with the project performer and their manager to solidify the deliverable. The more detail the better. If you are given vague information, it will be difficult to hold the performer accountable. Here are some questions you may need to ask:

  • Are there any tasks this deliverable is depended on?
  • Is the person assigned the only one working on this task?

If you get a yes to any of these questions, then record this on your WBS.

The next tool a project manager uses to hold performers accountable is the communication plan. The key to using this tool is to establish predetermined intervals of communication before the project begins. Set this expectation as you have the ability to contact each performer without appearing like a micromanager, which could cause conflict.

When creating your communication plan, incorporate intervals where you can communicate with a performer on a weekly. This way you are not reaching out to them only when things are falling behind. In your plan, schedule meetings for larger projects.

The best thing about these documents is that you will distribute them to the project team once they are complete. This public disclosure of who does what and your schedule of when you are going to call on them for updates create a natural desire to get things done.

Maintaining Schedules

Maintaining a schedule is a constant challenge. There are so many traps throughout the day where time could be wasted or mismanaged. Knowing common pitfalls that rob time is a simple but effective way for the team to maintain a schedule. Here some common time traps to watch for:

Avoid meeting run-over. This is a common area where time is wasted. Team meetings can easily run over by at least 30 minutes. Do this several times a day and you could lose hours of time this way. Making a conscious effort to avoid meeting run-over is essential. You have to make the decision before you enter the meeting. Before the meeting begins, tell attendees that you plan to end the meeting on time, and then end the meeting on time.

Avoid additional work that is unrelated to the activities the team are currently working on. Many times, a simple task pops up, and it seems like something that can be handled quickly, but once you get involved, it takes up more time than you think. Unplanned or poorly organized tasks tend to cost more time than at first glance. Sometimes it really constitutes unproductive or busy work. If the team sees something pop up that needs work. Put it in the planner.

Decline work the team cannot deliver. Many times the team may just have to decline the job. If they are unable to exchange the new task for one that is already scheduled and they know they cannot deliver both, they must decline it.

 

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Communication Skills for Building Teams

Communication Skills for Building Teams

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

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Listening and Hearing in Teams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asking Questions in Teams

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

Open Questions

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

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

Clarifying Questions

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

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

Closed Questions

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

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

Body Language

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

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

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

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

 

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The Four Styles of Communication in a Team

The Four Styles of Communication in a Team

Communication does not ‘just happen’, for effective communication to occur in a team there has to be an effective communication strategy in place. Communication does not begin with talking and convincing, but with hearing and understanding. It is also important for your team to understand that when it comes to communication it is essential to understand that people respond to the world as they see it.There are four styles of communication that you may encounter in teams: passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, and assertive.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

The Passive Team Member

Passive behavior is the avoidance of the expression of opinions or feelings, protecting one’s rights, and identifying and meeting one’s needs. Passive team members exhibit poor eye contact and slumped body posture, and tend to speak softly or apologetically. Passive team members express statements implying that:

  • “I’m unable to stand up for my rights.”
  • “I don’t know what my rights are.”
  • “I get stepped on by everyone.”
  • “I’m weak and unable to take care of myself.”
  • “People never consider my feelings.”

The Aggressive Team Member

An aggressive team member communicates in a way that violates the rights of others. Thus, aggressive communicators are verbally or physically abusive, or both. Aggressive communication is born of low self-esteem, often caused by past physical or emotional abuse, unhealed emotional wounds, and feelings of powerlessness.

Aggressive team members display a low tolerance for frustration, use humiliation, interrupt frequently, and use criticism or blame to attack others. They use piercing eye contact, and are not good listeners. Aggressive team members express statements implying that:

  • The other person is inferior, wrong, and not worth anything
  • The problem is the other person’s fault
  • They are superior and right
  • They will get their way regardless of the consequences
  • They are entitled, and that the other person “owes” them.

The Passive-Aggressive Team Member

The passive-aggressive team members use a communication style in which the individual appears passive on the surface, but is really acting out anger in a subtle, indirect, or behind-the-scenes way.

Passive-aggressive team members usually feel powerless, stuck, and resentful. Alienated from others, they feel incapable of dealing directly with the object of their resentments. Rather, they express their anger by subtly undermining the real or imagined object of their resentments. Frequently they mutter to themselves instead of confronting another person. They often smile at you, even though they are angry, use subtle sabotage, or speak with sarcasm.

Passive-aggressive team members use communication that implies:

  • “I’m weak and resentful, so I sabotage, frustrate, and disrupt.”
  • “I’m powerless to deal with you head on so I must use guerilla warfare.”
  • “I will appear cooperative, but I’m not.”

The Assertive Team Member

An assertive team member communicates in a way that clearly states his or her opinions and feelings, and firmly advocates for his or her rights and needs without violating the rights of others. Assertive communication is born of high self-esteem. Assertive people value themselves, their time, and their emotional, spiritual, and physical needs. They are strong advocates for themselves — while being very respectful of the rights of others.

Assertive team members feel connected to the team. They make statements of needs and feelings clearly, appropriately, and respectfully. Feeling in control of themselves, they speak in calm and clear tones, are good listeners, and maintain good eye contact. They create a respectful environment for others, and do not allow others to abuse or manipulate them.

The assertive person uses statements that imply:

  • “I am confident about who I am.”
  • “I cannot control others, but I control myself.”
  • “I speak clearly, honestly, and to the point.”
  • “I know I have choices in my life, and I consider my options. I am fully responsible for my own happiness.”
  • “We are equally entitled to express ourselves respectfully to one another.”

 

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