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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Build Your Team by Creating a Positive Core

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

Strengths

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

Tips for finding strengths:

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

Best Practices

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

Tips:

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

Peak Experiences

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

Successes

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

Remembering successes:

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

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.

Use The Power of Positive Imagery to Build Your Team

Use The Power of Positive Imagery to Build Your Team

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

Shaping Team Performance with Positive Imagery

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

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

Make Your Team Better Prepared for Adversity

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

The Team Becomes More Flexible and Creative

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

Remember:

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

Help Your Team Think of the Perfect Situation

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

What is a perfect situation?

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

Build a Stronger Team Using Anticipatory Reality

Build a Stronger Team Using Anticipatory Reality

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

Imagining a Successful Future Will Affect the Present

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

Benefits:

Controlling Negative Anticipation

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

Example:

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

Current Decisions Will Be Influenced Positively

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

Benefits:

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

Related: Decision Making Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Base It on Data and Real Examples

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

Avoid:

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

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Reaching Team Goals Through the Four D Model

Reaching Team Goals Through the Four D Model

With positive thoughts and attitudes, your team can discover new ways of reaching team goals. The team can be free to dream new ambitions and set themselves up for success. After a plan is made, the team can design how to reach that goal and deliver the end result.

Related: Goal Setting Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Discovery

Discovery is about finding what type of processes, organization and skills work for your team. It is also a process of learning to appreciate what has been given to the team and using it to their benefit. Team members often discover some of this information by speaking with other team members and learning about what has worked for the company in the past. This can lead team members to feel more appreciative about their role in the team and what they can do to make meaningful contributions.

Examples:

·         Conversing with other team members about their experiences

·         Asking team leaders what methods have worked in the past

·         Observing your past actions that have been successful

Dream

The dream phase focuses on what would work for the team and the company in the future. This ‘dream session’ can be run in a large group conference or can be done with a few peers. Either way, it should allow everyone to open up about what they want to see from the team and any ideas they may have for improvement. The idea of the ‘dream’ part of this model is to use positive energy to create a vision for the future, while creating goals and accomplishments that will help the team, and the company, reach that point. Dream up the ideal and perfect situation.

Examples:

·         “Would this work in the future?”

·         “What do I want to see happen?”

·         “What would be perfect for the team and the company?”

Design

The design plan is all about how you and the team members plan to reach the goals and dreams that were lined out in the discovery and dream phases. This part of the model focuses on what needs to be done to reach these goals and reach the progress needed. Generally, this part is carried out by a small group of members that concentrate on how to move forward, but it can be done with larger groups as well.  Anyone in this group is encouraged to remember to use positive language and encourage their coworkers to think positive in their work.

Examples:

·         “What do we need to do to make this happen?”

·         “Will things needed to be changed or altered?”

·         “Do we need to introduce a new element?”

Delivery

The delivery phase, sometimes called the destiny phase, is the final stage of the Four D model, and focuses on executing the plans and ideas that were thought out and developed in the previous phases. In this part of the model, team members need to take the necessary actions to progress toward change and positively obtaining the team goals. A plan isn’t worth the paper it is written on if it doesn’t have a dynamic team behind it to carry it out.

Examples:

·         Implement any changes needed

·         Remove elements that no longer work

·         Assign tasks and duties as needed

 

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Shumba Valley Lodge Out of Town Team Building Destination in Lanseria

Lanseria is situated to the northwest of the city of Johannesburg, towards the outer regions of Randburg. Although visitors to the area get the feeling of being away from it all, Lanseria is in fact just 20 minutes from Sandton, next door to Midrand and Fourways and less than an hour’s ride to Pretoria.

Shumba Valley Lodge is ideally located for conference, leisure and business travelers who seek the tranquility of the countryside, whilst being within easy distance from both Johannesburg and Pretoria. Lanseria Airport is a mere 5 minutes drive from Shumba Valley Lodge and a 45 minute drive from Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport. This team building venue is close to the N1 and N14 highways with Sandton 20 minutes away.

Shumba Valley Lodge is situated within the Cradle of Humankind, which has been declared a World Heritage Site. The most famous of the 13 excavated fossil sites in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site is the Sterkfontein Caves. The caves are recognised as the most longstanding continuous palaeoanthropological dig in the world. 

The Lanseria district, with its open air and country feel, lends itself to open ground, which Shumba Valley boasts, making the venue ideal for team building activities. Shumba Valley’s location also makes it ideal as an out of town conference destination, but without having to travel for hours. Their conference facilities can house from 10 to 80 delegates in a schoolroom set-up. Guests are treated to absolute peace within a country setting as Shumba Valley is set within 50 acres of ground and the delightful smell of thatch makes for a very relaxing atmosphere.

Outdoor dining facilities such as a Boma Braai, or a Poolside Terrace Braai are ideal ways to wrap up the days conferencing or team building on a relaxed note. Shumba Valley Lodge offers conference and team building accommodation in Chalet and Rondavel forms, set within the peaceful, spacious gardens with 4 Star facilities.

 

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Change the Way Your Team Thinks

One of the simplest ways to relieve stress in your team and help team members feel better about themselves, is to change the way they think about things in their lives. If team members hide behind negative thoughts and allow their environment to make them sad or depressed, they may never have the drive to reach for team goals.

Shifting from “What’s Wrong?” to “What’s Right?”

One of the first things that can ruin a positive attitude is looking at a situation and only noticing the negative aspects, or the “What’s Wrong” side. A pessimistic attitude won’t get anyone very far. When presented with a problem, take a few minutes and look at both sides of the problem. Make a mental list of everything that is positive about the situation before touching on the negative aspects. You’ll find that any situation won’t appear as bad as we think when we notice the positive first.

Keys to shifting the thoughts of your team:

·         Avoid the “all or nothing” thinking – deciding a situation only has two sides.

·         Realize the difference between being right and being happy.

·         Avoid over-generalizing a situation – focus on details.

It’s Not Eliminating Mistakes-It’s Holding up Successes

A common misconception that people make is that being positive or progressive means they cannot make mistakes nor have faults. This, of course, is untrue. Mistakes happen all the time, and although they can sometimes be prevented, they cannot be stopped altogether. They key is for your team to learn from their mistakes and then focus on the successes that follow them.

When a child falls off their bike before learning to ride, we do not focus on how many times they fell, but celebrate when they ride down the sidewalk on their own. Being positive doesn’t mean your team eliminate mistakes or problems, they just learn to focus on the achievements they reach. Success leads to more success when the team is focused on the positive.

Positive Words Encourage Positive Thinking

From a young age we have learned that positive language has more effect on us than negativity. When we tell ourselves “I can’t do that” or “I’ll never finish this”, we normally find ourselves to be right. But if we use more positive and influential phrases and language, we find ourselves feeling more confident and ready to handle any situation. Positive words encourage positive thinking, so encourage your team to add some “I can…” and “I’m great” phrases to their vocabulary! Positivity is contagious, so don’t be afraid to share it with your team and encourage them to think positive too.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Using positive language:

·         Avoid negatives, such as “can’t” or “won’t”

·         Reassure yourself and remind yourself of your abilities

·         Compliment yourself – “Good job” and “Well done

Limit or Remove Negative Phrasing

As we’ve said before, positive words encourage positive thinking. The same goes for negative phrasing – when we allow ourselves to use negative language, our thoughts become negative. Studies have shown that there are five key phrases that any person should remove from their vocabulary in order to ban negative language.

  • Just – This word limits our accomplishments and devalues our skills.
  • Try – This word can often give us an excuse to fail. We will ‘try’ to accomplish something, but if we don’t succeed then it’s not our fault. We either do something or we don’t.
  • Can’t – This word is often used when a person does not want to take the effort to reach a goal or accomplishment. Replace this word with a mental action plan on how you can act on your goals.  
  • Impossible – This word is normally used when we are faced with something big and overwhelming. However, anything can seem possible if broken down into smaller, more attainable jobs. Anything can be accomplished when we take things one step at a time.
  • Someday – This word can have the same problem as ‘try’ – it sets us up to allow failure. When we plan to reach our goals “someday”, we are giving ourselves permission to procrastinate. Set a timeline for your goals and stick to them.

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