How to Improve Your Team’s Customer Service

How to Improve Your Team’s Customer Service

Customer service means different things to different people. To some it means going beyond what’s expected of you. To others it means adding value and integrity to every interaction. To others it means taking care of customers the way you would take care of your grandmother. We might all define customer service a little differently, but we can all agree on one thing: to provide great customer service, your team needs to put energy and enthusiasm into their interactions with customers. Great customer service begins with a great attitude.

Your Team’s Appearance Counts in Customer Service

As a society, we are all aware that a lot of emphasis is put on individual appearance. To some extent this is actually something regrettable, as it means that people are prepared to judge a book by its cover. Conversely, however, your team should be aware that the opinions of its customers matter. Those opinions may not be the same as that of the team members, but when it comes to ensuring the success of a team they still matter. In fact, the saying “the customer is always right” could be considered to apply here. Most customers wish to be treated with courtesy and to deal with individuals who look like they have made an effort with their appearance. Therefore it is beneficial to ensure all the members of your team takes heed of this fact.

This does not mean that in every business it is important for customer-facing staff to be Stepford-style automatons who look, act, and behave as though they had been prepared for their role to ensure that every business operation is the same as the last. A certain amount of character, which includes a modicum of individuality, is desirable in a customer services situation. It is important to maintain standards, but also to give the appearance that each transaction is different from the last.

Even if the transaction or the enquiry is not carried out in person, it is still important for your team to consider the matter of appearance. “Appearance”, after all, is not just a term which applies to physical appearance. It also refers to how things seem. If a customer is dealing with a team member on the phone or via e-mail, they will be well advised to ensure that their professionalism does not slip here. Often in businesses which do not directly face the customer – such as call centers – the dress code is “relaxed”. Team members can wear jeans and a t-shirt, or whatever feels comfortable, as long as their performance is polished and professional. Some businesses prefer to have a strict dress code even in these circumstances, feeling that dressing smartly equates directly to a smart performance.

The Power of a Smile in Customer Service

Often opinions differ on what constitutes a strong approach to customer service. There are some who would argue that efficiency is everything – providing the customer with what they require, when they require it without them needing to ask for it. The overall impression that this method aims for is that things happened without anyone needing to try, as if by magic. This means that courtesy counts for an increasing amount in customer transactions.

Being positive and friendly in customer interactions plays a major part in ensuring that a customer walks away from the experience having felt that everything was done in a way that suggested the customer is valued. This may impact on how much they spend in a single transaction, and just as important, whether they return to the business with more customers, because of their positive experience. In this respect, a smile can make a world of difference to how the customer feels about their treatment, and about the business in general.

Having a smile on their face will make your team look more welcoming. It is something that cannot be overestimated as a customer service and retention tool. If you were to walk into a store, and saw two sales assistants – one who looked cheerful and open and one who looked like they had just opened an overdue credit card bill – instinct would dictate that you approached the cheerful one should you have an enquiry about the item you wanted to buy. Therefore it is advised that in dealing with customers your team is always alert, friendly, and personable. Even if they are not particularly feeling that way, it has been argued by body language experts that the act of smiling releases endorphins which make you feel happier. So it is worth making them making the effort to put a smile on their face however they are feeling.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Your Team Staying Energized Improves Customer Service

All teams experience low points during the course of the day, but there are ways to boost your team’s energy when it is lagging.

  • Take a walk, even if it’s just to the restroom.
  • Drink a glass of cold water.
  • Be sure to eat a good breakfast and lunch.
  • Plug into others – being with energized people, keeps you energized!
  • Listen to up-beat music.
  • Try to stay humorous.

A working day usually stretches from around 8-9 AM and goes on until approximately 5 PM. Though there is some movement in these times, the typical structure of a staff timetable is that a working day will extend to around eight hours, and will involve some short breaks in between times. The importance of this information is that it can be difficult to maintain a positive demeanor for eight hours straight, especially if team members are thinking about matters beyond the workplace. Eight hours of appearing positive and upbeat can be the hardest part of a job, without even considering the brass tacks of the job – ensuring that the customers are seen to.

It is essential in this respect that anyone in a customer-facing job approaches their day in a sensible, structured fashion which allows them to get the most out of themselves. Staying energized is often difficult, but as long as your team develops a routine for dealing with the difficult events, then they can find a way to deal with even the dreariest day. There will be times during a working day when they would like nothing more than to go and get their jacket and walk out the door. However if we all did that whenever we felt like it, the chances are that we would mostly be out of a job.

It is essential for your team members to find something that allows them to break out of the “lows” that anyone will experience during a working day. These lows are common to all of us, and we all have different ways of dealing with them. One of the most commonly used methods of shaking out of this kind of torpor is a “change of scenery”. If they have a moment and they can leave the shop floor, it is beneficial for them to get up and go somewhere else for a moment. Maybe it will be something as simple as going to get a drink or get some fresh air. Whatever they do, it should be vastly preferable to scowling at every customer who simply asks them the price of a certain item.

It should also be noticed that making the effort to have breakfast in the morning – even if they feel as though eating is the last thing they want to do – can be of huge benefit to the team. It allows them to maintain energy through the morning, which for many people is the hardest time of say to stay positive. It may be a cliché, but making sure that your team members don’t skip breakfast can go a very long way to keeping them energized through the day.

Your Team Staying Positive Improves Customer Service

Your team can’t control all of the problems and irritations that come up during the day. They can control their attitude and how they react to the situation.

Tips on staying positive:

  • Rearrange or redecorate their work space.
  • View negative situations as a training session for their future, use them to their benefit, they may help them later in life.
  • Find ways to spend more time on tasks they enjoy.
  • Look for opportunities to learn new things.
  • Realize that they can find positives in any negative situation. Albert Einstein said: “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.”

At the beginning of the day, they should think about one important thing that they want to accomplish that day. Think about why it is important. They must tell themselves that they have the ability to accomplish it successfully, and congratulate themselves when they have accomplished what you set out to do.

Positivity is something that is very hard to create out of nothing. It occurs naturally in some people, and others are deficient in it. Positivity can result from good things happening at the right time – or for that matter at any time. It can act as an energy source on which a person can access to bring the best results time and again. Whether you are a team leader looking for good results from a sales team, or a team member looking for your own positive results, it is essential to bear in mind that the best results come from situations where the individual, and those with whom they work, feel that positive energy that feeds into a good performance.

Most of us have spent time with positive and negative people. Although those who are negative may be so for perfectly good reasons – past experience may have seen them consistently fail to get what they want – they can be difficult to deal with, even to the point where they seem to sap the positivity from those who have it in supply. This is something that you will tolerate from a friend, but in a team it is essential to stop this kind of negativity by whatever means necessary. Having a bright outlook can be difficult, especially when luck seems to be in short supply, but this is what separates good team leaders and team members from bad ones.

Outlook and attitude are essential for any team, but particularly in one where the team will be dealing with the public. It may seem that the day is not going their way, and that they are permanently going to be frustrated, but the essential thing to remember is that if they project this mood on to the customers, they will certainly have a bad time sales-wise. Positivity is hard to manufacture out of nothing, so sometimes your team will have to project it when they are not necessarily feeling it. Eventually, if they keep this faux positivity running for long enough, it will create the conditions for real positivity to take hold and thrive. Of course, if they already feel it so much the better – as far as possible they should share it and allow it to become a prevailing condition.

 

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Ultimate Guide to Building Better Communication in Your Team

Ultimate Guide to Building Better Communication in Your Team

For the better part of every day, your team members  are communicating to and with others. Whether it’s the speech delivered in the boardroom,  or the level of attention given to other team members when they are talking, it all means something. This guide will help you to understand the different methods of communication and how to make the most of each of them to build better communication in your team. We will cover the following topics:

  • Introduction to Communication
  • Understanding Communication Barriers
  • Paraverbal Communication Skills
  • Non-Verbal Communication
  • Speaking Like a STAR
  • Listening Skills
  • Asking Good Questions
  • Mastering the Art of Conversation
  • Advanced Communication Skills

Related: Communication Team Building Activities

Introduction to Communication

When we say the word, “communication,” what do you think of? Many people will think of the spoken word. People who are hearing impaired, however, might think of sign language. People who are visually impaired might think of Braille as well as sounds.

What is Communication?

The dictionary defines communication as, “the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs.”

It is also defined as, “means of sending messages, orders, etc., including telephone, telegraph, radio, and television,” and in biology as an, “activity by one organism that changes or has the potential to change the behavior of other organisms.”

The effectiveness of communication in your team can have many different positive effects on the team such as:

  • Lowering the level of stress in the team
  • Building stronger relationships among the team members
  • Increasing the level of satisfaction within the team
  • Increasing productivity
  • Improving the team’s ability to meet goals
  • Improving team’s ability to solve problems

How Do Team Members Communicate?

Team members communicate in three major ways:

  • Spoken: There are two components to spoken communication.
    • Verbal: This is what they are saying.
    • Paraverbal: This means how they say it – their tone, speed, pitch, and volume.
  • Non-Verbal: These are the gestures and body language that accompany their words. Some examples: arms folded across the chest, tracing circles in the air, tapping their feet, or having a hunched-over posture.
  • Written: Communication can also take place via fax, e-mail, or written word.

Other Factors in Communication

Other communication factors that we need to consider.

  • Method: The method in which the team member shares his or her message is important as it has an effect on the message itself. Communication methods include person-to-person, telephone, e-mail, fax, radio, public presentation, television broadcast, and many more!
  • Mass: The number of people receiving the message.
  • Audience: The team member receiving the message affects the message, too. Their understanding of the topic and the way in which they receive the message can affect how it is interpreted and understood.

Understanding Communication Barriers

Communication Barriers

On the surface, communication seems pretty simple. I talk, you listen. You send me an e-mail, I read it. Larry King makes a TV show, we watch it.

Like most things in life, however, communication is far more complicated than it seems. Let’s look at some of the most common communication barriers you may encounter in your team and how to reduce their impact on communication.

An Overview of Common Communication Barriers

Many things can impede communication. Common things that people list as barriers include:

  • I can’t explain the message to the other person in words that they understand.
  • I can’t show the other person what I mean.
  • I don’t have enough time to communicate effectively.
  • The person I am trying to communicate with doesn’t have the same background as me, and is missing the bigger picture of my message.

These barriers typically break down into three categories: language, culture, and location.

Language Barriers

Of course, one of the biggest barriers to written and spoken communication in a team is language. This can appear in three main forms:

  • The team members communicating speak different languages.
  • The language being used is not the first language for one or more of the team members involved in the communication.
  • The team members communicating speak the same language, but are from different regions and therefore have different dialects and or unique subtleties.

There are a few ways to reduce the impact of these barriers.

  • As a team, identify that the barrier exists. Identify things that the team can do to minimize it.
  • Pictures speak a thousand words, and can communicate across languages.
  • If you are going to be communicating with this team member on a long-term basis, try to find a common language. You may also consider hiring a translator.

Cultural Barriers

There can also be times when team members speak the same language, but are from a different culture, where different words or gestures can mean different things. Or, perhaps the team member you are communicating with is from a different class from you, or has a very different lifestyle. All of these things can hinder your ability to get your message across effectively.

If you have the opportunity to prepare, find out as much as you can about the other team member’s culture and background, and how it differs from yours. Try to identify possible areas of misunderstanding and how to prevent or resolve those problems.

If you don’t have time to prepare, and find yourself in an awkward situation, use the cultural differences to your advantage. Ask about the differences that you notice, and encourage questions about your culture. Ensure that your questions are curious, not judgmental, resentful, or otherwise negative.

Differences in Time and Place

The last communication barrier that we will look at is location, defined by time and by place. These barriers often occur when members of the same team are in different time zones, or different places.

Take this scenario as an example. Bill works on the east coast, while his colleague, Joe, works on the west coast. Four hours separate their offices. One day, right after lunch, Bill calls Joe to ask for help with a question. Bill has been at work for over four hours already; he is bright, chipper, and in the groove.

Joe, however, has just gotten to the office and is, in fact, running late. He does not feel awake and chipper, and is therefore perhaps not as responsive and helpful in answering Bill’s question as he normally is.

Bill thinks, “Geez, what did I do to make Joe cranky?” In response to the way he perceives Joe’s behavior, he, too, stops communicating. Their effort to solve a problem together has failed.

So how can you get over the challenges of time and place? First, identify that there is a difference in time and place. Next, try these tips to reduce its impact.

  • Make small talk about the weather in your respective regions. This will help you get a picture of the team member’s physical environment.
  • Try to set up phone calls and meetings at a time that is convenient for you both.
  • If appropriate, e-mail can be an “anytime, anywhere” bridge. For example, if Bill had sent Joe an e-mail describing the problem, Joe could have addressed it at a better time for him, such as later on in the day. Clearly, this is not always practical (for example, if the problem is urgent, or if it is a complicated issue that requires extensive explanation), but this option should be considered.

Another thing your team must watch out for is rushed communication. The pressure of time can cause either party to make assumptions and leaps of faith. They must always make sure they communicate as clearly as possible, and ask for playback. The listening and questioning skills that they will learn in this guide will help them make the most of the communication time that they do have.

Paraverbal Communication Skills

Para-Verbal Communication

Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it”? It’s true!

Try saying these three sentences out loud, placing the emphasis on the underlined word.

  • I didn’t say you were wrong.” (Implying it wasn’t me)
  • “I didn’t say you were wrong.” (Implying I communicated it in another way)
  • “I didn’t say you were wrong.” (Implying I said something else)

Now, let’s look at the three parts of paraverbal communication; which is the message told through the pitch, tone, and speed of our words when we communicate.

The Power of Pitch

Pitch can be most simply defined as the key of your voice. A high pitch is often interpreted as anxious or upset. A low pitch sounds more serious and authoritative. People will pick up on the pitch of your voice and react to it. As well, a variation in the pitch of your voice is important to keep the other party interested.

If a team member naturally speaks in a very high-pitched or low-pitched voice, they should work on varying their pitch to encompass all ranges of their vocal cords. (One easy way to do this is to relax your throat when speaking.) Make sure they pay attention to their body when doing this – you don’t want them to damage their vocal cords.

The Truth about Tone

Did your mother ever say to you, “I don’t like that tone!” She was referring to the combination of various pitches to create a mood.

Here are some tips on creating a positive, authoritative tone.

  • Try lowering the pitch of your voice a bit.
  • Smile! This will warm up anyone’s voice.
  • Sit up straight and listen.
  • Monitor your inner monologue. Negative thinking will seep into the tone of your voice.

The Strength of Speed

The pace at which a team member speaks also has a tremendous effect on their communication ability. From a practical perspective, someone who speaks quickly is harder to understand than someone who speaks at a moderate pace. Conversely, someone who speaks v-e—r—-y s—l—–o—w—l—y will probably lose their audience’s interest before they get very far!

Speed also has an effect on the tone and emotional quality of their message. A hurried pace can make the listener feel anxious and rushed. A slow pace can make the listener feel as though their message is not important. A moderate pace will seem natural, and will help the listener focus on the  message.

One easy way for your team members to check their pitch, tone, and speed is to record themselves speaking. They can then think of how they would feel listening to their own voice, and work on speaking the way they would like to be spoken to.

Non-Verbal Communication

Non-Verbal Communication

When you are communicating, your body is sending a message that is as powerful as your words.

In our following discussions, remember that our interpretations are just that – common interpretations. (For example, the person sitting with his or her legs crossed may simply be more comfortable that way, and not feeling closed-minded towards the discussion. Body language can also mean different things across different genders and cultures.) However, it is good for your team to understand how various behaviors are often seen, so that they can make sure their body is sending the same message as their mouth.

Think about these scenarios for a moment. What non-verbal messages might you receive in each scenario? How might these non-verbal messages affect the verbal message?

  • Your boss asks you to come into his office to discuss a new project. He looks stern and his arms are crossed.
  • A team member tells you they have bad news, but they are smiling as they say it.
  • You tell a co-worker that you cannot help them with a project. They say that it’s OK, but they slam your office door on their way out.

Team members need to understand how to use body language to become more effective communicators.  They must be able to interpret body language, add it to the message they are receiving, and understand the message being sent appropriately.

With this in mind, let’s look at the components of non-verbal communication.

Understanding the Mehrabian Study

In 1971, psychologist Albert Mehrabian published a famous study called Silent Messages. In it, he made several conclusions about the way the spoken word is received. Although this study has been misquoted often throughout the years, its basic conclusion is that 7% of our message are verbal, 38% are proverbial, and 55% are from body language.

Now, we know this is not true in all situations. If someone speaks to you in a foreign language, you cannot understand 93% of what they are saying. Or, if you are reading a written letter, you are likely getting more than 7% of the sender’s message.

What this study does tell us is that body language is a vital part of our communication with others. With this in mind, let’s look at the messages that our body can send.

All About Body Language

Body language is a very broad term that simply means the way in which our body speaks to others. We have included an overview of three major categories below; we will discuss a fourth category, gestures, in a moment.

The way that we are standing or sitting

Think for a moment about different types of posture and the message that they relay.

  • Sitting hunched over typically indicates stress or discomfort.
  • Leaning back when standing or sitting indicates a casual and relaxed demeanor.
  • Standing ramrod straight typically indicates stiffness and anxiety.

The position of our arms, legs, feet, and hands

  • Crossed arms and legs often indicate a closed mind.
  • Fidgeting is usually a sign of boredom or nervousness.

Facial expressions

  • Smiles and frowns speak a million words.
  • A raised eyebrow can mean inquisitiveness, curiosity, or disbelief.

Chewing one’s lips can indicate thinking, or it can be a sign of boredom, anxiety, or nervousness.

Interpreting Gestures

A gesture is a non-verbal message that is made with a specific part of the body. Gestures differ greatly from region to region, and from culture to culture.

Speaking Like a STAR

Speaking Like a STAR

Now that we have explored all the quasi-verbal elements of communication, let’s look at the actual message the team members are sending. They can ensure any message is clear, complete, correct, and concise, with the STAR acronym.

S = Situation

First, they must state what the situation is, and try to make this no longer than one sentence. If they are having trouble, they should ask themselves, “Where?”, “Who?”, and, “When?”. This will provide a base for message so it can be clear and concise.

Example: “On Tuesday, I was in a director’s meeting at the main plant.”

T = Task

Next, they must briefly state what their task was. Again, this should be no longer than one sentence. Use the question, “What?” to frame their sentence, and add the “Why?” if appropriate.

Example: “I was asked to present last year’s sales figures to the group.”

A = Action

Now, they can state what they did to resolve the problem in one sentence. They must use the question, “How?” to frame this part of the statement. The Action part will provide a solid description and state the precise actions that will resolve any issues.

Example: “I pulled out my laptop, fired up PowerPoint, and presented my slide show.”

R = Result

Last, they will state what the result was. This will often, use a combination of the six roots. Again, a precise short description of the results that come about from their previous steps will finish on a strong definite note.

Example: “Everyone was wowed by my prep work, and by our great figures!”

Let’s look at a complete example using STAR. Let’s say you’re out with friends on the weekend. Someone asks you what the highlight of your week at work was. As it happens, you had a great week, and there is a lot to talk about. You use STAR to focus your answer so you don’t bore your friends, and so that you send a clear message.

You respond: “On Tuesday, I was in a director’s meeting at the main plant. I was asked to present last year’s sales figures to the group. I pulled out my laptop, fired up PowerPoint, and presented my slide show. Everyone was wowed by my prep work, and by our great figures!”

This format can be compressed for quick conversations, or expanded for longer presentations. Encourage your team to try framing statements with STAR, and see how much more confident they feel when communicating.

Listening Skills

Listening Skills

So far, we have discussed all the components of sending a message: non-verbal, para-verbal, and verbal. Now, let’s turn the tables and look at how your team can effectively receive messages.

Seven Ways for Your Team to Become Better Listeners

Hearing is easy! For most of us, our body does the work of interpreting the sounds that we hear into words. Listening, however, is far more difficult. Listening is the process of looking at the words and the other factors around the words (such as our non-verbal communication), and then interpreting the entire message.

Here are seven things that your team can do to start becoming better listeners right now.

  1. When they’re listening, they must listen. Not talk on the phone, text message, clean off their desk, or do anything else.
  2. They must avoid interruptions. If they think of something that needs to be done, they can make a mental or written note of it and forget about it until the conversation is over.
  3. They must aim to spend at least 90% of their time listening and less than 10% of their time talking.
  4. When they do talk, they must make sure it’s related to what the other person is saying. They can ask questions to clarify, expand, and probe for more information.
  5. They should not offer advice unless the other person asks them for it. If they are not sure what the other person want, they should ask!
  6. They should make sure the physical environment is conducive to listening. They must try to reduce noise and distractions. If possible, they should be seated comfortably. Be close enough to the other person so that they can hear them, but not too close to make them uncomfortable.
  7. If it is a conversation where they are required to take notes, they must try not to let the note-taking disturb the flow of the conversation. If they need a moment to catch up, they can choose an appropriate moment to ask for a break.

Understanding Active Listening

Although hearing is a passive activity, your team must listen actively to listen effectively, and to actually hear what is being said.

There are three basic steps to active listening.

  1. Try to identify where the other person is coming from. This concept is also called the frame of reference. For example, your reaction to a bear will be very different if you’re viewing it in a zoo, or from your tent at a campsite. Your approach to someone talking about a sick relative will differ depending on their relationship with that person.
  2. Listen to what is being said closely and attentively.
  3. Respond appropriately, either non-verbally (such as a nod to indicate you are listening), with a question (to ask for clarification), or by paraphrasing. Note that paraphrasing does not mean repeating the speaker’s words back to them like a parrot. It does mean repeating what you think the speaker said in your own words. Some examples: “It sounds like that made you angry,” or, “It sounds like that cashier wasn’t very nice to you.” (Using the “It sounds like…” precursor, or something similar, gives the speaker the opportunity to correct you if your interpretation is wrong.”

Sending Good Signals to Others

When your team is listening to others speak, there are three kinds of cues that they can give the other person. Using the right kind of cue at the right time is crucial for keeping good communication going.

  • Non-Verbal: As shown in the Mehrabian study, body language plays an important part in our communications with others. Head nods and an interested facial expression will show the speaker that you are listening.
  • Quasi-Verbal: Fillers words like, “uh-huh,” and “mm-hmmm,” show the speaker that you are awake and interested in the conversation.
  • Verbal: Asking open questions using the six roots discussed earlier (who, what, where, when, why, how), paraphrasing, and asking summary questions, are all key tools for active listening.

These cues should be used as part of active listening. Inserting an occasional, “uh-huh,” during a conversation may fool the person that they are communicating with in the short term, but they’re fooling themselves if they feel that this is an effective communication approach.

Asking Good Questions

Asking Good Questions

Good questioning skills are another building block of successful communication in teams. We have already encountered several possible scenarios where questions helped the team gather information, clarify the facts, and communicate with others. We will now look closer at these questioning techniques that your team can use throughout the communication process.

Open Questions

Open questions  get their name because the response is open-ended; the answerer has a wide range of options to choose from when answering it.

Open questions use one of six words as a root:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • Where?
  • When?
  • Why?
  • How?

Open questions are like going fishing with a net – you never know what you’re going to get! Open questions are great conversation starters, fact finders, and communication enhancers. Your team should use them whenever possible.

Closed Questions

Closed questions are the opposite of open questions; their very structure limits the answer to yes or no, or a specific piece of information. Some examples include:

  • Do you like chocolate?
  • Were you born in December?
  • Is it five o’clock yet?

Although closed questions tend to shut down communication, they can be useful if a team member is searching for a particular piece of information, or winding a conversation down.

If they use a closed question and it shuts down the conversation, they can simply use an open-ended question to get things started again. Here is an example:

  • Do you like the Flaming Ducks hockey team?
  • Who is your favorite player?

Probing Questions

In addition to the basic open and closed questions, there is also a toolbox of probing questions that your team can use. These questions can be open or closed, but each type serves a specific purpose.

Clarification

By probing for clarification, they invite the other person to share more information so that they can fully understand their message. Clarification questions often look like this:

  • “Please tell me more about…”
  • “What did you mean by…”
  • “What does … look like?” (Any of the five senses can be used here)

Completeness and Correctness

These types of questions can help your team ensure they have the full, true story. Having all the facts, in turn, can protect them from assuming and jumping to conclusions – two fatal barriers to communication.

Some examples of these questions include:

  • “What else happened after that?”
  • “Did that end the …”

Determining Relevance

This category will help your team members determine how or if a particular point is related to the conversation at hand. It can also help to get the speaker back on track from a tangent.

Some good ways to frame relevance questions are:

  • “How is that like…”
  • “How does that relate to…”

Drilling Down

Your team can use these types of questions to nail down vague statements. Useful helpers include:

  • “Describe…”
  • “What do you mean by…?”
  • “Could you please give an example?”

Summarizing

These questions are framed more like a statement. They pull together all the relevant points. They can be used to confirm to the listener that you heard what was said, and to give them an opportunity to correct any misunderstandings.

Example: “So you picked out a dress, had to get it fitted three times, and missed the wedding in the end?”

Team members must be careful  to avoid repeating the speaker’s words back to them like a parrot. They should remember that paraphrasing means repeating what they think the speaker said in their own words.

Mastering the Art of Conversation

 

Mastering 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 become an engaging converser?

Most experts propose a simple three-level framework that can be used by your team to master the art of conversation.

Level One: Discussing General Topics

At the most basic level, team members should 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, team members will focus on facts rather than feelings, ideas, and perspectives. Death, religion, and politics are absolute no-no’s.

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

Right now, the team member is simply getting to know the other party. They should keep an eye out for common ground while they are communicating, and using 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 parties 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 they like cross-country skiing and went to Europe, but they may not want to share the fact that they 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 team members don’t limit themselves to one person in a large social gathering.

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 skills that we have learned today are crucial at this stage in particular: when people 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

If your team is in the middle of a social gathering, they can try these networking tips to maximize their impact and minimize their nerves.

  • Before the gathering, they can imagine the absolute worst that could happen and how likely it is. For example, a team member may fear that people will laugh at them when they try to join their group or introduce themselves. Is this likely? At most business gatherings, it’s very unlikely!
  • They must remember that everyone is as nervous as they are. They can focus on turning that energy into a positive force.
  • To increase their confidence, they can 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 they think about meeting new people, the harder it will be. They should get out there, introduce themselves, and meet new people.
  • They could act as the host or hostess. By asking others if they need food or drink, they are shifting the attention from themselves to others.
  • They could start a competition with a friend: see how many people, each of you can meet before the gathering is over.
  • They could join a group of odd-numbered people.
  • They must try to mingle as much as possible. When they get comfortable with a group of people, they should move on to a new group.
  • When they hear someone’s name, they should repeat the introduction in their head. Then, when someone new joins the group, they can introduce them to everyone.
  • Mnemonics are a great way to remember names. They must just remember to keep them to themselves! Some examples:
    • Singh likes to sing.
    • Sue sues people for a living.
    • How funny – Amy Pipes is a plumber!

Advanced Communication Skills

Advanced Communication Skills

During this guide, we have learned a lot about communication. We would like to wrap things up with a brief discussion on a few advanced communication topics. Adding these skills to their toolbox and using them regularly will make your team more efficient and effective at communicating.

Understanding Precipitating Factors

For many people, life is like a snowball. On a particularly good day, everything may go your way and make you feel like you’re on top of the world. But on a bad day, unfortunate events can likewise snowball, increasing their negative effect exponentially.

For example, imagine how each of these events would make you feel if they happened to you first thing in the morning.

  • You encounter construction on the way to work.
  • Your alarm clock doesn’t go off and you wake up late.
  • You are out of coffee.
  • The cafeteria line is very long.

Each of those things is potentially responsible for creating a crummy morning. Now, imagine this scenario:

You wake up and realize your alarm clock hasn’t gone off and you’re already late. You get up and go to turn the coffee pot on, but you realize that there is no coffee left in your house. Then, you shower and head out the door – only to encounter construction and massive traffic back-ups on the way to work. Now you’re 15 minutes late instead of five. You get to work and head to the cafeteria for some much-needed coffee, but the line stretches out the door.

With the addition of each event, your morning just gets worse and worse. For most people, this is a recipe for disaster – the first person that crosses them is likely to get an earful!

Successful communicators are excellent at identifying precipitating factors and adjusting their approach before the communication starts, or during it. Understanding the power of precipitating factors can also help de-personalize negative comments. This does not mean that someone having a bad day gets to dump on everyone around them; it does mean, however, that the person being dumped on can take it less personally and help the other person work through their problems.

Establishing Common Ground

Finding common ties can be a powerful communication tool for your team. Think of those times when a stranger turns out not to be a stranger – that the person next to you on the train grew up in the same town that you did, or that the co-worker you never really liked enjoys woodworking as much as you do.

Whenever your team members are communicating with someone, whether it is a basic conversation, a problem-solving session, or a team meeting, they should try to find ways in which they are alike. Focusing on positive connections will help them build stronger relationships and better communication.

Using “I” Messages

Framing their message appropriately can greatly increase the power of your team’s communication.

How would you react to these statements?

  • Your outfit is too casual for this meeting.
  • You mumble all the time.
  • You’re really disorganized.

Most people would feel insulted and criticized by these statements – and rightly so! They are framed in a way that puts blame on the receiver. These statements can even give the impression that the speaker feels superior to the receiver.

Instead of starting a sentence with “you,” your team should try using the “I message” instead for feedback. This format places the responsibility with the speaker, makes a clear statement, and offers constructive feedback.

The format has three basic parts:

  • Objective description of the behavior
  • Effect that the behavior is causing on the speaker
  • The speaker’s feelings

Here is an example: “Sometimes, you speak in a very low voice. I often have difficulty hearing you when you speak at that volume. It often makes me feel frustrated.”

Be careful not to start the sentence with some form of, “When you…” This tends to create feelings of blame and injustice.

 

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Help Your Team Solve Problems Using Critical Thinking

Help your team solve problems using critical thinking.

Access Our Ultimate Guide to Building Better Problem Solving Skills in Your Team

A major function of critical thinking is it gives your team the ability to solve problems. Your team is presented daily with a host of decisions and problems to solve. In this blog, we will learn some steps your team can use for problem solving. Some psychologists define a problem as a gap or barrier between where the team is and where they wish to be.  In other words, a problem is the space between point A and B. Problems then essentially consist of the initial state and a goal state. All possible solution paths leading to the goal state are located in the problem space. Some researchers say that problem solving has three primary stages:

  1. Preparation or familiarization
  2. Production
  3. Judgment and evaluation

Your Team Must Identify Inconsistencies

Much of critical thinking is about how to connect the two points in a problem. However, sometimes critical thinkers are presented with inconsistencies or what scientists call cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance can appear through a discrepancy between attitude and beliefs. Inconsistencies can also be called variances or dissimilarities. It is a natural tendency to want to eliminate inconsistencies when solving a problem. The best way your team can identify inconsistencies is by using their logic and objectivity to see variances. Identifying inconsistencies would fall under the first stage of problem solving in which the team is familiarizing themselves with the subject.

Encourage Your Team to Trust Their Instincts

“Trust your instincts” falls under the second stage of problem solving, and the team should now start to see solution paths. Instincts are defined as a natural intuitive power. Intuition or instincts are key pieces in problem solving. When coupled with trial and error, informed guesses, and brainstorming, intuition and instincts can lead to a highly creative process. Many scientific discoveries and inventions were made because the innovator followed their instincts. Think of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison, for instance.

Get Your Team to Ask Why

Asking the right question is important in logical thinking. Asking why is equally important in problem solving. It is not sufficient to be simply presented with the information or data. Your team must always be willing to dig deeper and explore various possibilities. Asking why can fall under any of the three stages of problem solving.

Your Team Needs to Evaluate the Solutions

Once a possible solution has been derived, your team may feel they can proceed with the solution. However, they should not overlook the all-important step of evaluating all possible solutions. Sometimes, one problem has more than one solution and taking the time to evaluate the efficacy of each alternative is a critical thinking skill. Evaluation is also called judgment, and this is the third stage of problem solving. Your team should evaluate each alternative and judge which one is the best. The following steps are an effective evaluation technique:

  1. Make a T-chart to weigh the pros and cons of each possible solution
  2. Develop criteria (or requirements) and assign weights to each criteria
  3. Prioritize the criteria
  4. Rate the proposed solutions using the criteria

Conclusion

To solve problems using critical thinking, your team has to resist the tendency to eliminate inconsistencies. They should also trust their instincts which together with trial and error, informed guesses, and brainstorming and intuition, can lead to a highly creative problem solving process.  Another part of problem solving is asking why, which will help your team to dig deeper and explore various possibilities. Once the possible solutions have been derived, all of the solutions must be evaluated to select the most appropriate one.

TBAE has developed a outcome based problem solving team building event which focuses on discovering and developing your team’s problem solving skills. Click here to find out more about the Problem Solving Outcome Based Team Building Activity.

 

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Changing Your Team’s Perspective

Changing Your Team’s Perspective

The interesting thing about perspective is that everyone has one. One aspect of open-mindedness is that it makes your team receptive to other viewpoints. The concept of changing your team’s perspective includes:

  • Limitations of Your Team’s Point of View
  • Considering Others Viewpoint
  • Influences on Bias
  • What to With New Information

Limitations of Your Team’s Point of View

An important component of critical thinking is having an open mind. This component as well as bias, relates to the team’s point of view. The less open-minded and more biased a team is, the more limited their point of view. The challenge of critical thinking is avoiding the limitations of your point of view and not be constrained by cognitive or mental blinders.

Related: Creative Thinking Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Considering Others Viewpoint

One reason we find it so difficult to consider another’s viewpoint is that we are over-concerned with our own opinions and views. A challenge for the team is to step down from the “mountain of self”, and climb up the “mountain of the other”. Considering others viewpoint is easier when your team understands the benefits. For instance, it helps them be more empathetic, it helps them to see the bigger picture and it also promotes objectivity.

Influences on Bias

Bias influences your team’s conclusions in the logic process. What are some influences on bias? The first thing that can influence bias is the way a team member interprets information he or she is receiving. The other influence on bias is the way the presenter or speaker frame questions and information. For instance, researchers have found that hypothetical questions influence behavior and promote bias. The key to not being influenced by hypothetical information is to remember that it is just that and not factual information.

When New Information Arrives

When your team receives new information, how should they organize it? Probably the most common way of handling new information is through an organization schema. Schemas indicate which role new information plays. It compartmentalizes information into a familiar format, which makes it easier for the team to use.

Conclusion

Changing your team’s perspective involves getting your team to be more receptive to other viewpoints. You want your team to avoid the limitations of their point of view and be more open-minded. Your team will be more likely to consider the viewpoint of others when they understand that it makes them more empathetic, it helps them see the bigger picture and promotes objectivity. You also want to change your team’s perspective so that their bias do not influence their conclusions in the logic process.

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4 Ways Your Team Benefits From Critical Thinking

4 Ways Your Team Benefits From Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is important. It helps your team make better decisions and to rationally apply information. While there are many benefits of critical thinking, the four we are going to look at are:

  • Being more persuasive
  • Better communication
  • Better problem solving
  • Increased emotional intelligence

Related: Creative Thinking Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Being More Persuasive

Persuasiveness is the characteristic of being able to influence others. We normally think of salespersons and politicians when we hear the word persuasiveness. However, all managers or professionals use persuasiveness on a daily basis. Anytime, we want to have others accept our ideas, we do so through the power of persuasion. How will critical thinking make your team members more persuasive? It is because critical thinking is a deliberate or thoughtful process, and the more deliberate they are, the better they will be in expressing their assumptions or ideas and persuading others.

Better Communication

Critical thinking improves communication for some of the same reasons that it improves persuasiveness. Many of the same factors used to improve persuasiveness, will also make the team members better communicators in general. For instance, the use of analogies and metaphors are a great persuasion and general communication technique. In addition to helping the team using language more persuasively; critical thinking also helps them use language with more clarity.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Better Problem Solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are closely related and are almost intertwined. Sometimes we say that to solve logic problems we must use our critical thinking skills. In fact, logic, critical thinking, and problem solving, use some of the same cognitive processes. Critical thinkers use their problem solving skills and not just their intuition to make decisions or draw conclusions.

Related: Problem Solving Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Increased Emotional Intelligence

What is emotional intelligence and how does critical thinking help your team members increase their emotional intelligence? Emotional intelligence is identified as the ability to assess and control the emotions of oneself, others, and even groups. Emotional intelligence is being “heart smart” as opposed to “book smart.” Critical thinking helps increase emotional intelligence because one of the characteristics of a critical thinker is self-awareness. Also, critical thinkers know how and when to use their emotions, such as empathy, in making decisions. The more a team member uses his or her critical thinking skills the better adept they should become at identifying, understanding, and managing their emotions. Emotional intelligence in general consists of four abilities:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship management

Conclusion

Critical thinking will help your team be more persuasive because it is a deliberate process, and the more deliberate they are in their thinking, the better your team will be at expressing their ideas and persuading others. Many of the factors in critical thinking that will make your team members more persuasive will also make them better communicators as it will help them use language with more clarity. Critical thinking is intertwined with problem solving as it uses the same cognitive processes. Because self-awareness is one of the characteristics of critical thinkers, critical thinking will also lead to an increase in the emotional intelligence of your team members.

 

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Easy to Set Up Fun Games that You Can Use for Team Building

Easy to Set Up Fun Games that You Can Use for Team Building

Games and fun activities are tried and tested ways of getting your team members to know each other better. They can also be used as an icebreaker before a team building event, conference or meeting.

The following are fun games that are easy to set up and can be used for team building or as an icebreaker.

Team Building Games

  • Burst my Bubble
  • Guess the Celebrity
  • Lucky Sevens
  • Peg Tag
  • Clap Clap

Burst my Bubble Team Building Game

Burst my Bubble Team Building Game

The Burst My Bubble game works best in smaller teams of 8-15 members. This activity is very similar to other tag games, with the exception that, instead of touching the person with your  hand, you have to jump around and pop their balloons. This activity is fairly easy to set up and the only equipment needed is balloons and some string. Burst My Bubble is a fast pace and high energy game that is loads of fun.

Before the start of the game cut a length of string, between 40 to 60cm long, for each team member participating. Gather the team together and hand out a balloon and a peace of string to each team member. Each participant must inflate their balloon, tie off the ends, and attach one end of the string to the balloon. The other end of the string must be securely tied around an ankle of the team member. Some space must be left between the ankle and the balloon to ensure that the participants don’t stomp on each other’s ankles by accident.

When your team is ready, you can shout “Go” and everyone should be trying to stomp on and pop everybody else’s balloon. At the same time they must prevent others from stomping on their own balloon. When a team member’s balloon is popped, they are eliminated and must step aside from the game. You can place a time limit on the game or play until the last person with their balloon still intact remains standing. The winner is the last person remaining who has their balloon still intact.

As a variation to the Burst My Bubble game, you can have the participants attach two balloons, one on each ankle. This will give each team member two changes to survive, as they are then only eliminated when both their balloons are popped. You can also have all the participants stand in a circle and holding hands. If both the balloons of a participant have been popped, they are eliminated and must leave the circle. The rest of the remaining participants will reform the circle and continue with the game.

The following are some examples of debriefing questions you can ask the team after the game:

  • Did you have any kind of strategy to avoid being tagged or in tagging somebody else?
  • Were you eliminated quickly?
  • During the game, were you aware of any collaborations going on with other members of the team? Why do you think this happened?
  • How do you think the behaviour of all the team members during the game reflects on the team as a whole.

Guess the Celebrity Team Building Game

Guess the Celebrity Team Building Game

Guess the Celebrity is an audience-style game which encourages team members to use their creative and collaborative skills. This fun and playful activity is simple to play. It is suitable for larger teams and will encourage your team to use their critical-thinking skills.

Required props for the Guess the Celebrity team building game:

  • Index cards or labels
  • List of famous and/or celebrity names
  • Marker
  • Sticky tape or hats

In preparation for the game, collect some blank labels or index cards and write some celebrity names on each of them. Add some lesser-known names to make the game more challenging. To start the game, get the team to sit together facing 4 chairs. Ask 4 volunteers to sit in the chairs facing the rest of the team. They will represent the first four celebrities or famous people. Take four cards with the celebrity names on them, and stick them on each of the volunteer’s foreheads without them seeing what is written on the cards. Make sure that everybody else on the team can see the cards clearly.

The objective of the Celebrity game is for each volunteer to uncover the identity of the person written on the card attached to their forehead. They must ask the audience a number of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions to which they are only allowed to reply ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The first ‘celebrity’ will ask a question which the audience will answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and then next celebrity will get their turn to ask a question. This will continue until one of the ‘celebrities’ can correctly guess who they are. You can then have the team member that guessed correctly swap places with someone in the audience and continue the game. Alternatively, you can wait until all 4 ‘celebrities’ guessed correctly before swapping them with 4 new players. You may want to limit the number of questions to 10 or less to ensure that the game does not carry on for too long.

For larger teams, you can increase the number of chairs up to eight chairs. You may also want to get hold of some caps or hats so that you do not have to stick cards directly to the participant’s forehead. If one of the participants gets a lesser known celebrity and is struggling, it is fine to add some clues to help them out.

The following are some debriefing questions you can ask your team after the Guess the Celebrity team building game:

  • What was it like to know that others knew something you did not?
  • As an audience member, what was it like to know something that others did not?
  • Thinking of situations in your life, was there a time when you were left in the dark about something? Was there something significant you learned from the situation?

Lucky Sevens Team Building Game

Lucky Sevens Team Building Game

Lucky Sevens is a fun and easy counting game that requires no props and will help improve your teams listening skills. It is a very effective team building ice-breaker game. Although this game will seriously test your math skills, it also involves a lot of fun and laughter.

Have all the team members come together and form a circle. Explain to everyone that they must start counting from 1 to 100. Each person must say a number, to the next and so on. Moving to the left of each member in the circle. Every time they come to the number seven, or multiples of seven, they have to say the word ‘Lucky’ instead of the number. If a mistake is made the entire team must start counting from the beginning again. The team member to the left of the one that made the mistake must restart the game. You can play this game for about 10 minutes or you can try and see how far the team gets without making a mistake.

As a variation to the game, instead of saying the word ‘lucky’, have the team member clap their hands instead. You can also have the team change direction every time the word ‘lucky’ is said. O increase the difficulty level of the game, you can add another number, for example number 3. You can then also add another word for the additional number. To make it more of competitive exercise, you can have the team member that makes a mistake eliminated when they make a mistake, and last one standing is declared the winner.

Peg Tag Team Building Game

Peg Tag Team Building Game

Another version of the ever popular ‘Tag’ style team building games, Peg Tag involves lots of fun and energetic running and swerving. The only prop needed for this activity is a big bag of clothes-pegs.

You will need enough clothes-pegs so that each member of the team will have four to eight pegs each. Hand out the pegs to each member of the team and instruct them to pin the clothes-pegs anywhere they like on their clothing. They must pinned somewhere that is accessible, preferably on the upper body, like the arms, the back or front of the clothes.

When you say ‘Go’, the participants must first remove the clothes-pegs from themselves and then attempt to fasten them onto another team member’s clothes. This has to happen one clothe peg at a time, all the other clothes-pegs need to stay fastened onto their own clothing and can only be removed once they have placed the first peg onto somebody else’s clothes. Make sure that everyone in the team must understand that the intention must be to fasten the peg to someone’s clothing, and not onto somebody’s body. Bring to everyone’s attention that when used incorrectly and attached in the wrong place, the peg can cause harm and hurt someone. If a peg falls to the ground, the peg belongs to the one attempting to fasten it to another member’s clothes.

The team members will soon discover that you can’t only concentrate on placing pegs on other participants, as other team members are cunningly looking to fasten pegs to your clothing when they  least expect it. You can continue the game as long as you like. When the game is stopped, have each team member count the number of clothes-pegs still remaining on their clothes. The winner is the member with the least number of pegs attached to their clothes.

You can also divide the group into teams, and let them count the number of pegs each team has accumulated when the game is over. The winning team, is the team with the most pegs. The game can also be played in reverse, with the aim being for each person to see how many pegs they are able to take from other team members and fasten them on their own clothing.

Clap Clap Team Building Game

Clap Clap Team Building Game

In this team game the challenge is to follow a sequence of different clapping movements. The movements increase in difficulty as a the game progresses. This activity is similar to the clapping games that school children used to play during their break times. The activity requires a high degree of coordination, but the objective of the game is not only about doing it correctly. You will find that this activity has many other benefits such as fun, enjoyment, cooperation and friendly competition.

To start the game, get your team to form into pairs. Ask the whole team to gather around so you can teach them all the moves.  Arrange the moves into smaller section, starting with the first move then adding more. The moves involve clapping once, then twice and then three times, and then clapping down again, 3-2-1. Then you start all over again.

Perform only one section of the routine at a time, and then get all the other pairs to try it out. Explain and perform the movements a number of times, and allow the pairs to practice on their own. As soon as all the team members are completing the sections correctly, they can try the complete routine all at once.

Let the team try the basic moves out with no time penalties and once you are confident that most of the group have mastered the moves, you can begin the challenge. You can let all the pairs commence the activity simultaneously or they can perform individually. The performances can also be timed if you want.

The following are some examples of questions you can ask the team after the completion of the game:

  • What was the most challenging part of the game?
  • Was it difficult to master all the moves successfully with your partner?
  • Do you think there is something you can learn from this game, as an individual, and as a team?

More Team Building Activities

The games we discussed are easy to set up and facilitate. For more complex  team building activities where everyone can participate, we advise that you use an experienced team building facilitator. Our team building events can also focus on a specific outcome such as leadership, communication, creative thinking, cooperation, resilience etc.

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Developing Your Team’s Critical Thinking Capabilities

Developing Your Team’s Critical Thinking Capabilities

In this blog post, we will look at characteristics that will help your team improve their critical thinking capabilities. We will be looking at the following four characteristics:

  • Seeing the big picture
  • Objectivity
  • Using emotions
  • Being self-aware

Related: Creative Thinking Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Seeing the Big Picture

One of the main functions of thinking is to make connections. The team’s  ideas gain significance when they can relate or connect them to other ideas. They will start to gain insight when we see the similarities between ideas. The way they structure their ideas can be based on how they connect in one of two ways: causal or conceptual relationships. Since many problems arise due to causal changes, we will focus on this aspect. Steps in discovering causal relations include:

  • Laying out the account
  • Determining a hierarchy
  • Interpreting convergences and divergences
    • Convergences are ideas/things that reinforce, supplement, or complement events
    • Divergences are points that do not reinforce events

Objectivity

Objectivity is defined as “intentness on objects external to the mind.” In critical thinking, you want your team to have a keen sense of objectivity. This is a heuristic or a rule / strategy for problem solving. Objectivity helps your team to engage more thoughtfully and deliberately in the critical thinking process. However, the team members should not completely exclude their emotions or subjective feelings in the decision making or problem solving process. The most important thing to remember is that evaluating information objectively helps the team to be more deliberate or thorough.

Using Their Emotions

As mentioned in the previous section, emotions should not be ignored altogether when thinking critically. Emotions play a crucial role in the thinking process. For instance, professionals need empathy when working with others, regardless of their occupation in order to vicariously experience what others feel, believe, or wish. The issue with emotions and decision making is to not allow emotions to cloud the team’s judgment.

Being Self-Aware

Self-awareness is yet another characteristic of the critical thinking. This characteristic relates to the team acutely being aware of their feelings, opinions, and assumptions. Moreover, it is a starting point for thinking critically. Our assumptions are how the first impressions and strongest emotions are filtered when we evaluate information.

Conclusion

There are many benefits in having your team develop their critical thinking skills. If you want your team to develop their critical thinking abilities, they must develop the ability to see the big picture when they need to make decisions. Encourage them to make connections between ideas so that they can gain insight when they see the similarities between ideas. A keen sense of objectivity is also vital in critical thinking. Although emotions can cloud your team’s judgement they should not be ignored altogether. Finally, your team needs to be aware of their feelings, opinions, and assumptions, as being self-aware is the starting point for critical thinking.

 

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13 Fun Ideas for Team Building in Johannesburg

Fun Team Building Ideas in Johannesburg
Murder Mystery Team Building Event

Your team in Johannesburg seems a bit sluggish and it is time for a boost in team morale. Team building activities are a fun way to motivate your team and strengthen bonds between team members.

With so many team building options available it can be a daunting task to decide on one activity. In order to make your decision easier we have put together a summary of some of our more popular team building events in Johannesburg.

The following are some ideas for team building in and around the greater Johannesburg area.

  1. Tribal Survivor Challenges
  2. Potjiekos Cooking Competitions
  3. Amazing Race Events
  4. Escape Room Activities
  5. Drumming Events
  6. Movie Making Activities
  7. Minute to Win It Games
  8. Box Cart Building and Racing
  9. Laughter Games
  10. Hitting the Target Activity
  11. Charity Team Building Events
  12. Art Workshop
  13. Murder Mystery Events

 

Team Building Activities

 

1. Tribal Survivor Team Building Challenges in Johannesburg

Inspired by the iconic Survivor reality game show franchise, the Tribal Survivor Challenge is a fun, exciting and interactive team building event suitable for all ages and fitness levels.  Your group will be divided into tribes and each tribe will have to come up with a name and flag for their tribe. One of the most entertaining parts of this challenge comes next with each tribe having to create an choreograph a war cry which will be performed in front of the other tribes.

In the next part of the Tribal Survivor Challenge, the tribes compete against each other in various team building exercises with a variety of outcomes such as enhancing communication, encouraging teamwork and cooperation. Points are awarded for each of the activities and the tribe with the highest points at the end of Tribal Survivor Challenge is declared the winning tribe.

More About the Tribal Survivor Challenge

Tribal Survivor Challenge Team Building Event in Johannesburg
Team designing their flag during their Tribal Survivor Challenge team building event.

2. Potjiekos Cooking Competitions in Johannesburg

A Potjiekos Cooking Competition is an effective way for teams to get to know each other better while working together on a common goal. Your group will be divided into teams that will compete with each other for the first choice of ingredients. Teams are allowed to barter with each other for any ingredients that they may still need.

When all the ingredients are ready, the teams can start with cooking their potjie. While waiting for the potjies to finish cooking, teams compete against each other in some more team building exercises. When the potjies are ready they are presented for judging, and after the meal the winners and runners up are announced.

The Potjiekos Cooking Competition is a great activity for building camaraderie and team spirit.

More About the Potjiekos Cooking Competition

Potjiekos Cooking Competition Team Building Activities in Johannesburg
Team from Woolworths during their Potjiekos Cooking Competition.

3. Amazing Race Team Building Events in Johannesburg

Inspired by the popular Amazing Race reality show, the Amazing Race team building event is an exciting and fast moving activity designed to get teams working together to complete various tasks.

Teams are provided with clues to help them find all the “check-in” points. Some of these “check-in” points have activities that the teams will have to complete before moving to the next point, while others will just require the team to prove that they were at the point. These “check-in” points are hidden throughout the venue and teams need to find them in the correct sequence. The first team to complete all the activities and tasks is declared the winning team of the Amazing Race team building event.

More About the Amazing Race Team Building Event

Amazing Race Team Building Events in Johannesburg
Team from Vukani Gaming during their Amazing Race team building event.

4. Escape Room Team Building Activities in Johannesburg

In the Escape Room team building activity, teams are locked into themed rooms from which they have to escape. In order to escape, they have to work out all the hidden clues and complete some pressurized tasks within 60 minutes. Escape Room activities are an exciting and challenging way to test your team’s problem solving skills.

Escape Room team building activities also help teams improve their communication and strengthens relationships within the team. This activity highlights how individual decisions can be of benefit to the team.

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Escape Room Team Building Activities in Johannesburg
Team from Imperial Logistics during their Escape Room team building activity.

5. Drumming Team Building Events in Johannesburg

Drumming activities are very suitable for team building because everyone can participate in the activity regardless of age, race or position within your organization. In Africa, drumming has historically been used for communication, and many groups and individuals use drumming activities to release stress, raise their spirits, enhance their focus and for developing better cooperation in groups. It is a very effective tool for synchronizing the thought processes of team members.  Drumming activities are also beneficial for developing hand-eye coordination, listening skills and creativity. When team members create rythms together, it also naturally promotes teamwork.

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Drumming Team Building Activities in Johannesburg
Team members during a drumming event.

6. Movie Making Team Building Activities in Johannesburg

A Movie Making team building activity is a great way to discover and encourage creativity in your team. In the Movie Making activity, the team members have to work together to write a script, produce, direct and act in the “Movie” using limited resources. The process of making the movie taps into both the creative and practical abilities of the team. Not only is Movie Making an excellent way to get your team to work together, but it also provides great entertainment when the movies are viewed at the end of the event.

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Movie Making Team Building Activities in Johannesburg
Team members participating in a Movie Making team building activity.

7. Minute to Win It Team Building Games in Johannesburg

Based on the popular game show franchise, Minute to Win It team building games is an entertaining way of getting everyone on your team involved. In this activity, teams compete against each other in a variety of challenges which must be completed within 60 seconds. The challenges are completed using everyday household objects such as elastic bands, paper cups, empty cans, balloons and toilet paper. Points are awarded for each challenge and the team with the highest points at the end of the event is declared the winning team.

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Minute Win It Team Building Games in Johannesburg
Team member completing the Nut Stacker Minute to Win It challenge.

8. Box Cart Building and Racing Team Building Activity in Johannesburg

The Box Cart Building and Racing team building activity combines creativity, technical precision, leadership, communication and a dose of bravery and fitness for a few. Teams are provided with the necessary parts to create and complete their Box Cart. The teams have to design and paint the bodywork of the Box Cart, the drivers racing top, as well creating a team song. All of this has to be done in a race against time as the Box Cart needs to be completed before the starting time of the race. The teams race their Box Carts against each other in a relay format, with multiple team members having the opportunity to drive and push the cart towards the finish line. This is an excellent activity for enhancing teamwork and relationships within your team.

More About the Box Cart Building and Racing Team Building Activity

Box Cart Building & Racing Team Building Activity
Team from Allan Gray during their Box Cart Building & Racing team building event.

9. Laughter Games Team Building Activity in Johannesburg

If you want your team to bond through laughter, the Laughter Games team building activity is the one for you. In this activity, your group is divided into teams which compete against each other in various team building exercises designed to create a lot of laughter. Getting your team to laugh together has many benefits to the team. It is a powerful antidote to stress and connects team members to each other. Furthermore, laughter relaxes the body, boosts the immune system and releases feel good chemicals. Being able to laugh, play and have fun together makes being part of a team more enjoyable and helps the team to solve problems, connect with each other and be more creative.

More About the Laughter Games Team Building Activity

Laughter Games Team Building Activity in Johannesburg
Team from Nedbank during their Laughter Games team building activities.

10. Hitting the Target Team Building Activity in Johannesburg

Hitting The Target is an ideal team building activity if you want to emphasize the importance of accuracy and correct decision making when working as a team. Your group is divided into teams which compete against each other in team building exercises designed to test the participant’s accuracy and aim. Points are awarded after each challenge and the team with the most points at the end of the event is declared the winning team.

More About the Hitting the Target Team Building Activity

Hitting the Target Team Building Activity in Johannesburg
Team from Barclays Life Botswana during their team building activity.

11. Charity Team Building Events in Johannesburg

Letting your team take part in activities where they are helping others is one of the best ways of bringing your team together and strengthening bonds within the team. Charity team building activities not only teach your team the skills needed to function as a high-performing team, but also gives back to the community. These activities also highlight the significance of team members engaging their hearts in their work together.

More About Charity Team Building Activities

Charity Team Building Activities in Johannesburg
Team from WWF SA during their Charity Team Building Activity.

12. Art Workshop Team Building Activity in Johannesburg

An Art Workshop team building activity is an excellent option for teams that want to do something more creative together. The Art Workshop highlights the importance of unity in diversity and creative thinking. Your group will be divided into teams, and each team is given a blank canvas, paints and brushes. The teams are then each given a subject to paint and they are made to believe that the challenge is to produce the best work of art on their particular canvas. Each team works separately on their own canvas and are not aware of what the other teams are painting. Unknown to them, all the teams are working on different parts of one big painting. While thinking they are competing against each other, all the teams are in fact working on one single goal.

This fun team building activity is a rewarding challenge for participants and promotes cohesion within a group. The activity ends on a motivating high as the participants are impressed by what the group achieved through the individual efforts of each team member.

More About the Art Workshop Team Building Activity

Art Workshop Team Building Activity in Johannesburg
Team from BankservAfrica during their Art Workshop team building activity at The Pyramid in Johannesburg.

13. Murder Mystery Team Building Events in Johannesburg

A Murder Mystery team building activity is a fun way for your team members to get to know each as they work together to solve a mystery. Although Murder Mysteries are usually played out over a meal, the event can be just as effective without it. Costumes and dress up accessories such wigs are provided on the day. The “murder” is announced, and the fun begins as each accused try to prove their innocence.  Murder Mystery events are most definitely one of the more entertaining team building ideas.

More About the Murder Mystery Team Building Event

Murder Mystery Team Building Activities in Johannesburg
Team from Malcolm Lyons and Brivik during their team building activity.

 

Now you are ready to treat your team to a great time while they are learning to work together and forming stronger bonds.

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Develop Non-Linear Thinking in Your Team

Develop Non-Linear Thinking in Your Team

The usual way to approach problems that your team may face is in a step-by-step fashion. This is called linear or vertical thinking. However, often we tend to not line up the premises in a normal step-by-step fashion. When your team needs to  approach a problem in a different order, they are using non-linear thinking. Sometimes, non-linear thinking is also called lateral thinking.

Related: Creative Thinking Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Encourage Your Team to Step Out of Their Comfort Zone

One of the first steps in developing non-linear thinking in your team is to encourage them to step out of their comfort zone. Basically, this concept involves your team seeing information or circumstances from a different perspective. A zone is defined as an area set apart in some way. In critical thinking and problem-solving, your team sometimes have to get out of the areas or zones that make them comfortable and stretch their thinking.

Remind Your Team Not to Jump to Conclusions

An important step in problem solving is for your team to take the time to acquire the necessary information. Often, teams tend to jump to conclusions before they have all of the facts. How can your team use their understanding of logic to gather all the necessary facts? Remember, the premises are the facts or statements that help us come to conclusions.

Related: Changing Your Team’s Perspective

Encourage Your Team to Expect and Initiate Change

“Be the change you wish to see,” is a common slogan on bumper stickers. With so many events happening on an international and national level each day, change is simply a standard course in businesses. We can always expect changes in organizations. Nothing stays the same, and we sometimes are in the position where we the ones initiating the change.

Your Team Must Be Ready to Adapt

The question in today’s culture is not will change occur in an organization, but how well are teams at adapting to change. Team members protect themselves from becoming obsolete by changing. Adaptation is a survival skill of nature. The species which survive in an environment are those that are capable of adapting well.

Conclusion

There are times that linear thinking is simply not sufficient to solve the problem that is facing your team. This is where non-linear thinking comes into play. For your team to be effective in non-linear thinking they will need to step out of their comfort zones and guard against jumping to conclusions. Your team needs to expect and initiate change, always being ready to adapt, if they are going to be effective in non-linear thinking.

If you want to develop non-linear thinking in your team, our problem solving outcome based team building activities are designed to develop non-linear thinking and other problem solving skills.

 

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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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