Tag: Active Listening

Promoting an Effective Work Etiquette in Your Team

Promoting an Effective Work Etiquette in Your Team

Etiquette refers to unwritten rules or norms of acceptable conduct within a professional environment. Violations of etiquette are not always punishable by company law, but ignoring etiquette guidelines have considerable consequences for the team member and team.

In this blog post, you will be introduced to some tips in practicing work etiquette in a team. In particular tips related to proper greeting, respect, involvement, and political correctness will be discussed.

Related: Digital Etiquette for Your Virtual Team


The seeds of civility can be planted in an organization by encouraging every team member to give their fellow team members, greetings befitting the professional nature of the work environment.

What rules of greeting etiquette are worth remembering? Consider the following:

Formal Greetings: Always give a formal acknowledgment of another team member’s presence, regardless of that person’s rank. Starting an interaction with greetings is a way of establishing rapport with new acquaintances and maintaining rapport with old ones. A “Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening” is an excellent way to both initiate and maintain a positive relationship with a co-worker, client, or business partner.

In the same vein, greetings are best followed by expression of sincere interest in the person that you saw or met. For example, you can reply to an exchange of Good morning with “How do you do?” or “How are you doing today?”

When used as a greeting, questions like “How do you do?” are not meant to be answered in great detail. You can consider them as a polite way people can get abreast of what it going on in people’s lives. An appropriate reply can be as short as “I am doing very well. My son graduated from high school yesterday and the family is very thrilled. How about you? How are things at your end?” You and your fellow team member can always schedule a longer chat at a more appropriate time.

Informal Greetings: Informal greetings can also be a great way of developing civility in a workplace. If familiarity is already established among team members, or when expressly invited to, informal greetings can set up positive working relationships in a team. The use of “hi” and “hello” can put team members more at ease with each other, and set the foundation for social awareness.

Nonverbal greetings such as smiles, taps on the back, a handshake, a high five are also ways to develop civility within the team. Note though that it is not recommended to assume any familiarity unless expressly invited to.

Other etiquette rules worth considering when it comes to greeting:

  • Give greetings the attention that they deserve. Saying good morning to an entering team member while you remain busily sorting folders on your desk can actually come across as uncivil instead of civil behavior. Instead, pause whatever it is you’re doing, even for a few seconds, to offer your pleasantries. Establish eye contact; stand up when greeting a superior or a client, even step from behind your desk to offer a handshake if necessary. Make the other person feel that you’re greeting them because you want to, not because you have to.
  • Remember that greetings are not limited to face-to-face conversations. Even when sending and receiving written correspondence, including electronic communication such as emails or an instant message, it is recommended that you begin and end your letter with a greeting. “Dear (name)” is traditionally greeting for written and electronic correspondence; the word dear is acceptable for both formal and informal communication. “Greetings!”, “Hope all is well at your end.” are also acceptable salutations. Letter closings can include a greetings like “Best Regards,” “In appreciation of your message,” and “Cheers,”
  • In business settings, rank and professionalism matters. Make sure that you’re always sensitive to the power dynamics in a team when offering greetings. For example, avoid addressing your boss using his or her first name/nickname unless given permission to.
  • The questions of “who should initiate a greeting?” and “when to offer a greeting? “are often debated, but a good rule of thumb is to always initiate a greeting as soon you see another team member, regardless of rank. After all, you can’t go wrong with courtesy! The exception is when the other person is otherwise engaged and will likely construe your greeting as an interruption instead of a pleasantry. Greetings must also be appropriate to the context; you can’t offer a cheery greeting when the mood is grim or solemn such as during the aftermath of a workplace accident.


It may be said that the foundation of civility is respect.

Respect refers to positive esteem for another team member, one that demands both deferential and considerate behavior. Respect is commonly perceived as something persons of higher rank demand from their subordinates.  In reality though, respect is something every team member, regardless of rank, both freely give to, and inspire in, those they interact with.

In many ways, respect can be summarized in terms of attitudes. When you respect another team member, you understand that he or she is a person of worth, which in turn demands that you treat him or her ethically. A team member’s worthiness of respect has little to do with his or her job performance. All people are deserving of respect regardless of their contribution to the team.

Respect may also be conceptualized in terms of boundaries; that is, we know that we can’t act just as we please when relating with a team member that we respect. Every team member, for example, requires work space in order to perform their task effectively. Intruding on this workplace, for instance, speaking loudly when you know someone is conducting a task that requires mental concentration can be a sign of disrespect.

What are the ways you can show respect for your fellow team members? The following are just a few ways to consider:

  • Practice active listening. Every team member deserves to be given attention when they’re communicating. In fact, it’s recommended for team members to make a habit of encouraging their peers in contributing more to the discussion. More importantly, give each team member’s message fair consideration. Just because a suggestion came from someone not considered as a subject matter expert doesn’t mean that the suggestion is automatically without merit. (Active Listening will be discussed in more detail in a later module.)
  • Respect your fellow team member’s property. Disrespect in a team plays itself, not just through face-to-face interactions, but also through lack of consideration for another team member’s belongings and work space and privacy. For instance, it’s not uncommon in offices to have issues regarding missing lunches from the kitchen, or missing pens and staplers from a desk! Clarify from the onset what is to be considered as office property and personal property.  Better yet, establish rules and guidelines when it comes to using any and all equipment and materials from the office. For instance, should reservations be first made before using a meeting room? These rules and guidelines can go a long way in maintaining civility in the team.
  • Respect the right to own beliefs. Most companies advocate diversity in the workplace. Diversity means that you’ll have people of different religions, political beliefs, abilities, traditions, and values working in the same team. For as long as a team member’s faith and beliefs do not interfere with his or her work performance, there’s no reason for said faith and beliefs to be an issue in the company. And definitely, no team leader or team member has cause to compel a person to convert religion and abandon belief systems. A healthy debate is okay, but only for social purposes and not as a way to discriminate or bully.
  • Use your fellow team member’s time wisely. A little known way you can practice respect in the team is by respecting your fellow team member’s time. On the job site, time is an important commodity, especially when there is much to be done and employees are paid on an hourly basis. Don’t waste your fellow team member’s time with idle gossip or unimportant concerns. Keep team meetings short and to the point. And set appointments instead of ambushing. These little acts of courtesy may not look much at first glance, but they will surely be appreciated by those with lots to do and think about.


Involvement refers to an active participation in the activities of the team. There should be a feeling of personal investment in how the team is doing. Involvement also demands that you don’t just content yourself with getting the tasks in your job description done. Instead, you’re on the constant lookout for ways to make yourself an active part of the team system. When the system is experiencing problems, you don’t view yourself as merely “caught in the crossfire” or a “victim.” Instead, you see yourself as a potential “agent of change.” You jump at opportunities to better your team as soon as the opportunity presents itself. And you don’t wait to be told what must be done; you take the initiative to inquire how you can be of help.

Being Politically Correct

Political Correctness, commonly abbreviated as PC, is a way of addressing, and at times behaving towards, other team members that takes special care in not creating offense against others, especially against potential victims of discrimination.

Political correctness is based on the idea that language captures attitudes, and potentially insulting language, even if delivered unintentionally by a speaker, can communicate and perpetuate prevailing negative attitudes against people commonly discriminated against.

An example of political correctness is the use of the term “persons with disabilities” instead of “disabled person.” This is to ensure that the premium when addressing persons with hearing, visual, mobility impairment, and any other disability, is their personhood instead of their limitations. In fact, the word “challenged” is preferred in some social circles as opposed to “impaired” (e.g. vertically challenged instead of height impaired) in order to communicate the idea that a disability need not mean lack of capability.

Another example of political correctness is the use of gender-sensitive language. Titles that specify a particular gender, when a position can be held competently by both man and woman, need to be reframed in order to be gender-neutral. For example, the chairperson is preferred to chairman, and cleaner is more acceptable than cleaning lady.

Contrary to popular belief, political correctness is not lying. Neither is it sugarcoating the harsh truth for the people concerned, or patronizing individuals who could otherwise defend themselves. Instead, it’s a way of positively reframing statements that box some members of the population into negative stereotypes.

It is, however, possible to overdo political correctness, to the extent that the positive spirit behind it becomes an object of ridicule.


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The Importance of Listening for Team Leaders

The Importance of Listening for Team Leaders

Do you consider yourself an effective listener? Team leaders can sometimes get so busy doing their own thing and trying to make things happen, that they stop paying attention to what is going on around them. It essential that team leaders slow down and pay greater attention to those around them. It is critical that team leaders not only listen to words, but also feelings, meanings and undercurrents.

Before leaders can have influence in their team members’ lives, they have to get to know them. The best way to get to know your team members better is by listening to them. The biggest percentage of management problems is due to faulty communication, and the majority of communication problems are due to poor listening. The two primary purposes for listening is to connect with people and to learn.

Related: Leadership Outcome Based Team Building Activities

People That Team Leaders Should be Listening To

Team Members Listening is more than mere interaction with your team members. You should take the time to get a feel for who each team member as a person. Do not just listen to the facts, change you focus and really listen.

Clients Team leaders should guard against getting so caught up in their ideas that they never hear their customers’ complaints, concerns, and suggestions. Although unhappy customers are always a concern, they can be your greatest opportunity. Effective leaders make it a priority to keep in contact with the people they are serving.

Competitors Leaders should not be so focused on building their own case that they cannot learn from what their competitors are doing. Leaders learn from their competitors by listening. Although they should not base their action on what the competition is doing, leaders can learn what they can from them to improve themselves.

Mentors No team leader is so advanced that they cannot be without a mentor. It is always beneficial to learn from leaders that have more experience than you have. If you do not have a mentor, try and find one. If you cannot find somebody to help you in person, begin the process by reading books.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

How Team Leaders Can Improve Their Listening Skills

Change Your Schedule Do you spend time listening to your followers, customers, competitors and mentors? It is essential for the team leader to have all four groups on their calendar regularly.

Meet Each Team Member Where They Are Effective listeners always find common ground with their other team members. When you meet with one of your team members, discipline yourself to ask four or five questions about them as a person. Build connections by seeking common ground and getting to know your team members.

Listen Between the Lines Although team leaders should always pay attention to the factual content of a conversation, they must not ignore the emotional content. Often you learn more about what is really going on by reading between the lines.

Resource: The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader



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How Team Leaders Can Improve Their Listening Skills

How Team Leaders Can Improve Their Listening Skills

Listening is one of the most essential components of communication. In this article, we will be looking at some of the ways that team leaders can improve their listening skills.

Related: Leadership Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Seven Ways to Become a Better Listener

  1. Don’t talk on the phone, text message, clean your desk, or do anything else when you are listening to a team member.
  2. When you are busy listening to a team member, avoid interruptions of any kind.
  3. Try to spend 90% of your time listening and less than 10% of your time talking.
  4. When you have to talk, make sure it is related to what the team member is saying. Use questions to clarify, expand and probe for more information.
  5. Only offer advice when the team member asks for it.
  6. Make sure the physical environment is conducive to listening.
  7. If the conversation is of such a nature that you are required to take notes, try to not let the note-taking disturb the flow of the conversation.

Active Listening

In order to listen effectively team leaders have to listen actively. The following are the three basic components of active listening.

  1. Identify where the team member is coming from. This concept is also called the frame of reference.
  2. Listen carefully and attentively to what the team member is saying.
  3. Respond appropriately to the team member, either non-verbally, with a question or by paraphrasing.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Sending Good Signals to Your Team

When you are listening to your team, there are three kinds of cues that you give them. To communicate effectively with your team it is essential to use the right cue at the right time.

  • Non-Verbal: Body language forms an essential part of communication. Show the team member you are listening through head nods and facial expressions.
  • Quasi-Verbal: Use filler words like,”uh-huh,” and “mm-hmm,” and show the team member that you are interested in the conversation.
  • Verbal: Asking open questions, paraphrasing, and asking summary questions, are all essential tools for active listening.


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How to Deal With Angry People in Your Team

How to Deal With Angry People in Your Team
Image Source: ashishjjn

In this article we will be looking at how a team leader should deal with angry team members. We will be discussing the Energy Curve, de-escalation techniques and knowing when to back away.

The Energy Curve

One of the most important keys for dealing with a team member’s anger is finding a way to react that will not escalate the anger. The Energy Curve shows the pattern commonly found in angry responses and how angry reactions progress in stages. In order to deal with an angry team member, it is essential that the team leader knows what the appropriate response is for each stage of the curve.

Stages of the Energy Curve:

  1. The baseline of the curve is the rational behavior. This stage allows for reasonable discussion about the cause of the anger and takes place before the angry reaction.
  2. The point where the reaction builds momentum and anger is gaining momentum, is called the take off stage. The anger then continues to build energy until it reaches its peak. Arguing with the team member at this point will be futile. At this stage the team leader should respond and not react.
  3. At the slow down stage the team member’s reaction is the most intense. This stage is the turning point where the reaction stops gaining momentum and begins to steadily decline.
  4. Next stage in the Energy Curve is the cool down stage. The reaction has reached its height and, unless provoked, the team member will run out of steam. Once the anger has slowed down you can introduce supportive behavior.
  5. Once the team member has returned back to rational behavior, you can begin to talk about the problem reasonably. Whilst the person is angry, it is best to let them just vent.

De-escalation Techniques

De-escalation techniques are designed to:

  • Facilitates a person’s cooling down process.
  • Reduce the possibility of getting verbally or physically hurt.
  • Gain control of the situation.

Active Listening
One of the most effective de-escalation techniques involves active listening. Often an angry team member only needs an opportunity to tell someone how they feel, and have their anger acknowledged. The intensity of the angry reaction can be lessened when the person sees that you are genuinely listening to their grievance.

Active listening includes:

  • Showing through your body language that you are listening by establishing eye contact and speaking in a soft, non-threatening tone of voice.
  • Re-stating what you hear from the person.
  • Clarifying any confusing or illogical statements.

Increasing Personal Space
Create distance between you and the team member and make sure your body language is non-threatening.

Help the Team Member Recover a Sense of Control
The angry team member may feel victimized by a situation. You can help them recover even a small sense of control by:

  1. Giving them choices.
  2. Seeking their permission to speak.
  3. Focusing on immediate solutions.

Invite Criticism
Ask the angry team member to voice his or her criticism of yourself or the situation more fully. Agree where possible, otherwise agree to disagree. Emphasize your willingness to help.

When to Back Away

Not all situations can be effectively dealt with. The following are situations when it is more advisable to back away:

  1. When you are too affected by an issue to view it objectively.
  2. When there are warning signs of verbal and/ or physical violence.
  3. When there is influence of mood-altering substances.
  4. When no amount of rational intervention seems to work.
  5. When there are signs of serious mental health conditions.


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How to Improve your Ability to Influence your Team

How to Improve your Ability to Influence your Team

The ability to positively influence your team is a valuable asset to have. In this article, we will be looking at ways to improve your influencing skills.

Looking at the Situation from the Team Member’s Perspective

The first step towards influencing other people is setting aside your own point of view, and looking at the situation from the other person’s perspective. Each person sees the world in their own unique way. Do not assume what is clear to you is clear to another person.

To influence your team you have to know what is important to them; what are their interests, values and preferences. Do they have strong feelings against what you are suggesting? What would it take to get them over their resistance? Seeing the situation from your team member’s perspective involves research, active listening and keen observation.

Building a Bridge

Bridge building is another skill that can help you influence your team members. Bridge building is the process of increasing rapport and affinity between people. It involves gaining the trust of your team, identifying common interest and making them feel at ease talking to you. Bridge building is extremely helpful in persuasion as people are more likely to agree with someone they like and trust. Bridges also serve as negotiating grounds, and common interests can be the foundation of win-win scenarios.

The following are some methods you can use to build bridges with your team members:

  • Active Listening – It is important to listen attentively to your team members in order to gain their trust and communicate to them that you value their presence.
  • Use Common Language – Pay attention to how the other person talks to you, if they are formal, be formal, and if they are casual, then you can be less formal as well.
  • Highlight Similarities – If you are looking to influence and persuade a person, it is important emphasize areas of common interest.
  • Sustained Communication – If you experience significant resistance or marked differences between you and a team member, it is important to persistently meet with the person and keep the communication lines open.

Giving in Without Giving Up

You must be willing to make some concessions if you want to improve your chance of influencing your team members.  Concession may simply be agreeing to differ, agreeing that the other person has a right to their opinion or agreeing that the other person has made a reasonable argument. You want your relationship with your team to be collaborative rather than confrontational.  It may be necessary to take losses in areas where you can afford to give up, as long as you do not lose sight of the main goal. Concessions communicate a sincere desire to do what is the best for another person. It is important though to carefully choose what you will concede. Judge what you can sacrifice based on the main goal. The ideal is to create a win-win compromise between what you want and what the team members like.


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Characteristics of Leaders that are Critical Thinkers

Characteristics of Leaders that are Critical Thinkers

There are many benefits to critical thinking, but what are some characteristics of leaders that are critical thinkers? Do they have innate abilities that make them better at thinking critically? In this article we will examine eight characteristics of critical thinkers.

Related: Leadership Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Active Listeners

We have all heard it before the best communicators are active listeners. What does it mean to practice active listening? Active listening means the listener is completely engaged in what the speaker is communicating and judging what is being said. The listener is not formulating his rebuttal or responses to the speaker, or even worse thinking about something else unrelated.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities


Curiosity is yet another skill in developing critical thinking. Some scholars believe that Socrates ultimate goal was not so much to advocate his methods, but to advocate self-improvement and to spark curiosity. The main goal of a teacher is to spark curiosity and engage their students. There are many methods to engage curiosity but they all essentially involve raising a question. For instance, Einstein prompted his curiosity by asking questions about how matter and energy functioned.


Reasoning and rationale are often associated with self-discipline. Critical thinking is a self-disciplined and self-guided action. Critical thinking requires the individual to use their own reasoning skills and have the ability to evaluate and reflect. One important thing to consider is that people who are critical thinkers commonly are also more empathetic and aware of their world. They show a commitment to self-development and strive to make their environment a better place.


Humility is defined as the “quality of being modest of opinion or estimate of one’s own importance.” Humility is the opposite of arrogance. Humility relates having an open mind. To be receptive to new information or opinions, the critical thinker would have to be modest of their own opinion. Being humble allows you to accept and see information in a way that is not filtered through your ego.

Ability to See the Big Picture

One of the main functions of thinking is to make connections. Our own ideas gain significance when we can relate or connect them to other ideas. We start to gain insight when we see the similarities between ideas. The way we structure our 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.


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

Using 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 your judgment.


Self-awareness is yet another characteristic of the critical thinker. This characteristic relates to acutely being aware of one’s 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.



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