Tag: Communication

Helping Your Team See the Big Picture

Helping Your Team See the Big Picture

Most team members, are responsible for specific areas, and they have little understanding of the impact their decisions have on other areas. When too much focus is placed on one aspect of the organization, it is difficult to make decisions for the good of the company. In order to make effective decisions, it is necessary for the team to examine the big picture.

Short and Long Term Interactions

When looking at the big picture, it is necessary for the team to consider long term as well as short term interactions. Short term interactions are immediate, single exchanges, and they are necessary for the team to survive. Without looking at the big picture, however, short term interactions may hinder the long term success of the team. For example, a team member may damage a business relationship by using aggressive sales techniques, costing the team sales in the future.

Long term interactions are processes or relationships that are essential to growth. Long term team success requires the long term interactions. The relationships with customers, vendors, and other team members need to be carefully cultivated. Failure to cultivate relationships occurs when there is a lack of communication or communication is not respectful. Long term relationships help guide the future of the team.

Improving Long Term Interactions

  • Build relationships: Relationships must be based on mutual trust, respect, and support.
  • Use feedback: Request feedback and listen to complaints.
  • Offer value: Provide value in product, services, and compensation.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Recognize Growth Opportunities

It is essential for every team to recognize growth opportunities to ensure long term success. An opportunity is any project that will create growth. Opportunities, however, can be overlooked when we do not pay attention to the big picture. If recognizing opportunities does not come easily for the team, there are steps to take that will ensure that the team do not overlook growth opportunities.

  • Identify market trends: Monitor changes in the market such as technological advancements.
  • Actively research customer needs: Conduct market research and anticipate customer needs, which you will fulfill.
  • Pay attention to competitors: Take advantage of a competitor’s weakness and learn from their strengths.
  • Monitor demographic changes: Changes in demographics indicate a potential shift in customer base or needs.
  • Consult team members: Do not overlook team members’ ideas; encourage brainstorming.
  • Monitor abilities of the team: Pay attention to the skills of the team. Offer training or hire new team members in response to growth opportunities.

Mindfulness of Decisions

Decisions need to be made carefully and mindfully. In stressful situations, it is easy to make decisions based on emotions or external pressure. The team should recognize these events which increase the risk of making a poor decision that can have long term consequences. Mindful decision making combines reason with intuition to come up with decisions that are based in the present.

Decision making Steps:

  1. Be in the moment: Pay attention to how you feel physically and emotionally. This allows you to reach your intuition and understand any feelings of conflict and their source. The source of the conflict may evolve as you become mindful. For example, conflict over the cost of change may shift to conflict that the change goes against team values. Naming the conflict will help the team make the decision without fear.
  2. Be Clear: Investigate for clarity. Begin by investigating your feelings and identifying the type of decision you are making. A neutral decision, for example, should not create a great deal of stress. Once the team identifies the decision, they should make sure they have collected the necessary information to make the decision. Additionally, they should consult the people who will be affected by the decision.
  3. Make a choice: Once they have all the information, they should write down their decision. Take some time to consider this decision. If you are still comfortable with the decision after a few days, act on it.

Related: Decision Making Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Everything is Related

On a team, it is necessary for each person to perform specific roles and functions. Every role in the team is related to each other. For example, poor production and poor customer service will affect sales. Too many sales returns cost the company money, damaging the profits. Each aspect of the business relies on the others. Most people only focus on their specific roles, without considering how they affect the other departments. Looking at the big picture allows the team to see how everything is related, and it begins with the leadership. The leader of the team is responsible for the culture and values.

Related: Leadership Outcome Based Team Building Activities

How to Relate:

  • Be Comprehensive: Monitor every area of the team to make sure each one is reaching their goals.
  • Be Balanced: Make sure that each area of the team is sustainable, and make adjustments as necessary.
  • Be Incorporated: Integrate every aspect of the team with the others. Show team members how they affect each other and the team as a whole.

Feeling, Looking and Sounding the Part as Team Leader

Feeling, Looking and Sounding the Part as Team Leader

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

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

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

Related: Leadership Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Identifying Your Worth

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

Creating Positive Self-Talk

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

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

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

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

Identifying and Addressing Strengths and Weaknesses

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

The Importance of Appearance

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

The Role of Body Language

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

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

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

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

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

First Impressions Count

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

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

It’s How You Say It

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

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

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Sounding Confident

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reducing Anxiety

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

 

How to Connect With Your Team Through Interpersonal Communication

Sadly, talking and listening has often been seen as a tool for simply communicating with other people, but not for building connections and networks. This assumption doesn’t recognize the fact that interpersonal communication is a great tool to connect with your team members on a deeper level and form a connection with them. Speaking interpersonally allows both parties to feel more at ease and open up to one another. Just remember to be an active listener and watch your own body language.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Give Respect and Trust

It is a common courtesy in any conversation to treat the other person respectfully and professionally. By treating their ideas and opinions respectfully and with due consideration, you are showing respect by hearing them out, listening to them, and considering what they have to say with an open mind. When communicating with your team, it is important to build rapport and trust by speaking with each other respectfully and giving each other your full attention. After all, they deserved to be treated with dignity and courtesy for their thoughts and opinions. In addition, give your trust to them and let them know that you feel confident enough to speak with them openly. The motions and feelings we put out into the world will come back to us, so don’t be afraid to speak openly with your team. They will be impressed that you can give respect and trust so freely and appreciate the effort you are trying to make with them.

Related: Trust Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Be Consistent

Consistency is a key factor that builds interpersonal relationships. Being consistent in what we say and do shows knowledge and reliability because it helps build a familiar base to start from. Your team members will want to communicate with you because you will become a factor they know they can trust and depend on. In addition, ensure that your actions are consistent with what you say – in other words– do what you say you’ll do. If you say you will meet someone after lunch to review a report, ensure that you are there early to greet them. If you volunteered to give a speech at the next work convention, be prepared ahead of time and be ready when the day arrives. Showing you are consistent in turn shows how reliable you are and what an asset you can be for the team. Take a few minutes to reflect back on your actions and note if they have been consistent over time. Are there behaviors you can change? What can you do differently in the future?

Always Keep Your Cool

Keeping our cool in tight or stressful situations can be tough and takes a lot of skill to make it through gracefully. It is perfectly normal to feel embarrassed or hurt when someone does something you don’t like, such as speaking rudely to you or pointing out a mistake you made. Our first instinct is to possibly lash out at them or try to retaliate by hurting them in return. But the key to strong and professional communication is to keep your cool at all times and not let the negative feelings take over. When something happens that may send you over the edge, take a minute to reflect on what was said and what happened. If needed, you should step away for a few moments to compose yourself. Don’t deny the other team member to their opinion, but let them know how you feel and how it affects you. Kinder team members will back track their statements and try to address the problem in less negative terms. If the team member is unwilling to give respect, realize that their opinion may not be worth the fight.

Tips for keeping your cool:

·         Try not to take words personally

·         Stop and reflect what was said, not how it was said

·         Make a note to learn from this experience

·         Ask yourself if the person had reason for what was said – if so, what can you do to change it?

Observing Body Language

Body language can speak volumes between people, even if it does not have words to accompany it. Many times people may say one message, but their body language can say another, meaning they may not be truthful in what they say. By observing and becoming more aware of body language and what it might mean, we can learn to read people more easily and understand some of their body movements. By better understanding their movements, you can be better prepared to communicate with them, while at the same time better understanding the body language you may be conveying to them. Even though there are times that we can send mixed messages, we can try to get our point across using certain behaviors. Our body language affects how we act with others and how we react to them, as well as how they can react to ours.

 

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Build a Stronger Team Using Empathy

Build a Stronger Team Using Empathy

Empathy is one of our greatest interpersonal skills because it allows us to have better communication with our team members and increases our understanding of others. We know empathy can simply mean to ‘put ourselves in the other person’s shoes’, but it can also mean to take an active role in getting to know your team members and treating them with the respect they deserve.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Listening and Paying Attention to Your Team

We all know that there is a difference between hearing and listening, but yet we still seem to confuse the two when we communicate with our team. Listening is considered a skill, so like any other skill, it must be implemented and strengthened. Listening allows for you to understand what the team member is talking about and register what they are trying to communicate. Building better listening skills starts with learning to pay attention when team members speak and actively listening to what they are saying. Key tips to help accomplish this are to give your attention to the team member by facing them and making eye contact. Turn off any cell phones or pagers or remove any item from the area that can distract you and make you lose focus. You’ll find that you will catch more of what the person is saying and be able to retain more. Paying attention and building better listening skills can show support for the other person and build rapport with them.

Tips for better listening skills:

  • Remove any distractions
  • Make eye contact with the person speaking
  • Nod your head periodically
  • Ask for follow up details or information
  • Ask the person to repeat anything you may have missed

Don’t Judge Other Team Members

No matter how many times we hear the old phrase “Don’t judge people” or “It’s not our place to judge”, we more than likely find ourselves doing it anyway – we just don’t want to admit it. Whether subconsciously or not, we still find ourselves judging those around us, whether it is based on their clothes, job title, the way the talk or walk, gender, hair color, skin color, and etc. When another team member is speaking or completes a task, what do you think in your head? Do you automatically make comments on how their assignment was too easy or that the way they speak is subpar to the team. Of course you would never say this out loud or tell them directly, but in your mind you have already made up your mind about them.

Thoughts like this cause us to judge people more and more, which can create barriers between people and lose connections and chances to network over time. Every person has an “inside person” and an “outside person” – we see the outside person every day and try to form our own opinions without seeing everything first. Don’t forget that there is an “inside person” as well that has an entirely different side.

Shift Your View

Empathy is simply defined as putting yourself in another person’s shoes and seeing things from their point of view. When communicating with another team member, think about how it would feel to be in their shoes and do the things they have to do. How would you feel if you have to complete their assignment in the weekly meeting or if you have to conduct a speech in front of hundreds of people?

Shifting your view does not mean that you have to entirely give up your opinions and what you think. It involves taking a few minutes to stop and reflect on the actions and words of the other person and picturing yourself in their situation. Think about what it would be like to stand in their shoes in the conference room or in front of the new manager. By doing this, we can better understand why they may act or speak a certain way and what can drive them to do what they do. By showing empathy, you are able to connect with this team member and create an important relationship to have in the workplace.

Don’t Show Fake Emotions to Your Team

In social situations it is never a good idea to fake our emotions or how we feel toward others. Of course, this does not mean we have full permission to start tearing into people and ripping them to shreds if we didn’t like their recent speech. But if you are not entirely happy about something in the team or feel anxious about something else, it is not a good idea to fake a smile or laugh just to appear happy.

This ‘fakeness’ will more than likely be detected, which can offend others around you or even make them feel insecure. Instead, be honest about how you feel and show honest concern for your fellow team mates. Be tactful if delivering negative feedback and offers helpful tips for improvement or changes. Although they may not accept your true feelings at first, and may even seem angry about it, in the end they will appreciate the fact that you were honest with them and didn’t show a mask of fake emotions with them.

 

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The Right Tools to Help Your Virtual Team Succeed

The Right Tools to Help Your Virtual Team Succeed

The Success of any kind of team depends on the tools you use to make it work. After all, you can’t build a house without a hammer and you can’t change a tire without a jack. But having a lot of tools at your disposal does not necessarily mean you have the right ones to get the job done. The key is in knowing what you want to do and what kind of tool would help you do it.

Communication Software

On a virtual team, communication software is crucial to have and use well. Team members are far apart and cannot communicate in person with each other when they have questions. How do your team members want or need to communicate with each other? For quick and easy questions or comments, text messaging or an instant message program can be the key. But if an employee needs to ask lengthy questions to a coworker or manager, a phone call or tagged email may be the answer instead. Whichever way the team chooses to communicate with each other, it is just as important to know how to use and work the software, so be sure to ensure every team member has proper training and can come to you with questions.

Examples of communication software:

  • Telephones – landlines, cellular or VOIP
  • Email systems (AOL, Yahoo!, Gmail, Microsoft Outlook)
  • Instant messaging programs (AOL IM, GroupWise Messenger, MSN messenger)
  • Video chat room (Skype, ooVoo, Google Voice)

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Collaboration and Sharing Tools

Collaboration and sharing tools allow team members across a virtual team to not only share a project they are working on, but also to work with each other by editing and commenting on projects within the same program. It can be a hassle to try and email a project back and forth when one person is trying to suggest a change or add their notes. There are a number of software programs that can be added to the virtual team to help make the collaboration process go more smoothly among team members. Many of these tools allow employees to upload a file for several others to see at once. Others include comment or adjustment features and can save any progress made after each person touches the file. These types of tools can make a virtual team run better and allows them to work as a team rather than several individuals trying to reach the same goal.

Examples of collaboration and sharing tools:

  • Adobe Acrobat
  • JotSpot
  • Microsoft Office
  • Novell GroupWise email
  • Basecamp

Project Management Software

Project management software is aimed at managing the different aspects of a project, such as budgets, productivity, scheduling, communication, and even employee evaluations. There are many different ways of keeping track of this information, and companies normally take a different approach depending on the situation. Virtual teams generally have some sort of web based management program, such as a web application for clocking in and out or keeping track of employee absences.

Other software options can include a program installed on the employee’s desktop that can monitor their progress over a period of time and can show the employee what kind of progress they are making. Although we don’t want to feel as though we are micromanaging our employees, it is necessary to implement some form of project management software for the team to use. While some may not like the approach to managing their projects, they will feel relieved when the time comes that they will need your feedback and guidance.

Use What Works for You and Your Team

Every team leader has an opinion about what methods work and which ones do not for a virtual team. But only you can decide what works for you and your team. You know your employees and you know what would be the best way to communicate with them when you need to. Sometimes this can take some trial and error to see what forms of communication work best for the team as a whole. Some may communicate better by email while others are more comfortable talking on the phone. Many employees communicate using a number of different methods, depending on what kind of response they will need. The best part about having so many tools at your disposal is that you can use a combination of them to achieve what you and your team need to do.

Use the method, or methods, that get(s) what you need:

Email/text messaging/phone calls – short answers and quick information delivery, such as a meeting change or a quick clarification question.

Group meetings/individual meetings/video chats – in-depth and lengthy information given; usually requires explanations or discussions from both sides. This includes discussion of employee progress, business reports, or company changes.

 

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Tips on Dealing With Poor Team Players

Dealing with poor team players

When we manage a team, there will always be a time where we have to address a member, or members, that are not working well with the group. No one wants to be the bad guy, but if the employee is not confronted and not given the chance to improve, it can affect the other members of the team and could cause a ‘domino effect’ for productivity. Learn the techniques of approaching this delicate situation and look out for your team as a whole – not just one member.

Manage Their Results, Not Their Activities

It  is more important to monitor the employee’s results, rather than the individual activities. If the employee is delivering great work and it’s on time, then the process of how they finish it means very little.

For many team members, having this sense of freedom and trust can boost their confidence and improve productivity. However, if a team member is not completing work on time or is not turning in projects, then this is an indication of poor work habits and the team leader should investigate into what is causing the problem. Approach the employee and talk to them about their routine schedule. If needed, organize some form of an improvement plan to help them adjust their ways of completing their assignments.

Be Proactive, Not Reactive

It is better to be prepared for any mishap before it happens, which is why it is important to be proactive rather than reactive. If we wait for something to go wrong before we act on it, we cannot think clearly about what to do and it may be too late to fix. The same theory goes for team members. Do not sit back and wait for them to make a mistake before they are taught how to do something correctly. Monitor each employee’s progress and notice any minor problems they may have along the way. Speak to the team member early on when they problem starts and try to find a way to guide them on the right path. This will prevent the problem from getting worse and having to use more damage control later. Being proactive will always keep you one step ahead and ready to help the employee succeed.

Check In Often

On the same lines of being proactive, be sure to check in with your team members often. They may not always have the chance to contact you or may not want to admit they need help. Schedule some form of regular communication for informal check in times that best work for you and the employee. Check in can be done by a phone call or simply sending an email. This will help both of you stay on track and allows you to report any feedback that needs to be addressed. Think of it as keeping a close eye on your flock and ensuring that you are there for them if they happen to go astray.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Example forms of check in methods:

  • Email
  • Phone call
  • Recurring group meeting
  • Video chat

Remove Them

Sometimes after a team leader has tried several attempts to help a team member work well on a team, they come to realize that the particular employee is just not a great fit and will need to be removed. Some employees can be too disruptive to their teammates or are not able to work independently. This can cause problems for the whole team and should be addressed right away. Before you decide to remove the employee, make sure your ducks are in a row and that you have done all you can to help them succeed, such as personal help or extra training. If you have followed all of the correct guidelines and the employee does not show any type of improvement, then you can take the next steps in removing the employee from the team. Some employees may be reassigned to another department in the company while others may need to be fired altogether. Review all of their available options and determine which would be best for the company and the team.

 

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Effective Communication in Virtual Teams

Effective Communication in Virtual Teams

Effective communication is a key component to any successful team. It is especially important when managing a virtual team because not only do you deal with traditional communication problems with the team members, but virtual teams can face more obstacles trying to keep in touch. Learning helpful tools and techniques for effective communication can take any virtual team a long way.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Poor communication among team members and team leaders has been shown to cause low team morale and a decrease in productivity. Sometimes team members can feel unsure about approaching you or are not sure what to do when they have a problem. Encourage your team to engage in two way communication and ask questions when they receive new information. When they know who they can come to in a jam, they will feel more comfortable communicating their needs.

Communicate Early and Often

Early communication means not waiting for a problem to happen before addressing it. Check in with your team on a regular basis, whether by phone, email, conference, etc. Don’t let a team member struggle through a problem over a long period of time. Don’t wait for them to contact you; reach out to them to offer help. Contact each team member often and follow up after any problems they have reported. Keeping in touch with each team member not only cuts down on large problems, but it shows your support in the team and can boost their morale substantially.

Tips:

  • Create a regular schedule to check in with team members
  • Find what methods work best for each team member
  • Keep track of small problems that arise early to prevent bigger ones later

Rules of Responsiveness

Communication is a two way street and can shut down when one side doesn’t contribute or doesn’t act on their responsibility. When outlining communication techniques with your virtual team, one aspect to cover is the rules of responsiveness. Determine which forms of response are appropriate in various situations. Do you need a response right away? Is it something they can reply to later? Will you need a short or long response? When sending a communication to the team, let them know how soon they need to reply and how soon you expect to hear from them. The team needs to understand that the communication you exchange with them is very important and that they need to respond in a timely manner.

Communicate Face to Face When Possible

Sometimes communication needs to be made in person or face to face. Communication over the phone or email can often be skewed because there is a loss of tone and body language. Although this can be hard with a virtual team, there are ways the team leader and team members can work together. If distance is somewhat small, arrange a time for the team member to meet either at your office or theirs. If the distance is too great, the next best option is to use some sort of video message system, such as Skype. Although it does not replace in person meetings, it allows the team leader and team members to talk ‘face to face’ and monitor their tone and body language signals. Sometimes long distance communication just can’t deliver an effective message – so never underestimate the power of talking in person.

Choose the Best Tool

Every form of communication has an appropriate tool to use with it. Some information can be delivered by informal methods, such as email or telephone calls. Informal methods are great to use when a short or quick answer is needed rather than a longer response. Participants can share information quickly and then continue with their work. Other messages should be delivered more formal, such as face to face talks or even in a group meeting.

Formal methods are better used for in-depth messages and descriptions. The information is often lengthy and may require explanation or presentations. Formal methods also allow participants to ask questions or add their input. To choose the best tool, the team leader should determine how urgent the message is, how quickly it needs to be received, and what kind of response they are looking for. Once they determine what is to be shared and what they need in response, they can then choose the best tool for the job.

Be Honest and Clear

One of the pitfalls about team communication is that we try to hide information from each other. Tea leaders will try to ‘sugar coat’ a problem within the team or team members won’t mention how hard they are struggling with an assignment. When speaking with your team, don’t try to hide facts behind blurred words. If you have to deliver bad news, be upfront and let them know what is going on. If you need to change something they are doing or working on, be clear as to why and the effect it will have on them. When we try to hide facts or information, team members can become skeptical and will eventually lose their trust in you.

Tips:

  • Remain honest, even if it is a negative aspect.
  • Speak clearly and don’t hide the fact behind ‘sugar coated’ words.
  • Ensure the team is clear about what they hear (Any questions?)

Stay in Constant Contact

Nothing can be more frustrating than trying to reach a team leader that has fallen out of touch. Team members need to be able to reach you during regular business hours and should always have a source to contact outside those hours (i.e. on-call, second shift manager). It is especially hard for virtual team members since they cannot always physically contact you and will need some other way to speak to you when needed.

It is important for you to stay in constant contact with your team members and ensure them that you are there for them when they need you. Some examples include sending daily emails to check on progress, or making regular meetings to follow up with the team. Make a note of team members that need your assistance more often and be sure to check up on how they are doing over time. By staying in contact now, you are helping to prevent further problems later.

Don’t Make Assumptions

We all know that old saying of what happens when we assume. A common problem in communication is assuming that we have delivered all of the information needed or assuming that the team will not have any trouble with their work. These assumptions can cause us to leave our team members out to dry and cause them to feel as though you are not there to help them. The team can begin to resent you and may feel too uncomfortable to ask for further information.

Ask for the team to follow up on any information they receive, especially if they have questions or concerns. Periodically check on each team member’s productivity and ask if they are having any difficulties or need another problem addressed. Your team members can benefit from your guidance, so don’t assume they will make it on their own without you.

 

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Bridging Generation Gaps in Your Team by Finding Common Ground

Bridging Generation Gaps in Your Team by Finding Common Ground

In order to be successful bridging the gap across the generations in your team, you must find common ground that enables you to close the gap and effectively reach your opposing generation.  In this blog post, you will learn the following:

  1. Adopting a communication style
  2. Creating an affinity group
  3. Sharing knowledge

Let us see how adopting a communication style helps you find common ground.

Adopting a Communication Style

Being sensitive to the way you communicate will help you bridge the generation gap in your team.  Understanding that the older generation prefers face-to-face communication and the younger prefer electronic methods should give you a base to form a flexible communication style that reaches all generations in the team.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Here is an easy way to adapt your communication style.  Use the TAP method for communicating.  You will have to think a little before you communicate to someone, but the investment is well worth it.  TAP stands for the following components:

To-the-Point: Make your communication brief and succinct.  The older generation will appreciate the clarity and the younger generation will appreciate the brevity.

Adapt: Change the method of communication for your audience.  If you are going to engage an older team member, make the effort to either call them or better yet, see them in person.  They will feel respected and valued.  For the younger generation, use email or instant messaging, etc. to reach them.  They will feel independent and not micro managed.

If you need to address the entire team, younger and older, in an email, make yourself available for follow-up by telling the team to reply, call or see you in person if they have questions.

Professional: When in doubt, communicate professionally.  Avoid jargon and text abbreviations in your communication.  Use salutations and close your communication properly.  You will show the older generation that you respect them and set the example for the younger generation on how to communicate professionally.

Creating an Affinity Group

Affinity groups are groups of people sharing common interests.  You can create such groups at work that give different generations a chance to work with each other with an activity, which is not directly work related.

These groups provide a way for the generations to learn more about each other’s interests and values.  You can create several affinity groups, promoting cohesion among the various generations.  Affinity groups are usually non-hierarchical.  They are typically small and do not require centralization.

Affinity groups could tend to become closed.  That is why allowing groups that focus on non-polarized topics are the best way to introduce affinity groups in your workplace.

Here are some groups to consider:

Work newsletter group

Professional book club

Recycling task force

Community service group

Improving work morale group

Work safety group

Speech club group

Sharing Knowledge

The lack of knowledge could breed fear between generations or lead to misinterpretations.  Sharing knowledge helps to break down barriers and create an understanding and collaborative environment.  There are many ways knowledge can be shared.

Here are some ways to share knowledge in a team:

You can set up a blog where a topic is introduced and then the team can submit comments.  Blogs provide a safe and open structure to hold discussions.  If you use a blog, be sure to set up clear rules of what and how to share.  You want to avoid sensitive topics for discussions.  This can undermine the sharing process.

Form focus groups to resolve an issue or generate new ideas.  Focus groups containing various generations is a great way to get different perspectives from your diverse team.  Read up on how to facilitate team meetings so you can better manage the dynamics in such a meeting.

Create a newsletter where team members get to share their thoughts in an interview.  This can be a creative way of sharing knowledge.

Place an ideas box where team members can submit ideas for review.  This can be a real box or an electronic version via email or other form of communication.

 

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Improve Communication With Your Team By Asking Good Questions

Improve Communication With Your Team By Asking Good Questions

Good questioning skills are essential to successful communication with your team. In this blog, we will look closer at questioning techniques that you 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. Use them whenever possible when communicating with your team.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

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 you are searching for a particular piece of information from your team, or winding a conversation down.

If you use a closed question and it shuts down the conversation, 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 you can use. These questions can be open or closed, but each type serves a specific purpose.

Clarification

By probing for clarification, you invite the other person to share more information so that you 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 you ensure you have the full, true story. Having all the facts, in turn, can protect you 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 you determine how or if a particular point is related to the conversation at hand. It can also help you get the team member 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

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 team member 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?”

Be careful not to avoid repeating the team member’s words back to them like a parrot. Remember, paraphrasing means repeating what you think the team member said in your own words.

 

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