Tag: Communication

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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Speaking Like a STAR to Your Team

Speak Like a STAR

You can ensure that the message you are communicating to your team is clear, complete, correct, and concise, with the STAR acronym. This article will explore the STAR acronym in conjunction with the six roots of open questions (Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?).

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

S = Situation

First, state what the situation is. Try to make this no longer than one sentence. If you are having trouble, ask yourself, “Where?”, “Who?”, and, “When?”. This will provide a base for the 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, briefly state what your task was. Again, this should be no longer than one sentence. Use the question, “What?” to frame your sentence, and add the “Why?” if appropriate.

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

A = Action

Now, state what you did to resolve the problem in one sentence. 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, 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 your previous steps will finish on a strong definite note.

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

Summary

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 lengthy presentations. We encourage you to try framing statements with STAR, and see how much more confident you feel when communicating.

 

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What Your Body Language is Communicating to Your Team

What Your Body Language is Communicating to Your Team

When you are communicating something to your team, your body is sending a message that is as powerful as your words. When talking about body language, 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 to understand how various behaviors are often seen, so that we can make sure our body is sending the same message as our mouth.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

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.

In this article we will show you how to use body language to become a more effective communicator. It is also important that as a team leader you learn to interpret body language, add it to the message you are receiving, and understand the message being sent appropriately.

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.

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. Below we have included a brief list of gestures and their common interpretation.

Gesture Interpretation
Nodding head Yes
Shaking head No
Moving head from side to side Maybe
Shrugging shoulders Not sure; I don’t know
Crossed arms Defensive
Tapping hands or fingers Bored, anxious, nervous
Shaking index finger Angry
Thumbs up Agreement, OK
Thumbs down Disagreement, not OK
Pointing index finger at someone/something Indicating, blaming
Handshake Welcome, introduction
Flap of the hand Doesn’t matter, go ahead
Waving hand Hello
Waving both hands over head Help, attention
Crossed legs or ankles Defensive
Tapping toes or feet Bored, anxious, nervous

 

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Getting Your Team On Your Side

Getting Your Team On Your Side

“It is wise to persuade people to do things and make them think it was their own idea.” – Nelson Mandela

Today, we are looking at the ways you can bring your team to your side. Particularly, we will discuss the persuasive techniques of appealing to your team members’ emotions and reason.

Appealing To The Emotions Of Your Team Members

Emotions have always been a driving force for people’s behavior. Advertisers appeal to emotions all the time; they tell you that so-and-so beauty product can make you feel confident around the opposite sex, while so-and-so theme park can make you forget all your worries. There are those who begin a relationship based solely on how the other person made them feel. More so, advocacies, political campaigns, and even wars are waged, based on a collective sense of anger, contempt, or injustice.

Related: Trust Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Thus, you can never underestimate emotions as a way of influencing and persuading other people.

Why are emotions powerful? For one, emotions heavily influence a person’s sense of comfort and general state of well-being. Positive emotions make us feel good, while negative emotions drive us to do something to make us feel good.  But more so, emotions connect all of us to the “human” side of ourselves . Almost all emotions are universal and can cross race, religion, age, and social status.

How you can add some  emotion when you communicate with your team:

Focus on positive emotions as benefits.
If you want to bring a team member to your side, tell them how well the proposal will make them feel. For example: if you want to convince your spouse to take you on that dream vacation, describe how relaxing a day you’ll have. If he can picture it in his mind, then you’ve succeeded.

Focus on a negative emotion, and then add a call to action.
Negative emotions are powerful in influencing behavior because they bring about a sense of dissonance in a person. All people want to feel good, which is why anger, sadness, shock, or indignation doesn’t sit well with most. An example of using a negative emotion to bring people to your side is describing the horror of an accident in order to convince people to wear their seat belts.

Show that it’s personal.
Instead of focusing on the other person’s emotions, you can focus on communicating your own. An effective way to persuade your team members are to show that your conviction is borne of a personal experience, and that you are emotionally attached to an idea. For example, showing your excitement verbally and non-verbally while explaining an ideal can show that you really believe in what you are pitching.

Emotions can be communicated through body language, variations in voice pitch, intonation and emphasis, directly saying what you feel or what you want the team members  to feel, and painting a picture of situations where an emotional response is expected.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

And don’t forget: to use emotions effectively, use the appropriate amount. Less can be more, so don’t overdo it!

Use Facts To Appeal To The Minds Of Your Team Members

While emotions are a powerful influence to people’s behavior, we all know that people are not just a bundle of emotions. Some situations require an appeal to the mind instead of the heart. An effective communication must make sense. More so, it must have basis in facts.

Facts create persuasive arguments because there is no way to dispute facts. If something is true, real, or verified by research, it has to be accepted. More so, presenting facts in communication show the extent that you have studied a subject, which in turn shows that you are serious in what you are saying.

There are two skills that can help in the use of facts during communication with your team:

The first skill is the ability to separate fact from opinion.
Facts are objective data, and can be verified by credible procedures such as empirical research or expert opinion. It is considered true on the basis of actual evidence. An opinion, however, is a subjective statement that may be based on personal interpretation.

The second skill is the ability to create logical arguments from facts.
Facts can’t be disputed, but you also have to use them properly in order to give them impact. Arguments from facts have to follow the rules of deductive or inductive reasoning.

Conclusion

For best results, use both emotion and facts to influence your team. After all, people use both their heart and mind in their daily lives, and addressing both is a more holistic approach to take.

The key is in being consistent, so that there isn’t a dissonance between the emotional and the rational side of your communication. Done correctly, appeals to emotion can balance the coldness of reason, and facts can temper strong emotions.

 

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Paraverbal Communication Skills for Team Leaders

Paraverbal Communication Skills for Team Leaders

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” – Peter Drucker

How you say something to your team is just as important as what you are saying. How you say something is known as paraverbal communication and include the pitch, tone, and speed of your words when you communicate.

Related: Leadership Outcome Based Team Building Activities

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. Your team will pick up on the pitch of your voice and react to it. Variation in the pitch of your voice is also important to keep your team members interested. If you naturally speak in a very high-pitched or low-pitched voice, work on varying your pitch to encompass all ranges of your 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 when communicating with your team.

  • 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.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

The Strength of Speed

The pace at which you speak also has a tremendous effect on your communication ability. From a practical perspective, a team leader who speaks quickly is harder to understand than one who speaks at a moderate pace. Conversely, a team leader who speaks very slowly will probably lose their audience’s interest before they get very far!

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

One easy way to check your pitch, tone, and speed is to record yourself speaking. Think of how you would feel listening to your own voice. Work on speaking the way you would like to be spoken to.

 

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How To Earn The Trust of Your Team

How The Earn The Trust of Your Team

It can be difficult to earn the trust of your team, especially if you are a new team leader. If your team does not trust you they will not accept your leadership. When there is a general feeling of mistrust in a team no amount of team building will motivate the team members to work together. To create high performing teams, you have to prove yourself as trustworthy. Your team needs to believe in you as a person and a leader.

Related:Trust Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Earn Trust Through Self-Disclosure

People tend to only trust people that they know and understand. When you first start a team, it is important that you share your background with the team. Encourage the team to also share information about themselves and create opportunities for the team to socialize together such as team building activities. The better the team members get to know each other, the easier it will be for them to trust each other.

Earn Trust By Keeping Your Promises

As a team leader, it is important that you only make promises that you can keep. Going back on your word is the surest way to lose the trust of your team. When you make a commitment, take full responsibility for seeing it through. It may mean saying no to some requests, but it is better than under delivering on a promise. It is essential that you know your limitations.

Earn Trust Through Open Communication

Communication is another essential component of trust building. When team leaders keep their team informed, they send a clear message that they trust their team members. When you give trust, you gain even more trust back.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Earn Trust By Being a Role Model

People respond well to leaders that inspire them. A team will more readily trust a leader who consistently demonstrate high quality behaviors such as:

  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Loyalty
  • Fairness
  • Authenticity

Earn Trust Through Accountability

Team leaders will earn their team’s trust when they take ownership of their actions and decisions. It is easy to take ownership when things are going well, but team leaders show themselves trustworthy when they accept responsibility when things go wrong.  As a team leader you should also encourage accountability in every team member. This can be effectively accomplished through the team charter and it will ensure that team members cannot hide behind the team.

Earn Trust By Being Present

For your team to trust you, they need to know you are there for them. Listen to your team, hear what they are saying and use questions to understand their situation. Do not limit your communication to emails and memos, but meet face to face with your team regularly.  Make sure that you give lots of praise and encouragement, the team need to know how much you appreciate them.  Also, be aware of how you use body language so that you do not say things you do not mean through your actions.

Earn Trust By Giving Credit

To earn a team’s trust leaders need to be less concerned about their own profile and more concerned about the team’s profile. Let the team share in the credit and glory. A great team leader is a humble one.

Earn Trust By Establishing Credibility

In a new team, it is likely that individual members know much more about their jobs, organization and situation than you do. Learn from them, learn what they do and how they do it. Find out what works and what does not work, and fix problems where you can. Learn as much as you can as soon as you can.

Source: www.mindtools.com

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The Importance of Communication for Team Leaders

The Importance of Communication for Team Leaders

Team leaders have to get things done through the team. The team leader, therefore, has to have the ability to inspire, motivate, guide, direct and listen. Communication makes it possible for the team to internalize the team leader’s vision and implement the vision. Your team will not follow you if they are not sure what you expect from them or where you are going.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Effective Communicators Simplify the Message

Communication is as much about how you say something than it is about what you say. The most important key to effective communication for the team leader is simplicity. If you want to connect with your team, you have to keep it simple.

Effective Communicators See the Person

Effective communicators focus on the people to whom they are communicating. You can only effectively communicate to your team if you know something about them. Before you start your communication, find out who is your audience? What are their questions? What needs to be accomplished? How much time do you have? Become more audience oriented, teams believe in team leaders when team leaders believe in their teams.

Effective Communicators Show the Truth

Great communication can only take place if the team leader has credibility with the team. Credibility is conveyed to the team when the team believes in what the leader says because it is backed up by conviction. Credibility is also conveyed when the leader lives what is said, which their conviction in action.

Effective Communicators Seek a Response

The team leader should keep in mind that the goal of all communication is some kind of action. Simply dumping information on people is not communication. When communication to your team, give them something to feel, something to remember and something to do.

Related: Leadership Outcome Based Team Building Activities

How Team Leaders Can Improve Their Communication

  1. Be clear. Look at some of your recent written communication. Were the sentences short and direct or do they meander? Will the readers grasp what you wrote? Have you used the fewest words possible? A communicator’s best friends are simplicity and clarity.
  2. Refocus your attention. Pay attention to your focus when are communication. Is it on you, your material or your audience? If it was not on your audience, you need to change your focus. When you are communicating, think about the needs, questions and desires of your audience. Meet the people where they are.
  3. Live your message. Find out if there are any discrepancies between what you are communicating and what you are doing. Ask a trustworthy source if you are living your message, they may see things to which you are blind. Receive the comments without defensiveness and purpose to make changes in your life to be more consistent.

Resource: The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader

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The Importance of Communication in Teamwork

The Importance of Communication in Teamwork

You cannot have teamwork without communication. Without communication between each other, your team will not function as a team but as a collection of individuals. In order to have an effective team, it is essential to have communicative team members.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Characteristics of Communicative Team Members

  • Communicative team members do not isolate themselves from other team members. When one of the members of a team isolates themselves from the others, it creates problems for the team. This problem escalates when entire sections of the team isolate The more team members know about each other, the more they will understand each other and the more they will care. Team members with passion and information and connection are powerful assets to the team.
  • Communicative team members make it easy for other team members to communicate with them. Most communication problems in a team can be solved with proximity. Strong leader and effective team members not only stay connected with other team members, but they also ensure that the other team members can connect with them.
  • Communicative team members follow the 24-hour They do not avoid contact with those team members with whom they are in conflict. When they have any difficulty or conflict with another team member, they do not let 24 hours go by without addressing it. The sooner you communicate with the person you are in conflict with, the better it will be for you and your team.
  • Communicative team members give attention to potentially difficult relationships. Relationships need attention to thrive. This is especially true for a relationship between two people where there is potential for conflict.
  • Communicative team members follow up important communication in writing. The more complicated the communication, the more important it is to keep it clear and simple. This often means putting it in writing. When you have something important to communicate to other team members, it is easier to keep everyone on the same page if it is written down for everyone’s benefit.

Related: Building Teams by Encouraging Teamwork

How You Can Improve Your Communication

  • Be Candid. Open communication fosters trust. Team relationships hurt when there are hidden agendas, when bad news is sugarcoated or communicated through a third party.
  • If you tend to sit on things instead of saying them, force yourself to follow the 24-hour If you discover an issue regarding another team member, find the first reasonable opportunity to address it with them. Invite other team members to do the same.
  • Share the information you have freely, do not hoard information. You need to be discreet with sensitive information, but include others where you can. Open communication increases trust, trust increases ownership, and ownership increases participation.

Resource: The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player

 

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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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The Importance of Showing Trust in Your Team of Leaders

The Importance of Showing Trust in Your Team of Leaders

Your team of leaders is made up out of individuals with unique traits and qualities. You should always remember that they made it onto your team for a reason. Trust that you have taught them well and rely on them to do a good job.

Related: Trust Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Do Not Micromanage

There is sometimes a thin line between assuring your team leaders do an excellent job and micromanaging them. You have to resist the temptation to check constantly in on them and offer your input randomly. Resist the temptation by trusting your leaders and their abilities. Allow your team leaders to seek accountability for their actions and own their responsibilities. Team leaders, usually, perform better when they feel in charge and do not feel as though you are breathing down their neck.

You can take the following steps to ensure that you do not have to micromanage your leaders:

  • Make your team leaders accountable
  • Hire the right people from the start
  • Clearly outline your expectations of your leaders

Communication

It is essential to promote open and honest communication among your team leaders. Allow everyone to give their input, be responsive to your leaders and support feedback from others. Open and honest communication builds respect among the team and helps build trust.

Tips for enhancing open and honest communication:

  • Have an open door policy
  • Ask questions frequently
  • Give everyone a chance to speak

Related: Leadership Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Encourage Initiative

Always look for an opportunity to reward and encourage initiative among your team leaders. Reward your team leaders when they take on more initiative. Rewards can include recognition, gifts or promotions.  A team leader that feels rewarded for their hard work are more likely to take pride in their work and continue doing a good job. Remember to recognize the initiative itself, and not just the outcome.

Trust the Leaders, but Verify the Work

You can’t always assume the job is done right. There are times when work needs to be verified or reviewed. This should not be done through micromanaging, but involves periodic steps of checking in or verifying the leader’s work.  Verifying can be done by asking the team leader to send you an email when they are finished with a certain task. You can also set yourself reminders to speak with the team leader in person to check on the progress. By taking a few minutes to look over any project periodically, you can save everyone a lot of time and man hours in the event that something needs to be corrected.

Image Source: Anita Nowack

 

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