Communication Starts With Respecting What Others Have To Say
As teams are composed of different personalities with different communication styles, communication problems will occur even when team structures are properly constructed and implemented.
Leaders must learn to deal with the practical elements of communication and overcome problems associated with group or team dynamics before moving ahead with more advanced communication issues.
It is important for leaders to understand that before teams can learn to communicate effectively, team members must first learn to communicate by each respecting what the other has to say. Leaders will find that this is the initial challenge that must be overcome after team formation.
Leaders should understand the common problems experienced by groups that can hinder the effectiveness and productivity of the team.
Teams commonly have trouble intiating and ending discussions. Members flounder, wondering what actions to take next. Resistance is experienced as the team moves from one phase of the discussion to the next.
Problems from the onset suggest the team lacks clarity or is overwhelmed by the assignment. These startup problems suggest that team members are not comfortable enough with one another to engage in meaningful discussions.
Floundering during discussions suggests that the team has not arrived at a consensus. Team members can be reluctant to expose their work to review and criticism.
Overbearing participants wield a disproportionate amount of influence over the team. They often have a senior rank within the company or possess in-depth technical knowledge. While most teams benefit from their participation, they can cause problems when they forbid any discussion that encroaches on their area of expertise or authority. Overbearing participants will tend to see such group solutions as unworkable, or they will use technical jargon signaling that the subject is off-limits to the group.
Leaders can minimize these problems by reinforcing to the team that, as long as it pertains to the current subject, no area is off-limits. Privately, leaders can talk with overbearing individuals to let them know that it is important for the group to explore the particular subject and for individuals to understand the process.
Some team members can consume a disproportionate amount of time by talking too much. Their excessive input inhibits other members of the team from participating. Leaders should structure discussions to encourage equal participation, and openly solicit input and contributions from all team members.
Reluctant participants may feel shy or unsure of themselves in the team, and must be encouraged to contribute their ideas and perspectives. Problems can develop when there are no activities built-in to persuade these individuals to participate.
Leaders must act as gatekeepers to the discussion by openly and actively soliciting input and contributions from these individuals. These measures ensure balanced participation from the entire team.
Some individuals express personal beliefs and assumptions in a self-assured manner. These statements are so forceful that other team members assume they are hearing a presentation of facts. Consequently, members are reluctant to question these statements without facts and data to defend their position. They may also fear being wrong and thus losing face with the team.
Leaders cannot allow unquestioned acceptance of opinions as facts. They must use techniques and questions that compel members to support their statement with facts and to hold it up to the scrutiny of the entire team.
Rush to Accomplishment
Many teams will have individual members who are impatient and wish to rush through the training activity. These members will come to a decision before the team has had the time to discuss and consider alternative solutions. They will then urge the group to decide matters quickly, and will discourage any further efforts to analyze or discuss the matter. These members can communicate their impatience using nonverbal behavior or direct statements.
Leaders must remind the group of their focus and make sure that specific members do not exert pressure on the team to finish prematurely. If all else fails, leaders may need to directly confront the offender.
As a way of bringing meaning to apparent disorder and confusion, people tend to attribute motives to individuals they disagree with or don’t understand. This behavior can lead to hostility in the team environment. Leaders must reaffirm the purpose, boundaries and framework of the training exercise and intervene when such behaviors are exhibited by team members.
Discounting occurs when team members fail to assign other members’ ideas and options any validity, credence or credit. If discounting happens frequently, teams can experience hostility.
Every team member deserves respect and attention from the entire team. Leaders must ensure that the team is trained from the onset in active listening and other constructive behaviors. When possible, the leader should provide support to the discounted individual. Leaders will also need to privately discuss the matter with the team member who is responsible for discounting.
Digression and Tangents
Wide-ranging and unfocused team discussions are a natural tendency as teams stray from the topic. While some digressions may be entertaining, they divert the team from the purpose of the activity. Team facilitators are responsible for bringing these discussions back to the team’s agenda.
Feuding Team Members
Feuding team members can disrupt the entire team with their personal disagreements. Usually these feuds predate the team and are best dealt with outside of the team environment. Leaders can offer to facilitate a discussion to end the personal feud or at least arrive at an agreement concerning their behavior in the team setting.
Excerpt: Boosting Team Communication: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD
Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
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