Team Building Tips: Seek First to Understand

“Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” –Stephen R. Covey, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” Whether we are interacting with family members, clients or members of our work teams, our own assumptions about their intentions and meaning can be one of the greatest impediments to understanding and agreement. In his classic book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, the late Stephen R. Covey describes an approach for helping us to overcome our assumptions and truly understand another person’s point of view. More about the approach in a moment. The assumption trap You may have experienced this situation: you’re in a team meeting trying to come to agreement on a basic course of action when the decision making process stalls. Two people, or possibly two “factions”, just cannot see eye-to eye. Frustrations mount, voices are raised and, in the ensuing chaos, no one appears to be listening. Then it occurs to you: “Are they understanding the other side’s position on this?” In some cases you may find yourself wondering, if they aren’t really saying much the same thing. It can be rather funny but it can be frightening too. As Stephen Covey noted, in our haste to respond with our own ideas, we often substitute our own assumptions for the true understanding that might be gained from a few minutes of listening. It just seems so much easier! But, in the long term, where there is no true understanding of a person’s ideas, feelings and intentions, there can be no true consensus and no true buy-in. In short,...

Team Building Tips: Contribution and Personality Types

“Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.” – Malcolm Forbes How often do you sit in meetings in which one or two people dominate the conversations while many others sit quietly and say nothing? While this can be normal on occasion, it can also indicate that you are not taking best advantage of your team’s diversity. And it may be that personality “types” are playing themselves out in a way that needs to be addressed. When the team leader and team members understand and accept each others’ personality types, everyone can work together to ensure that all ideas are heard and understood. In our teambuilding workshops, we often help participants to take that a bit farther: we want them to first understand that they and their colleagues have different preferences for interacting, then accept that different approaches are OK and, finally, develop strategies to accommodate, even leverage, those differences. Personality Type Inventories There are many inventories available for assessing personality “types”, and most of the popular ones are based on the work of Carl Jung. They include the MBTI, True Colors, Insights, DISC and Identity Mapping. Some are quite complex and require time, persistence and practice to fully apply. Others (and there are many) are less thorough but offer the benefit of simply “opening the conversations” about how we can best communicate and relate as a team, given our differences. I believe there is still a lot of value in the simple approach since it gets the team exploring those differences and deliberating structuring their meetings and interactions to make sure that effective communication happens and that conflict is...

Team Building Tips: Dealing with Angry People

“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” – Gloria Steinem A team member’s or customer’s anger can run the gamut from smouldering silence to an outright temper tantrum. Periodically people capture the more public examples on cell phones and we get to witness spectacular meltdowns as they go “viral” on social media. But, when it happens in our own workplaces, it’s not so funny. We can feel threatened, experience extreme stress and risk very real emotional and physical trauma. On a team level, such an incident can leave relationships in tatters. An important part of team building involves developing the capacity to manage emotional situations effectively. And anger must top the list of the “most-feared” emotional encounters. I’d like to share an incident I witnessed. As I cooled my heels in a rural hospital waiting room a few months ago, I had the (uncomfortable!) opportunity to watch a skilled health care professional handle a very loud and angry person. The waiting room was quite full when a older gentleman came in from the blowing snow accompanied by a woman, possibly his wife, who had clearly been struggling to navigate the snow-covered, slippery sidewalks with her walker. He was obviously concerned and visibly upset as he guided her to a chair. As he approached the registration desk, the receptionist started to apologize for the condition of the sidewalks. She had barely begun to extend the clip board to him when the tirade started. It was loud, abusive and involved flying objects. He was in full rant when a nurse came hustling around the corner...