04 Aug

How tuned in are you? Really.

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“I remind myself every morning: nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.” – Larry King

In your everyday work, how tuned in are you to what’s happening around you, what people are saying and how others are behaving? Most people we ask this question of would say – “I’m very aware of what’s happening around me!” Yet when we dig a little deeper, we soon find a slightly different story and most will then admit that maybe they aren’t really as tuned in as they thought (or pretended) they were!

Did you realise that you were just checking your mobile phone in that meeting? Did you see how others responded when you made that ‘joke’? Did you understand what your boss just said to you? Did you see the body language your colleague used when you popped in to their office? Did you realise you just checked your phone again while we were talking?

Modern life is busy. Actually for some it feels a bit chaotic. So we often are too tired, too busy or even (should we say it…?) self-absorbed to truly tune in to what people are saying or doing most of the time.

Yet many don’t realise  significant impact of not tuning in.

  • Others may actually think you’re rude. Do you check your phone during meetings? This is a classic example of where you might be tuning out and at the same time could be leaving people with the impression that you are rude and disrespectful. Even if you think you are still listening – here’s some big news…you’re not.
  • You may just miss out on important information. When you tune out, whether to check your phone, to think about your to-do list, or simply to day-dream, your brain is not accurately receiving all of the information around you. And sometimes that’s completely ok. Sometimes it’s not – you may miss information to help you at work, a family member’s story, or even important signals that could save your life.
  • Building and maintaining relationships just got harder. Despite our busy world, humans are still fundamentally designed to be social and make connections. In the workplace, healthy relationships can lead to better productivity, better engagement and even to better stress management. So if we are consistently not tuning in, and others notice this, we could be destroying trust, credibility, respect and ultimately damaging relationships. People want to connect more with those who show an interest in them, than with those who don’t.

So how do we develop better skills at tuning in? Well, it takes time, practice and genuine positive intent. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

  • Turn off your phone in meetings
  • Make eye contact with the person presenting/speaking with you
  • Truly focus on the words and body language others are using
  • Pause before you cut someone off in conversation
  • Ask questions – be curious! What can you learn from the conversation?
  • If your mind is wandering when it shouldn’t, take a deep breath – it does wonders to refocus you
  • Monitor how often you talk about yourself versus listening to others, or asking others questions
  • Evaluate the quality of your relationships and consider what else you can do to be more positively connected
  • Become a great observer – of people’s actions, words and even their environment (it’s amazing what you can learn about someone from the items on their work desk!)

Of course, these suggestions are based on common-sense and not particularly new concepts. They key though is being true to yourself – are you really tuning in to what’s happening around you, or are you only pretending?

Happy tuning in!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

 

01 Dec

Creating a high performance team – the building of trust

“The essence of trust is not in its bind, but in its bond” – Unknown

Perhaps one of the most fundamental factors for a successful cross functional team is the building of trust across the group. Many such teams are made up of people from varied roles, departments, and often cultures – it is no surprise that there will be different perspectives, working styles, goals and personalities, all of which can fuel the obvious question – “Who are you and what do you offer the team?”

In any team different styles and perspectives can create tensions and it is often exaggerated in cross functional teams where there are different reporting lines and core responsibilities at play. It is critical that the team leader encourages and allows time for exercises that build understanding and trust. The popular Forrester/Drexler Team Performance™ Indicator identifies mutual regard, forthrightness and reliability as being the keys to success for trust building; without these you may have caution, mistrust and facade.

So how do you build trust in a cross functional team? Below are some ideas for team leaders to consider.

  • Putting people at ease – At the first meeting, allow time up front for the group to chat in a relaxed environment. You might organise coffee half an hour before, meet in a coffee shop the day prior, have a casual dinner the night before. The environment should be as relaxed as possible and the team leader should introduce, mingle and facilitate a sense of inclusion. Whatever works for your situation, it is important that there is time to get to know each other outside of the meeting – small talk is a first step to feeling at ease with someone. Even if the team has worked together before, each project can benefit from this connection or reconnection before the work begins.
  • Understanding backgrounds – Even if everyone on the team knows each other, there is enormous benefit in introducing what team members individually bring to the table. Sometimes we might think we know someone at work, yet we have no awareness of the skills they have or the experience they bring. Such an introduction can be done by simply going around the group at the first meeting and having them describe their working background. If more structure is needed (so one person doesn’t take up all the time!) write 3 questions on the whiteboard for people to answer. For example: Who are you representing on this team? What past experience can you bring to the discussions? What expertise should we be calling on you for? You can have the discussions around the table, break into pairs and have the pairs introduce each other when you regroup, ask for the information before hand and conduct a ‘who am I quiz’ during the meeting…however you do it, make time for valuing individual backgrounds.
  • Developing team ‘norms’ – Right up front, it is ideal to agree as a team on certain operating principles. This can be done using an external facilitator (helps the team leader be part of the discussion) or the team leader can coordinate. Discuss what team norms are (e.g. how we operate, what’s important to us to make sure we are effective) and how they will be used (e.g. as our guiding principles that we will hold each other accountable to at each meeting). Show some heading prompts – meetings, problem solving, resolving tough issues, values, decision-making, communicating – and ask the team to think about what’s important to them when working in a group – either around these headings, or in other areas. A good question to ask is “What helps you contribute effectively and feel productive in a team?” Have each person write on post-it / sticky notes (one comment per sticky note) and put them on a whiteboard or flip chart. Group similar ideas and encourage discussion and expansion where required. Consolidate key points and capture for distribution – “We agree to… We will…” Common norms are: be on time for meetings, one person talking at a time, respond to emails within 48 hours, putting tough issues and disagreements on the table, be open and honest at all times, phones off in meetings! Because cross functional teams are diverse, the norms must reflect all views.
  • Addressing difficult issues before they happen – Some teams will be working on projects where it is likely discussions will get heated or differences of opinion will occur. Identifying what the issues might be even before they arise is a good way to encourage honesty, understanding and appropriate conversation. This doesn’t mean that you will avoid conflict or tough discussions, but by acknowledging that they might occur it helps people be prepared. It also shows that the leader understands the project. A team leader might highlight that there are likely to be differences of opinion and encourage team members to share openly and honestly while respecting others may not agree; you could ask the team how they propose handling difficult issues or decision-making when there is a disconnect.

These are a few ideas to help build trust within a cross functional team. These types of activities will need to occur throughout the time working together – creating and then sustaining trust. If trust can be built early on, you will start the project in a productive way – it’s definitely worth spending the time on trust building.

 

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd