We wear the same uniform. We work in the same building. We sit in the same meetings.
Too often this is about where the connection with our team begins and ends. This is unfortunate for many reasons, but the most significant one is that it robs people of one of the greatest feelings in the world - that of being on a team. Working, striving side by side with others that have shared and suffered along with you in pursuit of a goal that is impossible to alone but you are about to accomplish as a result of your team … It’s one of the most exhilarating and fulfilling experiences in life.
Yet, we struggle so much to get it right because we aren’t intentional about building it. Sure we work hard to become competent in our craft and find the right job, but we give our team dynamics to chance - hoping for the best.
There is a better way and it’s rooted in our communication.
Why Should We Care? Your words shape the culture of your team and organization. How you talk to each other and what you say to each other is important. And yes, something as simple as your pronouns make a difference - we v me, us v them.
Clearly great performances by incredibly talented individuals can still result in a moment of success, even several moments. But, long-term, sustained success is only possible by honoring the process of excellence. And one of the most important areas of this process is communication.
Our tone, our message, our body language - all carry significant weight as leaders. Whether a professional athlete says “we” or “me” will certainly be noticed by his or her team, but more importantly the actions of that leader will almost always reflect that word choice. And it’s these actions that truly define the culture of your organization.
The ability to connect and talk with people is innate in some leaders. They naturally craft messages that create a sense of teamwork and unity, while others approach achievement from a more individualistic mindset. The latter is not necessarily bad, but leaders drawn to this type of motivation must be very intentional with their messaging and communication.
Here are a few subtle areas we could all improve our communication within our team.
REAL TALK - Action Steps The concepts below are critical to successful communication within a team. Some leaders are naturally strong in each area, while others of us must work at them a little harder. Nonetheless, we all need to become knowledgeable and proficient in order to help our teams reach their potential.
First and foremost, belonging cues show others they are important. They are words and actions that convey energy, personalization, and a shared future. Most of us have these randomly scattered throughout our organization’s culture, but very few cultures approach belonging cues intentionally and with the importance they deserve. They help us answer the most primitive question there is for any group, a question we are constantly checking on for an answer - are we safe here? And we need to know the answer over and over, day after day. It’s not a one shot deal.
In order to be effective, all feedback should consist of letting the person know:
I believe you can reach those standards
This group is special - we have high standards here.
You are part of this group.
The only useful reason for feedback is to help the teammate modify, or continue, their behavior and move closer to the standards of the group. If that is truly the goal, then all 3 of these points should be intentionally touched on consistently.
In the age of technology we live in, listening is not something that comes natural. If we want our teams and leaders to be effective in communication, we must help them understand how to be the best listeners they can be. The acronym below has helped our students move towards being more effective listeners.
Receive - look at the person speaking, pay attention
Appreciate - nod your head, give small verbals, lean forward
Summarize - use the word “so” to recap
Ask - ask follow-up questions
Listening is far more than gathering information. The best listeners increase the speaker's desire to share.
This is a simple concept, but extremely difficult to execute - like most great ideas. The 100/0 Principle is an approach to relationships in which you take 100% responsibility for the relationship and expect nothing, 0%, in return. Think give, not take - always.
A common coaching phrase in basketball around communication is ELO - Early, Loud, and Often. It’s a great acronym for athletic arenas, but could carry just as much impact in the corporate world. We need to be communicating vision and standards with our team members as soon as we get the opportunity - Early. We need to make sure our message is crystal clear, with no questions, no distractions, no obstacles - LOUD. And we need to say it and show it over and over and over again - OFTEN.
Your words and your actions are the only things you can use to lead. In order to increase the sense of belonging on your team, you must be intentional about both.
For more information on building excellence in your teams, visit us at www.bluecollargrit.com. We would love to know how we could help!