How to Avoid the Dangers of Groupthink

Pitfalls of groupthink at work

Collaboration and creative brainstorming sessions occur frequently in most companies. There’s a prevailing idea that, when the most creative minds come together, the meeting will result in the ideal solution for a problem or most innovative product design. While this may be true in some cases, there’s also a risk that the team, department, or committee will fall victim to groupthink, in which the group values unity above critical evaluation. While peace among team members is valuable, it should not interfere with your team creativity, ethics, or business profits.

Here are some problems you could encounter because of groupthink:

  • Lower quality of a solution, idea, or design

    Sometimes, harmony and maintaining the status quo come at the price of the optimal outcome. Even when good ideas are discussed, employees do not articulate potential flaws out of concern for upsetting the group. They may not feel comfortable opposing or criticizing one of their superiors or a more outspoken coworker. This becomes a missed opportunity to address and prevent errors, which could lead to loss of profits and customers down the line.

  • Fewer innovative products

    If and when a company creates a culture that requires employees to toe the line and always be a team player, they may not feel safe suggesting innovative or unique ideas. Over time, products and services suffer because they fall in line with mainstream expectations, rather than offering cutting-edge solutions. Companies such as Apple or Google actively encourage their employees to come forward with unique ideas which is part of the reason that they are constantly reinventing themselves and making innovative leaps in both products and internal operations.

  • Suppressed, resentful employees

    When employees feel that their ideas are silenced, that can lead to complacency, frustration, or even resentment. It’s crucial to let your team know that their new ideas and insights are valued. Otherwise, they will begin to feel undervalued and unappreciated—sentiments that can lead to a toxic work environment or problems with employee retention. Not to mention, your frustrated employees may take their creative ideas to a new company where they feel they are heard.

  • Extinction

    Groupthink may seem like a minor issue at first, but if it becomes the norm, it can cause a company to stagnate and fall behind its competitors. Profits suffer, customers become dissatisfied, and the company’s reputation for prioritizing creativity and innovation deteriorates. Entire product lines may fail or the company, as a whole, could go under. When creative solutions are not presented, companies cannot adapt to the changing market or their customers’ needs.

You’ve discovered you have a groupthink situation on your hands. What do you do?

 

  • Note and vote:

    At the beginning of your meeting, have participants brainstorm individually, writing down their ideas without sharing them. Then have them pick their best two or three ideas, write them on a slip of paper, and pass them forward to share with the larger group. After you collect everyone’s top ideas, mix to maximize anonymity, read each idea aloud and record them on a board. Ask participants to vote on the ideas, using either circle dots posted next to ideas or private votes. When top ideas or solutions are selected, discuss drawbacks or roadblocks and how to overcome them. When nobody “owns” or “champions” the idea initially, it’s easier for the group to engage in open, honest discussion.

  • Select a designated naysayer:

    For each meeting, pick one person to pinpoint shortcomings of proposed ideas, making this an accepted part of meeting culture. Everyone gets a turn and comments are made in a respectful tone and focus on a successful final outcome.

  • Bring in outside help:

    Ask people from other departments or hire a consultant to help you out. Others might see strengths or flaws, or ask important questions, that your existing team members may miss. Fresh eyes offer new insights.

 

 

Many subtle roadblocks occur when groupthink happens to a team, but the problem that connects them all is this: when employees are beholden to groupthink, the best ideas are never made known and mediocre ideas are not improved upon or dismissed for the best organizational success.

Green Energy: Seeing the Human Side at Work

Insights Discovery benefits of green energy

For many of us, it’s easy to think of work in a purely business sense. We show up, we go to meetings, we run our reports or work on our projects, we leave. But it’s often the human side of things that drives a business. It’s the collaboration and energetic teamwork. It’s looking out for our co-workers and taking a genuine interest in their lives.

Compassion in the workplace does make a difference. According to Amy Morin, contributor to Forbes online, there is clear evidence that “compassion not only improves workplace culture, but it can also help a company’s bottom line.” Among the benefits, Morin points to improved employee retention, reduced stress, and improved physical health.

How can a workplace become more compassionate and people-focused? It can start with tapping into its “green energy.”

Green energy is a term created by a self-evaluation program called Insights® Discovery. Insights® has its roots in the work of Swiss psychologist Carl Jung and focuses on helping individuals and teams become more self-aware, improve communication, and develop an understanding of the thought and behavioral differences that occur between people.

According to the Insights® color model, every person is comprised of four different color energies, but we tend to exhibit one or two colors more than the others. Those who lead with green energy are often empathetic, inclusive, and concerned about others’ well-being. They are sensitive to the needs of others and are often very good at reading emotions. Those with a great deal of green energy may find themselves in careers such as nursing, teaching, or social work.

We all have a little “green” embedded in our personalities. By collectively tapping into that color energy, a workplace can become more compassionate and human-centric. Several studies conducted through the Wharton School of Business found that, regardless of the industry, companies that focus on compassion create a work culture “associated with greater satisfaction, commitment, and accountability.” They also found that this kind of caring culture can also trickle down to a company’s clients.

How can YOUR workplace begin to tap into its green energy? Simple, individual actions can make a huge difference. Start with the following:

1. Ask thoughtful questions

Show genuine interest in co-workers and clients. Practice seeing them as people—people with flaws, emotions, friends, family, and strengths that are yet to be discovered.

2. LISTEN

Put your own thoughts on hold and practice active listening.

3. Aim for understanding

Even if you think you don’t agree with someone, work to find common ground. Ask thoughtful questions about their stance, listen to what they have to say, and explain your own views in a non-threatening way.

4. Pay attention

Your attentiveness can potentially make the workplace more inclusive. Are there people in the office who seem to be left out of discussions? Does a certain co-worker seem dissatisfied with a project? Is a particular client distant or noncommittal lately? Pay attention and look for ways to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard.

5. Make yourself vulnerable

Communication is a two-way street. If you expect others to open up, you have to be willing to also become vulnerable. Your authenticity can help shape a business into a place that is honest, communicative, and supportive.

 

Be a green energy leader! Your personal commitment to caring communication and empathy can help drive your company to create positive changes. A compassionate workplace begins with one leader at a time.

Contact me for more information.

Is Accountability a Centerpiece of Your Leadership?

“It is not only what we do, but what we do not do, for which we are accountable.” –Moliere

 

If your workplace is free of accountability, it is likely filled with blame and distrust. When a project fails or a client leaves, it is natural for people to want answers, which may lead to suspicion and finger-pointing. An accountability-free workplace can easily turn ugly.

As David Gebler, author of The 3 Power Values, says, “Accountability is the number one success factor in any change effort.” If leadership does not hold their team accountable, it is difficult for integrity to be taken seriously. In a workplace where “anything goes” and inaction or missteps are ignored, there is little motivation to do good work. In such a haphazard culture, employees can miss deadlines, show up late, refuse to hold up their end of a project, or mishandle clients…all without consequence.

Unfortunately, many workplaces lack a clear system of accountability. Margery Weinstein of Training Mag cites a Workplace Accountability Study which reveals that “82 percent of respondents admit they have limited-to-no ability to hold others accountable successfully.” This number is especially startling because 91 percent of respondents said that accountability is one of the “top leadership development needs in their organization.”

This lack of accountability may cause interpersonal conflicts, distrust, or the constant need to make excuses. It also allows the dominant personalities in your workplace to direct the company’s ethics. The behavior of influential individuals can easily sway the entire tone of the workplace (which may or may not be a good thing!).

What to do? As a leader, it is tempting to react to a lack of accountability by hovering over your team and micro-managing their every move. There are many reasons why this is a flawed approach (some of which I address in a past blog post), but suffice it to say that your work team will not react well to micro-managing. However, a culture of accountability can be created without setting your team member’s schedules or closely monitoring their work projects. It’s all about striking a balance.

Here are five tips for creating a system of accountability in your workplace:

Clearly Communicate Expectations

Set your team up for success by clearly communicating goals, deadlines, and expected outcomes. Your team members should also understand the consequences of failing to meet a particular aspect of a project or action.

Articulate Your Team’s Value

“When employees aren’t valued, they’re less likely to be engaged with their work,” (Sean Pomeroy, Talent Culture.com). Make sure each member of your team is aware of their worth and the value they bring to the team. Communicate often and openly to your employees to let them know you appreciate their contributions.

Follow Through

Don’t deliver empty warnings. If you’ve made it clear that those who do not meet a specific project deadline will be removed from the project, then follow through with that disciplinary action. You may choose to use a three-strike system to soften the blow for those who have erred for the first or second time. However, be sure to talk to the offender, even if it’s her first time making a mistake, so she knows what your expectations are for the future.

Hold Yourself to the Same Standards

Lead by example. If you make a mistake, own up to it and articulate how you will correct the error and take preventative action so that the same mistake will not occur in the future. If you are exempt from being held accountable, how can you effectively enforce accountability?

Treat Mistakes as Learning Opportunities

Instead of sweeping mistakes under the rug, making excuses, or becoming overly distraught, try to look at workplace errors as an opportunity. Talk openly about the mistake with your team and strategize ways to overcome it and create a better system for the future.

 

Company leadership has the power to create a culture of accountability. When all members of a workplace community assume personal responsibility for their actions and inactions, the company can focus on solutions and strategy, rather than blame and distrust.

 

Contact Juli for insight and guidance for YOUR company.

Effective Strategies for Communicating with Extroverts

Effective Strategies for Communicating with Extroverts

If you’re a person with introverted tendencies, working with extroverts can seem taxing and chaotic. But it doesn’t have to be. Once you understand the causes behind extroverted behavior, effective workplace communication with extroverts begins to seem like common sense.

People with extroverted behavior may be inclined to interact with others due to simple biology. Dopamine, a neurological chemical, plays a major role in the reward and pleasure centers of the brain and extroverts have a stronger dopamine response to reward than introverts. When extroverts interact with others, they are more energized and motivated by the possibility of reward.

Recognizing how this heightened dopamine response fuels extroverted personalities is vital to effective inter-office communication. Social interactions are filled with opportunities for reward, and extroverts are determined to make the most of them. Consequently, the more rewarding you make your conversation to an extrovert, the happier they’ll feel. Keeping that in mind, here are a few best-practice communication strategies guaranteed to light up an extrovert’s reward system and build healthy interpersonal communication, both in and outside of the office.

 

STAY POSITIVE

Extroverts typically find social situations to be more inherently interesting than introverts do. One study found that extroverts were more stimulated by pictures of people than introverted participants were, suggesting extroverts place greater significance on social interaction. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that an extrovert would be disappointed when an interaction doesn’t go particularly well. With that in mind, keep conversations with an extrovert positive to foster a strong working relationship. Let it be known that you appreciate your time with them, and they’ll likely look forward to talking with you again.

 

OFFER A RISK OR CHALLENGE

High-stakes, high-reward opportunities tend to go hand-in-hand with extroversion. Unpredictability isn’t necessarily viewed as a bad thing by extroverts, but rather a challenge to overcome.  An experiment involving a gambling task found that extroverts had a stronger neurological response to both surprise and positive results than introverts did. If you’re trying to convince an extrovert to take on a task or join you in an endeavor, frame it as an adventure or a big opportunity. Adding a little bit of a risk-factor is definitely a plus.

 

GIVE THEM TIME TO TALK

Extroverts like to talk. So naturally, when you communicate with an extrovert, it’s best not to cut them off. Give them the time to say what they want to say, and more likely than not, they’ll leave you plenty of time to talk once they’ve completed their thought. If not, don’t hesitate to politely let them know you’d like a chance to speak; extroverts are excited by many different aspects of social interactions, so they’ll be interested in hearing what you have to say, too.

GET TO KNOW THE UNIQUE INDIVIDUAL

The problem with the extrovert-introvert dichotomy is that it treats each group like two different species. In reality, extroversion and introversion exist on a spectrum, and most of us fall somewhere in the middle. When communicating, it’s important not to assume people are extroverted or introverted. Rather, get a sense for each person’s unique preferences and tendencies, and try to gauge how they’re feeling during your interaction. As with any type of interaction, awareness is key.

 

 

Your extroverted co-workers can add energy, creative ideas, and candidness to the workplace. By giving them the space to shine and respecting their needs, and can help your business reach its full potential. Remember, the most well-rounded, innovative workplaces embrace a variety of different people with different communication tendencies.

 

Do you have communication difficulties in YOUR office? Contact me and let’s talk.

Effective Strategies for Communicating with Introverts

Effective strategies for communicating with introverts

You’re likely familiar with the basic definitions of introversion and extroversion. Introverts draw energy from being alone, while extroverts draw energy from being with other people.

Though this may seem to make sense, there isn’t a neat dividing line between introverts and extroverts and both groups can exhibit behaviors typically characteristic of their opposite type. In fact, a study recently confirmed that extroverts also can be drained by social interaction just as introverts are, and sometimes need alone-time to “recharge.” Similarly, there is a common misconception that introverts don’t like social interaction, when many introverts actually lead very rich social lives and can also be very effective team members.

This blog contains some effective strategies for communicating with introverts that are based on peer-reviewed studies, not just conventional wisdom. (Note: in my next blog, I will cover important aspects of working with extroverts.)

 

AVOID SMALL-TALK

If an introvert doesn’t seem to be totally into your discussion about the weather outside, it’s not because they abhor social interaction – rather, introverts aren’t particularly keen on engaging in conversation just for the sake of conversation, or what is often called small talk. One study measuring attention in introverts and extroverts found that extroverts tended to be more sensitive to social stimuli than neutral stimuli, while introverts reacted similarly to both types of stimuli. In other words, extroverts may see reward in social interaction in and of itself, whereas introverts don’t necessarily experience social interaction differently than any other source of stimuli. With that in mind, instead of using small talk with introvert colleagues, try engaging in a conversation with some substance (think scientific studies, new technology, or the latest global news).

 

BE PATIENT AND ALLOW SPACE TO THINK

While much conventional wisdom about introverts isn’t built on concrete evidence, the phrase “still water runs deep” does have some merit. A Harvard University study discovered that introverts had thicker gray matter in the part of the brain linked to decision-making and abstract thought (the prefrontal cortex) than do extroverts. This suggests that introverts are more inclined to meticulous, drawn-out thought, meaning they may need time and space to think things through before they make decisions or take action. Further, introverts get pleasure from turning inward, rewarded with a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. With these elements in mind, don’t push for a quick decision from an introvert. Be patient and give them the time they need to think.

 

CHOOSE A COMFORTABLE ENVIRONMENT

There’s a reason introverts aren’t as attracted to loud, crowded parties as extroverts – and it’s not because they don’t like being around people. Mainly, a “party” atmosphere is chock-full of external stimuli, and it can become too much for an introvert’s active prefrontal cortex to process at one time, especially over longer periods of time. If you’re going to meet up with an introvert, find a small, quiet place without distractions so they can focus on you, not the music blaring through the speakers.

 

GET TO KNOW THE UNIQUE INDIVIDUAL

The problem with the introvert-extrovert dichotomy is that it treats each group like two different species. In reality, introversion and extroversion exist on a spectrum, and most of us fall somewhere in the middle. When communicating, it’s important not to assume people are introverted or extroverted. Rather, get a sense for each person’s unique preferences and tendencies, and try to gauge how they’re feeling during your interaction. As with any type of interaction, awareness is key.

 

Your introverted co-workers have a lot to offer. Give them the time and space to share their ideas and insights and you may be surprised by what they give back. Keep in mind that a diverse, yet inclusive workplace creates fertile ground for innovative ideas and creativity.

 

 

Having trouble working with an introverted co-worker or team? Contact me and let’s discuss it.

We formed; we stormed! Building a productive team with the Tuckman model

Forming, storming, norming, performing; the Tuckman teamwork model

In a perfect world, our work teams would collaborate effortlessly and achieve their objectives without office politics, personality clashes, or disagreements about processes.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in such a world and often have to muddle through team conflicts that may be debilitating to the entire project. But even a team with fundamental disagreements can achieve great things. In fact, those very disagreements can lead to innovation and creativity.

How can team leaders build a cohesive and productive team? By recognizing the typical stages a team encounters and having a plan in place to deal with various obstacles that inhibit productivity.

Psychologist Bruce Tuckman articulated the typical phases of team development in his 1965 article, “Developmental Sequence in Small Groups.” Tuckman found that high-performing teams usually pass through four stages which he named forming, storming, norming, and performing. Let’s take a look at the four stages and how you can help guide your team to success in each one:

 

Forming:

In this stage, the team comes together and begins learning about one another and the team’s objectives. This is generally an amicable stage, although some team members may be anxious about the expectations of the project or working with their fellow teammates. Some teams warm up to each other quicker than others, so this stage can vary greatly in length.

Your role:

Leadership is crucial at this stage. A strong leader can help identify team members’ strengths and assign them to roles that are best-suited to their abilities. As a leader, you can also help others see the value each team member contributes and begin to build an atmosphere of mutual respect.

 

Storming:

Trouble starts brewing! This stage is characterized by interpersonal conflict, dissent, or disagreement about processes or objectives. Certain personality types may clash, causing team members to feel uncomfortable or even threatened. Leadership may also be challenged or questioned. Some teams skip this stage completely, while others may keep returning to this stage as new conflicts arise.

Your role:

Look at the storming phase as an area of opportunity. This is a time when creative solutions are born and team members can explore the merit of different approaches or concepts. Conflict opens up opportunities to  explore potential innovations and tap into others’ perspectives, which can unearth a treasure trove of new ideas.

If your team is truly struggling to move past the storming stage, consider employing the help of a credible assessment test, such as Insights Discovery, to bridge communication gaps and develop an understanding of basic personality differences.

 

Norming:

After the storm, is the norm. Team members acknowledge differences, but start to move beyond them. In this stage, the team begins to act as a tenuously cohesive group. They grow accustomed to each other’s quirks, motives, and ways of thinking. They also begin to refocus on the larger goal and rally around a common objective.

Your role:

This is a great opportunity to step back and observe. If you notice any leftover tensions from the storming phase, now is the time to address them. In this stage, it’s also a good idea to encourage team-building exercises or outings to continue to strengthen team bonds.

 

Performing:

In the fourth stage, the team is focused and intent on achieving common objectives. They have evolved into a cohesive unit—one in which interpersonal differences are acknowledged and worked through. This stage is marked by a high level of competency among team members and they should be able to work autonomously, as well as collaborate effortlessly.

Your role:

The leader nearly melts into the background at this stage. Trust that your team has what it takes to produce excellent results and don’t be afraid to delegate tasks. Focus on helping your team grow and develop their talents, and leave the work to them! Don’t forget to provide positive recognition for tasks well done.

 

 

By appreciating and planning for the four typical team-building stages, you set your team up for success. Use team conflict as creative fuel, rather than a stumbling block and capitalize on the diverse set of talents and ideas your team members offer. From forming to performing, each stage is a valuable part of the team-building process.

 

Need help with the storming phase? As a certified conflict mediator, I can offer you guidance. Please, get in touch.

 

Additional Reading:

https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_86.htm

http://infed.org/mobi/bruce-w-tuckman-forming-storming-norming-and-performing-in-groups/

http://www.project-management-skills.com/teamwork-theory.html

 

The “Yellow Energy” Team

Insights Discovery Yellow Energy Team

In a couple of past blog posts, I’ve talked about the Insights® Discovery model and its application in the workplace. The basic concept of Insights® is that all people have the ability to behave and think in multiple ways, but we tend to emphasize some styles over others. For example, even the most passive person has the ability to lead. Similarly, the most data-driven person has the capacity to be creative.

According to the Insights® color model, every person is comprised of four different color energies, but we tend to exhibit one or two colors more than the others (To learn more about the four color model, read this past blog post). In this post we will focus on people who lead with yellow energy. This group of people tends to be outgoing, creative, energetic, and social. Many “sunshine yellow” people enjoy group projects and brainstorming solutions in a collaborative setting.

Sound like anyone in your workplace? Or, does it sound like you?

If so, you know that working in a team with someone who leads with yellow energy can come with both rewards and frustrations. On the positive side, people who lead with yellow energy tend to be idea generators. They aren’t afraid to offer off-the-cuff ideas, which is great for getting a conversation going and working through many different ideas.

They are also natural motivators. Yellow energy gusto can be contagious and can help a team stay energized when working through a project.

On the other hand, folks leading with yellow energy are not always keen on slowing down and examining the details. They might be enthusiastic about diving into a new plan, but they don’t always want to look at the data behind the decision or take the time to conduct thorough research. This kind of deliberation can seem tedious for someone as high-energy and enthusiastic as someone calling upon his yellow energy.

Fortunately, there are plenty of people who love examining data and conducting research (I’m one of them!). If a team is well-balanced, those who prefer yellow energy do not have to be tied to tasks that do not suit their skill set.

But what if your team is comprised of almost all those who lead with yellow energy? You might struggle with staying on task (as those with a good deal of yellow energy love to socialize) or you might find that people often try to speak over each other or vie for leadership positions. To overcome the pandemonium of a team focused with yellow energy, take the time to set parameters. If your team is chatty, designate half-hour chunks of time to focus solely on work. If your team is dealing with power struggles, appoint a project leader who is given the final say. Leadership can always change hands during the next project.

Take time to appreciate those who demonstrate yellow energy on your team! They are important for sparking team innovation and ingenuity, motivating the team, and providing a little sunshine when it’s needed. How will your work team utilize its yellow energy?

 

Questions about team dynamics? Please contact me today.

Three Steps for Mediating a Clashing Team

mediating teams in conflict

As a conflict mediator, I’ve helped others work through a wide variety of interpersonal struggles, both personal and professional. But what if your entire team is having issues? How do you deal with building understanding between many people, as opposed to just two? Help your team resolve (or embrace!) their differences with these 3 steps:

1. Get to the root of the problem

Teams clash for a variety of reasons. Conflict can be caused by personality differences, ethical disagreements, unclear expectations, or even simple miscommunications. According to research discussed in Psych Press,[1] conflicts arise in teams in three different key areas:

  • Relationship conflict (personality differences or differences in values)
  • Task conflict (content and outcomes of the task being performed)
  • Process conflict (logistics of completing the task)

To unearth the cause of conflict, it’s important to talk to each team member to get a full picture of what is going on, according to each person’s unique perspective. Allow yourself sufficient time to meet with individuals one-on-one and ask open-ended questions. This process alone may reveal simple misunderstandings or more problematic fundamental issues. However, if the root of the problem is unclear, you may want to bring in a professional conflict mediator or turn to a team-building assessment test, such as Insights® Discovery (which I’ve discussed in past blog posts).

2. Start a dialogue

Once you’ve identified the key factors that are contributing to your team’s issues, open a safe space for dialogue. An assessment tool, like Insights®, can help get a conversation going, especially if you’re dealing with personality clashes.

It can be useful to have a sit-down meeting involving the entire team, in which the framework of the team is discussed, rather than the project at hand. Use this meeting (and any subsequent meetings) to talk about dividing up group responsibilities, sharing the workload, and working out an approach that is collaborative and respectful of all opinions.

If you uncovered work misalignments during your meetings (for instance, a creative-minded person has been saddled with data-crunching), address those misalignments and brainstorm how to fix them.

If you discovered a miscommunication between two parties, bring that up and talk about where you think the communication went wrong.

Don’t forget to listen. Aim for collaboration when solving your team’s conflict and make sure everyone’s voice is heard.

And if disagreements still exist? Do your best to negotiate with both sides and find some middle ground. Let your team know that healthy conflict is just fine and conflict is just a sign that something needs to change. If everyone agreed all the time or, if everyone had the same personality, there would be little room for innovation or creative problem-solving.

3. Teamwork maintenance

After you’ve opened up a dialogue and worked through differences, be sure to maintain that open line of communication. Check in with teammates from time to time and ask how the project is going. As a CBS News article[2] aptly put it: “It is important to maintain the momentum by agreeing to continue to talk about the issue as much as appropriate, and use the language of your discussion and other agreed [upon] signals to keep things on track.” Be sure to welcome conversation and let your team know that they can approach you with any issues, no matter how small.

Another way to maintain team harmony is to focus on the project goals and create opportunities for your team to get together to strategize how to work toward those goals. When everyone has a common purpose, minor differences tend to diminish in importance.

Don’t forget to honor team differences in approach and capabilities. When your team is feeling pulled between two (or more) different directions, point out how each way is valid before striving to reach a compromise.

 

Is your team clashing? Contact me today to develop a strategy for pulling yourselves out of conflict.

[1] Psych Press (2014). 5 steps to handling clashing team members. http://www.psychpress.com.au/newsletter/files/NWS-JUN2014/Jun2014_5-Steps-to-Handling-Clashing-Team-Members.pdf.* Accessed 9/12/16. *Updated Link: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:lWKoIynBeDAJ:www.psychpress.com.au/newsletter/files/NWS-JUN2014/Jun2014_5-Steps-to-Handling-Clashing-Team-Members.pdf+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

[2] CBS Money Watch (2007). Working around personality clashes. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/working-around-personality-clashes/. Accessed 9/12/16.

5 Tips for Effective Communication Across Generations

Two generations working together

If we’re to believe the common generational stereotypes in the workplace, we’d assume Baby Boomers are team-oriented workaholics, Gen-Xers are stubbornly independent, and Millennials focus more on their smart phones than their jobs.

But a number of studies have shown that a majority of these stereotypes are unfounded.[1] While there are certainly significant differences among generations, there’s a lot more that we have in common, particularly when it comes to communication.

Communicating across generations is therefore much more effective when we direct our focus not on how we’re different from our coworkers, but on how we’re the same. Below are five methods your organization can use to facilitate effective communication in the workplace, regardless of age difference.

1. Meet Face-to-Face

Though we may assume Millennials prefer communicating through social media and text message, 80% of Millennials in a recent survey expressed a preference for face-to-face communication in the workplace.[2] In fact, this was the overwhelmingly preferred mode of communication by Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers, and Millennials.

2. Instill a Sense of Purpose

Nobody wants to feel like an interchangeable cog in a machine; everyone wants to know that they’re serving a meaningful role within their organization. When employees recognize each other’s shared commitment toward a common goal, generational barriers to communication come crashing down. Clearly defining a team’s purpose and each employee’s role in achieving that purpose is critical to fostering productive workplace relationships.

 3. Avoid Business Jargon

 Using organization-specific terminology may seem efficient, but it can easily become a major detriment to effective communication. This is particularly an issue for Millennials, who will likely make up a significant portion of your organization’s newer employees. If you explain your company’s processes using business jargon that they’ve never heard before, they naturally won’t understand what you’re talking about. To ensure that your entire workforce is on the same page, use language that everyone can understand, and take an extra second to clarify potentially confusing terms or concepts.

 4. Encourage Assertive Communication

Everyone has different communication styles. Generally speaking, Baby Boomers prefer group-oriented communication, Gen-Xers tend to be more self-reliant, and Millennials thrive on frequent interaction with supervisors.[3] The best way to ensure these styles don’t clash is to encourage assertive communication. Your organization should facilitate an environment where people feel comfortable openly sharing their ideas and concerns with each other. Otherwise, resentment can easily build between coworkers who feel their needs and wants aren’t respected.

5. Give Positive Feedback

Older generations often have a more negative perspective on constructive criticism. While Baby Boomers may feel disrespected by feedback, Gen-Xers and Millennials expect consistent performance appraisals. But when it comes to positive feedback, generational attitudes are largely the same. Giving your fellow coworkers recognition for a job well-done is a great way to communicate their value to your organization, and a critical step towards forging stronger workplace relationships.

 

 As our workplaces diversify, it is crucial to connect all generations of workers through effective communication. Mindful, well-structured messaging and interactions can bridge gaps and ensure that people of all ages feel welcomed and nurtured in the workplace. Despite differences, a good deal of common ground exists between generations and smart communication can help people at all stages of life work together harmoniously and effectively.


 

[1] Tolbize, Anick. “Generational differences in the workplace.” Research and training center of community living. University of Minnesota, 2008: 10-13.

 

[2] Schawbel, David. “Even Millennials Want Face Time at Work.” Time. Time, 2 Sept. 2014. Web.

 

[3] Schawbel, David. “Even Millennials Want Face Time at Work.” Time. Time, 2 Sept. 2014. Web.

 

Bright, Brief, & Blunt: Working with a “Red Energy” Leader

Two serious women in a business meeting

A typical workplace always has a few people that lead with red energy.

These are the natural leaders, the people who are unafraid to speak their minds, the highly focused individuals who prefer to get straight to the point. Someone who embraces red energy is oftentimes bold, determined, and goal-oriented. Sound like someone in your workplace? Or do these characteristics, perhaps, describe you?

Red energy is a term coined by a self-evaluation program called Insights® Discovery. Insights® is a science-based assessment tool that helps individuals gain self-awareness and facilitates improved team dynamics and communication. I discuss Insights® Discovery in more detail in a past blog post.

According to the Insights® color model, every person is comprised of four different color energies, but we tend to exhibit one or two colors more than the others. In the case of someone who leads with red, that means a no-nonsense approach to both work and life. Oftentimes, “reds” have trouble understanding the point of small talk or don’t think about others’ feelings when making a decision or a making a statement.

Given these tendencies, what is the best way to effectively work with a red energy leader?

First of all, it’s useful to understand the way red energy people think. To them, small talk wastes time and feelings should not interfere with decision-making. They like honest, straight-forward communication, quick decisions, and action. Although these traits can help make someone an excellent leader, they can also make that person come across as cold, brusque, or hasty.

As a “non-red,” be aware that those who lead with red energy are not typically trying to be bullies. They are driven and vocal, which can be intimidating, but they typically care about what’s best for the company and which path will lead to success (in the quickest, most direct way possible!).  When you know you’re about to meet with a leader who favors red energy, come prepared with bullet points and concise explanations. If, for instance, you’re outlining a new project strategy, keep your explanation brief and bright. Don’t add too many analytical details that will bog down your presentation and make sure you relay your information with confidence.

In a team meeting, attempt to be a bridge-maker. If your red energy leader is rubbing people the wrong way with her bluntness, attempt to mediate the situation. You might say something like, “What I think Mary Leader means to say is X, Y, and Z. Is that correct, Mary?” A simple empathetic statement can help turn a tense meeting into an open dialogue.

On the flip side, if you are a red energy leader, be mindful of your tendencies. Think about how you might channel your natural inclinations in a positive manner when it comes to leadership and decision-making. For instance, it’s great to be assertive, but not aggressive; bold, but mindful of others’ opinions; action-oriented, but not hasty.

Keep in mind that others may not operate or think the same way as you do. What you view as efficient, others might view as cold or uncaring. Instead of focusing solely on results and productivity, shift your lens to the people around you. Ask them questions, attempt to understand their perspective, and begin to get to know them. Spare a few minutes at the start of every meeting for some small talk and get-to-know-you time. Such acts of compassion are anything but time-wasters. These are the tiny gestures that lead to higher overall employee satisfaction and retention. It’s much better to hang on to the employees you have then to constantly recruit, hire, and train new ones.

Those who favor red energy can be excellent leaders. With a little conscious effort to slow down, practice empathy, and engage in an open discussion, red energy leaders can be both well-loved and effective.

 

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