The Consequences of Ineffective Business Communication

When did communication become a transaction rather than an interaction?

Communication should be a shared understanding between sender and receiver, and over time, some people seem to have lost their way. Instead of creating a mutual understanding to drive desired outcomes, too many people fire off messages regardless of how they may be received.

Also, advanced technology and the shift from in-person to hybrid work environments play a significant part in the disconnect between communication and successful outcomes. Ready for the scary part? U.S. businesses lose $1.2 trillion every year to unsuccessful communication practices!

Recognizing the consequences of ineffective communication and learning effective communication tools and practices helps leaders keep their top talent and ensures their business continues to grow.

The challenges of poor communication

Grammarly surveyed 251 business leaders and 1,001 knowledge workers in the US to find out what is getting in the way of collaboration and productivity.

What was the root problem? Ineffective communication!

The majority of knowledge workers (86%) reported spending half their workweek (20 hours!) experiencing communication issues, including:

  • Not receiving timely responses from others
  • Communicating clearly, so receivers understand the message
  • Understanding messages received
  • Keeping up with the frequency of communication
  • Identifying the proper tone to use in messages
  • Choosing the right platform or tool for communication
  • Difficulty understanding next steps or responsibilities

Business leaders believe that they and their teams spend too much time and energy resolving miscommunications every week. By spending too much time on miscommunications, business leaders shuffle around to manage negative consequences instead of helping their team pave a path forward and work together.

Consequences of ineffective communication

Where does all the lost time go?

It’s spent resolving communication issues, addressing mistakes caused by misunderstandings, and following up on unmet deadlines and deliverables. Activities like these can take up to 19% of your team’s workweek. However, the time is lost, not free. Businesses risk losing as much as $47.37 per employee each day due to poor business communication–that’s $12,506 per employee a year!

The price only skyrockets when you consider that the time lost could have been put to use in more productive areas. Instead of closing new deals and enhancing the client experience, leaders find themselves losing business from unmet deadlines and unsatisfied clients.

These consequences are interconnected and can make you feel like you’re in a negative feedback loop. Imagine you are finally back on track and starting a new project. What if you have difficulty understanding your next steps or responsibilities due to poor communication? You’re back to stage one: resolving communication issues and trying to understand what to do next!

Quit resolving problems and start implementing solutions

Organizations need to proactively manage ineffective communications and implement practices to increase the amount of time spent communicating effectively. Try these strategies to get your team on the same page:

  1. Consider your tone and timing: What you are saying and how you say it is important. Create a culture around communication, set guidelines to nurture empathy and emotional intelligence, and build awareness of tone and timing. Once you do this, you’ll help your company and team members communicate better.
  2. Curate and clarify communication channels: There are various ways to communicate internally. To do this, define the purpose of each channel so your team can quickly identify the most appropriate channel for their message. When you strategically organize your tech tools, teams streamline and enable better communication.
  3. Understand your audience: Everyone has a different kind of communication style. If you have a coworker who needs a lot of information, communicate with more detail and instruction. If another person experiences information overload often, be clear and concise in your messaging.
  4. Be attentive: Someone may seem like they’re listening, but listening and paying attention are not the same thing. Often, people overlook this simple tip, but it’s all about actively listening and staying attentive when interacting with others.
  5. Be clear: Clarity is the most critical part of effective communication. While speaking or writing, be clear about what you want to convey. However, there’s always the possibility someone will still not understand, so encourage your team to ask questions to ensure shared understanding.
  6. Empower those in the middle: Your middle managers are the messengers throughout your organization, so empower them with effective communication strategies. This will equip them to deliver consistent messages and provide answers to any emerging questions or needs. Also, hold regular meetings to provide updates or information they can share with their teams. When your managers are in the know, you’ll notice more consistency and less misinformation.

Lead effectively

Business communication is the backbone of your company’s ability to innovate, collaborate, perform, and achieve successful outcomes. It is an exchange that takes up a lot of time and energy from your team’s workweek; therefore, it’s essential to have solid communication!

When you practice and implement effective communication in your company, you are not merely cleaning up processes and removing friction. You become a leader that can manage the present, handle the unpredictable, and sustain a talented team that will help you pave a path to a brighter future.

 

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Photo by bowie15

Show Some Appreciation on Employee Appreciation Day (and Beyond)

You have an awesome team that works hard and exemplifies your company values day after day and year after year. But in the hustle and bustle of the everyday grind, it can be easy to forget to show your employees the appreciation they deserve.

Employee Appreciation Day, which falls on the first Friday of every March, is an opportunity for managers, employers, leadership, and human resources to remember the importance of appreciating their employees. Studies have shown that appreciation builds trust, boosts productivity, and decreases turnover—after all, who doesn’t like to feel appreciated?

Below are some great ways to engage in the appreciation of your employees, showing them how much you care.

Touch base with your employees often

Treating your employees like items to check off on a to-do list might be easier for your productivity, but it does not make them feel appreciated. Take time to talk with your employees, whether it’s something as simple as saying “Good morning” or asking “How are you?”, writing a thank you note, talking to them in a quick Zoom call, or by setting aside some one-on-one time to check in with how projects, or life, is going. Building relationships by intentionally seeking out time to connect is a great way to make employees feel seen and appreciated.

Treat your team to fun activities

If your team is still working from home, you can host a virtual picnic, happy hour, or team lunch/dinner. You can also do a little team bonding by playing virtual online games together or doing a virtual karaoke session. 

Give meaningful feedback

Have you ever been told “great job!” without any explanation as to why you did a great job? While it may feel good, it’s not all that helpful. Telling your employees “great job!” is all well and good, but make sure to give meaningful feedback they can glean concrete information from. When talking with your employees, take time to address their professional development, what they’re doing well, and where they need to improve. Engaging in a conversation about their growth shows them you want them to succeed on a personal level.

Offer extra time off

Did your employees work extra hard and go above and beyond on a project or campaign? Reward them with a few extra days off or even a whole week off! They will appreciate the spare time to rest, recharge, and spend time with their friends and loved ones.

Create and build a culture around appreciation

Appreciation is the most impactful when it is already built in your company culture and it’s an expectation, instead of an afterthought. Consider offering opportunities for growth and advancement, like regular training courses, opportunities for mentorship, and employee recognition programs that offer perks for participation. When employees are offered opportunities to learn and grow, they will give their best selves to your company. 

Be flexible

No, we’re not telling you to be able to touch your shoulder with your foot. We mean flexible in the sense of allowing your employees to have time to take breaks whenever needed, giving them a no-meetings day, letting them log off early, or letting them choose what days they want to work during the week. Employees who are empowered to manage their own time will be more engaged and productive.

Celebrate life milestones

You don’t have to make everything all about work! Celebrate whenever significant events happen—like the birth of a child or the addition of a new furry friend, like a dog or cat. You can also celebrate the little things, like holidays, birthdays, or work anniversaries. Work can be a place of community, where everyone shares in each other’s successes.

Give thanks to your employees every day of the year

While there is a day set aside to specifically celebrate employees, don’t keep silent the remaining 364 days of the year. Your team is there every day for you, working hard and supporting you and your company goals and values. Show them just how much you appreciate them, and in return, you will have a well-rounded company and a coveted culture.

 

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Photo by fizkes

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of “I Don’t Know”

When we’re kids, asking questions comes naturally to us. Anyone who’s ever met a toddler would recognize the endless “Why, why, why” anywhere. But somewhere along the way, many of us begin to censor our questions. The reasons change for us as we grow:

  • We become afraid.
  • We don’t want to look stupid in front of our friends.
  • We don’t want to appear like we don’t know how to do our jobs.
  • We’re don’t want to look incompetent.

This is a habit that builds up slowly over time. It’s related directly to insecurity, which can be challenging to face. And for those of us who have a hard time admitting to others that we don’t know, it can be hard to admit to ourselves when we’re avoiding the truth.

Holding back hurts more than it helps

When we hold in the fact that we don’t know, we do things like nod along when we’re really lost in meetings. Or we say we’re fine to start on a project before we have all the information we need. These reactions will eventually compound on themselves, making it even more difficult to do our jobs. Think about it:

  1. You say you understand a request before you do.
  2. You start working on it with only a partial understanding of the desired outcome.
  3. You flounder, spend way too much time trying to come up with a result that makes sense.
  4. You eventually hand it back to your team only to have it handed back to you, and the whole process starts over again.

The desire to react in a way that shows your competence is extremely human and very normal. However, when we allow this reaction to begin working its way into how we navigate our jobs, it has the exact opposite effect we want it to have.

When we are too afraid to ask questions, we limit ourselves to the tools we already have. We remove any possibility of gaining more understanding, cutting ourselves off from learning and development, stagnating our growth.

You’ve got the power

Saying “I don’t know” does not make you weak. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Learning to say “I don’t know” actually gives you power!

  • It provides an opportunity for you to develop relationships with your colleagues, creating space for collaboration and connection.
  • It empowers your teammates to ask the questions they might be holding back.
  • It encourages deeper critical thinking and more intentional decision-making.
  • It challenges your team to fill in the gaps, define foggy reasoning, and find more effective solutions.
  • It gives you a chance to learn and grow.

If you find yourself constantly reaching for an answer, even when there isn’t one, then you may want to evaluate your motives. Are you trying to position yourself as a leader? Are you attempting to look competent and knowledgeable? Are you worried your job will be in jeopardy if you reveal you don’t have the answer to something?

If any of these ring true, then consider two things:

  • Are you in a toxic workplace that discourages people from asking for help? Will your job really be affected if you ask questions? Are your colleagues going to stop trusting you if you say you don’t know something? If so, it’s time to find a better, healthier workplace.
  • If the above doesn’t seem right, it may be time to have a conversation with yourself. Ask yourself why you’re motivated to fill in the blank when you don’t have a real answer. Dig into what’s driving you. Find out what you’re afraid of and face it.

No such thing as a foolish question

Next time you feel yourself searching for an answer that isn’t there, or suppressing a question that’s arising, take a moment to pause and consider. Is your question foolish? Probably not. Try taking a risk and asking, then pay attention to what happens afterward.

Did the sky fall? Did you lose your job? Or did your team member light up and give a great answer that started a lively discussion? Did you get what you needed?

Do you feel more empowered now that you have an answer?

You deserve to feel secure in your knowledge and in what you bring to the table. Each of us comes with our strengths, and you have yours. Asking questions is a part of life, and it doesn’t detract from who we are or how capable we are of getting the job done. It does the opposite. It’s a part of growth. And it’s a crucial part of allowing yourself to be human, happy, and successful.

 

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Why Your Team Needs a Boost in Emotional Intelligence

When talking about intelligence, most people think of intelligence quotient, or IQ. But what if another type of intelligence could push your team to extraordinary results?

The Institute for Health Human Potential states that over 80 percent of competencies that differentiate top performers from others are in the domain of emotional intelligence (EI), which refers to the ability to identify, understand, and manage our own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.

There is debate whether people are born with natural emotional intelligence or not, but you can lead your team to extraordinary results by teaching and developing EI awareness in your organization. An excellent example of seeing this in practice is a Motorola manufacturing facility that provided training in stress management and emotional intelligence. A stunning 93 percent of employees had an increase in productivity.

Build your business by taking the first steps in cultivating emotional intelligence within your team. First, reflect on your own EI, and then consider teaching emotional intelligence principles to the people in your organization.

Are you emotionally intelligent?

Let’s play a game! Put your hand up and put a finger down for every statement you identify with.

  1. You see patterns in your motives and behaviors and understand how your emotions and actions impact those around you.
  2. You can self-regulate your emotions in proportion to the given circumstances. Perhaps, you know how to ease tension, manage conflict, cope with challenging scenarios, and adapt to changes in your environment.
  3. You are intrinsically motivated and strive for personal development.
  4. When trying to understand where someone is coming from, you can draw on your life experiences and be compassionate about what they are going through.
  5. You are a team player. You understand others and their needs in a conversation or conflict.

Suppose you put all five fingers down. Great! You align with the five components of EI—self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. But don’t stress if you still have some fingers up because these are skills you can learn and develop.

Prioritize emotional intelligence training in business

Keeping emotions in check is vital for the whole team. When emotions run high, they change how our brains function by diminishing cognitive abilities, interpersonal skills, and decision-making powers. However, recognizing and managing emotions can elevate team performance and the company’s success.

The Institute of Health Human Potential reported that people with higher EIs:

  • Manage emotions when stressed or feeling overwhelmed
  • Resolve conflicts 
  • Coach and motivate others
  • Create a culture of collaboration
  • Build psychological safety within teams
  • Give and receive feedback
  • Meet tight deadlines
  • Deal with challenging relationships
  • Navigate change
  • Work through setbacks and failure

Teach others EI

Although some individuals are naturally more emotionally intelligent than others, EI is a skill that can be developed. EI training programs are abundant, and there are terrific tips for boosting your emotional intelligence and teaching your staff to increase theirs as well.

Become more self-aware

  1. Pay attention to how you feel throughout the day and recognize how your emotions influence your decisions and actions.
  2. Identify and understand your emotional strengths and weaknesses. How well do you communicate with others under stress?
  3. Understand that emotions can be fleeting and easily changed because rash decisions based on intense emotions can be detrimental to your success.

Practice self-regulation

  1. Find techniques that help you deal with your work-related stress, like exercise, hobbies, and family time.
  2. Keep your cool! You cannot control everything. Look for helpful ways to deal with stress.
  3. Give yourself time to think and plan before letting your emotions rule your decisions.

Improve your social skills

  1. Listen actively and attentively to your team members, peers, and employers. It shows passion and willingness to work with others.
  2. Keep an eye out for non-verbal communication.
  3. Avoid office drama! Conflict is inevitable, but you can focus on listening to others and seeing solutions to solve problems and minimize tension.

Become more empathetic

  1. Put yourself in others’ shoes.
  2. Pay attention to how you respond to others. Do you give others a chance to share their ideas? Do you acknowledge input, even in disagreement?

Work on your motivation

  1. Focus on what you enjoy about your job rather than what you dislike.
  2. Work to maintain a positive, optimistic attitude. Optimistic people tend to inspire and motivate others; be that person!

Imagine a more intelligent world

The simple act of drawing attention to the EI principles and having a brief conversation with the team will help elevate awareness of their behaviors and responses. Imagine what your team could achieve if everyone practiced the five components of emotional intelligence – self-awareness, self-regulation, social skills, empathy, and motivation.

You would notice your team working together rather than against one another. You would see your people not only handling stressful situations and conflict but persevering to reach company goals. You would recognize a genuine and authentic team built on empathy and understanding one another. Most importantly, you will be a company that thrives together!

 

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Support Employees During National Disability Employment Awareness Month

A good indicator of a strong workplace culture is its commitment to diversity and inclusion, where your employees feel comfortable coming to you to voice their opinions and concerns. When employees work in an environment where they feel valued, productivity increases.

Employees with disabilities contribute to the workplace in many ways, and National Disability Employment Awareness Month recognizes this.

What is National Disability Employment Awareness Month?

National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) was established in 1988 by the United States Congress to take place during October of every year. It commemorates the contributions of people with disabilities to the US economy and workplaces and reaffirms their commitment to providing equal opportunities for all citizens.

Disability statistics to keep in mind

To create a clear understanding of the relevant challenges people with disabilities in the workplace face daily, here are some vital statistics to keep in mind:

Use NDEAM as a catalyst to support employees with disabilities all year

Review your company policies

NDEAM is an excellent time to review company policies to make sure they display a commitment to having an inclusive company culture.

Establish an employee resource group (ERG)

You can launch a disability Employee Resource Group, or ERG. ERGs offer employees an opportunity to connect and receive support from others with similar backgrounds or interests. If your company has an established ERG, use NDEAM to remind employees of the resource.

Create a display

Make a display on your breakroom bulletin boards or in other places that employees frequently visit. Post positive messages about how your company provides an inclusive workforce on all levels.

Train supervisors and educate employees

Both supervisors and employees have an impact on company culture and inclusion. During NDEAM, conduct training such as:

Publish content

You can publish content such as blogs, videos, or a website page that is related to topics like:

  • Your company’s commitment to inclusivity
  • The process to request reasonable accommodations
  • Recognizing the contributions of important leaders in the disability rights movement

Drive a social media campaign

NDEAM provides resources, such as posts and images, to use on your company’s preferred social media platforms. Use the provided posts and tweets with the suggested hashtag #NDEAM to spread awareness.

Issue a press release

Employers can issue a press release to announce their involvement in NDEAM. A “fill-in-the-blank” template is available for your marketing team to use, courtesy of the Department of Labor.

Volunteer to participate in Disability Mentoring Day

Disability Mentoring Day promotes career development for youth with disabilities through:

  • Hands-on programs
  • Job shadowing
  • Ongoing mentoring

Disability Mentoring Day is observed on the third Wednesday of each October, but you can host your own event any day of October or during any month of the year.

 

Strive toward an inclusive workplace

 

Even though NDEAM takes place during the month of October, inclusivity and recognizing the contributions of your employees with disabilities is important every month and every day of the year. A workplace where everyone feels like a valued team member contributes to a strong, healthy company culture and empowers employees to go above and beyond for you, their team members, and the company.

 

And a workplace where all employees feel valued and empowered is something every employer should strive toward!

 

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A Positive Company Culture Offers Far More than Just the Soft Stuff

Company culture is often labeled as the “soft stuff” in business, yet companies that take their cultures seriously see it as an investment.

The hard truth is that cultivating culture pays off. For example, in a 2018 report, Forbes found that companies with strong cultures saw a 4x increase in revenue growth. And job turnover was a mere 13.9 percent, compared to their counterparts at 48.4 percent turnover.

Why is this, though? A positive company culture impacts company success and client experience because it encourages and fosters employee motivation, engagement, commitment, and ultimately, productivity.

Employee motivation

Many people choose the companies they want to work for based on culture. Perhaps they identify with the company values and see a good fit for themselves in that environment. That can be a strong motivating factor for taking the role and wanting to continue being a part of the team.

Motivation only goes upward from there!

When a company culture is truly embedded into the organization, employees will identify with it. Culture-focused organizations will help their employees see the impact their individual work has on the larger purpose of the organization. And when people have a sense of purpose in their work, they are more driven than their zero culture counterparts.

Employee engagement

Engaged workplaces are 21% more profitable. And who doesn’t want that?! Employee engagement stems from culture, and when culture is strong and people feel a sense of belonging, they are more collaborative and productive. When a culture encourages people to express themselves, voice their ideas, and actively listen, they can help but feel more engaged and comfortable.

And if that wasn’t enough, a company culture that values employees naturally produces employees who value their clients. They care about the company and its clients because engagement translates into an employee’s emotional commitment. They will engage authentically and go above and beyond to deliver a better client experience when they are emotionally invested in their roles.

Employee Commitment

A strong company culture leads to employee commitment and retention. If a company fosters a culture of continuous learning and personal growth, employees are able to view their career as a long-term investment and take pride in it. When the culture encourages and practices personal development, employees are much less likely to be out looking for other job opportunities.

On the other hand, when companies have a poor culture, 48% of employees will start looking for a job. And while job hunting, they’re not thinking about your company or your clients as their top priority. So not only do you lose the productivity when the job-hunting employee leaves, but you’ve started losing productivity from them long before they walk out the door for that next job.

The ultimate impact

Once a positive company culture achieves employee motivation, engagement, and commitment, the culture can then begin fostering high-performance teams and productivity. Motivated employees are committed to the organization’s goals and perform their tasks full-heartedly.

Spend a few minutes reflecting on your company culture. How healthy is it? How engaged are your employees? How committed are they to the work your company does and the clients you serve?

If you’re feeling at all uncomfortable with your answers or you simply don’t know the answers, then spend some time planning.

  • Get started by writing a description of your culture today – being completely honest about the ups and downs.
  • And then write a description of your ideal culture and how you would like it to be.
  • Bring your team together and get honest with them about what you see today and what you’d like to see the culture move to.

When people see and feel your vision, they are much more likely to participate in making it a reality. As a team, start looking for ways to turn it around. Don’t try to tackle it all at once. Make small changes and let them become “normal.” Then make more small changes. Then a few more.

Soon, you’ll find yourself with a strong culture where people want to come to work and want to refer their friends to come and join them – the ultimate compliment to a strong company culture!

Companies who make the investment into a culture-first work environment have seen a staggering 682% increase in revenue growth! How would you like to see that added to your bottom line?

 

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Lead Your Team Through Four Stages of Team Development

Sometimes leading a small, growing company is like working as a rollercoaster attendant. You are constantly watching the twists and turns and the ups and downs. Through all this turbulence and volatility – and motion sickness – you will see teams make or break it, and people come and go faster than business cards can be printed.

 

Turnover and change make it difficult to form cohesive teams that are able to perform effectively. What if there was a model of team development that could help you lead a team to achieve, grow, face challenges, tackle problems, find solutions, and deliver results?

 

Apply the Forming – Storming – Norming – Performing model of team development and give your team a path to follow on their way to high-performance.

 

After applying, enjoy the benefits of identifying and understanding why team behavior changes so you can maximize team processes and productivity.

 

Forming

 

When teams form, people come together with excitement and positive expectations for the team experience. You will see people on their best behavior while they seek out similar people with shared needs.

 

At the same time, members may feel anxiety, confusion, and ambiguity since they are a group of strangers with little agreement or team purpose. They may question their “fit” in the team or if their performance will measure up.

 

Everyone at one point in their life experiences this excitement and anxiety when forming a new team, making it critical for the leader to provide guidance and direction. Use this time to guide the team to create clear structures, goals, direction, and roles so members begin to build trust and confidence.

 

Storming

 

Conflict and friction are inevitable when relationship styles, work ethics, and communication patterns arise and clash. For example, people may challenge each other for power or clash over team processes.

 

Lead your team to persevere through this phase because it can make or break a team! Lead your team through storming and learn the skills necessary to push through. If this phase is skipped, the group will keep revisiting until the skills are gained, such as task-related skills, group process, and conflict management skills.

 

Fortunately, storming is not always “glass half empty.” A little friction can be good. For example, conflict can reveal issues to solve innovatively and collaboratively and spur thought-provoking and challenging conversations. This respectful disagreement can increase a team’s open-mindedness and consideration of others’ thoughts and ideas. 

 

Norming

 

If you are norming, you will most likely notice team members solving personal clashes between their expectations and the reality of the team’s experience. But the storm passing over does not mean your work is over yet.

 

Encourage your team to set more flexible and inclusive norms and expectations, making the team stronger and more comfortable voicing their concerns and exchanging constructive criticism.

 

Once team members have established these norms and ground rules, they can re-focus on the team’s tasks as they persevere in becoming a high-performance team.

 

Finally, the team is performing!

 

You will know when your team reaches the performing stage when everyone feels satisfied with their team’s progress and comes together to be “greater than the sum of its parts.” They will share insights into personal and group processes and have a visible “can do” attitude. Roles will become more fluid as members take on various responsibilities as needed, and differences among the members are celebrated and used to enhance the team’s performance. For example, people will balance each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

 

Do not stop there, though. Team commitment and competence are strong, but there is always more opportunity to deepen individual skills and abilities, including continuously improving team development.

 

Celebrate

 

You cannot switch on teamwork. It takes time and team building for a team to move from strangers to collaborative co-workers. The progression through these phases is essential in ensuring that a group becomes a cohesive, functional unit. 

 

Imagine the positive impact it will make on your company. You can lead your team to perform optimally and manage crises, and you can foster an inclusive and equitable environment that celebrates difference, collaboration, and accountability.

 

 

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Facing Challenges as a High-Performance Team

Imagine your team works on a project or goal, and they need to get from point A to point B. Do you believe the bridge between the two points provides the necessary support to carry your team over? What if an obstacle is thrown their way?

Perhaps an essential team member calls out sick, and the team depends on them to reach a deadline. This is when your team will show whether they are a high-performing team or merely highly productive.

You can have intelligent, capable, and productive individuals on your team, but if they cannot persevere through challenges, it is time to foster a high-performance team. This is possible by establishing the primary components of a high-performance team: a positive work environment, collaborative problem-solving, and leadership.

Positive work environment

The first component of a high-performance team is having a positive work environment. Start by creating ground rules to establish the values of the group. The ground rules communicate personal behavior expectations that reflect the team’s values.

And how your team handles emerging challenges depends on your team culture!

For example, if a team values learning and openness to new approaches, they would expect others to ask questions and offer guidance while promoting curiosity.

Foster a team identity built on a commitment to a shared goal or vision. Strong team identities are built on listening, trust, respect, and understanding strengths and diversity. These values are critical for working interdependently because they enable people to rely on one another.

Collaborative problem-solving

By fostering listening skills, trust, and team identity, a team can problem-solve collaboratively. Problem-solving demands an exchange of ideas, which is possible only if team members work hard to listen to perspectives that are different from their own. An excellent way to approach collaborative problem-solving is by using divergent and convergent thinking strategies.

Divergent thinking helps high-performing teams identify many solutions to
a potential problem. The spirit of the activity is to defer judgment and encourage contributions in a free-flowing and creative way. There are
many exercises you can use to promote divergent thinking:

  • Letting your team have time to think about the problem
  • Making lists of the potential solutions to the problem
  • Doing verbal brainstorming or mind-mapping

Once you have a solid set of potential solutions, the team moves into the convergent thinking stage, where they work together to:

  • Narrow down options
  • Decide on the best solution
  • Reach a consensus based on a benefit and risk analysis

When you have fostered a healthy team environment, the inevitable conflict will be manageable through your ground rules of mutual respect. Create a positive work environment with strong listening skills and team identity and you will see your teams making decisions and action plans to face challenges head-on in a collaborative way.

Leadership

Leadership helps provide the bridge’s strength and support to push a team to persevere when faced with a challenge. The leader creates a positive work environment and encourages collaborative problem-solving while nurturing their team’s capabilities. Remember that leaders are not always the boss; you can have a de-facto leader on your team too!

Leaders contribute to high-performance teams by attending to the team’s health, maintaining the strategic vision, supporting team members individually, demonstrating and encouraging accountability, and modeling the way through behavior and action.

Be the three-legged stool

Although the three primary components of a high-performance team are fostered separately, they all depend on each other like the three legs of a stool. If one leg is not stable, the others will not be either. Nurture all three components and embrace challenges head-on!

 

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Take the Formality Out of Performance Reviews

Let’s see if this scenario is familiar.

You call your employee into your office. You review their strengths and weaknesses, assess their performance, and set goals. You may even use a rating scale to show the employee if they met, exceeded, or failed to meet expectations.

You’ve just conducted a formal performance review, and when it comes to this process, organizations lose anywhere from $2.4 million to $35 million a year in working hours for employees to participate in reviews. Yet 72% of companies still conduct annual performance reviews.

So maybe it’s the process of conducting performance reviews and not the reviews themselves that need to be changed.

What should be included in a performance review?

You may hear performance review and professional development used interchangeably. But they are two different things. A performance review measures past performance and how well an employee performed in their expected role; professional development looks forward and inspires employees to improve.

Both have their place, but a performance review is geared toward just that: Performance. Consider these things as you’re conducting reviews:

Ask questions 

To ensure there are no surprises, send the review agenda to your team member beforehand, so they’ll know what will be discussed. Ask them to provide feedback about the agenda; doing so gives them co-ownership of the conversation.

During the review, ask open-ended questions to gain the best responses. Close-ended questions that only allow a yes or no answer won’t allow opportunity for insight and make the review unnecessarily formal.

Here are some questions you can ask:

  • What accomplishments are you the proudest of?
  • What goals did you meet?
  • What skills do you have that we can use more effectively?
  • What about your role helps the company succeed?

You can also allow employees to do regular self-evaluation. While there are myths surrounding self-evaluations like “Employees only want to explain away their bad performance,” reflecting helps make employees happier and less likely to burn out. When coupled with an open and honest culture, self-evaluations will also be open and honest.

Consider doing a weekly check-in with self-reflection questions that look back at performance and how well team members feel they did over the past week:

  • Did you complete your ONE THING item from last week?
  • What was your greatest success over the past week?
  • What was your biggest challenge over the past week?
  • What did you learn this week through training and insight?
  • What is the ONE THING you must accomplish over this coming week?

You can use/revise this template or any number of templates you can find on the web by searching the term “employee self-evaluation template.” Choose whatever fits your company culture.

Treat performance reviews like conversations

Think of a review like a conversation, and it will remove any stress or burdens on you and your team members. But keep in mind exactly how you word things. Even things you meant as praise could be misconstrued as negative feedback if not worded correctly. Avoid:

  • Definitive terms like always and never
  • Subjective terms like rude, polite, and enthusiastic
  • Vague terms like good and poor

Instead, go further and use phrases like:

  • “I encourage you to continue [doing this action]. It provides good results for the team.”
  • “When you contact a customer after a sale is closed to ask them if they need anything, that shows you go above and beyond.”
  • “I advise you to stop [doing this action]. It results in [this consequence].”

You can also keep the review language and tone conversational by:

  • Not using a formal rating system
  • Making clear what factors of the review are tied to employee raises
  • Assuring employees this is a check-in as opposed to a performance judgment
  • Focusing on creating a culture of listening and growth
  • Having open conversations as opposed to formal discussions

Consider your cadence

Having a performance review once a year is a traditional approach. But that may not work for your organization. Think about what would be the best: Quarterly reviews? Monthly? Weekly? Consider your current framework and process and adjust accordingly.

Also, couple reviews with open feedback. When leaders provide their team with frequent and honest feedback, your team is more likely to be motivated and engaged at work.

Show your appreciation

No matter what kinds of questions you ask and how often you conduct reviews, they aren’t just about formality, ratings, and numbers. They are a way to show your employees appreciation for their work and help both you and them develop a better future. And that is a good thing.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Somsak Sudthangtum

Make It as Simple as PB&J

A few years ago, a comedian took a video of himself with his two children as he followed their written instructions to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. In the video, he follows his kids’ instructions exactly. As you might have guessed, it goes rather poorly.

Instruction: Put the peanut butter on the bread.

Dad: Puts the jar of peanut butter on the slice of bread.

Instruction: Take one piece of bread, spread it around with the butter knife.

Dad: Takes a plain piece of bread and spreads it around on the counter using a butter knife.

Instruction: Get some jelly, rub it on the other half of the bread.

Dad: Rubs the jar of jelly on the other slice of bread.

And so it goes. Complete chaos. While this video is hilarious, it speaks to a fairly common issue in the world of business. How often do we give or receive instructions that are lacking? If you’ve ever had to build a complicated piece of furniture from Ikea, you know the utter rage such things can incite. Despite the fact that Ikea does everything it can to make its instructions perfect—pictures and all.

It’s not that simple

How often do we leave gaps in our explanations, and send someone off with instructions made up of 50% assumptions that they think the same way we do or know the same things we do? It’s not surprising, really. Writing instructions—good instructions—is tedious. It’s boring. We already know what we’re asking for, leaving us inclined to leave out the obvious.

But not everyone has the same brain, the same frame of mind, or the same references. This means leaving out what’s obvious for you could be leaving out a key ingredient for the reader.

It’s all in the details

When you hire a new employee, change leadership, or implement a new piece of technology, how common is it for things to go awry? Think about how easy it is for roles to get mixed up or tasks to be incorrectly completed. This type of thing doesn’t just frustrate everyone—it wastes time and money. And the worst part is, it’s avoidable. If only you had prepared thorough instructions.

So next time you’re writing out instructions, follow these steps:

  1. Write down everything.
  2. Don’t skip anything.
  3. Walk yourself through the instructions after you’ve written them. Take them literally.
  4. Ask someone else to read through them and look for gaps.
  5. Treat it like you’re talking to an alien. Don’t assume they know what anything means.

This isn’t a flashy topic, but it’s an essential one. While you’ve been trained to do many things, you’ve probably never been trained to write instructions. We all just assume everyone knows how—but they don’t really. Because “common sense” is dependent on common experience—and those aren’t the same for everyone.

Next time you’re writing instructions, ask yourself: is it worth a short amount of tedium now to be as detailed as possible, or a more frustrated, repeated tedium later when you have to start over? The answer is obvious.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Iurii Golub