Focusing on Communication and Trust

Focusing on Communication and Trust

Teams should also support each other and achieve more by providing feedback to each other. A team leader helps create the environment where the team readily, effectively, and vulnerably gives and receives feedback to each other.

Team leaders can encourage communication and trust by discussing and learning how to provide feedback to each other and using the +EBI (a positive and even better if…) method.In Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, you can learn how the actions or of team members leads to destructive conflict, lack of commitment, lack of accountability to each other, and ineffective results.

These issues are usually triggered by a lack of trust. If team members would simply talk to each other and provide feedback they could learn how they can work better together.But how can teams focus on communication and trust right now, especially when many teams are working fully remote for the first time? I strongly suggest you start practicing feedback in a few different ways.

TRUST ONE ANOTHER THROUGH SHARING.

To build trust, each team member (including the Manager!) needs to be genuinely transparent and honest with each other. Easily said but not that easily done, especially if currently the lack of trust is deep. So, here’s a feedback action to take with your team:

Make sure the team has an opportunity to interact not only in the context of work, but also as human beings where they can get to know each other better. One tried and tested exercise is to have a non-work related video conference meetings frequently where team members can share a little about their personal history. Then encourage the rest of the team to respond considering what it meant to them, how they had a similar story, etc. Yes, this puts each member of the team into a vulnerable position but that creates the strongest type of trust.

ENGAGE IN CONFLICT AND PROVIDE FEEDBACK AROUND IDEAS.

When there is trust, team members are more likely to engage in constructive debate and feedback around ideas proposed by their peers or you, the Manager. Here’s an action to help engage your team in constructive conflict:

Welcome new ideas and when team members bring one to the table, talk about it as a team, don’t shut it down without questioning and understanding. Have the “owner” of the idea present it and ask all other team members to only ask questions instead of responding.  Questioning as a form of feedback creates dialogue and healthy debate and allows each team member to be involved in the discussion. You can do this over a video call where each person can see others and provide undivided focus to the discussion at hand.

COMMIT TO DECISIONS THROUGH FEEDBACK.

When team members can provide feedback whether through questioning or statements, they are more likely to commit to decisions. Let’s be clear, committing is not necessarily agreeing – but when they have an opportunity to let their voice be heard, they feel more comfortable committing to something even when they might not necessarily agree with it. Here’s an action to help integrate feedback into the process of committing:

Once a decision is made, go around to each team member one more time and allow them to provide any additional feedback. Not for further debate, but to gauge the level of commitment. You’ll be surprised how many team members are willing to move the decision and action forward.

HOLD ONE ANOTHER ACCOUNTABLE THROUGH FEEDBACK.

When everyone is committed to a decision and the needed actions to make it happen, they will be more willing to hold each other accountable. Here’s an action to ensure feedback is part of that:

Schedule and hold regular check-ins to get updates on timelines and actions taken. If something didn’t happen, the team can talk about it and provide feedback rather than letting it “slide through the cracks”. It's easier for things to slip when your team is adjusting to new working circumstances, balancing life and work differently, and adapting to less face-to-face interaction. By setting a designated meeting time to discuss important projects and actions, it presents the team with an opportunity to continue to hold each other accountable.

PROVIDE FEEDBACK ON COLLECTIVE RESULTS.

The goal of building trust, conflict, commitment, and accountability is not only for team building and moral but achieving results. Here’s how feedback and results go hand in hand:

Provide feedback through an “after-action review” with the team that is scheduled and expected to occur at the close of the project or initiative. Have all team members provide feedback on each other – both positive and constructive. Most importantly (and often missed) is celebrating collective success, make sure to plan gatherings with your remote team! If you're celebrating from afar, it's a great opportunity to get creative in recognising others for great work. As the manager, you could send handwritten notes through the mail or ‘ecards’ to recognise a job well done.

We count on our teams to help power our organisations through turbulence and change. The virtual environments many of us find ourselves in right now won't stop us from improving communication and trust. Asking for and receiving feedback on a frequent basis really is a game changer for every single person working on a team.

Kate Sparkes

Kate Sparkes

Head of HR

10 May 2020