Aug 22, 2019

WATCH: Driving team performance with effective communication

You may remember us talking up Plato’s Elevate a conference a week or so back. It was for a good reason. The panels were interactive and lively, the schedule was brisk and focused, and attendees were smart and committed to building the sorts of authentic, collaborative teams we here at Lingo Live believe deeply in.

We were also fortunate to have the opportunity to host a midday panel. We didn’t write about this last time out because we wanted to show off the video and, hot off the presses, here it is:

Don’t have time to tune in? Well, we’ve got you covered. Here are a few of our favorite bits from the talk:

Nothing hurts a team quite like bad communication

At the risk of being reductive, well-functioning teams just get smart stuff done. But to get to a point where you’re doing smart stuff, you need to communicate about what that stuff is and how you’re going to do it.

Teams that fall down don’t do that. They don’t communicate. We began the panel discussion with a quick overview from Tyler Muse, our CEO, about what you need for successful communication on teams.

You start with trust. If people don’t begin there, everything that’s said is shrouded. After you’ve found trust, you can share perspectives openly, knowing that everyone’s being honest and forthright about the best paths forward. Then, you can have real debate with positive disagreements, make concrete commitments, and execute. What you’ll notice is that if communication breaks down at any step in that process, the outcome suffers.

In the past seven years here at Lingo Live, we’re proud of the work we’ve done fostering the sort of professional, authentic communication that gets things done. It’s why we’re now offering communication coaching in addition to our established language practice. Tyler talked about that new offering in the first five minutes of the video and you can take a look at our page to learn a little bit more about it.

You want consensus. But you can become stagnant if you wait for it.

Our panelists talked a lot about how you build consensus on teams. After all, every team’s more successful when they’re driving at a common goal they agree on and are inspired by.

The tricky part is what happens when a team just can’t find that consensus. How do you solve that? You can’t just sit there waiting for it, hoping that the holdouts agree to a course of action they aren’t that enthused about. And it’s so easy to become incredibly stagnant in the early stages of a project when you’re waiting for that buy-in. Suddenly, a couple weeks have gone by and the team simply hasn’t accomplished anything. So how do fix it?

For starters, this is where managers and team leaders need to lead. Someone has to make the decision and, frankly, that’s their job. Trying to arrive at that consensus is an important part of the puzzle, certainly–it helps build trust and having more perspectives and data does lead to smarter decisions–but if a team is floundering, it’s time for the leader of that team to do what they think is best. It sounds simple, but you really can be paralyzed trying to find something everyone agrees on.

Another smart tip we heard in our panel was figuring out exactly who does this decision matter most to? This really resonated with us. Because sometimes, a project might be something that’s really important to someone who isn’t deputized to make team-wide decisions. But they just care more than the rest of the team does. It could be something they created during a hackathon, for example, and something they will work exceptionally hard trying to make happen. Listen more to the people who care the most. Don’t be afraid to trust them.

Decision making is like a muscle: the more you do it, the stronger it gets

Not every decision you make or every decision your team makes is going to be the right one. Most companies know this and most of them are comfortable with the idea that failures happen. The key is to actually force yourself to both make decisions and to evaluate them.

Our panel likened decision making to a muscle. The more of them you make, the better you get at making them. But it’s crucial, again, that you’re evaluating your decisions. If they go well, understand why. If they go off the rails, understand why. You’ll learn from them either way. You’ll take those learnings and apply them to the next choice you make. Talk about what everyone on the team learned from the outcomes and decisions you make. Essentially: if don’t you exercise your decision-making muscles, they atrophy and you stop moving forward. They don’t all have to work out. But you do need to learn from every one of them.

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