How many times there were things that you wanted to say to your teammates, but you didn’t voice them out? How many times you had a feeling that your teammates don’t agree with you, but they didn’t say anything?
Every team is like a small community. They bring their values and beliefs inside the team, as well as, their fears and expectations, their goals and aspirations, their personalities and their working styles. After some time the team starts creating their own ways of doing things and their unique organizational culture. They set and shape new values, principles, working practices and set of decisions that are a combination of each team member.
It is like a living organism. Those values are constantly changing and shaping itself, since they are being influenced by the environment or the external factors, like new members joining the team or some of the current ones leaving it.
Organization/team and its communication go hand in hand
If we use the organism metaphor, the different organs would be the team members representing different roles and their purposes. Each organ has a different role – the liver purifies the organism from toxins and controls the metabolism, the brain is the body’s main control center and the heart pumps blood to give energy to all organs.
Similar to that, each trainer or youth worker is responsible for a set of responsibilities: to deliver part of the content and to support the reflections of the participants, to deliver learning, to coordinate the agenda, the content and/or the youth leaders.
Communication is the connection between all the team members and good communication gives them the needed input and information.
Different books and authors explore how organizational culture shapes communication channels. In the book Reinventing Organizations, the author Frederic Laloux is explaining the “Teal” organizations which is used as a synonym for the next generation of organizations. The internal communication in a team or organization is determent by the principles that the organization sets.
In the “teal” organizations those principles are:
Self-management where the organizational effectiveness is achieved because of the peer relationships, without the need for hierarchy or consensus.
Wholeness where it is welcomed to show intuitive, emotional and spiritual parts of ourselves and not hide our vulnerabilities, doubts, or disagreements.
Evolutionary purpose in terms of having a life and a sense of direction of its own. Instead of trying to control and predict the future, the members of the team are invited to contribute to the purpose and natural growth.
It makes sense that a lot more openness, regular communication and coordination will be needed if there is no hierarchy in the team. If there is no structure, then the roles and responsibilities must be really clear to everyone, and the accountability of each team member should be on a really high level. They believe that they can achieve this by being your whole self and growing within the team.
In Resonant leadership from Boyatzis and McKee, the authors place the relationship between the team members as a focal point. By creating resonating relationships between the team members, we create our own reality, we learn about the world around us, a reality that is consisted of what people think, feel and do. Based on this information we form our opinions, worldview and create new ideas. Being aware and attentive helps us to listen and understand people who think differently than us.
Both of these books explore that if we have a better understanding of ourselves and a better understanding of our environment and the people around us, our communication would be improved. So what kind of principles or practices we can use in order to develop more resonating relationships in our team?
Principles of how teams work and communicate are always unique. Each team has to openly talk and set its own principles. Usually, this is being done in the beginning when a team or organization is starting their work together and it is highly recommended to do it on annual basis.
Lack of hierarchy, but clarity in roles and responsibilities. Many of the modern organizations are abandoning the strict and heavy on rules hierarchies and structures, and they are developing more flat oriented organizations. This doesn’t mean that there is no clear division of roles and responsibilities, but that a larger focus is given on the trust of the employees rather than controlling them.
Self-Responsibility. Organizations and teams without or with little hierarchy depend on the self-responsibility of the individuals. No one likes to be controlled and being overlooked all the time, however in order to have a system that is light on control, it should be heavy on accountability and self-responsibility. If we are aware that our work (or lack of it) is influencing not only us, but also our colleague who is waiting for input, and our work contributes to the larger system, not only the interdependence increases but the work of each individual is highly valued.
Compassion is like the glue that connects people in relationships, at work and in private. Being compassionate means helping your colleague to finish on time because he is struggling with family challenges, or being compassionate by understanding that some interns have a much slower learning curve than others and you need to continue supporting them.
Building synergies. Where the difference in opinions is wanted, not only desired. Where we look at how to create synergies, rather than just doing our work great. It requires a high level of respect is higher among the team members, which can be earned if they are accountable and everyone is doing their best in order to address the needs of the team.
Constructiveness. In a team, the behavior of the teammates can be difficult to measure or interpret. Over or under exaggeration, taking too much space or not taking enough, trying to argue your point of view or allowing the best opinion to win is determining the constructiveness of each team member. Finding a way to be constructive is a game of trial and error.
Do not ignore it. Many times we ignore a person or a raising issue if we feel a lack of energy to deal with it, if we are annoyed or impatient, or just if it won’t make any difference. Often we have a tunnel vision, we are convinced we are correct (even if we might be wrong), or we are pressured by time which leads us to ignore our colleagues, to ignore their concerns or their information, which could lead to resistance. Ignoring information means that is not on our radar, that we are completely unaware of it. Being awake and aware and listening now or postponing it for later in case there is no possibility right now could help us to de-escalate the resistance from our colleagues and to be heard, which would increase the value of their input and respect in the team.
Feel free to add other principles on a list of your team that you find important.
What kind of practices do organizations have, in order to improve the relationships in the team and therefore improve the communication?
Regular review of roles, responsibilities and communication channels. Roles and responsibilities slightly change over time, due to new products, services, or organizational processes. Sometimes they change because of the strengths and weaknesses of our teammates. Sometimes it is because of the technological development of an app or outsourcing part of the work to an external organization (for example bookkeeping). These processes change our roles and responsibilities, and effectively the communication channels and the flow of information. Many teams and organizations do a regular, one or two years review and adjustments of the roles and responsibilities and the communication channels.
Channels for communication. Usage of data storage, online platforms and task tracking software. The rise of digital technologies made many applications, software and online platforms that keep the exchange of information flowing in even the most remote teams. Google docs where we can work on the same document at the same time, online storage for everyone to share the same documents, team management platforms like Asana or TeamUp where the schedules, the time tables and deadlines are being coordinated. Many teams and organizations invest a lot of time, money and energy in improving the communication channels.
Gatherings. Team dinners, organizational retreats, family weekends, team trips, celebrations and other gatherings support informal communication in every team. The people will have time not only to spend the time relaxing, but also to dedicate themselves to learning more about their colleagues and getting to know each other, to understand each other’s values and priorities, meet their family and friends, understand their background and current needs. Having a schedule of gatherings during the year gives not only space and time, but also dedication for creating a team spirit and a good working environment.
Planning and envisioning of the organization. One of the most effective ways to ensure a high level of dedication from teammates and codependency is to jointly plan and co-create. In that way everyone can understand and give their input in the development of the direction, will know what to expect and when and it will feel ownership over the whole process. When people contribute, they tend to get more involved and therefore have a more constructive and higher level of responsibility. Many teams and organizations have yearly planning meetings, strategic retreats, creation of a vision or destination statements, an innovation of new products or services where they invite the employees and team members.
Up to date. Coordination meetings happen on a regular and a need basis. There are meetings with “all hands-on” where everyone is present mostly for important and new information, where the information is not only shared but discussed and debated. Monday meetings are useful for the whole team to be on the same page because they are regular, consistent, everyone is expecting them and has enough time, long before planned and allow minimum coordination of the team. Every time that there is a need, coordination meetings happen between the different working groups or task forces where they update each other or readjust plans and activities.
Check-ins. As mentioned before, much more literature talks about developing emotional intelligence as a part. Expressing our challenges and vulnerabilities, being open to ask and give help, struggling is something that we all experience, regardless that some colleagues try to hide it. Many organizations and teams practice check-ins, where you check in with your team about your emotional and mental health and well-being.
How does this apply to be a trainer?
Trainers and youth workers cooperate in many different teams – virtual and remote, a variety of working groups, cooperate with different stakeholders. In all of those teams and organizations, there is a different organizational culture that they need to recognize and identify and a variety of communication principles and practices that exist among the team members.
Understanding the environment and the people around you will help you with each conversation and exchange to gather valuable information and build your view of reality. Being able to understand yourself will help you build better relationships with your coworkers and improve the flow of information.
Staying awake, aware and attentive is important in creating and maintaining resonant relationships with your colleagues.
What kind of organizational/team culture do you have with your teammates? Can you notice the differences that there are in the different teams that you are present?
How would you like to improve your organizational/team culture?
What kind of principles for communication would you like to have with your team? Why are these principles important for you?
What kind of practices do you use with your teams to improve communication? What kind of practices could you add to your team and why?
Discuss and describe your team/organization together with your teammates.
Set principles for communication in your team.
Set practices for improving communication in your team.
Discuss how would you improve your communication channels.
Plan yearly gatherings with your team.