Monday, February 4, 2013

Reinforcing safe communication: last in a series

The ability to create and maintain a safe space where communication can occur uninhibited is a terrific workplace skill. After coming to terms with what you are up against and obtaining buy-in from your team to design a safe psychological space, the last step is to reinforce the behaviors that lead to unparalleled group communication. Regardless of your position within the organization, as a leader you have the ability to reinforce this new group dynamic, one that will enable quick cohesion and allow productivity to soar.

Step three: reinforcing safe communication
There are two distinct things you can do to reinforce the behavior that you want to see: mine for conflict and reaffirm others' behavior.

Mining for conflict
When you mine for conflict, you turn your listening up to a different level. You are not only hearing the words that are said but also the intent behind the words. Further, when mining for conflict you become acutely aware of the "energy" behind the words and the energy of the group. When someone answers with a response of "possibly," the person's tone of voice when giving the response speaks volumes to what they are really thinking. When mining for conflict, it is your duty to bring those issues to the surface and have a discussion with them in an attempt to get stronger buy-in from your group.

A great question to ask to mine for conflict is "why won't this work?" It forces the team to bring up what they are already thinking about: possible aspects of failure or what they are saying "yes" to or "no" to when making the decisions that have to be made.

Mining for conflict isn't a hindrance in that it brings up conflict; the conflict is already there. It just brings it to the surface sooner so that it can be worked through.

Affirming conflict
When conflict comes up, sometimes the discussion can get heated. Ideas clash and personalities can become forceful. So long as no one's character is being attacked and only the ideas and concepts are being debated, this is exactly what the group needs to happen. Thus, you are encouraged to - while in the middle of a debate with a group - to say "this is good. This debate is exactly what we need to have." This sends the message to group members that what they are debating are important things and that the conflict isn't something to shy away from: it will make the output stronger, and it will make the group stronger knowing that they can have these unfettered discussions with respect and in the interest of their goals.

Communication is an essential component of the workplace, but we do not often talk about what we mean when we say "communication." It's those unarticulated expectations and standards that can quickly derail communication. By intentionally designing a space of psychological safety and diligently reinforcing it, positive group dynamics are created and output soars while group members feel closer and stronger.

Assignment: in your next meeting, turn up your listening to hear what is being said behind the words: worries, intent, and other avenues for conflict. Further, ask the hard question "why won't this work?" to evoke an even deeper conversation between team members.

No comments:

Post a Comment