This weekend I am delivering module 2 of the NLP Practitioner course and we are focusing on communication, negotiation skills, language and coaching questions. This is one of my favourites topics to teach as we dive deep into the complexities that language can create when communicating with yourself and others.
There has probably been occasions within your team where people have felt misunderstood. Perhaps something has been taken out of context or misinterpreted and this has caused upset or anger for an individual.
Perhaps as a leader you have felt that your communication and instruction has been explicit and yet the receiver has not carried out the task that you have asked them to do, and they are convinced that they have done it the way that you asked them to.
It might be that there are differences of opinions within a team on how a decision should be made or how an outcome should be achieved, and people have been left feeling undervalued or ignored, which is causing conflict.
Perhaps there has been a meeting to discuss a project and the leader of the meeting has assumed that they have given an overview that everyone understands. It’s only when things are not getting done or that mistakes have been made, that it become apparent that the overview wasn’t received by everyone in the way that the leader of the meeting had assumed.
In this weeks newsletter I am briefly going to discuss 3 possible reasons why members in a team might not be getting on and offer some thoughts on how this might be addressed.
1. Creating meanings
Firstly lets begin with the basics that all of us create our own meaning and interpretation of events.
Attention is limited and we can only process very small amounts of information at any time. In a situation, each individual will be making sense of the information in their own way based on their beliefs and values, past decision making, memories, state and what they perceive to be important.
Within a team there will be many different thoughts, feelings and interpretations about the same thing.
For example one member of the team (person A) might place a high value on going the extra mile, working outside of their core tasks, helping others and being a team player. This might result in behaviours such as coming into work earlier, leaving late, taking on a substantial amount of extra work and feeling that others should be doing this as well.
There might be another member of the team (person B) who also shares these values but is currently going through a period of family commitment due to caring for elderly parents and having young children. Their partner also works full time so the parental and child care responsibility is shared.
There is a huge amount of possible information in any situation and how we interpret the situation influences how we respond to it.
In this situation person A might be feeling frustrated with person B as they are feeling that they are doing the lions share. Internal thinking always leaks out in some way, the mind and body are ALWAYS communicating something even if this communication is non verbal. This could make the environment feel ‘tense’ and other team members might consciously or unconsciously feel this tension.
In any interaction we go through a process of deletion, distortion and generalisation.
This is what is happening in this situation. Information gets missed out (deleted), and then it gets distorted to fit with the story we are creating based on our own experience, values, beliefs, ideas and ways of thinking. Unfortunately what can happen is that this interpretation may be misguided and assumptions are formed that can be detrimental to the harmony and productivity of a team.
It’s also worth pointing out that much of this goes on out of an individuals awareness, and they may have no idea that this is going on within them. It takes high level self awareness and emotional intelligence to observe your own thoughts and challenge your thinking and judgements.
I have only given one example here but within a team there are multiple people interpreting situations in their own way, making meaning of what they experience and then responding to this meaning, not the situation. Is it any wonder why communication and human interaction gets challenging at times!
So what can be done to help smooth these interactions so that team members improve communication and relationships.
- Get curious – being curious rather than assuming is a very useful skill for communication. Challenging your own assumptions and questioning your own conclusions can help with getting along better with others. Is what you are thinking true? Do you have evidence to support it? What don’t you know? What other information might there be there that you haven’t considered?
It is natural for everyone in a team to have their own beliefs and ideas about things. Communication can be strengthened by team members taking the time to get to know each other, listen to what each other values and remember that your perspective is only one perspective. ‘Wisdom comes from multiple perspectives’ as the famous philosopher Gregory Bateson quoted.
Acceptance – being accepting of others and leading with compassion is a fundamental skill. Leading with compassion sends a message to the team that the culture is one of support and encouragement. People will thrive when they feel heard and validated. The geese metaphor can be useful when accepting others. Geese take it in turns to to fly at the front so that others can recharge their energy when needed.
2. Speaking a different language.
Have you ever found yourself disagreeing about something with a colleague? Have you ever considered that it might not actually be the idea you are disagreeing with, but rather it’s a disagreement over the ‘expression’ of an idea.
Let’s consider an idea about making a team meeting more engaging.
One person might be communicating in very visual language ‘ I can see that these meetings are clearly not very engaging.’ ‘I’d like to see some evidence that paints a picture of some options in black and white so we can move forward and brighten up the enthusiasm.’ If the person on the receiving end is very auditory or kinaesthetic this use of language might not resonate with them and they could feel confused even though they want the same outcome.
They might respond with ‘ That doesn’t sound like its possible as I can’t get a sense of what we will do differently, I am struggling to get a handle on how we can do this.’
The words are getting in the way of good communication and it can feel, sound or look like very different languages!
One of the possible solutions here is to speak the same language and use language that is of the same representational system that the person is using.
In NLP you learn how to enhance rapport with others through the use of matching language. We tend to speak in language matching our preferred representational system. This can be a barrier to good communication as people can feel misunderstood, unheard or confused. Listening out for a persons use of language supports rapport and feelings of being understood.
3. Outcome frame rather than blame frame
Another reason why teams might be not getting on is because of the way problems are solved.
The way we look at a problem and the frame it is given can make it easier or harder to solve. If the culture of the team is getting stuck in the blame frame – what is going wrong, whose fault is it, who is going to fix it, why have we got this problem, then this can create an atmosphere of blame and inaction. People might look for a scapegoat.
It is much more helpful to work towards an outcome frame to encourage personal responsibility, initiative, creativity and problem solving by asking questions such as
– Where are we now and where do we want to be?
– What do we want?
– How will we get from here to there?
– How has this problem been maintained and what can we do to solve it?
If there is a task to be completed or a problem to solve then the outcome frame will enhance team cohesion to work towards common goals, rather than focussing on the problems and the person or people to blame for the problem.
If this weeks newsletter has ignited your curiosity about human behaviour, performance and communication and your organisation is looking for training to support high performing individuals and teams, then I would love to have a conversation about how I can help.
People are at the heart of the success of an organisation.
With great power comes great responsibility. With the right conditions for growth and great leadership, individuals and the organisation will thrive.
For more information about my team coaching, workshops, leadership training and coaching contact firstname.lastname@example.org