Staying safe during change

Simon’s team was falling apart. Melissa and Terrence weren’t speaking to each other. Arguments between Dee and Sandi were a daily event. Now Brett was threatening to resign if Simon didn’t sort the team out.

Simon attended a workshop on Building High Performance Teams. There he learned the importance of setting norms for team communication. Back at work, he used five steps to do this. You can use the same steps to create communication ground rules in your team.

1. Simon set up a two hour meeting. He hired a casual to answer the phone during this meeting, so there were no interruptions.

2. After explaining the purpose of the meeting, Simon asked the team to brainstorm behaviours associated with respectful communication. During the brainstorm, Simon acted as facilitator. Instead of suggesting behaviours himself, he encouraged team members to come up with their own ideas.

3. Once the group had a long list of behaviours, Simon asked them to cut this back to five key ground rules for team communication. It took a while, but eventually the group agreed on the following:

  1. Say ‘no’ to gossip
  2. Give feedback (on behaviours, not personalities)
  3. Listen, even when you don’t agree
  4. Focus on solving problems instead of complaining
  5. Don’t shout, blame or attack

4. Simon then asked each team member to individually voice their commitment to living by the team’s ground rules. He did this by asking “on a scale of 1 to 10, how committed are you to putting these ground rules into action?” He was pleased to hear that everyone was fully committed.

5. The day after the meeting, Simon distributed the ground rules to all team members. The team turned their list into a poster, which was placed in strategic spots around the office.

Following the success of this meeting, Simon organised a full day team planning workshop. During that session, the team reviewed their communication norms. They also developed a strategic plan. Six months later, team members are working well together and looking forward to their next develop day.

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