Success factor: Communication

Interpersonal communication is the most important success factor for any group of people. When the quality is high it creates a common and practical frame of reference for the task at hand. When the quality is poor the chance of rework and frustration increases.

The success strategy: Be fit and tune in. We connect to each other and include mutual thoughts and feelings into new information and meaning. We can discuss this factor using the following success markers: Openness, Empathy, Mutual understanding, Practical translation and Shared meaning

We are willing to openly share information

Most teams experience an open team culture. Team member feel that everybody is willing to openly share information. This does not imply that there is no room improvement. Especially in multidisciplinary teams and ‘expert environments’ a high level of openness is required to obtain a shared meaning and create a collective intelligence.

Individual improvement

The first step in creating an open mind set in a group setting is to feel secure and balanced.

Then adjust your awareness by asking yourself:

  • What am I thinking, feeling and doing?
  • What is my blindspot?
  • What do I really want to express?

You can’t share what you don’t know.

Team improvement

Regularly adress the importance of group openness.

Slow down when discussing topics that relate to important values of team members. Check ecology by asking:

  • How do we all feel about this?
  • Are there any blocking issues at the personal level?

Make sure that the interpersonal communication is specific enough to understand each other

Other interventions
  • Work with a ‘matching’ mindset and focus on relations
  • Apply the theory U concept Otto Scharmer ): slow down, no judgement, no cynism, no fear
We recognize and acknowledge each other’s emotions
Our perception and interpretation of information is pre-framed by emotions and non-verbal behavior. In an instance, most people pick up and adapt to the emotions of others without even being aware of it.  Improving the quality of communication, by acknowledging the emotional state of others, is crucial to the group effort. This strengthens interpersonal relationships and group cohesion.
Individual improvement
  • Make sure that you are fit and centered. It is easier to recognize the emotions of others in a balanced emotional state.
  • Start every conversation with an open mindset balancing attention for I, You and We.
  • Connect to others the way you would connect to people that are close to you. At the same time maintain a safe environment for yourself.
  • Increase the level of eye contact (depending on culture).
  • Adjust your attention from the content (what is said) to the form (how the other communicates with you).
Team improvement
  • Make sure all team member are ‘ready’ for a meeting
  • Focus on the bigger picture (‘we’ and ‘it’)
  • Slow down team communication when team members have trouble expressing themselves
  • Acknowledge the group state (emotions)
  • Acknowledge individual emotins, but do not get stuck in it
Other interventions
  • Reframe emotions into ‘intent’ and ‘expectations’
  • How does it feel for you when others empathise with you and acknowledge your emotions?
Mutual understanding
We understand each other well enough
Elkaar begrijpen
Mutual understanding is key for maintaining a common frame of reference among team members. Many teams feel that mutual understanding needs to be improved  (29% unsatisfied and 48% neutral) for better knowledge transfer and task
Individual improvement

Openness and curiosity stimulates mutual understanding.

Apply ‘active listening’

Do not jump to conclusions and test your personal ‘logic’ by using the ladder of inference (Peter Senge)

  • What do I hear, see and feel?
  • What information do I select (focus of attention)?
  • Which (implicit) meaning do I give to this information?
  • Which assumptions need to be readjusted?
  • What is my conclusion?
Team improvement
  • Balance listening and speaking in a group meeting
  • Summarize to obtain a common frame of reference
  • Instead of saying ‘I understand’, be specific and feedbackwhatyou understand
  • Visualize the relations between important information and topics.
Other interventions
  • Be more specific in defining objectvies, results, activities and work packages;
  • Define a clear structure of content;
  • Checkwhyothers feel that certain information is important.
Practical translation
We are well able to translate the information from meetings into our individual practice
informatie praktisch vertalen

A relatively small number of team members feels able to effectively use important information for adjustment of individual choices and actions. This probably explains why other success markers such as proactive alignment, group focus and taking initiative have low scores. Often information from meetings is too general for effective use in the specific individual context of work.

Individual improvement
  • It is key to be proactive in aquiring the neccessary information for a specifik task;
  • Focus onmutual understanding;
  • Give vivid examples of your own scope of work and ask others for information;
  • Translate general information into specific examples of your day to day work.
Team improvement
  • Find the time and place to understand each other
  • Frequently switch between ‘big chuncks of information’ and ‘small chuncks of information’

Ask questions that stimulate content coherence:

  • ‘What is the relation between X and Y?’
  • ‘Which small parts combine into the bigger part’
  • ‘How does x translates to my work?
Other interventions
  • Put information in a context by giving praktical examples
  • Reframe information, use synonyms
  • Focus on the relationship between new information and the existing frame of reference
Shared meaning
We give the same meaning to important common information and facts
gedeelde betekenis
Teams seem to struggle with the quality of communication. Reseach shows that 45% of the team member have difficulty in establishing a common frame of reference for the project or group. It explains why many teams lack group focusand a coherent overview of deliverables.
Individual improvement

Our own worldview sometimes blocks new information and limits the chance of establishing a shared meaning. Try to experiment with the following assumptions:

  • I know nothing, this is completely new to me;
  • Everybody has a unique map of the world and words to express it;
  • Different words might express the same meaning.
Team improvement
  • List important key-words that are used during meetings
  • Ask team members to clarify these keywords and find synonyms in thier own field of expertise
  • Summarize the shared meaning of a keyword: “so.. what we mean with x is…”.
Other interventions
  • First improve success markers that are a prerequisite for shared meaning:opennes,empathy and mutual understanding;
  • Use the same key-words in plans, reporting and interpersonal communication;
  • Visualize key-words in infographics, pictures and schematics.