Creating a Strong Leadership Team

Practice open & Honest Communication

The basis for teamwork is candid conversation. Egos and personal agendas need to be set aside so each member focuses on what is best for the overall project or organization. Each person must be able to say what he or she thinks and believes, rather than what others might expect to hear.

When it becomes clear to one or more team members that someone on the team is being less than candid with others, this issue needs to be raised within the team.

To expect and practice open and honest communication you should be sure to:

Establish and follow communication ground rules.

Take risks with each other.

What to do when a member doesn’t follow open and honest communication?

It’s easy to ignore the problem when team members are being less than candid with others. But the issue certainly needs to be raised within the team.

There are at least two good reasons for doing this.

  1. If the behavior doesn’t change, it will begin to undermine the team because it tends to spread. Others on the team will quickly start limiting the information they share within the team.
  2. Raising this as an issue for the team demonstrates the very principle that is being violated by the team member(s). The issue can either be surfaced by the team leader in a one-on-one conversation with the offending team member, or it can be brought up to the whole team.

When confronting this situation be sure to:

  • Describe to the person what has happened (what you heard or observed).  Focus  on  the  behavior,  not  why  you  think  it happened.
  • Ask the person to explain his or her view of what happened.
  • As a team, review the type of communication you are trying to build.
  • Ask team members to re-commit to building open and honest communication. Discuss specifically what that means/looks like.
  • Discuss with the team ways you can help each other stick to this principle.

Establish & follow communication ground rules

The first step toward candid conversation is agreeing on a set of “rules” to follow in conversation. This contract among team members helps everyone manage their communication.

Setting ground rules can help you avoid common problems such as:

  • One person dominating the team conversations
  • Members who are unwilling to listen to new or different ideas being suggested
  • Personal attacks or criticisms
  • Meetings that start late or continue long past the established meeting time
  • Confidential information shared within the team being discussed outside the team

There is not a right or wrong list of ground rules, as long as it includes those items important to team members. Update the ground rules as the needs and wishes of the team change. Post them in a team meeting area to serve as a reminder.

Ground Rules : Examples of ground rules include the following:

  • Maintain confidentiality. (“What is said in this room stays in this room unless we decide otherwise.”)
  • Acknowledge differences and understand what they are
  • Look for common ground. (Find where there are areas of agreement upon which the team can build.)
  • Challenge ideas, not people. Carry on one conversation at a time
  • Start and end meetings on time

Take risks with each other

Don’t play it safe with the other members of the team. Instead, be willing to make the first move, rather than waiting for others to prove themselves trustworthy.

The kinds of risks you should take include the following:

  • Offer information rather than wait to be asked.
  • Assume others have good intentions, rather than being suspicious of motives.
  • Try ideas different from your own.
  • Base your relationship with others on your experience with them, not on what you have heard about them.