By Frank Ciecierski
“Why can’t they be like we were, perfect in every way? What’s the matter with teams (kids) today?” (with apologies to Paul Lynde from the movie Bye Bye Birdie). Although the words to that song were concerned with the generation gap, when it comes to teams, there’s more to those words than just a generation gap. Team members actually think that way. “If everyone else on the team were perfect just like me, we wouldn’t have any problems and everything would work out perfectly.”
To get your team moving toward improvement, begin with educating the individual team members. People can be similar or different in so many ways, so focus on the “big” ways they can be similar or different: Non-Verbal Communication Style; Personality Style; and Learning / Thinking Style.
“We Like People Who are Like us!” so if we find matches in those three “big” areas, we tend to get better and faster rapport with those individuals; and we form strong relationships faster. And strong relationships are what make teams work.
Watch people interact, and you can tell when they are communicating well by the way they look and sound. People get physical rapport with one another and consequently understand each other better by mirroring each other, usually unconsciously. We say that after people are married a long time they begin to look and sound alike. The truth is that they have learned to communicate better by mirroring each other.
You can also tell when two people are not communicating well by watching their body language and listening to their voices. There is a disconnect and a dissonance in the way they relate. By making your team members aware of their Non-Verbal styles and having them understand the Non-Verbal styles of others, you will be taking a huge step toward having a top performing team.
In terms of Personality Style, if you practice the Golden Rule (Treat people the way you want to be treated), you will only be successful with the people on your team who are like you. The ones who have a different personality style from yours will be your biggest challenge. The key is to practice the Platinum Rule (Treat people the way they want to be treated).
For example, if you are a big picture person and you work with a detail oriented person, focusing on the big picture with that individual all the time will not get you rapport with that person, may cause continuous conflict, and will result in communication problems. Thus, a poor relationship can result. If your team members know their own personalities and those of the other team members, and understand and apply the Platinum Rule, they will begin to move out of the “everyone needs to be like me” mode and start to communicate better because they will get rapport with others and begin to form strong relationships.
Improving communication and forming strong relationships can also be achieved by pointing out and adjusting to the different Learning / Thinking styles of your team members: some people are more visual; others more auditory; and still others more kinesthetic in the way that they learn and think. Knowing the primary and secondary Learning / Thinking Styles of others will aid in improving team members’ rapport and communication, and when training or problem solving are embarked upon.
If you don’t know the person’s Learning / Thinking style, you should use all three styles when communicating with others: “I see what you mean. Can we discuss this further? If so, I feel we can better come to grips with the real problem.” Or you should listen carefully to the words being used and use those same words when communicating.
In a training situation if you know the person’s preferred Learning / Thinking Style, use it. If you don’t know the person’s Style, go back to what you learned in kindergarten and use the “show and tell” method. Show the person what to do (visual); tell the person how to do it (auditory); and allow the person to practice doing it (kinesthetic). People may be different in their Learning / Thinking Styles, but with practice they can adjust to the styles of others.
Rapport building in the three “big” similarities or differences among team members – Non-Verbal Communication Style; Personality Style; and Learning / Thinking Style – will result in having people look at themselves and others as being different and not perfect. This will in turn increase communication and improve relationships.
Think about it and try it. It works! Perfect teams? No. Improved teams? Definitely.