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Team Communication Barriers and How to Overcome Them Using Emotional Intelligence

I recently revisited a book I read some time ago called "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team" by Patrick Lencioni. I would highly recommend it to anyone. This book talks about the five communication dysfunctions that can really get teams off of the rails. The first and most foundational point is trust. Making sure that everyone on the team trusts one another and knows that everyone has their back. This book is the story of a leader who holds an offsite retreat and introduces her team to several behavioral profiles. They go through all of these different styles and look at how people naturally interact with each other and what their communication styles are. I would highly recommend this book, and we have used the concepts many times for clients. Your toolbox can be quite helpful should you find yourself in the position of developing a leadership team. 

Team Communication Barriers and How to Overcome Them Using Emotional Intelligence

There are several styles that are very questioning in nature. Some styles are very challenging and tend to be naturally distrustful. Even if they have learned the behaviors and want to reach out and be trusting of others, oftentimes they can still come across as distrusting because of the way they approach things. For example, the D styles (very results-oriented) get to the bottom line and tend to be very impatient. If the employee reads this inappropriately, then they could think they are not trusted the way that they should be. Style C stands for conscientiousness. This style is also very perfectionistic and questioning. So again, this can come across as a lack of trust due to the excessive digging into minor details.

So, while reading this book, "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team," and how the leader takes her team through all of these profiles, I realized that there are styles out there that don’t naturally manage their own emotional intelligence. Employees may feel that their manager does not trust them, when in fact they really do. If a leader really wants to gain grass-roots input from his or her employees, then they need to talk to the people that are down in the trenches where the action is every day. What is the best way to get this input without letting their style get in the way? How do leaders use their emotional intelligence to really get people to open up?

As a consultant, you have 3 opportunities. First, you can help the leader develop his or her skills. Secondly, you can work with the team to become more productive and finally, you act as a liaison between management and the employees.

Here are 7 steps you can use to help get your clients to open up:

1.     Have a group meeting with just the employees and ask for input on how to improve things. Have a separate meeting with only the managers. Truth be told, the managers may be a hindrance to the productivity gains you could get when you’re talking exclusively to the employees. Employees tend to be more reserved if their manager is in the room, so leave the manager out. Consider bringing in a third party just to listen. They will not be emotionally invested and won’t allow it to become the complaint department. If you’re facilitating open-ended meetings, this is an option you may want to consider.

2.     Make sure the questions are positive. “How do we get better?” versus “What don’t we do well?” It is important the questions are presented in a positive format.

3.     There are several ways to ask. You can have group meetings, one-on-one conversations, sit down face-to-face, take them for a cup of coffee or use surveys. I would suggest using all of these methods.

4.     Don’t dismiss any negative input. If someone tells you something that makes you turn your head and go, “Wow, that’s really negative.” As a consultant, take a step back and determine if this person has the courage to let you know what is really going on, or are they simply being a malcontent.

5.     Once someone tells you something don’t respond immediately, even if you have the answer. Don’t respond. Just listen.

6.     Link all of the solutions to the people who gave you the ideas. Repeat this action time and again.

7.     When you ask, really listen. Listen to what people tell you. I recently had someone point out to me that there are the exact same letters in the word silent as there are in the word listen.

Using emotional intelligence and choosing productive-facilitated questioning will have greater success at building the trust bond with their employees. Employees will feel their input has value and, in turn, will become more emotionally invested in the success of the organization.

Are you thinking about becoming an independent consultant? Click here to download this quiz to find out if consulting is right for you. I also encourage you to sign up to receive a free copy of my eBook, "Experience Matters," which contains some great information about leadership in the modern world.