Join or judge?
We have started to build our team. One step was to read something about teamwork and teambuilding. I read Opening doors for Teamwork and Collaboration by Katz&Miller and got some great ideas for improving collaboration. First we need to ask ourselves: are we partners or competitors? Are we working towards the common goal and vision? It is easy to want to say yes to both of these questions but in reality our behavior is often the opposite.
You will get an idea of how a team works when you observe team’s dialogue. Do people join each others ideas or are they more willing to judge them? We are so busy trying to stay on topic and summarize our sayings in our little notebooks that when we get the chance to say it, it will be just another statement out of any context. The conversation does not flow naturally and these kind of statements break the idea of a dialogue. In the worst case the statement only invalidates everything somebody said earlier or stops the whole dialogue.
Our team has been lately really conscious about the way our dialogue goes: who speaks and how long, did they summarize well enough, are we following the agenda, or how others express their thoughts. I have been practicing silence and active listening. I have noticed that it is possible for me to just listen 4 hours and feel safe doing that, but on the other hand it has made me a bit too critical about the things I might have to say. Finding the balance seems to be difficult.
The focus in a dialogue should be on joining you not judging you or the comments. I admit I’m eager to judge in our dialogues. I’ve been thinking that it is the best way to develop and progress. I have been wrong and want to start to act differently.
The book offers good tools for this problem. One of the tools I wish to take into use is ”listen as an ally”. It means that when you listen as an ally, you work to understand the speaker’s point of view, and you make sure you understand before you respond. You seek to find the value in the speaker’s experiences and perspectives.
Listen as an ally means that in a team, we are willing to link to one another’s ideas and work through conflicts instead of finding flaws and pointing them out. I pretty often just want to point out what is wrong with somebody’s idea. I need to improve in this and try harder to be more supportive.
The feeling of support is important since real innovations will appear when we don’t kill the conversation with negative thoughts but instead try to build up to the original idea. Maybe the idea was not a good one in the first place, but there might be something that we can develop. We need to learn to appreciate everybody’s point of view. And by the way, sometimes the silliest idea turns out to be the best, we have seen this. We should encourage ourselves to be more creative and relaxed and keep in mind that it is ok to laugh in a dialogue, it does not have to be so serious all the time.
Listen as an ally basically means that when you come to trainings to have a dialogue, you consider everybody in the room as your friends and act like one yourself. Expect that you can connect with the others and they also want to connect with you. It means discovery of common interest and shared success. In the end it means giving energy back. You can do this by saying “Yes and…” instead of “yes but…” and appreciating everybody’s achievements and telling this to them. It makes you feel more valued and engaged to the team.