Team Conversations - How to get a team to gel

Team Conversations – How to get a team to gel

Team conversations can be hard at the beginning…usually described in one word…awkward! You gather around a table for a kickoff meeting and make small talk, work on a laptop, or scroll through the feed on your smartphone until someone gets things started. The team starts talking about the work and what must be done. Hopefully people introduce themselves. I’ve always felt like these meetings are a bit like the first day of school where everyone’s trying to find their place and not embarrass themselves.

I’ve totally been there…

Many people take that first introduction to make a point about what they are there for and why they are important/valuable. This can setup even an adversarial relationship. It happened to me, totally on accident. I was trying to share how I could be a resource for the team based on what I knew about a portion of the work.

Only later did I find out my methods were completely misinterpreted and I was seen as intimidating by other team members. I found this out near the end of the project, when they had finally gotten over that initial impression enough to be vulnerable and share with me. Wow, self-awareness wake up call!  I lost so much opportunity with this team member because she spent time holding back in fear…over me.  Yikes!

This is why it is so important to get teams talking and actually building trust on some real information about people, rather than our impressions.

Have you ever been misinterpreted? Yea, I think it’s universal. While I can’t prevent it, I’ve found that when I know a person better, I’m less likely to misinterpret their actions.

Now in my consulting experience, I’ve seen how adding a bit of depth and new experiences can help a team develop a more vibrant culture and greater understanding of the teammates. Even mature teams can have ‘light bulb’ moments engaging on a higher and deeper level. I’ve seen how much joy they get learning more about each other and the organization; it is always exciting.

Once they get deeper, they understand each other, and intentions, better.  How, you wonder?

By guiding conversations. Asking good questions and letting them talk to one another, one on one. Take time to have these guided conversations, not about work, but about themselves. Not about resumes, but what makes them light up. These conversations always create buzz and energy in the team.

Here’s a few pointers:

  • Start small. Start with small talk, because it breaks the ice and your team can start to trust you not to force them to answer something awkward. For example, what’s your morning drink, coffee, smoothie, tea, water? Why?
  • Share the culture. Ask them to talk about something that happened at work. I always like to ask about a crazy travel story, or what happened at their last offsite meeting together. The goal is to get them talking about interacting as a group in a fun way.
  • Go deep. Now that you’ve got them loosened up by a few questions in the lighter stuff, it’s time to go deep. For example, what’s something you had to overcome before you were 25? These questions start to get to a person’s character, what made them who they are today.

With these one on one conversations going on in the room, the buzz is exciting. I love to snap pictures of people deep in conversation to share with them just what they looked like. How engaged they are, how they laughed, how they focused on the other person, how they learned something new. And it takes like 30 min…a crazy big benefit for a small investment in your team’s cohesiveness.

Get the full how-to!

I’ve put together a full guide on how to run this conversation game, tried and tested by hundreds of people. It has easy to follow instructions to get your team gellin’ fast. It’s in the Resource Library, see below to get access to it!

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