Friday, July 26, 2013

Notes on Mastering Team Skills and Interpersonal Communication

Communicating Effectively in Teams

A team is a unit of two or more people who share a mission and the responsibility for working to achieve a common goal. Problem-solving teams and task force assemble to resolve specific issues and then disband when their goals have been accomplished.

Committees are formal teams have usually have a long life span and can become a permanent part of the organizational structure. Committees typically deal with regularly recurring tasks, such as an executive committee that meets monthly to plan strategies and review results.

Whatever the purpose and function of a team, you and your fellow team members must be able to communicate effectively with each other and with people outside the team.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Teams

When teams are successful, they can improve productivity, creativity, employee involvement, and even job security. Teams are often at the core of participative management, the effort to involve employees in the company’s decision making.


-Increased information knowledge
-Increased diversity of views
-Increased acceptance of a solution
-Higher performance levels


-Groupthink occurs when peer pressure cause individual team members to withhold contrary or unpopular opinions.
-Some members may have a hidden agendas—private, counter-productive motives.

Characteristics of Effective Teams

Effective teams have a clear sense of purpose, open, and honest communications, consensus-based decision making, creativity, and effective conflict resolution.

Collaborative Communication

Collaborating on teams messages requires special effort; the following offers a number of helpful guidelines.

Guidelines for Collaborative Writing

1.       Select collaborators carefully.
2.       Agree on project goals before you start.
3.       Give your team time to bond before diving in.
4.       Clarify individual responsibilities.
5.       Establish clear processes.
6.       Avoid writing as a group.
7.       Make sure tools and techniques are ready and compatible across the team.
8.       Check to see how things are going along the way.

Group Dynamics

The interactions and processes that take place among the members of a team are called group dynamics. Productive teams tend to develop rules of interaction that are conductive to business.

Assuming Team Roles

Members of a team can play various roles, which fall into three categories. Members who assume self-oriented roles are motivated mainly to fulfill personal needs, so they tend to be less productive than other members.

Far more likely to contribute team goals are members who assume team-maintenance roles to help everyone work well together and those who assume task-oriented roles to help reach its goals.

Team Roles—Functioning and Dysfunctional


Controlling: Dominating others by exhibiting superiority or authority

Withdrawing: Retiring from the team either by becoming silent or by refusing to deal with a particular aspect of the team’s work

Attention seeking: Calling attention to oneself and demanding recognition from others

Diverting: Focusing the team’s discussion on topics of interest to the individual rather than on those relevant to the task

Encouraging: Drawing out other members by showing verbal and nonverbal support, praise, or agreement

Harmonizing: Reconciling differences among team members through meditation or by using humor to relieve tension

Compromising: Offering to yield on point in the interest of reaching a mutually acceptable decision

Initiating: Getting the team started on a line of inquiry

Information giving or seeking: Offering (or seeking) information relevant to question facing the team

Coordinating: Showing relationships among ideas, clarifying issues, summarizing what the  team has done

Procedure setting: Suggesting decision-making procedures that will move the team toward a goal

Phases of Group Development

Team members get to know each other and establish roles.
Different opinions and perspectives begin to emerge.
Team members explore their options and evaluate alternatives.
The team reaches a consensus on the chosen decision.
Team harmony is reestablished and plans are made to put the decisions into action.

Making Your Meetings More Productive

Well-run meetings can help you solve problems, develop ideas, and identify opportunities. Much of your workplace communication is likely to occur in small-group meetings; therefore, your ability to contribute to the company and to be recognized for those contributions will depend on your meeting skills.

Preparing for Meetings

1.       Identify your purpose. Informational meetings involve sharing information and answering audience questions. Decision-making meetings involve persuasion, analysis, problem solving, and planning.
2.       Select participants for the meeting.
3.       Choose the time and prepare the facility.
4.       Set the agenda. The success of a meeting depends on the preparation of the participants. Distribute carefully written agenda to participants, giving them enough time to prepare as needed. A productive agenda answers three key questions; (1) What do we need to do in this meeting to accomplish goals? (2) What issues will be of greatest importance to all participants? (3) What information must be available in order to discuss these issues?

Conducting and Contributing to Efficient Message

Everyone in a meeting shares the responsibility for making the meeting productive. If you’re the designated leader of a meeting; however, you have an extra degree of responsibility and accountability.

1.       Keep the discussion on track.
2.       Followed agreed-upon rules.
3.       Encourage participation.
4.       Participate actively.
5.       Close actively. At the conclusion of the meeting, verify that the objectives have been met or arrange for follow-up work, if needed. Summarize either the general conclusion of the discussion or the actions to be taken.

Using Meeting Technologies

1.       Virtual meetings.
2.       Teleconferencing
3.       Videoconferencing
4.       Web-based meetings systems

Minutes of the Meeting

Improving your Listening Skills

Successful business people and top executives consider listening is the important skill needed to get things done in the workplace. Effective listening strengthens organizational relationships, enhances product delivery, alerts an organization to opportunities for innovation, and allows an organization to manage diversity both in the workforce and in the customers it serves.

Recognizing Various Types of Listening

To be a good listener, adapt the way you listen to suit the situation.

1.       The primary goal of content is to understand and retain the speaker’s message.
2.       The goal of critical listening is to understand and evaluate the meaning of the speaker’s message on several levels: the logic of the argument, the strength of the evidence, the validity of the conclusions, the implications of the message, and the omission of any important or relevant points.
3.       The goal of empathic listening is to understand the speaker’s feelings, needs, and wants so that you can appreciate his or her point of view, regardless of whether you share that perspective.
4.       No matter what mode they are using at any given time, effective listeners try to engage in active listening.

Understanding the Listening Process

1.       Receiving.
2.       Decoding.
3.       Remembering.
4.       Evaluating.
5.       Responding.

What Makes an Effective Listener?


Listen actively
Take careful and complete notes
Make frequently eye contact with the speaker (depending on the culture)
Stay focused on the speaker and the content
Mentally paraphrase key points to maintain attention level and ensure comprehension
Adjust listening style to the situation
Give the speaker nonverbal cues (such as nodding to show agreement or raising eyebrows to show surprise or skepticism)
Save questions or points of disagreement until an appropriate time
Overlook stylistic differences and focus on the speaker’s message
Make distinctions between main points and supporting details
Look for opportunities to learn

Listen passively
Take no notes or ineffective notes
Make little or no eye contact
Allow their minds to wander; are easily distracted
Fail to paraphrase
Listen with the same style, regardless of the situation
Fail to give the speaker nonverbal feedback
Interrupt whenever they disagree or don’t understand
Are distracted by or unduly influenced by stylistic differences: are judgmental
Are unable to distinguish main points from details
Assume that they already know everything that’s important to know

Improving Your Nonverbal Communication Skills

Nonverbal communication is the interpersonal process of sending and receiving information, both intentionally and unintentionally, without using written or spoken language.

Recognizing Nonverbal Communication

1.       Facial expression
2.       Gesture and posture
3.       Vocal characteristics
4.       Personal appearance
5.       Touch
6.       Time and space

Using Nonverbal Communication Effectively

Paying attention to nonverbal cues will make you both a better speaker and a better listener. When you’re talking, be more conscious of the nonverbal cues you could be sending. Also consider the nonverbal signals you send when you ‘re not talking, such as the clothes you wear, the way you sit, or the way you walk.

Assembling a Business Wardrobe


1.        Choose well-tailored clothing that fits well; it doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does have to fit and be appropriate for business.

2.        Keep buttons, zippers, and hemlines in good repair.

3.        Select shoes that are comfortable enough for long days but neither too casual nor too dressy for the office; keep shoes clean and in good condition.

4.        Make sure the fabrics you wear are clean, are carefully pressed, and do not wrinkle easily.

5.        Choose colors that flatter your height, weight, skin tone, and styles; sales advisors in good clothing stores can help you choose.

1.        Choose form-fitting (but not skin-tight) clothing—not swinging or flowing fabric, frills, or fussy trimmings.

2.        Choose muted tones and soft colors or classics, such as a dark blue suit or a basic black dress.

3.        If possible, select a few classic pieces of jewelry (such as a string of pearls or diamond cuff links) for formal occasions.

4.        Wear jackets that complement an outfit and lend an air of formality to your appearance. Avoid jacket with more than tow tones; one color should dominate.

1.        Wear blouses or shirts that are or appear starched.

2.        Choose closed top-button shirts or button-down shirt collars, higher neckline blouses, or long sleeves with French cuffs and cuff links.

3.        Wear creased trousers or a longer skirt hemline.

1.        Supplement your foundation with pieces that reflects the latest styles.

2.        Add a few pieces in bold colors but wear them sparingly to avoid a garish appearance.

3.        Embellish your look with the latest jewelry and hairstyles but keep the overall effect looking professional.

Business Etiquette in the Workplace

Workplace etiquette includes a variety of behaviors, habits, and aspects of nonverbal communication. Although it isn’t always thought of an as element of etiquette, your personal appearance in the workplace sends a strong signal to managers, colleagues, and customers. Pay attention to the style of dress where you work and adjust your style to match.

Grooming is as important as attire. Pay close attention to cleanliness and avoid using products with powerful scents.

Personal demeanor is a vital element of workplace harmony. No one expects you to be artificially upbeat but every person has responsibility to contribute to a positive, energetic work environment.

Phone skills are essential in most professions.

Quick Tips for Improving Your Phone Skills

Use frequent verbal responses that show you’re listening (“Oh yes,” “I see,” “That’s right”).

Increase your volume just slightly to convey your confidence.

Don’t speak in a monotone; vary your pitch and inflections so people know you’re interested.

Slow down when you’re conversing with people whose native language isn’t the same as yours.

Stay focused on the call throughout; others can easily tell when you are not paying attention.
Be ready before you call so that you don’t waste time.

Minimize distractions and avoid making noise that could annoy the other party.

Identify yourself and your organization, briefly describe why you are calling, and verify that you’ve called at a good time.

Don’t take up too much time. Speak quickly and clearly and get right to the point of the call.

Close in a friendly, positive manner and double-check all vital information, such as meeting times and dates.
Answer promptly and with a smile so that you sound friendly and positive.

Identify yourself and your company.

Establish the needs of your caller by asking, “How may I help you?” If you know the caller’s name, use it.

If you can answer questions promptly and efficiently; if you can’t help, tell the caller what you can do for him or her.

If you must forward a call or put someone on hold, explain what you are doing before you do it.

If you forward a call to someone else, try to speak with that person first to verify that he or she is available and to introduce the caller.

If you take a message for someone else, be complete and accurate, including the caller’s name, number, and organization.
When recording your outgoing message, make it brief and professional.

If you can, record temporary greetings on days when you are unavailable all day so that callers will know you’re gone for the day.

Check your voice-mail messages regularly and return all necessary calls within 24 hours.

Leave simple, clear messages, with your name, number, purpose for calling, and times when you can be reached.

State your name and telephone number slowly so that the other person can easily write them down; repeat both if the other person doesn’t know you.

Be careful what you say; most voice-mail systems allow users to forward messages to anyone else in the system.

Replay your message before leaving the system to make sure it is clear and complete.

Business Etiquette in Social Settings

From business lunches to industry conferences, you may represent your company when you’re out in public. Make sure your appearance and actions are appropriate to the situation. Get know the customs of the culture when you meet new people.

When introducing yourself, include a brief description of your role in the company. When introducing two other people, speak their first and last name clearly and then try to offer some information to help the people ease into a conversation. Generally, the lower-ranking person is introduced to the senior-ranking person.

Business is often conducted over meals, and knowing the basics of dining etiquette will make you more effective in these situations. Always remember that business meals are a forum for business. Don’t about topics that cause an emotional reaction.

When you use your mobile phone in public, you send the message that people around aren’t important as your call and you don’t respect that caller’s privacy. If it is not a matter of life and death or at least an urgent request by your boss or a customer, wait until you’re back in the office.

Business Etiquette Online

The anonymous and instantaneous nature of online communities can cause even level-headed people to lash out in online social media sites.

Sending or posting a file that contains a computer virus is rude.

Watch your language and keep your emotions under control.

Never assume privacy.

Don’t use “reply all” in email unless everyone can benefit from your reply.

Don’t waste other’s time with sloppy, confusing, or incomplete messages.

Source: Thill, John V., and Courland L. Bovee. Excellence in Business Communication, 9th edition. USA: Pearson, 2011.

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