“If you think and achieve as a team, the individual accolades will take care of themselves. Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” – Michael Jordan
At Gecko Designs, “the team” has always been an important concept and something that is taken very seriously. Being one of the members on that team, I should point out that we are each individually important in our own right, as well, and treated as such. Each member is unique and integral to the success of the team as a whole. But, how can a team with such diverse individuals work together to reach a common goal?
We recently had an opportunity to dig into our company dynamic and explore what works and what needs improvement. Team coaches, Paul Tripp and Phil Dang, joined us via video conference to discuss exactly that. With everyone on the call, including our remote team members and Pixel (the cat seen in the photo), Paul and Phil began to help us peel back the layers of our team composition. The minute details of our team are irrelevant, but the tools are applicable in many facets of our lives.
You’ve probably heard it time and time again, communication is key – whether it’s in relationships, friendships, or with co-workers. There’s a reason that its importance is proclaimed so often. How can I expect my co-workers to know my needs and expectations if I don’t tell them? With an eclectic group of designers, developers, project managers, business developers, and owners, many hands will touch a project throughout its life. Open communication isn’t just helpful, it is imperative.
So, what are some ways that we can improve communication?
As I mentioned before, communication is important. However, what good is it if the person you are attempting to communicate with didn’t receive the information well? It has happened to us all: We tell someone what we need or expect in a situation and assume that they understood, only to find out later that they did something completely different. What went wrong? Where was the disconnect? Our requests were not clearly received.
Well, that’s on them, right? You did your best. Wrong! It takes more than one person to communicate. True understanding starts with clear language. Be concise and clear on what you are saying. If you need something specific, make sure that you point out the details that absolutely cannot be overlooked. Do your part, as the communicator, to ensure that the message is clearly understood. Be as precise as possible, vagueness will only add confusion. Pause and give them an opportunity to ask clarifying questions. Be willing to take the time needed to ensure that your message is understood. Sometimes that means you will have to repeat yourself and that’s okay. Success sometimes means patience.
Voicing our thoughts in a clear and concise manner is only part of it. Truly listening to what is being said with an open mind is another piece of the puzzle. Have you ever had a conversation with someone who is more interested in how they will respond than they are in what you just said? Frustrating, right? So, don’t do that to others! If someone is attempting to communicate with you, active listening can make a major difference. What is active listening, though? Here are some ways to be an active listener:
- Give the speaker your full attention! We are all busy, that’s understandable. However, avoid distractions, such side conversations or electronics when someone is speaking to you. Subtle cues, like body language, are easy to overlook if you aren’t paying attention.
- Put the action in active listening! You’ve heard people say “just nod and smile”, maybe you’ve done it yourself. I know I have. Why do we do that? Well, we want to give the impression that we are paying attention and are engaged. Active participation is clearly an important part of making the speaker feel heard. So, be sure to engage in the conversation. Don’t just nod and smile, but truly listen and engage. Show the speaker that you are listening to what they have to say.
- Make sure that you understand what they are saying! Summarize what the speaker just said to show that you understand. Use phrases like “this is what I heard you say. Is this accurate?” to reflect on what is being said. Paraphrase what you heard. Then, if you misunderstood something, it allows the speaker to clarify.
- Hold your judgment! Give the speaker a chance to completely finish each point before you respond or ask questions! Do not interrupt them with your interjections. Let them finish their thought before you offer your feedback. Listen to understand, not to respond. Which brings us to the next point.
- Be sure to respond appropriately! Be respectful when asserting your opinions. It’s okay to disagree or have a different approach, but do not simply dismiss their thoughts because of it. Discuss it, but know that what they said is just as important as your own thoughts. Give them the same respect you would want to receive from them.
Working with the talented individuals at Gecko Designs, I am grateful to be a part of such a skilled team. However, the team does not work as fluidly if communication is not a priority. We have found that, by using proper communication techniques, we are able to work cohesively and ensure the success of any project. Speaking with clarity and listening actively, ultimately leads to true understanding. This will continue to always be our goal at Gecko Designs.
A special thank you to Paul and Phil for taking the time to work with us and help us build stronger communication practices. We will continue to apply these techniques to make sure our projects flow smoothly. I am confident that the skills they nudged out of us will build an ever-stronger team and our clients will continue to reap the benefits!