Resilient Leaders Shine Despite Adversity

Marcia Hughes
©ATD2016, published May 2016

abelincolnPresident Abraham Lincoln remains a model of transformative leadership
more than 150 years after he served as the 16th president of the United
States. Lincoln led the United States through its Civil War—a great constitutional
and political crisis. Throughout his presidency, he was focused on his
vision of maintaining the unity of the nation with unwavering passion, yet was
able to exert high flexibility and impulse control in the strategies he employed.
He took time to listen well, seek out and consider diverse feedback, and was
willing to shift his strategies. No one had time during the Civil War to talk about
change management, yet that was the order of the day. Lincoln is one of our
best resilience teachers.

READ FULL ARTICLE: Resilient-Leaders

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Building Team Resilience Through Positive Mood

“Pride broadens your mindset by igniting your visions about

other and larger ways in which you might be helpful.”

Barbara Fredrickson

pie-pos

Positive attitudes on your team will build resilience and impact every dimension of team work. Positivity will impact how well people get along with one another, how pleased they are to be on the team, their motivation and their creative thinking. That is why this is one of the seven team competencies of the TESI® (Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey®). In her books Positivity and Love 2.0, Dr. Barbara Fredrickson provides the scientific grounding to prove the power of positive engagement. Probably because most of organizational work is accomplished through teams, we are finding a tremendous thirst to better understand what this means for teams and how to assist teams in growing their positive mood.

Positivity is central to the ability to collaborate, which is based on the ability to work jointly with one another, to listen to different perspectives and to find common answers. Collaborative Growth’s team model demonstrates how we bring team emotional and social intelligence competencies together to create collaborative intelligence. One of the easiest team strengths to build is positive mood so take advantage of this and build your team skills.

Developing teams is a complex challenge that never stops requiring positive and proactive attention. One of the challenges to team effectiveness is the tendency for people to think and act individually and objectively, that is to focus on the task rather than each other. Busy team members can become so externally focused on projects and customers that they forget to pay attention to their personal needs or those of the team. This lack of internal team focus can occur for several reasons:

  • Addressing interpersonal relationships can seem much less controllable or scientific and less predictable and thus too uncertain;
  • Team members may not be trained to be good at team or human dynamics, they enjoy being an expert and they aren’t expert in this field;
  • Their external focus in getting all the jobs done may leave them drained with little energy left for the team; this is often compounded by highly demanding organizational politics;
  • The team leader may be an expert in his/her production world but likely is not trained to be a team leader and to manage complex interpersonal situations and to build motivation while maintaining accountability; and
  • The full organization may not be aware of the challenges their teams are experiencing nor understand how they could support the team in effective change.

Thus, intentional effort to build a team’s positivity and resilience is needed to get the most from your team.

Art Aron, a human relations scientist, conducted research that shows how people move from a sense of separation – me and you – to a sense of being together – us or we. His research was done with couples, but the same principles apply to teams, which are a group of people working together to solve problems. The more overlap the individual team members see between each other, the more likely they will have a sense of “us” and that leads to a series of positive results. In turn, this increased connection leads to helpful responses among team members that build trust as team members learn they can rely on considerate and supportive responses from one another. Most people will say they agree with the maxim that “All of us are smarter than one of us.” Understanding the effects of positive mood helps show us how to act that way, not just say it.

Fredrickson writes that positivity broadens one’s view from “me” to “us” and then to “all of us,” not just the part of the group that looks or thinks like you. Thus building positive attitudes within your team will expand the effectiveness of your diversity efforts. We often talk about emotions being highly contagious and that is so for positivity, just like it is for negativity. This makes it important for team leaders as well as all team members to be intentionally positive. Fredrickson explains that “positivity spreads because people unconsciously mimic emotional gestures and facial expressions of those around you … positivity breeds helpful, compassionate acts.” Furthermore, she points out that when we act positively with others we are likely proud of our engagement and “pride broadens your mindset by igniting your visions about other and larger ways in which you might be helpful.” (Positivity, pp. 69-70) This is a goal all organizations have for their teams.

Building Team Resilience and Positive Mood

resilience_meterppt-3levelsResilience and positive mood are closely connected. Resilience includes the ability to bounce back and relies on teams having a reserve to tap into when big challenges hit. That reserve is built by how team members treat each other and what they expect of one another. The more positive members of a team are, the deeper the reserve and the less often they are likely to need to tap into it. Positivity builds perspective so teams take challenges in stride rather than making them a big deal that expands stress instead of resilience.

Tips and Strategies

Use emotional intelligence to grow your teams’ positivity and resilience. Positive Mood and Stress Tolerance are two key competencies in the TESI that build team resilience. Of course while the team is building these competencies, they will find that some team members are more positive than others so the team leader needs to work with the whole team while respecting the differences as the team builds composite resilient strength. Tips for success include:

  • Build the habit of finding people doing something well and publicly thank them. This can be implemented by the team leader as well team members.
  • Start team meetings with a discussion of something that has worked well recently. Then the team can move to strategic analysis and can proactively cross map that skill that success reflects to other requirements.
  • Social connections are at the heart of team success so take time for building connections – and emphasize it even more if you have a virtual team. Do something fun together, have a pot luck lunch, and start meetings with going around the team and asking everyone to comment on something particularly interesting or important to them.
  • Find purposefulness in the team work so the team feels the sense of being a part of something bigger than itself. A traditional way to do this is with Mission, Vision and Values statements. Make sure those statements are meaningful and that the team feels ownership and pride or they won’t help.
  • Support team members in taking time to be relaxed with each other so the connections are built resulting in the natural desire to get one another’s back when needed.
  • Respond to comments made by one another. People want to be heard more than they want to be right. Applying skills such as active listening and empathetic responses will help people feel acknowledged and valued and that builds positivity and engagement.
  • Intentionally tap into the team wisdom. Your team knows what they need, however you may need to facilitate their recognizing and employing that wisdom. Take creative brainstorming time to explore topics such as: “What works that we can expand?” and “What do we want that we can influence?”

Recognize that positivity and trust go hand in hand as positivity supports deepening relationships. Develop positivity deliberately and expansively for the benefit of all individuals, teams and the organization.

Team Leaders Motivate Your Teams!

team_cheerLeading emotionally intelligent teams is a tough job. Developing your skill is worth it as teams strong in EI are productive, creative and loyal to their organization. Building team motivation is a key strategy for success and it’s a skill team leaders can always enhance by implementing the 7 motivation actions. This article complements our earlier team motivation article on Change and Teams found at http://www.cgrowth.com/articles/motivate_team.pdf.

Follow these 7 action steps to motivate your team. Before you implement any of these steps, think about someone who did a great job leading a team you were on. How did he or she motivate you? How did he or she engage and follow through. Now with a good example in mind ask:

  1. Who is on that team I’m leading? Know your team members individually.

Get to know your team members individually and help them know each other through an assessment such as Emergenetics or MBTI. You’ll be amazed at how much good data supports understanding team members’ preferences. With this information you can strategically target your requests to gain the best buy in.

  1. What’s my team good at? What are their challenges?

Access your team with the TESI®. The Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey®, is a team 360 reporting on how team members access their functioning in seven core areas of team engagement. These measurable results help teams focus on how to tap into their skills and improve areas of weakness. You and your team can measure success through the pre-post assessment.

  1. What rings their bells – what dampens their spirits?

Pay attention to the feedback you receive on a regular basis and repeat what works. Weave your data on individual and team strengths in order to further positive engagement.

  1. How will the team break out of old patterns to awaken creativity and boost spirits?

Creativity is an energizer. Even though some team members may moan about change, when you lead them in purposeful change and have a defined approach and outcomes it will help build new energy and clear out old ways of doing things that aren’t necessary anymore.

  1. What’s our team attitude?

Discuss the power of attitude with your team. Ask team members to explore current attitudes and then set intentions for the attitude they will express in the future. Be specific about who does what so you can notice as engagement improves.

  1. What inspires team members and the team as a whole?

What about giving some time to a worthwhile community project? You and the team could spend an hour at a soup kitchen or a day helping build a house. There are many ways to contribute. Challenge the team to consider options and find one a suitable project. After contributing your time get together and debrief. Talk about how it felt, what you learned about your community and what it means to volunteer as a team.

  1. How will we know when we have a team that functions with emotional and social well-being?

The Collaborative Growth team model measures the seven specific skills seen in the outer ring. Your team can take the TESI, consider Collaborative Growth Team Modeltheir skills and opportunities, and engage in intentional growth. The model shows that as teams are deliberately enhancing their skills they develop the benefits shown in the middle circle, such as trust, and then progress to being a team that enjoys emotional and social well-being. This is a highly productive and engaged state which leads to sustainable good results. However, be sure to pay attention to maintaining those skills. High performance requires constant attention.

Communicating Around the Team Table

 

The single biggest problem in communication is

the illusion that it has taken place.

George Bernard Shaw

group_peopleAsk any team what they need to improve most and they are like to say “Communications!” And they are right. Any team that communicates well has the foundational tools to respond well to stress, conflict, changes and to have a positive mood. So there’s a lot in it for you as a team leader or team member to improve team communications. Fortunately, this can be done! Remember all those phrases like an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, or a stitch in time saves nine! Apply this tested savvy to teams and you know it’s time to improve how you speak and listen to one another. This is one of the seven skills in the Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey® (TESI®), described in our book The Emotionally Intelligent Team.

Yet if communication is so important why is it often such a failure? Frankly, it’s not a complex answer. The skills needed have not been taught, fostered and insisted upon; mediocrity is too often accepted. Let’s start with noting the key parts to good communication.

Communication is what team members do to connect with others so that they can understand the collection of goals that are being pursued and how well each is proceeding in the attempt to satisfy their needs. Communication consists of the following ingredients as identified in The Emotionally Intelligent Team:

  1. Sender: the person who transmits the information
  2. Receiver: the person to whom the information is transmitted
  3. Message: the information transmitted
  4. Meaning: the intent of the message
  5. Feeling: adds depth to the message
  6. Technique: how the message is communicated

Communication is how people interact with each other so they can satisfy their needs and desires to make life better. To communicate, one person (the sender) must transmit information to someone else (the receiver). This message can go to the whole team or to one person, but there has to be an exchange of a message or there is no communication. For example, if a team member speaks about an issue, and another team member later believes he or she never heard of the topic, communication did not occur.

For effective communication to occur, the sender’s meaning must also be clearly understood by the receiver. Meaning is conveyed by both verbal and nonverbal communication. If the sender’s words are encouraging but he or she is looking down when speaking, the message and meaning are mixed. Nonverbal communication is likely to convey more of the truth, so it is important that the sender’s verbal and nonverbal messages are congruent in order for the meaning to be accurately understood.

All communication has meaning, from the trivial – “Please post a notice of our meeting” – to that of huge consequence – “The building is on fire!” The feeling component adds even more depth to the meaning.

Finally, technique is critical for effective communication. Without the awareness and implementation of effective techniques, the message, meaning, and feeling in the communication is lost. The following exercises will help build team communication. We have provided many tips and exercises for working with team communications in our Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Facilitator’s Guide – TESI® Short. This is an important area for us to strengthen together. So send us an email at mhughes@cgrowth.com or comment here on our blog!

Teambuilding with Emotional Intelligence Competencies

Team Emotional Intelligence CompetenciesWhat makes a group of people want to work together as a team? What makes a team want to do their very best work? When people feel safe, supported, and free to make a valuable contribution that will be recognized, they consistently perform at their best. In this article we explore how to build the emotional intelligence competencies necessary to create these conditions.

When the emotional environment is rich and transparent, teams can trust enough to take risks and that promotes more complete and creative decision making. Desired team competencies include trusting, risk taking, communicating, conflict resolution and being respectful and productive. These result when an organization intentionally understands these competency domains and develops the environment that elicits the motivation to fully participate and the emotional intelligence skills to support the competencies. While different types of competencies are needed by teams, including technical expertise, we are focusing on Emotional Intelligence (“EI”) Competencies for this article.

Competencies are the big picture statement of what is needed to be successful in a job. This is accomplished in part by the application of emotional intelligence skills, which can be independently measured and grown. EI skills are needed by the team as a whole, and can be measured by the TESI® (Team Emotional & Social Intelligence Survey®) and by each individual and can be measured by the EQi®. These skills are related to but different from individual personality traits, such as measured by the MBTI® or Emergenetics®. The following chart shows the progression we work with in understanding and developing team EI Competencies.

TEIC-triangle1

Figure 1: Team Emotional Intelligence Competencies

Team Emotional Intelligence Competencies are implemented through a complement of skills, attitudes, behaviors and information.

hen we are talking about team competencies, we are speaking of the skills or abilities needed to perform the specific tasks or functions assigned to the team. Accomplishing the competency is based upon their attitudes and behaviors as well as having the skills and knowledge needed. To be successful, teams need strength in emotional intelligence competencies such as trusting, risk taking, communicating, conflict resolution and being respectful and productive.We consider each of these areas as their own competency domain, and each competency domain is implemented through a complement of skills, attitudes, behaviors and information that are called for in a particular setting.

Teams need technical skills. For example, a team may need a competency in working with metal if they are building bridges, but to actually get the bridge designed, funded and built so it’s structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing requires many competencies from the technical ones to others that are based in how intelligently the team works with their emotional and social information. Some of that information will be new, such as occurs when the CEO of a big bridge project walks into a team meeting and congratulates the team for being ahead of schedule and under budget. Most of the emotional and social information that informs team decisions will come from past experiences. When we reference past experiences as a part of our thinking, they always come with emotional tags. We can’t avoid it, there is no such thing as making a decision without using our emotions. Our choice is whether that emotional information is used well. That is why teams and their individual members need to use their emotional and social intelligence.

Conflict Resolution Team Competency

To exercise conflict resolution skills well, teams need to create the capacity to embrace divergent thinking, engage creatively and then coalesce around a common decision. The competency of a team resolving conflict is implemented by a collection of team and individual skills. At the team level they need team identity, emotional awareness, the ability to communicate well, stress tolerance skills, and a positive mood. Individuals on the team also need individual emotional intelligence skills in self regard, assertiveness, empathy, reality testing, impulse control and optimism. While every team needs all of these skills to resolve conflict, different teams will need a different balance of those skills. Depending on the culture of the organization that houses the team and the socio-political environment in which they operate there will be different emphasis on how conflict is addressed. For people who serve on many teams, success requires the ability to dial those skills up and down based on the specific situation.

Let’s take a look at a strategic approach for developing conflict resolution skills for a team. Figure 2 shows the skills needed at each of the three levels we have discussed. To apply this strategy the organization would:

1) Identify that they value teams being able to resolve conflict well resulting in establishing conflict resolution skills as a team competency.

2) Identify the emotional intelligence skills at the team and individual levels needed to support success in resolving conflict. (Remember there are other factors at play in addition to EI skills, such as sufficient information and resources and take those into account as appropriate.) The EI skills needed are: By the team: team identity, emotional awareness, the ability to communicate well, stress tolerance skills, and positive mood. By the individuals: self-regard, assertiveness, empathy, reality testing, impulse control and optimism. Together these skills need to support the ability to engage in divergent thinking and then move to convergent thinking where all rally around the final decision.

3) Measure the current strengths and challenges for the team with the TESI and for the individuals with the EQi or EQ 360 and set strategic goals for improvement.

4) Give all team members their individual MBTI or Emergenetics profiles and discuss how these trait or personality preferences affect team engagement. Understanding this will help define the best learning approaches as skills are being developed.

TEIC-triangle2

Figure 2: Team Emotional Intelligence Competency for Conflict Resolution

Using a team model to measure and strategically target team emotional growth

Collaborative Growth Team ModelThe Collaborative Growth team model provides a process for successfully implementing team EI competencies. The seven scales measured in the outer circle are all competencies, the implementation of any one supports successful implementation of the others, which is why the model is presented in a circle. However, some scales will be more relevant to particular goals, such as demonstrated in Figure 2. The middle circle shows the four desired results of team engagement, such as trusting one another, are more complex competencies that result from developing the first seven scales. The inner circle, or bull’s eye, demonstrates the long term benefits teams and their organizations gain when these competencies are implemented. The TESI is a team 360 which measures the team members’ assessment of how well they are implementing the seven scales in the outer circle. It can be used to measure team progress through taking it before development begins and again as the strategies are being implemented.

Conclusion

When developing your teams, you’ll have much more success when you strategically use a multi-dimensional approach including competencies, specific skill development and incorporating awareness of the personality traits of team members.

Coaching Leaders & Teams to Grow Conflict Resolution Skills

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

George Bernard Shaw

We are often asked to work with leaders, staff and organizations to guide them in improving their conflict resolution and communications skills. It is an honor to have this opportunity, one we don’t take lightly. Our intention is to facilitate a transformative process that results in sustainable behavior change. Reaching that long term goal requires investment by the individual, team or organization and the coach/facilitator.

Make no mistake about it; this is about making significant change and usually from deeply imbedded habits. Change is Hard Work – it’s possible yet it requires focused commitment and practice. Coaching individuals & teams to change, grow and produce requires:

  • Understanding (the cognitive part)
  • Commitment (the inspirational part)
  • Practice (the determined part)
  • Feedback (the collaborative part)

Success is built through following our four step process to improving conflict resolution skills. If sustainable change is desired, none of these steps can be missed and the dimensions of understanding, commitment, practice and feedback must be interwoven throughout the engagement.

Step One: Diagnosis and Willingness

The first step is making the decision to seek coaching and facilitation to help an individual or team to improve their conflict resolution and communication skills. You’ve heard the maxim that a stitch in time saves nine. However, it’s likely that by the time this decision is made there’s considerable challenge. Nevertheless, build these skills as soon as possible, the earlier you can intervene the better, even if you only save four stitches instead of nine.

At the beginning we normally ask the participant(s) to take one or two assessments, the EQi for individuals and teams will take the TESI or both the EQi and the TESI. All individual responses are confidential and used only to support development. This allows the participants and the coach to have data on the current state of skills and competencies and to highlight both areas that need to be improved as well as existing strengths that can facilitate the change process. The EQi2.0® reflects one’s overall well-being and ability to succeed in life. It explores the role that sixteen different elements of emotional well-being play in one’s life, by applying the fifteen skills in this model together with happiness as an indicator of emotional and social well-being. How one uses skills such as assertiveness, empathy, impulse control and optimism significantly influences their communications and conflict resolution success.

The TESI® (Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey®) is an internal 360 which measurers the team’s performance on seven team competencies including communications, conflict resolution and stress tolerance. Team members rate the team’s performance and then the aggregated results are presented to the team, with each individual’s scores remaining confidential. This allows team members to speak frankly with one another and quickly advances the discussion to building a successful action plan.

Willingness to honestly review current behaviors and results is central to making meaningful change. Fortunately, we don’t need 100% willingness at the beginning. There needs to be agreement to participate, however the vigor with which the participant(s) engage usually expands over time. As they perceive the possibility that they don’t have to stay stuck in this uncomfortable pattern and gain a sense of safety and trust in the process, willingness to make change usually grows significantly.

Step Two: Recognition and Ownership

Before a person buys into making personal change, he/she must recognize that the current way isn’t working. They need to take ownership of their own behavior and how that contributes to the difficult situations. At first it seems much easier to blame someone else – “It’s my bosses fault” or “It’s my team member’s fault” or “My organization doesn’t give us enough resources or time to do it right.” There could well be some truth in any of these statements, but they are not the point of the individual’s power. We can only change ourselves. Yet, fortunately, our changed behavior often leads to different responses. If an individual who used to create difficult conversations instead responds with collaborative invitations to work together, they are likely to receive a different response, although it may take a few times before the change is trusted.

Others, such as the team or organizational system likely contribute to the challenges. Often one person is treated as the Identified Problem yet it’s really a systemic issue. Frequently, the individual does contribute significantly to the difficulties occurring; however, they are very seldom alone in creating the difficulties. Thus in individual coaching we need to work with the individual to take full responsibility for their behaviors and to embrace learning to be more successful. Additionally, it is very useful when we also work with the team leader, the whole team or other key individuals to address how they are working together. Nevertheless, even if the others in the process won’t participate in recognizing and making changes, the coaching can be significantly beneficial for the individual. They will still gain skills that improve their engagement, are likely to enhance their productivity and reduce the negative feedback they receive. Sometimes these benefits play out more effectively in new situations rather than the on-going challenge area. The benefits of these behavior changes are certain to impact both their professional and personal lives as conflict shows up everywhere.

As a part of the recognition, the participant(s) need to understand what their challenges are as they respond to conflict. Are they avoiding, aggressive, or unreliable in that they don’t follow-through? These can be challenges for anyone, however, the problem to the team and organization is multiplied when these are challenges are held by the team leader. Then many people suffer the consequences of their poor conflict management.

Step Three: Learning New Behaviors

This is the role up your sleeves and build new habits time. It involves are four components of understanding, commitment, practice and feedback. As the cognitive awareness is developed of what occurs when their responses are curt and perfunctory, and the participant(s) become curious about what else they could do, we are starting to build commitment, the inspirational part. This is quite important to supporting the determination needed to start practicing the new ways. Finally, feedback will help to in fine tuning their approach, learning the right nuancing and getting it right. Both introverts and feisty people may not want to respond to feedback. This reluctance comes from different reasons, but can have the same consequences of not building the new relationships needed. Thus part of the coaching we do focuses on how to work with feedback as they begin using their new skills.

Key skills from the EQi that particularly influence conflict resolution skills are: impulse control, empathy, assertiveness, problem solving, flexibility and optimism. All 16 skills are influential because of the complexity of working with conflict, but these 6 are at the core of effective functioning with conflict. Let’s say that Jill has taken the EQi, which reports lower scores in impulse control and empathy. She talks over people, responds hastily, is highly judgmental and will tell her direct reports abruptly how they are failing, but seldom offers solutions or helps them make changes. She seldom recognizes their successes. You can imagine that it’s hard working on her team.

Circle-of-EmotionShe has come to us for coaching on how to improve her work with her direct reports because her performance review calls out these ineffective behaviors. First, we will help Jill understand the process of working with emotions as reflected in this graph that shows the circle of emotions. We would work with Jill to understand the consequences of her approaches, build her optimism that she can change and help her understand how valuable that change will be. Next we will work with her to articulate specifically how she is interacting with her direct reports. Together we will diagnose the trouble spots so new approaches can be identified and practiced. For example, if a direct report is speaking she needs to not rudely interrupt, but listen and then respond. Jill can create reasonable boundaries up front to let them know she only has five minutes before her next meeting if necessary, and then set a better time to fully deal with the matter. There are many specific and concrete skills that she can begin applying that can greatly change her success.

If Jill’s team is also involved we will have them take the TESI and work with them on how they are participating in resolving conflict, which will necessarily include other competencies, especially communications. Through this process we can build enhanced resourcefulness throughout the team. As everyone gets better at working through difficult issues, the team’s success will improve and Jill’s changes can be more effective and likely will be more appreciated.

Step Four: Implementation – Practice, Fine Tune, Practice

PIE color whole tagThis is the follow through stage that requires diligence and has the most positive payoffs. It involves the components of commitment, practice and feedback. A key part of coaching is to help pace the process of change so that her work builds her success and isn’t so overwhelming that the changes aren’t practiced. In our example of Jill we will encourage her to practice some changes, get feedback and then fine tune her approach. As a few changes start working and become natural, we can work on new and perhaps more transformative changes. Deliberate steps and managing the magnitude of what she is asked to do will promote and anchor her success.

Overall, investing in leader, staff and team improvements in working through difficult challenges can be quite effective. Building effective buy-in to the process from all parties greatly contributes to success. It is valuable to make a sufficient investment so that all four stages are implemented.

Communicating Around the Team Table

group_peopleAsk any team what they need to improve most and they are like to say “Communications!” And they are right. Any team that communicates well has the foundational tools to respond well to stress, conflict, changes and to have a positive mood. So there’s a lot in it for you as a team leader or team member to improve team communications. Fortunately, this can be done. Remember all those phrases like an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, or a stitch in time saves nine. Apply this tested savvy to teams and you know it’s time to improve how you speak and listen to one another. This is one of the seven competencies in the Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey® (TESI®), described in our book The Emotionally Intelligent Team. But if communication is so important why is it often such a failure? Frankly, it’s not a complex answer. The skills needed have not been taught, fostered and insisted upon; mediocrity is too often accepted. Let’s start with noting the key parts to good communication.

Communication is what team members do to connect with others so that they can understand the collection of goals that are being pursued and how well each team member is proceeding in the attempt to satisfy his/her needs. Communication consists of the following ingredients as identified in The Emotionally Intelligent Team:
• Sender: the person who transmits the information
• Receiver: the person to whom the information is transmitted
• Message: the information transmitted
• Meaning: the intent of the message
• Feeling: adds depth to the message
• Technique: how the message is communicated

Communication is how people interact with each other so they can satisfy their needs and desires to make life better. To communicate, one person (the sender) must transmit information to someone else (the receiver). This message can go to the whole team or to one person, but there has to be an effective exchange of a message or there is no communication. For example, if a team member speaks about an issue, and another team member later believes he or she never heard of the topic, communication did not occur.

For effective communication to occur, the sender’s meaning must also be clearly understood by the receiver. Meaning is conveyed by both verbal and nonverbal communication. If the sender’s words are encouraging but he or she is looking down when speaking, the message and meaning are mixed. Nonverbal communication is likely to convey more of the truth, so it is important that the sender’s verbal and nonverbal messages are congruent in order for the meaning to be accurately understood.

All communication has meaning, from the trivial – “Please post a notice of our meeting” – to that of huge consequence – “The building is on fire!” The feeling component adds even more depth to the meaning.

Finally, technique is critical for effective communication. Without the awareness and implementation of effective techniques, the message, meaning, and feeling in the communication is lost. The following exercises will help build team communication. We have provided many tips and exercises for working with team communications in our Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Facilitator’s Guide – TESI® Short. Strengthening communication requires paying attention to the learning styles and preferences of the intended recipients and presenting the information accordingly. It requires patience which leads to slowing down enough to check in and see if you are understood. Most of all effective communication is highly rewarding, even if you slow down you get things done faster because when the sender and receiver are communicating the results are sustainable.

Generative Discussions by Boards Create Shared Meaning

“It’s not the rules and regulations.  It’s the way people work together.”

Jeffery Sonnenfeld

In his article “What Makes Great Boards Great” Sonnenfeld (HBR, September, 2002) researched many of the structural ideas of what differentiates great boards from other boards and found it’s not the structure, such as financial literacy, age, attendance or professional skills that’s the success differentiator, rather it is the social system the board has established.  He discusses a virtuous cycle of respect, trust and candor that establishes well-functioning teams, including boards.  “What distinguishes exemplary boards is that they are robust, effective social systems” according to Sonnenfeld.

Becoming effective social systems requires that Board Directors individually, as well as the Board as a whole, use well developed emotional and social intelligence skills.

In addition to developing your Board’s effective social system, it’s critical to choose the best format for your discussions in order to be effective leaders.  Many Boards are aware of the need to attend to fiduciary and strategic decisions, but there’s a third leg to the stool required when Boards intend to truly be leaders for their organizations.  They need to help frame the issues, to do the creative work up front that selects what will get organizational attention and how the issue will be approached.  They need to be leaders in creating the focus on key matters to be addressed, not just respondents to decisions by others in the organization.  Asking how Boards and its Members can be more effective leaders is likely to cause a reframe of how a board’s performance is defined.

In Governance as Leadership, Chait, Ryan and Taylor (2005), present an excellent discussion on board engagement and performance tied to the strength of using this three part Board process.  They point out the truth that many Board Members struggle with finding a useful way to feel they are making a meaningful contribution.  Part of the problem is that too often Board Members don’t understand the Board’s purpose.  If they can’t articulate the difference the Board is making for the organization, it is impossible to feel that their time is being meaningfully spent.  And they certainly won’t feel like they are contributing as leaders who are making a difference.

A key to bringing Boards into the leadership tent is ensuring that generative discussions are a fundamental part of the Board engagement.  This requires adopting a three part modality to Board decision-making. The three formats pictured in this triangle are each valuable and distinct formats for Board governance.

sgf_triangle

Generative Mode: Generative discussions come first, before the data is marshalled into a particular fashion to support an action.  This is the fuzzy time of exploring what’s going on.  It’s a subjective process that occurs through the opportunity for open, interactive dialogue.  It occurs well before making the decision on what to do.  Rather, generative discussions call for dynamically and interactively exploring the process, factors, and pieces of information around a big topic that eventually come together by framing the problem.  The Board acts as a robust social system with emotional engagement in the consideration at hand.  There is sufficient shared knowledge to work together with the CEO and leadership team and make sense of the topic so it can then move forward to be resolved through strategic and fidicuary decision-making.  This is the first step in shared leadership. If the Board is not involved in this step of meaning-making it’s leadership role is significantly compromised.

Fiduciary Mode: In this familiar mode the Board acts as a overseer of resources, legal compliance and fiscal accountability.  The Board’s fiduciary responsibilities are sometimes phrased as having a duty of care to quality and financial decisions, a duty of loyalty to being legally responsible and compliant and a duty of obedience to the purpose and mission of the organization. I would also add that there’s a duty to provide leadership, which calls for the generative conversation.

Strategic Mode: The board acts as a strategic partner to the CEO and senior leaders setting a course of action and priorities and goals against which performance can be monitored.

Generative Dialogue

Having a strong sense of purpose is likely the strongest motivator leading to successful Boards and its Directors.  Knowing what the purpose of the Board is allows Directors to guage their own success as a Director and to focus their time and efforts towards what matters most.  The Board is then a co-participant with the CEO and senior leadership in being a sense-maker or meaning maker.  Thus the Board is

not just told X + Y = Z but X and Y are occuring, let’s explore what this means and how to proceed.  As an example, for a hospital, that can mean the Board, CEO and physicians engaging in thoughtful and open discussions about what the massive changes in healthcare mean to physicians and their role in healthcare.  They can explore the most effective ways to build newly constructed relationships with a new

sense of partnership.  This gives the Board the power to participate as leaders rather than simply being in the position of approving a move to hire more physicians.  This is an example of sharing the experience of the discussion and through that developing a shared meaning.  With the foundation this conversation creates, the strategic and fiduciary work will flow as solutions are found. Significantly, the Board will be more engaged and have a authentic experience of being purposeful. This also supports the Board’s intellectual capital in being sufficiently developed to support effective Board leadership in the fiduciary and strategic domains.  Very importantly, as Chait points out, the quest is not to focus on a board member’s individual intellect, but rather on the “collective brainpower” that can be channeled into the mutual analysis and robust discussion that lead to effective governance and an experience of shared purpose.

Chait wisely comments,“Generative governance requires a fusion of thinking, not a division of labor.”  Helpful metaphors can be thinking of the board as a “sounding board” with the opportunity for the CEO to work together with the Board to define issues, frame problems and then pursue solutions.  As Chait et al comment, we can imagine the CEO and Board as co-pilots.  Instead of the Board being kept in a narrow role of approving management solutions, the Board plays an active role in defining the problem.

When Boards are engaged together with the Executives to define and resolve the decision, the foundation is laid for the Board understanding it’s role and the purpose of their existence.  This supports the Board creating a robust social system, developing a direct path to using their emotional and social intelligence skills and joining the ranks of the Great Boards.

Facilitation Supports Collaborative Decision-Making

dancers

“There are two ways of being creative. One can sing and dance.
Or one can create an environment in which singers and dancers flourish.” Warren Bennis


Good facilitators create a curious and safe environment that promotes creative and sustainable decision-making.  Organizations seek facilitation when they value an integrated group process with lasting results.  A well facilitated process focuses on building Collaborative Intelligence™.  When working with Boards and Commissions, it’s important to design a process that support the 3- pronged modes of governance: Strategic, Fiduciary and Generative.  A good facilitator works with the leaders to ensure a well-designed and run event, which can take many shapes and sizes.  It can be an offsite, a retreat/advance, a high conflict resolution session or a discussion by a well-functioning team looking to expand their skills.  There are times we help an organization with employees in conflict select between a facilitated process and a mediated process.  In mediation a neutral third party assists others in arriving at a mutually acceptable decision, but doesn’t add his or her own thoughts to the process.  In facilitation, the facilitator actively assists the parties in brainstorming options and solutions.  It is always important, though, that the decisions are made by the participants.

Collaborative Growth provides facilitation for elected boards and commissions, executive sessions, organizational retreats or advances and employees in conflict.  There are many elements in common for all the processes.  Possibly the most important is that the facilitator elegantly promotes the full participation by all parties.  This calls for guiding those who want to over-participate to pull back on their comments while the facilitator invites the more quiet introverts to share their insights and questions.
At a recent facilitation a participant commented on the great benefit he and others were receiving because of our reading and responding to the non-verbal messages from the team members.  It is important for the facilitator to notice when someone wants to speak, acknowledge that and then remember to give that person the opportunity to speak.  Non-verbal communication can also include indications of discomfort with a topic such that the facilitator calls on the person making his or her participation safe, saying something such as “Jason, give us your thoughts on the challenges or possible concerns with this approach.”

Facilitation benefits include:

  • The comfort for participants is increased because they know they will all receive help in speaking up with balance and respect for one another.
  • The leader can participate as he or she doesn’t have to be in charge of managing everyone else’s participation.
  • A highly interactive and engaging process can occur.
  • The facilitator structures the topics without stifling creativity thus helping the group take time to vet a decision and then consider all aspects of implementing and working with the decision.
  • The facilitator guides the group to apply reality testing to potential decisions and to access if it can get done and by when and to identify and assign responsible parties.
  • The facilitator can help the participants combine their EQ and their IQ.

Good facilitation is welcomed by organizations when done well.  That means it is focused on assisting all parties to participate, reach sustainable solutions and along the way provide assistance in resolving conflict and exploring difficult topics. Curiosity is welcome and promoted.  Imagine what can be created – Albert Einstein once said, “I have no special talent.  I am only passionately curious.”  That’s the attitude to take into a facilitated session.

Facilitation Supports Collaborative Decision-Making

dancers

“There are two ways of being creative. One can sing and dance.
Or one can create an environment in which singers and dancers flourish.” Warren Bennis


Good facilitators create a curious and safe environment that promotes creative and sustainable decision-making.  Organizations seek facilitation when they value an integrated group process with lasting results.  A well facilitated process focuses on building Collaborative Intelligence™.  When working with Boards and Commissions, it’s important to design a process that support the 3- pronged modes of governance: Strategic, Fiduciary and Generative.  A good facilitator works with the leaders to ensure a well-designed and run event, which can take many shapes and sizes.  It can be an offsite, a retreat/advance, a high conflict resolution session or a discussion by a well-functioning team looking to expand their skills.  There are times we help an organization with employees in conflict select between a facilitated process and a mediated process.  In mediation a neutral third party assists others in arriving at a mutually acceptable decision, but doesn’t add his or her own thoughts to the process.  In facilitation, the facilitator actively assists the parties in brainstorming options and solutions.  It is always important, though, that the decisions are made by the participants.

Collaborative Growth provides facilitation for elected boards and commissions, executive sessions, organizational retreats or advances and employees in conflict.  There are many elements in common for all the processes.  Possibly the most important is that the facilitator elegantly promotes the full participation by all parties.  This calls for guiding those who want to over-participate to pull back on their comments while the facilitator invites the more quiet introverts to share their insights and questions.
At a recent facilitation a participant commented on the great benefit he and others were receiving because of our reading and responding to the non-verbal messages from the team members.  It is important for the facilitator to notice when someone wants to speak, acknowledge that and then remember to give that person the opportunity to speak.  Non-verbal communication can also include indications of discomfort with a topic such that the facilitator calls on the person making his or her participation safe, saying something such as “Jason, give us your thoughts on the challenges or possible concerns with this approach.”

Facilitation benefits include:

  • The comfort for participants is increased because they know they will all receive help in speaking up with balance and respect for one another.
  • The leader can participate as he or she doesn’t have to be in charge of managing everyone else’s participation.
  • A highly interactive and engaging process can occur.
  • The facilitator structures the topics without stifling creativity thus helping the group take time to vet a decision and then consider all aspects of implementing and working with the decision.
  • The facilitator guides the group to apply reality testing to potential decisions and to access if it can get done and by when and to identify and assign responsible parties.
  • The facilitator can help the participants combine their EQ and their IQ.

Good facilitation is welcomed by organizations when done well.  That means it is focused on assisting all parties to participate, reach sustainable solutions and along the way provide assistance in resolving conflict and exploring difficult topics. Curiosity is welcome and promoted.  Imagine what can be created – Albert Einstein once said, “I have no special talent.  I am only passionately curious.”  That’s the attitude to take into a facilitated session.