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Team-Building: Communications Exercises, Part 1
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Team-Building: Communications Exercises, Part 1 - Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: Communications Exercises, Part 1

Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: Communications Exercises, Part 1

Good communication = good teams

Almost any problem with interpersonal relationships can be traced to some problem with communication. It’s true for dating, friendships, family, and most of all work, especially the kind of meaningful work you do, where team members are invested in quality. Good teams communicate well, while bad teams usually communicate poorly.

When things are going smoothly, there’s often a temptation to let things be, but this is how bad communication can seep into otherwise nicely humming machines. Even teams who communicate well can benefit from the occasional exercise, if for no other reason than the validation they get from seeing how well they interact. Additionally, it’s never a bad idea to articulate specifically what your team is doing well, and when team members articulate it for themselves, the buy-in becomes even stronger.

For teams who don’t communicate well, it’s easy to point to “poor communication” as the culprit, but that doesn’t really fix anything. Neither will even the best communications exercises, but they can be the starting point, the path to diagnosis and possible recovery. Communicating about communication is often a good first step.

Not a cure but a stethoscope

Toward these ends, here are a few exercises you might consider. You probably don’t want to do them all at once, but as an occasional warm-up to a team meeting, each can get the conversation flowing about good and bad communication.

Forbes.com published one of the best ideas for communications exercises we’ve seen in a while. It has the advantage of requiring very little preparation and short execution time while getting right to the heart of a certain kind of communication problem: communicating with teammates the way they prefer. The heart of the idea is to place labels on four walls of a meeting room, each wall with a kind of intra-office communication method: face to face, phone, email, or text/chat/IM. Simply ask team members to stand in front of the wall representing their “preferred mode of communication for normal, day to day work.” Then have each group discuss among themselves why they prefer to communicate this way and what irks them about other means, and then have each group share their thoughts with the whole team.

Why we love it

You may notice that this activity has a lot in common with the introvert-friendly getting-to-know-you activities we shared in November 2017, Black & White and Four Corners. We like this communications wall game because it requires some amount of active participation but it’s pretty non-threatening for people who aren’t as vocal in these meetings. Simply selecting a wall and moving to it is a statement, while it’s also a visual indicator for everyone else. We also like the way it can bond people with the same preferences, so that their peeves might not seem so singular. There are few things as encouraging as learning that your annoyances are other people’s annoyances.

It’s also a great activity because often, people who prefer to reach out one way aren’t aware of the problems it might cause for some people. A team member may prefer email because it allows time to think before responding, and because it provides a record of the conversation for the person to review before each response. We who measure our words carefully don’t do as well with face-to-face conversation, and we often forget important details later. You will discover that when forced to articulate reasons for their preferences, you learn a lot more about each other than merely how they want to communicate: you learn about working styles and learning styles, two very important considerations for good teams aspiring to greatness.

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Team-Building: Communications Exercises, Part 1 - Executive Leadership Articles

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