Mind Your (Pattern of) Communication for Great Team Engagement

I arrived at opening time of a major retailer in Kuala Lumpur. As I walked in, I saw a manager doing a team briefing for his sales team.

I decided to listen in. Let me share with you what I heard…

The manager said, “I don’t want to see any more bad attitude. I want a good attitude…”

He then started to speak in the local language, Bahasa, which I could not understand. This is yet another incentive for me to learn the language!

He stood like an authoritarian figure in front of a group of children. Except that the children were grown up employees.

My first reaction was that the morning briefing is a great chance to motivate team members and to remind them what they are here for – to create a great customer experience and to help customers to buy.

This briefing was doing just the opposite. The manager was trying to motivate his team by telling them how bad their attitudes are!

Not a good start to the day for the team.

The April 2012 edition of the Harvard Business Review reports research conducted by MIT in the US. The research was interested in how great teams are created. It found that the patterns of communication ie how the communication happens on a team, is a good predictor of team performance.

More specifically, it found that tone of voice and body language have a major impact on team performance. What was remarkable was that study did not take into account the substance of what was said, but rather how it was said.

Going back to the team that was being briefed, or should I say, berated.  If the negative tone of the morning briefing was indicative of the style of communication in this story (I believe that it was), then there is a high probability that this is not a high performing team.

Now turn your eyes and ears to your own workplace.

What is the tone (how it is said, what the body language communicates) and the spirit (how does it make people feel) of the communication on your team?

If it’s positive, with an open  flow of communication among team members, then you have the makings of a high performing team. However, if the communication pattern is negative, and is not open among team members, then you are more likely that your team performance can be improved.

And, as with most situations in the workplace, the starting point is management.

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