The way we talk and interact during team discussions is just as important as the content itself. The best way to access the wisdom of a group is to create the optimal conditions for conversations or to turn a conversation into a dialogue.
And to shape the right conversations we have to be able to design those.
So, let's dive into the art of designing team conversations and discover how Agile Coaches can make it happen!
Section 1: The Power of Listening
It's not just about hearing words; it's about truly absorbing and understanding. Show others that you're listening, so they keep the juicy details coming.
Check out these must-have qualities for effective listening:
- Desire: Seriously want to listen well.
- Interest: Be curious about the person and the topic.
- Self-discipline: Hold back your urge to jump in with your opinions.
- Concentration: Stay focused, or you'll drift away into la-la land.
Section 2: Breaking Down Listening Barriers
We all have pesky barriers to listening; it's time to face them head-on. Internal barriers are things like biases and distractions in our minds. External barriers can be noisy environments or those annoying interruptions.
Beat them by:
- Stepping into the speaker's shoes.
- Taking pauses to digest what's said.
- Tackling one topic at a time.
- Choosing a comfy listening time.
- Ignoring whether the person is like you or not (abstract yourself).
- Avoiding advice-giving and focusing on getting the most from the speaker.
- Making eye contact to show you're present.
Section 3: Facilitative Listening Techniques
Guide the conversation and encourage participation through effective listening. Create an inclusive environment where everyone feels heard and valued.
Check out these techniques:
- Paraphrasing: Say, "It sounds like you're saying..." to show understanding.
- Drawing People Out: Ask, "What's your think about this topic?" to get more input.
- Stacking: Guide the conversation by saying, "First James, then Kate, and Tom after."
- Tracking: Notice multiple conversations and say, "Hold up! There are three discussions happening right now."
- Encouraging: Spark participation by asking, "Who else has an idea?"
- Balancing: Ensure everyone agrees by saying, "Does everyone else share this perspective?"
- Helping People Listen to Each Other: Test their listening skills with, "What did you hear Jim say?"
- Making Space for a Quiet Person: Give them the spotlight with, "Jenny, why don't you go first?"
- Acknowledging Feelings: Show empathy by saying, "You sound worried. Am I right?"
- Linking: Connect ideas by asking, "How does your idea relate to our topic?"
- Summarizing: Wrap it up with, "So, we've been discussing the success of this program."
Section 4: Understanding Structural Dynamics
Let's explore David Kantor's structural dynamics, which have three dimensions that shape our interactions and conversations. Understanding these dimensions will help you design effective speech acts and foster collaboration.
Here's a breakdown:
- Vocal Actions:
- Mover: Initiating a new idea or proposal. Example: "Let's implement a new project management system."
- Opposer: Raising objections or trying to stop a proposed idea. Example: "I don't think that approach will work."
- Follower: Supporting and aligning with someone else's idea. Example: "I agree, let's give it a try."
- Bystander: Observing and reflecting on the conversation without taking a stance. Example: "Interesting, I'd like to hear more opinions on this."
- Communication Domains:
- Affect Domain: Expressing feelings to increase connection and intimacy. Example: "I'm excited about this opportunity!"
- Power Domain: Focusing on getting things done and increasing competence. Example: "Who will take the lead on this project?"
- Meaning Domain: Engaging in discussions related to truth, reasoning, and content. Example: "Let's analyze the data to make an informed decision."
- Open System: Consensual decision-making with an authority chosen by the group. Example: A representative democracy.
- Closed System: Authority based on position or hierarchy. Example: Military regiment.
- Random System: Authority distributed to those who actively take and use it. Example: Innovative R&D teams or jazz bands.
By understanding these dimensions, you can navigate conversations effectively, align with different perspectives, and enhance collaboration.
- Example 1:
Let's say you encounter fierce opposers during a discussion.
You listen first, then bystand. “I see how concerned you are about this decision, and it’s having an effect on the group.”
Then you follow. “I think you have reason to be concerned.”
Only then do you move. “It seems to me that we’ve got to change our decision and address your concerns, but we can’t lose the momentum of the original plan either.”
Four different actions: listen, bystand, follow, move.
- Example 2:
Imagine you're in a chilly room.
Instead of bluntly saying, "Close that window now," which is a forceful directive in a closed-system approach, you can adopt an open-system approach by expressing, "I've noticed people wrapping their scarves around their necks. Would someone near the window mind stepping over and closing it?" This still demonstrates a sense of authority but provides an opportunity for others to make a choice or volunteer.
On the other hand, you can tap into the affect domain by stating, "It would be much more comfortable if the room were warmer, and everyone felt cozy." Furthermore, you can take a bystander role by acknowledging, "I've observed that people seem uncomfortable, but it appears no one is willing to close the window."
- Example 3:
Imagine a team facing a crisis in a business setting. One team member takes on the role of a fixer, emphasizing the need to cut 30% without worrying about morale. Another member acts as a protector, concerned about the impact on people and the larger culture. Meanwhile, a third member adopts the role of a survivor, willing to work tirelessly to maintain morale.
As a leader, understanding structural dynamics allows you to intervene and design effective speech acts. Instead of opposing or dismissing these perspectives, you can acknowledge their concerns and emotions, saying something like, ""If we take a step back and listen to ourselves, it's evident that we all share a common goal. However, we're approaching it from different angles. Let's focus on the goal and find a way to balance efficiency and morale."
Section 5: Awareness, Intention, and Impact
Want to be a top-notch leader in designing team conversations?
Focus on these three main things: awareness, intention, and impact.
- Awareness: Stay tuned in to the dynamics of the conversation. Notice the moves, tones, and non-verbal cues.
- Intention: Be clear about your purpose and desired outcome for the conversation. Align your actions with that intention.
- Impact: Consider how your words and actions influence the team. Strive for positive impact and adjust as needed.
Designing team conversations is an art that goes beyond the topic itself. As Agile Coaches, we have the power to shape and facilitate effective discussions.
So, let's embrace the power of conversation, listen actively, and design team interactions that lead to better outcomes.
Hope you found this helpful. :)
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