ABC’s Of Team Building – T Is For Talk

By E. Elizabeth Carter

Originally, I planned on blogging about Transition as in teams in transition either due to a new boss, restructuring, or new team members joining the group. Instead I want to focus on Talk in that there is too much talk going on. I have witnessed especially this past year that many people are doing a whole lot of talking but very little listening. And when they do talk it is not usually very productive.

Before you begin a conversation think about the purpose of why you are having it with that person or team. There are way too many staff meetings that occur because it is customary to have one every week but in reality, not much gets done. There may be only one topic that really needs to be discussed but the next thing is that the meeting ran over, several things were talked about but only partially, and there were no takeaways.

Another thing to consider is who is the recipient of who you are talking to. Does this person process information the same way you do, or does it take them some time to respond? In that latter case, it may be a good idea to send an agenda ahead of time. Not only should the agenda list the items to be discussed but also allocate how much time for each discussion point. By doing it this way, all the topics are discussed versus the first one or two taking all the time.

Many people admit they don’t practice what they want to say. If it is a presentation they will practice but not for conversations. If it is a difficult conversation with an employee or addressing a sensitive/critical topic with the whole team it is advisable to practice. By doing this, you can determine if certain words sound too harsh or that more action words need to be added. The flow and inflections will probably be better if it is rehearsed beforehand.

Another major issue with talking is that it there seems to be more people having side conversations when others are speaking. Not only is it rude but it is difficult for the people who want to concentrate on what the speaker has to say. The speaker could call out those people but that may put people on the defensive. They could also choose to ignore them and hope they will stop. A last option may be for the speaker to stop talking and wait till the others have finished their conversation and/or ask them to share their views. I think it is all situational but bottom line it is still irritating.

Lastly it is worth mentioning that although talking may seem cumbersome versus texting or emailing, the focus should be on building a better relationship. It is not only the words but the manner in which it is presented. This may seem very obvious but too often people “hide” from conversations because they don’t like conflict, or they deem themselves as “so busy” that this is a better way of communicating. True it is better than disappearing completely but having a face-to-face can actually alleviate many problems.

My father had a famous expression that he taught us which is “talk is cheap”. In other words, you can always ask, the worst you will hear is “no”. The reality is that when you talk you are taking a risk in that your message may not be perceived the way you want to, etc. but in the long road, talking is important so stay focused, be present, and be concise.

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