Starting on a new team can be difficult, even more so when the rest of the team has been working together for a long time. I got to experience this dynamic when I started my latest contract.
I was put on a team with half of the people being veterans – they had been there for over five years — and the other half was brand new to the project like me.
The complexity continued to grow with the realization I have had in every job and team I have ever been a part of: I am in a leadership role and at least five years younger than everyone else on the team.
This is nothing new to me: I’ve always been the youngest all the way back to my very first management position. I was the manager of a local pizza place where every employee was either a peer or 10 years older.
Back then my leadership style was very different, I didn’t understand yet that respect is earned not just awarded because of the position I hold. Reflecting back on that time, the problems we encountered were the same problems I see now — we weren’t communicating effectively and it impacted everything else we did.
I would argue the power a team feels when everything is moving and flowing, going the way it is intended, is from very clear and complete communication. Christopher helped me reach this breakthrough when he talked about teams keeping the main thing the main thing in one of his recent blogs.
When communication is the main thing on a team and everyone is contributing to keeping that main thing (communication) the main thing, there is little that can stop the power that team possesses.
From managing a pizza shop to building and managing teams of high school students for a not-for-profit, to corporate America teams in government and private sector, I have realized the problems they encounter at their root are all the same and stem from a break in communication.
In my latest experiences both in state government and the private sector I have observed a cause of communication breakdown.
The longer I study in The Leadership Gift™ Program, the more aware I am of assumptions in general, not only from myself but also from those around me.
In this particular example I joined a team and being new, wasn’t up to speed on their vocabulary. Because I didn’t make it clear to the team that I was new to the organization, I allowed for them to make an assumption that started our communication breakdown.
Because we did not have this clarity, our conversations were more difficult and frustrating instead of solving the problem and getting work done.
Once I became aware of the cause for the problem, I had a choice: I could suffer the consequences of not confronting the assumption, or I could simply say that I didn’t know something.
When I am not aware of the cause of the breakdown I often turn to The Responsibility Process™
What I have found is when a team is struggling to communicate, applying The Responsibility Process takes away all the different biases and filters. It simply says that as humans we are going to face problems, and instead of trying to avoid them, let’s all agree that when we do, this is how we will respond.
In multiple different environments with all the different personality types, this approach has always worked for me. It brings the context back to an even playing field by eliminating all the different biases and filters we each have.
If you are struggling to communicate effectively with your team, especially when it comes time to face a problem, consider sharing this reality with them.
Share The Responsibility Process and see if your team members can agree to all respond from there when they have to work through a problem.
Jessica Soroky, CSM
Only 21 years old, Jessica is already a Certified Scrum Master with two years of practice in agile delivery and team leadership. She is also the youngest participant in The Leadership Gift™ Program and its growing worldwide community of leaders and coaches. After five years of non-profit development through Nellie’s Catwalk for Kids, Jessica continues her leadership journey in state government, not-for-profit, and private sector leadership studies.
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