Recruit your team
to improve

May 16, 2005

Consider these important steps to improve communication at staff meetings, or help resolve conflicts.

1. Clarify the purpose of the communication and it's importance to the team.

Consider phrases like:

"The purpose of this discussion is to come up with ways to distribute new work among us so it's completed, yet no one is overloaded."

"The purpose of this discussion is to find out how to reduce the tension and conflict between the two of you."

2. Clarify information: List facts, figures, issues and concerns.

Consider verbiage like: "Before we talk about how to divide up the work, can each of you tell us the major assignments you are working on and the percentage of time they are taking?"

Or, "Before we go further, I want each of you to tell me why you are upset."

3. Seek input from other members of the group to spark creative energy. The results will improve the quality and quantity of ideas.

Consider introducing the discussion by saying, "I know each of us has a pretty full schedule already. Given that, what ideas do you have for distributing the work?"

"What ways could we help each other feel more comfortable?"

4. Once the group reaches an agreement, specify what will be done, who will do it and set a deadline. Great ideas are only great when they are acted upon.

Ask questions like: "Which of the two plans will solve our problem?"

Or: "Diane has agreed to check her work area for messes before leaving for the day. Susan will ask for help when she needs it, instead of getting frustrated."

5. The closing statement is your last chance to determine whether your group is clear about the communication. Re-emphasize the key points.

"Just to summarize: Bob, you'll pick up Mike's assignment when it comes through. Barbara, you'll take over the things Bob was handling. Does everyone still feel this is the best approach?"

"I'm glad you chose to work this conflict out productively. Are you both comfortable with our plan?"

Hopefully, this system will give everyone a better way to deal with challenges and conflicts. Try it and see!