Friday, December 12, 2014

How to Get Your Team on the Same Page

When you have a critical deadline approaching on a big project, as a manager you are hyper-focused on doing everything you can to ensure your team meets it.
Then it happens. Your worst nightmare.
You arrive for work one day expecting to get a status update that shows progress being made on systems and key details, but you instead discover:
After reaching for your jumbo-sized bottle of Maalox you keep in your desk drawer, it’s time to assess why your team can never seem to focus on what matters. Why do they always seem to be confused about what they’re supposed to be doing and why?
Haven’t you written them a million emails? Sat in meetings for hours outlining what’s to be done and when?
Well, yes, you probably have. But that may be part of the problem. It could be that your teamisn’t focused on what matters because you’re not presenting a compelling enough message and leaving them on auto-pilot for too long.
If you want to get your team better focused (and quit the Maalox habit), here’s what you need to do:
  • Change the way you deliver a message. Those “Zen” presentations where you present a metaphorical image with a few words? The photographs, bullet-point presentations and other messages you convey to your team via PowerPoint? Not as effective as good old whiteboard visuals, finds research by Stanford Graduate School of Business Professor Zakary Tormala. In an experiment, he found that participants were more engaged by a whiteboard presentation and retained more of the information later than other methods. An added bonus: the participants found the person giving the whiteboard presentation to be more credible than if the same person gave a PowerPoint or Zen presentation.
  • Craft a better narrative. While you may put a lot of thought into a big presentation to bosses or customers, you may just wing it when it comes to passing information to your team. After all, they’re paid to listen to you, so what more do they want? According to Zach Friend, a former spokesman for the Obama campaign and a communications expert, they need to feel an emotional connection to your message. In other words, while you’re presenting facts about a project (when it’s due, key components, etc.) you also need to frame it so that it strikes a chord with your team. For example, you may explain that your customer is a David versus Goliath story, and the team’s efforts will enable a small business to survive and help people keep their jobs.
To craft a good narrative, Friend, author of “On Message,” suggests:
  1. Grabbing your team’s attention with a challenge or compelling question.
  2. Giving your team an emotional experience by narrating the struggle to overcome that challenge or finding the answer to the opening question. In other words, allow each listener to put himself or herself at the center of the narrative.
  3. Galvanize your listeners’ response with a resolution that calls them to action. 
  • Touch base often.  Managers must remember that no matter how much they may wish it to be so, teams don’t operate on automatic pilot. Without frequent communications, they can quickly go off course, finds research by Alex “Sandy” Pentland, the director of MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory. 
Pentland explains that his research shows that in a typical team, about 12 communication exchanges per working hour may be about optimum, but more or less than that can cause the team performance to decline. In addition, everyone needs to be given a chance to talk, as dominant motor-mouth team members can l (read the rest here)

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