Overcoming common problems that teams encounter in their relationships

Overcoming common problems

Here are some tips for dealing with three common problems that teams encounter in their relationships.

People not valuing each other/each other’s opinions

If your team members do not respect each other, say they ignore or shoot down each other’s opinions, your team is still at the forming stage. Here are some tips for encouraging openness:

Set a good example through getting to know each team member, saying what you feel as well as what you think about things, and acknowledging each person’s contribution
Help members get to know each other, perhaps through a social activity like a pub lunch
Make it clear you’re confident that all members have things to offer and appreciate their contributions come in different forms

Point out that someone’s opinion is separate from the person, so you can disagree with their view but still respect them as a person.

It’s well worth investing time in developing openness as the bedrock for all the team’s interactions.

talking at cross purposes and misunderstandings

‘…you mean you want to change the colour of the wrapper.  I thought we were talking about the colour of the sweet itself. Well that’s been a waste of time, let’s start again…’
Does that kind of comment have a familiar ring? At least the people realised there was a misunderstanding. Sometimes people don’t even realise they have misunderstood each other until work has been done and time wasted. When they do realise, tempers easily become frayed.
Here are some things which get in the way of understanding each other:
not really listening
having a different perception – ‘To me the product is the sweet, not its wrapper’
focusing on a different aspect of the issue – ‘You were talking about the facts, I was interested in how people would feel’
distortions in communication – ‘I couldn’t really hear what you were saying because of the noise outside.’

Six hats for clear thinking
De Bono’s six thinking hats is a method you can use to ensure that thinking in a group doesn’t get scrambled and to minimise misunderstandings from the outset.
‘I’ll need to put my thinking cap on.’
Common saying
[Designer – if colour is available replace first column with 6 coloured hats]
[Table 2.2] Six thinking hats
 
Hat colour Used for Example   
White Facts Neutral information like you get out of a computer Half our customers come from word of mouth   
Red Emotions and feelings Includes hunches and intuition I feel annoyed we’re losing so many customers    
Black Negatives Assess what’s wrong with the idea or situation It won’t work because…   
Yellow Positives Assess what’s good about the idea or situation It’s a good idea because…   
Green Creativity Generate ideas How about asking a random sample of people in the shopping centre…   
Blue Control Like the conductor of an orchestra – controls which hats are used when Let’s all put on our red hats for a few minutes.
That’s fine for yellow hat thinking. Judy, will you put on your black hat? 
Adapted from De Bono (1985)
The hats simplify thinking by allowing each person to focus on one aspect of thinking at a time, such as facts, feelings or ideas. They allow the controller – probably you as leader – to ask for a switch in thinking. They allow you to ask team members to change from, say, black (negative) to yellow (positive) thinking without attacking their ego or personality.
The best analogy is that of colour printing. Each colour is printed separately and in the end they all come together.
De Bono (1985)
Another way to use the hats is for everyone in the group to put on the same hat for a while –
‘Let’s all put on our green hats to generate some ideas…’

Tips for using thinking hats:
They work best when they become a common language
Always refer to the hat colour; their colours intuitively connect to their functions
Treat six hat thinking as a game
Sometimes ask everyone to put on the same hat –
‘Let’s all put on our green hats for a few minutes to get some ideas.’
Sometimes you need different people to wear different hats –
‘OK, that’s enough of green hats. Jan and Simon, would you put on your yellow hat, and Roddy and Alison your black hats, so we can consider the options we’ve suggested?’
When evaluating new ideas, always use the yellow hat before the black hat.

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