We all know how important it is to keep meeting times to a minimum. Everyone is busy and doesn’t want to waste time. So because of our tight schedules, we often move directly to the business at hand rather than creating opportunities to build relationships between team members. I hear leaders say, “go out to coffee after the meeting if you want to talk, we have a tight schedule.” The problem with this mindset is that it eliminates the possibility of forming a strong team of individuals who support and trust each other. If there is no trust, there is no team.
When individuals who do not know each other come together for a purpose, or when group members are commissioned to accomplish an unfamiliar task, the group experiences anxiety and “primary tension” as they get to know each other and define relationships (Tuckman, 1965). Until group members know each other there is not much meaningful discussion or exchange of ideas. If the leader moves right to the business of the meeting, participants don’t get comfortable with each other; they aren’t sure of the motives, thoughts or interests of the other members in the group. If there is no exchange of personal information such as a highlight of the weekend, an update of how the new office space is working out, or even a customer or work success story, the primary tension is not reduced and the group will not form into a cohesive, collaborative unit.
The communication tip for today is to incorporate relationship building questions or exercises into your meeting times. I can hear the collective groans from readers. I know you don’t feel that you can add extra time for building relationships, but in reality, you are wasting time and energy by not incorporating primary tension reducers. Ask a simple question such as “What was the highlight of your weekend?” or “Tell us about a work success that you or a member of your team experienced.” Set up the structure of the share-out—ask group members to keep their comments to 30 seconds or less. If you incorporate a quick share-out at the start of your team meetings, team members will start to know each other and will begin to feel more comfortable sharing interesting new ideas with the group. If members don’t know and trust each other, they will keep ideas, concerns and suggestions to themselves because they don’t how their comments will be received.
Do you want to form a dynamic, creative, supportive team that can make positive change in your business? Help members get to know each other and form relationships and watch the change happen.
Tuckman, B. (1965). Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin, 63(6), 384-399. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0022100