As published in Scotsman Guide's Residential Edition, November 2008.
There is a science to making rules and decisions, especially in business when you're working with a team. The process involves the entire team establishing and respecting the rules in place.
Communication among team members also plays a key role. Positive communication leads to open minds about resolving issues and making changes, whereas negative communication is off-putting and destructive to reaching the goal.
To work successfully as a team, it's wise to focus on decisionmaking, team input and communication. Here's how.
The three-way vote
Arguing about decisions can take up a lot of time and slow things down. The fastest way to move projects along is to make decisions by majority. If there is a tie, the team leader should have the final say.
To use consensus to make decisions, give people a three-way vote: agree, disagree or don't agree but live with the majority vote.
After a few rounds of brainstorming alternative solutions, move to a majority-rules decision.
Employees may have different work styles and comfort levels, but they are all valuable members of the team. When working with them, it's important to keep the following points in mind.
Confidentiality: Some people feel free discussing anything with everyone, whereas others feel this behavior is a breach of trust. Establish upfront what level of confidentiality is appropriate and with which audiences.
Attribution: People have different needs for recognition. Some feel comfortable tooting their own horn, while others prefer to be acknowledged for their work quietly. As a team, establish how everyone will talk to each other about their accomplishments.
Participation: Some team members are passive during meetings, while others are more assertive and take charge. To get an even amount of participation, give everyone a few minutes to discuss their issues during each team meeting.
Acceptance: Different opinions may stimulate thinking that will ultimately solve issues. Other times, conflicting opinions can slow down or derail a project. Team members must decide when it is acceptable to have freewheeling discussions and divergent opinions and when it's time to rally together and keep a project moving.
Great communication skills will lead a team to victory. Negative communication will derail a project and leave a sour taste in everyone's mouth. Here are the key aspects to positive communication:
Conflict resolution: Team members should try to solve problems that are within their circle of influence without burdening other team members or customers. The exception is if the problem significantly impacts another team member's performance. On the flip side, the team leader must decide what types of problems should be disclosed to the team, how to report them and the information needed to describe problems.
Feedback: A primary rule of feedback is to not give it unless it's requested. Giving someone unsolicited feedback to correct what is considered a problem negates the other person and can hurt the relationship. Another rule is that all feedback should be positive. If the feedback cannot be provided in positive, constructive terms, then it should not be said until it is requested and can be framed constructively. In addition, avoid using positive statements followed by "but." The discussion should focus on how to fix the system, rather than fixing the person.
Acceptable topics for discussion: People have different tolerance levels for acceptable discussion topics. Although it is common for team members to become friends, having to listen to daily personal issues can be distracting. It's best to state that personal issues should be kept personal.
Establishing rules for communication and a decisionmaking process keeps work streamlined, the teams focused and unwanted power-plays away from your backyard.
Michelle LaBrosse is founder and "chief cheetah" of Cheetah Learning, the market leader for project-management training and professional development. The Project Management Institute (www.pmi.org) selected LaBrosse as one of the "25 Most Influential Women in Project Management in the World." LaBrosse is a graduate of Harvard Business School's owner/president-management program and is author of Cheetah Project Management and Cheetah Negotiations. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.