By Mary Burns
Orlando Central Florida Chapter STC
If you missed the last meeting…
Sometimes our greatest strengths can become weaknesses. We technical communicators “get” information quickly and run with it—often straight back to our workstations, where we spend long hours alone with our projects.
Many of us are introverts, modest about promoting our skillsets and reluctant to monopolize the floor in meetings.
These traits don’t always make for great teamwork.
An engaging presentation by Paul Mueller, “Leadership and Team Dynamics: Improving on Team Dynamics for a More Effective Team,” challenged us to better contribute to our teams and ultimately to our projects. The presentation was based on Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, each of which highlighted a leadership maxim.
Absence of trust. Out of fear, people are not honest about strengths, weaknesses, and mistakes. Trust improves when team members know each other’s work styles and schedules. Exercises like 5-minute “Who am I” presentations, or even those brief cube chats over coffee, build trust. A mock award for blunders can help take the sting out of making a mistake.
Leadership maxim: Don’t take yourself so seriously—no one knows it all; everyone makes mistakes.
Fear of conflict. People on a team agree in “artificial harmony.” Without honest disagreement, there’s no passion. Some aids to healthy conflict are to focus on critiquing ideas, not people, and to avoid participating in “back-door” dissent.
Leadership maxims: Listen for at least four minutes without interrupting. Give everyone an A (don’t hold past perceptions against them).
Lack of commitment. People give little time and passion to decisions they haven’t agreed to. There are three kinds of decision type: tell, sell, or test. (The difference, as Paul memorably demonstrated, is “Leave.”; “Leave—the room’s on fire!”; or “I think we should leave the burning room. What do you think?”.) Decision-makers can’t always choose the decision type, but they can ensure that all viewpoints are heard.
Leadership maxim: There’s always more than one right answer. Listen to others’ perspectives and support alternative solutions.
Avoidance of accountability. People don’t hold others or themselves to their commitments. What helps here is to have clear job criteria and to focus on whether it’s being met. Team members should respectfully remind each other of commitments and also encourage each other to make realistic commitments: “Maybe doing that in three days is too ambitious.”
Leadership maxim: Provide a “tent”—invite others into your office or cube to discuss actions.
Inattention to results. Focused on individual growth and needs, people ignore whether team goals were met and put a positive spin on what was actually achieved. Team results improve when the results are measured against clear objectives, failures are honestly assessed and learned from, and successes are celebrated by the team.
Leadership maxim: Provide the “north star,” so that everyone knows the goals and direction.
An animated speaker, Paul illustrated his points with anecdotes from his long experience in technical communication, and drew stories of bloopers and triumphs from us too.
It was an evening that made me excited to belong to Team STC!