July 1998 Web Brief
Learning to be Successful

Quote of the month: "If there’s a way to do it better ... find it." Thomas A. Edison

Listen for Words That Bind
Source: Communication Briefings ideas that work

By listening to team members, you can tell how close they are to becoming the cohesive group that will produce strong teamwork. Examples:

  • "I need ..." means they’re still thinking as independent members of the group. "We need ..." signals the crossover to team thinking.
  • On teams of those from several departments, listen to how members use "we," "us" or "our." As long as they use these pronouns to refer to the functional group they came from, they’re still identifying with that group. When they start using the pronouns to refer to the team, they’ve made the needed transition.
  • Listen for clues such as these that will tell you members are still maintaining a social distance that will impede teamwork: They avoid pronouns and use the passive voice. Example: "It has been found during the product review process that the current design fails to meet customer needs." They use formal language. Example: "This meeting has been convened for the purpose of assessing the team’s progress toward desired goals."
  • When nicknames, slang and colloquialisms abound, the team has achieved the social closeness every team needs. You’ll also hear things such as, "Do we feel good about this decision?"

Source: Team Talk: The Power of Language in Team Dynamics, Anne Donnellon, Harvard Business School Press, 60 Harvard Way, Boston, MA 02163