“Help, my team is killing me!”:
Proven Communication Strategies to Help Make a Stronger Team and Smooth Out the Wrinkles
We’ve all been there, your chef is frantically yelling at you about kitchen issues and FOH problems, your floor manager and event booking manager are not seeing eye-to-eye and are coming to you to complain about one other, members of your management team are refusing to confront issues with staff and won’t follow through on disciplinary actions, and you’re left in the middle to delegate and deal with it all often during the evening rush.
Instead of losing your cool, walking out of the room, or just giving up all together, here are some tried and true tools to use to help you through a tough moment:
1. Remember to breathe: this one may sound simple or over-stated, but trying to take a second to cool down and collect your thoughts can help you prevent an irreparable blow-up that leads to things that shouldn't have been said. When we’re stressed, anxious, or angry our “flight or fight” system kicks in and can knock us into overload. Instead of letting this overtake us, we can rely on a practice scientifically proven to help us keep our cool—deep breathing. While you can always use this in a moment of tension, it works best if you take a minute to practice when your calm allowing you to utilize it with more ease in the heat of the moment:
Wherever you are, try to get in a comfortable position by sitting or standing straight and allowing your shoulders and arms to relax down. Next, slowly take a deep breath in through your nose, allowing your belly to expand on the in-breath, and out through your mouth allowing you belly to contract on the out-breath. Try your best to focus on your out-breath being longer than your in-breath. If it helps, you can inhale for a count of four, pause for a second, and exhale for a count of six. Try this at least 4-5 times if possible. This is a great practice to start or end your day with as well to see increased benefits.
2. Listen! Now that you’ve given yourself a moment to collect yourself, try your best to listen to whoever is confronting you with an open-mind. What are they saying? What do they view as the problem? And before you attempt to respond, make sure you check out what you heard with the other person to ensure you heard them correctly. This principal, called active listening, can really help to clarify communication and prevent further blunders. How many times have you been in a conversation and left feeling that the other person didn't even understand what you were trying to say? This is why using active listening can really help the conversation flow more smoothly, as it will not only allow you to clarify, but will help put the other person at ease, letting them know that you are attentively trying to listen to what they have to say.
3. Problem solve: you’ve taken a deep breath to calm down, actively listened to what the other person has had to say, and clarified what the problem was, now what? Sometimes you will be done at step 2 if there was no real problem and the person just needed to vent, but other times there will be an actual issue that you will need to think through. If you’re in the weeds, this may not be feasible for you – if it’s a big issue that cannot be solved in the moment, ensure the person that you will revisit this during a meeting and see if there is a temporary quick fix you can agree upon in the moment. But, if this is a management issue that comes up during a planned meeting, or something you agreed to table for later, you can work things through with the help of the following tips:
i. Once you’ve agreed on what the problem is, every member in the management team can throw out potential solutions. Now is not the time to overanalyze or judge, just offer potential solutions and try to write them down if you can.
ii. Now that you have a list of potential solutions, go through them, list pros and cons, eliminate the ones that definitely won’t work, and try to agree on one solution. You may run into possible disagreements during this phase, so this is where your deep breathing and active listening skills can come in handy again! It also helps to introduce these tools to your staff during a pre-shift or a staff meeting if you can so that they are better able to keep their cool as well.
iii. After you’ve agreed on a solution, and agreed upon the steps each person may need to take to accomplish this solution, it’s time to anticipate any barriers that may slow you down or prevent the plan from going through. Figure out how you can tackle and potential barriers or pitfalls head on so that you have a plan in place in case something comes up.
This may all seem overwhelming, if not impossible, at first but with some patience and practice you will start to see dramatic changes in positive communication and overall morale with time, so try your best to stick with it! But remember, if you continue to encounter problems skilled communication specialists and consultants are available to give you a helping hand.
For more information on this article or on how to implement these strategies, please contact us!