The success or effectiveness of a team is directly related to the quality of the team’s communication. The quality of the team’s communication is directly related to the quality of the individual members thinking and their willingness/ opportunity to share their ideas.
That is, if you are given the opportunity to think clearly and you are willing to share ideas, your team will be very successful.
If you have a reasonable level of self-awareness and good self-esteem, you will not feel threatened (consciously or unconsciously) discussing difficult ideas. You will not feel uncomfortable in being open and sharing your thoughts. That is, if you have strong self-esteem you are willing to share your ideas.
We are going to look at how we can create an environment to think, and the opportunity to share ideas.
The quality of everything we do depends on the thinking we do first. The quality of our thinking depends on how other people treat us, that is the quality of their attention. So by giving you my undivided attention I am in effect encouraging your thinking and I am giving you the opportunity to share your ideas.
Our success depends on the quality of our thinking!
Team circles simply involve giving everyone a turn to think and share. By doing this we raise the intelligence of the group by increasing the quality of the members thinking and sharing.
When I give you my full and undivided attention I am saying: you matter, your ideas are interesting, you are worthwhile. I am also giving you room and encourage to think.
What am I assuming if I interrupt you? I can help you by thinking for you, my ideas are better than yours, to be professional I need to give answers, if I don’t interrupt I will never have a turn, I know what you are going to say, I am more important than you, interrupting will save time.
We also need to ask ourselves: do we really listen or do we finish sentences, moan, fill in phases, look at watches, sign , frown, tap fingers, give advice…
If your team becomes a thinking team, you will grow to understand each other, deal with conflict effectively, be creative, and have a great time.
Everyone has something to offer, team circles are a good way of ensuring everyone has the opportunity to share their thoughts. If this does not happen the quality of the groups decisions and action will suffer.
Each activity in a group has two sides:
Content – what is discussed, the tasks that have to be solved.
Process – how the discussion is conducted, how the group solves the tasks and the feelings experienced.
In the majority of cases how the decision is reached is of considerable importance to later work. If a significant minority see themselves as losers, the next stage in the process can be adversely affected. If conflict in the group are not solved by the time the decision has been taken, or if the discussion has been wound up too quickly, the group’s work will not be as efficient as it might have been.
If the decision making process has gone well, in other words everyone has a had an opportunity to contribute their views, and consequently has felt a part of the process, the efficiency of the group will be very much greater.
The 10 components of thinking team circles
- Attention – listening with respect, interest & fascination. Don’t confuse silence with not thinking!
- Asking incisive questions – removing assumptions that limit ideas. A question works because unlike a statement which requires you to obey, a question require you to think. You may ask: “what might we be assuming here that is limiting our thinking in this issue?”
- Equality – treating each other as thinking peers; giving equal turns and attention, keeping agreements & boundaries.
- Ease – offer freedom from rush and urgency.
- Encourage – moving beyond competition.
- Feelings – allowing sufficient emotional release to restore thinking.
- Honesty and openness. Let’s quickly discuss what this means: If we agree truth is an objective assessment of a situation. And we agree honesty is expressing how I feel, my understanding, my thinking about a situation. Then in communication, and with ourselves, it is most effective to all be honest while allowing for the possibility we do not know the truth. Only you know if your are being honest, but remember: people are only boring when they are not honest.
- Place – creating a physical environment that says back to people: “you matter”.
- Diversity – adding quality because of the differences between us.
Running Team Circles
- Before the meeting, decide on the agenda., and communicate to those concerned; or ask others what they would like to discuss, prepare the agenda and communicate it.
- Go around the circle and give everyone a turn to: answer a positive question prepared before the course, or to say something that is going well at work, in life …. This brings everyone minds in to the room, and starts positive thinking.
- Go around the circle and give everyone a turn to comment on the first point on the agenda. give everyone attention without interruption during open and even fiery discussion. ask incisive questions to reveal and remove assumptions that limiting ideas thereby freeing the mind to think a fresh. divide into pairs when the thinking stalls and give each person five minutes to think out loud without interruption. go around the circle every now and then to give everyone a turn to say what they think. everyone should be honest and should share information.
- At the end ask everyone what they thought went well in the meeting (this ensures a positive finish regardless of how heated the conversation became).
- If you would like, ask everyone to say something they appreciate to the person on their left (people do not normally hear anything positive about themselves, however appreciation builds esteem which frees thinking).Follow the same procedure for a brain storming session.
Other things to remember:
- when going around the circle everyone has the right to pass.
- knowing you will have your turn improves the quality of your listening
- the mind works best in the presence of reality, so make sure you have access to accurate and up-to-date information.
- for meetings, if possible arrange chairs in a circle, without tables. This way there are no barriers between everyone, and everyone can see everyone else. If you need to use tables, make sure you sit in a circle so everyone can see everyone else.
Question: doesn’t this take a long time?
An astronaut was once asked: “in 10 seconds your spaceship will explode, what will you do?” The astronaut answered: “I would think for 9 seconds, and then act”.
Taking time to think saves time!
What takes a long time is acting without thinking because the action often needs to be repeated in the right way, mistakes are made, and the best ideas aren’t used. Also knowing you won’t be interrupted frees you to think faster and say less.