Working for a young, diverse, and fully remote company has many advantages, but it also has challenges. One of those is how we resolve conflict between each other through effective communication. As a company, we all have our own ideas of what effective team communication should look like, but we realized early on that in order to create a cohesive set of values, we needed to come together and establish a shared understanding. We did this through a series of workshops that focused on the importance of effective communication, resolving conflicts, and effective leadership styles. Through these workshops, we were able to delve deeper into the intricacies of communication and leadership, and we learned a great deal about each other as individuals. During one of our workshops, we chose to explore the subject of empathy more thoroughly. We explored what it means to truly empathize with others and how we can ensure that it remains a core value in our feedback culture. Our goal is to establish a work environment that is supportive and collaborative for all team members, regardless of their background or location.
In our feedback training, we were introduced to the Thomas-Kilmann Model which is a conflict resolution model that involves two approaches: assertiveness and cooperation. This model outlines five different conflict-handling strategies, including competing, collaborating, compromising, avoiding, and accommodating. These strategies are used in workplace settings to help individuals and teams understand their conflict resolution styles and develop more effective communication and collaboration strategies. Using the dimensions and strategies outlined in the model, our coach gave us an individual exercise, which at first seemed easy.
We each had to think of a conflict in our professional or personal life and, by using the model, describe the current situation. We then tried to describe the situation from the other person's perspective, imagining how they might be feeling. This was a much more challenging and uncomfortable task, but also enlightening.
One of the things we learned was that effective communication is not just about what you say, but also about how you say it. We discovered that different people have different communication styles and that it is important to be able to adapt to those styles. This allows us to communicate more effectively and to avoid misunderstandings. One of the most surprising things we discovered is that having empathy is not as easy as it may seem. While we all know what empathy means and why it is important, it can sometimes be difficult to put into practice, especially during times of conflict or difficult conversations. However good we think we are at empathy, viewing yourself through someone else's eyes is not an easy thing to do, but it can make you look at the situation differently and alter any future conversations.
We left the workshop with a much deeper understanding of empathy and some tips to ensure we carry this on:
Imagine that you are giving feedback to yourself - how does it make you feel?
Everyone has feelings, problems, and motivators. Understanding these might help you understand potential conflicts before they arise.
We also covered two other areas of communication that are integral to feedback and communication. The first is active listening. The process of fully concentrating on, understanding, responding to, and remembering what is being said. It is an essential part of effective communication and it helps us to build stronger relationships with our colleagues.
The second is adopting the leadership style that your team/project needs. We looked at Daniel Goleman's 6 leadership styles and discussed where each would be beneficial, what style(s) we typically adopt, and how and when we should alternate between them depending on the needs of the project or team.
Covering these three topics gave us the tools we needed to move forward.
Conflicts and difficult conversations cannot and should not always be avoided, but how you deal with them can make a big difference. That's where your company and relationships can become more robust and grow.
As we reflect on the invaluable lessons we learned through our workshops, we came to the realization that the creation of a more effective feedback culture is a journey that requires continuous effort. In conclusion of following our workshops, our journey to creating a more effective feedback culture has taught us that empathy is key. By understanding each other's perspectives and feelings, we can create a more supportive and collaborative work environment where everyone can thrive. To this end, we have formulated seven feedback rules that we believe are essential for developing a culture of empathy:
Acknowledging successes as well as room for growth.
Ensuring the timing of feedback works for everyone involved.
Provide a safe and secure environment to have open conversations.
Our feedback is clear and tangible.
We are prepared to adapt by listening to the other person.
We are honest, kind, and calm when giving feedback.
We are all here to support each other.
Overall, our workshops on communication and feedback have been incredibly valuable. They have helped us to establish a shared understanding of what effective communication looks like, and they have enabled us to communicate more effectively with each other. As a result, we are better able to work together as a team and to achieve our goals.
Special thanks also to Hanna Frederking for guiding us through this workshops! :)