Whether you’re a first-time manager or you’ve been doing this for years, getting the team dynamics right can be tricky. Striking the right balance with so many different personalities and communication styles is a delicate process. Understanding these different communication styles is important for fostering collaboration and improving employee motivation. In this article, we’ll look at the different ways to improve team dynamics. We’ll also review the four main different communication styles and how to work with each of them more effectively.
Understanding Team Dynamics
Team dynamics refers to the way people on a team interact with each other. This was first studied by social psychologist Kurt Lewin in the early 1900’s. He defined group dynamics as “positive and negative forces within groups of people.” In essence, this means every group has a unique psychological climate that influences how people in the group behave and perform their jobs. This affects how people do their jobs and come up with innovative new ideas. Sometimes, when team dynamics are off, it’s time for a big shake-up.
Kurt Lewin is credited with coming up with the “change management model.” This is still used today when leadership or other organizational changes occur. However, you can use this model when leading a new team or trying to improve things on your team. This model has three steps: unfreezing, changing, and freezing. If the dynamics on your team aren’t working, using this model to make big changes can help ease the transition. Once you’re through the shift, you can come out the other side with a more positive group dynamic.
Picture your team as an ice cube. Unfreezing is breaking down how things have been done until the change. This is the most difficult part of the process, as people will often cling to what they know and resist change. People will probably feel confused, shocked, and maybe a little anxious at this stage.
Now that your figurative ice cube has melted, it’s time for the change. People will likely still be a little confused or unsure of the changes but are starting to acclimate. They’re becoming more comfortable with the changes that have been made. Your team will start to understand how the changes will benefit them and adopt the new status quo.
The final part is refreezing. This is when the changes have been adopted, people understand what is expected of them, and there is little to no confusion. A new status quo emerges in this stage, and balance comes back to the team/organization.
Improving Team Dynamics
A team with a positive dynamic has clear communication and a common goal they’re all working together to achieve. Teammates are supportive of each other and positive. People work together like a well-oiled machine. At the head, there is a strong leader who can assist with conflict resolution and support their team in whatever they need. Let’s look at some examples of effective team dynamics:
The foundation of every successful team is communication, communication, communication. Team members need to know what is expected of them, be able to express their ideas, and understand their crucial role on the team. When everyone knows what they need to do and is working together to reach a common goal, teams are more productive. Employees feel more engaged and happy at work when this is achieved. Understanding different styles of communication is absolutely essential, we’ll go over that in the next section.
Positivity and Support
Support from managers, leaders, and co-workers is necessary for effective team dynamics. People perform better when they are supported. They’ll feel more comfortable expressing their ideas or trying new things in a positive environment. There will be much more creativity and innovation. Teams will thrive when people aren’t afraid of judgment or harsh criticism. As a leader, it’s your job to lead by example. Help without being asked in a polite way. Listen actively to every person on the team when they come to you with ideas or feedback. This example will set the tone for the rest of the team to follow.
Continuous, Constructive Feedback
If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times. Don’t wait for an annual review to give feedback to your team, individually or as a whole. Set up regular team and one-on-one meetings, weekly or bi-weekly if possible. These should be positive in nature. If there is an area someone needs to improve on, present them with ways you can help or actionable things they can do to improve. Don’t leave them wondering how in the world they’re supposed to fix a problem they didn’t know existed.
Strong leadership is a foundational aspect of team dynamics. This doesn’t mean sitting in your office giving orders all day. It’s about empowering team members to do their best work. Keep lines of communication open. If possible, have regular “open office” hours where people can stop by to chat or bring up any concerns. This can also be done during their regular feedback meetings. When things go wrong, don’t take it out on your team. Look at what could’ve been done better and where things went right. Then, use that information to improve processes in the future.
To have clear, open communication on a team requires an understanding of communication styles. You can’t have positive team dynamics when communication is lacking. Different people express themselves in different ways. There are four main styles of communication:
Passive communicators don’t speak up much about their thoughts or feelings. They’re supportive and tend to go with the flow. They are very unlikely to be confrontational and usually just agree with whatever is being said. These people are often thought of as submissive. It might be easier for these people to express themselves in a one-on-one rather than a group setting. If you want their opinion, be direct about it. Ask them to their face what their opinion is and give them plenty of time to vocalize it.
These people know what they think, are confident in their opinions, and aren’t afraid to tell you what they think. They tend to interrupt others to present their ideas. Aggressive communicators are more likely to hurt people’s feelings or make them feel overshadowed. It’s important to draw clear boundaries with these team members. Don’t engage if they get carried away, take a step back if you need it. Keep things professional, calm, and clear.
People with this communication style are often confused as passive, at least at first. They often agree with what is being said in a group setting but have different opinions behind closed doors. They might manipulate situations to benefit themselves. When they say one thing, there could be a second meaning behind it. Oftentimes, they guilt-trip or gaslight to get their way. Passive-aggressive communicators won’t take responsibility for their actions, are sarcastic, and pretend to be happy when they aren’t. When working with this style, making very clear requests is important. If their negative behavior gets out of hand or you want their honest opinion, set up a one-on-one meeting to discuss it.
This style of communication is the most effective in leadership and across different teams. These people are able to share their opinions clearly but in a polite, kind way. In disagreements, they’re respectful of others. These communicators stand up for what they believe in, for themselves and their teammates. If you have an assertive person on your team, give them the space to express themselves. Put them in leadership positions if possible, as they will excel there. Encourage them to share their ideas and opinions. Educate them on the different styles of the team so they’re better able to assist in creating a culture of open communication.
More often than not, a person won’t be exclusively one type of communicator. They’ll likely be a combination of two or more with their own personal flair. As a leader, take the time to develop your assertive communication abilities. This will improve your team dynamics as you create a space where people can express their ideas, opinions, and needs. Be an active listener so people know they can come to you. Not only will this make you a better leader, but it will improve the entire team.
As a team leader, it’s your responsibility to keep the team working together cohesively and harmoniously. Taking into consideration each individual’s unique communication style is an important part of cultivating positive team dynamics. Finding the best ways to work with every personality is the first step. Creating clear communication standards will lay the foundation. Be positive and supportive of team members. If someone presents an idea you disagree with, don’t belittle them. Listen carefully to their ideas, and thank them for sharing their thoughts if you decide to go in another direction. As you make an intentional effort to improve your team dynamics, you will see productivity and engagement soar.
For other tips related to team dynamics, be sure to check out 7 Strategies to Improve Team Dynamics or find out how to better leverage your team and productivity by starting with your Individual Motivators Assessment.