Listen up

Learn how to help your team members better understand each other and resolve differences.

Here is what happened in the office of a landscaping company. One team member had the habit of making clicking noises with their mouth while performing administrative duties. This proved to be quite annoying to another nearby member of the team while they spoke on the phone to their customers. Since their workspace was only separated by partitions, the relationship between these two individuals became quite testy and argumentative. It created a tension that was felt throughout the entire department.

Has something like this ever happened in your company? As the business owner or manager, how would you handle this type of situation?

If your team of employees is like most other small businesses, you have a variety of different behavior styles working there, even among your crew members.

If your team of employees is like most other small businesses, you have a variety of different behavior styles working there, even among your crew members. That’s good, because it takes different types of people to successfully accomplish the many types of tasks that must be completed both in the office and out in the field.

Build a profile

With different behavioral styles, there will be friction. At times, people are just not going to get along. This is normal and natural. However, if not dealt with properly, it can become quite annoying and a big source of interpersonal stress and psychological drama, even reaching beyond the initial instance. This can lead to a less productive team and have an extremely negative impact on the quality of the customer experience your team is trying to create and maintain. In other words, it’s not good for business.

What can you do about this situation? Plenty. Behavioral profiles with the proper debriefing by an outside facilitator can be just what the doctor ordered. A behavioral profile is a tool I use with my clients to help assess the working style of their employees. It is a way of defining how an employee is feeling and connecting with others right at that moment in time and does wonders in building communication, trust and understanding between individuals within an organization. While it’s a great tool for getting a general sense for how colleagues might interact, it’s important to remember that no one reacts the same way in every situation. A behavioral profile isn’t predictive or comprehensive, but it can give context.

The best way to use a behavioral profile is with a four-step debriefing strategy with an outside facilitator. Here is how it works. After having the employee answer the assessment questions which generates the profile report, the assessment facilitator reviews the employee’s profile with the owner or manager to discuss how it fits with their current role. The second step is to separately debrief the employee and see how accurately they feel the profile fits at that time. The third step is where the facilitator conducts a debriefing session with the owner or manager and the employee. The fourth and final step is to do a group debriefing with all members of your team who have completed the profile, to open dialogue with colleagues about their communication types and preferences. This approach goes a long way in helping your team members understand themselves. This can help to prevent and resolve the behavioral misunderstandings that inevitably take place between employees in your company.

This four-step debriefing strategy used with a behavioral profile is one of the best ways to help your team focus on resolving differences and building understanding, trust and rapport.

Learn to behave

In my on-site consulting and training, another exercise I use to build trust and rapport is to split the employees into pairs and have them role-play and practice using the wrong way/right way formula for resolving misunderstandings. This shows them how to encourage two-way communication and understanding as compared to shutting down discussion and assigning blame.

I ask the participants to do it the wrong way first. An example in which one employee was frustrated with another about turning in paperwork late would sound something like this:

“You never get your paperwork processed in a timely manner. What is wrong with you? Don’t you see how you are creating all kinds of problems for my department?”

Here they made their partner wrong. The first employee blamed them personally for failing to provide the notification that they needed in a timely manner. Done in the real world, this approach usually will make the partner defensive and cause even greater repercussions.

Next, I have them practice the right way, sounding something like this:

“When I do not promptly receive from you the notification to approve a customer’s credit, I can’t process the order in a timely manner. How can we do this differently to speed up the process?”

In this approach the focus is on the action, not on the person. It opens the door for two-way communication to resolve the conundrum in a constructive manner.

The purpose of this exercise is to give the participants a tool to resolve their work relational issues in a productive and nonthreatening manner.

Use this exercise in your next team meeting. Have them practice it a few times, and then be on the lookout for an opportunity to praise them when you see them using the right approach in the workplace. This will go a long way in helping them play in the same sandbox and get along. This will ultimately create a more harmonious and less stressful workplace. Contact me for more ideas on how to implement these concepts into your company.

Tom Borg is a business consultant who works at the intersection of leadership, communication and culture. As a thought leader, he works with his green industry clients and their leadership teams to help them connect, communicate and work together better without all the drama. To ask him a question please call 734.404.5909, email him or visit his website at

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