Seek Understanding Before Taking Action (team training using video clips)


A funny AT&T commercial shows some white-collar employees socializing during an office taco party (click HERE to see a YouTube video of it). During the party, an employee who thought he didn’t get an invite makes some negative comments and criticisms (e.g., “You invited Eric? I thought he gave you the creeps?”) to his colleagues. He ultimately receives a text message shortly after seeing that he was indeed invited to the party. A classic example of “enter foot-in-mouth.”

Even though this was a funny cell phone commercial, I thought there was a great leadership lesson within it: seek understanding before taking action. As was the case in the commercial, many times we can respond quickly to a situation with a knee-jerk reaction without actually having all of the proper information surrounding the issue. These knee-jerk reactions can cause team member conflicts, the unnecessary waste of money and / or resources, and potentially creating dangerous conditions in some instances (particularly if health & life safety issues are a part of your team’s work). As leaders and supervisors, we can be in a hurry to solve a problem or quickly move in to prevent further problems, but we can fail to slow down to examine the situation as carefully as we should before responding.

Tips for success:

1. Fully communicate expectations, instructions, and consequences among everyone on the team. Don’t assume that all of your team members know what it is that they are supposed to be doing, by what time, and with what expected / intended result(s). Team meetings and supervisory one-on-one’s can clear up a lot of issues ahead of time. Make sure that everyone has the same understanding.

2. Train your staff members and teammates how to fully assess problemmatic situations. Not every situation can be approached in the same manner. Team members should be able to assess and diagnose a situation based upon asking some simple questions: What facts do I know? What could this be an example of? And, what more do I need to know (or should ask) in order to make a better informed decision? Answering these simple questions often can take a few minutes and can bypass a lot of heartache overall.

3. Role play and / or work through case studies relevant to your organization. Following up on #2, developing an assessment & diagnostic culture in your organization can be easily accomplished through the inclusion of role playing and / or  practicing case studies. Not only is this an opportunity for everyone to work together in a team format, but helps you to think more analytically on how your team can solve problems. Use examples from the past and make them into case studies using the questions suggested above as discussion points (i.e., What facts do I know? What could this be an example of? And, what more do I need to know (or should ask) in order to make a better informed decision?)

4. Share various video examples of communication mishaps during staff meetings to spark discussion. There are many examples of organization miscommunication in sports, movies, and television shows. Take time to find these types of examples and show them during training sessions or staff meetings. Work-related reality shows are rife with examples of miscommunication leading to conflict and unintended expenses and losses. Another great example (in addition to the taco party commercial video) of “seek understanding before taking action” I’ve seen occurs on the HBO detective drama “The Wire.” Click HERE to see the YouTube video (***WARNING – there is some profane language in this video clip.***)

What are some examples of video clips from TV shows or movies that you can suggest related to this topic?


2 thoughts on “Seek Understanding Before Taking Action (team training using video clips)

  1. Dawn Lennon

    Terrific advice. Two of the biggest mistakes made at work by project leaders, supervisors, team leads, and managers, to name a few, are to come up with an action plan and fail to 1.) name the person(s) responsible for each step and 2.) state the “complete by” date. That’s the only way to ensure understanding of expectations and accountability.

    Love your 4 tips. They’re a must! ~Dawn

    1. studentlifeguru

      Thanks Dawn for this addition!

      As is the case with most leadership information, these seem like common sense, but oddly enough, it’s very easy to get wrapped up in the work and fail to accurately communicate these two items (i.e., responsible person(s) and completion date.) Leadership and supervision takes practice. (No one ever told me that supervising people would be easy!)


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