Tag Archives: communication

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?


Create a Vision Others Will Want to Follow

All effective leaders have intangible qualities such as charisma, taking risks, and transparency.  In addition to these qualities, effective leaders create a vision that others want to follow. These leaders not only live their vision, it defines them. Whether you are a student government president, a resident assistant, or a student organization leader, your vision for the group can be a make or break determinant.

Below are three concepts to keep in mind when creating your vision:

1. Think Big

Use your kindergarten teacher’s words of wisdom: DREAM BIG. Painting your picture of the future should not have stick figures and other small images in it. Rather it should be like da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or Michelangelo’s painting in the Sistine Chapel, grand and awe-inspiring.

When you are brainstorming ideas and goals for the year or into the future, think about what the end is going to look like and how you want that picture painted. Now you’ve got your vision, now it is time to unveil it.

2. Communicate Your Vision to Others

As a student leader, it is imperative that your vision is communicated clearly to your group. Your vision needs to excite, and reaffirm why people are following you. In order for action towards your vision to happen, you must also create a sense of urgency within the group.

Communicating your vision to the group can be accomplished in many different forums, including leadership retreats, meetings, advertisements, and information tables. Here are some tips when presenting your vision:

  • Keep it clear and on point. Nobody likes to listen to someone ramble. Set clear expectations and goals for your group and communicate them to everyone. Track and communicate the group’s progress regularly.
  • Have fun. If people see that you are having fun, they will want to be a part of it. Purposely plan fun activities for your team members regularly. One of the biggest reasons people stay involved in clubs and organizations is because it’s fun for them.
  • Engage your audience. People take a part in what they help to create so keep your members engaged in the process.
  • Publicity should be colorful and clear. Use all media sources possible, such as Facebook, Twitter, campus publications, campus radio, and any other means to spread the vision of your organization. 
  • Be open to constructive feedback. Get your members involved by seeking feedback, including constructive criticism. Someone’s feedback can be a positive seed for progress.

 3. Build Bridges Toward Your Vision

Realistically, you cannot get from A to E without going through B, C, and D; you cannot simply achieve your vision in one giant leap.

As a student leader, it is important to achieve goals and view them as smaller victories toward your vision. Here are three main types of goals you should set for your organization:

1. Procedural Goals – goals that bring structure to the group like starting on time, ending on time, following established meeting protocols, and having members in attendance.

2. Directional Goals – goals that give direction towards the vision such as a new marketing plan or the completion of a service project.

3. Milestones – goals that are a true group accomplishment and should be celebrated. Examples include earning a prestigious award, presenting at a national conference, or raising a large amount of money for a local charity.

Having a vision is a necessary part of the success of a leader and their organization. Leaders need to think big when creating their vision and must communicate their picture of the future. A vision cannot come to fruition without smaller victories and milestones in the form of goals. As a leader, it is important to find your area of passion within the organization and create a vision based on this passion. If your vision lacks passion, clarity, and direction, the members in your organization will be hesitate to jump onboard.

Steve Knepp is currently finishing his first year as a full-time professional in higher education. His areas of interest include residence life, student government, and student leadership development. Steve earned his B.S. in Elementary Education from Bloomsburg University and his M.A. in College Student Personnel from Bowling Green State University. His hobbies include camping, golf, and traveling. You can follow Steve on his blog at http://steve0709.wordpress.com

Creating Team Confidence (Free Activity Sheet)

Inspiring team member confidence should be an important part of a “Leadership Evaluation.” Team members need to have confidence in one another, be able to discuss easily ideas with one another without hesitation, and foster a sense of confidence among all of the members of the team.

As the team leader, creating “purposeful” conversations centered on team issues are symbolic in that you are setting the stage for what is an appropriate way to express thoughts and ideas in an open and respectful manner. If you create a team culture in which teammates solve problems together without unnecessary conflict or without always having to have the team leader intercede, everyone can concentrate on the actual mission and vision of the organization.

Here are some recommendations on how to create a team culture of confidence and communication:

1. Recruit team members that already embody the ideals of your organization’s culture.

2. Purposefully match team members on projects so they can experience “wins” together for good progress.

3. Hold regular team-building exercises during team meetings in order to demonstrate important team lessons. (Don’t simply have ice-breakers or other exercises just for the sake of having an activity; have a real purpose behind it.)

4. Be a role model for your team. Always be positive (but not fake), and speak well of your team everywhere you go.

5. Make it fun! It’s not all about work. Take your team on a fun outing in order to spend social time with one another.

Click for a free Colleague Discussion Activity sheet. Please feel free to share it.

How are you inspiring confidence among your team members?