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Empowering Teams with the Art of Positive Assumptions

What are assumptions?               In simple words, assumptions can be termed as “Personal Beliefs” or “Expectations” without any concrete evidence. These assumptions can be about a person, place, thing, the outcome of certain activity etc. Every one of us assumes at various points in our lifetime. Sometimes we even assume about our own capability. These beliefs can be either positive or negative. They may or may not turn into reality. In any case, all our behaviors and actions are closely related to our assumptions. Hence we should be cautious while making assumptions as they can make or break things.  Impact of Positive Assumptions        Building affirmative assumptions keeps us in peace and eases our life a lot. Because “Positivity” is like a boomerang! Let us see how we could use this boomerang to empower our teams: The strength of every scrum team is based on how well its team members collaborate with each other. The primary responsibility of a Scrum Master / Coach is to build a strong bonding among his / her team members. When there is a strong bonding, they trust one another, lend helping hands, collaborate well and deliver high values; above all, they will be more excited to work together. The major challenge in building a close-knit team is overcoming the conflicts that arise among its members. Conflicts are inevitable when people of different personalities work together.  Why do conflicts occur?         One of the basic reasons for workplace disputes is that the intent of the opponent’s action is assumed to be negative. We generally judge that the intention of all the souls close to our heart is good; on the other hand, in every occasion cynical about the act of the persons with whom we don’t get along well. The moment our thoughts are non-affirmative, our behaviors change and we go to any extent to distress them. Assuming Good Intention        What if we think the objective of others is good?  Just close your eyes and think for a few minutes about your childhood. Every one of us would have had fights with our siblings or friends when we were young. Did we carry it on for a long time?  Did we detest them forever? In fact, we had a lot more merry times with them after those fights right? This is because as kids we were not making any judgment of others considering their past actions; we were able to forgive and forget others mistakes. Let us bring back the same into practice now.It gives us a different perspective to look at the actual issues behind the conflicts. Therefore, being non-judgmental and assuming positive intent of every action is the key to improving intimacy among the team members. How do we get the team to assume on positive intention? We should coach the members on the following:-   Avoiding preconceived notions within and outside:                           Encourage the team to have open communications and make them focus on the facts, rather than on their beliefs. Help them use "open ended questions" for generating more insights about a person or a situation.  For instance, if a relatively junior resource joins the team , others may assume that he/she would not be proficient in domain knowledge and do not give him critical tasks. In reality, the new joiner might have strong technical skills and quick learning capability, still hesitating to open up to the seniors thinking that they may not help. Here, as a Scrum Master/ Coach, we can foster an environment, wherein both the parties discuss frankly and come forward into a mentoring relationship. Having direct communication whenever possible:          Enable the team to have more face-to-face communications than mail conversations. This is because in mails the messages are open to interpretation. Elucidating the right tone of a mail or text message would be difficult when we can’t hear the sender's voice inflection or view their body language. The accurate interpretation of any message depends on the mood of the person who crafted it as well as the one who reads it. Thus it is always better to have direct communications.    Analyzing the situational context for any actions:         For any workplace conflicts, there might be certain triggering points. Assist the team to identify those points by assessing the background and situation of the contentions. Once the origin is understood, help them discern the solution in an amicable way.           I would like to share an incident here. In one of my teams, a team member started coming late to office frequently and because of this his deliverables were getting delayed. Others in the team began to blame him, thinking that he was negligent towards his tasks. I got into this issue, had a discussion with that particular team member and understood that he had an ailing dependent at home whom he ought to take care for few months. When others were aware of this, they came forward and charted out a plan, to work in such a way that the deliverables were not impacted, at the same time his personal need was also fulfilled.     Restricting generalization:     Generalization is usually a form of exaggeration. For example, a statement like "Onshore team members always don’t understand the challenges of the offshore team" is a generalized one. It is obvious that every onshore team in an organization does not go by this statement. Hence make the team clearly comprehend all the factors before proceeding with any generalization. This will make sure that they have a clear state of mind which in turn leads to good rapport with their colleagues. Separating the persons from the problems:       Nobody wants to be a problem creator mindfully. As a Scrum Master/coach we should articulate the issues clearly, separating them from the people who appear to be the core of those issues. This helps the team to distinguish the problems from the persons, stop hating those persons for their actions and allowing them to course correct their behaviors. Improvising the Emotional Quotient:         Emotional Intelligence is the capability to recognize, manage and utilize the emotions of ourselves and others in a positive way. It gives us the ability to control and override our impulses. Moreover, it promotes empathizing, reduces stress levels and anxiety, defuses conflicts, aids better communication and improves relationships. Recognizing the opportunities and growth factors in every feedback:            Giving and receiving feedback is an effective way to raise the awareness of a person's strengths and improvement areas. In a workplace, feedback may come from any co-worker, either in a formal or informal manner, constructive or destructive in nature. In general , constructive feedbacks motivate an employee a lot, whereas the destructive feedback works in a negative way. But it is always wise to analyze every feedback, appreciate the underlying values and utilize them as an opportunity for personal and professional betterment. Changing the perceptions:            Persuade the team to change their viewpoints into the positive directions.        Once I received an opportunity to harmonize a Scrum team, which was dysfunctional due to various reasons. I observed them for few weeks. Got to understand each of the members personally. Spotted that the false opinions and lack of trust are the base for the team's dysfunction. I wanted to get rid of their false opinions at first place. Having all the team members in a room, conducted an activity as below: Team members were made to be seated around a table (ensured that friends are not seated nearby ) Had set the stage that it is an opportunity to know more about their team mates. Provided a white sheet and a pen to everyone. In 3 minutes, they have to list down the positive traits whichever they had observed from their neighbors over the period. If there were no direct observations, whatever they felt or believed as their neighbor’s strengths, good characters can be written.  When everyone completed their writing, asked them to share what they wrote to the entire team. Facilitated to elaborate the situations in which they observed those positivity of their teammates; on the other hand if someone had assumed about others good characteristics, encouraged them to share what made them to think so.   The above activity was not an instant solution to the problem which the team was facing; however, it gave a good start to know each other better and come closer. People started looking others in a different perspective, through the lens of positivity, which removed the mental blocks at first which eventually resolved other issues.       Following the above practices will ensure that the team members always assume for positive intentions and remain tightly knit. Hope you also would be trying these with your teams and sharing the valuable experiences.  Happy Coaching :-) !  
Empowering Teams with the Art of Positive Assumptions
Nidhya Palaniappan
Rated 4.0/5 based on 20 customer reviews
Empowering Teams with the Art of Positive Assumptions 237
Empowering Teams with the Art of Positive Assumptions

What are assumptions?
 

            In simple words, assumptions can be termed as “Personal Beliefs” or “Expectations” without any concrete evidence. These assumptions can be about a person, place, thing, the outcome of certain activity etc. Every one of us assumes at various points in our lifetime. Sometimes we even assume about our own capability. These beliefs can be either positive or negative. They may or may not turn into reality. In any case, all our behaviors and actions are closely related to our assumptions. Hence we should be cautious while making assumptions as they can make or break things. 

Impact of Positive Assumptions

       Building affirmative assumptions keeps us in peace and eases our life a lot. Because “Positivity” is like a boomerang!



Let us see how we could use this boomerang to empower our teams:

The strength of every scrum team is based on how well its team members collaborate with each other. The primary responsibility of a Scrum Master / Coach is to build a strong bonding among his / her team members. When there is a strong bonding, they trust one another, lend helping hands, collaborate well and deliver high values; above all, they will be more excited to work together.

The major challenge in building a close-knit team is overcoming the conflicts that arise among its members. Conflicts are inevitable when people of different personalities work together. 



Why do conflicts occur? 

       One of the basic reasons for workplace disputes is that the intent of the opponent’s action is assumed to be negative. We generally judge that the intention of all the souls close to our heart is good; on the other hand, in every occasion cynical about the act of the persons with whom we don’t get along well. The moment our thoughts are non-affirmative, our behaviors change and we go to any extent to distress them.

Assuming Good Intention

       What if we think the objective of others is good?  Just close your eyes and think for a few minutes about your childhood. Every one of us would have had fights with our siblings or friends when we were young. Did we carry it on for a long time?  Did we detest them forever? In fact, we had a lot more merry times with them after those fights right? This is because as kids we were not making any judgment of others considering their past actions; we were able to forgive and forget others mistakes. Let us bring back the same into practice now.It gives us a different perspective to look at the actual issues behind the conflicts. Therefore, being non-judgmental and assuming positive intent of every action is the key to improving intimacy among the team members.

How do we get the team to assume on positive intention?

We should coach the members on the following:- 

 Avoiding preconceived notions within and outside: 
         
               Encourage the team to have open communications and make them focus on the facts, rather than on their beliefs. Help them use "open ended questions" for generating more insights about a person or a situation.

 For instance, if a relatively junior resource joins the team , others may assume that he/she would not be proficient in domain knowledge and do not give him critical tasks. In reality, the new joiner might have strong technical skills and quick learning capability, still hesitating to open up to the seniors thinking that they may not help. Here, as a Scrum Master/ Coach, we can foster an environment, wherein both the parties discuss frankly and come forward into a mentoring relationship.


Having direct communication whenever possible: 

        Enable the team to have more face-to-face communications than mail conversations. This is because in mails the messages are open to interpretation. Elucidating the right tone of a mail or text message would be difficult when we can’t hear the sender's voice inflection or view their body language. The accurate interpretation of any message depends on the mood of the person who crafted it as well as the one who reads it. Thus it is always better to have direct communications. 


 

Analyzing the situational context for any actions:

        For any workplace conflicts, there might be certain triggering points. Assist the team to identify those points by assessing the background and situation of the contentions. Once the origin is understood, help them discern the solution in an amicable way. 

         I would like to share an incident here. In one of my teams, a team member started coming late to office frequently and because of this his deliverables were getting delayed. Others in the team began to blame him, thinking that he was negligent towards his tasks. I got into this issue, had a discussion with that particular team member and understood that he had an ailing dependent at home whom he ought to take care for few months. When others were aware of this, they came forward and charted out a plan, to work in such a way that the deliverables were not impacted, at the same time his personal need was also fulfilled.    

Restricting generalization:

    Generalization is usually a form of exaggeration. For example, a statement like "Onshore team members always don’t understand the challenges of the offshore team" is a generalized one. It is obvious that every onshore team in an organization does not go by this statement. Hence make the team clearly comprehend all the factors before proceeding with any generalization. This will make sure that they have a clear state of mind which in turn leads to good rapport with their colleagues.

Separating the persons from the problems: 

     Nobody wants to be a problem creator mindfully. As a Scrum Master/coach we should articulate the issues clearly, separating them from the people who appear to be the core of those issues. This helps the team to distinguish the problems from the persons, stop hating those persons for their actions and allowing them to course correct their behaviors.

Improvising the Emotional Quotient:


        Emotional Intelligence is the capability to recognize, manage and utilize the emotions of ourselves and others in a positive way. It gives us the ability to control and override our impulses. Moreover, it promotes empathizing, reduces stress levels and anxiety, defuses conflicts, aids better communication and improves relationships.

Recognizing the opportunities and growth factors in every feedback:
     

     Giving and receiving feedback is an effective way to raise the awareness of a person's strengths and improvement areas. In a workplace, feedback may come from any co-worker, either in a formal or informal manner, constructive or destructive in nature. In general , constructive feedbacks motivate an employee a lot, whereas the destructive feedback works in a negative way. But it is always wise to analyze every feedback, appreciate the underlying values and utilize them as an opportunity for personal and professional betterment.

Changing the perceptions: 
    

     Persuade the team to change their viewpoints into the positive directions. 



      Once I received an opportunity to harmonize a Scrum team, which was dysfunctional due to various reasons. I observed them for few weeks. Got to understand each of the members personally. Spotted that the false opinions and lack of trust are the base for the team's dysfunction. I wanted to get rid of their false opinions at first place. Having all the team members in a room, conducted an activity as below:

Team members were made to be seated around a table (ensured that friends are not seated nearby ) Had set the stage that it is an opportunity to know more about their team mates. Provided a white sheet and a pen to everyone. In 3 minutes, they have to list down the positive traits whichever they had observed from their neighbors over the period. If there were no direct observations, whatever they felt or believed as their neighbor’s strengths, good characters can be written. 

When everyone completed their writing, asked them to share what they wrote to the entire team. Facilitated to elaborate the situations in which they observed those positivity of their teammates; on the other hand if someone had assumed about others good characteristics, encouraged them to share what made them to think so.  

The above activity was not an instant solution to the problem which the team was facing; however, it gave a good start to know each other better and come closer. People started looking others in a different perspective, through the lens of positivity, which removed the mental blocks at first which eventually resolved other issues.

      Following the above practices will ensure that the team members always assume for positive intentions and remain tightly knit. Hope you also would be trying these with your teams and sharing the valuable experiences. 

Happy Coaching :-) !
 

Nidhya

Nidhya Palaniappan

Scrum Master | Agile Project Manager

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Krishnaraj Ramarao, (PMP® , SMC™).

Nice write up Nidhya. Good thought process on conflict resolution.. way to go.. congrats!!!

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