When a teammate intentionally spins another’s conversation (spin is when one inaccurately communicates what they saw or heard), they set in motion a series of escalating and useless discussions.
Those discussions are unnecessary. They are errors in judgment that result in costly interactions. Those inaccurate communications waste valuable teammate time, they hurt team performance, they damage relationships and they erode team trust.
Here’s a typical example of what happens all too often in work teams.
Maria said to John, his fellow teammate,
“Hey John, I’m sorry to say it but I can’t deliver the Project Report to you today as promised because it is not ready. When I looked more closely at the data I received from the other teammates, I saw all kinds of errors. Those guys are not doing a good job. I’ll have to work this weekend to correct those errors. I’ll email you the corrected report next week. “
John was upset, and he said,
“Maria, this is terrible. I can’t believe you’re doing this to me. David (the team leader) is not going to be happy.”
Ten minutes later, John spoke to David and said,
“Maria just told me she’s not going to give me the Project Report today. Now, I’m going to be late giving you the monthly Organization Report. Maria said she found many errors in the data. I don’t think Maria is managing her direct reports very well. I’m sorry, David, but this is simply not my fault.”
I trust you can see how John inaccurately represented and communicated what Maria actually said. Here are just two obvious examples.
- John said that Maria said “she’s not going to give me the . . . report.” The truth was Maria said she was “. . . sorry to say it but I can’t deliver…” There is a big difference between “not going to give” versus “I can’t deliver.”
- John also pronounced judgment by saying Maria is not “managing her direct reports very well.” John is welcome to his opinion, but this is an inaccurate judgment because John simply doesn’t know what was preventing “the other teammates” from giving Maria error-free data.
Here are just a few ideas how to get rid of this outlandish cost
If you are a team-building facilitator:
- While designing the team-building workshop agenda, identify those teammates during Step 7: Conducting Facilitator Interviews, who have the tendency to spin, exaggerate or over-dramatize issues. Discuss this with the team leader and create strategies how to prevent this from happening.
If you are teammate:
- If a teammate tells you that another team said something that, intuitively, doesn’t seem accurate, say something like, “That is interesting. Why would they say that? If you don’t mind, let’s both go see that person right now because I want to make certain we heard their message accurately?”
If you are the team leader:
- In your nicest and most assertive voice, announce to your direct reports that you expect everyone to accurately represent what was said especially during decision making discussions or any time when there is a potential for conflict and disagreement.
To you Success, Dan
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