Individuals who have been part of an outstanding team say that it is a unique and uplifting experience. Yet so many teams fail to deliver. Steve Simpson reports on one reason why teams fail…
I’m a member of the National Speakers Association of Australia. For me, the association has been extremely valuable – in terms of the ideas I’ve gained about the speaking business and more importantly, the friendships I’ve established.
I’ve noted an interesting dynamic in the association however, which occurs in most organisations – called the ‘language of exclusion’.
I noticed this soon after I joined the association a number of years ago as a novice speaker. Some members were making constant and public reference to their ‘keynote’ presentations (referring to the keynote presentations they were doing at conferences).
Here, I must explain that in the eyes of some speakers, ‘keynote’ presentations are regarded, rightly or wrongly, as the highest order speaking gigs – above concurrent conference sessions, and well above training, workshops and seminars.
I realised that in constantly referring to their ‘keynotes’ these speakers were doing two things – they were reinforcing their own personal value in the eyes of others, and they were excluding those of us at the time, who had no ‘keynote’ experience.
I think this happens in most organisations.
It makes me unhappy every time I hear a manager refer to his or her staff as ‘my people’. In my view, this is patronising and exclusive. Again, this language reinforces that person’s importance, and it prevents that person’s staff from having equal status in any discussions that might follow.
Another example of exclusive language is when conversation centres-in on events that not all the people present have experienced. This often occurs when there is a new staff member in a team. In these instances, conversation can focus on past events where the new staff member has absolutely nothing to contribute.
It’s with a degree of guilt that I’ve got to put my own hand up for this. During my time as an employee many years ago, I can remember not being too enamoured about a newly appointed person, so I encouraged group discussions about past events so as to exclude that person.
Do we need to be inclusive all the time?
Of course not – but I think we need to be more aware of how we might be excluding people.
A terrific boss I once had was expert at this. He would sense that one or more people were not quite ‘up to speed’ on a topic being discussed, so he would interrupt the discussion to check whether those people needed to be quickly briefed. When a group sees that a boss is keen to include, that quickly becomes the norm. Or, in our language, the UGRs® focus on inclusivity.
So the next time you are in a group discussion, take time to sense the agenda. Are people trying to exclude others, or is there a sense of ‘one team’, where effort is put into ensuring people feel included?