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Blog - Avoiding "tongue rollers" at work

Avoiding "tongue rollers" at work

Posted by Tracy Powley 05/08/14

Hot on the heels of our blog about avoiding the C word at work (Communication that is!) we thought we would look at other “tongue rollers” – those well worn phrases which trip off the tongue a bit too easily, without people really stopping to think about what they mean.

Phrases such as “we need to improve team working” or “the team need to step up” or “we need to have a more respectful working environment” get bandied about workplaces – just like our “C“ word!

But none of these are helpful unless we discuss and identify the specific behaviours that really illustrate those broad over- arching terms. What “stepping up” looks like in one team may be entirely different to what it looks like in another.

Why is this important? Because without talking about specifics, these terms remain empty demands, which tend to rear their heads in times of frustration and underperformance...often when it is really too late or at least far harder to pull things back on track.

Far better for managers to take a proactive approach to “decoding” these phrases with their teams. Try holding team discussions about what “good team work” really means. Attaching some tangible examples to these general terms brings clarity to the expectations and makes them easier for team members to live up to.

There is a bit of a knack to this “decoding,” which is to have the confidence to really question down to get very specific examples from team members. For example, one team we worked with started off by saying an aspect of good team work was about “helping each other”. But it was only by asking for specific examples from everyone that we gained some agreed actions that they would

• discuss workloads at the beginning of each week to see what could be spread and shared
• have a more visible way of seeing days off and team members out of the office on business - so cover could be arranged and clients expectations handled more effectively
• be more courteous to each other – right down to the detail of saying “hello” in the morning and thanking colleagues for input and support – which had started to get a bit lost in the pressurised environment they were working in

Isn’t that a clearer way to set an expectation around “improving team working?”

Try this with your teams... don’t wait for something to go wrong – be proactive and hold a team discussion to identify specific examples to illustrate those meaningless tongue rollers!

ps Are you fed up with hearing clichés at work such as “blue sky thinking” and “brown bag meetings” Join our campaign through our blog, on twitter, linkedIn and facebook to rid the workplace of jargon! Send us the most ludicrous you have heard and we will compile a list and ask you to vote for your favourite!

Tracy Powley
Tracy Powley

The way we behave towards each other in the workplace has a direct impact on individual wellbeing, team performance and organisational results. This belief has underpinned our work at Focal Point for over 20 years and has never been more relevant. We are privileged to work with a huge variety of organisations wanting to get workplace behaviour and culture right - and to tackle the inappropriate behaviour that may get in the way of this. Supported by our fantastic team of facilitators and coaches, we are able to make a real difference to peoples’ lives as well as organisational performance. Having worked in both large businesses at management level and in 2 start ups at director level, I am able to combine hands on experience of growing and managing teams - and the associated challenges in creating the right culture - with over 20 years in learning and development. I hold the Certificate in Training Practice and am a member of CIPD. When I am not supporting clients or developing the Focal Point business, you will find me in a calming yoga class...

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