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A Major Communication Barrier On Every Team

There has been a major communication barrier on every team I have led. It is huge, and yet often overlooked.

Most effective teams at some point will do a personality assessment of team members. I work a lot with Myers Briggs, but there are certainly other great ones. At one time have probably taken most of them, All of them can be helpful at some level.

But this major communication barrier, while it can be picked up some by a personality assessment, is still often overlooked (or misunderstood) on most teams.

And, of course, this barrier involves a difference in people. If you’ve lead teams at all you could probably predict that.

A major communication barrier on all teams:

  • Those who speak with and listen for details.
  • Those who speak with and listen for generalities.

You could call it “big-picture oriented” and “detail-oriented” – and a host of other terms. And, again, this concept is certainly picked up in personality types and assessments, but the nuance of this principal is huge. If you don’t understand that people speak and listen differently you will continually be miscommunicating.

This is true in all relationships. It’s true in my marriage. In fact, it is our biggest source of conflict if we allow it to be. I speak and listen more in generalities. My wife speaks and listens more for details.

For illustration purposes, when I lead a team I rarely tell them exactly how I want something done. I paint a big picture vision, have lofty ideas, and a general concept of what things might look like. Sometimes a person on our team who listens in details misunderstands my point. If they don’t understand this about me, (and I have to continually remind people of our differences) they may think I gave them a specific directive, while I was only sharing a very general concept.

(And if you are wired for more details you’re still waiting for a clearer definition of this principle. But that only further illustrates my point.)

Think about your team for a minute. There will be huge variations of this principle among them. No two people are just alike. But if you had to assess – who are the people who speak and listen for generalities? And who listen and speak for more details?

There might lie a major communication barrier on your team.

Closing note: I have worked with a lot of churches (and several businesses) through mergers, conflict, and team dynamics. If you’d like me to help your team know each other and collaborate better together – and ultimately be healthier – please let me know.

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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