Sun | Jun 16, 2019

Trevor E.S. Smith | Why Is It So Hard For Your Team To Gel? Issues and Answers

Published:Sunday | September 23, 2018 | 12:00 AM




Instructions are not clearly understood and inaction or rework is a common occurrence. Meetings frequently involve distracting crosstalk as different sides hold on to fixed positions. Mistrust is prevalent.




This situation is typical of a team that is facing a language barrier. In this case, the language is of a behavioural nature. The team members have different behavioural preferences and they have not been taught how to communicate with each other.

This team is going through the same kind of challenges as if you brought together a group of individuals that spoke different languages without access to an interpreter. Misunderstandings and a failure to appreciate what is being communicated will be inevitable.




While no wise leader would select people who speak different languages to work as a team without addressing the communication challenge, scant attention is paid to the even more difficult problem resulting from behavioural miscommunication.

Differences in behavioural styles, if not addressed, can easily move beyond miscommunication to entrenched conflict.

Team members experiencing language challenges might opt to use signs and images to get things done.

However, when behavioural differences take root without any corrective action, unity is cast aside, and a lack of trust frustrates attempts at collaboration. Silos and informal groups are often the result.




This situation is more wide-spread than is appreciated. In many instances, the conflict and the informal groups are not apparent on the surface. However, the team is denied genuine cooperation. Also, mistrust produces a climate in which there is a lack of transparency.

In that climate, individuals feel the need to pursue personal agendas. They resort to even more focused efforts to mask their intentions and feelings.

A leader that is charged to develop a high-performing team from that group has a major challenge, unless she gets to the root of the problem.




Step 1

As with the individuals that speak only their native tongue, the first thing to do is to assure them that the challenge is a language issue. Narrowing down the root cause prevents individuals from imagining any number of possibilities. That compounds the issue.

Similarly, it is important to get the team to appreciate that the root cause is a difference in behavioural preferences. They see things from different perspectives. They are not necessarily evil beings from another planet.

Step 2

Facilitate communication. In the absence of interpreters, comprehensive lists of common phrases and dictionaries could assist native language speakers.

The problem with behavioural communication is that even the individual might not have clarity as to their native behavioural language.

"This is how I am. I don't know what to call it or even how to fully describe it."

Step 2 in the behavioural side then works best by helping the team to identify their preferred styles.

Map out the behavioural styles of everyone. Share the behavioural vocabulary and grammar that is linked to each style. That works like magic in improving understanding and teamwork!

I am constantly amazed at the impact of posting customised FinxS Platform Team Maps on a screen and explaining the differences in perspective and communication style. Application of the DISCerning Model of Communication has a 100% success rate in promoting higher levels of unity and performance in teams.

Step 3

With the native language speakers, the goal must be to get members to learn the languages of the others. Similarly, team members should be coached to understand different behavioural languages. That kind of coaching takes traditional team-building activities to another level with outstanding results. Once learned, the skill is applied within the team, with customers, with stakeholders and at home!




Request a no-cost consultation on developing high-performing teams in your organisation. Learn more about our DISCerning Model of Communication & Leadership. Request a free copy of our publication DISCerning Communication - Comprehensive Guide to Interpersonal Relations, Leadership and Coaching at

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