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Communication

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How to Deal With Conflict in the Workplace
Collaboration 10 min read

How to Deal With Conflict in the Workplace

Conflict is a reality of the working world. You deal with different people every day, people with varying perspectives, opinions, and convictions. When contrasting opinions and dynamic personalities collide, expect conflict and disagreements. As with anything in a professional setting, a little politeness goes a long way to help diffuse the situation.

3 Reasons Why Email is Dead
Project Management 5 min read

3 Reasons Why Email is Dead

Once you need to collaborate with a team and oversee a dozen simultaneously moving parts, email suffers from a load which it wasn't meant to bear, and makes it increasingly difficult to find information or consolidate feedback. Let's examine exactly how email reached the end of its usefulness in project collaboration.

Communicate Better, Be More Persuasive with Visuals: Interview with Dan Roam (Video)
Collaboration 3 min read

Communicate Better, Be More Persuasive with Visuals: Interview with Dan Roam (Video)

Dan Roam is a management consultant and strong advocate of incorporating visual thinking into your business to solve any problem. He's the author of four best-selling business books, including The Back of the Napkin, which has been called one of the best innovation books of the year. Wrike interviewed Dan Roam to get his take on using visuals at work to improve the way we're working and communicating. Watch to learn: His predictions for the future of work — it's not a common viewpoint! How to fix common problems he sees in both large and small teams. How to deal with the three major business problem areas: emails, meetings, and reporting on activities. How to use pictures to sell your ideas or startup pitch, even if you don't think you're a good salesman. Why it's important for every worker to hone their presentation skills. Hit 'play' now to hear more about visual thinking and how you can use it to improve communication on your team: (Note: there is a minor sound issue in the first minute.) Our biggest takeaways from our interview with Dan Roam were how we can start using visuals to improve our team communication today. Here are some ideas from Dan Roam, mixed in with a few of our own: 5 Ways to Use Visuals to Improve Communication Classic technique: when giving a presentation, instead of loading your PowerPoint slides with text, fill them with pictures to illustrate your point or inspire a feeling in your audience. Before sending an email, think about the content. Can you illustrate any of your ideas instead of sending a explanatory paragraph? Sketch it out quickly on paper, snap a picture on your phone, and attach it to your email. Next time they respond, you'll be working around an image, instead of a heavy block of text. If you're sending a task to your design team, mock up your design ideas instead of explaining them with words. Even if you don't have a good eye for aesthetics, giving them your ideal layout at the start prevents the disappointment and wasted time of them creating a first draft that misses the mark. Proactively get up and use a whiteboard during meetings. Just hold the marker in your hand to make yourself more likely to open up and start drawing. Even if you use circles, squares, and arrows to illustrate your point, structured whiteboarding helps make sure everyone  understands the goals in the same way. When it comes to reporting, a picture is worth a thousand words. Send charts and graphs instead of a string of numbers and percentages. What do you think about bringing more visuals into conversations? Have you read any of Dan Roam's books? What was your biggest takeaway from our Dan Roam interview? If you are already using visuals to improve team communication, have you noticed a big difference? Share your thoughts with everyone below, and if you already have a tried and tested method, tell us how we can keep improving the way we work with visualization. Let's start a conversation! Read Next: The 4th Phase of Project Management: Interview with Peter Taylor (Video) 20 Lessons from David Allen on Succeeding at Work, Life, and GTD (Video)

How to Handle Constructive Criticism in the Workplace
Collaboration 5 min read

How to Handle Constructive Criticism in the Workplace

Knowing how to take constructive criticism from clients and employees is crucial for managers. Read some best practices for receiving constructive criticism.

How to Give Constructive Criticism in the Workplace
Leadership 5 min read

How to Give Constructive Criticism in the Workplace

Learning how to give constructive criticism is an essential skill for managers. Giving constructive criticism can help employees improve their work. Learn more with Wrike.

Stop Playing Nice! The Stoic's Guide to Managing Workplace Conflict
Leadership 7 min read

Stop Playing Nice! The Stoic's Guide to Managing Workplace Conflict

"Where all think alike, no one thinks very much." — Walter Lippmann Collaboration and conflict are not opponents: they're partners. So let's banish the notion that high-performing teams are made up of smiling people who always get along.  Teamwork should be messy, and being a good manager isn't about creating a fake-happy work environment where you're more concerned about keeping the peace than doing good work. Think of the rivalry between sales and marketing, or the competition between your top-performing sales reps. That healthy tension fuels success.  But how do you keep conflict productive? You need to be able to recognize when healthy tension is in danger of turning disruptive, and step in to prevent things from devolving into toxic workplace territory.  When a member of your team is at odds with a colleague in another team or department, what can you do to help them get through it? And how do you create a work environment where conflict drives progress and achievement?  Turn to the timeless wisdom of one of history’s greatest leaders, Marcus Aurelius.  Who is Marcus Aurelius? Perhaps one of history’s greatest rulers, Marcus Aurelius is widely regarded as the embodiment of the ideal leader. Aurelius, who you may know as the wise old Roman Emperor from the movie Gladiator, ruled from 161 to 180 AD.  No stranger to conflict, Aurelius spent the final years of his rule fighting the growing threat of Germanic tribes. He also grappled with his personal conviction that his only son, Commodus, was an unfit successor.  It’s during this time that he wrote Meditations. Now considered one of the greatest works of philosophy ever written, it's a collection of Aurelius' personal thoughts and ruminations on Stoic philosophy.  Stoicism focuses on accepting what’s not within your control and mastering your emotions. Stoics respond to conflict with reason and logic rather than emotional outbursts. Winning an argument is pointless — virtue and character are all that matter.  But Stoics aren't pushovers. The approach isn't about letting people say whatever they want to or about you, because in the end it doesn't really matter. It's about recognizing what's truly important and what isn't so that you don't let temporary problems distract you from doing your best work and being your best self. Egos, politics, office decorum, "how we do things around here" — that is what Stoics seek to ignore.  A Stoic's Approach to Conflict Resolution How do you apply 2,000-year-old advice to the modern workplace?  Dealing with conflict is a task many managers struggle with, or even avoid at all costs. In fact, 85% of executives have concerns with their company that they are afraid to raise because of the conflict that would ensue. But conflict is an unavoidable part of the workplace. Aurelius' Meditations offers sage wisdom for today's managers looking for strategies to use that conflict to drive success.  Conflict is Inevitable Conflict doesn’t always happen because people are being difficult… but sometimes it does. Egos, bad attitudes, and office politics are a fact of corporate life. Like it or not, there are people who will make your life difficult simply because they’re only concerned with making theirs easier.  Start your day with the expectation that you’ll encounter some pushback, and it won’t rile you as much when it does happen. Anticipate that others will question your decisions, waste your time, and take advantage of your willingness to help.  By expecting this behavior, you can mentally prepare, learn how to avoid getting sucked into time-wasting tasks and discussions, and be able to justify your decisions when questioned. And if things go better than expected, you'll be pleasantly surprised.  This Too Shall Pass One of the foundational tenets of Aurelius' philosophies is that, in the grand scheme of things, nothing lasts. To quote a very different kind of philosopher, "Life moves pretty fast."  This isn’t meant to be depressing — in fact, it’s meant to be liberating. Why waste precious time and energy getting upset over things that don’t truly matter?  The CMO criticizing your campaign idea is not important on a cosmic scale, although it can feel absolutely vital in the moment. A dose of perspective can keep you from getting worked up over issues that will only distract you from things that actually matter.  Agonizing Over Conflict Only Makes It Worse Anger only makes a bad situation worse. Getting ticked off that someone talked down to you during a meeting doesn't help—it just agitates you more.  Not only that, it prolongs the situation. What should have been a minor blip on your radar suddenly becomes a fixation, as you relive the moment over and over. The next thing you know, you've made zero progress on your work because you're too busy stewing... or worse, complaining.  Anger only hurts one person: you.  Whose Opinion Really Matters? Who cares if Janice from design thinks your Powerpoint deck looks like it's from 1986? So what if Paul from performance marketing says your ideas suck? Why does it matter if Laura from content marketing keeps erasing your copy edits?  At the end of the day, you answer to only a handful of people. Why does it matter what anyone else thinks? Instead of letting it rile you, draw confidence from the fact that the people whose opinions truly matter — yours and your manager's — are confident in your performance.  Criticism Does Not Equal Conflict Don't create a conflict out of a critique. Nobody is perfect, and nobody does perfect work. Honest self-reflection is a vital part of improving, and you should welcome all kinds of feedback from all kinds of people.  If someone points out a flaw in your work or thinking, don't automatically see it as an attack. There's no need to dwell over your shortcomings or feel insecure about them; take the opportunity to recognize and do something about them. Make criticism constructive. Conflicts Arise When People Care Which would you rather have: a group of apathetic "yes" men? Or a team of people who passionately argue for what they truly believe is the best course of action? Being a good team player means challenging others to uncover flawed thinking and processes. But not everyone is going to agree on what those flaws are. You’re supposed to be in conflict with certain teams, because you’re each advocating for different things. Finance is going to support the most economical solution, while marketing will argue for the most responsive. These are both valid considerations: cost effectiveness is just as important as optimization.  Other people aren't disagreeing with you because they don’t like you, or because they’re an argumentative person, or because they’re flat out wrong. They’re simply doing their jobs. The best thing you can do for your team is address these underlying tensions head on. Normalize them. Bring them to the surface  so that they can expect conflicting viewpoints and understand where they’re coming from. Next time you're headed into a meeting, tell your team: "Expect Lucas to argue for the fastest solution, in spite of the expense, because meeting the deadline is one of his top priorities." Remind your team that you're all fighting for the best solution. Make team building exercises a regular part of your team's work week, and research virtual team building ideas to include everyone.  Conflict Can Drive Innovation If you're in conflict with someone and it truly is becoming a roadblock or preventing you from accomplishing what you want to achieve — then find another way. Use it as an opportunity for creative problem solving. Adapt. Download the full list of quotes and tips for inspiration when friction pops up on your team. Encouraging Productive Conflict Helping your team deal with office conflict all starts with your leadership. Your team needs to know that you're there to listen when they encounter conflict and help them out. It's not something they should keep to themselves or stew over in silence.  To start, don't shield your team from conflicts or disagreements. Be transparent about discussions and debates happening at the executive level, especially about decisions that concern them. You don't need to air any dirty laundry, simply explain how different perspectives factored into a new decision. In your daily teamwork, encourage dissenting opinions and those who question assumptions. Show your team that disagreeing doesn't mean they'll be seen as poor team players or difficult employees. Instead of yelling and finger-pointing, foster the kind of conflict that improves thinking and results. Sources: RyanHoliday.net, Harvard Business Review, 99u.com, daringtolivefully.com, wikipedia.org, philosophybasics.com, TED Blog

Video Conferencing Etiquette You Need To Know
Remote Working 7 min read

Video Conferencing Etiquette You Need To Know

New to video conferencing? Learn to excel at virtual meetings and pick up some video conferencing etiquette and best practices. Read more to find out.

Asynchronous Communication: The Answer to Our 'Always on' Culture
Collaboration 7 min read

Asynchronous Communication: The Answer to Our 'Always on' Culture

What is asynchronous communication? Read on for asynchronous communication examples and find out how it can help battle employee burnout.

What Type of Communicator are You?
Collaboration 5 min read

What Type of Communicator are You?

Observer: calming down the storms If you prefer not to rock the boat, unless something really riles you, then perhaps you're a passive communicator. Test yourself and see. Do you:   Feel that your feelings and opinions are overlooked by your colleagues? Avoid catching anyone's eye when in a meeting? Try not to ruffle anyone's feelings when you talk or write to them? Think you have little control over what happens in your workplace and your team? If you answered yes to a couple of those, then perhaps this is your preferred communication style. The disadvantage is that some people think passive communicators don't contribute much to teams and therefore may not show them the respect they are due. But they're wrong. This communication style has its uses. Passive communicators are great for calming down tense situations. If there's a conflict brewing at a team meeting, the passive communicator will be able to help people see each other's viewpoints. Achiever: reaching the finish line first If you're focused on achieving your goals and sometimes don't notice other people's viewpoints, you may be an aggressive communicator. Try this assessment and see. Do you: Have trouble focusing on the points other people are making in meetings? Find it difficult to deal with frustration? Make impulsive decisions that you just KNOW are right? If some of these seem to apply to you, then perhaps this is your usual communication style. One disadvantage of this communication style is that team members may feel alienated and ignored by aggressive communicators. But this communication style has its place in project teams. Sometimes teams need someone who can cut to the chase, so they can move on, and this is where aggressive communicators shine. The strength of an aggressive communication style is the willingness and ability to make quick decisions, especially if you have expert knowledge of the area under discussion. Explosive: ice-cold on the surface, but burning fire from the inside Passive-aggressive communicators are a mixture of the two communication styles described above. Test yourself and see whether this could apply to you. Do you: Shy away from confronting issues openly, even though you might not always agree with the direction things are going? Feel frustrated and sometimes ignored? Passive-aggressive communicators share both the strengths and weaknesses of passive and aggressive communicators. Connector: keeping things smooth If you're good at saying what you need and supporting your colleagues, you could be an assertive communicator. Find out with this self-test. Do you: Keep control of your feelings in meetings whether you agree or disagree with the topic under discussion? Look people in the eye when you talk to them and state your opinions clearly without undermining or labeling colleagues? Take a flexible approach to problems and listen to the opinions of others before making up your mind? Make sure no one takes advantage of you? If you answered yes to a few of these, then you might be an assertive communicator. Even assertive communicators may stumble occasionally when trying to make their point, but generally this type of communicator helps every project go smoothly. Assertive communicators are decisive, positive and respected by their colleagues. Tips on Being an Assertive Communicator It's evident that of the four styles, being an assertive communicator is most likely to get the result you want. So how can you ensure that you and the members of your team communicate effectively and assertively? Here are some tips: Stay focused on the topic under discussion Keep emotions out of it Ask for the opinions of others -- you need to hear and acknowledge them, even if you don't accept them Avoid getting defensive Be prepared to accept criticism and feedback in a constructive manner Diffuse tension with humor if it's appropriate What would you add? Case Study: Communication Styles How would these communication styles play out in a real-life team situation? Let's say you call the team together, whether face-to-face or online, to organize a project for winning a piece of business. You invite everyone to put ideas on the table, and you plan to make a decision at the meeting. Mr. Quiet, a passive communicator, says: “No one ever listens to me anyway, so I'll go along with whatever you decide.” Ms. Variable, a passive-aggressive communicator, sits next to Mr. Quiet, making snarky remarks under her breath. Mr. Impulsive, an aggressive communicator, picks the option he likes and tries to make others vote for it. He says: "You're all silly if you don't see that this will work." What do you think an assertive communicator would say?

5 Ways to Save Your Team from Communication Breakdowns
Collaboration 5 min read

5 Ways to Save Your Team from Communication Breakdowns

Part of what makes a team great is the mix of different personalities and perspectives each person brings to the table. But those differences also mean that misunderstandings and miscommunications are bound to happen at some point. And when they do, it can put a real strain on your team, jeopardizing the success of your project—and possibly even your organization.  When team communication starts to unravel, what do you do? And how do you minimize the number of mishaps along the way?  Here at Wrike, one of our main goals is to make it easy for teams to communicate and work together. Add in the fact that we're a distributed team, and we’ve had our share of communication breakdowns. Here are the team communication strategies and solutions we’ve picked up over the years through first-hand experience.   Set Goals & Expectations Up Front Collaboration runs a lot smoother when you all start out on the same page. So don’t leave kickoff meetings or brainstorming sessions assuming that everyone is clear on roles, action items, deadlines, and objectives—or you’ll more than likely end up hearing, “Isn’t Jeff supposed to do that?” and, “I thought this wasn’t due until next week.”  Record action items, assignments, and deadlines during meetings in writing. At the end of each meeting, summarize who’s responsible for what and when, and send a follow-up note so that everyone is 100% clear on what happens next.  Better yet, assign tasks from within your work management software. The Monterey Bay Aquarium uses Wrike to document priorities at the start of every project, so that team members can easily refer back and see exactly what they need to accomplish. Katy Scott, Digital Learning Manager at the Monterey Bay Aquarium says, "The clarity of knowing what the expectation is and then coming back is integral in terms of moving forward at a steady pace." Quit Working Out of Email... Too many messages, too many attachments, too many vague comments without clear context… email is a breeding ground for communication failure. Besides, all that digital clutter is unnecessarily stressful!  Move team communications to your work management tool, where you can discuss work and attach related files right on the task. Or switch to team chat apps like Slack or HipChat where you can create department- or project-specific channels to discuss work.  "Without Wrike, it becomes threads and threads of emails. With Wrike, we have a central location for stakeholders and content creators to communicate; work out the timeline, content, design, or copy issues together." - Brian Lam, Marketing Operations Coordinator at Hootsuite …Or Make Email More Productive For some teams, scaling back on email communications just isn’t realistic. But simple tweaks to your email etiquette can go a long way towards improving team communication.  For one, keep subject lines short and to the point. If the person only read the subject line, would they know exactly what you want them to do? This allows people to scan their inboxes and prioritize work efficiently, without having to click into each message—and it makes it easier to search for the email later on.  Another tip: if you’re replying to a long email thread or adding in a new participant, summarize the key points at the beginning of the email in bullets or a numbered list. This makes it easy for new recipients to quickly get up to speed and understand exactly what you need from them.  Learn Your Team’s Preferred Communication Style Some members of your team will want to hash things out verbally, or bounce ideas off of a big group. Others will prefer to listen and reflect on what others have to say, and then record their thoughts and ideas on paper.  Learn how each member of your team prefers to communicate and accommodate them whenever possible. Doing so will allow them to share their thoughts more effectively, so that their colleagues can truly hear what they have to say.  Set Up a Knowledge Base  Maybe you’re bringing on a new team member who needs to learn the ropes fast. Or perhaps you want to capture lessons learned to improve the way your team works. Or you just want to head off miscommunications by giving your team access to accurate work information. Whatever the case, making it easy for your team to record and share knowledge is a tried-and-true way to improve communication. Here at Wrike, we use an internal knowledge base to give everyone easy access to up-to-date information, accurate instructions, and time-saving templates.     Here's how our internal knowledge base works:  Each bit of knowledge or lesson learned gets loaded into a task and included in the Knowledge Base folder, which is shared with the whole company. These tasks are unassigned and set as backlogged (there's no due dates associated with them), so they're always available when we need to reference them.  We include each item in subfolders for departments or projects. Since tasks can live in multiple folders at once, we don't have to search through every folder to find the item we need, or miss out on helpful information that's hidden in another team's folder.  For easy reference, related files are attached directly to tasks, with clear versioning so information and instructions are always up-to-date.  Techniques + Tools = Better Team Communication  You don’t have to be a mind reader to have great communication with your team (although it would certainly help). Using these simple strategies, paired with the right communication and collaboration tools, will help build relationships in your team, promote the sharing of new ideas and best practices, and improve the process (and results!) of team collaboration.  Sources: Inc.com, FastCompany.com

Is Your Career Riding On Where You Sit?
Leadership 7 min read

Is Your Career Riding On Where You Sit?

Where you sit in a meeting sends signals to others about who you are and what your role in the discussion is. This guide will help you navigate these unspoken rules.

How to Communicate Like Super Bowl Champions
Collaboration 5 min read

How to Communicate Like Super Bowl Champions

"Concentrate on what will produce results rather than on the results; the process rather than the prize."— Bill Walsh, three time Super Bowl-winning head coach It's Super Bowl season! Time to get out the chips, grab the remote, plop on the couch, and watch some excellent... team communication? Yes, you heard me right. It takes two great teams to make it to the Super Bowl but it takes only one team with excellent communication to win that Lombardi Trophy.  Follow these steps to get your team communicating like Super Bowl champions: 1. Understand the Objective In football, the head coach runs communication on the field. He's responsible for explaining the objectives, standards, and expectations of the game. He needs to encourage and inspire as well as discipline and instruct. It's up to the head coach to organize and create a vision for his team to execute. Just as in football, a successful project team needs a leader who can provide a vision and set expectations for the project.  As important as it is for the team leader to clearly communicate objectives and expectations, it's just as important for the team to effectively listen. Team players also need to communicate their own feelings and concerns to their team leader so everyone is on the same page. 2. Set a Strategy Developing a strategy is the first step to achieving the team's objective. In football, the head coach and assistant coaches evaluate the competition along with their own team's strengths before coming up with a strategy. Once a plan is in place, it's shared with the team. If there's an injured player, the coach needs to factor that into the plan by moving positions around.  Just like football, it's important for team leaders to evaluate their resources before they design the playbook. For example, if a team member has a prior commitment on the day of a presentation, they must communicate that to their team leader. The team leader then needs to factor that into their strategy by shifting the presentation date or choosing a new presenter, and communicating the change to the necessary people. Without this upfront communication, the whole strategy will be ineffective. Having a client communication plan in place is also crucial, to ensure that, once your team are on the same page, that this can be effectively relayed to the customer, and vice versa. 3. Run the Play With the plan set — it's now time to execute. In football, there are several key players involved in running a winning play. Let's look at a common running play: a draw. This play is designed to trick the defense into thinking the offense is about to run a pass play by having the offensive linemen act as if they're going to protect the quarterback in the pocket. Instead, the quarterback drops back, turns, and hands the ball to his running back. Although it sounds straightforward, this play often falls apart due to poor communication. If the running back isn't aware of the play, he won't be ready to receive the hand-off from the quarterback. The important tip here is to make sure that everyone is on the same page. The team needs to not only work together, but also understand the game plan and what their role entails. One way to ensure this accountability is to assign a particular task to each individual and come up with a deadline for when each task needs to be completed. Then, host regular progress meetings to make sure everyone is on track and answer any questions they may have. It's important to maintain communication throughout the entire project. Any gaps in  communication could result in someone dropping the ball. 4. Evaluate the Strategy At this point, the question is simple: are we moving forward? In football, moving the ball ten yards forward results in a first down. First down keeps the team on the field, as long as they keep moving forward and achieving first downs. Penalties and incomplete throws are examples of instances where the team loses yards. When this occurs, the strategy needs to change. The head coach will look at where the problems occurred and think of a different plan. This is also a time when the coach will evaluate his team and see what changes he needs to make in the lineup.   When evaluating a project strategy, it's important to not only look at the plan but also the team players. Is someone slacking on a particular task? Maybe they don't have as much experience, so it takes them longer to complete their task than the rest of the team? These types of observations should be made as early as possible in order to fine-tune the project plan and responsibilities. 5. Touchdown! Woo hoo! By this point, the vision and goals shared in the beginning have been executed and achieved through effective communication and teamwork. It's important to remember exactly what worked and what didn't when this step is reached. The plans may be different, but the communication can be just as successful.  Now let's go watch some football!

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