Pronunciation: ˌən-dər-ˈstan-diŋFunction: nounDate: before 12th century
1 : a mental grasp : comprehension
2 a : the power of comprehending; especially : the capacity to apprehend general relations of particulars b : the power to make experience intelligible by applying concepts and categories
3 a : friendly or harmonious relationship b : an agreement of opinion or feeling : adjustment of differences c : a mutual agreement not formally entered into but in some degree binding on each side
I would venture to say that much if not most of the conflict in project work comes from a lack of understanding. Not a lack of understanding of a particular technology and how to apply it. But a lack of MUTUAL understanding.
As a leader it is incumbent upon you to be always on the look out for times when people don’t understand each other. It is amazing how often this happens. Often the people are even saying the same words but the meaning is completely different. You, as a leader, need to be listening to both the spoken and the unspoken content of the conversation. When you feel that there may be a misunderstanding, speak up. Clarify, ask questions, that you know others want to ask but maybe they would feel self conscious asking. You can not afford to feel self conscious. Your project is at stake. I have often asked the seemingly simplistic (dumb) question that I felt needed to be asked, only to find that everyone else around the table was thinking the same question but felt like they “should” know the answer already.
Don’t be afraid to look dumb.
Your team will respect you for asking the questions for them and taking the bullets if they come. Keep your eyes and ears open at all times. If you are in the room with your team. Watch their faces, look at how they are sitting. You might catch someone start to open their mouth to ask a question, only to stop short. Ask the question for them, or call on them, “Jean, You look like you were about to ask a question, or add something.”
It is more difficult on the phone, but that is part of life these days. Most of the projects I have done for the past three years have been with entirely remote teams. I would see them once a month. But I got to a point with them where I could tell what they were thinking. I make extensive use of instant messaging during the call. I will ask key people if they agree, or understand the issue. Or if they think this is going the right way. There are other clues too. One team member would tap a pen on his table when he was anxious. Since we were on a speaker phone it was completely obvious to me. I would then just call on him, “Sam (not his real name), What do you think about that?” Everyone thought I had mental telepathy.
Listen, Watch, and ask questions. Your team will thank you, and you will have far fewer big bumps in the road to project completion.