Chapter 3

1. Internal communication: how to handle and manage your team members

If one would try to attach a definition to the phrase “internal communication” that would probably be “the process by which information is exchanged within a group of people working as a team towards a common goal through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior”. Nevertheless, especially provided that there is a variety of people involved, who belong to different age groups, have different roles and positions, this exchange of information in FFS may not always be done effectively and several challenges may arise. In this case, miscommunication could probably lead:

  • team members to make assumptions and develop expectations based on wrong or misinterpreted information;
  • to the creation of closed loops that would exclude and leave out some team members;
  • to conflicts among team members and create an environment of insecurity and instability.

First and foremost, we need to recognize the specificity of FFS in order to choose the right communication approach towards the participants. FFS provides an informal or non-formal environment to the participants, with fewer formalities and based on building personal relationships and close interaction among team members and team leaders.

In that sense, the communication approach can be more effective if it has a personal style that allows interaction through the lens of emotion and personal connection and involves not only verbal articulation of one’s desires, but also non-verbal communication. This way, along with the sense of trust within the team, can more easily lead to diplomatic and effective internal communication.

But, how can we ensure that effective communication is ensured within the team in FFS? Here are a few tips and tricks that could be really useful:

(a) Identify and resolve conflicts early on

Although it sounds quite logical and somehow self-evident, realizing that THERE IS a problem is the beginning of the end for any inconvenient situation. Some issues might start from simple misunderstandings, but if they are not defined and dealt early enough, they might become real problems with unexpected consequences. In other words, not only the team leader but also the team members themselves should be encouraged to detect any problematic issues as soon as possible and resolve them before they escalate and seriously affect other team members or even the whole team.

(b) Define the roles and responsibilities

As any other group, your FFS team involves people with different personalities and behavioral tendencies. Though in FFS there is some extra complexity, since it is not only the different age groups that need to compromise and cooperate, but also the tight personal relationships between the team members (guardians and their children), which could more easily lead to undesired interactions between them due to lose boundaries. And who should be the maestro of this mixed and colorful orchestra? Well…this should be you! Right from the start you need to fee and evaluate the team dynamic and make sure that both groups (adults and children) understand that it is your rules and your decisions they should respect, as your role is to be the leader of this group, while all other roles they might carry, should be left out of the sports field. Make sure they understand their rights and responsibilities and that they should approach you for any issues and not resolve them on their own due to their family relationship.

(c) Display confidence and seriousness

In order to achieve the previous step though, it is important to also present yourself as the leading figure within the team. It is important to define your role as well and make sure that everyone understands and acknowledges it. Of course, it is not only what you say, but also how you say it. Make sure you upscale your presentation skills by speaking in a clear and firm voice, keeping eye contact and carefully listening to anything that your team members want to say. But far and foremost, be ready to respond to their questions, lead them through the FFS process and feel confident in your role within the team. You should not only be the leader, but also look like one!

(d) Create a safe, open and inclusive environment

It is important for any team to feel that they are interacting in a receptive environment that allows them to express themselves openly, address their issues and be listened to. Building trust and respect is of outmost importance, as members are more likely to be engaged and enjoy the process of FFS. Keeping in mind that FFS is everything but a formal way of learning and interacting, try to actively involved your members in different processes, listen to their needs and allow them to express themselves with no fear of judgment or criticism. This way you will safeguard inclusion and respect in your team and any communication effort will be far easier and more effective.

(e) Encourage feedback

Listen, listen, LISTEN! Listening to what your participants have to say about how the team is operating and functioning is important for different reasons. To start with, reassuring them that their opinion matters keep them more engaged, gives a feeling of appreciation and creates a sense of trust and belonging. Also, it makes your team members feel appreciated and that their opinion matters, so inevitably they will give back to you respect and attention when required. But above all, it is the only way that all problematic issues or deficiencies in the functioning of your team reach your ears from the inside, even when you have accidentally overlooked some details along the way. Feedback is the most direct way to receive some “on the ground” perspective of what is really happening and will help you improve your work and make any necessary changes.

(f) Acknowledge the effort

A simple “well done”, “good job”, “congratulations”, a kind tap on the back, a “give me five” or any internal team sign or gesture is important to reassure your team that their efforts are recognized and acknowledged. This simple tip will make your team members feel appreciated and encourage them to stay focused and engaged in your FFS process, but also will strengthen the team spirit and their personal satisfaction.

(g) Reevaluate and make changes

Even if you choose the most appropriate communication style for your team and even though it appears effective in the beginning, things change along the way. The best solution to avoid any uncomfortable consequences of such a change is never to rest on this idea! Reevaluate your style, reflect on everything that is happening and invite your team members to participate in this process as well. At the end of the day…this is no different from any post-game analysis, and for sure THIS you can do perfectly well! 🙂