Part II: Building a High Performance Team.

Daily Quote: ” Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together for a common goal is success”.  Henry Ford 

 

What are the four most important factors for building a strong team? If you read Part I where I covered more structural features of building effective teams.

1. Personal Safety. This is genuine belief that we won’t get hurt in participating in this team. The experience will be worth your time and effort.

2. Trust  built on keeping your word and following through on commitments  “We mean what we say and we say what we mean,” you and other members commit to rise and fall together to achieve your collective and shared goals.

3. Self-disclosure as “A willingness to connect both professionally and personally with other members. Team members are supportive of each other and are will to share experiences and stories that make the private public, thus increasing loyalty and bonding.

4. Sense of belonging and acceptance of diversity and differences.

The presence of these characteristics in a team supports the experimentation, risk-taking, shared responsibility and vulnerability that are essential steps toward meaningful learning and growth of team members. When a team develops this type of sharing and supportive culture the team is perceived as a  safer, more trusting and more compatible environment. The value of the team is rated higher than individual accomplishments.  But a challenge is that the steps  required to establish this foundation can appear to take time away from more pressing tasks–and as leaders we can easily get distracted by short-term tasks such as, quarter budget and revenue goals or expenses, project deadlines and request and obligations to bosses or client and other outside distractions. These “do it now” pressures neglect the group’s longer-term emotional and professional development.

In my experience group members themselves sense the need for these factors to be established in the group, and they express that need quite clearly, although often indirectly.  The key for a leader is to listen for and respond to any signals related to members’ needs in these areas, while noting that it may be particularly difficult for members to articulate them in the face of our (perceived) indifference if we seem too focused on just  results.  This aspect of group development is a true test of a leader’s ability to focus on what we know to be important soft skills rather than what appears to be urgent.

Want to Improve Team Effectiveness: Learn about Team Emotional Intelligence

Daily Quote: “Emotional Intelligence has had a real impact on individual growth and performance but the only problem is that so far emotional intelligence has not focused its research on team competency or effectiveness. The reality is that most work in organizations is done by teams. And if managers have one pressing need today, it’s to find ways to make teams work better”. Vanessa Urch Druskat and Steven B. Wolff

“EXCELLENT” Meetings. Meetings are what bosses “do.” Meetings are de facto Leadership Opportunity #1. Act accordingly.  Dr. Tom Peters

How to make meetings more satisfying, productive and work more effectively? “Begin with the end in mind” or the vision thing. By setting a vision of what the team wants to accomplish and what a successful meeting looks like the changes of increasing engagement and having more satisfying outcomes increase dramatically .

We generally ignore priority setting or vision thinking in most meetings. For some reason there is pressure to get down to work quickly. This thinking goes like this “we can’t waste time on all this petty stuff we have important things to do”. So what happens is that most team leaders and members avoid or ignore answering these important questions: What is the most important thing to work on and accomplish while we are together this morning? Why are we doing this? What are we trying to achieve? Where are we trying to get to?’ What does success look like? How do we handle side issues that might come up? How do we get everyone involved, engaged and committed to what’s important to discuss and decide on today? What the leader and team fail to understand is how important it is to answer these questions not just to motivate thinking and members engagement but to guide how to use our valuable time together. Both “structure and processes” are key elements for increasing energy and productivity in meetings.  So my advice to those who are bored or frustrated by meetings is to –STOP, CLARIFY and GET AGREEMENT on what is important to focus on today.

Another important idea is presented by Druskat and Wolff in their Harvard Business Review’s article that the real source of a great team’s success lies in the fundamental understanding of group emotional intelligence. This understanding allows effective task processes to emerge like setting decision-making and communication norms and that cause members to commit to the shared established by the team. Their research says there are three conditions are essential to a group’s effectiveness: trust among members, a sense of group identity, and a sense of group efficacy.”

Planning and detail thinking are both about “how” to implement your vision, with planning being more at the 30,000 level and big picture thinking, and detail discussions are more ground level dealing with specific actions and commitments.   “This kind of ‘how’ to execute or work together is very difficult if you don’t have a  clear why these activities are a priority and important to the individuals, team and organizational imperatives.

Self-Coaching Challenge: Learning how to conduct effective meetings can’t be learned over night. To break the habits of poor meetings will take experimentation and practice. In the beginning instituting new group maintenance procedures or processes will feel unnatural or uncomfortable. So as a team leader it is important from a learning and mental stand point to stick with changes long enough to see if they can make a difference in your team’s productivity. Remember that ” A team can have everything going for it the brightest and most qualified people, access to resources–a clear mission and still fail because it lacks group emotional intelligence and understanding of group dynamics”.

So over the next month your challenge as team leader is to explore ways to improve your meetings through feedback and speaking-up. Start first by reaching out to team members on two questions:

1. How do they feel about the effectiveness of our present meetings.

2. Ask for suggestions on what needs to change in order to make them more productive?