What are the signals of lack-luster team performance, and what are the solutions? David Savage shares the questions he looks to get answered when starting to coach a new team.
#1: Commitment: Does everyone in the team want to be in the team?
There’s a difference between being committed to the job for the salary versus a commitment that’s driven by a love for the job. With the latter, you’ll have people who are excited by what they do and seek to be outstanding. Getting this right will mean having a team that strives to meet aspirations versus a team that meets just the minimum requirement.
Solutions: Hire the right people, expect the best, have honest conversations around performance and motivation.
#2: Communication: Where on the spectrum between Combative and Collaborative communication does the team sit?
How a team talks to each other is an indicator of what the team can achieve together. Making the most of the team’s Collective Intelligence depends on how well people are heard and how their ideas are responded to. Shut one person down and you’ve lost the full computing power of their brain and therefore the full benefit of their creativity and expertise.
Solution: Don’t leave collaborative communication to chance, train Communication Excellence
#3: Cohesive Purpose: How well bonded is the team to its purpose? Is it clear? Is it shared? Is it compelling?
The difference between a team and a group? A group simply has a common interest. A team has a common purpose that it actively works towards achieving. This is a greatest opportunity for a leader to build cohesion within the team. Have a clearly defined purpose for the team, that everyone describes in the same way and links to the contribution that team makes to the bigger picture.
Solution: Have your team collectively define it’s purpose, make sure it outlines the difference your team makes to the people they serve.
#4: Leadership Presence: How does the team’s Manager feature within the team? Does he/she have ‘presence’ when present, and does that enable the team or subdue it?
The team’s leader is the team’s key influencer; Leaders can set the mental and emotional tone for others whenever present. So what effect is that presence having on the team? If a leader is pessimistic a team can struggle to cut through and perform at it’s best . If a leader is solution focused, the team has someone to model, especially through tough times!
Solutions: Model the right behaviours, enable thinking, value everyone and facilitate creativity.
#5: Participation: In team meetings, does everyone participate or is it the same few who do most of the talking?
Some team meetings can turn out to be a conversation between just two or three people, with everyone else hanging back denied airtime. The risk is that time is wasted, people switch off and decisions are driven by a few.
Solution: When you need people’s ideas, take a workshop approach and not an open forum approach. I.e. “We need ideas on X, in pairs lets get as many as possible in five minutes and then we’ll share as a group”.
#6: Fun: How much fun is the team having together?
Fun is an indicator of creative potential. If a team can laugh together, it can create together – creativity in the brain is helped when people are relaxed and comfortable with others around them. A team having fun signals it’s in a ‘toward state’ and primed for creative thinking.
Solution: Recognise fun as a value and value it’s contribution.
#7: Tracking: Does everyone in the team have a high-level overview of who is doing what?
For everyone in the team to intimately know who is working on what and the specific details of their day-to-day activity would create a huge information overload. At the same time, with no visibility of others in the team, there’s no cross-pollination and peer support is at risk.
Solution: Know the basics on a week to week basis: Who has what priority, support needed from the team, recent successes, current challenges
#8: Development: Are people growing in ways meaningful to them through the work they are doing?
More than just a job. As I alluded to in question one, (Does everyone in the team want to be in the team?) – a job is more than a job when there’s a passion for the work. Ideally, theses are the people to populate your team with. But what’s this ‘passion’ thing? I link it strongly to Intrinsic Motivation, a state when a person – through their work – has autonomy, mastery and purpose. Focusing in on mastery, this is when someone is developing skills, knowledge and/or experience that is meaningful to them.
Solution: Ask your people, ‘Where do you want this job to take you and how do you want to develop along the way?’
#9: Celebration: How well does the team celebrate success?
Celebrating successes – a nice-to-do activity or is it essential? I would say it’s the latter. If people work hard and achieve well, then let them know they’ve made a difference. In a team culture, celebrating builds cohesion, it signals the fulfilment of purpose and inspires others.
Solution: Acknowledge others on a regular basis. Make it tangible; what they achieved, the value it added and what is now possible.
#10: Pressure: When the pressure is on, does the team pull together or pull apart?
Possibly the biggest indicator of a team’s ability to perform, is how it performs under pressure. Do people ask for help when they need it? Are people willing to cross-the-floor and help out where needed? When one person can’t deliver, do other parts of the team flex to take the strain? Does creativity increase or does the blame game start?
Solution: Upfront, set the right expectations for when the pressure is on. Build a team where people care for each other and will step-up for each other. Keep it solution focused.