Category Archives: Teams and Motivation

Team Leadership

leadership

Continuing with the theme of our previous post, one of the most prudent steps you can take to maximize the impact of a team or a team improvement initiative is to appoint a strong leader.

An effective project team leader moves the team forward and inspires team members to do their best work. They also manage many of the organizational systems needed to keep a project on track.

The roles of a team leader include the following:

  • Manage the team toward accomplishing tasks and maintaining focus
  • Take a vested interest in solving the problem
  • Build commitment to the team charter and objective
  • Develop, with the members, the project plan
  • Lead activities such as problem solving, progress monitoring and team building
  • Interaction between meetings, offering help with action items
  • Meet with the facilitator between meetings to review the previous meeting and to plan for the next meeting
  • Keep the necessary people (sponsors, functional management) informed of progress, barriers and roadblocks and provide guidance to the team based on management direction
  • Maintain documentation of the team’s efforts
  • Behave in a way that contributes to team effectiveness

An effective team leader must also possess a range of skills if they are to fill these roles, such as project management skills, communication skills, and the ability to understand problem solving as well as the differences between team members.

A Closer Look at High Performing Teams

high performing team

Spring boarding off of recent posts that focused on workplace relationships, and building on a point made in our previous post that nothing brings to light the quality of relationships more than in the workings of a team, today’s focus is on building high-performing teams.

Building high performing teams can bring about significant gains – gains that go beyond those typically achieved by individuals — and for good reasons:

  • It is nearly impossible for a single person to possess the same amount of knowledge and experience that a high performing team possesses
  • The exchange of ideas leads to new thinking and innovation
  • The involvement of multiple people in decision-making strengthens commitment levels
  • A team environment provides mutual support and a sense of belonging

Yet virtually every organization we’ve encountered struggles with developing teams. Many teams are dysfunctional; they take too long to accomplish tasks, the work is filled with errors and waste, the costs are excessive and turf wars abound.

Based on our work with thousands of teams, there are eight key attributes associated with high performing teams:

  1. Work on what matters
  2. Create the “right” structure, including sponsor, leader, facilitator and members, all with clear roles
  3. Create a team charter
  4. Manage team meetings effectively
  5. Follow a defined methodology for problem solving and continuous improvement
  6. Monitor and improve teamwork skills
  7. Share accountability
  8. Recognize and publicize accomplishment

Teams & The “R Factor”

team

While the quality of relationships can be observed and evaluated within one-on-one interactions as discussed in our previous two posts, nothing brings to light the quality of relationships more than in the workings of a team.

Teams have become the primary and core structure for getting work done and it would be difficult to find an organization which does not have “teamwork” as a fundamental value.

This is highly logical when you consider that it is nearly impossible for a single person to possess the same amount of knowledge and experience that a high performing team possesses, and that the involvement of multiple people in decision-making strengthens commitment. The exchange of ideas that takes place in a team environment, (as opposed to a setting in which people work in individual silos), promotes new thinking and innovation as well.

Yet, it is interesting that although the value of teams is readily accepted, it is rare to find teams that have truly reached their potential. In team language, this means they have yet to reach a level of high performance.

What is often missing is the realization that creating high performing teams is not just about implementing the basics of team structures. Going from an effective team to a high performing team requires additional skills, practice, commitment, and most importantly, in the words again of Mike Morrison, “It’s the relationship!” Teams seeking to become high performing must have strong relationships at their very core.

Consider the following key areas when measuring the strength of your organizational or team relationships:

  • Mutual Accountability
  • Trust and Loyalty
  • Esprit de Corps
  • Commitment to Results

These characteristics are exemplified by the preeminent model for high performance — The Navy SEALs! Their creed, actions, and success solidly point to their reputation of high performance.

Observe any high performing team and you will find these same characteristics evident — and not just “some of the time.” A high performing team reflects these characteristics in every way and at all times.

You might also take a look upward, or a more reflective look depending upon job function, because a concerted, focused effort needs to take place. And as is most often the case with any change or improvement initiative, it needs to happen at the top. Hence it is an absolute requirement that the Senior Executive Team “walks the talk” of high performing teams. It is not enough to accept a “do as we say, not as we do” attitude. Failure to model high performing team characteristics at the executive level is a sure path to mediocre team results throughout the organization.

In actuality, high performing executive teams are less plentiful than high performance workforce teams, and possibly for good reason. Many executives got to the top by their individual ability to be the best; and many successful executives have not necessarily had a track record of either leading high performing teams, or even having been a part of a high performing team. In addition, because of the rotating door of management (one of Dr. Deming’s “deadly sins”), many executives aren’t around in one position long enough to develop the skills and most importantly the relationships required for high performing teams.

Yet, in spite of the inherent challenges for executives to truly create high performing teams, it is a challenge worth overcoming.

This need is particularly strong, not only because of the clear advantages of a high performing team anywhere in an organization, but also because of the need to model such behavior at the executive level. When any value is proclaimed by an organization (in this case teamwork), the first and constant litmus test of the value is evidence that the value is demonstrated at the top levels.

The Foundation of a Functional Team

trust

When Patrick Lencioni set out to write about the attributes and behaviors that determine if a team will be functional (that is accomplish the results it set out to achieve) , he described five key attributes in terms of a pyramid with results at the pinnacle. As he stated in Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, the foundation of the pyramid was trust.

Effective teamwork is, Lencioni asserts, “the one sustainable competitive advantage that is largely untapped.”

When people set aside individual needs for the good of the whole, they get a lot more done well in less time, at less cost. Not only that, effective teamwork also gives people a sense of connection and belonging.

But many teams and organizations, if not most, never get to the level of high performance. Participants are reluctant to set aside their own agendas and focus on achieving the team’s goals. And in most cases, the trouble stems from a lack of trust.

Teams must trust one another, Lencioni says, on a fundamental emotional level so they are comfortable being open with one another about their weaknesses, mistakes, fears and behaviors. If people fundamentally trust one another, they are not afraid to engage in passionate dialogue around issues and key decisions that are critical to the organization’s success. This “unfiltered debate” ensures that all ideas and objections are put on the table and worked through so the team can arrive at a genuine commitment to the decision. Genuine commitment enables team members to hold one another accountable for follow through and to put achieving the results ahead of individual agendas.

So, trust is essential to having open and honest dialogue and debate, which leads to better decisions, better commitment, and better follow through: i.e., competitive advantage. It is that simple.

Does it work?

In There is Nothing as Fast as the Speed of Trust Stephen Covey cites a study showing that high trust organizations outperform low trust organizations by nearly 300%. Covey describes a lack of trust in an organization as a tax that reduces the value of every interaction. People waste time worrying about their image. People don’t hear the message clearly enough because they are factoring in assumptions about intentions. They often take things the wrong way — wasting time and talent. People who are unafraid to admit truth about themselves have no need to engage in political behaviors that waste so much time.

Developing Your Team

team

Developing a high performing team can bring about significant gains that go beyond those typically achieved by individuals – and for good reason:

  • It is nearly impossible for a single person to possess the same amount of knowledge and experience that a high performing team possesses
  • The exchange of ideas leads to new thinking and innovation
  • The involvement of multiple people in decision-making strengthens commitment levels
  • A team environment provides mutual support and a sense of belonging

But virtually every organization we’ve encountered struggles with developing teams.

Many teams are dysfunctional and take too long to accomplish tasks. In other cases, the work is filled with errors and waste, and in many cases the costs are excessive and turf wars abound.

Some of the skills and behaviors that will help you develop high performing teams include:

  • Effective leadership and sponsorship
  • Developing alignment around a common purpose
  • Task and project management
  • Communication and meeting management
  • Setting measurable performance targets
  • Identifying the right process/game plan to achieve results
  • Holding people mutually accountable for results
  • Encouraging innovation

Launching Your “A” Team

Team Launch Checklist

Our previous post focused on building a high performing team, so it seemed logical to follow-up with a post about effectively launching a team. Getting project teams off to a good start helps them engage in the project and in one another, leading to better results..

The first step involves investing time and effort up front on clarifying goals, behavior expectations and project scope. These steps can quickly pay dividends as teams move forward, as they help to build a strong foundation in support of more productive efforts. They can also prevent conflict, which plagues many teams.

Additional key steps for successfully launching a high-performing team include:

  • Scoping the project
  • Flushing out the team charter
  • Establishing key performance measures
  • Developing the project plan
  • Establishing expected deliverables

Building your “A” Team

Our previous post referenced the proverbial “A Team,” and identified the “A” as standing for agility.

But along with being agile, the ability to build high performing teams can enable an organization to make significant gains that go beyond those typically achieved by individuals. As the saying goes, “TEAM = Together Everyone Achieves More.”

Consider that it is nearly impossible for a single person to possess the same amount of knowledge and experience that a high performing team possesses, as the exchange of ideas alone leads to new thinking and innovation. In addition, the involvement of multiple people in decision-making typically strengthens commitment levels, and a team environment can provide mutual support and a sense of belonging.

However, virtually every organization we’ve encountered struggles with developing teams.

Many teams are dysfunctional; they take too long to accomplish tasks, the work is filled with errors and waste, the costs are excessive and turf wars abound.

Some key steps for developing high performing teams include:

  • Providing effective sponsorship
  • Developing strong team leaders and facilitators
  • Developing alignment around a common purpose
  • Developing and applying consistent task and project management
  • Open and consistent communication
  • Teaching people how to conduct productive meetings
  • Setting measurable performance targets
  • Identifying the right process/game plan to achieve results
  • Holding people mutually accountable for results

Why Teamwork Pays!

How to Achieve Breakthrough Gains

Chartering and deploying effective project teams is one of the most important achievements for any organization.

Consider that high performing teams, by their nature, work on the right things — those that matter most to the organization. In addition, high performing teams are much more likely to bring about breakthrough gains – gains that go beyond those typically achieved by individuals — and for good reasons:

  • It is nearly impossible for a single person to possess the same amount of knowledge and experience that a high performing team possesses
  • The exchange of ideas leads to new thinking and innovation
  • The involvement of multiple people in decision-making strengthens commitment levels
  • A team environment provides mutual support and a sense of belonging

Some of the skills and behaviors that can help an organization develop high-performing teams include:

  • Strong, committed leadership
  • Alignment around a common purpose
  • Diligent task and project management
  • Effective communication and meeting management
  • Clear and measurable performance targets
  • The right process to achieve results
  • People are held mutually accountable for activity and results

Managing the Cost of Disengaged Workers

An earlier post summarized the real costs associated with disengaged workers, which is close to $500 billion per year based on research by glassdoor.com, the Enterprise Engagement Alliance (EEA), and others.

Wow!

Fortunately, there are proactive steps that can be taken to avoid these costs and the collateral damage to team morale and brand that is a regular side-effect.

Based on research and data shared by the EEA and The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, the following five steps can drive employee engagement, and reduce the number of disengaged workers and the associated costs:

  1. Enhanced recruiting and on-boarding — The first steps involve the inclusion of the organization’s mission and vision into interviewing conversations, and a more conscious effort to identify and hire people with aligned goals. Adding a mentor program to the on-boarding process helps new hires assimilate
    faster so they became more productive in less time as well.
    Enabling people to achieve higher levels of productivity and success early-on promotes greater engagement levels, and reduces first-year attrition rates. Early churn tends to demoralize
    everyone, so in addition to reducing re-hiring and re-training costs, the costs associated with negativity within the existing workforce are also reduced.
  2. Consistent performance management and communication — People need to have meaning in their work, and understand how their work aligns with organizational objectives. This communication works best when systematized as part of structured, proactive approach to performance management.
  3. Learning and development — A young, fast-rising junior executive had been working at a large bank for just over six years. When he was asked about his job and how he felt about it he said, “The job’s OK.” His lack of enthusiasm was evident, and when pressed to say more he added, “Well, I’m not really learning much anymore.” He went on to confirm that he was not truly engaged, and that he did not make much of an extra or discretionary effort, which engaged workers regularly make. Forward thinking
    business leaders understand that the path to sustainable employee engagement is to drive productivity, and to do so through ongoing education and empowerment.
  4. Recognition and rewards — Recognizing and rewarding employees is not a new concept, but if the goal is to engage people rather than simply acknowledge milestones (such as length of service), then the approach must be aligned with what is meaningful to each recipient.
  5. Flexibility and work/life balance — Employer/employee relationships, expectations, and engagement criteria have evolved significantly over the past decade. Data from a PwC survey of 44,000 workers who had become less engaged indicated that “71% said their jobs interfered with their personal lives, and 70% said they wanted to be able to work from home.”
    Employees can also become disengaged when they feel their managers only care about the bottom line. More than one-third of U.S. employees (39%) don’t believe their bosses encourage them to take allotted vacation days, and almost half (45%) say their bosses don’t help them disconnect from work
    while on vacation, according to a Randstad survey.

Read the full article… 

Productivity & Workforce Engagement

While employee engagement has emerged as a key objective in today’s business world, a surprising number of organizations have no formalized engagement strategy.

Or they fall prey to the misconception that “happy employees are more productive employees,” which has been disproved time-and-time-again. As it turns out, dress-down Fridays, free pizza or flex-time programs might create some short-term buzz, but the excitement doesn’t last; and the impact is neither greater productivity nor higher engagement levels.

In fact, the opposite is the reality — that is,
“productive employees tend to be engaged
employees,” not the other way around.

Consider that people like to feel successful… they
like to be part of a winning team… a productive
team. You might also consider three important
and corroborating data points that were
published on Forbes.com:

  • A happy worker is not always a productive worker, and job satisfaction yields membership but not always productivity.
  • People differ in what they value and in what motivates them.
  • While it is typically better to have higher, rather than lower, engagement scores, engagement alone is not enough. In order to improve organizational performance, engagement, motivation, and performance must be addressed… and must be used to make data-based changes that will drive employee retention, performance, and commitment… not “just” engagement.

Driving productivity as a means of achieving and maintaining high-levels of workforce engagement enables an organization to more easily promote and reward desired behaviors, measure and document progress, and ultimately realize tangible results.

Equally as important, the measured return on investment enables leadership to further invest in the workforce as well as the workplace, thus promoting a culture of continuous
improvement and engagement throughout.