I had the privilege to present on Research Based Team Performance Principles and Practices on Thursday at the New Jersey Home Care and Hospice Association’s Annual Conference in Atlantic City. This article will summarized the five top principles and bonus tips in this blog from that talk. By applying these principles you will see improved team performance, collaboration and innovation. For those who want to listen to the full presentation, here is the link in podcast format.
Improving team performance is a science and not an art.
(1) It’s My Turn: everyone talks in equal measure, briefly and concisely.
This means that as a leader or team, you don’t allow the quick members to hide and the more talking team members to dominate. To accomplish this the team or leader need to have good facilitation and meeting practices. In my experience, and certainly, I was no exception, the leader is the biggest violator of this principle.
If you really want to see and get a sense if this principle is being followed in your group, record a 15 to 30 section of a meeting. As a group listen to who is talking, how you are all communicating, and who you have not heard from. With this non-biased feedback of audio, both the dominant and quiet team members will adjust their behavior with some gentle coaching and feedback.
Tip 1: Implement a round robin system of discussion and use a timer to ensure that everyone shares in equal measure
(2) Uninterrupted Eye Contact: face to face is superior.
The data is clear. There is no substitute to the effectiveness of face to face communication. According to Sandy Petland, MIT researcher, how teams communicate is a bigger determining factor of success than the content of the exchanges. High performing teams have members square off with each other, make eye contact and are animated in their discussions. The facts are, while telephonic and video conference are good tools for communication, they come a distant second to quality face to face exchanges in driving performance. The worst form of communication in terms of driving performance, is text and email. So put down the keyboard and go make uncomfortable eye contact with a team member right now!
Tip 2: Create a common area for discussions/meetings and a common time for breaks so that the entire team can socialize and strengthen connections in this informal setting. The best teams are doing this and experiencing remarkable performance increases.
(3) Everyone All Connected: a decentralize communication structure is best.
High performing teams use a decentralize communication structure. The enemy of this structure is you being the middleman. Don’t fall into this seductive trap of being the fixer. You know what I mean, having the deli counter style line with employees waiting to get your wisdom and to solve their issues. The more you can encourage team members to talk to each other and solving each other’s challenges, the stronger and more high performing the team will be.
Tip 3: When they come to you to complain or ask for help, send them back to their peers for resolution and answers. Tell them why you are doing this so they don’t think you are being a lazy leader.
(4) Be Spies: get insight and inspiration outside the group.
A hallmark of team performing teams is gleaning insight and information from new sources outside the team. High performing teams don’t let outside noise get in the way of getting the job done. The best and most innovative teams will periodically seek inspiration outside of their work groups, disciplines, and organizations. High performing teams never let this outside reconnaissance interfere with high quality team interactions. High performing teams use this approach to enrich and energize the exchanges within their teams.
Tip 4: Hold regular show and tell sessions (yes like from childhood) to encourage this seeking and sharing outside inspiration. This is a must when innovation matters.
(5) Be a Transformer: transformational leadership improves team performance.
Twenty years and hundreds of research studies have confirmed the impact of this leadership style. Transformational leadership is authentic, competent and inspirational leadership. So what does this mean? While senior leadership may be impressed by your eye popping cost saving spreadsheets, these tools fall short and fail to light the fire of team. What people want is a leader who demonstrates commitment to the work and cares enough about the team, the organization, and the client to articulate a compelling vision. The truth is people want to be challenged to reach high. To move the team forward, you got to have an elevated message hits the heart and stimulates imagination.
Tip 5: Craft and communicate a vision that appeal to the hearts, emotions and values of your team members.
Leading teams effectively is a rewarding and often an exhausting responsibility. Great leaders lighten their load by igniting passion, creativity and drive in the team. They use this energy to focus the team on a shared victory. The highway to high performing teams will require you to make a pit stop from time to time to take stock of how you and the team are doing against the principles highlighted above. Use this checklist to evaluate your team’s progress against these principles. Please don’t go it alone. Share this article with your team and co-workers to create a community of knowledgeable high performers.