What’s top of mind for you as a leader? If you are like most, it’s how to improve results as quickly as possible. And often, you need to achieve this in spite of fewer resources, including a tighter budget. But here’s the thing: If your team is not tapping its full potential, it will be a struggle to achieve the expected results and impossible to surpass them.
Time is a precious commodity, and where to focus your attention is one of the most important decisions you must make every day. Too often, “team effectiveness” is near the bottom of the to-do list — if it even makes the list at all. However, putting your team’s effectiveness at the top of your to-do list will quickly pay dividends in enhanced results.
While improving team performance may sound like a mammoth task, we have discovered through years of research and working with teams that it can be brought down to size by considering seven core behaviors and practices. If you as a leader keep an eye on these and provide support where needed, you and your team will be surprised by what you can achieve.
To get a taste of the seven practices and a sense of their strength within your team, ask these seven questions:
1. How cohesive is our team?
Are team members working in the same direction toward a common goal? Or is time and energy being wasted by team members focusing on tasks and activities that won’t lead them in the right direction? Do team members have a clear and common definition of what constitutes success and the values, roles, and priorities required to get there? When a team lacks cohesion, there is wheel-spinning and poor decision-making, as well as wasted time, energy and resources.
Prompt: If you asked your team to list the department’s top three priorities, would everyone have the same list?
2. How is our team’s ability to handle change?
This requires that your team not only be receptive to change but also be able to implement change and adapt their behaviors and practices as required to move forward.
Prompt: When change is on its way, are heels digging in or are sleeves rolled up?
3. Is shared leadership the norm in our team?
When there is shared leadership, team members are in charge of directing their own work and making decisions related to their tasks as much as possible. The leader seeks input from the right people as needed, and team members seek input from one another.
Prompt: If team members are constantly running to the leader to solve problems, this is an area that cries for improvement.
4. How are our group work skills?
Group work skills refer to the ability to effectively facilitate a meeting, solve problems, make decisions and reach consensus.
Prompt: Do people leave meetings with a sense of accomplishment and looking forward to the next one?
5. How healthy is our team’s climate?
A healthy climate refers to how team members feel about the way the team functions, including their level of comfort with team norms of behavior. Sometimes considered to be a “soft” issue, this is actually a critical foundation of a healthy, high-performing team. Signs that indicate a team’s climate is unhealthy include a high degree of unproductive conflict, a lack of trust and respect for one another, low energy, and low morale.
Prompt: If members are hesitant to speak up, this is often a sign that the climate needs attention.
6. Does our team think innovatively?
When a team demonstrates strong innovative thinking, members are on constant alert for better ways to do things and challenge the status quo when old norms hinder their progress.
Prompt: If a new idea or better way of doing things hasn’t been suggested by a team member in the past week or two, this is an important practice to examine.
7. How is the individual contribution of team members?
Team members’ contribution includes the degree to which individual team members take initiative and manage their own individual performance.
Prompt: If there is grumbling in the team about members not pulling their weight, this is a practice that requires further discussion.
Answering these questions gives you a quick look at these seven nonnegotiable core practices and behaviors. Your team’s strength in each of these areas determines their degree of success. Simply having the team self-assess and come to an agreement on the required change can begin to strengthen the practices and behaviors. If you become fanatically focused on these by looking for both strengths to celebrate and opportunities for improvement and then provide the support to make those improvements, you will find that you have your foot on the power pedal. As a result, your team will take off.
Nicole Bendaly is President of K&Co. For over 20 years, Nicole Bendaly has been researching and training healthcare teams to weed out apathy and amplify the best in themselves. As a published author, dynamic speaker, creator of the Team Fitness Tool and president of K&Co., she has established herself as a respected thought leader in team development and organizational behavior. K&Co. works with organizations to fix what isn’t working and amplify the things that are. Their mission is to challenge the status quo, inspire better teams and shift the working world in a direction that actually works.