Recently, I coached a team in a group session. The team members rated the team a 6.1 in terms of working together. I asked each team member to reflect on a challenge that he/she is currently having, and share it with me and the group. There were about 10 people in the team and six of them focused their comments on changing something that was out of their control. It was an epidemic!
The team prioritized this negative behavior as the one to focus on improving in their team change efforts. Over the next six months, the group took part in the Team Building without Time Wasting process and I am happy to report that it is now a highly functional team, with members rating the team an 8.6!
Following are the steps the team took to change this endemic challenge of focusing on what they could not change. Note step 7 (Follow-up). All of the steps are critical in the process, and Follow-up is the one that will take your team to the next level and it will ensure that the change sticks!
- Ask all members of the team to confidentially record their individual answers to two questions: a) On a 1 to 10 scale (with 10 being ideal), how well are we doing in terms of working together as a team? and b) On a 1 to 10 scale, how well do we need to be doing in terms of working together as a team?
- Have a team member calculate the results. Discuss the results with the team. If the team members believe that the gap between current effectiveness and needed effectiveness indicates the need for team building, proceed to the next step.
- Ask the team members,"If every team member could change two key behaviors that would help us close the gap between where we are and where we want to be, which two behaviors should we all try to change?" Have each team member record his or her selected behaviors on flip charts.
- Help team members prioritize all the behaviors on the charts (many will be the same or similar) and, using consensus, determine the most important behavior to change for all team members.
- Have each team member hold a one-on-one dialogue with all other team members. During the dialogues each member will request that his or her colleague suggest two areas for personal behavioral change (other than the one already agreed on above) that will help the team close the gap between where we are and where we want to be.
- Let each team member review his or her list of suggested behavioral changes and choose the one that seems to be the most important. Have all team members then announce their one key behavior for personal change to the team.
- Encourage all team members to ask for brief (five-minute), monthly three question “suggestions for the future” from all other team members to help increase their effectiveness in demonstrating a) the one key behavior common to all team members, b) the one key personal behavior generated from team member input, and c) overall effective behavior as a team member.
- Conduct a mini-survey, follow-up process in approximately six months. From the mini-survey each team member will receive confidential feedback from all other team members on his or her perceived change in effectiveness. This survey will include the one common behavioral item, the one personal behavioral item, and the overall team member item. A final question can gauge the level of follow-up - so that team members can see the connection between their level of follow-up and their increased effectiveness.
This process works because it is highly focused, includes disciplined feedback and follow-up, doesn't waste time, and causes participants to focus on self-improvement.
Let me close with a challenge to you as a team leader. Try it! The downside is very low. The process takes little time and the first mini-survey will quickly show whether progress is being made. The upside can be very high. As effective teamwork becomes more and more important, the brief amount of time that you invest in this process may produce a great return for your team and an even greater return for you organization.