The Five Foundations of Team Health
Teams are the heart of the modern organization. We depend on them to produce as well as to innovate, and they are generally where our closest and most important work relationships live.
While some teams thrive, many also struggle. They struggle to feel truly cohesive in an increasingly remote, and global world. They struggle to balance tradition with change as priorities shift and new members join. And they can struggle with interpersonal tensions, competing power centers, and lack of leadership clarity – all the people issues that are so very human and yet can sink, or seriously drag down, even the smartest strategy.
How do you create the team of your dreams? Focus on Five Foundations to grow a team that collaborates exceptionally, navigates challenge with grace, keeps great people around, and produces outstanding results everyone can be proud of:
Foster trust and cohesion
Trust is the bottom line in any relationship, whether 1 on 1 or a group. Think of a person you don’t trust and what happens at the slightest provocation. Now think of someone you do trust and how you can get in there, work through differences, and make amends when one or both of you screw up. High trust teams move faster, innovate better and make less mistakes. (High trust organizations keep better people around longer, and enjoy higher rates of productivity and profitability – see our Benefits to People Development infographic) So how do we build trust and cohesion on a team?
Get to know each other personally
Have honest conversations with each other (see our blog on Naming Elephants)
Practice vulnerability – about your hopes, fears, mistakes, weaknesses, and where you might need help
Set an aspirational vision
Your organization may have an inspiring vision. Does your team? Most teams live in a world of KPIs and OKRs. While these tools can help drive consistent results, only aspirations can keep people’s hearts in the game, and ensure all those fine-tuned, measurable objectives are keeping you on the correct course. Take the time to craft and regularly revisit an aspirational vision for your team. Answer these questions:
What is your ultimate purpose or goal?
What ideal state are you working to create?
How will you know when you get there?
Define your values and make agreements
Most teams are clear on what they are doing. Few have taken the time to define how they will work together. When times are easy, clear values and agreements can help us do even more together. When times are tough, they can help us weather the storm with far less infighting, mistakes, and divisiveness. Take the time to craft a set of team values along with associated behaviors you expect of one another (3 to 5 behaviors per value). The latter can be codified as a set of Team Agreements that articulate how you will treat one another, from giving feedback and working out disagreements to holding each other accountable and embracing difference.
Learn to communicate and collaborate
Did you take any classes on workplace communication or collaboration in college? Few of us have. While humans will most likely always face some challenges working together, there are ways to communicate and collaborate that get results and strengthen relationships – even with people you may find difficult:
Check out our toolkit on Successfully Navigating the 3 Most Important Conversations at Work - feedback, disagreements, and accountability
Take the time to prepare for difficult conversations, and to practice them with someone you trust
And get in touch if you want to learn more about how our trainings can help your colleagues, managers and leaders learn these essential skills
Cultivate ownership, accountability and sustained action
An accountable team is an effective team. It does more with less, requiring much less hand holding from leaders and unleashing the true potential of every team member. How do you cultivate a team where everyone owns their role, takes responsibility for mistakes, and meets challenges with solutions, instead of blaming or passing the buck?
Clarify roles and responsibilities
Encourage an environment of risk taking and self-management (avoid micro-managing)
Learn to hold others accountable, without being a jerk (see our blog by the same title)
Lead by example, and celebrate ownership when you see it
If you’re thinking, “This sounds like exactly what my team needs, but we don’t have the time,” you are not alone. The modern workplace is a busy place.
While getting your team to take the time to address The Five Foundations may be hard, we think we can guarantee it will be much less of a challenge than all the wasted time, money and energy dealing with the interpersonal conflicts, attrition, inefficiencies, and even failed – or seriously slowed down – strategies that result when we don’t take the time to address (and maintain) the foundations.
Putting sustained focus on the people foundations of teams is as important as eating well and regular exercise if we want to stay fit. Pretty soon, the costs of sitting on the couch eating ice cream catch up to us, just like a team that is not attending to its people issues.
Ask yourself two potent questions:
What is at risk if we don’t improve as a team?
What is possible if we do?
Wishing you the best,
Roni and The People Piece team
PS – If you need buy-in for your team development efforts, ask your leaders the two questions above, and check out our blog on Winning Support for People Development. As always, contact us if you think some training, guidance or facilitated off-sites could help you and your colleagues grow the team of your dreams.
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