In my experience, teams rarely discuss, document, and then compare their performance to expectations they many have for each other.
Last month’s newsletter (Great Team Traits) described a process to help team members discuss and document their expectations of each other. This month will describe a process to help team members compare their performance to their Great Team Traits expectations.
To take the time to identify what team members expect from each other and hold themselves to this standard can help build a very high performance team. This second exercise will provide the process and document that can guide a team to improve and celebrate great performance.
Thinking Drives Performance Improvement
This article series is based the following beliefs:
- Performance improvement depends on improved decisions and behaviors.
- Improved decisions and behaviors depend on improved ideas and insights.
- Improved ideas and insights depend on how you think.
- Thinking is different from intelligence; intelligence is an innate capability, thinking is how it’s used. Thinking is an improvable skill.
- What differentiates great companies from also-rans is how they think, and how they help their employees learn to think more deliberately and productively.
The tools and techniques presented in this newsletter series guide thinking. They are fundamentally great questions that when answered in the company of a team of caring and informed employees and leaders generate the better ideas and insights that drive better behaviors and better performance improvement.
Feedback – The Breakfast of Champions
"Thinking and Performance" is a structured technique to talk about (provide feedback about) the behaviors and thinking that do and do not contribute to company performance. The exercise results with an organization-specific list of promoting and restraining behaviors which become the standards for your organization's preferred leadership behaviors.
While many leadership authors ask that senior teams, or any team, “have the hard conversations”, this process provides a way to show you HOW.
This exercise is for leaders who have learned the business benefits of dialogue, a deep conversation that generates learning. Impatient managers will likely not have the patience to do such an exercise. Back to those to-do lists. This exercise should be deliberate, calm, and very useful to those who want to dig into their organization’s culture – to wonder what makes their leaders/employees tick (think).
An associated idea which in part drive the interest in this exercise is to imagine a sporting team, which really wants to win, that assembles their players in the locker room once a week or so. The coaches leave and the players, one-at-a-time, stand in front of their peers/team mates and ask “How am I doing?” I find that very refreshing. One exercise speedbump may be big egos. It would be unusual if only one team member saw a prominent restraining behavior. Hearing “the truth” from a few people often has the effect of having a person question their fallibility. Hopefully their edge will be honed a bit as the team’s feedback process begins to contribute to improved performance.
Thinking and Performance – Exercise Instructions
1. Assemble a team of people who know about the leaders/employees in question and their behavior and performance.
I have done this with direct reports providing feedback about their leaders. I have done this with intact peer teams providing feedback about themselves.
2. Prepare one flipchart for each team member titled with the person’ name and followed by two open columns titled “promoting behaviors” and “restraining behaviors” (for example).
3. Select a leader/employee to report on by lottery; names on cards picked at random works. Identify promoting and restraining behaviors:
Working first alone and silently identify each team member including the topic lists behaviors on Post Its, one behavior per sheet, that promote or restrain success in the company. Three promoting, and three retraining behaviors.
The topic/person goes first placing their Post Its on the chart.
As the speaker places the behavior on a flip chart, they explain their view about how this behavior promotes or restrains success at your company.
Here is where the results from last month’s newsletter can come into play. Do these behaviors promote or restrain the Great Team Traits?
Dialogue, dialogue. Say what’s on your mind.
Continue till each person has placed their top behavior Post Its for the target person. Tick mark duplicates to document frequency.
4. Dig Deeper – What are the leaders/employees thinking when they behave that way?
Consider the promoting behaviors. From your experience what kind of thinking drives this behavior? Include this information alongside the associated Post It/behavior on the flipchart.
Consider the restraining behaviors. From your experience what kind of thinking drives this behavior? Include this information alongside the associated Post It/behavior on the flipchart.
Discuss as a team what changes in thinking would help this leader/employee improve their performance
5. Repeat this process till members are considered. Best case, persons review the feedback and identify an improvement plan based on the feedback.
The value of this exercise is deep learning that can occur as a result of the dialogue about the behavior and thinking that promotes or restrains a company’s performance. This is great tool to help the participants challenge and understand points of view and assumptions.
I start with believing each leader is doing the best job they know how, thinking and behaving in a way that serves them and their team best. Without honest feedback about restraining behaviors and suggestions about alternative thinking offered by the supportive team members, the leader in question will likely not be able to consider that some of their thinking and behaviors are not supporting their goals.
You can also put all of the team’s data onto one chart to represent that team’s results/culture.
Using a tool like Thinking and Performance helps improve company performance by improving the thinking of the leaders and employees.
In the future
Select a business goal that needs attention.
Identify the behaviors, decisions, and ideas that you would prefer to see.
What thinking approach and style would produce the preferred ideas, behaviors and decisions that would deliver the business goal you seek.
Then find a resource to help you learn to think that way.
Independent trainer and meeting facilitator John Canfield helps clients build high performance business teams.