Working towards high performing teams.
To build high performing teams you first need to create a safe space for them to learn and grow together. In this section we share our knowledge and tools with you, to help you help your teams.
Creating a safe space in teams is the foundation in helping to build high performing teams.
What do we mean by a safe space?
Somewhere you can go, be yourself, try new things, not be judged, be happy and grow are just some of the things that come to mind. Essentially in teams its creating an environment for the team to work together built on trust, respect, commitment and always believing people are trying to do their best.
Lets take a basic example: You can take your child to a soft play area and its covered with padding so its a safe space, right? Maybe if they are there alone but what if they are with other children, do they feel safe to play around them? What if they try to climb the ladder and fall, will they look silly? What if they don't agree with the other children on how to climb the slide and it causes conflict? Change that soft play for the working environment and it's no different. People who have a safe space to work build stronger relationships, enjoy their work and achieve results.
Teams are made up of people, people are individuals who have different feelings, learning styles and working patterns. Bringing all this together can be hard so its important to address with your team how they will work together and create some team values and principles.
Continue to read on below to find out more about tools you can learn and use with your teams in the first steps to creating your safe space.
In the book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Book by Patrick Lencioni it examines teams and why finding effective teams can be hard. He identifies 5 key areas that cause dysfunctional teams (barriers) and discusses how to tackle each one on the way to building high performing teams.
The 5 dysfunctions are displayed in a pyramid view, you first have to build the base layer then each layer on top to achieve all 5.
Lack of Trust
Trust is the foundation of the pyramid, however it can take time to achieve. Without building trust within teams people do not feel conformable to share, when things go wrong they hide mistakes rather than asking for help, people make assumptions about the intentions of others, people fall out and hold bad feelings. A lack of trust leads to the fear of conflict.
Fear of Conflict
Without trust in the team people clash and argue with each other, because of this when teams need to discuss different ideas people do not engage or give their ideas for fear of conflict with others. The loudest voice normally wins by default as there is not a safe feeling in the team to challenge or debate, leading to a lack of commitment.
However conflict can be a good thing if the team has trust. If the team believes each person is always trying to do the right thing, if they respect and listen to each other, it leads to an environment of trust (safe space). This allows people to share ideas, disagree, but come together to find the best way forward as a team and not hold ill feelings against each other.
Lack of Commitment
Avoiding conflict leads to a lack of commitment. If individuals didn't get time to share their ideas in the team, discuss and debate what they are working on, they will not feel actively involved and will not fully commit to the work leading to a lack of accountability. Teams work best when they have all had input and decided the route forward together.
Avoidance of Accountability
A lack of common objectives for the team which they are all committed to leads to team members not feeling accountable for their work and they begin to miss deadlines and deliver average work leading to not getting results.
Inattention to Results
With a lack of focus and no clear objectives the team becomes stale, distracted and are often found focusing on themselves rather than the work of the team. Team members may deliver their work but without all the work from the team you do not get the results your product needs.
Building trust gives you the foundation blocks to tackle how to deal with conflict, then commitment, accountability and results. If you try and tackles these in a different order you will soon find the foundations of the team are not in place i.e. you wont get the results for long if the team are not accountable for their work, committed to the goals, can have constructive conversations (conflict) and trust each other.
Team culture is a collection of values, behaviours, working practices, and beliefs that team members create and share while aiming to achieve their collective purpose.
When team members cooperate, share experiences, knowledge, support, and care for one another, they become excited to collaborate and do extraordinary things at work as they are aware that people around them care and respect their point of view. Creating a team culture and a team bond empowers trust within the team, setting the foundation (see 5 dysfunctions of a team) to building high performing teams.
When forming new teams or resetting existing teams way of working its important to ensure everyone has an equal voice and input to be able to share experiences, ideas and problems with the team.
Team Canvas Charter
Creating a team charter helps teams align working practices, set values, resolve conflicts and build productive culture fast. There are many models of team charters available to use but we will be looking deeper at the team canvas charter.
* Team Canvas is designed by Alex Ivanov and Mitya Voloshchuk and can be downloaded at their site theteamcanvas.com
The canvas is split into five sections (based on the basic canvas model).
What is the team's purpose: the Why behind your goals?
What are the goals for the whole team, as well as for each team member?
Role & Skills
What are the roles and corresponding skills that each member brings to the table?
Rules and Activities
What are the ground rules that you want to agree on? How are you going to communicate? How would you make your decisions? How are you going to plan, execute and evaluate them?
What are the core values that you share as a team?
Below we share a practical exercise to completing this with your team based on the information provided from leavcanvas.com.
Creating a culture can take time and also needs to be checked on throughout the lifetime of a team. Setting a practice and not checking in to ensure its being followed or adapted when needed will lead to the culture slipping. Make time to review as a team.
The more you can get your team to open up, share and talk to each other the stronger their bond will become.
Conflict is a normal part of life both inside and outside of the working environment. Not everyone has the same views as each other meaning they will disagree with others who have different ideas or views and this can be a good things when done with respect, however when its not it can cause problems. As team coach your role is important to help resolve conflict and help teams be prepared for when it happens.
When unhealthy conflict occurs you can use techniques to help move it to healthy conflict and resolve the issues, which helps to ease the teams fear of conflict and move towards a high performing team. First we need to understand the difference in healthy and unhealthy conflict.
Occurs when people cannot manage their emotional expressions or lack tools for skilful conflict conversations. People may display toxic behaviours. Your role is to guide them to better ways to get what they need.
Behaviours include, Blaming, Defensiveness, Stonewalling, Contempt.
Occurs in teams who have trust and respect, they can manage their emotions and understand the need for debate to solve problems and generate new ideas. Also willing to experiment with ideas to find the best solution for the team.
Behaviours include, Sharing, Supportive, Listening.
Dealing with conflict
You are in the teams planning session when a developer is talking about the solution idea for a story. The lead developer cuts in and say no, no, no,, no you cant do that its silly, it will never work we need to do it my way. The developer doesn't take well to this approach and pushes back saying he is right....they start to get louder and talk over each other more and the rest of the team is becoming very uncomfortable.
It's important for you as team coach to defuse the situation as quickly as possible. Maybe stop the planning session for a break and suggests everyone takes some time out to get a drink and give them all time to cool down. Use this time to plan how you are going to deal with the situation when they return as a team. First talk about the different types of conflict to give them all an understanding, explain it's good to have differences but we need to listen to each other and have respect. Then ask the team what behaviours they would like to see as a group in a situation of conflict (refer to the team chart values and update the team charter). Ask the team if they are happy continue the session, if the team cannot continue speak to the individuals outside of the session.
Having a safe space and protocols in place to handle conflict encourages healthy debate. A plan and agreement of how to deal with conflict in advance through team charter is advised. We also recommend using the Situation, Behaviour, Impact techniques to help give feedback in a constructive way when conflict does occur.