Here are some direct quotes from members of senior management teams in organizations ranging from leading corporations to national nonprofits:
- We don’t say in team meetings what we say to each other in the hallways. The ‘real’ meetings often happen after the meeting.
- It’s like we’re all playing poker, carefully concealing our cards until we see what others think—especially the president.
- We’re way too polite. We don’t deal directly with disagreements.
- We don’t engage honestly enough with each other to come up with the best solutions.
Think of a team you belong to or work with. Just imagine that:
- Each team member feels safe and empowered to speak honestly (and respectfully).
- There’s a free flow of information and ideas that helps synergize individual viewpoints into collective wisdom and optimal solutions.
- Team members surface and deal skillfully with disagreements and conflicts.
- Team members easily give each other direct and helpful feedback about how to improve their leadership.
Would you like the teams you work with to be more like this? It doesn’t just happen.
“Communication works for those who work at it.” — John Powell
The challenges of building a positive team culture can be facilitated by using some fairly simple yet effective practices and tools.
1. Maximize Participation
“In teamwork, silence isn’t golden, it’s deadly.” — Mark Sanborn
Research by Google, showed that one of the most important success factors in high-performing teams is ‘‘equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking.’ In other words, the best teams’ members speak in roughly the same proportion, maximizing the collective intelligence of the group.
Tune up with Wisdom Circles, a structured format of hearing from each in turn without interruption, sometimes with the use of a talking object.
2. Surface real opinions
“Half the misery in the world comes from want of courage to speak and to hear the truth plainly, and in a spirit of love.” — Harriet Beecher Stowe
Team members may or may not feel comfortable expressing their honest opinions or concerns about proposals under discussion. Tune up with these two simple but effective processes.
Best & Least – Each team member responds with what they like best about the proposal and what they like least. This very simple format challenges everyone to be transparent about where they stand
Levels of Commitment – This tool challenges team members to evaluate a given proposal by rating it on a scale from +3 (complete, wholehearted agreement) to -3 (full opposition). People must also explain their thinking behind their number. For complete instructions and a useful graphic, download our tool in the link.
3. Give direct feedback, often
What is the shortest word in English language that contains the letters abcdef? Answer: Feedback
The gold standard for high-performing teams is the practice of giving direct feedback to each other. This promotes individual and group learning, and enables a team to do its own ongoing tune-ups.
Tune up with these two powerful tools for opening up the giving and receiving of high quality feedback. These easy-to-lead practices provide safe structures that carry team members past the fears and habits that typically inhibit honest communication.
Group-on-One Feedback – In a structured format, each team member receives feedback on what they contribute to the team and how their contribution could be improved. Download the Team Feedback Toolkit for complete instructions on how to introduce and facilitate this powerful ritual that helps raise the level of authentic communication within teams.
Partnership Pairs – This is another structured process that guides team members through a series of one-on-one conversations with other members to assess and improve the capacity of their partnerships. This highly rated tool always helps to open up important channels of honest communication in teams and produces better collaboration that furthers your mission.
These two tools are part of our Team Feedback Toolkit, which includes other valuable resources to boost team performance and cohesion.
Make good use of these tools to help unleash the full potential energy and wisdom of your teams.
“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” — Helen Keller