Monday, March 6, 2017

When does your team start ?

What is the best time to start to work on your team's interactions, looking at how to optimize productivity and team cohesion ? That question came up when I worked with a recently formed team. The team had been in place only 2 months, and because not everybody was located in the same office, a few team members had not yet met their new team mates (although they did know each other). At the end of the 2-day workshop, one participant shared that it would have been better to have more team history (6 months or so) because this would make the workshop more effective.

He had changed his mind by the end of day 2.

All too often, leaders call me for help with their team when things start to go South. When tensions arise, or even conflicts appear. When people are getting entrenched in their respective silos. Or when the team is just treading water and not delivering on its targets and commitments. Of course working with a team in this situation can help and performance and cohesion can improve.

But to come back to the original question: the earlier you start to work on your team, the better it is. On day 2 of the session, the team members shared their respective responsibilities and expressed where they needed help from the others in the room. Or they proposed their help with a topic a peer was working on. They then established the norms they would start to work towards. And finally they identified one single project that they would jointly work on, and that would show their efficiency to themselves and the rest of the organization. They will reconvene and check on the status of all this in one month.

The feedback from the team leader at the end of the workshop was: "Really happy we did this. We saved a lot of time !". Don't wait for a crisis to start working on your team !

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Building trust ... where to start ?

A fellow facilitator recently contacted me to ask for ideas about an exercise around trust for a team session. And she specified that it shouldn't be childish or goofy (her words) like the famous "trust fall" exercise since this is a senior executive team.

Trust is a word we often use lightly. A key point to understand is that trust exists only at the level of two people. An easy way to think about this: if A trusts B and A trusts C, then this does not mean that there is trust in the team A, B, C. In fact, it is possible that B and C don't trust each other. So you cannot put 8 people in a circle and say "let's now build trust in this team". It starts at the level of the different pairs.

When I work around trust, I always start with the pairs. The trust between pairs will become the trust within the team as a whole.

My favorite exercise is the "hot seat". Each person takes turn sitting in the hot seat, and the others, one by one, give feedback about this person. Round one follows the "I appreciate that you do/say this or that and I suggest you continue doing it" structure. Round two is "I think it would be great for the team if you could start/stop doing/saying this or that". The person receiving the feedback can only say "Thank you" and not react in any other way. If done consciously, this can go quite fast and it is typically well received by all participants. There is sometimes laughter and sometimes genuine reflection and appreciation.

You won't build trust in a single session. But there is a way to get started.