At this point, you've shared and discussed your Team Effectiveness results within your team, selected a focus and are ready to brainstorm ideas for action. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Openness: To improve openness, your goal should be to get to know your team mates better and build trust. Discussing these questions as a team is a great way to build stronger empathy and trust:
- When (and how) do you prefer to give and receive feedback?
- What is your preferred method of communication?
- When do you need support?
- What do you like that support to look like?
- How do you prefer to disagree?
- What time of day do you feel most productive?
In a group setting, have each team member answer the questions in turn, ask others to simply listen (and even take notes). For more tips on improving openness, Amy Edmondson has an excellent TEDx talk covering how to build a psychologically safe workplace.
Supportive Environment: In addition to building trust, another way to create a more supportive environment is to focus on team members demonstrating that they care about each other. Establishing Rules of Engagement or ground rules for your team can be beneficial here. Ground rules don’t have to be lengthy or elaborate, but they should be agreed-upon behaviors and processes that the team sees as being most beneficial for their dynamics and functioning.
Example ground rules might be:
- *Speak your mind during meetings, not after*
- *All reports must be reviewed by at least one other team member before submission*
- *If you are falling behind on an expected deadline, bring it up with the team ASAP so others can help if needed*
- *Customer-related tasks are always a higher priority than internal tasks*
Communication and Collaboration: Improving communication and collaboration is something that most teams can continuously be working on. Foundational practices include having:
- a well-run weekly (or daily) stand-up or check-in
- a cadence of project kickoffs (free resource for Project Kickoffs) and project retrospectives (free resource for Project Retrospectives)
- appropriate tools to support collaboration, such as Trello, Slack, Google drive, agile boards
- a no-blame culture. Minimize blame language such as 'Why didn't you do that?' or 'the report is late because Sally wasn't on time'. Instead focus on what you can control and do moving forward (what could we do differently next time?, what factors led to this that we can do something about?).
Teams should also pay attention to body language. Non-verbal cues such as eye rolling, folded arms or even subtle scowling (which many of us are unaware we do) can send signals to teammates that their ideas or contributions are being judged or not valued. Encourage open body language and ask team members to give their full attention by not using phones or laptops during conversations.
Team Processes: The goal here is to make the best use of the time that team members spend together planning and working. Efficient team processes can also support better communication and collaboration. A core team process to establish is running effective meetings that everyone on the team benefits from.
Focus and Accountability: If you need to improve in this factor then it might be time to revisit your team mission and strategy (or establish one if it doesn't exist). Ask each team member to answer 'How would we define our team's mission?' and then share and discuss as a group. Agree on the work and projects that align with this mission, versus those that don't. Where are you spending your energy and efforts as a team?
It's also important to define roles and responsibilities. Two questions to start with are:
- Given the current work on the team, what needs to be 1) made, 2) managed, and 3) communicated?
- Who among us should own each role/task?
This process works well at both an overall responsibility level (e.g. Casey looks after the technology, Vicki is the 'go to' for customer data) which may take some time to set up, as well as at a smaller project or task level (e.g. Sam is leading this meeting, Joe is taking notes) which can be done quickly. While these may seem obvious, it's surprising how often teams just get on with projects without first checking alignment and who will be doing what. Missing this step tends to lead to confusion and frustration further down the track.
Before jumping on board with any of these ideas, it's important to consider the unique context of your team. Any solution should fit your team’s current situation and be accepted by all members (or at least be something everyone is willing to experiment!).
Want more Team Effectiveness ideas? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.