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Think about some of the teams you either lead or belong to.
Do some of those teams have a better feeling than other teams? Do the teams that feel better tend to perform better and generate better results? Most people say that teams tend to perform better when the team members feel good about being part of it.
Technology company, Google, also wanted to find out why some of their hundreds of project teams tended to perform better than others.
They ruled out plenty of plausible reasons. They wondered if teams that socialized more performed better or if the teams full of experienced team members did better. After really digging into the research, they discovered that two factors really impacted team performance — group norms and psychological safety.
Norms are the unwritten rules that guide the behaviors on the team. When those norms or guidelines are well understood, even team members who might be inclined to be disruptive will tend to behave better on the team. Different teams tended to have different norms which means that there isn’t a standard set of norms for a team. What’s important is that the team decides what the norms are and then agrees to live by those norms.
Google also noticed that high performing teams tended to have equal airtime and team members equally contributed to the discussion. Low performing teams tended to have dominant team members who monopolized the conversation.
Psychological safety has to do with whether the team members feel cared for by their fellow team members. In high performing teams, the team members tended to look out for one another — noticing when someone was feeling down and asking how each person was doing. In teams with a high level of psychological safety, there was a greater likelihood that the team would speak their minds and be willing to challenge one another respectfully.
The question for you, as a leader, is how does the team you lead feel?
Here are three tips for building a higher performing team:
#1 Develop and Discuss a Set of Norms for your Team
What are the guidelines for your team’s behavior? Think in terms of punctuality, accountability, dependability, communication and decision making. The norms can be in writing or simply communicated verbally. Rather than dictate the norms, involve the team in creating them.
#2 Pay Attention to Emotions
Encourage team members to take care of one another and that means that you, as the leader, should lead by example. Notice when team members seem different in their mood or behavior and show interest in them as people.
#3 Encourage Healthy Participation
Ensure that each person has an opportunity to contribute to the discussion and encourage people to challenge one another respectfully.
By focusing on the emotional health of your team you should see an improvement in performance and outcomes.
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Working with people’s emotion is the hardest thing you have to work as a leader but it can be the most rewarding. Most of the time !
Thanks Lucia! I agree that if you can master the emotional well being of your team it can make a big difference to both how the team feels and how it performs. Greg
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