Connecting People: Understanding team dynamics for performance
Watching team dynamics evolve throughout the year is one of the immense privileges of coaching leadership teams. In one of my workshops last year, a CEO of a renowned fashion brand said:
“It’s all about these people. I love coming to work because I like this team and despite all the difficulties (past months have been tough) I wake up and want to work.”
I’m always inspired when I witness genuine connections grow and bonding strengthen over time in a leadership team. Most of the work we do, as coaches and consultants, is to help one individual build a thriving relationship with another human being.
However, all too often, teamwork, collaboration, and co-creative team dynamics just sound great in theory and speeches. When it comes to the reality of mundane office days, building an aligned, motivated team is challenging. You may have experienced so in your own career.
So, what goes wrong? If it all sounds so great, why is it so hard to create thriving team dynamics?
The answer will be different for each team. It is always broad and complex to analyze why teams fail to create a cohesive group of people that are aligned to work towards a common objective.
In reality, finding specific reasons and detailed solutions is only possible when an executive coach establishes direct contact with the team and asks a ton of questions. So, in this article, I will not go there directly.
Also, in the topic of managing a team that is in sync, you can find overwhelming data from academic and corporate researches around “people” and “organizations.” So many factors come into play, even a whole book would struggle to cover.
The best approach here is to look at a few items that, when out in place, tend to help teams work well together.
From my own experience, in terms of working with teams, it comes down to one undercurrent. The current of TRUST.
If you don’t trust someone, it’s almost impossible to:
- communicate well
- show your needs
- have challenging conversations
- allow for creativity and innovation
Let alone motivation! If you don’t care, well… you simply give a f*** about your team, the organization or the end goal.
“Teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability”
As social animals, we bound in a complex network of psychological ties that influence our behavior. When this network is not strong, your team will most likely not be very productive nor efficient.
In a weak network, most mental and emotional energy will concentrate around self-guarding and completing tasks in an executive mode, rather than achieving elements of a team’s objective. This environment will most likely suffer a lack of employee engagement and presenteeism in general.
So, what could you do to strengthen team dynamics?
1. Keep it cozy
Teams work best when they are fairly small. Between 5-12 people is the magical number. This is when relationships can truly grow, and face-to-face conversations are more likely to happen. Small teams provide a fertile ground for communication, bonding, and alignment.
2. Tell a story
Share personal stories and allow space for activities that are not work-related. We all connect to another human being by knowing their story, identifying common values and struggles in life. But, in corporate environments, employees may not want to share so much with their colleagues. This is why activities become so important. When we engage in activities such as games, simple sports or competitions, we are most likely to naturally comment on our life and connect.
Active listening is – without exaggeration- the holy grail of relationships. All too often we think we listen, but, in reality, we just hear what we want to hear. I’m sure you can think of several examples of when you thought you heard something, and quite possibly blamed the emitter for the fact that you misunderstood the message. Yet even beyond mere auditive communication, I would encourage you to listen to the “level 3.” or what others would call the non-verbal communication. Simply, feel the vibe in the room. Picking up on subliminal communication is crucial to address conflict.
4. Have a heated chat
Addressing conflict constructively is fundamental not only to reestablish relationships but also to foster innovation at work. If we are not in disagreement, we can’t possibly come up with great ideas. Conflict helps us to challenge each other’s ideas and move things forward. But, beware! Conflict and confrontation are not the same. For more on this, read this worksheet.
I love people. We are all experts – and I’m writing this with a smirky smile on my lips – in blaming the other. Gee, if there was a Master in Blaming out there, we’d all get a degree of honor!
It’s not easy to take responsibility for our actions and to be accountable for our ideas, projects, and f*** ups. Yet, if you want to work in an effective team, accountability lies within the “we.” Individuals of the team will want to hold each other accountable for timelines, objectives, and faux pas. It’s not about the manager or boss.
If you would like to discover the specific dynamics of your team, I highly recommend you to read the book by Patrick Lencioni: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable. You can find in this book a simple questionnaire that will provide insight as to what areas need to be strengthened.
Also, do not hesitate to get in touch with me if you are interested in conducting a survey based on these 5 Dysfunctions of a Team (Trust, Conflict, Accountability, Commitment, Results).
To help you navigate through the challenges you may face at work in your leadership role, we create monthly worksheets with simple, yet hands-on 5-min and 10-min activities. Simple exercises help you get on track and stay focused on creating a thriving team dynamics. Take a sneak peek below.
We offer these worksheets for free!
Check our full library of practical worksheets here. In our section on Leadership & Teams, you can download this month’s Create Cohesive Teams Worksheet, with activities to implement right away and practice every day. Browse the library to find extra exercises to improve motivation, lower stress, and increase productivity.
**Quick peek into our WORKSHEET**
_For you, if…
- You feel that your team lacks a spark
- You want to improve communication
- You want to enjoy working with your colleagues
A) Dare to ask yourself!
If you want to know how well you are doing with your team, start by creating a space for reflection. Here are some questions that may help you to explore how you are doing…
- How good are your team members at admitting their mistakes and acknowledging their weaknesses to one another?
- Do you feel that your team members offer unprovoked, yet constructive feedback to one another?
_Take it further!
…take it further and deepen the learning by doing all the exercises suggested in our worksheet. Sign up below with your name and email to download the complete worksheet.
Always keen to know how you are getting on!
Executive Coach. Consultant. Trainer. Facilitator.
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