Teams are more than the sum of their members. Who would not want that? But: who has not yet experienced counter-examples, where team performance has not lived up to expectations?
Talking about it is easier than to find the underlying cause of these counter-examples. Is it not embarrassing to speak before the assembled team about missed milestones, overdrawn budgets and unmet requirements. In private, there are no conflicts and recriminations will not offend anyone…
That is even true – but only regarding issues that are clearly and exclusively connected to individuals. And if (if!) these issues have been discussed constructively, then team performance, at best, attains the sum of the individual contributions. However: Where is the profit expected from teamwork? How will team members know their own expectations regarding the team? What does the team itself consider as a professional approach to particular challenges?
Talking about Team Performance
Addressing these questions only in personal interviews instead of finding common answers within the team makes team members dependent on their team leader. The individual solely relies on the team leader’s assessment and the options for improvement will remain very narrow-based. Discussing issues among team members is necessary to profit from different perspectives, to capitalize on learning opportunities and not to feel offended when coping with diverging views.
According to a recent study (2018) on team effectiveness, mental health is the key factor in this context, followed by goal-orientation, self-efficacy and – only a long way off – expertise. The following questions are aiming accordingly.
Team Meeting – Questions
In order to improve team performance, solutions must be found in a joint team meeting. The conclusion of a smaller project, or reaching an important milestone of a larger project, is the best moment. And again, the key to success lies in the questions being asked and, to a considerable extent, in their order:
- What were our (previous) successes in this project and where have we been less successful?
- How could we further increase these successes?
- Which issues were (so far) particularly difficult for us and how did we cope with them?
- Were there any recurring conflicts caused by diverging goals and how did we solve them? What would have to change to make it better in the future?
- What do we learn from our failure in particular cases?
- How do we respond professionally to situations that recurrently generate uncertainness / to exceptional situations / to the unexpected?
Team Performance – Background
This approach never connects problems and their possible causes directly to individuals but focuses, in a solution-oriented manner, towards the future.
- It permits speaking about team performance factors without mentioning at all the word performance.
- It stimulates the critical faculties and power of judgment of the individual team members;
- It generates its own solutions, which can even be unusual, are most likely to be accepted and will have the best chances of success.
- By these influences, it strengthens empowerment of the team as a whole and of its individuals.
The progression of the questions from the known, ordinary, towards the unknown and the unexpected promotes perspectives and intentions that develop from a purely quantitative increase of team performance to qualitative improvements (e.g. changed processes) and, finally, to radical changes and completely new solutions.
Just try it. Once experienced, you will never want to miss this potential again.
Photo credit: The header picture is an excerpt of an image of Knilram, which is published on Flickr under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC 2.0).
This post was first published on 9.3.2014.