Three ingredients for building a successful ( read satisfied and productive ) team

By analysing teams in various small and large companies and corporations, in various industries around the world, Daniel Coyle, author of the book Culture Code, singled out three ingredients that are key to building a top team (as well as a top culture) by Leaders:

1. Create a sense of security so that everyone feels like they belong to the team (security)

2.  Talk about your flaws/mistakes to show them yes nobody has to be perfect (vulnerability)

3.   Share with team members the purpose through a common goal, as well as a plan to achieve that goal ( purpose )

Create a sense of security so that everyone feels like they belong to the team

Security helps individuals and teams perform better in a number of ways. When we feel safe in our workplace, we will be more open to talk about our ideas (because we know that no one will attack us for having a different idea), but also about our mistakes and failures. When we don’t have to be constantly on guard and feel threatened, then we can more easily we focus on work tasks and give our best.

Professor Alex Pentland of MIT’s media lab found that just by observing a group interaction for five minutes, he could infer what the outcome of a negotiation would be. how did he do it? Based on how closely colleagues stand/sit to other colleagues, whether they imitate each other’s body language and whether they look into each other’s eyes while talking. All of these are signs that a person feels safe in the presence of other people.

Ideas for improving the feeling of security :

  • Listening is never enough. Listen carefully, send your whole body the message that you are listening. All members of your team must have the same access to listening. And avoid interrupting each other.
  • Be open about your mistakes. Talk about them.
  • When someone gives you bad news or gives you negative feedback, “hug” the messenger because sharing bad news is a great moment to create a sense of security. It is not enough to just tolerate the fact that someone conveyed/brought you bad news, you also need to thank him for that, because we all need negative feedback. That way, people will feel safe enough to talk to you about all topics, not just the positive ones.
  • Connect the present and the future. It is important that team members know that they have a future in this team. One coach said it best when talking about the world champion who was emerging at their club: “Three years ago he was where you are today.”
  • Thanks are never enough. Thank people for their sales contribution even though 99% of that contribution is taken for granted. Your co-workers are paid to do what they do, but such thank-you moments are common in top teams because they have less to do with thanking than with confirming a good mutual relationship.
  • Throw the rotten apples out of the basket. Give everyone a chance to express their opinion. Design meetings so that even the more reserved ones have a chance to say what they think. Some teams have a rule that the meeting cannot end until everyone has shared at least one thing with the others. Other teams have meetings where everyone has to give their opinion on the project they are working on. An excellent technique was used by Michael Abrashoff, captain of the American destroyer USS Benifold, when he took the helm of the ship. He had a meeting with each of the 310 sailors and during the meeting he asked them all, among other things: What do you like most about our ship? What do you like least? If you were the captain, what would you change? Thanks to this approach, the ship went from being one of the worst, to one of the best-rated ships in the US Navy.
  • Through small gestures, send a message to your team that you are all in this together. John Wooden, the most successful coach in college basketball, used to collect trash in the locker room.
  • Avoid sandwich feedback. Daniel Coyle states that in all top teams he saw that sandwich feedback (a combination of positive, negative and positive) was not used, that is, it was divided into two separate processes. Negative feedback was given through dialogue, first by asking the person if they wanted feedback, and then there was two-way communication aimed at improvement and learning. It was positively manifested through praise and recognition, and what Coyle emphasises is that the leaders he studied tended to “radiate satisfaction when they noticed an employee performing in a manner worthy of praise”. The praise that was given in those situations contributed to strengthening the feeling of belonging to the team member, but it also sent him the message that he is the future of the team (that is, that there is a future for him in that team).
  • Laugh. Laugh is not only laugh, but also a sign of connection and security. Being at work and being professional does not mean always having steel discipline and being serious like a deadly disease, but being human and connecting with people in a natural way and creating close ties with them.

Talk about your flaws/mistakes to show them that no one has to be perfect

Professor Jeff Polzer, a scientist who studies organisational behaviour at Harvard, discovered that when we share our flaws with others, something very interesting happens. He called it a spiral of vulnerability (vulnerability) – which in other people also causes a willingness to be vulnerable, that is, to “reveal” and talk about their flaws. This process itself influences people to become closer and to trust each other more.

The well-known author, and probably the world’s number 1 expert on this topic – Brené Brown, emphasises that vulnerability is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength and that the person who first admits his flaws (that is, admits that he is not perfect) will be perceived as a true leader.

Vulnerability not only promotes trust, but is also a way to show people that they are accepted. If you as a leader admit that no one is perfect, people will feel ok even when they make a mistake, they will be more willing to admit it to you (rather than sweep it under the carpet) and they will understand better that mistakes are inevitable on the road to success.

Ideas for improving vulnerability :

  • When you make a mistake, you are the first to talk about it. Send the message by your example that it’s ok to make mistakes and talk about them. When you talk about your mistakes, you actually send a much better message to your team, and that message is “You can tell the truth here.” Talking about your mistakes is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.
  • Ask for feedback from your team members. Ask them the following questions: ”What one thing I’m doing would you like me to keep doing?”; What’s one thing I don’t do often enough that I should?”; “What can I do to help you do your job more efficiently?” The point is not to ask for 5 or 10 things, but just one, because that way it’s easier for people to answer. And when a team leader asks for feedback in this way, he sends a message to people that it is safe for them to do the same.
  • Talk about expectations. The process is as follows: you ask the team members the following: “What do you expect/want from me” and “What do you think I expect/want from you?” Before they give you the answers, they should write them down. You also write down the answer to the same questions – what do you think they expect/want from you and what do you expect/want from them. When you have that written down, then you talk about expectations, ie. Share your answers. You can go through the same process with your supervisor and other colleagues with whom you work closely.
  • Keep talking about expectations. When we talk about teamwork and cooperation, nothing is taken for granted. Keep repeating it, give examples of what teamwork and cooperation look like in practice.
  • Always deliver bad news face to face.

Share with team members a purpose through a common goal, as well as a plan to achieve that goal

What is the purpose? Purpose is why we do what we do. Does your team know what its purpose is? What are you striving for? Why do you do what you do? Is working in your team just about getting the job done or is there more to it?

The task of the leader is to communicate clearly and inspiringly about the purpose and goals of the team with his people. The leader’s task is to “paint” an attractive picture of the future with words, but also to bring the meaning closer to people

of what they do – even the significance of the most banal repetitive everyday little things.

Ideas for advancing the team’s purpose :

  • Name and rank your priorities. Maintaining and developing the team must also be one of the priorities (if not one of the most important).
  • Repeat, repeat and repeat what the vision is, what the purpose of the team/company is, what the priorities are. Inc. The magazine asked 200 CEOs about what percentage of their employees know what the company’s 3 key priorities are. Their answer was that about 65% of employees know the priorities. A follow-up survey found that only 2% of employees knew how to list the company’s 3 key priorities.
  • Have/keep symbols of your team’s purpose and success. It can be pictures, trophies… anything that will remind people of who you are, what is important to you and what you strive for.
  • Come up with/choose your team’s slogan or favourite quote. The following quote has been hanging around San Antonio’s locker room for years: “When nothing works, I go and watch a stonemason hammer at big stone. Hit a hundred times, and there is not even a crack on the stone. Nevertheless, after the hundred and first the stone breaks in half…I know that it didn’t break from that particular blow, but from all the previous ones that were given”. It symbolises what the Spurs have been doing for years. Be persistent and persevere in what you do, keep trying, don’t jump out of the role you have…all that is the essence of the work of this organisation, which has helped them win five championship titles in a span of 15 years.

Source: Leadership 2 – Vision, employee development, team management, Dejan Živković