Entries by honeycomb

Your Team Needs a Tune-Up

Evaluating team performance is just as important as evaluating individual performance


I’d be willing to bet you’re a member of a team that meets frequently, and you often either dread going to the meetings or come out of them feeling like they were a big waste of your time. I can bet on this because it seems to happen to all of us at one point or another. Sorry — I can’t solve the problem of the sea of meetings that crowd your calendar. (But I feel your pain!)

What I can do, though, is help you clean up the team meetings you’re in and make the teams you’re in more valuable. The one thing that teams often don’t do but would make a world of difference as to whether they’re a waste of time or not is diagnose the effectiveness of the team.

We take our cars in every six months to get them checked out. We give students report cards to keep their progress on track. We fervently track our favorite football team’s stats. We evaluate the performance of everything around us. Why don’t we do it with our teams? We should. Not doing so is costing us countless hours of lost time and productivity.

In the 2019 Global Human Capital Trends survey conducted by Deloitte, 31% of respondents said that “most” or “almost all” work at their organization is done in teams. If that’s true for you, and if you haven’t evaluated how well your team is functioning and producing, that’s a 31% blind spot- imagine the impact you could have if you took a few minutes to diagnose the health of your team.

Want to rev up your team’s effectiveness? Start by asking them to evaluate three distinct areas of team health: purpose, process and culture.

Purpose: Why are we all here?

What is your team’s collective goal? By ”collective goal,” I don’t mean the collection of individual goals. I mean a goal that is unique to the collective interests of the team. A goal that you must all work toward together — and without the collective efforts of the team, reaching it wouldn’t be possible.

Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, argues that if you can’t identify a collective goal, you’re probably not a team at all. Through defining a combined purpose, teams can recognize how to contribute in ways that unify their actions and outcomes. Think about how much your efforts would shift if you all realized that your goal wasn’t just to share business updates.

For example, imagine if you asked your team to come up with a collective goal, and you all landed on “building transparency across all business units” as your target. Now, in addition to ensuring that you all know what’s going on in one another’s departments, the collective goal illuminates the needs to develop strategies for that behavior to trickle down and fan out in the organization and focus on the culture of sharing information across your respective teams. Building transparency is the goal, and sharing updates is just one of the little things your team has already done to try to accomplish that. The focus would likely then move to how you all can support one another in reinforcing that behavior within your teams and across the organization. You can see how the window of opportunity to go further opens when you identify the true collective goal.

Process: How do we work together?

I recently ran across an article by Jeff Boss on “26 Powerful Questions Healthy Teams Ask Themselves To Stay Healthy,” and more than half of the questions he recommends teams ask are related to their process, e.g.:

  • How do we make decisions?
  • What conditions create productivity for our team?
  • What other forms of collaboration could we use to cut down on meetings (if those don’t seem too productive)?

If you’re sensing a lack of value within all of the meetings your team commits to, maybe meeting isn’t the mode that you all should be using to communicate. Drill into this problem by highlighting a specific outcome you all frequently achieve- sharing budget and spending progress, for example. Ask yourselves- would another way of sharing this information work more effectively? If a meeting is needed, would changing the structure of the meeting (like making it virtual or allowing attendees to bring computers and multi-task during the meeting) provide space for more value?

Culture: Who are we with one another?

Team culture is a part of the engine that’s often overlooked, but it can trump all other health signs. If your team doesn’t share a sense of commitment, accountability and trust, then competing agendas and conflict will get in the way of your progress.

Does everyone feel committed to the team’s success? Do they do what they say they’re going to do, and do team members hold one another accountable? Do you all give one another the benefit of the doubt before arriving at a negative conclusion about steps that were taken or choices made? These are just few examples of questions healthy teams ask themselves. Taking the leap of asking questions like this requires bravery… other team members may shift in their seats at the likes of such direct inquiries. Lead up to a conversation like this by first getting your teammates to acknowledge the importance of team culture and quantify the ROI of focusing on team culture. Then push through with your questions- you won’t regret it.

Knowing what doesn’t work can reveal what does

Closing the gaps that your team uncovers would be an obvious next step, but diagnosing what’s going wrong first is the most important one, and sometimes that’s enough to illuminate the solution. Your team’s performance could skyrocket if you take a few moments to uncover what’s not working for you.

Need a deeper level of assistance figuring this all out? I can help — let’s talk.

Not Self-Made, but Team-Made

The other day a friend of mine recommended I read the book Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris, and I immediately hopped into Amazon to buy it. The moment it arrived I hopped onto my couch, cracked open the 686-page behemoth, and started to read it. I didn’t make it past page 2 of the Foreword, so for those of you who think you’re nestling into a book review, I’m sorry to disappoint you. I’ve got something else for you instead. On page 2, what Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote in the Forward made me pull the book back and think. He centers the entire Forward around the myth of one’s ability to be “self made”. He states “to accept that mantle discounts every person and every piece of advice that got me here. And it gives the wrong impression – that you could do it alone. I couldn’t. And odds are, you can’t either.”

He’s right.

What’s making me think about this comment (and the ones before and after it) isn’t the notion that none of us are here without the sweat, trust and faith of other people. Nope–I know you’ve got that. What’s running my mind ragged is the reality that we don’t suck more value out of that truth, especially with the teams we’re on.

Think about it… the last time you were stuck, stumbled or didn’t know how to approach something, what did you do? Lie in bed stressing over it? Googled it and surfed the web for hours? Talked it through with your husband/wife/cat? No offense to your bed, cat, or Google, but none of these paths of least resistance is the best choice. What about your team? Let’s just look at all of the really successful people we can think of offhand (you do that and I’ll keep typing). Who made them great? Who influenced them the most? Who gave them their greatest opportunities? Often it was the people right next to them at work.

So I ask you: Who is there to make you? Who has that kind of influence or opportunity on your team and in your life? And why aren’t you hanging out with them right now asking for their advice? Go do it.

A New Twist on Annual Team Goals

If it’s that time of year to focus on the year ahead and you’re exhausted by the idea of SMART goals, you’re not alone. Goal setting is great, but if you’re trying to motivate an entire team to come together and achieve greatness as a cohesive unit, individualized goals aren’t going to get you there. While individualized goals have an important place, they send a message that your top priority is individual performance and success.

If you’re a progressive leader and know the value of team cohesiveness and collaboration, you know that how your team functions as a unified group is just as important as how the individuals achieve success. Where the leader of an individual contributor concentrates on one piece of an engine to ensure it’s performing, a team leader needs to lift up and focus on all of the pieces as a synergistic unit, ensuring that each part is bringing energy to all of its complementary parts.

Most team leaders miss the mark on emphasizing team achievements, but it’s not difficult to start bringing attention to how your team targets collective success. Here are three innovative ways to pull your team together to plan for the year ahead as a team:

  1. Ask your team to develop a legacy plan. If they were to fast-forward to the end of the year and look back, what would they want others to say about the year? How would others describe the way the team impacted the organization, how they worked together, their reputation, and what they accomplished? Brainstorm and distill a succinct description. Then ask the team to identify actions the team can take to make that vision a reality. The key here is emphasizing the impact of the entire team while isolating how individual contributions can lend to everyone’s success.
  2. Define specific team-based goals. Reinforce the significance of working as a collective unit to your team. Brainstorm goals that pertain to the entire team rather than to individuals. These goals can be tangible (like measurable team sales goals) or aspirational (like creating happy customers). Choose goals that everyone can contribute to and that create real impact to the organization. Next define what that would look like and how your team would measure these goals. Then have each individual define how they will contribute to the team goal and have them present to their teammates.
  3. Create a team vision. Ask your team to describe what kind of team they aspire to be. Not what they want to do or accomplish, but who they want to be. This may seem fluffy and light, but bear with me for a second- when a team agrees on the behavioral norms that will lead to cohesion and success, they gain a clearer picture of how to be with their teammates. It becomes more obvious to them when they step outside of the lines and gives them a language to talk about how to achieve greatness together. For example, if your team identifies ‘positivity’ as a trait they’d love your team to embody, it allows team members to evaluate their own level of positivity and aspire to be more positive. It also gives permission to teammates to gently hold their partners accountable to being positive. Sometimes by defining our collective state of being we can recondition our behavior to create a more cohesive team.

For most leaders of larger teams, the top priority is nowhere near as simple as individual performance, so let’s start emphasizing the importance of how our teams work together as collective units to create excellence. This will only happen if you make it clear to your team that you want to focus on and measure results at that level.

Dear Senior Leader: SHOW UP

Dear Senior Leader,

Sit back and join me on a little journey…

Try to imagine you’re an employee within your organization- an IT administrator, a customer support representative, a receptionist… anyone. Next, imagine you’re at one of your company’s employee development events. You’re sitting there, surrounded by all of your work friends, sitting in an uncomfortable folding chair, listening to a speaker talk about motivation or performance or something that’s going to “help us work together as a team”. The speaker gets started and it’s kind of interesting, actually, and then… out of the corner of your eye you see your CEO brush his suit coat off, slowly stand up, and quietly exit out the door.

What’s going through your mind right now? Not as the leader that you are, but as the employee you’re pretending to be. Would you get it? That guy’s busy, after all. He’s seen so many of these things. Poor guy… let him go- he’s got so many fires he’s dealing with right now.

Probably not.

Most likely, if you’re still pretending to be one of your employees, you’re running through a range of negative thoughts:

  • This must not be a good use of time if the CEO isn’t even going to stick around.
  • The CEO obviously doesn’t hold this topic as a high priority.
  • You force me to sit here and you get to sneak away and get stuff done? How elitist.
  • That poor speaker. How rude of him to walk out in the middle of her speech.

You think I’m over thinking this? I promise you, I’m not. I have been through countless events where well-intentioned senior leadership teams either don’t show up or evaporate to take important calls in the hallway and leave employees shifting in their seats and grumbling between their teeth. They’re not telling you, but I promise you- they’re complaining to their colleagues and people like me… and the sentiment is spreading like wildfire.

The employee you’ve pretended to be likens to most of the people in your organization. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, but the seemingly small act of sneaking out or being absent from meetings and events like this undermines the entire purpose and ultimate impact of the event itself. You are sabotaging your organization’s ability to create the change you want to see.

If you think I’m being a little too dramatic, try an experiment: Take two employee development events that are similar in scope. Don’t attend one but show up and engage in the other. One month or so after the events, ask your managers to report which event had the most impact on employees’ behavior and test this theory out for yourself. I bet you 15 bucks you’ll see more impact coming from the event you showed interest in.

Still aching to sneak out of the next all-employee meeting or development session? I challenge you with 2 questions:

  1. What should your role be in relation to this event? This is where leaders get hung up. For most senior leaders, it’s not skill development or information gathering like it is for most of the attendees. For you this event will probably not result in learning much, but that’s not the point- that’s not why you go to things like this. Your role instead should be as champion and developer. You go to these events to send a message that the content is important, pay attention to ideas you’d like to cultivate after the event is over, and to connect with a broader representation of your employee base. Trust me- those three things are worth the money it’s costing you to be in that room. If you still don’t see how your presence at events like this is strategic, ask yourself the next question…
  2. Do you truly believe this initiative/event will make a difference in your organization? I would wager if you truly believed it would, you’d be doing everything you could to get the most out of the session, and your presence requires that. If you don’t believe it’ll make much of a difference, don’t do it. Spend your money on something else. Figure out what WILL truly move the needle in your organization and put your people investment dollars there.

Every hour of your time is an investment into your business, and sometimes these investments aren’t so obvious. Maintaining engagement in events that involve all of your employees, including your senior leadership team, will serve as a catalyst for getting an ROI from people development investments.