7 ways to fix your team


If you shine a light on any team you will notice some areas where processes, communication or collaboration can be better. In many cases a team can function well enough even with a few improvement opportunities. Want to do a snapshot checkup on your team? The downloadable tool below can help you identify any specific areas to focus on if you feel your team performance can use a nudge in the right direction.

When teams fail it is usually recognized as a combination of the team not reaching desired outcomes, team members feeling a high level of dissatisfaction and frustration with team processes and other team members and team leaders failing to accomplish their own goals for the team and for their own career growth.

The 7 aspects of teams shown below are classic areas where low performance could lead to team failures.

7 troubles with teams

Taking a closer look

Step 1

The first column to complete is the scoring column. The question would be – how do I know that my team may be experiencing this trouble? The audit list gives you a possible symptom of observable behavior on either side of the scale: desirable (give this a score of 5 if your team shows this behavior) and undesirable (give this a score of 1 if your team shows this behavior). Should your team display behavior that is somewhere between those two opposites select a score between 1 and 5 that you feel is most accurate to describe how far they may be from either end. Perhaps a score of 3 would be appropriate if you see desirable behavior only 50% of the time.

Step 2

Look at the column called impact. When you look at the behaviors defined as undesired and also the other column containing desired behaviors, how much does it impact the outcomes produced by your team when those behaviors are present or not present? Maybe the impact is “high” if you consider how many hours are wasted when that behavior is present? Maybe it is only “medium” which means some time or effort is wasted, but not too much. And it could also be a “low” impact if that particular behavior does not contribute highly to the inefficiencies you experience as a team experiencing a particular aspect from the audit list.

Step 3

Evaluate your results by looking at both the scores column and the impact column. The graphic below shows the way to identify which of the aspects to focus on when it comes to prioritizing an area to address:

The download file above gives you an audit sheet to use in order to capture results for step 1 and 2.

How to fix any of those?

Once you have the priorities from step 3, it is time to take action.

For each of the area that can be addressed, there are some ideas of how to address that area for the team.

The download file above has suggestions for each of the 7 areas that can be addressed.

Remember

Every team has good times and bad times. Just because your team just did very well, it does not mean it will necessarily continue to go well. And just because your team failed last week, it does not mean there is no way to make it a high-performing team!

Use the tool above to take a closer look at your team and I wish you success in mapping out your next steps; helping your team be even better than it was before!

Choosing between opposites


man on beam final

In many diagnostic tools for leaders and teams there is a scale which indicates how far the leader or the team is on a ladder between two opposite behaviors or style preferences. This could be for example critical evaluation on the one end of the scale and compassionate encouragement on the other side of the scale. (see example below).

These kinds of results are often used to coach and develop leaders and teams towards a desired behavior or culture.  In many cases the distinction between the “right” behavior and the “wrong” behavior is more linked to the situation at hand, associated risks and/or the person you have in front of you than a simplistic view of correct behavior. For example it may be less desirable behavior to be overly critical in an evaluation of someone who is new to the role and the company or team.  In another instance where the risks are high and the people on the team very experienced it may be more appropriate to perform a critical evaluation in the event of a major failure to achieve desired outcomes than to offer supportive encouragement.

blog scale graphic

This leads to the concept of managing or working with both of the ends of a linear scale. Choosing both sides in terms of developing leaders and teams can help them to have a bigger capacity to choose the right response depending on the situation.  The key is to develop awareness in them. Encourage leaders and teams to embrace more than one behavior or style to respond to specific situations or a tasks.

If we go back to the example above. You may be coaching someone or guiding a class of developing leaders through an exercise and this approach may be useful. Ask them to first of all identify the extreme ends of a scale of possibilities. Then identify for both extremes – the possible positive outcomes from that approach and also the possible negative outcomes.

blog polarity awareness

In a class situation you can also assign it as an exercise between two or more people to brainstorm together.

Once the exercise is complete you can lead a discussion with examples from the class or the leader you are coaching. When may it be appropriate to use one or the other behavior for the best outcome?  You can also choose to ask groups that had completed the exercise to prepare a demonstration (role-playing) to show the appropriate way to respond to a situation based on an example they discussed in the group. Or you may choose to provide some case-studies where the leader or class have to identify which may be the best approaches. These practical exercises will further help your participants understand the choices that they have as leaders when facing different situations and how to at least evaluate the best path forward before they go into action.

As a followup action you can ask participants or your coachee to capture examples they come across in the next few weeks/months where they had to make a choice between two opposite approaches and used the exercise above to identify the potential positive and negative outcomes. When using this approach one will will not necessarily avoid mistake or guarantee the most effective approach. The process of pausing and considering options will make the leader or team more effective over time and will improve decision-making.

Some examples you could consider for the exercise above:
  • Working independently vs working in groups/teams
  • People focused vs Task focused
  • Having a structured (fixed) approach vs a creative/open approach
  • Formal vs Informal approach to others
  • Monitoring others closely vs holding them accountable for outcomes created

This approach does not invalidate the tests which offer leaders and teams valuable insights into their own typical approaches and style preferences. This is merely another way to approach the outcomes from those tests to help develop more adaptable leaders and teams, which is highly needed in the current environment where change has become a constant and successfully working across borders, cultures and generations have become essential.

Exercise: Practice difficult employee conversations (for Leaders)


roleplay final

I am a strong believer in experiential learning – learning by or based on an experience and observation. Key learning points seem to be integrated faster and stronger when the learners are put in a situation where the skills they need to learn or apply are put to the test.

The exercise I am sharing (see download file below) is a group or team exercise focused on the style of a leader and how a leader approaches employee issues given their own background and preferences. The backdrop for the experience could be situational leadership  or Emotional Intelligence for leaders. It is up to the trainer or facilitator to choose the right materials to suit the needs of the team or group.

The exercise requires some volunteers to engage in role-play based on specific scripts – included in the resource. There are “role sheets” to help those standing in as employees understand how that employee behaves and describes his or her style.

The key to this exercise is to showcase the possible dilemmas that leaders can face when confronted with employee behavior that seemingly goes against their own values or goals at work. The discussion after the role-play exercises is where the most value can be realized. Reflecting on what the group saw and experienced during the role-play and then relating that to their day-to-day work-life is where most insights tend to surface. This helps each leader determine how he or she could adopt a new mindset in dealing with difficult discussions with employees going forward.

This exercise works well for groups ranging from 8 to 16 people. Larger groups of 20 people or more can work too, but you may need to add in an additional step – a small group exercise. In that case, divide the group into smaller groups of 4 or 5 people and have them discuss the exercise debrief questions in the small groups before requesting each of the small groups to report back to the larger group for further discussion. You may want to consider an additional facilitator to assist if you are dealing with groups larger than 20 people.

Without emotional intelligence or a compassionate approach to interpersonal relationships even leaders with the best technical minds and education will never be great leaders with motivated followers. Exercises like the resource I share here can help trainers and facilitators bring home the importance of having the right approach and encourage a personal change process in developing leaders.

Linking Performance Reviews and Merit Increases


Employee performance outcomes is one important aspect to be reviewed when it comes to considering merit increases. It is not the only consideration though. Overall merit increase budgets, inflation, changes in external benchmarks for specific roles, current compensation ratios etc. are all additional elements which would impact actual merit increases per department and employee.

The resource I have here ties a specific overall individual performance review score to a specific range of possible merit increases. Some managers require a highly structured and fixed process for determining % changes and this is one way to create one. One should however also be sure to consider the other aspects mentioned above: budget for increases that year, company performance in the last year (overall), the market value of specific roles (roles that are in high demand). Compensation has a powerful influence on employee engagement and retention, but it is not the only one. Employees also care about career growth, flexible benefits and being helped to develop further.

I would caution anyone to consider unintended outcomes when attempting to standardize and establish rigid structures for considering individual performance and linking that in a fixed way to merit increase percentages. While intentions may be good: to reward your best performers for their contributions and to ensure those with lesser performance improve or leave the company, a process that is overly structured could fail to accomplish that intention.

The approach shared above – see download link – indicates one way in which a group has established a direct link tying the performance review process directly to the merit increase process. This example does not take into account some of the considerations highlighted above when it comes to selecting the actual increase percentage and I chose to share this resource anyway, because it does happen that HR is asked for a process like the attached on a regular basis and I want to make an example available to you if you find yourself in that situation.

I do suggest you consider ways to incorporate the other aspects as outlined above when you finalize your proposal to implement a more structured approach to tie performance management to compensation review.

My main advice is to think it through carefully to ensure your good intentions have the best chance of being reinforced by your performance management process and pay-for-performance approach . And I would also add that you should remain flexible in working with your documented process. Be ready and willing to adjust and update it as you gather input about how successful your process is in driving desired outcomes – results and behavior that you and the executives would like to see in your pool of employees.

Performance Management – setting the annual process


final perf imp

The HR function manages a few processes which take place at various points over a 12-month period. Think of the annual salary reviews, annual training needs analysis, bonus calculations and performance management processes.

It is important to managers to have a clear understanding of each of these processes and when they take place throughout the year. If you set all of these processes on a regular annual schedule it helps managers to correctly anticipate next steps in processes and provide input required in a timely manner.

This generic performance management process schedule I am sharing with you (see download option below) shows the various basic steps that would need to be followed over a 12 month period. There are references to the link with a salary/compensation review process and also the link with identifying and reviewing individual development needs and progress along achieving improvement goals.

Implementing a process like this would need a change management plan if your organization has never done anything like this before. Even if you have had some form of a performance management process in place, but would now like to expand on it to include some of the elements shown in the attachment, a change management plan would be recommended. Before you start you would of course ensure that the manager/director, who is accountable for the performance management process at your organization, is aligned with your ideas and suggestions and strongly supports the direction you would like to take.

The benefits of having a documented process for Performance Management are:

  • It is easy for HR to ensure new employees, current employees, new supervisors and existing managers understand the process and their role in the process.
  • It is a way to help stakeholders understand and then prepare for the input and actions they need to complete in order to support the process.
  • Linked to a balanced score card, the process can make it clear to individuals/departments how they collectively and as individuals support the attainment of larger organizational performance goals.
  • Knowing that there are check-in moments for feedback and discussion moments around performance expectations, progress and development needs and activities can be a strong way to reinforce employee engagement. Many employees tend to consider other employment options when they feel that their development and career progression goals are not being met by their current employer.

This list is not exhaustive. For more information about benefits see links like Benefits of performance management or Importance of Performance Management

Conflict Resolution between Teams – an Activity


Teams or groups mostly get upset with each other due to ill-defined or badly executed processes or unclear interface issues between them. There are of course other reasons too, but whatever the cause inter-team upsets can cause an overall failure to achieve planned outcomes and a project/location not achieving targets.

Intergroup conflict and effectiveness

This process that can be used to help two (or more) teams/groups work through their issues with each other and how they are impacting each other.

The process and activity is described in the document which you can download above. Estimated timing for each step of the process is also included. The timing is based on only two groups/teams working through the process. If you add teams/groups, do add additional presentation and discussion time to the combined portions of the process.

Each group or team have an assignment to work on independently and when the groups all gather together the results are presented and discussed in the larger group. The objective is to improve everyone’s understanding of exactly where things go wrong, what works and what does not work and how we will move forward with a new agreement of how we will work together.

The process requires at least one facilitator provided the combined groups comprise of no more than 18 people. If you combine more than two groups I would also consider having an additional facilitator to assist in the breakout sessions. The opening and closing sessions should be attended by one senior manager or executive that interfaces with all of the attending groups – to make opening comments to set the scene and establish the importance of the meeting and also to close off the event with encouraging and appreciative comments.

Note this:

  • The process is flexible and it would be up to you, as the facilitator, to make judgment calls along the way. Looking at how you are doing on timing and how well the process is going you may choose to avoid the second breakout session and instead have that discussion in the combined-group setting.
  • This process may not work well if the inter-group/team dysfunctions have been going on for quite some time and the frustration levels are high. In such cases I would recommend that you prepare for the session by first doing a pre-session interview with all or most of the intended participants. That way you can prepare for an intervention having a clear understanding of the issues at hand and the mindsets of those that will be attending. This may cause you to choose for a more comprehensive intervention.
  • If more than one facilitator is involved, do make sure every facilitator is completely aware of how the process will work. This is especially important when you choose to make some changes along the way – i.e. skipping the 2nd breakout session in favor of a large group discussion on the same topic.  It can be quite frustrating for groups/teams when they receive mismatched instructions from different facilitators for the activity they are to complete.

HR Function checkup – Feedback from internal customers


In the same way that companies would approach external customers to gather their views on what is going well and what needs improvement (customer satisfaction), the HR function should reach out to its internal customers to find out how satisfied they are with the services and support that they receive. It is true that there are more than one model for HR service delivery, but that does not change the fact that it is wise to gather feedback on the services and support that you do provide given the structure and focus for HR in your company.

The HR function is often guilty of focusing its developmental and improvement efforts exclusively on helping other departments and neglects using those same skills and expertise to improve the HR function as a whole and developing the people who deliver the HR services to others.

HR Function – Feedback Survey

This survey can help you gather the information you need from your internal customers to help you identify specific areas of excellence in HR and also those areas where improvement may be needed. When improvement is needed it will often imply additional training and development of some HR representatives (HRBPs or Generalists) and may also  include communicating the HR vision and goals more clearly within the HR function. Remember to recognize and reward those who were part of delivering excellent services when you review the survey results.

Tips:

  • Add comment fields next to scores if you want to be certain to capture specific comments about the scores.
  • Do be sure to provide survey participants with feedback on the outcome of the survey and the actions that you plan to take as a result of the survey. This motivates participants to continue providing you with valuable feedback in the future.
  • Create an action plan and communicate that clearly within the HR function so that everyone understands which areas you plan to address and how you plan to do that. It may help to set specific metrics around your planned improvements to make it easier to report progress.
  • Regularly update stakeholders – internal to the HR function and those who are internal customers in your company – on the progress of improvement efforts as you implement the post-survey action plan.
  • Remember to celebrate successes (milestones and outcomes achieved) and be prepared to add additional actions to your plan in cases where your improvement efforts are not reaping the results you had planned for.

Having a standard survey which you use ever year gives the opportunity to track the progress in specific questions over time and helps with trend analysis and showing % improvements over time.

Use a reality-check worksheet for a Positive Mindset


The success of a leader, a manager or an ambitious employee depends largely on the mindset that he or she operates on. When we are in a positive state of mind we can focus on our goals and collaborate and communicate in positive ways which inspire and motivate others to help us succeed in our goals.

It is unfortunately also possible for us to get pulled away from the positive state of mind when we are in high stress situations for a long period of time and when we allow ourselves to go down a spiral of negative thinking. Successful leaders and managers have learned how to quickly realize when this happens and to start implementing corrective actions and adjustments to their way of thinking. This self-awareness and regulating their own emotions help them rapidly get back to a focused mind and closer to the outcomes that they are planning for.

Expectations and Reality Curves

This model shows the blue path which I call the Expectation Trap or summarized as the kind of thinking that believes “things should not be this way”. This kind of thinking very easily moves us out of a positive mindset and it is aligned with going against reality. We wish that reality was different and we build this on our expectations of how good things should be and how badly others are acting or behaving as if others are actually causing the negative outcomes which we do not want to see.  The green curve is the way out of the negative thinking. It is a different mindset which aligns with 1) doing a reality check and using that as the basis for moving towards a better way of thinking, 2) learning from the past, 3) changing or improving the plans we had before something happened to interrupt our progress and then 4) moving into the new direction with a positive focus and determination.

The first step, doing a reality check – is often the toughest and once a person is already in a negative state of mind it is really hard for him or her to realize that it is necessary to do this.

Use the outcomes from this worksheet for further discussions with your mentor/coach or adviser. It may be that you need some coaching or just someone to be a sounding board for you as you talk through the situation and how to resolve it in the best way.

Some tips:

  • Be sure to really connect with the negative feelings when you complete the worksheet. Some people are really good at being able to temporarily switch off their emotions to focus on business – but for this form, do make sure you are connecting with how it feels inside of you when you think about that situation or event that had caused you to feel pulled away from your positive mindset and down the Expectation Trap.
  • Do take the steps necessary to resolve any upsetting situation/event. There is nothing worse than unfinished business behind you. It slows you down and drains you of positive mental energy that you need to accomplish the goal(s) that you have set for yourself. Your coach/mentor or adviser can help you with that if you are not sure how to resolve the upset so you can leave it behind you.