Originally this post was published on 6/7/2020 at LinkedIn.
For many years, organisations have been striving to achieve high performance and high commitment culture. Leaders and their teams have been asked to step up to new challenges in very uncertain times. We all have been invited to think about our “Why?” (i.e. purpose) and our desired destination, personally and collectively. Then we were asked to set our goals, explain our plan to achieve them and decide on the areas of our development that will enable us to achieve our objectives, now and into the future.
Who gets to decide what your team member’s challenge is?
Goals can be set in relation to the troubles that must be overcome or desired states to reach. Either way, there needs to be an appreciation of the gap between the current and the future state, the obstacles, a level of stretch or transformation required, in other words, “what are the challenges to get there?”.
In my coaching practice, I have noticed that leaders can be quite quick to determine what their subordinates struggle with and what their development opportunity is. Their subordinates are not as quick to agree. You ought to ask yourself:
· Who gets to say what someone else’s challenge is?
· Do they know what others judge them in relation to and how that’s different from their own expectations of themselves?
· Do you know how to differentiate between what appears to be an issue and the actual underlying reasons for their challenge?
Key derailers and unintended consequences
Early in the coaching psychology studies, we are cautioned not to chase small issues missing core ones by being mindful of what can derail us, for example:
1. Rush to closure on goals
2. Intolerance to ambiguity
3. Quest for certainty
4. Telling not asking
5. Focusing on our own needs
It is not an easy task for leaders to create a reflective space and engage in exploration with their subordinates, if they are achievement driven and believe they fully understand key abilities, competencies and capacities required for someone to perform a particular role; as if they feel they have a licence to know how their team members should be. In case of deviation from the assumed standards, a gap at an individual level is assessed and next steps are considered.
An unintended consequence of the approach where people with positional power tell everybody else what “normal” and “expected” is and how to get there, is that it can tether employees to stay at a lower stage of their adult development called “Socialized Mind”. It is when views, ideas and beliefs of important others determine their sense of self and shape their perspective. Stuck in that developmental stage, they will not make a decision that would be perceived negatively by you, or your peers, family or community. In other words, they are subject to the opinions of others and want to please them through telling them what they want to hear. They are preoccupied with questions like: “Will you still like me?”, “Will you still approve of me?” and “Will you still think I am a good person?”.
It is hard to expect your people to step up, feel empowered, be more proactive, or inclusive of different views and opinions, when they don’t see any meaning in forming their own judgments, developing their own internal standards and publicly living their values.
By asking questions like “What do you think?” and inviting them to support how their answer aligns with their beliefs and values, you push their thinking, you enhance their capacity to adapt and increase their confidence to address what they are facing. In other words, you help them access their current skills and knowledge and develop new ones; it makes them more able and moves them to “Self-Authoring Mind”. Sounds obvious, right?
A Team is More Than its Parts
Most organisations assess individual performance and personal development progress, somewhat assuming that a team is a sum of its parts. Interpersonal relationships attract attention only when conflicts arise. Leaders are asked to make sure their team understands their purpose, goals, roles and measures of success. Those in charge are expected to drive team performance and stretch each team member. If the team is struggling, everyone looks at the leader. But if there is no negative feedback, there is no reason to worry or change anything, right?
Often it is team leaders who are asked to report on team’s performance and raise any issues they see with individual members or with some interpersonal relationships that risk damaging well-being and positive climate for the whole team. It is leaders who facilitate team meetings, invite team members contributions and get everyone to commit to agreed plans of action.
You probably have noticed that you act differently in different teams. You bring your best self to some teams and somewhat less able self to others. Albeit team leader exerts a great influence on team’s cohesion, factors like who is in the team, how they act towards you, how you perceive and trust their intentions, how much you are willing to work with them, impacts how aligned you feel on your collective endeavour and how motivated you are to pursue it. In other words, team composition, social norms and team dynamics all impact a team’s desire to commit to delivering most possible value to their stakeholders.
Team Plan vs Team Development Plan
All teams have a plan and measure progress against that plan, but rarely do they have a development plan. Why? Because we tend to pursue goals that important others will measure, judge and remunerate us against and most organisations talk about performance being a team sport but do nothing beyond team building and investing in gaining a greater understanding of each team members personalities.
Whether it is a functional, cross-functional or project team, they consist of diverse performers with their unique assumptions about teamwork and, sometimes, competing goals. Team dynamics is not always clear to the naked eye, especially when you are caught in the middle of it. You might not even realise you say you are going to do something but then do something different instead. We all can be blind to our own hidden assumptions, let alone those of others.
Today teams are tasked to deliver specific outcomes in an ever-changing context. They can only adapt if they are aware of many forces at play. Rather than simply asking all members to practice “collaborative” behaviours, team sponsors can enable more adaptive responses by investing in developing the team’s ability to continuously diagnose and adjust to what is happening within the team and outside that team.
In other words, rather than only focusing on performance, team development plans focus the team on developing mastery in reflective thinking, co-creating adaptive processes and learning together.
How to Create a Team Development Plan?
Teams develop a reputation, a perception of how they show up to others inside and outside their organisation. A confidential enquiry is likely to shed a brighter light on what their stakeholders honestly think about the team. As Prof. Peter Hawkins says, the major challenges in organisations lie not in the parts but in the interconnections.
Interviews with team members and key stakeholders, conducted by a third party, provide insights into the issues and patterns at the individual, team, organisation and wider eco-system levels. They also help interviewers build rapport and trust with the team that enable effective facilitation of team’s discovery and reflection process. During the debrief process, the team gains their own insights, draw their own conclusions, raise their questions and work through discrepancies in perception and expectations. Facilitators reflect back the team’s observations and invite the team to notice what assumptions and patters of interactions are at play.
If you want your team to make a step change in how they engage with stakeholders and what they deliver, you want them to work out:
· Whom does the team serve and how do they know they are adding most possible value as a team? How do they measure their value?
· What shift do they as a team need to make to enable the shift in performance and stakeholder engagement?
· What shift does the team leader and the team sponsor need to make to enable the shift in the team?
· What patterns of behaviours, beliefs and assumptions in the wider organisation prevent the team from addressing their current and future challenges effectively?
· What does the team see as their challenges?
· How can they develop, redeploy or acquire resources relevant to those challenge?
As a result of this process, the team increase their awareness with regards to:
· The needs of their stakeholders (even the silent ones) and whether they are being met.
· How the team is showing up externally.
· Patterns of behaviours and assumptions across different organisational levels that currently create team effectiveness gaps.
· Insights into potential unintended consequences of integration, if two teams were brought together.
· Misalignment of team member goals, roles and expectations.
· Agree on their rules of engagement for safe and productive conversations.
· Set mutual expectations for how they would like to be when they are together (physically and virtually) and when they are interacting with their stakeholders.
· Notice, attend to, and work with and through their internal and external tensions, finding effective ways to harness their diverse ways of thinking and being to create innovative solutions in service of their own growth, the needs of their organisation and their wider community.
Please reach out at email@example.com to discuss how I maybe able to assist you and your nominated team to create their development plan.