Untangling Team Talent

September 12, 2017

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The biggest challenge to effective teamwork is the failure to listen and understand how to ACT together!

In our highly competitive culture teamwork is often impacted negatively by the individual members’ efforts to ensure they receive recognition and compensation for their personal creativity. While this is certainly valid and important, leaders are often baffled on how to integrate this individual goal into the team culture and communications and still improve the quality of teamwork. There are many commonalities that support leaders in successfully diagnosing where the individual needs of the members (talent) get tangled up with the collective productivity of the team.

Gaining the benefit of top level individual and team performance is possible when the organization, departments and team leaders work together to maximize talent at all levels.

Organizations, need to acknowledge the challenge and opportunity, provide support to leaders and teams to gain the skills to perform in all their capacities and express gratitude regularly!

At the Department and Team Leader levels, best practices call for gathering and using data, holding team based candid discussions in a safe and collaborative manner. Use a team model that gathers data based on “we” questions to access team performance. Most analysis of teams is misleading as it’s based on individual factors, not team strengths and opportunities. Thus, a compilation of individual results from personality assessments such as MBTI, Emergenetics, Change Style Indicator or the many others will further the challenge of focusing on individuals and not teams. This is good an valuable data, it just should NOT be the only data considered. It is vital to look at the team as a distinct entity! When the team is recognized, intentionally responded to and lead, the team is given much more opportunity to flourish and productivity is enhanced!

The TESI® (Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey®) identifies the 7 core competencies teams need to function well. Action steps to untangle team talent begins with each team taking the TESI and receiving their own report. Then pull the data together to view trends across the organization. With this information action plans can be created for each team and at the organizational level.

Talent can be untangled by working with each of the team competencies as well as the team and individual performance.

Team Identity is based on how well the team demonstrates belongingness, a desire to work together, and a sense of clarity around the role of each member. Teams tangle when roles and responsibilities aren’t sufficiently clarified. Take a look – is there a good balance in roles that is designed to bring out all team members talents? Does everyone understand the division of responsibilities?

Emotional Awareness considers the amount of attention the team pays to noticing, understanding, and respecting feelings of team members. Teams tangle when team cohesion is undervalued and there isn’t time for enhancing interpersonal relationships. A central theme in building successful teams is that sufficient time and resources are spent so the team feels recognized, valued and that the organization is aware of them. This is followed by an organizational expectation, that is welcomed by team members, that they are expected to pay attention to one another and be responsive.

Communication provides feedback on how well team members listen, encourage participation, and discuss sensitive matters. Teams tangle when communication is focused between individuals and there is competition for the data. When the focus is just on individuals, team potential is diminished – collaborative intelligence has trouble showing up!

Stress Tolerance gives the team a reflection of how well it’s doing in managing the pressures of workload, time constraints, and the real needs for work-life balance. Teams tangle when skills are developed without equality and balance. Are some people on the team seen as hot shots who get the plum assignments? The cost will come out in many ways – discord from those left out, maybe too much pressure on the high performers and missed opportunities of developing more skills in those who are getting less attention.

Conflict Resolution addresses how constructively the team conducts the process of disagreement and whether the team is able to deal with adversity to enhance its functioning, rather than being deflated by the conflict. Teams tangle when competition is encouraged and collaboration isn’t. Teams tangle when conflict resolutions skills aren’t practiced with intention and courage!

Positive Mood highlights the level of encouragement, sense of humor, and how successful the team expects to be; is a major support for a team’s flexibility and resilience. Teams tangle when fearful attitudes prevail instead of “can-do” attitudes.

Lead your teams to success by using your resources and skills to maximize individual and team contribution!

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Why Teamwork Gets So Tricky

May 28, 2015

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After more than 20 years of investigation and practical application at Collaborative Growth, the results are in:

Developing leaders is comparatively easy. Developing teams…well that’s a different story – and here’s why. Any individual who is interested in becoming a more effective communicator (and this is the most fundamental and far-reaching skill of leadership) can practice the known skills that will make him or her easier to understand. Leaders can become more persuasive, and if they sincerely want to work on increasing their authenticity, they can genuinely become more trustworthy. It is simply a matter of exercising their own initiative. Their only real obstacles are internal –their occasional lack of willpower, the strength of their bad habits, their inability to focus their attention or muster sufficient energy. And if they don’t develop quite as rapidly as they wanted to their sincerity is not called into question and there is no embarrassment if their plans were private goals.

Developing teams also requires the development of effective communication skills, however this time for a group of individuals all at the same time. This is definitely a much more difficult and public undertaking. At the very least everybody on the team knows that change is afoot, some kind of progress is expected, and this progress is going to disrupt the way power is currently balanced and what – engaged, coordinated, distributed, practiced, implemented, effectuated? All of these words come close but none exactly capture the idea, so perhaps we could say developing team effectiveness disrupts the way in which members communicate their power within the team. This usage is a little unusual but perhaps it captures the situation a bit more crisply.

In these days of “do more with less” there are very few teams that are overstaffed. For everyone who has a spot on the team there usually is some specific expectation that they need to meet in order for the team to reach its goals. If someone isn’t happy with the way things are going (or if they don’t really know how to or want to do the role which they have been assigned) they can innocently make it look like someone else is to blame. We call this disassembling.

Primates learn to deceive at a very early age. Attentive parents can tell when their child’s crying is a sincere expression of pain or a more general bid for attention. Attentive team leaders may not be quite so skillful at detecting what is going on between team members, and even when they do detect some potential disassembling they may not feel all that capable or inclined to tackle the conflict that will result when they attempt to let the responsible parties know that their behavior has been noticed. Most likely accountability has not been defined specifically enough to provide for effective evaluation.

But like the developing leader, each team member can also suffer from a lack of willpower, bad habits, a lack of energy and/or the inability to focus their attention as well as they want. Even though some amount of this is normal and to be expected, for it to be noticed publicly is embarrassing, and embarrassment is just the surface expression of our deep instinct to avoid rejection. Primates do not like to feel excluded! Can you begin to see why developing emotionally effective teamwork is such a challenge compared to developing leaders?

At Collaborative Growth we use a scientifically validated assessment called The Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey, or TESI to help teams be able to pinpoint where the real problems are. Then using our team communication training skills, developed over more than 20 years with all kinds of teams from the private and public sectors, we help the teams and their members and their leader get real! Once people understand the general ways in which people are wired to communicate and cooperate and compete this is not a particularly confrontational process. People enjoy discovering the effectiveness of the communication patterns that we teach, in part because these skills are every bit as effective at home as at the office.

Utilizing a basic understanding of this information we can help team members deconstruct the triggers that activate those self-protective reactions which so often turn disingenuous, or manipulative, or outright intimidating. We coach all the team members on how to use specific communication language to acknowledge and transform the many kinds of conflict that have often been swept under the rug for a very long time, and because everyone is learning and practicing it at the same time the team itself begins to grow and self-organize holistically.

As the team members learn how to use these language patterns to communicate their authentic hopes and fears they begin to express their displeasure about what isn’t working more openly, however now in nonjudgmental language. They know how and why to constructively reinforce the things they feel optimistic about. This begins to transform the tension into motivation. With continued practice teams find optimal ways to co-create and co-operate on their projects together, and they begin to evolve a collaborative intelligence that is intuitive in place of what was previously a closed and self-protective group think.

The team you are on could do its important work even more effectively if there was less conflict and politics and more communication! The TESI provides guidance on how to get there.


Teambuilding with Emotional Intelligence Competencies

January 30, 2015

TEIC-triangle1What makes a group of people want to work together as a team? What makes a team want to do their very best work? When people feel safe, supported, and free to make a valuable contribution that will be recognized, they consistently perform at their best. In this article we explore how to build the emotional intelligence competencies necessary to create these conditions.

When the emotional environment is rich and transparent, teams can trust enough to take risks and that promotes more complete and creative decision making. Desired team competencies include trusting, risk taking, communicating, conflict resolution and being respectful and productive. These result when an organization intentionally understands these competency domains and develops the environment that elicits the motivation to fully participate and the emotional intelligence skills to support the competencies. While different types of competencies are needed by teams, including technical expertise, we are focusing on Emotional Intelligence (“EI”) Competencies for this article.

Competencies are the big picture statement of what is needed to be successful in a job. This is accomplished in part by the application of emotional intelligence skills, which can be independently measured and grown. EI skills are needed by the team as a whole, and can be measured by the TESI® (Team Emotional & Social Intelligence Survey®) and by each individual and can be measured by the EQi®. These skills are related to but different from individual personality traits, such as measured by the MBTI® or Emergenetics®. The following chart shows the progression we work with in understanding and developing team EI Competencies.

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Figure 1: Team Emotional Intelligence Competencies

Team Emotional Intelligence Competencies are implemented through a complement of skills, attitudes, behaviors and information.

hen we are talking about team competencies, we are speaking of the skills or abilities needed to perform the specific tasks or functions assigned to the team. Accomplishing the competency is based upon their attitudes and behaviors as well as having the skills and knowledge needed. To be successful, teams need strength in emotional intelligence competencies such as trusting, risk taking, communicating, conflict resolution and being respectful and productive.We consider each of these areas as their own competency domain, and each competency domain is implemented through a complement of skills, attitudes, behaviors and information that are called for in a particular setting.

Teams need technical skills. For example, a team may need a competency in working with metal if they are building bridges, but to actually get the bridge designed, funded and built so it’s structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing requires many competencies from the technical ones to others that are based in how intelligently the team works with their emotional and social information. Some of that information will be new, such as occurs when the CEO of a big bridge project walks into a team meeting and congratulates the team for being ahead of schedule and under budget. Most of the emotional and social information that informs team decisions will come from past experiences. When we reference past experiences as a part of our thinking, they always come with emotional tags. We can’t avoid it, there is no such thing as making a decision without using our emotions. Our choice is whether that emotional information is used well. That is why teams and their individual members need to use their emotional and social intelligence.

Conflict Resolution Team Competency

To exercise conflict resolution skills well, teams need to create the capacity to embrace divergent thinking, engage creatively and then coalesce around a common decision. The competency of a team resolving conflict is implemented by a collection of team and individual skills. At the team level they need team identity, emotional awareness, the ability to communicate well, stress tolerance skills, and a positive mood. Individuals on the team also need individual emotional intelligence skills in self regard, assertiveness, empathy, reality testing, impulse control and optimism. While every team needs all of these skills to resolve conflict, different teams will need a different balance of those skills. Depending on the culture of the organization that houses the team and the socio-political environment in which they operate there will be different emphasis on how conflict is addressed. For people who serve on many teams, success requires the ability to dial those skills up and down based on the specific situation.

Let’s take a look at a strategic approach for developing conflict resolution skills for a team. Figure 2 shows the skills needed at each of the three levels we have discussed. To apply this strategy the organization would:

1) Identify that they value teams being able to resolve conflict well resulting in establishing conflict resolution skills as a team competency.

2) Identify the emotional intelligence skills at the team and individual levels needed to support success in resolving conflict. (Remember there are other factors at play in addition to EI skills, such as sufficient information and resources and take those into account as appropriate.) The EI skills needed are: By the team: team identity, emotional awareness, the ability to communicate well, stress tolerance skills, and positive mood. By the individuals: self-regard, assertiveness, empathy, reality testing, impulse control and optimism. Together these skills need to support the ability to engage in divergent thinking and then move to convergent thinking where all rally around the final decision.

3) Measure the current strengths and challenges for the team with the TESI and for the individuals with the EQi or EQ 360 and set strategic goals for improvement.

4) Give all team members their individual MBTI or Emergenetics profiles and discuss how these trait or personality preferences affect team engagement. Understanding this will help define the best learning approaches as skills are being developed.

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Figure 2: Team Emotional Intelligence Competency for Conflict Resolution

Using a team model to measure and strategically target team emotional growth

Collaborative Growth Team ModelThe Collaborative Growth team model provides a process for successfully implementing team EI competencies. The seven scales measured in the outer circle are all competencies, the implementation of any one supports successful implementation of the others, which is why the model is presented in a circle. However, some scales will be more relevant to particular goals, such as demonstrated in Figure 2. The middle circle shows the four desired results of team engagement, such as trusting one another, are more complex competencies that result from developing the first seven scales. The inner circle, or bull’s eye, demonstrates the long term benefits teams and their organizations gain when these competencies are implemented. The TESI is a team 360 which measures the team members’ assessment of how well they are implementing the seven scales in the outer circle. It can be used to measure team progress through taking it before development begins and again as the strategies are being implemented.

Conclusion

When developing your teams, you’ll have much more success when you strategically use a multi-dimensional approach including competencies, specific skill development and incorporating awareness of the personality traits of team members.