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5 Tips for Top Teams in 2020

Individuals will often use the new-year period as a motivational moment to make positive changes, and so too can teams.

The things that work well for developing effective teamwork are rarely complex, it’s just that teams get distracted from doing the basics when the pressure is on, just as we often fall away from a new year’s resolution no matter how good our initial intentions were.  Here are 5 suggestions for helping to develop great teams.

1. Understand strengths and weaknesses.

2. Know the team’s DNA.

3. Build psychological safety.

4. Enable conversational turn taking.

5. Have Meerkat moments.

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1. Understand and be honest about strengths and weaknesses 

We all have our strengths, and the natural flipside to this is that we also have our weaknesses. With regards to the impact of individual behaviour at work, both will manifest, especially when the pressure is on. 

Trying to ignore our weaknesses, or worse masking them can be greatly injurious to authenticity. Knowing them and how they impact the team can be the first step to better managing them (as opposed to trying to mask them or pretend they don’t exist). Projecting your strengths and managing your weaknesses honestly is the key. 

2. Know the Team’s DNA / Chemistry

The way in which our behavioural strengths and weaknesses combine within a team with those of others produces a unique chemistry. Sabre nicknames this blend our “Team DNA”. This chemistry will underpin the team’s culture, values and collective strengths and weaknesses. 

The surpluses and deficits of certain behavioural styles within a team can help to clearly identify biases that may occur and how best to manage them in certain situations. A balance of behavioural styles that compliment one another is ideal, but imbalance can be better managed with knowledge and discipline. 

3. Build psychological safety

Psychological safety is an atmosphere within a team where people feel they can really be themselves and that psychological risks can be taken. A foundation of understanding in how our individual and collective behaviour manifests at work can help to build psychological safety. 

It’s where people feel that their strengths are valued, and that their allowable weaknesses (as opposed to any non-allowable ones that may show up from time to time) are known, understood and tolerated as simply part of what makes them who they are. 

4. Enable genuine conversational turn taking

Conversational turn taking is simple enough in theory, and that is to try and enable everyone’s voices, opinions and aspirations to be heard. In practice teams can often fall into the trap of over-talking more introverted types, or letting stronger personalities dominate meetings and shut down others. 

Sometimes the input from quiet folks is well worth listening to, as is feedback from people who may be telling us what we may not want to hear, but perhaps may really need to hear. Vital input, ideas and solutions can be lost if we fail to do this well, along with the undermining of psychological safety.

5. Have ’Meerkat Moments’ to help maintain the basics

In nature Meerkats are great at having lookouts to warn their busy mates about any approaching threats to their safety (snakes, birds of prey etc). In this same manner leaders and team members can do their team a great service by politely, respectfully and even humorously bringing attention to internal threats to the team, when cognitive bias hits the quality of team interactions and decision-making under pressure. 

It’s all well and good to commit to the ingredients of great teamwork, but it’s all for nothing if it’s not implemented and followed through into the workplace. When people are tired, overloaded and having their hot buttons pressed it’s easy to forget the basics and ‘ fall off the wagon’. Having some lookouts to remind us can often help. 

To help teams and leaders genuinely understand their individual and collective strengths and weaknesses we use the Belbin Model and it’s individual and team profiles. 

It provides robust evidence-based insights and a common language to do these things more reliably and openly within teams.

We also tailor comprehensive Team and Leadership DNA programmes to help leaders and teams.


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