Ingredients for High Performing Teams: #4, Meaning & Impact

The final ingredients for high performing teams that Project Aristotle revealed are meaning and impact. Leaders of teams need to articulate a clear vision, and reinforce how each member’s work contributes to bringing the team closer to that vision. On the surface, this sounds simple and straightforward. Let’s be honest, it’s nothing groundbreaking – the importance of meaning and impact to team effectiveness seems fairly intuitive. I mean, most organizations nowadays have mission statements. Meaning just seems to be another buzzword and lofty ideal in the corporate world. As I’m sure you’re well aware of at this point, implementing these ideals in ‘real life’ is a whole other story. The importance of meaning in team effectiveness is obvious – but how do you actually foster a sense of meaning and purpose in teams from the real world? A quick Google search reveals thousands of articles discussing how to develop meaning and purpose in teams (for example, this Harvard Business Review article). Most, however, just end up reiterating how important a purpose is in a team, and that you should “find it”. Finding the purpose as the leader, though, isn’t the hard part, in my opinion. To get the entire team to buy in and connect with it…that’s the real challenge. So in preparing for this post, I set out to explore this exact problem – how can we not only find a team’s purpose, but also get the entire team to ‘buy in’ to it? Before I dive deep into the question of how, though, I want to explore the why – why is making sure each team member...

Teaching Teamwork: How Insights from Team Building Can Benefit Educators

Is teaching a class that much different from leading a team? A 2010 article in Psychology Today makes a good argument for the idea that teachers are really “leaders in disguise”. Leaders and teachers both have to be positive role models, inspire their followers/students, provide individualized consideration, and engage the minds and hearts of their followers/students. Team building has increasingly become a key part of leadership. It seems that most leaders in corporate organizations are aware of, and believe in, the value of team building efforts. But if teachers are truly “leaders in disguise”, why do we so rarely talk about the value of team building in the world of education? The ability to work in teams has become increasingly valuable in the workforce over the past decade. In fact, Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends survey found that top companies in the world are pushing towards team-centric models, thus, the ability to work in small, cohesive teams is becoming more valuable than ever before. As educators who strive to prepare our students to succeed in the world of work in the future, it is now our responsibility to teach our students how to work effectively in teams. But how do we do that? I believe that teachers should model team leadership. When the class becomes a high performing team, students can experience first-hand what it feels like to be a part of successful team. When they’re given other opportunities to work in a team in the future, they’ll know what they should strive for. They’ll be prepared to recreate the successful team leadership they observed in their teacher....

Casting for Team Performance

Each member of any team should be “casted” in a role that takes full advantage of their talents. In my previous post, I talked the importance of having each team member know what’s expected of them and how that contributes to the team vision. But today, I ask another question – does what we expect of our team members align with their strengths? The premise of Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman’s First, Break All The Rules is that the key to work engagement is whether the work aligns with the individual’s strengths and talents. The manager’s main role, therefore, is to focus on each employee’s unique strengths, and find ways to make it fit with their work. The theory goes that you have far more potential within your strengths than your weaknesses. Often within organizations we complete employee reviews on a regular basis. Most often these reviews are designed to identify weaknesses and to help people “fix” them. However, you will have far more benefit from focusing on strengths than weaknesses. In Summit’s Strengths Finder workshop we discuss the fact that in your areas of weakness, regardless of how much training and focus you place on them, you do not have a natural ability in this area and will only improve so much. We often say you want to focus on your areas of weakness just enough so that they are not a liability, but do not waste more time here. It is in your areas of natural ability, your strengths, that you have the greatest potential for growth. This is a muscle that through exercise can become very...

Ingredients for High Performing Teams: #3, Structure and Clarity

Everyday at work, it’s easy to get caught up in ‘tunnel vision’. We go in, check off our to-do list, then check out and go home. But how clear is our understanding of what’s really expected of us at our jobs, and how that impacts our team and company? According to Google, the third ingredient of high performing teams is structure and clarity. Team members need to have a clear understanding of what’s expected of them as part of the team, how they can fulfill those expectations, and the consequences of fulfilling those expectations. The leader’s job, therefore, is to make sure that they establish clear expectations for all members of their team, and to bring to light how each person’s work on the team can contribute its mission. Without it, it’s unlikely that your team will reach high performance and engagement. As Summit President Scott Kress always says, “you cannot expect anybody to live up to your expectations if they do not know what those expectations are”. But let’s be honest, the reality of today’s workplace is that we often just don’t have enough time to get to that. Given the limitation of time and resources, how can we efficiently establish clear expectations for each member of our team and show them how it connects to the mission? Here’s an idea… One component of adventure education programs is called the group agreement. At the start of every program, the facilitator takes time to discuss with the group its goals (i.e., its ‘vision), and what the team will do to achieve those goals together. Specifically, two aspects that should...

Learning In Thin Air: The Power of Storytelling

Scott Kress’ Learning In Thin Air keynote leverages the power of storytelling to change the way his audiences’ think about leadership and teamwork. Here’s how he does it. But first, let’s take a look at why storytelling can be one of the most powerful tools that a leader can have. Andy Raskin, a strategic storytelling expert who has worked with major corporations including Uber and Intel, says that any leader who achieves anything does so by telling a great, credible story. Dianne Booher, an expert in leadership communications, argues that stories carry emotion that connect with people, and drives ideas deeper into our psyches. Paul Smith, author and consumer research expert, suggests that stories inspire organizations, sets visions, teach important lessons, and defines cultures and values. Stories entertain, educate, and inspire. This is certainly true of Learning In Thin Air. Scott Kress is one of the handful of Canadians that have climbed the Seven Summits – the highest peaks of each of the seven continents, including Mount Everest. In his keynote speech, he shares numerous stories based on his climbing experiences to capture the essence of high performance leaders and teams. He begins by sharing an experience of failure – his 2001 climb of Cho Oyu, the sixth highest mount in the world. Led by an ineffective leader, his team ended up becoming stuck in the ‘storming’ phase of group development, and was unable to summit the mountain. Like any good storyteller, Scott shares the reason why the climb wasn’t successful – and what that tells us about teams. Guided by a leader who subscribed to an ‘old school’...