Simple Practices That Work Wonders to Improve Teamwork

What keeps you up at night?

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If you have teammates, it's most likely one of them. Maybe it’s more than one person. You lie awake thinking about Jennie. How did you avoid addressing her tardiness yet again? And what are you going to say when you do? Why does Warren regular undermine you at staff meetings? And what can you do about it?

Many of my coaching conversations are about working in teams. But it doesn't have to be that difficult. Sure, you've got to address serious team issues head-on. But fostering a positive team culture can help reduce negative team interactions in the first place.

What if I told you that with a few simple protocols in place, you can start a positivity ripple effect?

Imagine this:

You're wrapping up your weekly team meeting. As Sunny leaves, he says, "That was a great meeting! We're all on the same page here, working toward the same goals!" Then, Alisha exclaims, "I agree! And we're more efficient and accomplishing better results." Beaming with pride, you head off to the gym at the end of the day, knowing your team's work is up to speed.

Wouldn't that be great? Actually, it doesn't take a lot of effort to put these things in place. It does take conscious thought and consistent practice until they become second nature. But the payoff can be remarkable. Ready to explore a few of these?

Protocol 1: The Power of a Quick Check-In

How often do you rush from meeting to meeting without stopping to catch your breath? What’s the impact on the quality of your relationships? To make matters worse, most everyone else is also madly rushing. 

If you take a minute to slow down and connect with other people, you'll be amazed at the improvement in teamwork, creativity, and decision-making. 

And it's simple. Start every meeting (or call) by encouraging each person to share something that's going on for them. You go around the group and each person says something in turn. It's different than the usual banter. Everyone gets their moment, one at a time, to check in. This simple protocol has the remarkable effect of deepening the quality of conversation. 

For more on the process and value of check-ins, take a look at this blog post.

Protocol 2: Acknowledgment

Here's another magical protocol: Acknowledge someone for something you appreciate. I can almost guarantee that the person being recognized will grow visibly. Really. It took most of my life to learn the power of acknowledgment. I'm from the school of "good work is its own reward." I didn't know how starved I was, or how I was starving other people until I learned the art of appreciation.

There are three steps:

  • General: “Thanks for your help.”

  • Specific: “I know you’ve got a lot on your plate and still you took the time to help me with something I felt unsure about.”

  • Impact: “I felt supported and the work was done more quickly and with better quality.”

That's it! The hardest part of this whole thing is remembering to do it.

Protocol 3: Positive to Negative

Here's a powerful piece of research: 

Losada and Heaphy studied the connection between team interaction and business performance. They found that teams with more of certain kinds of interactions had the highest business performance. By a long shot. It has to do with the ratio of positive to negative comments. Their research showed the magic formula to be 7 positive to 1 negative.

The exact ratio isn't as important as the awareness. All too often we're on autopilot, unaware of the cumulative impact of our communication. We've fallen into habitual patterns of interaction:

  • Criticism or judgment

  • One-upmanship or competitive banter

  • "Harmless" sarcasm

  • Directives and advice giving

Some of these interactions are tolerable and even warranted. More important is paying attention to the balance of positive to negative. Next time you get ready to make a comment, pause to think about which part of that ratio you're contributing to.

For more about what makes a comment positive or negative check out this blog post.

Is It Worth It?

Are you wondering whether creating a positive team culture can be that simple? Maybe you're thinking, "But she doesn't know my team. They'll never go for this stuff."

That's true, I don't. And I'm not promising these protocols will instantly work miracles. 

I am confident that, if diligently practiced, they become the foundation of a culture of positivity. The result? Greater engagement and satisfaction at work that also contributes to a higher performing team.

What have you got to lose? 

Leave a comment about what you've tried and how it's worked for you.