Teams Need Vision Too

Teams exist to execute to organization objectives. In order to meet these objectives, a team needs a vision of itself. There are eight major elements to a team’s vision:

  1. Consistency with organizational objectives: The team vision should be aligned with and derive from the organization’s overall purpose and strategy. Teams are sub-elements in a wider organization structure and their success will be judged on the extent to which they make valuable contributions to the overall purpose of the organization. In some circumstances a team may decide that it is important for its own values, purposes and orientations to act as a minority group which aims to bring about change in organization objectives – perhaps like a red team.
  2. Receiver needs: Teams focus on providing excellence in service to its customers, whether internal or external.
  3. Quality of work: A major emphasis within organizations is the quality of work. The relationship between quality and other functions like efficiency is important.
  4. Value to the wider organization: Understanding the importance of the team just not for the wider organization but beyond, leads to team cohesion and greater team effectiveness. Team members need a clear perception of the purposes of their work.
  5. Team-climate relationships: Team climate refers to aspects such as the warmth, humor, amount of conflict, mutual support, sharing, backbiting, emphasis on status, participation, information sharing, level of criticism of each other’s work and support for new ideas.
  6. Growth and well-being of team members: Growth, skill development and challenge are central elements of work life and teams can be a major source of support. Teams provide opportunities for skill sharing and support for new training. Teams need to be concerned for the well-being of its members, including things like burnout.
  7. Relationships with other teams and departments in the organization: Teams rarely operate in isolation. They interact with other team and departments within the organization. Teams must be committed to working effectively and supporting other teams. Avoid silo thinking.
Criteria for Team Vision

Teams reason better

Teams collaborate better than individuals on a wide range of problem-solving for two reason:

  • People are exposed to points of view different from their own. If the arguments are good enough, people can change their mind to adopt better beliefs. This requires structure, such as “Yes…but…and
  • The back-and-forth of a conversation allows people to address counterarguments, and thus to refine their arguments, making it more likely that the best argument carries the day.

Both of these work to reduce bias and subjectivity.

Principles of Team Collaboration

There are a few principles to make this team collaboration work.

  • Clear purpose: What is the reason for the collaboration? What’s the business case or business need? Without alignment on the purpose and its underlying importance to the organization, the collaboration will fail. The scope will start to change, or other priorities will take precedence. 
  • Clear process: How will the collaboration take place? What are the steps? What is the timing? Who is responsible for what?
  • Clear expectations: What is the specific goal or outcome we are striving for through this collaboration? 
  • Clear supportProblems will arise that the team cannot handle on their own. In those cases, what is the escalation process, including who and when? 

Ensure these are in your team ground rules, measure success and perform continuous improvement.

Moving to Hybrid Teams

The day is coming where parts of my team will be returning to the office. However, the days of expecting everyone to be in seat 5 days a week are probably over for a while and the definite reality of hybrid teams is something we need to prepare for.

Hybrid teams have members working in very differing situations, with differing levels of autonomy, ability to socialize and access to the team leader. It will be a key activity to ensure that all team members are treated equally and fairly, regardless of their work arrangement, moving forward. Especially since everyone will be dealing with vulnerabilities, both those back in the office and those remote partially or fully.

Here are some key steps I am planning for, based on advice from this Forbes article.

Relaunching the Team with a Kickoff: As a leader who started remotely almost a year ago, I feel an acute need to meet my team in person and celebrate with them. This will also be an opportunity to kickoff this new chapter in the team’s life.

Level the Playing Field: Ensuring everyone has equal access to me will be key. Team meetings will be fully remote, with on-site folks logging in from their desks. I’m keeping a calendar to track how much face-to-face I get with people and I’ll be looking for opportunities to connect in multiple ways.

Over-communicate: I’ll be honest, I am a little tired from the volume of communication is going on now, but going hybrid means I will need to double-down on my efforts here. I’ll be keeping my consistency meetings, my team meetings, my skip-levels, the over sharing of things I find interesting. I’ll also be looking for ways to recharge myself so the exhaustion level feels a little less.

Understand the individual work styles: It is time to update the communication charter.

Establish New Hybrid Team Rituals and Norms: Learn from what has gone right and create some new rituals. I will be looking for some real innovation from the team here.

Deliberate inclusivity will be critical as we enter this new phase. Planning now as we get ready will lead to better results. Now is the time to start updating your team ground rules.

Here is my current agenda for the team kickoff, developed using SessionLab.

ActivityDescription
Breakfast 
IntroductionReview Agenda
9 Dimensions Team Building Activity9 Dimensions is a powerful activity designed to build relationships and trust among team members.

There are 2 variations of this icebreaker. The first version is for teams who want to get to know each other better. The second version is for teams who want to explore how they are working together as a team.
Break 
Team Self-AssessmentThis is a structured process designed for teams to explore the way they work together. The tight structure supports team members to be open and honest in their assessment. After reflecting as individuals, the team builds a collective map which can serve as the basis for further discussions and actions. The assessment is based around 6 dimensions. Each one encouraging the team to reflect and analyze a different and crucial element of their behavior.
Lunch 
SpyA simple game that will have everyone running within minutes. Very effective to fight the “after-lunch” dip.
Engineering Your Team OSThis is designed to work as a standalone workshop or as a companion to the Team Self-Assessment tool. Using reflections and insights on your working process, your team will ‘update’ its operating system by making deliberate choices about how to work together. The goal is gradual development, not a radical shift. You will design an ideal-state for your team and slowly work towards that.
Break 
3 Action StepsThis is a small-scale strategic planning session that helps groups and individuals to take action toward a desired change. It is often used at the end of a workshop or program. The group discusses and agrees on a vision, then creates some action steps that will lead them towards that vision. The scope of the challenge is also defined, through discussion of the helpful and harmful factors influencing the group.
Review Action ItemsEnsure actions are assigned and trackable
Dinner 

Team Feedback

Research on feedback in teams recognizes the importance of continuous reflection and feedback mechanisms to team success and generally finds that the feedback process is an ongoing dynamic system of performance management rather than an isolated event. Feedback is critical to teams learning.

Four characteristics make feedback effective:

  • Type of feedback: Feedback can describe performance or processes behaviors. Performance feedback contains information about individual or team performance to reinforce good performance or repair poor performance by identifying areas for improvement. Process feedback is information regarding the way one performed a task and did or did not reach expected results.
  • Feedback level: Feedback can target the team as a whole (i.e., team-level feedback), individual team members (i.e., individual-level feedback), or both. In the latter, team members receive information about how the team behaves as a whole along with information about their individual contribution.
  • Feedback valence: The positive or negative evaluation of one’s performance in relation to the goal or standard. In teams, potential benefits of negative feedback might be explained by the activation of goal-striving iterative cycles.
  • Feedback source: Objective (e.g., a measure of delay of delivery) or subjective (i.e., opinion of a source). Feedback-subjective sources can be classified as (a) sources from outside the team (e.g., manager, researcher, expert, and customers) and (b) sources from inside the team (e.g., the team leader debriefing about the feedback or team members who give feedback to each other).

Feedback quality is determined by how specific, well timed, regular, non-threatening, shared, directed at teams it targets, and fairly distributed among team members the feedback is. When feedback meets these criteria, it has been found to be most effective.

Most feedback models state that feedback can only be powerful when individuals attend to and perceive this feedback as being relevant, meaningful, and useful. Conversely, if team members perceive feedback as being unrelated to actual performance, irrelevant, or inaccurate, or do not pay attention to cues presented in the feedback, they are likely to disregard, discount, or reject this feedback. If feedback perception is favorable for team members, and if individual perceptions are externalized in the team and shared among team mem-bers (i.e., team perception), teams as a whole will likely engage in interactions during which they will collectively make sense of the feedback and plan changes accordingly.

We live in the age of culturally heterogeneous teams, defined as two or more individuals from different cultural backgrounds who pursue a common goal, work on interdependent tasks, require social interaction, share responsibility for a team product, and have clear differentiated responsibilities and roles. Teams with members from various cultures can provide a broader range of perspectives, task-related knowledge, abilities, and skills. However, culturally related individual differences in social behavior, communication, and cognition can greatly increase the complexity of intra-team dynamics.

Team Ground Rules

All teams need ground rules. Ground rules, the agreed behaviors of the team, should be short, sharp, unambiguous, and unanimous. The best ground rules follow the goldilocks-principle – they exist but are not unrealistic.

Ground rules are worthless unless implemented. A light set of ground rules which have been fully implemented is always better than a heavy set of ground rules not implemented or observed.

This means that any violations must be dealt with early on, or else the ground rules are not worth the paper they are written on.