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One of the challenges leaders bring to coaching is how to get their teams to perform better. Does this sound familiar to you?

Each person on my team performs wonderfully, but their work together is mediocre.

People say they understood instructions, but their work results show that they didn’t. Why didn’t they clarify?

In meetings, the team seems to agree with the next steps, but after the meeting they each end up doing what they want.

Each of these leaders would say they have tried teambuilding exercises and workshops, and yet, the collective results of the team have not improved. Getting results seem more challenging now during the pandemic, says one leader. Some team members are working from home, some are at work. “It is difficult to get everyone together, and there is just so much work to be done.”

Amy Edmondson, professor at Harvard Business School, in her pioneering research on learning teams and psychological safety, discovered that

High performing teams are Learning teams.
Learning teams thrive in a safe space.[i]

Before you roll your eyes and say, “Not another group hug!” know that the research does not that. Rather, it identifies 7 factors that you and your team need to actively work on to ensure that each member can take the interpersonal risks required to ask questions, experiment, and learn. These factors are

1. Dealing with issues – Team members can safely bring up issues

2. Reaction to mistakes – Making mistakes is not help against team members

3. Taking risks – Team members feel that it is safe to take risks.

4. Asking for help – It is easy to ask others in the team for help.

5. Mutual support – Team members support one another and do not undermine others’ efforts

6. Accepting diversity – People in this team never reject others for being different (in opinions, demographic, personality, and the like)

7. Appreciation – Team members feel their skills and talents are valued and utilized.

Google’s People Operations department conducted Project Aristotle, a three-year study of over 180 Google team, on what made teams effective. What they discovered affirmed Edmondson’s study:

Who is on a team matters less than
how the team members interact, structure their work, and view their contributions.”[i]

Project Aristotle also discovered five dynamics that leaders and their could focus on to become a successful team. In the order of impact on team success, these dynamics are[iii]:

1. Psychological safety – Can we take risks on this team without feeling insecure or embarrassed?

2. Dependability – Can we count on each other to do high quality work on time?

3. Structure and clarity: Are goals, roles, and execution plans on our team clear?

4. Meaning of work: Are we working on something that is personally important for each of us?

5. Impact of work: Do we fundamentally believe that the work we’re doing matters?

During the pandemic, how would leaders create brave spaces?

It has become common place to say that the pandemic has forced workers, teams, and leaders learn as much as they can and as soon as possible. This has put a lot of pressure on everyone to get business results out while dropping the very factors that enable teams to do that: the seven factors of Edmondson and the five factors of Project Aristotle.

Edmondson states that the pandemic offers an opportunity for leaders to be more mindful, open, deliberate, and clear in their communication. In these times, leaders can three actions that would set the stage for psychological safety in their team, and thus, encourage team members to step forward, step up, and be brave[iv]:

1. Set the stage – Don’t hide bad news. State the obvious: the uncertainty of times, the need for honest feedback to and from everyone, and that trying new approaches to or suggestions about work are valued.

2. Invite engagement – Ask each team member what they think and listen.

3. Respond productively – Express appreciation for what is offered, and where needed, offer help.

Discover how you could revitalize your team towards higher performance in a FREE TRAINING on 29 October 2020. Register Now!

About the Author & Trainer:

Czarina B. Teves is an organization, leadership, and personal transformation consultant with 25 years’ experience in the private and public sector.

She is a Certified Action Learning Coach (CALC) and has coached action learning teams for Energy Development Corp, Accenture, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Health, and Department of Education.

Coach Ina is a Certified Master Facilitator for Team Psychological Safety (TPS) and has used this to develop team practices for executive, leadership, and work teams.

She has led project teams for USAID-Department of Health, for Department of Finance/Australian Aid – Department of Education, and the Development Academy of the Philippines, among others.

Coach Ina also is a resource person on organizational transformation, systems thinking, coaching and mentoring at the CCE and at the Civil Service Institute. She is currently the head of the Professional Development Committee of the International Coach Federation – Philippines.

[i] Edmonson, Amy. Psychological Safety and Learning Behavior in Work Teams. Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 44, No. 2 (Jun, 1999), pp. 350-383. [ii] [iii] [iv] Kosner, Anthony Wing. Amy Edmondson on the power of psychological safety in distributed work. 2020, March 20.

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