SELF-ASSESSMENT AS A TEAM
If so, here’s an idea from Pete Ashby to help you leave this behind – and really boost your team's performance in the process.
Say to the team that you want to set aside an hour at the beginning of your next meeting so that you can all assess how well you work together and how you might improve your performance as a team.
Say that all teams develop habits, and every now and again you need to ask which ones are getting in the way and should now be left behind.
Stress that you expect everyone to undertake that afterwards there will be no casual small talk outside the meeting about who said what.
Two key groundrules
Before the meeting please set aside a few minutes on your own to make sure that you go into this with a mindset that is all about building the team's confidence and helping them to leave behind any negatives that are stopping you from achieving what you want.
How you introduce the discussion will have a huge influence on the mindset of your team. I have tried all sorts of different groundrules for making this sort of session go as well as possible, and recommend these two above all others:
1. Assuming the best of each other
It will make a real difference to what you can achieve if you ask every member of the team to make a conscious decision to assume the best of each other. You will find that this groundrule makes possible a degree of openness among the team that you haven't experienced before.
On the back of it, you have a natural opportunity to say that in recent months there have been times when people have held back a fair bit and not said what was really in their mind.
2. No self-justification
Secondly, you ask that when you come on to discuss what isn’t working so well among the team, no one starts to justify anything that they did in the past. As far as you’re concerned, any previous under-performance that hasn’t been fully resolved by now should be dealt with as under-performance by the whole team.
This is why you hope that if and when people comment on where the team has fallen short, everyone will make a point of using the 2 letter word "We".
It isn’t him or her or you who got something wrong, it’s us as a team.
In my experience, these two groundrules are absolutely crucial. They will enable you to go a lot further than you expect in drawing out some unhelpful attitudes and then leaving them behind, all within the space of an hour!
Using groups of 2 or 3 to generate ideas
1. Thinking about how we work together as a team, can you identify one or two habits of ours that have helped us to become that much more effective as a leadership team?
2. Can you put your finger on one or two habits that don’t really work for us now - and it’s time to leave behind?”
This is why I suggest that you give them 7 or 8 minutes in these small groups, so that there is just enough time for them to help each other sharpen up their thoughts to share with the whole team.
Bringing back personal ideas
For example, it's really important that you thank everyone for their input. For some people, saying what they really think is a huge deal and it is so important that you engage in some way with what they have just said, probing and gently challenging them to draw them out further.
Starting Off On The Positives
Key strengths, then changing gear
You then change gear somewhat as you open up the major conversation that you want to have with them: “Okay, guys, where aren't we so good?”
Learning the Lessons
If someone begins to go defensive (“That’s not fair, I really must object …”) you need to be quick in reminding them of your groundrule that no-one should try to justify anything that has happened in the past. As far as you’re concerned, any criticism is directed at the whole team and not any one or two individuals.
Keeping on top of the discussion
If someone gets on too much of a negative roll, as people can do when they feel they’ve been given permission to let themselves off a fairly tight leash, you will need to be quick in pointing them in a more constructive direction:
“We’ve agreed that we’re only looking back into the past to help us prepare better for the future. What I’m keen to hear from you is not what you think about who should have done what when, but what lessons you think we should have all taken away from that experience.”
Letting go of "baggage"
It also gives you the opportunity to say how much you value the honesty and integrity that people have shown, and the way some Directors have received difficult comments without letting themselves respond defensively.
You’re hoping that when things go wrong in the future, as they are bound to do, you will all be able to discuss this openly so that lessons can be learnt and everyone can move on.
Please lose the table!
You might not immediately like this idea, but believe me it will give you an even better discussion if you lose the table before you start this session.
For more than ten years I have made a point of always moving the table before starting a session with an Exec team. On those occasions when the CEO wasn’t sure beforehand they always made a point of saying afterwards what a good idea it had been to get rid of it.
From the moment people walked into the room, the absence of the table gave the signal that this time, things were going to be different.
Many thanks for reading this page – and please let us know how it goes for you, if you try out some of these ideas with your top team!