Top performance team tips

This post is from Diego Kerner, Managing Partner for Latin America

In our brand coaching work with teams we have two key jobs to do. The first is obviously related to the content or the “What”: helping the team to come up winning strategies and ideas to grow. The second job – also very important – is creating the right conditions for team to work together in creating both ideas and commitment to implement them; this is the “How” part.

I´d like to share with you some learning collected along the road that proved to help align and energize teams, from my 10+ years as a brandgym coach and as a marketing guy at Cadbury, Diageo and Coke.

1. The positive/negative ratio

There seems to exist a correlation between high performance teams and the ratio of positivity (praising, building on other members ideas, showing appreciation) vs negativity (criticizing, denying, lack of respect). This ratio for high performance teams – discovered by a social scientist called John Gottman and shared with me by Rafael Echeverría- is….5 : 1. For every 5 positive interactions there is one negative one.  In contrast, Mid/low performance teams exhibit ratios of less than 2.

Action:  one technique was use to increase positive interactions is building on ideas, by simply saying what you like about an idea and then “How to” build or improve on it. This is in contrast to the common reaction when hearing an idea of going stright into critique mode. So, instead of saying “That’s a s**t idea, its way too expensive!”, try “How to make it more cost effective?”

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2. Be honourable and humble

Take a leaf out of the code of the Samurai, by making your word something credible and sacred. That will make other team members believe in what you say, and that will grow trust among the team, which in turn reduces fear, one barrier to creativity.

Also, become humble, accept you don´t know everything and recognize your mistakes. This will enable you to learn (you can´t learn what you don´t know you don´t know!) and as a team member you´ll become more trusted, which again reduce fear and increase creativity. As a plus, you will feel in peace with yourself

Action: be a modern Samurai, keep your promises and if you can´t fulfil them (which may happen), let the other party know that you won´t make it and offer a solution. Promote a humble culture, start saying “I don´t know, I need to learn that” also “I didn´t do it well, but I learnt…”. Say more often “I´m sorry” with full intention. This sounds utopic, but it helps you work and waste less energy covering and disguising your mistakes.

3. Learn how to give and receive feedback

Constantly and even unconsciously we are giving and receiving feedback.  Feedback has the ability to push us to be better and improve ourselves…but given in a wrong manner it can turn on our “self defence” system which doesn´t like change and risk.

Team members need to both learn how to not just give but also receive feedback to improve performance.

Good feedback relies on: generating a positive context before giving it, supporting your comments/opinions with facts (no, “all the company think that” is not a fact!), being assertive but respectful understanding there is a human being in front of you and finally learning how to listen properly what people say to you (don´t take it personally: your actions at work are not the full you)

Action: start putting in practise these good feedback tips as of your next significant conversation with a colleague. Planning the feedback conversation well in advance is a way of ensuring one follows these simple but powerful rules

4. Know the person behind the colleague

Sometimes we spend weeks, months and even years working along colleagues that your merely know their names and nothing else. My suggestion is to invest time to know others and let others know you. Why? Because the more you know about people, the more you connect with them, understand them and eventually empathize with them. That creates trust, bonding and higher levels of forgiveness when needed. As the old proverb says: “You can´t love what you don´t know”

Bringing not just the professional in you, but your whole personality will enrich work and relationships. You can´t isolate emotions from work without paying a cost to suppress them or hide them.

Action: find ways to know better others and show yourself. Teams day outs, dinners, shared beers at the pub, bring pictures of your family, show your hidden talents (you will be surprised how much talent is around).

5. Team variety makes better teams

If you hire  the same type of people, with similar profiles, attitudes and even dress sense and I can guarantee something: you will always get the same results and lots of boredom. However, if you dare to bring different experiences, backgrounds and styles, you should get more conflict, but also better ideas. There is an inescapable trade off between richness, higher productivity and higher levels of conflict. Also, to perform as a team, you must have different styles: guys that are good at defining problems, others that perform really well at organizing/controlling work, others that love to ideate and finally a group of people that are really good at implementing.

Action: next time you have to hire a new team member, try to add richness.  When conflict arises, acknowledge it and deal with as much honesty and transparency as possible. Better to face team conflict, which is at the end a form of energy, than a stagnant team that does not achieve objectives.

In conclusion, sometimes in the corporate world we forget or deny peoples’ emotions and feelings, which have a tremendous impact on team performance. Recognizing and dealing with them is not soft and wishy-washy but a hard way to improve team productivity and results.