We had a team away day with a leadership coach. It was insightful. I learned that my approach to improving engineering ability has come at the expense of making us a less effective team.
This is a departure from the usual technical posts I write, which I felt was important to share.
How Can I Help Make a Highly Effective Team?
Not all of this will be applicable to every team in every situation. Please take it as an example of what you could learn about your team and how that might improve your team’s effectiveness.
Make All Interactions ‘Safe’
Every point that follows relies on total respect and full trust between all team members.
I need to actively remind myself that my colleagues are all working toward the same common goal and that they all want to do their jobs well.
It is important to give praise. It is important to acknowledge the good work colleagues do on a very regular basis. Praise should outweigh criticism by a ratio of at least 5 to 1.
It is down to us to reinforce the good work that we do. Regularly giving sincere praise also makes it easier for people to take criticism.
Give Ideas Concise Context
During preparation for the away day, we each completed a Myers-Briggs type indicator test.
I learned that the two team members I was least cohesive with have an ESTJ personality type. I present as INTP.
My natural reaction when challenged about an idea was to present more information.
This is not helpful to an ESTJ and often achieved the opposite of what I set to out do.
Before explaining anything, I need to give concise context. For example, when communicating an idea, first refer briefly to what problem the idea helps to solve.
Stick to The Facts
ESTJs dislike ‘woolly’ information. I need to stick to key facts when making a case.
ESTJs want to plan their work and then work to that plan. And they need to know exactly what is expected of them.
If a new idea requires a piece of work, then I need to stand back and let them discuss and help plan that work.
Some colleagues have outlooks very different to my own. For example, they may be happy doing the same work in the same way years from now. In contrast, I’m the type of person who actively seeks out better ways of doing things. People get contentment out of their work and their lives in different ways.
I had felt it was good to put forward transformative ideas and, given the potential improvements, I have always failed to understand other peoples apprehension.
It is important to recognise that not everyone wants to do things differently, even if we need to do so out of necessity. Accepting differences like this is critical in reducing friction and distress.
Teams should be allowed to make mistakes. Making changes means taking calculated risks and the odds cannot always be in everyone’s favour. Failure should not be stigmatised.
Instead, treat each failure as a learning experience and work on architecting and implementing failure tolerant solutions.
In high performing teams, conflict is a good thing. Conflict when handled well, can encourage people to be open to new ideas and strengthen relationships. Encouraging disagreement and constructive discussion can stop teams becoming echo chambers.
To manage conflict successfully, I need to learn more about my colleagues and their personalities so that I can effectively present ideas and arguments. More importantly, I need to create space for and listen intently to their arguments.
Disagreements cannot be allowed to become personal, about winning or point scoring. Everyone on the team has the teams best interests at heart.
There is, in general, a lot of emphasis on improving technical ability, engineering processes and in-turn, productivity. It is all-too-easy to forget how pivotal intra-team relationships are to making success stories.
Although I was sceptical, I now think a team building day with an effective coach is a powerful tool in making good teams.
In turn, good teams make hard problems easier to solve.