Team Health Part 3
Group influencing done right
I love it when a single article ‘accidentally’ turns into a mini-series. And since three is a great number, let me add one more piece to the team health collection.
This article is once again about influencing, but a different kind. Whereas part 2 focused on the individual, this time I will cover groups. The need for this distinction became clear to me the more I thought about this topic.
So the target audience is different, but most of the foundations remain the same:
- The goal is still to affect and improve behaviour within the team to increase its effectiveness
- The core principle to our approach remains the same: Not being directive, but encourage change from within
Before diving into the approach, let us once more set the scene.
We are the manager or lead of a team. As part of our role, we are responsible to establish and maintain decent performance. We keep an eye out for signals that require tweaking and we have been observing the group for a little while.
One thing we notice is the high amount of solo work and a lack of context sharing. Everybody goes off on their own. No one knows what the others are doing. And the team members cannot cover for each other.
Clearly, we got a little way to go to establish an efficient structure.
Group Influencing Done Right
A straightforward and sometimes necessary approach is to tell folks what to do. “We’re not doing enough sharing, so from here on out, you need to more of it. Why? Because I tell you to!”
That might work, but chances are high it will not last for a long time. People do not like to be told what to do and think. It also puts a high dependency on us. We need to keep monitoring the situation going forward and reminding everybody about the new rule.
A better approach is to help the team understand and see opportunities, which enables us to encourage the change from within. Here is my basic playbook:
- Surface opportunities. The suggestions, pain points, or ideas need to come from members of the team, not from yourself. But you can play a critical role facilitating and guiding, for example by setting up a themed retro or running a team workshop.
- Team commitment. Once issues or opportunities are out in the open, the team needs to agree on the areas they want to improve on. Focus on two or three areas. Do not try and fix everything at once.
- Iterate. After the team commits to a problem area, it is time for a game plan. And once again, it should be up to the team to find solutions.
As with influencing change in individuals, this can take some time. But by putting the team in the driver’s seat, long-term change is more likely.
Following is a quick example to show how the different steps could work.
To get a read on what the team thinks, we run a themed retro, using Tuckman’s tried and tested stages of group development. The goal is to surface potential issues and opportunities. Our setup is simple:
- List out the four (five) stages
- Every team member picks the stage they think the team is in
- For each of the four phases, get folks to list examples of matching behaviour
As it turns out, the remainder of the team agrees to our gut feeling. No one thinks the team is in performing, and most believe it is more of a storming situation. Great! Here is our chance to influence change.
Firstly, we need to agree as a group that we want to be in performing.
Then we kick off another conversation: What can we do to get into norming and performing? Once ideas are voiced and vetted you can then move into implementation.
Keeping a team healthy and running like a well-oiled machine takes constant focus and investment. It all starts with the ability to identify how well our team is going.
But even more important is the ability to influence change. Influencing a group might feel more intimidating than working with a single person, but it follows the same basic rules.
Do not be directive, but enable the change to happen from within. Only then will the change be long-lasting.