All eyes are on you. Twenty or so coworkers from different countries have gathered for your session around The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team™. Can you draw them into a learning experience that will strengthen the way they work together?
We want to share our experiences from walking this road, and what we have found to work well with a mix of western, Middle Eastern and Asian cultures. This is the last part of a five-part series.
In Lencioni’s model we have moved from building Trust to handling Conflict to forming Commitment. In the last article we discussed holding each other Accountable. Finally we are talking about driving Results – the last of Lencioni’s interconnected Five Behaviors.
Being focused on Results means that we routinely ask as a team, “Are we accomplishing the things we set out to achieve?” Teams are equipped to do this in a healthy way where we have built trust, worked through conflicts, committed ourselves to clear goals and become engaged in holding each other accountable.
Lencioni points out that ego, career development, money, and loyalty to your own department compete with a focus on team results. That is especially true when momentum is lost or things go wrong, because these undercut motivation to engage generously or constructively with others.
A focus on results requires us to put the success of the team ahead of individual success. As with the previous steps, we have found much of what activates people to do this is shaped by the cultural drivers known as the Three Colors of Worldview.
Cultural Drivers of a Team Focus
If we have gotten to a good depth of Commitment through the Five Behaviors process and bonded as a team, it should be motivating in and of itself to achieve results and reach our goals. As we move forward, tying our team goals into people’s cultural value systems help us stay on track.
I am motivated to pursue team success in the Power/Fear dimension because I want to align with power and grow my powerbase, and also energize others. You will hear things like, “I want to have clout in our organization, contribute value to my industry, or make life easier for my colleagues.” I need to see that these team commitments empower me to do that.
In the Innocence/Guilt dimension, I will be motivated to put team results first if I agree with our goals and think we are making principled choices. I want to have a feeling of acting consistent with values, or at least appear that way. You are more likely to hear deductive reasoning and people pushing back in decision-making to make sure we stay in line with our values. When the team is successful, you will hear things like, “We did well, we did this right.”
When the team is successful from an Honor/Shame point of view, you might hear things like, “These achievements bring honor to me and my family. They bring great respect to our team, our division, our company.” Or even, “These bring honor to our city, village, or country.” What grows or takes away honor fuels people’s involvement and commitment to a team.
One of the overarching themes that keeps coming back in this step is communication. As the timeline progresses, what do we say, what do we not say, how do we say it, and what channels do we use to stay together and on track? Team goals themselves also change over time.
One of our biggest challenges after creating commitment is keeping people aligned and headed where we need to go. That idea is echoed in the communication model of Wiley’s “Work of Leaders” book: crafting, vision-building, alignment, championing and execution. As a team, once you have crafted a vision and decided, “Yes, we commit ourselves to this,” we begin re-aligning to keep momentum going.
You might form a taskforce of 3-5 people to tackle part of a bigger milestone, and they break that down into additional layers of coordination. Creating a taskforce and letting it run brings some risk for a leader, so you need multiple touchpoints for feedback.
Think carefully and creatively about touch-points. These do not have to be formal meetings, or even with the boss directly. Team members need permissions to quickly check up with colleagues about tasks, ask for help, and speak up when they are struggling. Touch-points can also be used to offer help if you get done early with a task. Keeping momentum when things go wrong or things pop up that are not in the timeline requires a team culture with good feedback mechanisms.
As a leader, if you pick up on commitment sliding you may need to sit down with a team member and say “I’m getting vibes that you’re not so happy with the commitment you made two months ago. Where are you now on that?” Ask clarifying questions like “What is your interpretation of what you’re telling me?” and end with “What are we going to do about it?” These are constructive conversations around alignment.
When Goals Have to Change
One of the key ways we keep results at the focus of our team is in handling accountability when one of our goals is no longer going to work. It is one thing to hold people accountable for things we still believe will be successful. But what about when we know a goal needs to be dropped?
I have to go back to you and say, “We need to stop this, we need to try something else.” How safe is that kind of accountability? Maybe we do not have the budget any more, or a talented person we relied on has left the team, or the customer does not want it any more, or the market has changed.
Leaders are often the ones who must open this conversation. This is complicated by the fact that leaders are also often the ones who pushed the idea through strongly in the first place. If you pushed too hard to get people to commit quickly, and only got flaky commitment, it is that much harder to go back and admit you were wrong. Your position of power or honor is more at stake.
How easy is it to have the conversation ‘we need to recalibrate?’ How easy is it to open up the conversation and how easy is it for people to talk through it? A team leader needs to be clever how he or she feels the pulse of the team.
Maybe the idea came from someone else on the team. One of them put herself out there earlier and sold the team on something. Then it failed. They had their compelling reasons and they were wrong.
It is easy to say “Let’s not take things personally”, but I cannot assume people will be able to do this from a Three Colors point of view. The person’s power and honor is at play. They were found out to not be as accurate or right as they thought they were. Issues from all Three Colors of Worldview can slow things down.
To pursue results, we need to create a team culture where it is relatively easy to have these conversations – between peers as well as from the top-down. The onus is on the team leader to be a good facilitator around ongoing alignment of results.
Generosity and Team Time
Team Time is a helpful concept from Wiley’s Time-Mastery System. Articulating what I am doing and how I am spending my time to others has a direct influence on the results of the team as a whole. So commitment to the success of the team must include commitment to communicate with others, and budget time and effort to do that.
I need to plan on spending time to say “I’m struggling,” or “We seem to be running out of resources” so I can be free to do so when the need arises. We recommend people establish bandwidth of at least 5% Team Time to accommodate this. If I need to escalate something and say “I know you’re much better at this – can you have a look?” I also need to know my colleague has 5% in his schedule to help out.
This is a kind of generosity, where we have open doors to create quick moments where we champion execution and get re-aligned.
Team Time is an example of something that can become a core behavior in a team culture. Because team growth is not just behavioral, but cultural, talking through the Five Behaviors with a one-time workshop is only the beginning.
It is easy just to focus on end products, but discussions around things like Team Time also keep us in touch with how we are getting there. These core behaviors are the ethos of the culture we want to create and the cultural and relational organism that produces results.
Focusing on Results in this last step of the Five Behaviors is a beautiful way to close the conversation. Once you have gone through all five steps, we highly recommend you capture core behaviors for your team around each of them. These core behaviors will outline what we call a Third Cultural Space within your team, where members have developed a safe and culturally-integrated environment to carry out the role, function, mission and vision of the team together.
Bonus Section: The 12 Dimensions of Culture©
Through this series, we have frequently referenced aspects of the 12 Dimensions of Culture© – things like Destiny orientation, and Direct and Indirect Communication. We want to give you a little bit more of a taste of these cultural preferences here at the end. These dimensions add a deeper level of practicality to working with teams.
Directive Destiny oriented people are poised to engage in shaping their world. They see an opportunity and step into it; they have an opinion and they voice it. Directed Destiny oriented people, on the other hand, can be equally hard-working, but more focused on finishing the tasks they have been given. They are more inclined to take what life gives them, and wait for the next thing rather than pursuing it.
Finding a balance in team culture in this dimension means discussing what to do when the next step is not explicitly laid out. Do individuals have the freedom to try their own ideas and pursue results creatively? Are there processes in place for escalating issues and getting help and direction when we get stuck?
Some people are naturally more open to share information, while others are more guarded and exclusive. These are the poles of Inclusive vs Exclusive Connecting.
In a project or team, you need to communicate who is allowed to be part of meetings, and what role closed-door meetings will have. This is more necessary in some industries than others. The type of work you are doing and the level of confidentiality needed will determine the ways your team must be inclusive or exclusive. Discuss thoroughly the need to share or protect information so people understand why it matters.
In some cases I might say, “Sorry guys, this is the policy and we’re not going beyond it.” In other cases I might decide, “Hey, we thought we were going to do it this way, but we need to get this relationship unlocked.” Maybe there’s a conflict that could hinder or slow us down, or we have gotten some feedback that we could run into a major delay. “So let’s switch gears, let me talk to this person, let’s unlock this from a relationship-based point of view and we’ll put the relationship first to help shape how we approach this.”
These are the poles of Rules-Based and Relationship-Based Decision-making. High-performing intercultural teams can flex between the two to drive results.
Intercultural teams often have a mix of more direct and indirect communicators. On a fast-moving team, indirect communicators might have to learn to become more direct to enable pragmatic decision making. That requires you to reach a high level of trust where people feel safe.
Indirect communication has great strengths as well. It is slower and often more rich and story-based. So it has the potential to touch people at a deeper emotional level. From a neuro-science point of view there are actually more parts of your brain involved when communicating indirectly. Our team goals and environment will shape the way we need to communicate within our team and in client-facing relationships, as we discuss how and when to voice things.
The final dimension I want to highlight is the Accountability dimension. Both Individual and Community Accountability are hugely important here, and the balance needs to be fine-tuned when it comes to getting the results we want.
Results cannot be pursued on just an individual level. The great thing about Lencioni’s model is that he already has a community accountability mechanism in place, where we put the team first.
You might need more than that though. You might need a number of community accountability oriented performance measures where we quantify success indicators at a sub-team, committee or task-force level. If we want team-oriented results we need team-oriented metrics people will be measured against. Celebrate and reward those collective successes with the same enthusiasm as individual ones.
These are just a few of the elements of the 12 Dimensions where the “how” and the “what” and the “why” of the core behaviors we need on our team will come alive. For more information about the 12 Dimensions of Culture, you can visit our summary article here: 12 Dimensions of Culture
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