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If we spend that time building that trust and engaging in healthy conflict, make sure everyone is on board and committed, that saves so much energy and emotions later on.
Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we help HR and business leaders embrace joy in the workplace. I’m JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink and Powered by Purple Ink and with me is my dear friend and co-host Susan White, owner of Susan Tinder White Consulting, an HR consulting practice.
Our topic today is building and maintaining strong teams. Susan, I’m not sure about you, but I think that keeping great teams intact might be more difficult now than ever before, due to such high turnover, more and more remote and hybrid teams, and just overall less people in the workforce, which can lead to more stress or burnout as less employees many times are doing more to get the work completed. I know some of us, like Purple Ink, we survived the pandemic with teams intact, yet many did not. And our teams might not look the same or even be in the same office anymore.
I think you’re exactly right, JoDee. I have talked to so many people who… they just are feeling like the work experience they had prior to the pandemic is so different than what they have today. Now, some people like it. They like the fact that more independence, they have a lot more choice about where they work and when they work, but others are just feeling more disengaged and not feeling that sense of community that they loved about work.
Yeah, it’s tricky. So we’ve done a couple of different podcasts around teams in particular with a particular concept or book around it, but I don’t think we can talk or explore too much about the importance of teams, so I went back to a couple of our early episodes as a starting point and thought we could weave some of those in as we discuss, as well. So back in May of 2020, which was episode 90, we had a podcast on The Five Behaviors of a Team with guest Laura Hayes. Susan, you know I’m a huge Patrick Lencioni fan. Like…
Yes, you are. A die hard.
And he published the book – the world famous book – “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” back in 2002. Most all of Patrick Lencioni’s books are fables, and in this particular one, it is based on the thought that we can bring together team member personalities and preferences to form a cohesive, productive team.
Lencioni explains that the Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team are trust, productive conflict, commitment, accountability, and collective results. You might want to picture the pyramid in your head with trust at the bottom, then healthy conflict, then commitment, and then accountability, at the very top results. Throughout the story Lencioni reveals the five dysfunctions which go to the very heart of why teams, even the best, often struggle. He outlines a powerful model and actionable steps that can be used to overcome these common hurdles and build a cohesive, effective team. Just as with his other books, Lencioni has written a compelling fable with a powerful yet deceptively simple message for all of those who strive to be exceptional team leaders.
Maybe that’s why I like him so well, is because his message is so simple. [Laughs]
[Laughs] I like simple. Honestly.
Yes. [Laughs] So the first one, again, at the bottom of the pyramid is trust. So when team members are generally transparent and honest with one another, they are able to build a vulnerability-based trust that he suggests that if we don’t have that trust at the bottom level for our team, that it’s almost impossible to move forward or to move up to the top of the pyramid without it. In other words, we don’t feel as comfortable getting conflict if we don’t have that trust that we feel like we’re in a safe space with each other. So for the listeners, I think, think about how does your team build this trust and what are you doing or what aren’t you doing to help you build trust?
You know, I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this TED talk before, but I may have. Margaret Heffernan did a TED talk called “Forget the Pecking Order at Work,” and it is so good, because it’s all about building social capital and how important it is, as employers, that you give your employees the space to get to know each other so that they get to like each other, respect each other, and they learn to trust each other. Because without that, employees are just, you know, bodies working next to each other that really aren’t going to rely on each other, be vulnerable to each other, share. You’re not gonna get the best out of anybody. So man, I’m so with Margaret, and I’m so with Patrick on that.
Yeah, well, and again, going back to when you’re not spending time together with your teammates as much in these remote or hybrid workspaces, you don’t always get that.
No. You’ve got to really work hard to find the opportunity to bring people together, even if it’s virtually, but in ways that lets them, you know, kind of let their hair hang out, you know, let the walls fall down and build that social capital with each other. So the second level of his pyramid is engage in conflict around ideas. When there is trust, team members are able to truly engage in unfiltered, constructive debate of ideas. I think that is really important. You’ve got to be able to talk about the tough things, you’ve got to be able to talk about what you disagree about. If not, then you’ve got people that, again, aren’t trusting each other, they’re not going to be able to handle the conflicts, handle the obstacles, don’t… they might disengage on you. So you’ve got to make it a safe place for people to disagree. And then they have to keep that respect for sure. But you’ve got to be able to work through it as a team.
Yeah, I think so many times when we hear the word conflict, it makes us nervous. It scares us or we want to run away from it, right? But what he’s suggesting is that we need to invite it. And we can invite it in a safe way, just saying some simple things like, “who can be the devil’s advocate on this idea,” or “let’s talk about all the ways why we should do this, and now let’s talk about all the ways that we shouldn’t do this,” or what… what works and what won’t work. Right? So that gives people that permission to chime in with different thoughts.
I really like that.
The third one is commitment or committing to the decisions made by the team. So when team members are able to offer their opinions and debate their ideas in the conflict stage, that means they’re more likely to commit to decisions that were made by the group itself, right? So even if you don’t agree with the direction that the team might be moving in, at least… let’s say, you know… let’s use a simple one. We’re gonna have ice cream today, should we have vanilla or chocolate? And if everybody wants vanilla, but you want chocolate, you can at least see that, hey, I can commit to this, because everybody else on the team likes vanilla. Right?
Oh, man, you’re making me hungry. I want chocolate and vanilla. [Laughs]
[Laughs] Me too.
Absolutely. Yeah. Well, the fourth level is holding one another accountable, and this one can be the most difficult of all. It’s when everyone says they’re committed and then they go off and they… potentially somebody does something that is not what was agreed to. That’s when the… especially the leader has to be comfortable calling that person out. Now you can do it in a very respectful way, you can do it one on one. But if the team says we’re going to do something a certain way, and if somebody is not doing it, it’s not being afraid to put it on the table and say, hey, we need to make a course correction. And I think that’s where managerial courage comes in. And sometimes if the leader is not present or not available, is when the individual team members need to have that courage to step up and say, wait a minute, JoDee, we agreed to such and such, let’s talk this through, you’re doing something that’s not in sync with what we discussed.
Right. And then the fifth one really is a build up of the other four behaviors, right? So if we have trust, we engage in conflicts, we commit to decisions, we hold each other accountable, then we can more naturally focus on achieving collective results. We’re more likely to have a successful outcome if we’ve gone through all five of the behaviors. So it’s really the ultimate goal – right? – of having that trust, conflict, commitment, and accountability, is the achievement of results. And the… so this overall Five Behaviors model is used to help team members learn to work together more efficiently and effectively and became become a more cohesive team. It really, Patrick says in the book, leads to a more productive and high functioning team. They make better and faster decisions, they tap into the skills and opinions of all members, which is so important, right? People want to be on a team and feel like their skills and opinions matter.
They also… these will help you avoid wasting time and energy on the politics, the confusion and destructive conflict. It will help you avoid wasting time talking about the wrong issues. A lot of energy goes into some of the wrong topics. And revisiting the same topics over and over again because of a lack of buy in. Also, it will help you create a competitive advantage. And then, you know, bottom line, we in The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast belive it’s going to be more fun team to be on.
Right. I think really any individual or team can learn from this book. But there is also an assessment tool that is available, as well. You can take the assessment as an individual to understand your own tendencies with regards to the Five Behaviors, or, and more likely, really, what the book was written for, is for team members to take the assessment to use as a tool to measure the effectiveness of the entire team. The assessment is best for teams who have worked together for at least six to 12 months. That is, if you’re a brand new team, you might not have developed trust yet, or you might still be unsure… unsure when engaging in conflict. But the team can review the assessment, formulate action plans around each behavior, and continue to reassess over time to measure the effectiveness of the action steps. So it gives you a baseline score the first time you do it and then you can take it again in six months or a year and see have we done these action steps and have our scores increased because of it.
I love it. Have you done this with clients, JoDee? Have you put teams through it? And tell me what some of the highs or outcomes have been.
Yeah, I think one thing that is interesting to me is that based on everything we have just said, you would think that trust… let’s say… it’s on a scale of one to five, so if your trust score is 3.5, then you would think that all of the higher levels would be below 3.5. Right? Because I said you can’t get to the next… But it actually isn’t that obvious that… that they are lower. So you might actually have… you might… I just am working with a team right now, who has I think about a 3.5 in trust, but they also have very high scores in results. And the ones in between are sort of all over the place. But I… what they’re telling me is that they do achieve a lot of great things, they meet their goals. But I suggest, just think how much better or easier or faster it could be if you work together as a team. So I think individually, they achieve a lot of the results and goals they set out. But in working through this model, they’re… they’re getting now, like, wow, if we did this, we’d be even better.
Right. And you have a lot more fun too, I would think.
Right. Interestingly – or maybe not – but accountability tends to be the lowest scored of all of the behaviors for most all teams. And Lencioni strongly points out that this is not always the leader who holds everyone accountable. You said this earlier, Susan, it really takes all of the team members to hold each other accountable. Yet, he has researched that the more the leader models this behavior of accountability, the more likely the team members will and should hold each other accountable as well. And sometimes we have to slow down to speed up. That’s a difficult one for me because I don’t like to ever think about slowing down.
But if we spend the time on the front end… for example, if we spend that time building that trust and engaging in healthy conflict, make sure everyone is on board and committed, that saves so much energy and emotions later on.
Makes sense. Well, gosh, what a great review of that book. Thank you so much. So JoDee, another episode that’s worth highlighting on this topic was episode number 63 that launched in September of 2019. It’s where we talked about “The JoyPowered® Team,” the book that we wrote along with five other co-authors. We shared how we built a JoyPowered® team and how listeners can too. We address teams from soup to nuts – how they were formed, what makes them succeed and fail, roles on the team and finding yours… your role, team diversity, and transitions and leveraging the strength of team members. One of the key points in the book, as well as your first book, JoDee, “JoyPowered®,” it was about intentionally creating an inspiring workspace so that we can ensure that we have the right people on the bus. And for those who are not the right people, to have them remove themselves or be removed from the bus by others. This is how we promote accountability. If certain team members are not meeting expectations, communicating the right way, inviting healthy conflict to the team, you know, it’s really sometimes an act of kindness to get them off the bus. And if they don’t recognize it, realize it, we can’t allow it on the team. And so sometimes we have to show them the exit.
Yep. You know, I know when I think back, actually, about my first book and this book, I… I talk a fair amount about getting people off the bus – right? – or off of your team, which doesn’t sound very JoyPowered®. But in the end, I think it really is. Right? People who are not functioning well on your team probably or maybe aren’t in the right position, they’re not finding joy in their work, or maybe they’re overly stressed about it, or they don’t feel they fit in on the team, whatever that might be. And if that then leads to poor performance, we need to move them forward – right? – somewhere else, so that the rest of the team doesn’t feel bogged down by that team member as well.
And I am convinced that that person is going to be happier somewhere else. I just… I’ve seen it happen thousands of times, where there’s… somebody’s not doing well on a job, and I would say they don’t initially want to lose their job. That’s, you know… that’s could add extra problems for them. But once they get on the other side of it, they find much better peace and harmony, because they’re in a job where they’re… they’re valued, in a job where they’re seeing the value, in a job where they can add value. So I just… I know, as painful as it is in that separation process, there’s a brighter tomorrow. There absolutely is.
Right. I agree. So we know that a successful team starts with hiring the right people, those who value working towards a common goal. They’re goal oriented and respect the roles on the team. Once the right people are in place, the goal is to bring them together into a cohesive unit. Just a few of the recommendations that we haven’t specifically mentioned already. Number one, I think is so important – to set the expectations for everyone and by everyone. Right? Sometimes we need to work through what those are, but it might be the deadlines, it might be the quality metrics, some sort of statistics or numbers that we’ve set out to achieve. And keeping those in front of team members. I think it’s so much easier to hold people accountable if we’ve set those expectations from the beginning as a group.
And number two, communicate, communicate, communicate. When you think you’ve communicated all you can, communicate some more.
Number three, recognize and/or reward team members for individual and team achievements. Those might… might be successfully completing the project, they might be meeting milestones along the way. I do believe it’s important to… to celebrate or acknowledge those achievements along the way and not just wait until the project is complete.
Right. Or that annual performance review. Celebrate along the way. But number four is diversity. And you know, honestly, we’re both big advocates of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. But I think it’s important to bring it all the way to thinking about, as you’re forming your team, making sure that you’ve got different strengths with different styles on the team. Incorporate unique perspectives. Relish the diversity. Challenge yourselves to make sure that you’re… you’re thinking very, very broadly. Different ages, different races, different backgrounds, different interests, that’s going to make for a much more viable and active and positive team.
Yeah, I love it. And number five, briefly, we’ve mentioned the word strengths a couple of times throughout. You know, we are… Susan and I are both huge proponents of CliftonStrengths Finder and understanding what different strengths are on the team. So be able to empower each other to use those strengths to work well together and achieve the goal. So we mentioned both of the former podcasts when we talked about teams, you can also find our JoyPowered® teams book and my original book, “JoyPowered®” at getjoypowered.com. Patrick Lencioni, his book, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” can be found in your local bookstore or Amazon or whatever works, as well.
So JoDee, we have a listener question today. Here it is. “How do I handle anxiety at work and/or about my job?”
So we’ve had this one on the list for a while. Someone… actually, I think a couple people had asked similar questions, and I was avoiding it, because I didn’t really feel qualified to answer this question. And then I decided, you know what? I’m gonna… I’m gonna take this one on, because I want to know more about how to answer it, as well. I’ve not really had anxiety about my work before, I… at least I couldn’t think of a time that I have. But I have had some times when I was not excited or, as I like to say, I was not JoyPowered® about my work. Of course, Susan, we’re not mental health counselors, as you know. So if… if the listeners are suffering from work anxiety, we recommend you reach out to a health provider and/or your EAP for assistance. But there are some common recommendations that… that we can do to work through this anxiety. Number one is talking about your feelings to a friend or family member, maybe it is a health professional or a counselor.
Try calming breathing exercises. You know, sometimes just taking a really deep breath, letting it out, is kind of like the old counting to 10. I really do think it kind of enables you to reset, rebalance, kind of ground yourself.
You can also use exercise, such as running or walking, swimming or yoga. And those can help us relax. Doesn’t always seem very relaxing, but the exercise itself can take our mind off what we might be anxious about.
Think about your sleep. Work hard at getting enough sleep. Giving yourself enough permission to go to bed early. JoDee and I are big go to bed early people. But also, I know a lot of people struggle with sleep. I know that when I’m worried about something, man, I see the clock at two… 2am, 3am, 4am. There’s lots written out there about how to help yourself go back to sleep, or see your doctor. There’s, you know, different types of treatments out there that hopefully can be of help to you on that end.
Another one is eat a healthy diet with regular meals to keep your energy levels stable. That… I don’t always think about that as impacting maybe my mental well being, but I think it does, or especially if you struggle with blood sugar issues, too, right? Just maintaining that consistent timing.
Another one is consider some peer support, you know, where people use their experiences to help each other. You know, maybe you’ve got a mentor or you’ve got a colleague or friend who might be experiencing some of the things same things you are, and it can be really helpful to talk about how are you dealing with this or dealing with that, so a support group could be an answer for you.
And of course, you can also listen to podcasts that might be designed for support or even a couple apps. Headspace or the Calm app, I think those are both good apps, as well.
Yeah. And in fact, we did a podcast with Saundra Schrock, who’s the CEO and founder of Levelhead – L-E-V-E-L-H-E-A-D – that a lot of universities and businesses have purchased this app so that their students or their staff members have a real program about staying calm, reducing anxiety in the workplace or in the… in the school. So I’d take a look at it.
Yeah. In our in the news section, in a SHRM article dated July 1 of ’22 by Roy Maurer, Google recently launched an artificial intelligence powered preparation tool that assists job seekers with the only tried and true method for getting better at interviewing for a job – and that’s practice, right? Sometimes we think practicing is so silly or so difficult to do on our own, but this… Google has this free tool called Interview Warmup that I thought was fascinating. It asks you common interview questions selected by industry experts, and it transcribes those responses in real time and uses basic machine learning to provide feedback.
Wow, that’s great. The tool asks general job Interview questions such as “tell me a bit about yourself.” That’s always a hard one, isn’t it? Where do you start and where do you stop? It also asks about work experience. It also asks questions about how the applicant may handle specific situations, and technical and skill specific questions.
In addition to transcribing the mock interview for personal review, the tool’s machine learning identifies job related terms and overused phrases, which I think is really unique, and generates common talking points to improve responses. This tool might be a glimpse into a future of robot recruiters which will conduct those initial applicant screenings, especially for high volume employers.
Yeah. So thanks for tuning in today and make it a JoyPowered® day.
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