In our team (and at home) we have a few simple expectations.
We expect for instance, that people take responsibility, that they try their best and that they respect each other. I genuinely hope that your teams are built on the same principles. Human decency alone suggests that they should be common place. One expectation that may not be so common is that in our team we don’t want to hear the word “can’t”. I can’t do that! I can’t deliver, I can’t be like you, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t. It is negative and smacks of defeatism. “I can’t” is banned from our team, and I suggest you ban it from yours as well.
Instead let’s try some positive version of the same :
I haven’t learned how to do that yet.
I am having some difficulty here, can you help me with ….
That’s new for me, teach me how you do that.
Each of these have a positive attitude, a belief that you can. You, your team members and your team deserve a “can-do” approach, not the destructive put down of I can’t. Ban it from your own vocabulary and ban it from your team.
It is one of the classic radio and television moments when an overexcited reporter to a football match shouts Goooooaaaaalllll ! into the microphone. This excitement and passion happens when a football team (the players on the pitch, the subs, the manager and support staff) achieve what they set out to do; score a goal.
In football, as indeed in most sports, the goal is quite easy to identify, sometimes it is even called a goal, although sometimes it is called a touch down, try, finish line, basket ….
As a team, you need similar clarity. There really is no point to work together without a clear purpose, a clear goal. Like in sports the goal can be achieved in many ways, depending on the quality of the various team members, but everyone needs to be clear on what the goal is, what specific contribution he or she is expected to perform, and what the plan is for achieving that goal.
Teams work even better when the goal is clearly linked to the overall purpose of the organisation and that this link is clear to all members in the team. Sounds so obvious, and that is the beauty. Do a quick recap, next time you are in the team meeting. Which goal are we aiming for, what is everyone suppost to be doing to contribute to this and why is it important that we reach this goal ?
Not doing so might well result in a bit of an own goal….
When we work together in a team or as a team, we do so because we realise (or sometimes the people who have put us in the team realise) that we can do more together than we can do on our own. Sounds obvious, yet anyone who has worked in a team knows that it is not always as simple as that.
You need positive team dynamics, and an environment in which mutual respect and trust are possible.
We have used the short acronym for TEAM, To Excel And Maximise as a guide for helping us set the right tone for the team work. We want to excel at what we do, not just as a team but also to each other in the team; not just do the job, but excel at it, be brilliant. We also want to maximise. Maximise our output, our reward, our confidence, our enjoyment at what we do. Together, but by doing so automatically we also maximise our personal ambitions.
A short acronym is no magic bullet, good team work takes dedication and commitment, setting the right tone and atmosphere in the team will help you and every team member individually To Excel and Maximise.
Those familiar with the game of baseball will know the ‘three strikes and you’re out’ rule. When in the battle between pitcher and batter, three attempted strikes, or three balls that are not taken but are deemed strikable, are thrown the batter is ‘out’. Nil points. The three strikes rule has famously been used by President Clinton to introduce life sentencing for third time offenders in the USA. In fact the three strikes rule is widely understood to mean that if you have been unable to hit the mark, after three attempts you should not be given any more chances. How do we apply this to the teams that we are in? A team effort does after all depend on people delivering on the responsibility they were given, so that others can build on their contribution. If one repeatedly (three seems a good number) fails to do so, sanctions should be the consequence. This works in teams only if there is good feedback when the first ‘strike’ is called. In baseball a loud : “Strike ONE” from the umpire will leave nobody, especially not the batter, under any illusion what happened. Make sure this is true in your team as well. It is also clear in baseball what the ground rules are before the batter steps up to the plate. “If I miss three strikes, I am out”. Again, there is no ambiguity. Make sure in your teams that the rules are clear before you can begin to keep score. Finally; strike-outs happen. They are part of the game and they are part of teamwork. There is always another innings and another game. In baseball some of the biggest homerun hitters also get the most strike-outs. If the team wants to celebrate the big performances it will have to accept the strike-outs too. Team work, like baseball, is about individual performance and accountability. ‘Three strikes’ is a great concept to introduce into your business.
“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” One of the key factors why teamwork is so disappointing for many members of a team, is that the goal set for the team is too low. When the goal is set, often the lowest common denominator is used, or the concept of the weakest link. Both these don’t count for much in true teamwork. In teams that work to genuine team principles members stimulate, encourage and carry each other to achieve greater heights than they could ever do if they looked at what every member could achieve alone. Teams are only true teams if the individual members complement each other, if they have complementary skills. In other words, if the combination of their skills is greater than the sum of the individual skills. To see this in action, you only have to look at sports. In Formula 1 racing for instance there is only one driver, but he is usually not the best technician and doesn’t change his own tires. Or take American Football, where there is an offense and a defense, which alternate as the play develops (and there is team of coaches too). To Excel And Maximise (T E A M) means that you can, and should, set the goal way higher than you would ever do if you looked at the individual capabilities of any one team member (even the best ones). Just imagine how good a Formula 1 driver would be on his own! With a clear goal, set ambitiously high, and a good team spirit, the team members will carry each other, push each other and ultimately achieve far more than you thought they were capable of. ‘Aiming too low’ means that the multiplying dynamics of teamwork remain untapped, that the potential of the team, the magic of co-operation, is wasted. Team members will instead coast and because they are not challenged they will underperform, often even missing even the low target. To combat this, involve the team in setting the goal, in aiming high. Let the team members motivate each other, evaluate what they are capable of. Do the math, justify the goal and then set your team free to achieve amazing heights.