Almost all of us have experienced or observed a team that made a “right” decision that wasn’t effectively implemented because team members did not feel good about how the decision was made.
Developing and using effective team behaviors ensures your team not only makes good decisions but also that team members are willing and able to support and implement them.
And afterward, if a problem occurs and a team member is asked why the decision was made, they will take ownership and reply, “We thought…” rather than “They thought…”
Use the checklist below to observe whether your team utilizes all of these behaviors. Not all people need to do all of these things, but if these behaviors are not occurring at all, then your team is losing the opportunity to make and implement decisions effectively.
Task Behaviors focus on what is needed to get the job done. They help the team find solutions, make decisions, and complete the work. Task behaviors include:
- Initiating: Proposing goals, tasks, new definitions to problems, suggesting procedures or new ideas that initiate action within the team.
- Information and opinion seeking: Asking for relevant information, opinions, suggestions, clarification, or feelings from other team members to help the discussion.
- Information and opinion giving: Offering relevant facts, information, experiences, suggestions or opinions to the team.
- Clarifying and elaborating: Clearing up confusion, interpreting comments, developing suggestions, building on ideas, defining terms, envisioning how something might work.
- Summarizing: Putting various ideas and contributions together that make use of relevant information and presenting to the team in an understandable way. Restating content and ideas in a condensed form.
- Coordinating: Managing and sequencing the flow of ideas or information. Pulling together various ideas and activities toward a clear course of action. Developing plans on how to proceed and keeping people focused on the task according to its agreements. Checking whether the team is satisfied with its procedure, suggesting new procedures when necessary.
- Decision testing and evaluation: Checking with the team to see how much agreement has been reached and how ready the team members are to move to decision-making. Ensuring enough alternatives have been considered. Asking for clarification on which decisions are to be made by the team. Ensuring that consensus has been reached and a decision has been made.
Maintenance Behaviors focus on how well team members work together. Maintenance behaviors ensure good working relationships and maintain the vitality of the team. Maintenance behaviors include:
- Building accord: Eliciting differing viewpoints, exploring and working out disagreements. Admitting error, finding middle ground, or communicating willingness to modify own position. Working to resolve or mediate conflict among team members.
- Encouraging: Acknowledging, praising others and their contributions, encouraging participation by being responsive, friendly, and respectful of others. Demonstrating acceptance and openness to others’ ideas.
- Tension Reduction: Easing tension and helping create an enjoyable atmosphere in which the team can stay focused on its tasks, suggesting fun approaches to tasks, reminding the team to take breaks when needed.
- Gate-keeping: Increasing participation and communication by encouraging less talkative members to contribute or directly soliciting their opinions. And controlling air time of more talkative members. Suggesting procedures that encourage full participation and getting out all ideas.
- Diagnosing and facilitating: Observing the internal team processes (how team members are working together) and using observations to help the team examine its effectiveness, expressing own feelings and asking others how they are feeling.
- Active listening: Suspending judgment in order to fully understand the ideas of others, checking to ensure understanding by paraphrasing and reflecting feelings, responding non-verbally to what is being said.
Three things you can do to help your team:
Share your observations with your team. Pay attention to your team’s functioning. Are any of the behaviors missing consistently? If you observe that there is too much opinion giving and not enough opinion seeking happening, share your observation. Better yet, collect data and share it. How many times did people give opinions and how many times did they seek the opinion of others?
Fill in what’s missing. Provide the behavior the team needs if no one else is doing it. For example, if you notice that there is a quiet team member, as a gate-keeper, ask that person directly what their opinion is.
Monitor your own motivations. All of these behaviors are constructive when your intent is to help the team function more effectively. The same behaviors can thwart your team if your intention is to meet your own needs for recognition and attention.
I couldn’t agree more with what you have said above. Barry Johnson, friend, colleague and now co-owner of Polarity Management Associates, has a nice way of describing the shared acceptance and accountability when things don’t go according to plan — he calls it “the forgiveness factor.” I will that because you are not only forgiving your team mates but you’re also forgiving yourself.
Interestingly the webinar I am doing tomorrow is about being who you need to be for the system to move forward not who you like to be/are comfortable being/have been before, etc. Similar to your “filling in” concept.
Hi Jake, That’s a great way of framing the shared ownership for success (and problems) – “the forgiveness factor.” Also love the topic of your webinar – being who you need to be for the system to move forward. I’d be happy to share the link if it’s open to the public.
Here’s the link. Open to one and all. The registration page still says 8/18 but don’t be fooled.
It’s tomorrow, Wednesday 8/17 4-5 pm ET. Here is the link for registration
I am really inspired by your blog. One of my passions is the study and use of collaborative leadership. The behaviors you have outlined are truly critical to the success bringing together a team to work as one unit. Listening, taking accountability and engaging the team to be free of judgement are pathways to successful collaboration. Thank you for sharing your blog and your tips. I admire your wisdom.
Thanks for your kind words Jen and also for sharing your thoughts on collaborative leadership. We share the same passion. I believe collaborative leadership not only makes good business sense, it is a moral imperative.
Again, great info here. I love coming here to learn, and I appreciate you taking the time to write. I recently conducted a teamwork survey at all levels and in multiple work places. It was intriguing to find that about 79% of us work in a team setting on a daily basis. That makes this post very relevant to all of us leaders. Another interesting piece of this teamwork survey that may apply to your post here was even though 94% reported they knew what was required for teamwork to be effective, only 67% agreed that teams within their organization actually are effective. Further, 45% would not agree that all team members where involved in decisions.
I know I have a lot of learning to do as a team leader. I believe strongly in the ability of teams to accomplish more than individuals. I think in today’s work environment where we are trying to work more out of less, there is great capacity to be found in effective teams. Thanks for helping us all out with some tips to do this well. I’m looking forward to implementing them myself.
For clarification, the stat should really read…
45% feel team members are not involved in decisions.
I believe the way I wrote this above was a bit confusing.
Hi MIcah, Thanks for your kind words and for sharing the results of your research. Your numbers are disturbing, and yet consistent with other research I’ve seen over the years. And yet, studies also have demonstrated that companies that use teams effectively have less turnover and greater profitability. You make a strong case that there is much work to be done in this area. I’d love to know more about your research. If you’d like to post a link here, I’d be delighted to share.
It seems the “Why?” comes first. Perhaps that wasn’t the point of this particular article, but even though it was Nietzsche, I’ll go with his words: “A man can do any what, if he knows why.”
The “How” is crucial, yes. But it’s the cart before the horse to focus on it. If your team is sold on why something is important — if you have shown them, interactively related with them, been consistent in doing it yourself, etc. … i.e., if they believe you (and I don’t just mean intellectual apprehension) … then they will do it gladly.
You’ll still have to guide and monitor the “How” but it will be a LOT less work, and it won’t seem like a mechanistic “tacking on” of something onto a vision nobody sees … or loves.
Hello Paul, You are right that it wasn’t the point of this particular article – I wanted to convey that the process you use to achieve your results will have a big impact on speed and effectiveness of implementation.
However, I absolutely agree with you, and the importance of “why” has been the topic of several of my posts. You might enjoy this one: Are You Taking Your Team to the Moon? What’s Next?
I am so pleased that you took the time to share your thoughts and make these excellent points.