3 Tips to For Productive, Happy Teamwork

29th June 2015

Andrea Darabos

Enterprise Lean Startup | Growth | Innovation | Agile Coach

Founder of Lean Advantage

Best performing companies are run by happy, engaged teams. Some organisations even make employee happiness the primary goal of their business. In practice, however, how much time do we spend on improving teamwork and motivation at work versus preparing for a project deadline or budget review? In the agile/lean community, how often do we actually talk about teamwork on our retrospectives, kaizen events? All too little.

On one of my latest client projects, I had a memorable discussion with a Business Unit manager. He said: “Let me tell you something. Even though we just went through a survey and even received training on employee engagement, it is still unclear for me, what specifically could I do to improve teamwork that we can apply tomorrow?”

So, let’s do something about this problem.

And, yes! I forgot to say that to improve teamwork is not the sole job of managers. If you work on a team, as a team member or as a coach, you personally can take action to fix some of the issues, and introduce new ways to work together. As Jurgen Appelo puts it: “Management is too important to leave it just to the managers!”

Here are 3 tips what you can try:

1, Understand and build on intrinsic motivators

2, Create a sense of purpose

3, Give frequent, pro-active feedback

Let’s visit each idea now – how you can actually do this in your team!

1, Understand and build on intrinsic motivators

According to Dan Pink, there are 3 things to help us get out of the bed at 6.AM with a big smile: Autonomy – freedom – to work at our best abilities, contributing in a way we can best contribute, Mastery – the ability to learn and master our skills, andPurpose – having a clear understanding of what higher goal and contribution to the world we are trying to achieve.

Of course, we all have other work preferences, that complement these factors and these are nicely summarised by Jurgen Appelo’s work called Moving Motivators in the bookManagement 3.0 Workout.

Example cards include – Structure, Relatedness, Goal, Status etc.

You can try the cards out for yourself (download them from the management 3.0 website or join one of our Workout events) and order them in terms of importance! What motivates you to really do your best at work? Do you need natural light? Coffee? Feeling of safety or structure?

Of course, we all have other work preferences, that complement these factors and these are nicely summarised by Jurgen Appelo’s work called Moving Motivators in the bookManagement 3.0 Workout.

Example cards include – Structure, Relatedness, Goal, Status etc.

You can try the cards out for yourself (download them from the management 3.0 website) and order them in terms of importance! What motivates you to really do your best at work? Do you need natural light? Coffee? Feeling of safety or structure?

For example, my personal order of cards in order of importance:

Next, you can set aside some time with your team and order the cards in front of each of you. After 5 minutes, explain to your colleague, what are the top important factors for you and why. You will notice differences in personal preferences – but that’s fine. The point is to “put motivation on the table”.

Then, you can discuss, how you can improve the presence of these factors at your workplace. For example, you can agree to incorporate sharing stories of how you are moving closer to your team goals and where you want to be in the future. Don’t forget, each of us in a team can contribute to improving motivation at work!

2, Create a sense of purpose

In many cases, company purpose statements are completely broken. Would you work for a company with this mission?

“Our mission is to operate the best specialty retail business in America, regardless of the product we sell.”

Surely, maximising profit for our shareholders is one of the purpose of running the business, but as a mission statement of the company, it is utterly demotivating. You can find more anti-examples here.

How about these mission statements?

“We inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”

“Our mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

A good mission statement has three elements in one sentence: verb, target, outcome. In other words, you need to describe, how are you going to make the world a better place, for whom, and what impact are you trying to achieve.

Having a great company mission statement does not mean you should stop here. What is the purpose of your team? And your current project? Successful teams formulate their purpose and rethink it at regular intervals.

So, how could you move this forward? You could start a discussion group or an empty wall space near your team to collect stories of past behaviors that you feel exemplify the culture and purpose of your team. (See more about “Work Expo” on our Management 3.0 #Workouts.)

 

On your next team retrospective – a meeting when you discuss improvements – try to separate what are the current values, culture and purpose of your team and what are the aspirational – future values, that you would like to achieve.

You can also formulate the team’s purpose on top of your Expo wall, using the verb, target, outcome structure.

 

3, Give frequent, pro-active feedback

I still remember the time working as a software developer on one of my first jobs. We had regular conflict on the team – failed builds, missing communication on interface changes, etc. – but we were not really aware how to move forward from a conflict. It was only a few years later, on a leadership training, that I learned about the power of feedback.

There are two things you can put in practice starting today and starting with yourself:

Say thank you to two people every day!

I learned this habit from a good friend of mine. It not only helped me improve my relationships with colleagues and friends but as a side effect, made me a much happier person.

The practice is the following: at the end of your working day, think about who are the two people and what did they do to make your day awesome today! Don’t wait with your feedback. Choose what suits best – use email, phone, Kudo cards or words – and drop them a line to say thank you and how they made your day today!

Give constructive, timely feedback – even if you are remote:

Learning to give and receive feedback is often an underestimated skill. You will only learn how powerful it can be, when you meet a colleague/friend/teammate, who gives you frequent, constructive feedback. The reason why “feedback is a gift” ist that most of us would like to develop as a person both in our personal and professional life.

The challenge of today´s work environments and teamwork is that often teams are distributed or team members are too busy on different meetings for feedback to be face-to-face. With this simple, step-wise technique, you can learn to construct timely feedback in a written form – not needing to wait for the next time you see each other in the office. For those of your familiar with the Non-Violent Communication technique, you will notice that the steps are very similar (only the first step is an extra step).

To give effective (written) feedback:

1, Describe your context, where you are, how you feel, what have you done when you are writing the feedback email.

2, List your observations as facts, what you would like to give feedback about. It is often multiple observations of what facts you observed, as a list.

3, Express your emotions/feelings about each observation

4, Sort your observations based on what you value, what is less important for you. (Start with the most valuable items, observations to you). Notice, we are not prioritising based on ‘good’ or ‘bad’ feedback.

5, End with a suggestion/offer help to the person.

Structuring your feedback along these steps will help you focus on facts and maintain a good relationship with your colleagues.


We know that you want to be a better person by showing leadership in your role or position. That you want to improve your teamwork and culture. The Management 3.0 #Workout  is a workshop that can help you do just that by following our proactive steps to increase employee engagement and work culture.

Come join one of our Management 3.0 #Workout workshops in the UK!
For more info, drop us a line at hello at leanadvantage.co.uk !

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