Managing Conflict

I’m studying the Optimizing Diversity on Teams course on Coursera. These are my revision notes for week 3.

Why Conflicts Occur

  • It is difficult to establish common social norms in a diverse group
  • Conflicts can arise from deep level human needs, such as
    • workers personal beliefs coming into conflict with professional expectations
  • Team culture determines the rules (whether written or unspoken) that guide who you’re going to work together and solve problems
  • Humans instinctively form groups and establish rules
  • How does a group establish ground rules when basic assumptions about teamwork vary from person to person?
  • Affective trust: the gut instinct or implicit feeling that you can trust someone
  • Conflicts in diverse teams often form due to the challenge of forming trust (especially affective trust), due do basic differences in communication styles.
  • Expressing disagreement in different cultures:
    • high value on saving face and group harmony, but express disapproval through non-verbal cues
    • more direct ways of disagreement
  • Danone and Wahaha joint venture
    • Danone chairman publicly accused Wahaha owner of funneling funds into another venture
    • Lack of trust meant that neither party could come to agreement
    • Trust might have allowed better understanding, and have avoided the problem
  • Other common reasons for cross-cultural conflict:
    • Differences in communications styles
      • direct versus indirect
      • fluency and accent differences from dominant language
    • Attitudes towards hierarchy
    • Conflicting decision making norms
  • One third of cross-cultural teams rate themselves as unsuccessful.
  • Create strategies to build trust
  • Establish rules in a more inclusive way
  • IDEO example:
    • employees are trained on emotional intelligence to help establish trust
    • norm to listen and not judge ideas before they have been fully explored
    • If norm is broken, members will publicly draw attention to this (delicately)
  • Conflicts often arise from deep human needs, that are often just below the surface
  • Investing in and developing trust gives a team the best chance to overcome conflict and achieve high performance

Conflict Types and Origins

  • Conflict arises from a discrepancy among individuals regarding needs, beliefs and concerns
  • Conflict arises from difference across three critical team components:
    • The team goals
    • The way the team will achieve goals
    • The way team members behave
  • If not addressed, conflicts can generate dysfunction and potentially break the team apart
  • Example of conflict breaking a team apart:
    • CEO of team (Beth) had a disagreement with a member of team (John)
    • Beth and John both wanted CEO role
    • Team appointed Beth due to her high level of knowledge and preparation
    • Beth was forthcoming about what she felt needed to be done to accomplish the group goals
    • The remaining 5 members agreed with her direction, and gave feedback
    • Problem with balance of input in the group:
      • 3 of the groups 6 members could not speak English fluently, so input from them was slower and sparse
      • However, input from John was high, and he challenged nearly every decision made by Beth
      • John interrupted team conversations a lot (despite not having prepared for the simulation)
    • David de facto babysat John, while John continued to antagonise Beth
    • Beth took on more and more of the workload. She couldn’t wait for the non-English speakers to keep up with her
    • Everyone really needed to take things more slowly, but Beth had trouble slowing down
    • Because of the negative interactions between John and Beth, and the communication problems in general, Beth ended up trying to do everything herself
    • John left the the team because of his negative behaviour
    • Beth also decided to leave the team, because she was so upset and could not recover in the short time frame
    • John was difficult, but Beth’s unwillingness to slow down caused her to burn out by taking on too much of the teams responsibilities
  • Have you ever avoided conflict, and taken on too much yourself?
  • What could the team have done?
    • Team learning, taking time to reflect on dynamics, could have prevented some of the damage if the team was able to establish compatible ways of thinking.
    • Better use of people like David, who are able to bridge gaps, could have helped
    • Addressed the representational gaps (see next section)

Addressing Representational Gaps

  • Representational gaps: gaps in perception about team problems, including the team’s ultimate task and what’s important to execute team goals
  • Representational gaps arise from:
    • differences in knowledge sets
    • differences in value sets
    • conflicting interpretations of new knowledge
  • How to reconcile incompatible views?
  • An intentional effort is needed on teams to reconcile different perspectives.
    • This is important because functionally diverse teams often lack shared knowledge
    • Compatibility is established by providing adequate time for team members to build relationships and get to know each other
  • Key is for team members to mutually understand the values, beliefs and attitudes represented in the team
  • There needs to be a shared understanding of how individuals within teams identify problems
  • Four keys to representing any problem: GAEO
    • Goal hierarchy: how we prioritise goals
    • Assumptions: how we assume others behave, or how we assume others are limited in time or resources
    • Elements: components of the problem that are changeable
    • Operators: the ways that the components of the problem can change
  • Companies can set ground rule expectations that establish these shared ways of understanding problems.
    • Teams can recognise that different behaviours may exist, and these behaviours are unique to particular countries or cultures
    • This recognition and acceptance of differences helps to establish shared knowledge, and creates opportunities for mutual understanding among team members
  • At an organisational level managerial staff must set an example for valuing diversity on teams.
    • Examples:
      • Mentoring relationships
      • Job shadowing
      • Relationship building time
      • 360 feedback
    • Watch out for the potential to blur roles and to reduce creative solutions
  • Managers need to be strategic in drawing out their teams’ creativity
  • Jim Shaw, former executive vice president of MTV networks
    • a “left-brain” guy in a “right-brain” organisation
    • Initially responded to creative suggestions by discussing possible ways where the idea could go wrong
    • This had the effect of shutting down the idea
    • Instead of diving in with his perspective on the suggestion, Jim learned to incrementally share contingency planning information.
    • This way creative people can fully explain themselves and get their ideas on the table
    • No two people on Jim’s team thinks alike, and this needs to be accounted for
  • Example from the last section of team that broke apart (Beth & John):
    • Remaining four called themselves the “Small Beautiful Team”
    • Set out to reestablish goals, roles and norms for their team
    • They managed representational gaps between them through establishing frequent check-ins for information sharing and goal setting
    • The norms of active and deliberate listening where critical to their building compatibility across their views and mutual understanding of each other’s perspectives
    • Decisions were much slower and more deliberate than before.
    • One conversation when the new CEO (Nigel) called attention
    • Roles because more evenly distributed and more clearly defined
    • Representational gaps will inevitably exist, but with thoughtful intention, compatibility across individuals and high function can be achieved when mutual understanding is the goal

Conflict Resolution Strategies

  • Three ways to resolve conflict:
    1. Apologise
    2. Use joint fact finding
    3. Get a mediator
  • Apologising
    • Apologies have two functions in conflict management
      1. Demonstrating remorse
      2. Taking responsibility for the consequences of our actions
    • Apologising has potential for profound consequences. A sincere apology can be really effective in
      • establishing trust
      • developing stronger relationships within your teams
      • improving performance
    • A sincere apology has:
      1. an acknowledgement of wrongdoing
      2. the acceptance of responsibility
      3. an expression of regret
      4. a promise that the offence will not be repeated
    • There are four purposes for public leaders in particular to assume the risk of offering a public apology:
      1. Individual: a leader personally admits a wrongdoing so that others will forgive and forget
      2. Institutional: a leader apologises on behalf of a group to repair the groups coherent and customer reputation
      3. Intergroup: a leader takes responsibility for a mistake that their team inflicted on others
      4. Moral: a leader will have an authentic reason to apologise, and believe it is the right thing to do.
    • There are no cases where a good apology went wrong
    • Discomfort is inevitably part of repairing any conflict
  • Joint fact-finding
    • Joint fact-finding: a multi-step collaborative process for parties to come together and decide how information should be gathered, analysed and interpreted.
    • Set ground rules on a fact-finding agenda around a dispute
    • By investigating the technical details behind issues, the process is designed to produce more credible and agreements
    • Joint fact-finding is more likely to reduce conflict since decisions are grounded in facts, rather than emotions
    • Joint fact-finding may not be appropriate when an more powerful or knowledgeable party might use it as leverage to maintain a power imbalance
  • Mediation
    • What type of mediator?
      • You don’t actually need an empathetic mediator
      • A hostile mediator might help a team bond together better
      • Creating adversity might help team to have difficult conversations that get the team on the same page
    • The focus on conflict resolution should be getting the team to work together better

Addressing Oppression-Based Conflict

  • Team based simulation exercise:
    • Pat (an African-American woman) initially offered a lot of suggestions and participated, but became quieter and withdrew as time went on
    • White make colleagues were more successful at getting their ideas accepted
    • No one reached out to Pat to understand why she had become withdrawn
    • The team unintentionally suffered from oppression based conflict
  • The team was not successful, for two reasons:
    • all the team members were not fully engaged in the groups goals
    • the team did not find ways to ensure that diverse and varied perspectives were included in shaping strategy
  • This dynamic happens all too often in teams.
    • There are always going to be prevailing power dynamics that favour the opinions of the dominant or majority group, and discourage participation of marginal or minority members of the group

Interview with Marybeth Gasman

  • How to overcome pressure-based conflict in your organisation

5 Keys To Dealing with Workplace Conflict by Mike Myatt

  • 5 Keys of Dealing with Workplace Conflict
    • Causes of conflict
      • Communication
      • Emotions
    • How to handle conflict
      1. Define acceptable behaviour
      2. Hit conflict head-on
      3. Understand the WIIFM factor (What’s in it for me?)
      4. The importance factor
      5. View conflict as opportunity

Representational Gaps, Information Processing and Conflict in Functionally Diverse Teams

  • Representational Gaps, Information Processing, and Conflict in Functionally Diverse Teams
    • Abstract: Functional diversity in teams, while potentially beneficial, increases the likelihood that individual team members will perceive the team’s task differently, leading to gaps between teammates’ interpretations of what is needed for the team to be successful. These representational gaps are likely to create conflict as teammates try to solve what are essentially incompatible problems. Understanding how these general mechanisms work should deepen our understanding of information processing and conflict in diverse teams.

Team Diversity Basics

I’m studying the Optimizing Diversity on Teams course on Coursera. These are my revision notes for week 2.

Diversity Matters and So Do Our Biases

  • Ethnically diverse and gender diverse companies financially outperform their counterparts
  • Diversity on it’s own is not enough
  • Baby-faced individuals are thought of more honest, naive and trustworthy than others
    • Study using a fictional peace offer from Palestinian leader: offer from a baby faced leader more often accepted
  • Stereotypes and bias
    • Shape our daily interactions, cause conflict and shape trust
    • We must be aware of our own biases – you may think you’re being completely fair when your actually being completely biased
  • Benevolent sexism:
    • Managers who “protect” women from difficult assignments, and so limiting their opportunities for career growth
    • Offering to help women when the help is not asked for, which can reduce confidence
    • More time and money given to older male colleagues due to unconscious bias
  • Hidden bias has consequences for employee retention and burnout
    • Only 1 in 10 women say they leave the workplace for maternity reasons
  • Elements of an inclusive culture:
    • hosting of affinity groups
    • training on hidden bias
    • channels for employees to provide input

Social Identity Theory

  • Social Identity Theory (from Simply Psychology)
    • Social identity is a person’s sense of who they are based on their group membership(s).
    • Groups give us a sense of social identity: a sense of belonging to the social world.
    • In order to increase our self-image:
      • we enhance the status of the group to which we belong
      • by discriminating and holding prejudice views against the out group
    • We divide the world into “them” and “us” based through a process of social categorisation
      • This is known as in-group (us) and out-group (them)
      • Social identity theory states that the in-group will discriminate against the out-group to enhance their self-image.
    • Stereotyping is based on a normal cognitive process: the tendency to group things together. In doing so we tend to exaggerate:
      1. the differences between groups
      2. the similarities of things in the same group.
    • Examples of in-groups and out-groups
      • Northern Ireland: Catholics – Protestants
      • Rwanda: Hutus and Tutsis
      • Yugoslavia: the Bosnians and Serbs
      • Germany: Jews and the Nazis
      • Politics: Labor and the Conservatives
      • Football: Liverpool and Man Utd
      • Gender: Males and Females
      • Social Class: Middle and Working Classes
    • Three mental processes involved in evaluating others as “us” or “them”, which take place in a particular order:
      • Social categorisation
        • We can assign people to a category then that tells us things about those people (or ourselves, based on the category we place ourselves in)
      • Social identification
        • We adopt the identity of the group we have categorised ourselves as belonging to
      • Social comparison
        • Once we have categorised ourselves as part of a group and have identified with that group we then tend to compare that group with other groups
        • This is critical to understanding prejudice
          • Once two groups identify themselves as rivals, they are forced to compete in order for the members to maintain their self-esteem

Examples of Microaggressions

  • Examples of Racial Microaggressions
    • Alien in own land
    • Ascription of intelligence
    • Colour blindness
    • Assumption of criminal status
    • Denial of individual racism
    • Myth of meritocracy
    • Pathologizing cultural value / communication styles
    • Second-class citizen
    • Environmental microaggressions
    • How to offend without really trying

Intro of Torian Richardson

  • In order to have an awareness of the culture, you need to have a self-awareness as well
  • See things in a neutral mindset – go into new situations with an open mind to alternatives
  • US and Europe have very similar working cultures
  • As an African-American working in Africa, it was very different

Diversity and Inclusion Issues on International Teams (Torian Richardson)

  • People gravitate towards the things and people that we know
  • Get to know each other’s families
  • Intellectual curiosity helped people open up their doors, and bond better
  • People in Africa come from a more tribal standpoint

Strategies for Adapting to a New Team Culture (Torian Richardson)

  • Have a level of intellectual curiosity
    • “I would really like to learn something new today”
    • People pick up on when it’s authentic and genuine
  • Get to know the people, their families, even the meanings behind public holidays
  • Intentionality is important
    • In new venture in China, started with intention to lean three things
      • Relationships (guanxi)
      • Why is credit not used as much in China?
      • What about their food, and how it relates to their culture

Cases of Strategic Focus on Diversity and Inclusion (Torian Richardson)

  • Barry-Wehmiller
    • CEO and chairman has a book called “Everybody Matters”
    • “People are at the core of every organisation”
  • GlobalMindED
    • Non-profit
    • Brings together all stakeholders in education
    • Students put together an incubator, where they do a start-up pitch at local schools
    • Coming up with a set of questions that are universal – can be asked of any student. What are your interests, why are you here, what you may want to do after you graduate

Addressing a Critical Situation of Bias (Torian Richardson)

  • Challenge at transport company: people felt as if there were some cultural and racial issues in the way that particular jobs that were given out
  • How to address in a positive way without staying derogatory?
    • bring all the stakeholders to the table
    • looking for common ground
    • everyone who was involved was also involved in created the solution
    • solution was simple, but the process of arriving at the decision was most important

Cultivating the Right Mindset to Manage Diversity and Inclusion Issues

  • Come in with the right attitude – I want to be positive
  • Accountability – level of ownership
  • Take action – actually have to take progressive action
  • Sense of gratitude

Interview with Andrés Castro Samayoa

  • Assistant Director of Assessment at the Centre for Minority Serving Institutions at the University of Pennsylvania
  • The way in which questions of race an ethnicity are coded into the fabric of the institution
  • This happens because there is an explicit understanding of the need for shared identities between mentors and students
  • Role models with shared identities make it easier to connect
  • Examples of unintentionally marginalising students?
    • the ways in which you ask questions
    • how you end up talking to people
  • Red flag: “We think we have a handle on this”.
    • Means people are closing out opportunities for learning
    • lifelong approach

Interview with Ann Tiao

  • Lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Model minority myth
    • Started in the 1960’s
    • Asian Americans were rare in the 60’s
    • Article said that Asian Americans were “model” because they were more quiet, did not voice their opinions (in contrast to African Americans)
    • Divide and conquer minorities
    • Re-emerged in the 1980’s, it was pointed out that they were over-represented in campus
    • It’s not true
      • huge diversity!
      • 50 ethnicities, 100 languages
  • Where are you from? (you don’t look like you come from here, or belong here)
  • Be intentional: what triggers you? What response do you want to make?

Intro of Harvey Floyd II

  • Organisational psychologist and executive coach

Strategies for Reducing Bias (Harvey Floyd II)

  • Exercise around social identity
    • Aspects that are given (cannot change)
    • Aspects that are core to them
    • Aspects that are chosen
  • Example of reducing bias
    • Problem with selection and development
    • Who’s missing, and needs to be present?
    • Open discussion up to them
    • Who’s best interest is it to get this right?

Questions that Help You Create a Diverse and Inclusive Team (Harvey Floyd II)

  • How do we align our values, actions and practices?
  • Discuss undiscussable issues, find a mechanism to discuss them
  • What environment will allow this?
  • Who’s on the team? Why?
  • Who’s not on the team? Why?
  • If I’m stepping outside of boundaries, do I have the authority?

Frameworks for Managing Difficult Conversations

  • SBI – Situation, Behaviour, Impact
    • Feedback model
    • This looks like non-violent communication?
  • Unconscious bias training


Promoting Diversity in the Workplace

I’m studying the Optimizing Diversity on Teams course on Coursera. These are my revision notes for week 1.

The Hidden Diversity Problem

  • Research on gender dynamics in the workplace shows that when a woman acts assertively by speaking out in meetings, challenging others ideas, and taking charge, she is a lot more likely to be viewed negatively than men acting the same way.
    • If a man takes charge, he’s showing positive leadership qualities.
    • If a woman asserts herself, she’s being too bossy.
    • We often have these feelings and reactions to our co-workers without even realising it.
    • We think we’re being fair and objective, our own bias is hidden to us.
    • That’s one of the biggest challenges we face in building a diverse workplace and diverse teams.
  • The Shield (TV show)
    • Producer by Glen Mazzara noticed two talented writers (both women) sitting quietly in a brainstorming meeting
    • He asked them why they weren’t contributing, they told him to watch carefully at the next meeting
    • Every time one of the women started talking, one of the men in the room would cut in straight away, and either shoot down the idea or start running with the it (and cutting the women out)
    • There was a clear bias, but Glen had not noticed it before
    • See “Managing Rewards Systems” section below for a way of managing this bias
  • Diversity is really important for teams. You learned in course two about how teams with different perspectives and independent thinking tend to get better results.

Promoting Diversity

  • Teams with people of different backgrounds, world views, and skill sets tend to be more innovative
    • They’re more likely to bring new ideas to the table.
    • They make better decisions because team members can see each other’s blind spots.
  • Need to set specific goals
    • e.g. adding two more minority team members
    • e.g. having 50% women on your team
    • Without specific goals, it’s much harder to motivate people
  • Need to get buy in
    • If team members don’t feel included in a diversity initiative they’re a lot more likely to be hostile to it and and to work against it
    • To create a sense of inclusion and togetherness, try to link your diversity goals to common team or organisational goals
    • Diversity initiatives are framed negatively as a way to avoid litigation, not positively in terms of how they benefit everyone
    • Talk about how getting more unique perspectives will help the organisation’s bottom line or contribute towards your shared strategic goals.
    • This positive inclusive framing helps reduce the us versus them feeling that your team members from dominant groups might feel
  • Need to build build team relationships across boundaries
    • Proactively build connections across boundaries on your team, create positive opportunities for employees to get to know and support one another
      • Team members will start to see others from a different background as part of their own network or their own tribe
      • They’ll start to proactively look for ways to support their colleagues and help them advance without a team leader or supervisor having to force them to do it
      • Use the third place to do this

Managing Rewards Systems

  • Reward systems in the workplace like performance reviews, bonuses, and promotions are powerful ways to shape culture and create an atmosphere of inclusion
    • They can also be a source of implicit bias.
    • Disadvantaging certain groups of people, even if they appear to be totally neutral.
    • If you’re serious about boosting diversity on your team, you have to think about the unintentional forms of bias that could be hiding in your reward systems
  • Symphony orchestras
    • Few of them reflect the population of the cities they represent
      • Just over 10% of orchestra musicians are people of colour
    • This is due to:
      • unequal access to music education
      • hidden biases in systems of reward and advancement from an early age
    • People of colour are tenured at a rate of about 30%, which is way lower than their white colleagues
      • Peers nitpick small imperfections in their performances and character that they would normally let slide with white musicians
      • This can happen totally unconsciously and in small ways
      • Those small unintentional forms of bias lead to fewer opportunities for people of colour at a large scale
  • Same effect can happen with informal rewards systems. Such as praise from supervisors, recognition for team members’ achievements, or even just who we listen to at meetings
  • How to combat biases?
    • Measure outcomes
      • When you set specific targets for diversity, and measure progress toward achieving them, you can uncover unintentional bias in an objective way and that leads to better accountability.
    • Post results publicaly
    • The Shield (see above)
      • The unspoken rule on the team was men direct the conversation at meetings
      • Mazzara created a new rule for the team. He told them that no one should be interrupted when they were pitching an idea

Managing Personal Bias

  • Derek’s example:
    • Speaking to a mixture of new and old students
    • Made sure to ask questions equally of old and new students in class
    • However, new students still complained of bias!
    • However, during informal periods during and after class, Derek would spend time casually chatting with the old students
  • How to overcome individual bias?
    • Outside observers
      • Observe and give feedback
        • Blind spots?
        • More supportive of a sub-group of team members?
    • Pay attention to informal interactions
      • e.g. Derek made sure students were treated equally, but in formal class time, as well as during informal times
    • Keep channels of communication open between team members
      • Regular one-on-one check-ins
        • Private conversations can make others feel more comfortable opening up

Being A Good Ally

  • Proactively include yourself as a supporter
    • Diversity initiatives are less successful when they’re seen as being divisive rather than inclusive
    • Offer to help the person managing the initiative
    • Sign up to the initiative
    • Ask the other person’s opinions, remember to listen
      • The more time you spend time talking, the less time available to other. You can be even more inclusive just by listening
  • Seek to understand
    • Just listen to the other person

Interview with Arjun Shankar

  • Man of Indian descent learned to “act white” (excluding alternative backgrounds from the work culture)
  • Bring in the alternative viewpoints

Interview with Stanford Thompson

  • Executive Director of Play on Philly
  • Works with some of the most vulnerable children.
  • There’s really power in being diverse

How to Manage Cultural Differences in Global Teams

Fostering Innovation Through a Diverse Workforce

  • Fostering Innovation Through a Diverse Workforce
    • Diversity is a key driver of innovation and is a critical component of being successful on a global scale.
    • A diverse and inclusive workforce is crucial for companies that want to attract and retain top talent.
    • Nearly all respondents reported that their companies have diversity and inclusion strategies in place.
    • Organisation’s diversity goals and priorities won’t change significantly over the next three years.
    • Responsibility for the success of company’s diversity/inclusion efforts lies with senior management.
    • Significant progress has been made to build and retain diverse workforces, but there are still some impediments to companies’ efforts.



Managing Common Team Types

I’m studying Building High-Performing Teams on Coursera. These are my revision notes for week 5.

Remote Teams

  • Half of US managers spend about half of their time on the road
  • Remote teams amplify the challenges around good communication
    • It’s easier to miscommunicate
    • It’s harder to build trust
  • Strategies to improve performance:
    • Have a face-to-face meeting as soon as possible, and schedule them regularly
      • Face-to-face helps establish a rapport and adjust to each others communication style.
      • Later, when communicating remotely, we still have a good sense of each other’s attitudes and feelings
      • GitHub has annual in-person meeting and a mandatory week at headquarters when first starting
    • Have a discussion where each person talks openly about their styles
      • Scenario: a more agressive communicator interacting witha more passive communicator:
        • the more aggressive communicator can come across as hostile, while they think they’re just acting normally
        • the more passive communicator can come across as unwilling to be honest and upfront about their opinions
        • If there is an open talk about how each person communicates, then people can have a better sense of the other’s intentions
      • It’s best to have these discussions during team chartering, when the group is first coming together
      • Use a communication style assessment:
        • DISC Survey
        • Persuasion Styles Assessmement (“The Art of Woo”, but Shell and Moussa)
        • Help each person reflect on their own style, and hence have a better discussion about styles
    • Building the water cooler
      • A place where people informally gather to take a break, make small talk and share ideas
      • Serves an important social function
      • Informal rapport building that occurs at the “water cooler” helps them to communicate more effectively in more formal work settings
      • For remote teams, there may be no natural place to gather
      • Need to be proactive in creating such a place in a virtual setting (“digital water cooler”)
      • GChat, Facebook chat, Slack
      • Dedicate the first few minutes of meetings for social time
      • Be very intential about creating an environment of good communication, as remote teams have fewer natural opportunities to do this

Startup Teams

  • Dollar Shave:
    • Mark Levine and Michael Dublin dreamed up subscription service for discount razors delivered to doorstep
    • Company took off so quickly, they could barely keep pace with demand
  • Other startups aren’t so lucky. They can crash and burn, and you must scramble just to keep the lights on
  • It can feel like all your waking hours need to be focused on getting the work done
  • However, you still have to pay attention to the teams’ interpersonal relationships
  • A good cohesive team may be more important that having a great idea for a product or service
    • Good ideas happen all the time
    • What separates successful companies is the ability to implement the ideas
  • Create check points for adjusting your team dynamic. There are three types:
    1. Engagement checkpoints
      • Establish times when you agree to check in on their level of involvement
      • The specific milestones depend upon their interests
        • e.g. hiring an administrative assistant who wants to work on coding software in the future, you might create a six-month checkpoint to discuss if that opportunity will actually open up for  them
    2. Problem checkpoints
      • Allow you to slow down from time to time and raise the yellow flag
        • Integrate (Jeremy Bloom)
          • Jeremry was more cautious, and he felt that his partner would often plough ahead, even when he was uncomfortable with the decision
          • Jeremy felt that his input was being ignored, so he created the “Yellow Flag” rating system
          • When the partners had to make a big decision, they would put a number on their level of their discomfort from 1 to 10
      • Quick way to surface disagreements, even when your team is moving at a fast pace
    3. Pivot checkpoints
      • A pivot is when you realise that you need to make a significant change in strategy, because:
        • something about your product or idea works really well, and you need to emphasise it
        • or it’s failing, and you need to go in a different direction
      • Tote (shopping app by Ben Silbermann)
        • Tote failed to catch on, except for one feature everyone loved: an option to pin and share products they loved with their friends
        • Silbermann made a pivot, and relaunched with that single feature at its core, called “Pinterest”
        • 2 years after launch, drawing 20 million visitors per month, valued at $1.5B.
      • At pivot checkpoint, decide if metrics require a change in strategy
      • When pivoting, set up a timeline and metrics to decide if new strategy is successful
  • Focus on creating built-in checkpoints that trigger discussions about your group dynamic

Product Development Teams

  • Group think is a major problem in product development teams
  • IDEO:
    • design thinking process
    • no precise framework for innovation
    • starts with the understanding the needs of the people you are trying to serve, and the questions to ask
  • The 6 core values of IDEO designers:
    1. Be optimistic
      • believe that anything is possible
      • designers have the freedom to explore and collaborate
    2. Clients are critical
      • they should be engaged at various points
    3. Take ownership – ask for forgiveness, not permission
      • designers are free to experiment
    4. Embrace anonymity as part of the process
      • the greater good of the team is more important than any individual contribution
    5. Learn from failure
      • there is no such thing as failure, as long as you’re learning from it
    6. Make other people successful
      • talk less, and do more
  • The goal is to get all the ideas on the table, and then to execute on them.
  • IDEO’s 6 principles
    1. Defer judgement
    2. Encourage wild ideas
    3. Build on the ideas of others
    4. Stay focused on the topic
    5. Be visual
    6. Go for quantity
      • there are no bad ideas
  • Sacrificial concept: a concept that may not make a lot of sense or is really basic, shared publicly to get help get as many other ideas out as possible
  • It is the large number of ideas (rather than any individual ideas) that make the process effective
  • Guidelines for setting roles within teams
    1. What skill sets are needed for the project
    2. Its initial goals
    3. The project leader on the client side
  • Ideas happen on the intersection of desirability, feasibility and viability
    • Desirability: asking important questions about what people want when it comes to products.
      • Peoples needs can be broken up into 3 groups:
        • emotional
        • cognitive
        • physical
    • Feasibility: coming up with concepts based on insights from research
      • e.g. what are technical constraints that might present an issue?
    • Viability: an assessment of if it makes sense for business to implement the concepts

IDEO’s Research Methods for Product Development Teams

  • The Times newspaper came to IDEO with a problem in membership:
    • IDEO determined user experience issues was more important challenge to tackle in order to increase membership
    • After an in-depth research process, IDEO helped to come up with a concept that was desirable, feasible and viable.
  • Research methods
    1. Customer interviews
      • e.g. if IDEO is researching refridgerators, they may go shopping with a customer, and ask them questions about their habits
      • Curious about the multi-layered context in which people live and eat
      • Allows capture of smaller and more precise details that might not come out in a survey
    2. Analogous research
      • What are parallel organisations that might provide insight into my organisation’s challenge?
      • What are similar challenges others in the industry have overcome?
      • e.g. in creating a new Playstation game, IDEO researchers took Playstation players to a dance class. Asking questions about what problems they had, the researcher was able to infer similar problems that people new to gaming would have
    3. Experts in the field
      • Interview those in similar or separate fields
      • Insights from the field, and possibly allow collaboration
  • 3 methods allow triangulation and synthesise data in order to determine next steps
  • Allows developement of stories and setting of goals, roles and norms of product development effort
  • Design and prototype allows high quality feedback on initial design
  • Use methods to draw on others creativity, and ensuring they don’t shut down potentially valuable ideas and contribution
  • Methods provide a thorough and psychologically safe way to vet ideas
  • Key lessons:
    • ask the right questions
    • prototype your ideas
    • collect feedback
    • learn from failure


  • Committees: teams of people brought together for goals outside of their normal day job
  • Performance tends to suffer because of lack of engagement
  • High performance is possible if you align committee goals with personal goals
  • Common issues on committees:
    1. Committee members have other obligations that often take a high priority
    2. Committee members may not know the charge
      • aligning their own goals with the committee goals can be a challenge
  • Case study:
    • Committee in north-east US university
    • Comprised of faculty, staff and students
    • Charged to enhance campus and community life
    • Goal setting through a mix of charges from executives, and those set by the committee itself
    • People can set 3-5 short term goals per year
      • e.g. issues related to location of university, or the life of the university itself
      • e.g. research student health costs in theoperations of health insurance outside of the university
    • Deadlines for committee are not strict
    • Goals might roll over from year to year
    • Committment to goals is inspired by:
      1. Opportunity to learn
      2. Satisfaction of accomplishing goals
      3. Opportunity to have a voice
    • Passion for the committee comes from the fulfillment of personal goals of committee members
    • There is potential for private interests to overtake the greater good of the group
    • Structured reflection allows the team to come up with a strategy to correct bias
      • e.g. outside surveys
      • Rules for checks and balances
    • Norms determine roles because committee roles are fluid depending upon who is on the committee, and what the task is
    • It is important to have a process for checking in

Norm Setting for Committees

  • 4 strategies:
    1. Pay attention to communication channels
      • Establish how you will communicate and how often
      • e.g. “communication will take place in person at monthly meetings, with occasional follow up by email”
      • Effective communication doesn’t mean you have to constantly communicate. Rather, when you are together, you are open to suggestions, ask questions and prevent miscommunication
    2. Encourage information sharing
      • Members have different backgrounds
      • Need to understand what contextual information is needed to ensure mutual understanding
      • Take and share meeting minutes
    3. Establish subcommittees
      • Allows committee members to maximise their limited time and focus in an area to make a high impact
      • Each subcommittee should establish their own goals, roles and norms, and align with the task at hand
    4. Have respectful disagreements
      • be aware of the danger of minimising contributions from minorities, women, and other marginalised groups on committees
      • encouraging members to remain open to one another’s viewpoints
      • Get in the habit of saying “In my experience” before giving an opinion, which ensure the option is not assigned to the committee as a while

Committees (Reading)

  • Committees that work
    • Gather facts, then establish procedures
    • Design committees like an architect
    • Assign people to committees carefully—and set them up to succeed
    • Run committees using best-practice disciplines

Building a Strong Startup Team Culture

How to be the Best Virtual Teammate

How to Innovate Like an Olympian

Coaching Emotionally Intelligent Teams

I’m studying Building High-Performing Teams on Coursera. These are my revision notes for week 4.


  • When teams are more aware of team dynamics, there is a better correlation with financial results
  • Self-awareness is a critical part of emotional intelligence

Why Emotional Intelligence Matters

  • Emotional intelligence can be improved by coaching and training
  • Those who are more emotionally intelligent are higher performing
  • Improving EI is not easy, as it invovles questioning your assumptions, and getting into better habits
  • EI trains the limbic systems (feelings, impulses, and drives)
  • Many company training involves the neocortex (analytical and technical ability)
  • To be more effective, training should address the limbic system.

How to Improve Emotional Intelligence

  • Goleman’s dimensions:
    • Intrapersonal (internal) skills:
      • Self-awareness
      • Self-regulation
      • What personally motivates you
    • Interpersonal (external) skills
      • Empathy
      • Social skills
  • Exercise:
    1. Imagine your ideal self
      • Think about what’s missing from your life
      • Think about how your mood affects others
      • Imagine yourself in 5 years time
      • You’re about to write in your journal, answer the following quesions about yourself in 5 years time:
        • What are you doing?
        • Where do you live?
        • Who is there?
        • What does it feel like?
    2. Come to terms with your real self
      • Test of self awareness
      • Ask your team and colleages for feedback
    3. Create an action plan to bridge the gap between real and ideal
      • Collect weekly written anonymous feedback about how your mood affects other people
      • Write in a behaviour journal
      • Attend a class on group dynamics
      • Use a trusted colleage as a behavioural coach
    4. Practice the plan
      • During your commute, think about to a recent difficult interaction. How would your ideal self have handled the situation
    5. Create a community of supporters
      • Change enforcers: a group of trusted advisors who can motivate you to change mental habits.
  • If doing this exercise in a team, remember that the converstatins should be treated as confidential
  • Debrief questions
    • How did the exercise go?
    • Was there anything that resonated with you as you completed this exercise?
    • What there anything that surprised you as you completed this exercise?
    • What strategies will you use to develop new habits in the next 1 week / 1 month / 1 year

Mindfulness Strategies

  • Mindfulness: awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally (what’s on your mind?)
  • Mindfulness practices help foster high performance as a coach
  • Mindfulness techniques:
    • basic breath meditation
    • body awareness
  • NBA coach Phil Jackson:
    • Get all players to synchronize their breath together.
    • Far more effective than simply talking to one another about strategy
    • One lesson equals one mind
    • Pay attention to non-verbal cues on your team
  • Michael Jordan, on mindfulness:
    • developed better self-awareness
    • better leadership skills
    • improved relationships with other teammates
    • help him realise his effect on group dynamics

Google’s Search Inside Yourself

  • One key component for high performing teams: psychological safety
  • Psychological safety is built when you train people in 3 skills:
    • self awareness
    • self management
    • empathy
  • Improving mindfulness techniques:
    1. Attention training
      • use mindfulness techniques to create a calm, clear quality of mind
    2. Self knowledge and self mastery
      • turn attention inwards
      • develop high resolution perception into their own cognitive and emotive processes
      • learn to view own thoughts and feelings from an objective third person perspective
    3. Creating useful mental habits
      • Habit of treating everyone with sincere good will
      • Helps facilitate interpersonal relationships
      • Helps develop empathy
  • Good results!
    • “I have completely changed in the way I react to stressors. I take the time to think through things and empathise with other people’s situations before jumping to conclusions”
  • Neuro self-hacking and organisation hacking
  • Mindful breathing exercise:
    • Improve own attention
    • Help others by guiding them through this exercise
    • Recommend taking 10 minutes
    • Steps:
      1. Sit in an upright position on a chair, cushion or floor
      2. Bring consistent attention to your breath for 2 minutes
        • Fully focus on the breath.
        • You will naturally get distracted, but when you notice that you’re distracted, that is a moment of awareness
        • Gently guide your tension back to the movement of breathing
        • Is the breath deep or shallow? Fast of slow? Smooth or jagged?
    • The more you practice, you will find your abilty to pay attention to the present moment gets stronger over time

Mindful Coaching and Feedback Conversations

  • Active listening: you’re fully paying attention to the person speaking to you
  • Looping: echo back to the person what you think they said, and verify understanding
  • Dipping: check in with yourself to see if you’re really paying attention to the other person
  • In discussing difficult issues, checking in with y ourself and your conversation partner on an emotional level is critical
  • People fear giving or receiving feedback, because of the possibility of receiving critical feedback
  • This leads to procrastination, denial, brooding, jealousy, self sabotage
  • Make it a habit to solicit feedback regularly, instead of waiting for issues to arise
  • 4 step process to adapt a feedback:
    1. Recognise your fear and the maladaptive behaviour that results
      • develop self awareness
    2. Reframe the feedback in a positive light
      • Every strength has a shadow side (e.g. creative versus detail oriented)
    3. Break up the task
    4. Use incentives
      • Keep a daily accomplishments journal
  • Feedforward: focusesd on future improvements rather than past mistakes
    • The person giving feedforward offers help
  • 15 minute feedforward exercise:
    • One on one conversation, switch between giving and receiving feedforward
    • Choose one behaviour thay hope to change that would make a significant positive difference in their lives
    • Describe that behaviour to random participants
    • Giver of feedforward provides 2 suggestions for the future that might help the person asking for feedforward
    • Receiver of feedforward takes notes and listens without interjecting
    • No feedback, only feedforward!
    • Express thanks at the end

Overview of Verisk Analytics

  • Verisk is a leading data analytics provider in insurance, natural resources, financial services, govenment and risk management
  • Specialises in predictive analytics and data driven support solutions
  • Committed to a culture of diversity and inclusion, and professional grow of people
  • Core values of employees:
    1. A committment to excellence and professional growth
    2. Personal integrity
    3. Enthusiasm for challenging work
    4. A desire to contribute capabilities to a successful team
  • Three principles of the Verisk Way:
    1. Serve
    2. Add value
    3. Innovate
  • Company went public in 2009. Has since bought out 11 other companies

Interview with Renee Torchia

  • Renee Torchia:
    • vice president of talent strategy and culture at Verisk Analytics
    • background as an anthropologist and change management consultant
  • Restructure of ISO (subsidiary) to more closely align with their customers
  • Big change initiative, last restructure was 18 years prior
  • Long tenure employees, who had been there from before changed to a for-profit company
  • Moved from siloed org to matrix model
  • Broke apart teams that had been there for a long time (some over 10 years)
  • Previous KPI was 100% excellence
    • very conservative and risk averse
  • More detail on breaking apart long lived teams (“families”)
    • family feel to the culture of their team

Feedforward Forbes

  • Stop Giving Feedback, Instead Give Feedforward
    1. Feedforward Coaching focuses on goals, not standards
    2. Feedforward Coaching includes career guidance
    3. Feedforward Coaching includes various data points, not just one manager’s opinion
    4. Feedforward Coaching takes place throughout the year, not arbitrarily annually

Five Tips on Coaching for Emotional Intelligence

  • Five Tips on Coaching Emotional Intelligence
    1. Continuous improvement of your own emotional intelligence
    2. Personal mastery of vision and values
    3. Strong personal relationships with your direct reports
    4. Frequent spontaneous coaching
    5. Structured conversations when spontaneous coaching doesn’t get the job done

Interview with Chade Meng-Tan

Diagnosing Team Problems

I’m studying Building High-Performing Teams on Coursera. These are my revision notes for week 3.

The Sources of Team Misalignments

  • Team culture is the rules you make that guide how we work together and solve problems
  • Even with explicit rules, goals and norms, it is still possible to have a harmful team dynamic.
  • Over time, rules become habits, and hence we don’t consciously think about what we’re doing (second nature)
  • Rules that may have made sense when the team formed, might not make sense any more (things always change). However, we might not notice this.
    • e.g when a small company grows into a large company
  • It’s hard to have self-awareness of our own tendencies
  • Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow
    • System 1: fast and reactive thought
    • System 2: slow and reflective thought
  • Distraction by phones and email keeps us in System 1 thought, without much chance to go into system 2.
  • This makes it harder to reflect and harder to be aware of our own habits
  • We are over-confident in our ability to understand other people

Environmental Misalignments

  • VW pollution masking scandal
    • Consumers have become less accepting of environmental scandals
  • The external environment – something outside the team changes, but the team does not notice or adapt.
  • Causes of misalignments:
    1. focus on shared information
    2. ignoring alternatives
      • recency bias
      • over-valuing outcomes
    3. Focus on self-interest
      • motivated blindness
  • For all these reasons, teams fail to adapt.

Individual Misalignments

  • One of the main causes in Microsoft’s decline in the 2000’s.
  • Stack ranking assessment – reduced trust and damaged Microsoft’s ability to innovate
  • Team goals should align with individual goals (WIIFM)
  • Individual goals can change. Some examples:
    • Junior colleague develops new skills, gains new career aspirations
    • Things change at work (conflicts develop over time)
    • Things change at home (e.g. start a family)
  • Psychological safety: an environment where team members can take risks.
    • Examples of risks:
      • admitting mistakes
      • addressing conflict
      • offering competing ideas
    • These are risks because no-one wants to feel left out of a group.

GM Case Study

  • Applying lean thinking as used in Toyota to GM
  • Needed to promote better team collaboration.
  • Management worked on promoting a team collaboration culture that emphasised product, quality and safety
  • Scenario:
    • Tracy (an anthropologist studying the GM culture) is sitting in break room.
    • She hears a loud crash outside, and a hissing sound
    • Running out, she sees a stud gun lying on the ground.
    • The stud gun appears to be broken, and fallen over. There are studs scattered all over the place, and air hose that was attached to the gun is swinging around wildly.
    • Team members shut off the host.
    • Ned (electrician, long time employee, union member)
    • Normally Ned would just attach a new stud gun, and get the assembly line moving again
    • However, in this case, Ned believes that the air system is just too damaged to safely use the backup stud gun.
    • Ned thinks the whole assembly line needs to be shut down while the system gets fixed
    • Al (Ned’s supervisor, contracted employee, shorter employment history than Ned)
    • Al’s first reaction is to get the assembly line moving again as fast as possible
    • Al tells Ned to bypass the problem and use the backup stud gun
    • Ned tells Al “stay out of the way, you don’t understand the problem”
    • Al ignores Ned, and tells the rest of the team members to get the line moving again (“Those are my profits lying on the ground”)
    • Ned walks away frustrated, says “I’ve been telling management that it was never a safe operation around here”
  • Analysis:
    • Al’s behaviour would result in a reduction in collaboration.Al is shooting down new ideas, and not willing to listen to alternatives. There appears to be a lack of psychological safety.
    • Al appears to be focused on his individual goal (“those are my profits lying on the ground”), at the expense of the team goal (product, quality and safety)
    • I would look to change the extrinsic individual goal to more closely match the group goal, perhaps by promoting profit sharing based upon meeting group goals
    • I would also look into coaching team members on handling conflicts

Team Culture Types

  • Team culture is defined mainly by two characteristics:
    • How hierarchical the group is? How is authority distributed in the team? Hierarchical or flat?)
    • How cohesive the group is? Is it more individualistic or cohesive?
    • These can be represented on a 2-dimensional grid, leading to 4 quadrants
  • Troops: individualistic and hierarchical
    • Strong leadership, but little horizontal collaboration
    • Common direction provided by the leader
    • Lack of feedback, since member work independently
    • Watch for a lack of information flow between team members to see if there are inefficiencies
  • Believers: cohesive and hierarchical
    • Example: teams at Volkswagen
    • Energise and rally about a common vision
    • May find it hard to challenge each other in productive ways, which can lead to poor decisions
    • Watch to see that members feel comfortable speaking up and offering an opposing view
  • Virtuosos: individualistic and flat hierarchy
    • Benefit from having individuals who are willing to challenge each other. This helps them get the best ideas on the table
    • Lack of team rapport or a strong leader can cause them to pull apart under stress
    • Check whether you have a strong enough common vision and clear roles to keep them all on the same page
  • Friends: cohesive and flat hierarchy
    • Example: WL Gore – flat hierarchy with teams of 8 – 12 people (10,000 employees total)
    • Give them a common set of values that bind them together and then empower them to find ways to make the company successful.
    • The empowering approach can lead to great results in the long run since team members become highly engaged and collaborative.
    • In the short run these teams get a slower start as individuals take time to build trust in each other and get comfortable with their roles
    • Be careful that you don’t have trouble making decisions quickly and setting a new strategic direction when the situation calls for it.
  • There is no one right culture, need to be aware of the tradeoffs with each one
  • Shapre your team rules to play to your strengths and pay careful attendtion to the problems that may arise in the group

Misalignments Checklist

  • Checklists help you focus on the simple things that matter
  • Misalignments are about team members doing something different to what they originally said that they would do
  • This checklist helps to you pay attending to saying/doing gaps
  • Create a checklist like this:
    • Create 3 columns in a document:
      • First column: Rules
        • List the rules made in the team charter, one per row
      • Second column: Misalignments
        • Note anything that is different to what the team said that they would do
      • Third column: Situational Factors
        • Hypothesis as to what might be causing the misalignment

Taking the Team Temperature

  • This is a way to diagnose issues from other’s perspective
  • Check in with other people to get their sense of the team dynamic, and get the sense if they’re on the right track
  • Three strategies for soliciting feedback:
    1. Team Temperature Survey
      • 3-7 statements, keep simple
      • ask questions, rate from 1-5
      • questions like “We have clear goals”
      • Not an in depth
    2. One on one meetings
      • These can allow people to discuss issues that they would not discuss in front of the whole team
    3. Periodic check-ins with the whole team
      • e.g. Retrospective, or start a meeting with 10 minutes to share thoughts
      • Can do this in a “Third Place”, which are separate from home and work.
        • This helps enhance our creativitiy
        • Help creates a more casual and friendlier rapport
        • Help team members become more receptive to other’s opinions

Interview: Dr. Jack Gutsche

  • Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
  • Penn Lung Rescue Program
    • Takes care of patients before and after open heart surgery (very sick people!)
    • Lung Rescue Program – allow people to put peole on lung equipment outside of hospital
    • Transport team
    • Critical care transprot nurse
    • Paramedic
    • Perfusionsist (runs the heart/lung machine)
    • 2 physicians (implement the machine, and manage the patient)
    • 6 people in team
    • All highly trained, each has their own individual role, but have to interact will as a team
    • Physicans are the team lead
  • Typical rescue situation
    • Carries a pager all day
    • Called by outside hospital, who despirately needs help
    • If agreed, talk to family (who are under stress)
    • Travel to hospital via helicopter
    • Pandimonium! Patient is being kept alive
    • Lots of pressure to move fast
    • Can’t move so fast that you’re making mistakes
    • Need to be able to land and have the patient ready to be put on the equipement within 15 minutes
  • What can go wrong?
    • Multiple things can happen!
    • Bad weather – change from flying to driving.
    • Ended up driving in their own car, splitting up the team
    • Even with the machine, people can still die
    • Need to be aware of different factors that can cause death
  • What do team leaders do to address challenges?
    • Chain of command
    • Large amount of communication
    • Need to be able to receive and give feedback
      • If someone sees a leader doing something wrong, they must be able to speak up
    • Experienced team – you can trust their feedback
    • Protocols help!
    • Walk in quietly and efficiently – others will take note of your behaviour (no screaming!)
    • Protocols mean that everyone already knows what to do
    • Simplifying as much as possible, minimising the amount of choices
    • Drills or simulations
  • How do you manage team members who get emotional under stress?
    • Have discussions, either before, or in a debriefing afterwards to explain to them what’s going on
    • If that person understands that everone else has as much buy-in as they do, they tend to calm down.
    • Re-assurance and feedback are the keys
  • How to do you check in to keep your team on track?
    • Debrief after each event.
      • Everyone brings up issues that they think are important
      • Some people don’t work well (shy, rude). Have a one-on-one
    • Regularly scheduled operations meeting
      • Problems discussed
      • Plus things that went well!
      • People have time to think about things, better feedback that the debrief immediately after
  • How do you create space for constructive feedback?
    • If people don’t feel comfortable giving you feedback, it can be devastating because it can really cripple you as a leader
    • When hearing negative feedback, as a leader you need to give very positive feedback immediately. (“I really needed to hear that!”, “I would love to hear more about that in the future”)
    • It really builds a lot of trust in the team if you’re vulnerable
    • You need to reflect on your failures
  • How do you encourage good feedback between team members?
    • Stress that everyone there cares very passionately about their jobs
    • Depersonalise it, make it clear that *everything* is systems issues based on the protocol. Make it about the system
    • If you are asking someone to give their own self assessment, give your self assessement first so that other people feel that they can open up
  • When can you recogise team misalignments?
    • There is always a certain amount of background noise
    • # of complaints
      • Zero background noise is a problem
      • Lot of yelling and screaming is a problem
    • Breakdowns in standard operating procedures
    • People stop coming to work
      • is this someone trying to escape because we’re over-stressing the team.

Understanding Your Team’s Culture


The Five Biggest Teamwork Ills

  • The Five Biggest Teamwork Ills
    • Overemphasizing abstract goals
    • Underemphasizing roles
    • Making too many rules
    • Ignoring reflection
    • Failing to sell the change

Building Psychological Safety in the Workplace

Setting Team Foundations

I’m studying Building High-Performing Teams on Coursera. These are my revision notes for weeks 1-2.

Team Culture

  • Cultural differences are at the heart of performance problems.
  • Team culture: the formal and informal rules a group makes to solve problems and get things done
  • Team culture is one of the biggest factors determining the collective success or failure
  • Culture is a set of guidelines controlling behaviour.
    • e.g. we communicate using memos (not powerpoints)
  • High performing teams are explicit about culture, because they know if they don’t activily shape their culture, one will form anyway (which might not be the one they want)
  • Team manifesto
  • Are you clear on the formal and informal rules you are going to follow

Goals: Getting SMART

  • Goals are one of the most important rules you can make on a team
  • Goals answer the question: “Why are we working together?”
  • Some people believe it’s enough to have an inspirational vision (e.g. “We’re going to have the best product”)
  • Vision is important because it creates passion, but if you don’t connect the vision with reality through specific goals, the vision will fizzle out
  • How can you create goals that get results? Use SMART and WIIFM.
  • SMART:
    • Specific (focus on what really matters)
    • Measurable (no confusion over whether goal has been achieved)
    • Achievable
    • Relevant
    • Timely
  • Teams that create SMART goals are better able to fulfill their big visions

Goals: Answering the WIIFM Question

  • WIIFM: What’s in it for me?
  • CEO: walked around asking everyone “What was your proudest moment?”. He was looking to see that his strategic goals aligned with their interests.
  • Any group, project or task we’re a part of has to fulfill some sort of personal goal or need for us, otherwise we disengage and lose commitment.
  • Setting team collective goals need to consider the individual’s goals, and how the shared goals can contribute to them.
  • Extrinsic motivations: you do a task because of external reasons
    • (e.g. financial incentives)
    • Recognition
  • Intrinsic motivation: you find the task interesting or enjoyable in it’s own right
    • Impact is important. e.g. Connection to customers
    • Learning a new skill or role
  • You can head off motivation issues in your own team by asking the WIIFM question as soon as your team forms

Team Roles

  • A persons’ role is who they are, and what their responsibilities are.
  • Roles answer the question: what do we do?
  • It’s important to define clear roles for each person on the team.
  • One way to do this: RACI matrix
    • Responsible: directly involved in doing the task or carrying out the project
    • Accountable: delegates work to those who are responsible, and approves major decisions
    • Consulted: gives advice and ideas as needed
    • Informed: kept up to date on what is happening
  • Interdependent roles: the reason for needing a team (otherwise individuals would suffice).
    • Who else do I need to work with to get this done?

Setting Norms for Communication, Decision-making and Conflict

  • Norms: shared understanding of how a team works together
    • Goals: why we work together
    • Roles: what we do
    • Norms: how we work together
  • Norms for communication. Need to consider
    • format
      • communicating a message in the wrong medium can lead to miscommunication and bad results
      • e.g. “enthusiastic” exclmation point in email might be interpreted as anger or agression by the recipient.
      • In face to face, emotion is mainly communicated by body language and tone of voice. The words themselves don’t communicate emotion effectively.
      • Team can list all the “needs” for communcation (e.g. project updates, budget reviews, team check-ins, etc), list all the communcation channels (e.g. email, phone, meetings, instant messages), and then match them together
    • frequency
      • Face to face meetings are good for communcation, but they take a lot of time.
  • Norms for decisions. Need to consider
    • What decisions can be made by individuals?
    • What decisions need to be made by the whole team?
    • What process will the team use to make decisions?
      • Total concensus approach
      • Have the leader decide
      • Concensus with leader’s final approval (middle approach)
    • Even if a team member disagrees with a decision, they’ll be more likely to go along with it, because they consider the process to be fair
  • Norms for conflict. Need to consider
    • Encourage productive conflict
      • there should always be a sense of mutual understanding and respect
      • e.g. devils advocate rule

Interview: Mike Barger

  • Make Barger: COO of CorpU (previously Chief Learning Officer of JetBlue)
  • JetBlue:
    • Started with a simple vision: “Bring humanity back to air travel”
    • Address this with building culture/environment that supported vision
    • Harvard case study: starting from scratch
    • How to communicate to new employees: “This is what we stand for” ?
    • Workshop:
      • half a day writing issues on wall.
      • everyone took away home to answer challenges
      • every issue had a simple answer
      • “Radical application of common sense”
      • Grouped issues/answers into 5 areas. These became the 5 core values of JetBlue:
        • Safety, caring,integrity, fun and passion
      • These core values established who JetBlue is, helped them define the environment that they wanted. It helped them to define the practices and processes that would support those values
  • Building blocks to focus on when creating a new team:
    • Do team members have the right skill set?
    • Do they have the right experience?
    • Do they have passion for team goals?
    • Do their personalities fit?
    • Is everyone aligned?
  • The most common team-building mistakes
    • Not creating a specific common purpose
    • Not clear on roles and responsibilities
    • Not changing the team composition when needed
  • Common traits of high-performing teams
    • Not creating a specific common purpose
      • individuals need to perform their own jobs, but in such a way that the team performs better
    • Mutual trust
    • Open, transparent communication
  • Retrospectives are important!
  • Change things when needed, based on reflection
  • Norms/Principles that helped JetBlue
    • In addition to 5 core values, guiding principles for leaders were needed
    • Five Principles of Leadership at JetBlue
      1. Communicate with your team
      2. Do the right thing
      3. Treat your people right
      4. Encourage initiative and innovation
      5. Inspire greatness in others
  • Dealing with difficult team members effectively
    • Not a good fit for the team?
    • Need enough backbone to make it really clear about the rules of behaviour (trust, safe environment to raise concerns)
    • Teams need to be able to call each other out
    • It’s not OK to just “let it go”

The Foundations of High-Performing Teams

A Small Data Approach to Managing Teams

Why WIIFM Matters