What you really need to know about team collaboration

When did you last set your own goal aside to help reach the goal of someone else?

It happened recently during the London Marathon – even though running, as an individual sport, is an unexpected place to display such behaviour. Take a quick look at the video, and no, you really do not need to run yourself to be moved by these images.

The video shows how the 29-year-old Matthew Rees, barely 200 metres from the finish line, encourages a fellow runner who stands unstable on his legs, David Wyeth, and helps him over the finish line. Wyeth would never have reached the finish line without Rees.

Rees wanted to use the sprint in the last straight line so that he would finish in less than 2 hours and 50 minutes. The moment Rees saw Wyeth collapse, he decided to forget his own competition and did everything he could to ensure that David would finish, even at the expense of his own sharp time. Rees not only abandoned his own goal to achieve the goal of another person. No, it went even further than that. In an interview for the Guardian he talked about a new goal – a common goal: to reach the finish line together.

The pursuit of a common goal is also what characterizes a team, but that is just the point where many teams are stuck. Team members who choose to put their personal goals first do not necessarily do so out of unwillingness, but out of ignorance and lack of clarity. Teambuildings that strengthen mutual trust, increase motivation and foster a sense of responsibility can be very valuable, but if the team does not know which goal unites them, their impact will be limited.

In short, clear and consistent communication about the common goal is indispensable for achieving strong teamwork. Such communication should not only be driven top-down, but should also happen between the team members. And perhaps more importantly: the communication has to be repeated regularly to ensure the common goal remains top of mind for all team members.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to stay alert to the blurring of a common goal:

  • What is the common goal and is it known to everyone?
  • Does everybody know what is expected of him/her? What is his or her contribution to the team result?
  • Is it time to reclarify the team goals and what is expected of each team members?

And for those who would consider giving priority to their own interests over common interest, I would like to conclude with the words of Matthew Rees:

“So I did not get the time I was looking for, but I got a memorable moment and that’s more important.”

Leen Joos

Source: the Guardian

The best way to create a culture of feedback

Feedback is important. Feedback is lacking. We need more feedback. That’s a reasoning you often hear. And what do we do then? Since feedback is a skill, we obviously set up a training. That’s logical, after all. Isn’t it?

But I know many cases where this approach didn’t work. They did not end up as a feedback-rich organisation. These training programs often do not deliver on their promise!

Reasons why feedback training fails

Feedback trainings highlight the importance and focus on the techniques on how best to deliver feedback. They explain why I-messages are better than You-messages. They instruct how to use tools like Situation-Behaviour-Feeling-Impact. They use roleplays and group discussions. They give tips to overcome barriers and develop habits. But still, they fail to create a culture of feedback.

In practice, there are three main reasons why managers don’t give feedback.
1. Managers find it just “easier not to react” (sic)
2. Managers assume the probability of behaviour change to be low
3. Managers prefer to avoid the tension it injects into the relationship

    These reasons look at feedback from the angle of the interpersonal relationship with others. But also the operational context plays a role. Does the organizational or team culture stimulate giving feedback? Do influencers and other leaders practice it?

    Even when given, (negative) feedback hardly works

    Some people argue negative feedback has either no or a negative effect. In an interview, Charles Jacobs, puts it like this: “Negative feedback from a manager conflicts with our self-image, and so our minds reduce the dissonance in the easiest way possible, such as ignoring, discounting, or rationalizing away the feedback.”

    A recent study at Harvard Business School found that negative feedback rarely leads to improvement because people tend to ‘shop for confirmation’: people who received criticism from peers looked for new relationships. Even though the negative feedback is supposed to help, it’s perceived as a threat. Shopping for confirmation is grounded in the idea that a positive view of one’s self requires social connections that help us sustain that view. If we don’t have them, we’ll look for them.

    So, give up on feedback?

    No. That’s not the best strategy. We expect employees to grow and improve. And feedback is necessary to do so. But at the same time, employees need to feel valued. They need appreciation for the value they bring to the organisation. So how can we create a culture of feedback?

    No, start slow and by yourself

    As leaders, what can we do to create a culture of feedback? We should start ourselves and start small.

    1. Connect and create trust
    Make sure you get to know your team members. Focus on the other for the other’s sake, not just as a means to one’s own ends. It’s not about your benefit of trying to be trusted. Show authentic interest and consider gained connection and trust as welcome outcomes of a more primary focus on the other.
    At work, we often feel we should focus on task completion. But intentionally building social ties at work is important. A Google study found that managers who “express interest in and concern for team members’ success and personal well-being” outperform others.

    2. Make people feel valuable
    Give positive feedback. Praise achievement. And praise effort when it leads to the goal of learning and improving. The power of positive feedback and recognition is clear. If you make people feel appreciated, supported to learn and safe to express themselves, your business will thrive.

    3. Use feedforward instead of feedback
    Feedback is often unsolicited and focused on the past. Marshall Goldsmith’s feedforward is the opposite. It is all about suggestions for the future. If you want to know more about it, watch the video below.

    What do you do about feedback? What worked well in your company? Ever tried feedforward?

    Koen Schreurs
    Helping HR & Management to boost company culture & engagement