ON the face of it, being a stage coach is rather like being the leader of a team – you don’t want your wheels to fall off!
All teams go through three key stages before they can be truly unstoppable. Those stages are… to Build Trust, Reach The Truth and Be A Team.
Stage One – Create Total Trust
The ‘givens’ – You all want to be in this team and to give your best to ensure its success. As a team, you are the people who can make this a success – you need rely on no-one outside the team to achieve your outcome/dreams.
Emphasize that you do not have to like each other – however, you do have to respect each other, and each other’s opinions, especially when they are different, and sometimes opposing, to yours. Because if everyone had the same opinion, being part of the same team would be one of the most boring experiences in life.
Ask the ultimate question – As a team, imagine if we simply could not fail…what would you do? Where would we go? Who would we be? NB: For those who are concerned that this is not ‘possible’, or engage in a debate on the semantics of the process, ask them just to play along, as if you could not fail.
Enjoy sharing the responses – And do so in front of each other – if you are a team of under 12, sit in a circle, with each person sharing their dreams for the team. If more than 12, hold at least one session with everyone present, so that everyone’s ideas are shared with the group. And watch the trust, the excitement and unity happen. Because so often we as teams focus on what could go wrong, what is going wrong and who is to blame.
Stage Two – Reach The Truth
Openness is mission critical – the more open the debates, the greater your chances of achieving your dream – teams are only really together when they are open.
Ask each person what is fantastic about working in this team, and for the one thing they would change if they could – This is taking the ‘imagine if we simply could not fail’ ideas into the day-to-day. Also, many teams and people focus on the second list, and not on what is great about being part of the team. Record them on flip-charts, perhaps with the ‘fantastic’ one with a big smiley face, the other with an unhappy face.
Identify the priorities – the imperative from the important – You will have two flip-charts, full of the most valuable ideas you need to perform as a team, the key issues, not as dictated by you, but as contributed by the team.
Now, give everyone in the team, including you as leader or facilitator, three votes for each list. Together as a team (or in separate sessions if you are doing this for more than 12 people), everyone marks three items on each of the charts, that they consider to be the most important and urgent.
After that has been completed, add the scores and identify the most important priorities and actions that are fantastic about being in the team, and that need to be changed (if there is a tie for votes then include all on the same score, so you may end up with four or five on one or both lists).
You now have, in one simple exercise…
- Created trust and reached the truth of the issues facing the team
- Involved the team in identifying these (valued them)
- Identified what can take months to find by other methods
- The list of things to do more of (‘fantastic’ list) and those that need action
Finally, ask for an owner for each of the actions/items – to ensure you as a team do more of the first list and do something different on the second.
And, critically, that ‘owner’ is accountable to the rest of the team, not to the ‘leader’, and will update the rest of the team at meetings. Repeat the same session three months later.
Be A Team
A lesson from geese…
1. As each goose flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the others behind it. By flying in a ‘V’ formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.
2. When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to fly alone, and quickly gets back into formation with those who are headed where we want to go (and be willing to accept their help as well as give ours to others).
3. When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back into formation and another goose flies at the point position.
4. The geese in formation honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.
5. When a goose goes sick or wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it is able to fly again or dies. Then they launch out on their own, with another formation, or catch up with the flock.
The lessons to be learned are obvious and can be related to teams…so, is your team flying in formation?