Apr 14 2019

Enhancing Team Dynamics with Data (Not Spaghetti Towers)

Executive team offsites can provide an excellent opportunity to enhance team dynamics, raise understanding and build the basis for trust and clarifying strategic business objectives. They can also be cringe-worthy and end with no discernible outcomes.

Leaders’ approach brings objectivity via human data and engages the team with applicable exercises and direct feedback - all with a spotlight on outcome-focused actions that match the business objectives.

 

The Mission

The CEO of a mid-sized financial services business had recently made significant changes to their executive team. A combination of retirements, a resignation and evolving business needs had resulted in two-thirds of the executive changing in just under a year.

The CEO needed to quickly bring the executive together to:

  • Understand their strengths, weaknesses and predictable dynamics
  • Focus their energy onto the realities of the business they were now leading

The CEO was also privately seeking to develop their own successor from within the new team, with a three-year horizon. 

 

The Design

 We recommended utilising insight from psychometrics to quickly identify the critical leadership traits possessed by the team, including:  

  • Communication style
  • Approach to problems and pressure
  • Personal values and mindsets
  • Resilience, curiosity and decision pace
  • Ambition, commitment, awareness and agility skill
  • Defeatist thinking, carelessness, recklessness and martyr habits

Intelligence gathering

Each team member completed Leaders’ psychometric surveys, which take about an hour.

One-to-one sessions

Our next step was to hold one-to-one meetings to review their results in advance of the group offsite session. This significantly raised their self-awareness, highlighting strengths and predictable blindspots, and prepared them for the key issues to be raised at the offsite.

These sessions also help us get a broader picture of the team dynamics, the areas of group strength and likely team struggles.

Group work

We structured the offsite over two days. We planned day one to explore and understand the team dynamics and establish attitudes and actions that would enable this particular team to excel. 

Day two focused on the business, articulating a desirable future for the firm and establishing a strategic plan of action to move towards this.

 

The Insight - Key Points

  1.     The analysis of the team’s values demonstrated a high emphasis on quality standards, both in terms of producing technical excellence and high personal standards.

  2.   The ‘theoretical mind’, which is also high, needs to be right, based on credible evidence and responds well to procedures based in evidence that enable high-quality outcomes to be achieved.

  3.   The ‘individualistic mind’ creates a competitive edge, a hard work ethic and a desire to be part of something highly credible.

 

 Our experience tells us that this combination brings significant strength to the team - working hard to achieve high-quality outcomes.

The data also helps to predict potential blindspots, notably the potential for conflict over relatively small matters - the need to be ‘right’ about everything. In addition, seeking and openly receiving constructive criticism would be a stretch, with the potential for defensive responses rather than an openness to learn from others. This helped us to explore tactics and techniques that would enable the team to harness their strengths and overcome these potential weaknesses.

 

 

4.   From the data, we can clearly see that levels of ‘team motivation’ (or energy) were widely disbursed. Represented graphically, we could identify those who were sources of positive energy for others. For example, Zoe in this chart is a source of both positivity and energy for the whole team. Adam has less energy and some negativity. The dynamics between them would look like this: 

 

  • Zoe would reduce Adam’s negatives, bringing calm to his life as well as increasing his positive energy.
  • Adam would be a source of both irritation and discouragement to Zoe, reducing her positive energy.

We explored ways in which the team could overcome these tensions, mutually supporting each other to reduce their stresses (first) and increase their energy (second). For some, this included some non-work related issues and simply knowing that their team members ‘had their backs’ was enough to bring an improvement in the dynamics. it was also important for those in box 1 - highly positively energised - to recognise that not everyone has the sustainable energy and resilience to press forward quickly with every new idea; sometimes they would need permission to run ahead, other times they would need to exercise a little patience.

 5.   The team possessed some ‘high productive motivation’ qualities. These included high attainment skill - the capacity and desire to ‘win’ mental rewards, e.g. new clients, good work and healthy relationships.

However, in addition, the team had an above-average propensity to self-defeat; some of the benefits of their productive skills would potentially slip away unnecessarily.

This insight helped us to explore what was really happening in the business.

As the data predicted, the team were great at winning new work. But they were also good at discounting their fees too quickly and often unnecessarily. Identifying that trait enabled them to build an action plan to quickly enhance margins and revenues from their existing business.

The insight we were able to bring created a strong basis on which to quickly address the critical team strengths, weaknesses and dynamics. Rather than a standard approach to building trust, we were able to facilitate a unique and tailored approach to enhancing understand, respect and genuinely effective teamwork, without building any ‘spaghetti towers’!

This set the team up exceptionally well for the second part of the offsite, establishing future objectives and a focused plan of action to achieve them.

  

Example Framework for a Strategic Offsite

Leaders’ offsite frameworks are grounded in our objectives to generate outcomes that can be applied in reality. This client’s offsite reflected some typical steps, including:

 

  • Establish a desirable future vision that articulates the unique contribution and benefits that the business makes in the world. This might sound a grand ambition, but understanding the unique purpose of the business and how this makes other people’s lives and/or the environment better, is the cornerstone of creating engaging, rewarding work. Connecting each team member’s personal motives and values to those of the business creates the conditions for genuine and sustainable success.

‘Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion’ - Simon Sinek.

 

  • Understand what the company values actually mean in real-life practice. Most businesses have values words, often displayed on computer screens and walls. Yet few articulate what these mean in terms of actual behaviours and attitudes. Observing actual behaviours, phrases, attitudes and actions in the business - those things that are part of the company’s culture - values words can be brought to real life.
  • The actions that are desired should be encouraged; for this team that was around flexible working, engagement with community initiatives, helping others and asking for help. Undesirable actions and attitudes should be challenged and stopped.
  • Focus on a small number of initiatives that can be sustained and will make the most impact. It can be tempting in an offsite environment for a team to come up with a lot of new ideas and initiatives. Without focus, it’s likely that none will be achieved.
  • We helped our client to narrow down into three strategic objectives on which to focus over the next six to 12 months. We then pressed for a specific plan of action, with measures, timeframes and clearly allocated responsibilities, identifying hurdles to overcome and being pedantically precise about what actions would be taken.

 

The Impact

Six months later, the team is performing exceptionally well.

  • The team has chosen to remain focused on the three strategic objectives that came out of the offsite, despite some potential distractions. This is already benefitting the bottom line as the culture of giving too much away unnecessarily has stopped and marketing efforts have become more focused.
  • Executive interactions, whether in small groups or as a whole team, are rewarding. Individuals who are likely to clash in an unproductive way have employed tactics to ensure a proper perspective and workable outcomes. 
  • Employees now have a much clearer understanding of the expectations placed on them and whilst we are awaiting the outcome of an employee survey, there is a strong sense of increased buy-in across the business. Further, individual team members have put personal tactics in place that have enhanced their wellbeing, reducing their negative motivation which ensures that we all receive their ‘best selves’ much more frequently. In other words, they are harnessing their skills even more effectively. Excellent!

We’re looking forward to our next offsite to review progress, recalibrate and propel forward towards the vision for the business.

 

If your organisation is undergoing change, faltering in reaching its objectives or has disruptive team dynamics, Leaders can facilitate a process that will be grounded in business objectives and benefit the bottom line.

 

 

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