The 5 questions that will make your team more powerful

5 key questions main image
As a manager, you’re expected to motivate and develop every individual within your team. But it’s just as important, says executive coach Des Christofi, to coach the collective. Co-creation – that is, working with the group to jointly define its strategy, vision and purpose – is central to team success. Pose these five questions in your next group brainstorm and see your team’s dynamic go from strength to strength.

How does the wider organisation view our team?

Even if your team is productive and effective, if it doesn’t understand the bigger picture context of the work it performs, it runs the risk of becoming insular and out of tune with the wider business. Encourage team members to take a holistic view of the group’s output, imagining how its perceived by your boss, your boss’s boss, the board of directors, the CEO or whomever sets out the organisational goals and values, and so on. What lenses might each of those subsets view your group through? How might they measure success and to what extent is your team measuring up? Bear in mind this isn’t a one-time exercise; things change quickly, leaders come and go. So schedule in regular times to revisit the question. The team that remains fresh, relevant and flexible in the face of variability is far more likely to be successful.

What do our key partners really need from us?

What your closest stakeholders want, and what they need, are two very different things. Consider what is truly non-negotiable in terms of your team’s output and the service it provides to all the various groups its accountable to. Encourage the team to take a disassociated view of how it performs, looking at what it offers through the eyes of customers through to suppliers and internal departments. What concerns and wishes might each have and in what ways could your team delight them more than it currently does? In the right circumstances, you might consider inviting stakeholders to join the dialogue. Interview them about their needs, any challenges and concerns they might have, inviting open and candid dialogue. As well as offering valuable insight into how the collective can work and foster relationships more successfully, this exercise sends a clear message to your key partners that your team values their opinions, cares about their needs, and is continually focused on self-improvement.

What’s our ultimate purpose?

A successful team requires the individuals within it to understand their contribution and personal goals, but it’s just as important that there’s clarity around the collective purpose. What is your team’s raison d’être? What is it famous for and what must it absolutely achieve? It might be helpful to break this down into behaviours, values, strategy and vision, looking first at how these apply to the team and second how they fit in with the overall organisation’s. Once you know your team’s ultimate purpose, it is far easier to highlight any inefficiencies or misaligned ways of working.

What is the level of trust within the team and how can we drive it up?

When there’s trust in a team, there is more engagement, debate, constructive conflict, harmony and commitment. As leader you have a huge role to play in building trust: if you are willing and able to self-disclose your weaknesses and concerns, offer constructive feedback and welcome it in exchange, then team members will follow suit. Look carefully at the team meeting and its members’ day-to-day exchanges: to what extent do individuals feel able to share their concerns, admit their failings, disagree and challenge openly without fear of consequences, and declare when they don’t know the answer to something? Use your 1-2-1s to ascertain what it would take for each individual to move further up those scales of comfort. Involve the team in the creation of a plan for building trust and holding one another accountable for making it happen.

How can we better celebrate collection success?

The corporate system, with its 1-2-1-s, annual salary increases and performance reviews, is primed to celebrate individual success between boss and employee. But to what extent do you collectively acknowledge both team achievements as well as public acknowledgment of its individuals’ triumphs? Brainstorm methods of celebrating and rewarding success in order to motivate and inspire. Explore ways that everyone can be held accountable for encouraging the development and growth of every individual, thereby increasing the collective power and performance of the team.  
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