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Does Your Team Take Its Own Temperature?

Six Ways Teams Can Assess Its Performance

These days about 70% of all product and output is done by teams. This translates to meetings and even more meetings to plan, strategize, execute and evaluate. These meetings are necessarily the grist of an effective workgroup.

But here's a meeting topic that your team may not be covering - taking its own team temperature.

What is meant by taking a team's temperature? It's a single focus meeting where the team confines its discussion to assessing how it is performing as a team - and nothing else. Leave the strategizing, planning and all other day to day items off the agenda. This is a single purpose opportunity, the "sharpening of the saw" piece that effective teams use to gauge their efficacy as a team. These teams are fearlessly asking of themselves how well are they working together? And, what would it take to improve?

Here are 6 things you can put into place to help your team take its temperature.

1. Hold regular "Team Temperature Meetings"

Again, these meetings have nothing on the agenda beyond just assessing the performance of the team. Perhaps you'll want to hold them monthly or bi-monthly or at the conclusion of a particularly large project. Whatever you do, develop a routine of holding them regularly.

2. Debrief

Ask the group open-ended questions. As examples, ask yourselves quite simply what's working? What's not? How is the group functioning to achieve its objectives? What's interfering? What might we be doing instead? How can we avoid mistakes in the future? How can we recreate success?

3. Brainstorm ways to improve

What are some suggested solutions for overcoming identified obstacles? Spend time brainstorming better methods for working on your projects. Brainstorm better ways of arriving at goals. Brainstorm everything and anything that focuses on improving the process. Ramp up the energy. Be willing to entertain even outlandish ideas so that great ideas have a chance to be heard.

4. Encourage rather than suppress criticism and dissent

Criticism ought to be an accepted part of the process. It should feel routine and comfortable. The criticism has a constructive theme - oriented toward removing obstacles that face the performance of the group. There may be disagreement and this is viewed as OK. Disagreements are not suppressed or overridden. Instead, the hope is that better ideas might be distilled from the activity and energy of healthy conflict.

5. Create an atmosphere of full participation

It's important to stay relaxed and informal and get full participation from the team. Every idea for change and finding a workable solution ought to get a hearing. Be sure to call on everyone to either make a contribution or to get their opinion on the current topic. It's important that all team members understand that they are critical to the team's success.

6. Be "Team Accountable"

I have an ad agency client that has created an entire wall in their offices dedicated to the theme of their exceptional collaboration and teamwork. They have posted pertinent quotes, photos and sundry items that trigger their commitment to continue to work well with each other. Whatever gets decided upon as action steps at your team temperature meetings, be sure to add an accountability component - a way that members can demonstrate the adoption of their new winning team strategies.  

You may want to utilize a team coach or facilitator to work with your group on a periodic basis. The focus would be simply on the improvement of team skills through practice. The best sports teams practice all the time. And, they all have coaches. Why not give it a try?  

The team's conscientious and disciplined approach to diagnosing its own performance ought to become routine - every bit as important as routinely evaluating its product.  

Regularly taking the team's temperature can serve to make the larger, more complicated projects that come along that much easier to handle. The team members will feel more happily glued to the organization. The culture will shift to honoring quality team collaboration - working better together.

By Jeff Blum, Lead Facilitator at The TeamBuilding Co.

Copyright 2012 Jeff Blum. All rights reserved.