and increase your team's productivity
Is your team a group of people pulling together toward a common objective? Be careful! By this definition, very few teams exist.
A prevailing climate of fear
Rather than pulling together for their team’s success, many team members are more concerned with themselves and their personal standing in the team. They worry about their chances of promotion; their next pay rise or bonus, what will look good on their CV, and whether their jockeying will be sufficient to get them the team leader’s job.
Colleagues' success can be threatening
Indeed, team members can actually feel threatened by fellow members’ successes, because they fear comparing poorly in their team leader’s eyes.
And the team is the business world’s predominant unit of cooperation!
Working harder won't cut it
So how do you achieve productivity increases in this toxic environment? In fact, in today’s cost conscious climate, how can you significantly increase the ratio of team output to its more static input? Getting everyone to work harder might squeeze an improvement, but could you sustain it?
Although it's been said before
The better approach is to get everyone working smarter. Working smarter implies a team in which all members ongoingly generate and offer ideas to innovate and create to increase the team’s productivity. Members won't do this, however, in the more usual team environment of fear, manoeuvring, and back-biting.
Working smarter requires psychological safety
The problem is that innovation and creativity arise from a free flow of ideas, and that requires a team to have a culture of ‘psychological safety’, in which each team member feels free to be themselves, and to say what they really think - not usual in most team meetings.
As many innovative, creative ideas can sound a bit whacky at first, and probably start-out voiced by a minority of one, the expression of new fandangled theories or out-of-the-box thinking needs to take place in a climate not of fear, but of trust, rapport, and nurture.
People need an environment in which they can say what they really think, and risk sounding stupid when sound-boarding and working up potentially controversial, yet game-changing ideas.
How do you achieve psychological safety?
As team leader, how do you promote psychological safety? By communicating to connect in your every interaction with your team members and your other stakeholders.
Communicate to connect
When you connect with someone, fear becomes irrelevant and they sense that you are there for them. You create trust and rapport, and teams characterised by mutual trust and rapport (and fun) are fertile grounds for creativity. You also convey to your colleagues, subconsciously, that they, rather than you and your personal standing, are your priority.You signal that you have their back.
So, in your every interaction with your colleagues, take your attention off you and what you want, and put it on them. Do this by really listening to what they are telling you rather than listening to the voice in your head judging what they are saying. In the moment, you are completely present to them and practising what Stephen Covey recommended in his ‘Seven Habits’ book: ‘Seek first to understand before being understood.’
When your fellow team members get that you are there for them, they will be there for you, and will find opportunities to support you with their best ideas in progressing the team’s purpose and vision.
Communicating to connect is your primary skill as a leader because it draws out your colleagues’ input and support. You are not operating alone.
And access the collective intelligence of your team
With a culture of psychological safety, your team’s collective intelligence, offered by members freely and willingly, will give your team the competitive edge and the increase in productivity you desire. It will also give your team members the satisfaction of having served and contributed their thinking to their team's success.
You will have achieved psychological safety - the foundation for higher productivity, in your team when:
Your team members have become partners with each other in achieving the vision;
the success of their fellow team members is as important to each as their own, and when,
in response to each fresh challenge to the team, the members, because of who you are being, are now so confident in their own ability and standing, they will freely communicate, collaborate, and create.
Recommended further reading:
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Stephen R Covey
The 8th Habit - Stephen R Covey