My Fascination With Behavior and Personality
My obsession with taking behavioral assessments and personality exams started before the days of online tests – back when the biggest questions were “which teen heartthrob should I marry?” and “what’s my spirit animal?”, both commonly found in pop magazines. That led to diving into the education in Sociology – a social science that focuses on society, human behavior, patterns of social relationships & interactions as well as aspects of the culture of everyday life. The nuances and interactions that shape us as humans and how we behave in certain situations as always piqued my curiosity.
While I picked up sociology as a second major to accounting, people and money behaviors are inextricably intertwined. To know WHY a person spends/saves money is just as, if not more, important than how. Money is one of the biggest arguments in a marriage and is factoring into the Great Resignation and using interviews to earn more. While the current statistics of leaving the workforce in droves is causing businesses to panic and throw more money at the problem, the root cause has nothing to do with money.
Company Culture Reigns Supreme
High-development cultures are proving to be the winners in the Great Resignation. 4.4 million people quit their jobs in February 2022. The companies who have invested in their cultures, their teams, and the individual have succeeded in an environment that does not corroborate money is the ultimate motivation.
This is not news to me. I started focusing on building our team up in 2018 by obtaining Signature Certification with Birkman. The Birkman Method is one of the most respected and widely-used workplace personality assessments. It goes beyond an individual’s strength and starts to discuss motivation, values, communication, and needs. The more I learned and was able to help other companies provide a purpose to their employees that created engagement was invaluable.
The Value of High-Performing Teams
Shortly before the pandemic started, I was one of three people in the world who became Birkman Certified in coaching and leading High-Performing Teams. While the tool was originally built for in-person teams, virtual training became an integral part of the teamwork equation. Ultimately, there was a quick reaction, and virtual collaboration and teamwork became the anchor for high-performing teams in this time of chaos. Companies had to quickly react to the pandemic by learning how to be remote, and get insight into their employees’ homes, all while still trying to run a successful business. It seemed like this would be a crippling blow to productivity and culture. It was quickly evident that how things were before couldn’t continue with how they are now.
Two years in and the world is still finding its footing in the new normal. The debate on vaccines, mandates, distanced learning, and supply chain issues have polarized people very quickly. It’s more important now than ever for a dedicated effort toward developing strong and cooperative teams.
The Three Pillars of High-Performing Teams
High-performing teams do things differently. They know that connecting is even more important now than ever before. In a time when you can see your teammate’s kid streak past chasing the family dog or watching the light turn green during “odd” hours of the day as they are able to get work in, a supportive team reaches out to one another to check in and see how everything is going.
So, what creates a High-Performance Team?
There are three pillars that are essential elements for building a high-performing team.
Pillar 1: Purpose
This should not come as a shock to you. People thrive and are driven by having a purpose that goes beyond just them. A common purpose for the team creates a connection not only to the team, but to the company as a whole. They understand the role they play in the bigger part of the company which allows for feeling more engaged and how each role plays a significant part in helping the company fulfill its vision.
Creating a purpose statement for the team will unify their role and future goals as well as create a common bond between team members. These bonds typically form past work relationships which foster a greater change of authentic connections. The purpose will also focus on outside stakeholders which include key groups of people who are impacted by the team’s work that goes beyond them.
Without a purpose, teams are at risk to make decisions based on short-term wins as opposed to long-term initiatives that are strategic and more impactful. It can generate a team where the individual is viewed as more worthy than the team which can lead to infighting, lack of creativity, and fear of speaking up. Whether it’s customers, vendors, or the local community, creating purpose is imperative to building a high-performance team.
Pillar 2: Clarity
Remember the assignment in school where you had to write down the steps to “How to Put On a Pair of Pants” and someone else had to do EXACTLY what you wrote? Typically, it ends up horribly as what sounds so innate to us comes out with a totally different interpretation. Some things don’t change from high school, and the ability to be clear is one of them.
A team needs to create clarity from the inside out. This allows teams to work, collaborate, and make decisions that drive the team forward. Building Clarity in the Birkman method involves “CONTINUOUSLY striving to understand and create alignment between the team’s people and task”. Note the word continuously. Being clear is not a one-time thing.
There are four functions to a team, and each function is important. But if the team is not clear on what function they are working on, the purpose will not survive. These four functions include Implementing, Communicating, Ideating, and Analyzing.
Pillar 3: Psychological Safety
While each pillar needs to be strong, a team that does not have psychological safety will lack the creativity, authenticity, and vulnerability that are crucial to a high-performance team. Psychological safety is defined as an environment where team members feel the ability to speak their thoughts or opinions without fear of humiliation or punishment. Where vulnerability is lauded and there is a sense of belonging, even with differences in opinions.
This concept goes beyond just the positive sides of being open but also provides space for people to admit their mistakes & discuss their failures. This allows a team to delve deeper into where a project went off course, where they learned more about one another, and double down on the clarity of where they are in alignment with their purpose.
Thriving Teams Are Like Three-Legged Stools
Like a three-legged stool, EACH pillar needs to be strong for the stool to be functional. A high-performing team goes beyond the surface level to discuss the root issue or be willing to suggest an idea that may seem off the wall. For a team to thrive in an ever-changing world, clarity and psychological safety are components that must be consistently focused on. A team built on trust and a strong foundation will be the team that solves problems a business has yet to even see yet, and it’s what we at Rohloff Associates work so hard to maintain. These teams will be standing stronger than ever, long after the pandemic is gone.