Last week, I went through an annual ritual of dusting off my bicycle to take a ride through the park. As usual, one of my tires was deflated because it was stuck in the shed for most of the winter. Luckily, there is a bike repair shop down the bike path that runs through my neighborhood. The shop is called Shifting Gears which got me thinking…
How do teams shift gears to get out of inertia and mobilized towards their charge, their goal or the next innovation session? All teams, no matter how well-oiled face inertia from time to time and perhaps mimic my deflated tire; going nowhere. My approach in working with teams is to shift the energy to get them moving and well on their way to their destination. There are five major areas of focus:
Shifting to a Positive Mindset gets you into first gear. As positive change practitioners, the way out of ruts or inertia is to begin with discovering the best of what is; what you have achieved as a team and the pride of those achievements. This focus on what is going right gets the gears turning in the right direction. Like the first pedal push after stopping at a traffic light, you feel a little wobbly and there’s a struggle before it becomes a stride. The positive mindset shifts the energy towards your strength and your abilities and as you rotate full circle into conversations that recalled those times when you pushed past challenges to results, thus giving teams a push into positive momentum.
By identifying, amplifying and imaging the individual and collective strengths each brings to the table, members begin to feel appreciated and a part of rather than apart from the team’s mission, work and results and get moving together as they bring their success, pride and individual strengths into alignment with the first step towards success.
Second gear is about Vision; the compelling journey set by goals. We inspire teams to dream big; visualizing edge-pushing goals and then make them visual to represent their positive core as a team and their shared aspirations. As consultants, we tap the innate urge to create something important, a legacy, something of value that not only drives to results, but captures the heart in the process. An inspiring vision becomes a gooey substance that builds solidarity among the team members.
Once the vision is set, actionable activities and goals are written out through a series of exercises that create opportunity maps and root cause of success factors are identifies to help achieve the steps towards the vision. In a sense, once the vision is clear, the action begins.
As part of the process for building high performance, we spend a lot of time Cultivating Trust, which is the third shift. Activities during one to one conversations with people who don’t normally work together begin to build appreciation for one another as “thinking partners” because in the earlier shifts, team members have shared personal stories of their success and connection to the team’s mission. When we are captivated by what inspires us, what is positive and successful, the energy of resistance, conflict, shutting down behaviors and in-fighting fall away to a focus on the bold vision that was cultivated together.
In many of the organizations I work with, the intent of collaboration is not initially evident in the design of how people interact with one another day to day, yet, in today’s fast paced work environment we are expected to collaborate on projects, teams, and with other departments on a routine basis to stay nimble, agile and responsive to our customer base.
Shift four is about intentional Design for Collaboration; spaces and rules of conduct that may get overlooked and, if deliberate attention is not directed to facilitating collaboration, it won’t happen. On the surface, it is quicker to work in isolation sometimes, but research shows us that collaborative decision making when used appropriately, stimulates the best ideas and innovations.
Finally, it is important to Celebrate Team Success and add it to your team process. Don’t just order the pizza – it is important to spend some quality time sharing together the journey of how you moved through your charge to the results you achieved. It is the middle part of the journey that is toughest. By shining a light on what pulled you through; who exactly did what and how you turned problems and challenges into positive results, you’ll shift gears to high performance. Try these shifts and let me know about your ride!