Six Indicators of a Healthy Team
You want to have an awesome team, right? Me, too! When patients come into my clinic for a physical exam, I use specific criteria to see how healthy they are. Their weight, blood pressure, heart rate, and certain blood test parameters have to be within a particular range. Healing and forward progress from a physical stand point starts with an accurate assessment. When it comes to the health of a team, I want to give you six criteria to use to identify the state of your team. This in turn will help you decide what to do to make it even better.
Given each of the following six criteria, rate your team on a scale 1 to 5.
1=terrible, 2=bad, 3=average, 4=good, 5=amazing.
1. We are connecting and having fun.
A few years ago I visited the world famous fish market in Seattle. They take an unorthodox approach to having fun in the work place. While throwing fish around may be too much for you, the concept is undeniably effective. When people on a team are comfortable enough to have fun together, it is an indication that their relationship is solid. And it sets them up to handle with ease what is normally stressful—from miscommunications to upset customers.
So is there a culture of connection and fun on your team? If you think you can do better here, it is your responsibility as the leader to think of creative ways to introduce it. We just ordered a popcorn machine for instance for my team. Cheap and simple idea. Someone suggested it, and we executed it. I did not have any idea if it would work to help bring us a little closer together. But it did. Of course there was the risk of the smell of popcorn in the clinic being unprofessional. And what if we burned a batch? And what if there was always popcorn all over the floors?
Sometimes there are a few risks when trying new ideas to bring people together, especially unorthodox ideas like throwing fish around you are about to sell, or having a popcorn machine in a medical clinic. I think it is worth the risk. You can always stop doing it. But I encourage you to take the risk. Of course, you should think through what is suggested. I had to say no to an ice cream machine. But you get my point; consider whatever is feasible to do in your situation. Bottom line, do anything possible to solidify relationships which in turn will make the team more productive and able to weather stressful situations.
So how does your team fair here? Stop for a minute, and write down a number from 1 to 5.
2. We are bringing in new ideas.
This is another indication that your team is in good health: when people are comfortable to bring their ideas to the table to improve the processes and the culture of the team. Why? Because ideas are brought to the table only when people feel:
- That they will be heard. This communicates that leadership listens.
- That something does happen when a suggestion is made. This indicates that there is not a lot of red tape and that execution is likely, not just endless debating of whether or not the idea will work.
- That they will be encouraged. This expresses to the team that no ideas will be put down, and everyone is given positive reinforcement when they come up with ideas to share.
- That it is part of their job to improve the team. When your job is to improve your team and not just to do your job, the team will be in a good place. This is a positive way for team members to take ownership of the culture of the team and the workplace.
Where do you start? Ask your team members to bring ideas for improvement to the table. The key elements are receiving the ideas warmly and executing them whenever possible. How do you rate your team in this area?
3. We are actively learning from mistakes.
I also know my team is doing well when everyone feels comfortable to bring to the table the mistakes that they are making individually—and those we are making as a team—so we can learn from them, especially when they have thoughts of ways to improve. In our daily huddle, our team asks two questions about anything that went wrong the day before: (1) What can we learn from it? And, (2) what processes do we need to change to prevent it from happening again in the future? On a good team, no finger pointing happens except the finger pointing at ourselves—each person pointing to himself. When we create a culture where mistakes are viewed as opportunities to improve, and when we have a system in place to encourage talking about them, and then doing something to learn from them, we are in a good place for change.
How does your team do here?
4. We are trying new things and handling change well.
Trying new ideas requires change. And change means potential for miscommunication and misunderstanding with each other and with our customers. Only a mature team can handle change well. And the better the team, the faster the change can take place, and the more frequently changes can be made. And that’s when the fun happens—when we can not only come up with new ideas, but put those innovations into practice.
How does your team do in this area?
5. Conflict is handled with ease.
Depending on the type of work your team does, working in close proximity will inevitably create tension at some point. Good teams have great relationships, where conflict happens less and less. However, when misunderstandings and conflicts do occur, can they be resolved in a healthy and quick manner? What happens on your team when someone snaps at someone else? Do people apologize readily? Ideally, you communicate your expectations openly with your team in terms of how you would like to see them resolve conflict.
If personal problems arise even between just two teammates, they should be resolved quickly. If allowed to fester into bigger issues, then they will wear down the health and productivity of the whole team.
How does your team rate here?
6. We are learning together.
When learning is the culture, success is the result. And learning together is a wonderful way to solidify a team. Choosing a book and discussing a chapter that we all read during our weekly meeting has always produced positive results for my teams. My current team just started reading QBQ: The Question Behind the Question. And I am happy! We started discussing it last Friday, and everyone is excited to learn new things. When I can bring my team to a place where they are wanting to learn and grow, great things always happen!
How would you score your team in this area?
I hope these measurements of a great team will help you in building your own. I encourage you to assign a number to each, and if you would like to be more proactive about it, give each member of the team a chance to rate them as well. Maybe even anonymously. Just make them feel that they matter in discussing and deciding how to improve the team. Because they do. Tell them that you need their help. Because you do.
So, what does it take to build a great team? A beautiful team takes time to develop. It takes patience and wisdom. It takes resources and sacrifice. It takes intentional effort and personal growth. It takes planning and strategy. It takes flexibility. It takes a leader. The reality is I sometimes succeed at this, and I sometimes I don’t. But I always try my hardest to form the best teams I can because I have seen the power of great teams. And I want more of them.
I wish you the best in building your team.
Question: What are some of the challenges you have faced when forming a team and how did you overcome them? (I look forward to your response in the comment section below. I will be the first to answer, just to get the ball rolling.)
For Further Reading: