The six habits that help teams win

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In my last article I outlined the five steps to building a winning team. There are some meaty things to do and it’s not a quick fix. But if you focus relentlessly on those five things you’ll see significant progress and a stronger, more successful team will emerge.

In this article I want to focus on six habits that will  help you to build and grow your winning team and, particularly, help you to be individually and collectively more productive and focused.

And I can tell you now, there’s not a ‘time management’ course anywhere to be seen! The beauty of these habits is their simplicity. Any team can implement them.

In my last article, the first step to building your winning team was to define the word ‘Winning’ and then to identify, on a scale of 1-10, how close you believe you  are to winning.

And then to identify what it would take to move one step forward only (from a 4 to a 5, for example).  This is not a one-off event; it’s something you will need to re-visit regularly. So our first habit is designed to help you with this.

The ‘Eight Hour Revolution’ Habit

Two hours, once a quarter, away from the office (anywhere quiet will do).

The purpose is to get you closer to that ‘10’ – one step at a time.

So here are some rules to help make this habit work (and feel free to create your own rules):

  1. Agree some ways of working together during these sessions (see the  reference to team  norms in my previous article);
  2. Focus on the areas that your team can influence and change.  Otherwise it’s a talking shop going nowhere;
  3. Focus on the future rather than the past;
  4. All devices OFF. A distracted team is not a winning team;
  5. Focus on no more than two topics at a time for this session.

Here’s an example. One team of Financial Directors I worked with had recently been through a restructure and were taking on more and more work. They were drowning in a sea of emails and tasks and feeling overwhelmed. Their first step up was to ‘get more time for the important stuff’.

So they worked on one question only in their first ‘Revolution’ meeting.

The question was this: ‘What can we let go of to focus on the important stuff’?

They had a whole raft of answers – some of which seemed blindingly obvious and others which were more innovative.  But as they never took time out to think about these things they never got discussed and resolved – until now. 

The’ Masterful Meetings’ Habit

I love this one because most meetings don’t deliver what they could. They are too long, too dull, not focused enough….. and that’s just for starters.  So draw up your own tips to make every meeting Masterful – here are some ideas that might help:

  1. Start and end on time. If people are late, that’s their problem;
  2. Allow a 10-15 minute check in if people don’t meet regularly – how is everyone?
  3. Agree simple ‘ways of working’ for your meetings.  (Those ‘team norms’ again);
  4. No more death by PowerPoint. Please. Particularly those reams of figures that we can’t read;
  5. Each person should be clear on what their contribution is to the meeting and how it is of value to others.  Similarly, they should be clear on what they get from attending.  If the meeting doesn’t move the dial – time to re-think;
  6. Agree concrete action steps, clear accountability and timescales. No need for reams of meeting notes. Who has time to read them?
  7. Make sure all views are aired. Great meetings have lively, healthy debate AND focus on outcomes and decision.  Which is NOT the same as sharing too much detailed information;
  8. Know how much the meeting is costing you in terms of everybody’s time. One organisation I work with has an old-style taxi meter ticking away in the background – that focuses the mind!

The ‘Motivation’ Habit

Winning Teams are motivated to do their best work.

One of the questions I am most frequently asked by leaders is this:

‘How do I motivate my team’?

My answer?

There is no ‘them’. So stop thinking there’s a magic motivation wand! Instead, ask each of them to complete these two statements:

‘I am motivated at work when…….’

‘I am not motivated at work when…….’

The thing is, leaders can provide support, encouragement, interesting work, development opportunities, a pleasant work environment, good leadership - but motivation has to come from within, too.

Everyone is responsible for their own lives – and that includes finding work that they find motivating. 

These questions are worth re-visiting on a regular basis.

The ‘Thinking Time’ Habit

Without a doubt one of the simplest and yet most effective ways teams can become Winning is for each team member to allocate thinking time or ‘keep free’ time  each week. 

People are often sceptical at first – but find it life changing once they make a start! 

I always suggest people start with one hour a week away from the desk (some do it in 2 x 30 minute bursts). Going for a walk or simply going for a coffee outside the work environment can clear the head sufficiently for new ideas, insights and solutions to appear.

One team I’m working with even have ‘Team Thinking Time’. There’s no agenda.  People just ‘think out loud’ and ask their colleagues to build on what they have said. They’ve had some of their best ideas in these sessions despite the initial self-consciousness!

Winning teams have time to think!

The ‘Celebrate Success’ Habit

So easy and yet so easy to ‘forget’ to celebrate what’s gone well and focus only on the things that have not been done or not been done well enough.

Saying thank you, sending a personal card, a box of chocolates – these things cost nothing or very little and yet can have such a strong positive impact.

Winning teams celebrate success at every opportunity – however small or large the success!

The ‘Ask for Feedback’ Habit

Winning teams don’t stay in their silos – they get out there and ask for feedback.

In my last article I outlined the importance of building trust and gave you an exercise to use with your team to help you to do that. 

The great news is you can use this same exercise (or a version of it) with other people in the organisation to find out what your team is doing well – and what you could do to be even better. 

The purpose of this is not to point fingers, blame or be defensive but to look for ways to collaborate and create the future together. 

When your team takes the lead and uses this approach, I promise it will pay dividends – winning teams equals winning organisations.

Remember, everything changes when you take the first step.

So which habit will you adopt first to help you to be a winning team?

Lynn Scott is the author of The Effortless Leader Revolution: The Four Pillars of Effortless Leadership, available for download free today.

About Lynn Scott

Lynn Scott, Lynn Scott coaching

Lynn is the founder of Lynn Scott Coaching and the Effortless Leader Revolution Lynn cut her leadership ‘teeth’ in operational roles in the travel industry and led multi—cultural teams in Europe, America and North Africa. But it took her a long time to develop her focus, influence and presence as a senior leader.  Longer than it should have done! That’s why she’s been committed, since 2001 to helping leaders and leadership teams across sectors  get better results and be more confident in their own skins without working harder.   It’s not rocket science.  You learn, you practise, you consolidate – one step at a time. With someone on your side AND on your case you’ll get there  much more effortlessly than you might think.


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19th Feb 2018 11:12

Hi Lynn, well written and explained post. These habits should be adopted by the organizations, especially the 'Masterful meetings' habit. Nobody enjoys the long meetings and that too without any result. It will save the time of the organization and employees too, for some additional tasks.

Neha Gupta
Outbound Call Center Services

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