Why Study Teams

Knowing Your People Gives You Tools for Success

You are a supervisor that needs to improve the performance of your team. There are a number of ways to improve team performance and you are at the helm to choose a path for your team. Better performance leads to increased sales, productivity, profit, and recognition. Each of these outcomes is great, but how do you get your team to reach these levels of efficiency? More importantly, a self-sustained efficiency. You can use incentives, discipline, goal setting, or model the expectations yourself. Each of these can work, but are they sustainable? Will they achieve the goals you are trying to maintain for the long term?

I propose that you embrace one part of engaging your team to lead them down a path of sustainable success. Engage them daily to build an improved relationship which builds

team cohesiveness. Your intent must be genuine in this proposed relationship building. If you are faking it, your people will figure it out and you will lose credibility with them. You are engaging them for the greater good, the betterment of the team, and for the organization. Intent is everything.

When I teach my Team Builders course to well tenured supervisors, I challenge them to engage their teams daily. The purpose is so they can build a working relationship where they can move their team down the path of increased productivity. This engagement involves getting to know what is important to their people. By understanding the groups they belong to outside of work, you can tell what kind of person they may be. If you know what organizations and groups they belong to, you’ll have a greater sense of what type of person they are along with the value system they may have. This information can be used as the basis for conversations you can have with your people. It is information which, if used for the greater good, will build workplace relationships.

Understand that we spend our lives joining and leaving groups which are a reflection of who we are. These groups affirm and validate our values and beliefs. The influence of the group on the individual and vice versa will give you some insight to what is important to them. For example, a person who is a member of the ACLU or the NRA can give you some insights into the person’s value system. Politics and religion can give you some insights too, although I don’t recommend talking about them since it can be a volatile topic. If they are in a band, chorus group, motorcycle club, etc., you can gain some understandings about what is important to them. You can create conversations about their interests, not yours.

I challenge you to do the following over the next 30 days:

  • Identify a person on your team that you do not know very well or want to get to know better. Your intent is for team improvement or improvement for the individual you are focusing on.
  • Listen to the conversations that the person is having and pay particular attention to what groups they belong to whether it be at work or home. This is a focused process. You will have to listen over the course of at least a couple of weeks to gain some insight into this person.
  • Develop some questions about the groups they belong to. The questions should be inquisitive in nature to get the person to talk about the group. Try to make the questions as open-ended as possible. Have some follow up questions to create more engagement. Here are some potential questions:
    • I was curious about (group) and how it (makes things better, provides services, helps people, etc.)?
    • How do people become involved in (group)?
    • What are the goals of (group)?
    • What are some of the success stories of the (group)?
    • Modify these questions as you see fit to create conversations.
  • Ask the questions when you are ready. Remember that this is not a script. You may ask one question on one day and then follow up with another question on a second or third day. Consider:
    • The questions should be asked as part of already occurring conversations; try not to initiate the conversations with these questions.
    • Develop a strategy on how you will incorporate the questions into an ongoing conversation. Do not try to ask these questions at a meeting since the person being asked may not want to answer in that type of setting.
    • Be flexible and put in the effort to make this process work.

This process will take some time and energy. If you practice this process with one person, you can begin to practice it with everyone. It will become a natural part of how you interact with your team. Knowing the groups they belong to can be the building blocks of developing discussions and productive work relationships. Just be genuine in your intent. You’re going through this process to better the team, your people, and the organization.

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Al Cobos is the owner and lead consultant for Dychelon which improves team performance and promotes successful team building. Al has successfully built teams over the past two decades. He has over thirty years of public sector experience in addition to teaching for several universities. His focus is to improve people in their personal and professional lives.