Episode 7 - Facilitate Team Collaboration
[00:00:00] Lauren Marie: Welcome to The Integrated Leader Podcast. I'm Lauren Marie, and I'm with my partner in business and in life, Loren Kutsko. We are the founders of Kutsko Consulting, an organization that enables human collaboration by providing the right data and technology to lead your people.
[00:00:20] We are introducing a learning program for leaders called the 8 Dimensions of a Healthy Team. As a leader, management and coaching is something you need to be doing every single day, why not be excellent at it?
[00:00:32] In this eight part series you will be introduced to the basic principles to engage, grow, and align your team for success. It's simple, but rarely is it easy. If you want to reflect on the current status of your team as you listen along, we have a free assessment at teamhealthscore.com that will give you a baseline of where your team stands today.
[00:00:53] You can also learn all about our other products and services like hiring assessments, individual coaching, group coaching and certifications. Thankfully, there's a growing awareness in many organizations about the benefits of Emotional Intelligence and the importance of self-reflection. More and more executives are discovering the impact that these have on the multiple bottom lines they are accountable to scale. Business is personal, So let's be good at it.
Today we are talking about the seventh of the 8 Dimensions of a Healthy Team, Team Collaboration.
[00:01:25] Loren: Our goal in this episode is to define what team collaboration is and then discuss how having it impacts the team and the bottom line of your organization. Let's get started.
[00:01:35] Lauren Marie: Lauren. It's nice to be here with you again.
[00:01:39] Loren: It's nice to be with you. We've got an exciting episode today, all about team culture and collaboration and how teams work together instead of trying to be a bunch of individuals or a group that don't share a common purpose, but actually get to collaborate with one another.
[00:01:55] Lauren Marie: How, how do you define team collaboration?
[00:01:59] Loren: Yeah, to try to be succinct, we define team collaboration and we measure it as your team's ability and history of relying on each other to accomplish shared goals by leveraging the team's diversity of strengths.
[00:02:15] What we're trying to do is basically capture that feeling that some of you may have felt at different moments in your life. And haven't been able to feel like you're feeling it the way you want to on your team at work. And now you're the leader of that team and you desperately want to create a culture that people jump out of bed to come to work and be a part of every day.
[00:02:37] But you're realizing it's not that easy. It's kind of that elusive, sense of chemistry you have with people. It's the synergy that you feel with people. And a few episodes ago, we talked about compatibility, how you can orient the members of the team around the strengths that they have, so that the people on your team actually are compatible with one another.
[00:03:02] This episode's a little bit different than that. We want to talk about now that you've got everybody on the team, you know you've created compatibility, how do you do the things as the leader that force them to work together instead of the human temptation to just sort of work independently from one another. We don't actually want to call that wrong or bad necessarily.
[00:03:23] There are football teams. And there are basketball teams and there are golf teams and swim teams. These things are still teams, swimming and golf, but those are very individual sports. We are definitely trying to discuss how to create a collaborative environment, not like a golf team. Not like a swim team.
[00:03:45] Lauren Marie: Not like, I'm just going to combine your score with mine at the end and see where we end up.
[00:03:49] Loren: Exactly. Because there is a time and a place for that, but that's not really within the scope of this episode. We're not trying to say that that's not a team or that's a bad team or that you shouldn't do that necessarily, but it's not a collaborative team. But this episode is all about how to create that synergy of, we've got a bunch of people doing different things with different strengths, and we're all trying to achieve something that none of us could do if we weren't on this team, we actually can't do this by ourselves. Like Broadway. A Broadway play is a great example, right? I need it all the actors that are on stage and they're going to be playing different parts and you can't do a good job as the lead role without interacting in an effective way on stage with somebody in a supporting role.
[00:04:34] Lauren Marie: Not to mention needing a spotlight and to be mic'd.
[00:04:36] Loren: Absolutely. Then you've got all the stuff that's happening behind the scenes in the music and in the lighting and all of the different parts of it. When you zoom out from these really big productions, whether you're talking about the arts or sports or military we want to show you as the leader, how to create that culture on your team, not the kind of culture where people are glad when they don't have to interact with anybody.
[00:05:01] And they say things to each other, like just stay in your own lane. I got this.
[00:05:05] Lauren Marie: Yeah. That's not team collaboration, but I want to acknowledge that that feels good to a lot of people.
[00:05:10] Loren: What does?
[00:05:12] Lauren Marie: Showing up to work and being able to do whatever you said you were going to do and do it at your pace and not have to collaborate. Just because you don't like to collaborate or you don't know how doesn't mean that you're not on the right team.
[00:05:25] Loren: Does it? I don't know. That's a good question. I mean, I think if, as you’re self reflecting on this, you're feeling like, oh, you know what? I am sort of a golfer, not a football player. Or I'm the kind of person that likes to do stand up comedy, not a Broadway production or not improv comedy.
[00:05:45] Right. It's an okay realization. But I do think it may indicate to you that by putting yourself on a team that may not be the right place.
[00:05:54] Lauren Marie: It depends on what the team's goal is.
[00:05:55] Loren: Absolutely. Right. But there are ways, not to tread too far into a career conversation, but there are ways to make a living utilizing your skills all by yourself. You don't have to be on a team. If that team wants to create a culture of collaboration, then that's what this podcast is about. That doesn't mean you have to get your paycheck from that team. Right? You can go do your job and bless the world.
[00:06:18] And give back and share and contribute in your way in alignment with your particular wiring and gifting without being in a collaborative environment. Maybe this podcast will kind of help you realize or help you discern, either I really want to be in a collaborative environment so I'm going to stretch myself to participate like that or, yeah, boy, that's a really good point, Loren and Lauren Marie, I think I'm going to go start my own medical practice instead of trying to be working in a hospital on a surgery team or something like that.
[00:06:49] Lauren Marie: Collaboration for me feels very vulnerable. Does it feel vulnerable to you?
[00:06:56] Loren: Hmm. Yeah. You brought that up last episode. I don't know that vulnerability is like the first emotion that I notice. I feel frustrated when people are dumb. I don't know that I necessarily feel vulnerable.
[00:07:13] And I wonder if this is a function of the difference in our D plots. Cause I feel like it's good news when we are stretching each other and challenging each other. And I wonder if that's similar to like conflict, maybe there's inherent conflict in collaboration… Have a higher D score on the D plot, maybe there's a sweet spot. Maybe the best collaborative people are between 25 and 75. Cause I think you can get above 75 and they're like, I want to be by myself because I'm always right and get out of my way and boom, you know, I'm gonna push you out of here. I don't want the limitations of collaboration.
[00:07:47] And then maybe there's too low. I'm never really going to bring up anything challenging because I am a low D and I just want to kind of like reflect and be on my own. But if you're between 25 and 75, then maybe you've got some like, interest in doing it. I wonder how much of this has to do with the D.
[00:08:01] Lauren Marie: Right, because collaboration means we get to do something bigger than what we could have done by ourselves.
[00:08:09] Loren: Well, we were giving up so much and maybe that's the vulnerability piece. Maybe you're feeling vulnerable because I think you absolutely have to give something up to be in a relationship with another person in any context, right? Family context, romantic context, but we're talking about teams. I think it's the same thing. I've got to come into an environment and give up things that if I'm operating by myself with my own office and my own door and my own computer and my own, me, me, me, me, me, I don't have to give anything up.
[00:08:40] And I think that is probably, you said it feels vulnerable, I think that probably is the most comfortable most of us can be, is to be alone, kind of doing it however we want, but then when we want to go, not be alone, either because we want to connect relationally or because we want to accomplish something bigger than we can do by ourselves, we have to give things up to go into that space.
[00:09:02] I think one choice is, yeah, you know what? At work I want to go be by myself, that's the best work I'm going to be able to do. When I'm at home in this family, I'm giving up so much of who I am. That's going to be the most collaborative environment for me. And when I go to work, I want to be on my own.
[00:09:18] And other people might realize as they listen to this, that they really do want to be in a team environment, but maybe they need to sharpen their skills in collaboration. And we're really talking to the leader of the team. How do they facilitate an environment where collaboration happens for the people on their team?
[00:09:34] Because there's certain things that the leader can do to make it feel less vulnerable or help people feel okay with the vulnerability and to build that collaboration culture. What are some ways to, if, if this is what you want, what are some ways to put people in line with one another so that you can't do a whole job all by yourself. If you want to create a collaborative environment, then , using the medical practice example in order to serve a patient really well, I'm not going to ask the doctor to do all of the steps in the cycle for the patient.
[00:10:11] I'm going to have an office manager there and I'm going to have a billing person there and I'm going to have a nurse and I'm going to have all these other roles. And in order for us to collaborate, there's one thing, the patient, there's one definition of success, there's one goal that we're all working towards many different people need to touch that process in order for it to succeed.
[00:10:31] The other way, the golf team way, to organize your team is to not do it like that. That's to say one employee. Will complete the full cycle with the patient, again, not right or wrong, but if you want to create a collaborative environment, don't set up goals that individuals can accomplish all by themselves.
[00:10:51] Lauren Marie: Can you flesh that out a little bit more? What does that mean?
[00:10:54] Loren: We could use a sports example. If you're trying to get the football from one end zone to the other, the quarterback can grab the ball and run it into the other end zone. But most likely they're going to want to receive the snap from the center and then throw the ball to the wide receiver, who's going to run it into the end zone and score. You can't do it without a team.
[00:11:17] Lauren Marie: I think that it is also helpful to understand the role, in that, your offensive line isn't touching the ball. Knowing your place in the mission I don't touch the ball as the offensive line, I make sure that my quarterback is safe. Right. And that's my metric. And that is an important part of the touchdown.
Loren: Yup. A lot of this becomes a lot more obvious when the manager and the leader of the team really knows, with extreme clarity, who the people on the team are and what they're good at and what their job responsibilities are and what the goal of the team is and how that gets measured and tracked.
[00:12:00] That's part of the reason that this episode is number seven out of eight is because we've had to go through the other six episodes to build this foundation of psychological safety, to talk about team purpose and objectives and key results, to give you communication skills in clarity and communication episodes… Now here we are, we're just talking about the culture of the team and how you can do things as the leader that will make it feel more like a golf team instead of a football team. And if you want it to feel more like a football team, then you need to be taking specific action to do that and not do the kinds of behaviors that detract from that feeling.
[00:12:32] Lauren Marie: When we have a team that is accomplishing a bigger goal together one of the things that can happen is that when we're passing the task off to the next person, information gets, can get siloed and things fall through the crack because it wasn't communicated clearly to the next group of people that supposed to take it over. Are there practices involved with how to make those transitions smoother or more explicit?
[00:13:00] Loren: Yeah, some of this stuff the coach can do in the office with the door closed at the whiteboard, you know, they don't need to be together with the team when they're doing this.
[00:13:08] It's just really getting clear. Why are we here? What are we trying to accomplish? And then understanding the people, understanding the roles, and having them matched up well, based on their psychometric assessments. That's a lot of pre-work that you can do. Then we want to do the kinds of things where we are developing one another and we’re practicing skills.
[00:13:25] In the next episode, we're going to talk about development because we're really not assuming that everybody knows how to do everything perfectly. All the time. I do think a lot of leaders hire people that go, hey, I was hiring you into this job. And in the interview process, you told me you could do this job. And now we're in here and you're telling me that, you know, you seem like you're not doing the job.
[00:13:42] We talked last episode about knowing what to do, how to do it and wanting to do it.
[00:13:46] What we're talking about in the collaboration episode though, is creating that culture. Aligning the individual goals with the team objectives can be simple once you know what that objective is. It can be as simple as breaking into parts. If we need to do nine things and there's three people on the team, instead of giving nine things to one person, I'm going to intentionally give three things to each of the three people.
[00:14:07] It could just be a matter of math and breaking it down. It could be a process. We talked about the football moving down the field process. These are things, as the leader, you need to organize, and first of all desire there to be multiple touches, multiple hands on the ball as it travels down the field.
[00:14:25] Lauren Marie: One thing in sports and in theater you have practice and you have simulations and you are working towards the actual event, right? How do we incorporate this type of mentality of practicing a few times in the workplace?
[00:14:44] Because it doesn't really seem like, in the workplace, we have this idea of, yeah, it's game time every day, eight hours a day.
[00:14:52] Loren: If you have the type of work environment where you can create a sense and a rhythm and a cadence of practice time and game time, please do that. In a white collar environment, which is generally the context that we've been speaking into, you have to do a lot of work. That's not naturally built into the 40 hour work week, but you, the team leader, can create those rhythms. You can have a weekly team meeting every Tuesday afternoon, and you can say, this is game time, or you can say this is practice. Game time is when we deliver the report every November.
[00:15:26] For two months leading up to that report that we do every single year at the same time, no one's scheduling family vacations, everyone's working longer, whatever. Accounting has this built into a big time, right? There's a, there's, you know, the April 15th accounting tax deadline every year. If you don't have those kinds of rhythms built into your work, create them, yourself.
[00:15:49] One of the things that a lot of people look at as one of the moments that Apple changed from being not a very successful computer company to the most successful company in the world, which it still holds that record today was when they started doing an annual release of the iPhone. By creating this arbitrary cadence and pace into…
[00:16:15] Everybody knows, that in June, we're doing a conference in San Francisco and Steve Jobs is going to be on stage demonstrating with a real device in front of thousands of reporters, the new release of the new iPhone. It changed everything for the company. Part of what happens was they get everybody aligned around the same calendar.
[00:16:37] That's baked into football. We've got a season, we've got practice time, we’ve got game time. If you don't have that in your industry, it would be a very good idea for you to think hard about how to create it.
[00:16:47] Lauren Marie: I agree. I agree with that because the other thing that you get on your team when you have that mentality is you have times then, when people understand, this is where it's go time and I'm all in, and I'm going to give 110% and then I'm going to rest from that game and I'm going to recover. And we're going to talk about what we did when we can reflect on it.
[00:17:08] But if we never bake in reflection time and say, okay, let's talk about what, what just happened here. It's never going to just automatically happen.
[00:17:16] Loren: Absolutely no. I mean, you're, you're nailing another really good point about rhythms and cadences and schedules and seasons, and that is how humans work. If you can align your work schedule with that instead of an arbitrary nine to five, then that will be better for the team and the goals that you're trying to accomplish.
[00:17:36] Don't just pick up arbitrary schedules that are handed to you. Think hard about them. If you have to have a Monday through Friday schedule, you have to have one. If you don't, think about what it should be.
[00:17:48] Lauren Marie: Right. I think a good example is the way that we've decided to structure this podcast is we knew that we did not want to do a podcast every week for the rest of our lives because that's too much.
[00:17:57] Loren: Yeah. You've mentioned too much a couple of times here, I think it'd be good to get into that. People have limitations, right? We're not dealing with robots and everyone rests differently. Knowing again, knowing your team and the individuals on it. And instead of creating arbitrary rules that everybody must live by in so far as you can give people space they likely will naturally rest and work on a rhythm that works for them.
[00:18:24] Now you may realize you do have some people on the team that really need structure. You're not going to be able to give everybody the choice of how to do things, because some people will never show up when you do that, but you can include them in the process. If you discover for your industry and your workplace, that it is arbitrary.
[00:18:41] Lauren Marie: Yeah. Some people really need that external urgency put on them. Having clear boundaries helps them feel safe and show up 100% because they know it's for this amount of time. And then I'm going to go back into whatever state I was in before.
[00:18:58] Loren: Right. I don't know how we started talking about schedule so much, but like, since COVID, you know, a lot of companies went full remote and everybody that was coming into the office went completely remote.
[00:19:06] And then some companies started realizing that's too much to ask of their people. They used to have these rhythms of the commute. And a lunch break. And when they're working from home, those rhythms, like you're talking about, were taken away, those structures. Now people where they used to do an eight hour workday, let's say, cause they had a 30 minute commute on either side and a lunch break in the middle.
[00:19:27] Now they're working that full time. When they would start commuting before they've logged into their computer, when they would end the commute before they've logged out of their computer, potentially technology has made this really hard. A lot of places have been experimenting with decreasing the length of the workday down to five or six hours from eight because of that, because they know that these boundaries are really hard to set now. When you can't do them physically. You can experiment with those things. A lot of the companies that are experimenting with these are discovering that productivity metrics do not go down when you decrease the number of hours in the workday.
[00:20:01] And that's because people generally know how to stay productive and they actually want a little more freedom of place and time when they get things done. Obviously we have to, in many cases, collaborate in the same space. If we're both physically working on the same product in the laboratory and we need both sets of us there.
[00:20:21] We need four hands working on this, not two hands. We need to schedule that and both show up at the same place at the same time, but there's a lot of tasks that can be done in knowledge work that can be done asynchronously.
[00:20:31] Lauren Marie: As the leader, are there red flags to indicate whether or not you may or may not be contributing to the effective collaboration on your team?
[00:20:40] Loren: I think a lot of the indicators are actually in that psychological safety realm. We get invited to uncover areas of conflict on teams using our employee stress assessments and our emotional intelligence assessments and through interviewing all the employees on teams quite often. And one of the things we often discover is this fear-based silo mentality, where people do feel vulnerable, like you mentioned, but they're too afraid to share that vulnerability with their coworkers. That when left alone turns into toxicity in your culture.
[00:21:16] I think that's one of the things you're going to notice is this hiding. if you're the leader of a team and you notice that people aren't volunteering weakness. If they are closing their door and trying to be a little bit more reclusive and they're doing it in sort of inappropriate ways that they haven't discussed.
[00:21:32] Cause if you're going to do that, you can share that with the team. You can say, Hey, I know of myself, I need to go into deep work cycles for three hours a day. So I'm going to shut the door and turn off my notifications and, you know, close the blinds, like it's on the table. People know that about themselves.
[00:21:47] They share it with their team members and everybody applauds when they're willing to set those kinds of boundaries. If they're unwilling to say those things. And you're not hearing that kind of feedback come from your people. It's likely that you're not creating an environment that's safe enough to do that.
[00:22:01] And one of the first things you need to do to create that safety is to go first in sharing the vulnerability. When was the last time you made a mistake, tell your team in your next team meeting. When was the last time you tried to get something done that didn't go the way that you were hoping that it would go? Share the example with the team.
[00:22:17] Why did you hire the people on your team? Was it because you couldn't get everything done that you wanted to all by yourself? Tell them that. I need you here. That's why I built this team. I am weak without you all. And weaknesses belong here.
[00:22:31] Lauren Marie: An image that popped in my head, when you were describing that was a non anxious leader. We've been watching the Comey show. There is a lot of bad things that happen in that show that get reported to a leader. I have to update you on something, we've got an incident. And when this is reported and something like mayhem is happening, there is no emotion being shared from the leader. It is not a surprise that something bad happened. It's not a problem that they're bringing it. Thank you for telling me, I want an update in an hour in my office. Yeah.
[00:23:17] Instead of what some people, I think, fear from their leader is, a very anxious presence. What are you, what do you mean? Why?
[00:23:27] Loren: There was a problem? Solve the problem? Bring me solutions, don't bring me problems.
[00:23:32] Lauren Marie: I mean, this is me telling you, right?
[00:23:33] Loren: Yeah, no, it's interesting because you, you bring up a work context, right, politics, the government, he's the director of the FBI. It's all about problems. The whole thing is about discovering problems. And the context with which Amy Edmondson came up with psychological safety was from researching emergency room doctors. She's noticing in her research that the teams that had the best outcomes with those patients were the teams that had the most mistakes happening.
[00:24:02] And she was like, well, what's the deal with that? And it wasn't that they had more mistakes happening, it's that they were more fluid and free reporting the mistakes. Because they were talking about them. Those mistakes then were getting resolved by the team and then the outcomes of the patient were better and they were living instead of dying or other things that go wrong on surgery tables.
[00:24:24] That is a great example from Washington DC. I think one of the things that happens in environments where you don't have that level of intensity all the time, People expect that there shouldn't be problems, right? We don't want there to be problems. Please, you know, please solve these problems.
[00:24:42] But if you can get it to a place where, hey, we're all here to solve problems together, problems are expected. Humans aren't perfect. Let's voice these together. This is the safest room in the building to talk about things that you did wrong today. One of my favorite things that teams can do to create this…
[00:25:01] This both belongs in the collaboration episode and the psychological safety, trust episode is a meeting during the team meeting, giving an award to the employee that makes the biggest mistake in the past seven days or since the last team meeting. You actually go around the room and say, You incentivize the behavior to share a mistake that you made something because it incentivizes two things and incentivizes innovation and risk-taking and incentivizes the safety where when you screw up, you can bring it here and people are going to cheer because that's what we're doing here.
[00:25:35] We're trying to do things differently. We're trying to make things better. We're trying to push past the limits. The reason we've got a diversity of talent on this team is for creativity and collaboration and innovation. Now we're not advocating that that's going to work on every team because some teams are about minimizing risk and some sometimes are not about creativity.
[00:25:53] Some teams are about perfect. If you're doing the kind of job on the type of team and the type of environment where precision matters or people will die, then you might not want to give an award to your team members for making the biggest mistake. You do have to be aware of your context, but we like that example for, you know, sort of the basic office job, office team.
[00:26:16] Lauren Marie: The last lesson that we have here in the bullet point is how to incentivize reliance on one another to achieve goals collectively. Have we covered that already?
[00:26:28] Loren: Yeah, mostly. I mean, we talked about the idea behind it. But yeah, you just, you want to pass goals out to the team that they can't do without one another and incentivize and reward them for the assist and the goal, as an example, back to sports.
[00:26:45] Lauren Marie: As a leader who wants to increase collaboration on their team, we are going to share vulnerably, we are going to make mistakes part of the natural cadence of our work, and we're going to set up practice times and game times so that there is a rhythm people can expect on the team. Anything else you want to add?
[00:27:07] Loren: No, I think that's about it. Stay tuned for our next episode, Team Development.
[00:27:12] Lauren Marie: In this episode of The Integrated Leader, we talked about Team Collaboration. Our goal was to define what team collaboration is and discuss why having on the team impacts the bottom line and your people. Thanks for joining us and stay tuned for the next episode, where we conclude the 8 Dimensions of a Healthy Team.
[00:27:33] Loren: It's been a pleasure to have you with us.
Lauren Marie: Thank you for joining us today. We are thrilled to have you here. It's important to remember that as with all learning, just having the information does not automatically lead to transformation. We can give you all of the analytics and methodologies, but team transformation will not happen without you incorporating new behaviors into your leadership practice.
Listening to a podcast without beginning to practice better management is a lot like learning about exercise without moving your body. Starting anything new will feel awkward and funny at times. This is normal and doesn't mean you should stop. Discomfort is a sign that it is working and that your brain is getting stronger. Stick with it.
Commit to trying our methods for eight weeks to six months and then observe and see what's next. See you next time on The Integrated Leader Podcast.