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Four improvement habits of high-performing leadership teams
How often does your leadership team pause to reflect? Perhaps once a quarter? Less than that?
I get it; you're busy. When something isn't going well, you prefer to move on quickly: let's not waste time discussing what happened, but instead, let's focus on the future.
High-performing leadership teams do the opposite.
They understand that by investing in slowing down, it will radically speed them up in the future (hence the diagram). Formula 1 teams go even further: after *every* moment of execution (even if it is just a 1-hour practice session), they spend at least as much time discussing what could be improved.
This month, I’m covering the 20 habits of high-performing leadership teams. Last week I covered decision-making habits. This week is all about the improvement habits I’ve observed in the best leadership teams:
#5: They spend monthly recurring time for reflecting on and improving the team
📆 The session doesn't need to be scheduled - it already sits in everyone's calendar on a recurring (monthly or six-weekly) cadence. It doesn't get postponed or moved; it is always there. Aim for 1-2 hours minimum.
🗣️ A skilled facilitator runs the sessions. This could be one of the team members or someone from the outside - definitely don't default to the person 'highest in rank.'
🏛️ They are structured in four chapters: 1. silent individual reflection with content/sticky generation, 2. reading and clustering, 3. sensemaking around the most pressing topics, 4. takeaways and actions.
⁉️ The reflection questions vary. Google for 'retrospective questions' to find hundreds of ideas. Or use a tool like Parabol.
In this LinkedIn post I elaborated on a few pitfalls to avoid.
#6: Team works ‘on’ the organization: running experiments to improve its Operating System
High-performing leaders focus on the organizational system that drives everyone's behavior. At The Ready, as part of Aaron Dignan's book Brave New Work, we've developed the Operating System (OS) Canvas. It contains 12 lenses through which we can *observe* and *change* the OS.
To use the OS canvas with your leadership team, start here:
which fields are 'bright spots', i.e. going really well?
which fields need attention or reinvention?
Then when zooming in on a field:
what beliefs, principles, or practices are happening in this field?
what outcomes would we want from how we work in this field?
how is this field connected to others?
what might we try to improve it?
Read more about the Operating System Canvas.
#7: Feedback is flowing freely between members
Giving and receiving feedback can be terrifying, especially in a (leadership) team with low psychological safety. It can be awkward. It can feel risky. Because of this fear, we often avoid doing it even though we all know we 'should' be doing it more.
If giving and receiving feedback is a challenge in your leadership team, try this format called 'speedback':
Set aside 60-90 minutes. Ask people to come prepared: for each of your team members:
What do you appreciate about them, what should they definitely keep doing? 🤗
What might be their 'growth edges'? What feedback could contribute to their growth? 🤔
Then in the session, do the following:
🤝 Get your team into pairs
⏳ Set a timer for 2 minutes.
🗣️ One person in the pair will give feedback to the other. The other person doesn't respond and *only listens* 👂 and takes notes if they want.
🔁 After 2 minutes, the pairs switch roles.
🤝 Then everyone finds another person to pair with.
✅ You're done after everyone has talked to everyone.
⭕️ Come together in a circle and end with a closing round. Everyone answers this question one by one (no discussion): "What would you like to share based on the feedback that you received?"
This practice intentionally breaks down our reactive ego-based defense mechanisms that are so easily triggered when receiving feedback:
because you are not allowed to respond, you can lean into deeply listening to what the other is saying
because you will have received feedback from multiple people, you will start to recognize patterns - so some of it must be true!
#8: Member’s learning goals are shared openly to help each other achieve them
When feedback is flowing freely between members, it is pretty easy to have everyone sit down and reflect on the following:
In the next trimester, what do I want to become better at? What personal improvement will help my team become better and more effective?
It is powerful when everyone shares their own learning goals. When it is out in the open, we can ask: what can we all do to help you achieve your learning goal?
This is how a team is built. Members reflect on what they can do better. Then we help each other achieve that.
🚨 Roundtables for future-oriented leaders
Are you leading a team, or are you a member of a leadership team? Then I’d like to invite you to our business roundtables. The first is on the '20 habits of high-performing leadership teams' (July 18th). Register here to stay in the loop and receive all updates about the upcoming sessions.
In this newsletter, I’ve covered habits #5-#8. Stay tuned for #9-#20! Next week: strategy habits.
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