A few weeks ago I had a leadership training with executives. It was about finding ways and means to strengthen the team’s ability to work together. The managers were asked to develop “small” interventions that could be implemented quickly on the one hand and bring real improvements on the other. The ideas described here come from a peer coaching group.

The manager’s team consists of five employees. Two of them are very experienced and have been working together as a team of two for quite some time. The other three employees recently joined the team and are now to form a new unit together with the two seniors.

The manager wanted the team to work together as self-organised as possible, but also knows that the level of development of the employees is not high enough to establish this form of cooperation in the team, which lives from the fact that each team member can do his job independently. But his goal was to get there as quickly as possible.

The peer group, together with the manager, found out that they had to work on two main topics. On the one hand, it’s about building up the know-how as quickly as possible that’s needed to work in the team on an equal footing with the seniors, and on the other hand, the team has to learn to work together as well as possible.

To this end, the leader and peer group have developed three interventions that the leader wants to introduce with the team in the future.

Work Hack 1: A short daily voting meeting
The three new team members of the young team need a lot of support from the seniors. Since the two experienced employees have to serve as “information persons” several times a day, it is already becoming apparent that the two experienced colleagues will find the many questions from the new employees increasingly burdensome. In addition, they are constantly torn out of their own work, which leads to the fact that the seniors’ own topics fall behind.

In order to counter this tendency, a short “Daily” will take place daily from Monday onwards, which will be held as a “Standup Meeting”. The team meets at 08:45 a.m. for 15 minutes to briefly discuss how much time the new employees will need for each day and what everyone will be working on that day. It is important that no topic is discussed, but only a vote takes place.

In addition, the seniors have reserved the hour before the lunch break for one week. If the juniors need the time, the seniors are available. If not, this is an additional hour without appointments.

Why at 08:45? Quite simple – the experienced colleagues start at 07:30 a.m. and thus have a good hour of “junior-free” work. The juniors arrive at 08:30 and have 15 minutes before the meeting to vote on their questions from the previous day.

Work Hack 2: Weekly pulse check
Right from the start, the new team should get used to the fact that the employees address personal issues that burden the cooperation very quickly in order to be able to work as friction-free as possible.

The manager also wants to be as close to the team as possible so that he or she can react quickly if difficulties arise. The team should learn conflict management skills and strengthen cooperation among themselves.

The intervention that the peer group has developed with the manager is a modification of the Virginia Satyr pulse check method.

The manager has built a 15-minute pulse check into the weekly Jour fixe. This has three questions and is used each time. The three questions are:

  • What am I proud of that happened last week?
  • What did I really get angry about?
  • Which open topics do I have to clarify with whom from the team?

It took the team about two months after the introduction until this little work hack was so integrated into the meeting structure that the team didn’t want to do without it anymore.

For the leader, it was amazing how few real fights there were in the team, despite the high workload – both for the seniors and the juniors. Both the leader and the team swear that it is the Pulse Check that brought them peace.

Work Hack 3: Reviewing is the Amplifyer of Learning
This quotation comes from our company founder Ralph Coverdale and particularly impressed the manager described during the training.

Every halfway experienced manager has had to do with the topic of “reviews” before: In most cases these are done at the end of a project, where the next topic is usually already waiting or the participants are working on new topics again and the “old” topic no longer interests anyone. Very often, the topic is also reviewed and the process of cooperation is rather neglected

Together with the peer group, the manager has therefore developed the following idea, based on the way Coverdale makes flashbacks. He has decided to provide a mandatory review for any task that takes longer than 0.5 working days (i.e. more than 4 hours) in the future. This essentially consists of three question areas:

  1. Am I satisfied with what we have achieved or what can we do better? Satisfaction is always assessed in relation to the criteria and purpose agreed in the target definition.
  2. What was helpful in terms of teamwork? The focus is on what supported the common goal achievement? What hindered teamwork?
  3. What did each individual learn from the last collaboration? What do we consciously want and will we do the same next time? What will we consciously do differently next time?

The team already conducts these reviews independently and is very satisfied with them.

About 12 weeks after the training, the manager reported that the work hacks were still being used and that the team had already developed its own small interventions to facilitate cooperation.

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