Laying foundation stones towards a high performing team

A common pattern we observe is the need for leadership and delivery teams wanting to work better together, in alignment towards a shared purpose, vision and mission. 

Often teams get stuck behind the busyness of the job, operating in silo, pulling in different directions with high levels of frustration leading to spiralling fruitless debate and negativity. Ironically, the things we believe we are too short of – time and energy, are needlessly wasted as things become too hard. 

How much time would we save if we simply slowed down enough to get to know each other, align on what’s important and become intentional about how we want to work with each other – then hold ourselves accountable to that as a collective? 

A client recognising this reached out to us to help their product management team face into the challenges they were experiencing. 
We framed their workshop around the Drexler/Sibbet Team Performance Model. Teams need to know the why/purpose for the team, who they are working with, what their shared vision and mission is and how they will work together. These are foundational questions that need to be answered in any team’s journey towards high performance.

Drexler / Sibbet Team Performance Model

After setting the scene and getting the team connected to the day we facilitated the creation of their initial Designed Team Alliance (DTA) – laying out agreements they wanted to make to create the culture that would support their work. This is a living agreement for the team which they built on throughout the day as they gained new insights. The DTA is an artefact for the team to use well beyond the workshop that they can inspect and adapt on as their needs evolve.

Co-Designing the Team Alliance

With a DTA in place we started with purpose, the ‘why’ for this leadership team. Although the team had already explored this together on previous occasions, it quickly became apparent that this was not resolved. Dancing in this moment we created the space for all voices to be heard, allowing each of them to vent what was going on and leaning into their DTA to support the dialogue.

After ventilation we were able to help them recognise where they had common interest. There was a strong acknowledgement from everyone that everybody cared deeply about their product, they were bringing passion to their work, there were no freeloaders on this team.

They then connected to why it was important for them to resolve this and they were now ready to problem solve; A shift had occurred from their previous pattern of individual approaches to now collective team discussion and action. They now recognised what they could achieve together which they could not do alone. It wasn’t long afterwards that they added this to their DTA.

Next it was time to get to know each other at a deeper level. Everyone mapped out their own individual journey line, a way to hear each other’s backstory, wherever they were comfortable to share. People stepped into their own vulnerability (key to building trust) with a number of emotional sharebacks that added great depth to the room. The team were getting to know each other at a much deeper level, building empathy and supporting each other with acknowledgements of their journeys.

Then we explored their relationships, mapping the current state from their own perspective, sharing back gallery style for observation and noticing the patterns that emerged. With these insights they collectively aligned on their desired team relationships and then brainstormed actions to support this.

Designing the desired relationships for the system

Next we explored the ‘what’ – specifically a shared vision. They visualised the team through the use of metaphor – drawing it as a real or imaginary creature, exploring how it would move, what it would feel, how it would thrive and what were its needs and challenges? This was a right brain activity to give the team access to new insights that we might not always leverage.

To support ‘how’ the team would work together we explored two topics. Starting by exploring toxins which when they show up can be really damaging to team performance. These include blaming, defensiveness, stonewalling and contempt. We explored how these toxins might show up in response to real issues, yet they were an unskillful way to handle the situation. Then we uncovered antidotes for each toxin that gave the team access to more skilful means to deal with these issues that would support team performance. 

Lastly we explored metaskills – the philosophy, attitude or intention someone can bring to a situation, this softens the emotional field and creates an intentional space for their teamwork ahead. Each team member selected a metaskill they would personally want to bring more of for their team and actions they would do to support that.

Exploring the meta skills that would support the desired relationships.

The senior leadership team were invited to join at the end of the day, allowing the team to design and deliver a ‘sprint review’ playback about what they learnt, their outcomes from the day and what they intended to do next along with the support that they will need.

If you are experiencing challenges within your team and you would like to seek resolution and be intentional on your path towards higher performance then reach out to Two Percent Shift to see what shifts your team can make.