Creating space for your team to thrive

Did you know that Tomrom means empty space or void? When thinking of a name for the business this one stood out for me because team coaching is about creating space to think, to be more and to become greater than the sum of your parts.

How do you create that “space” for a team? It doesn’t matter if your a team of 2 or 102 the basics are the same. I have made a list and then gone into more detail below because once you know what to do you can keep this handy list nearby to remind you of the commitment you have made to the team.

My team guide

  • Cheerlead
  • Care
  • Feast on feedback
  • Don’t play the blame game
  • Knock-out negativity
  • Include
  • Know yourself
  • Walk your talk

Cheerlead – be proud

Who doesn’t love a cheerleader? In the UK we are a little less accustomed to cheerleading than our American cousins but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give it a go. One of the primary functions of the leader of a team is to support their team but more than that I want you to celebrate them, tell everyone who will listen how great they are, have their backs when things are getting tough and give credit when due. 

Push for your team too, get them what they need be it personal or professional development or greater flexibility in working patterns. They need to know you are on their side, in their corner and will fight for them. 

Care 

Seems a simple thing to do but how regularly do we see a disengaged leadership? Engagement is bandied about a lot these days and rightly so as it is key but I like to put things in plain language. If you do not show that you are interested in what your team do or say or think they why should they bother contributing?

So listen and listen well, nod and lean in to hear more, ask questions to better understand, DON’T assume you know what they are going to say! Let people know it is good to share their opinions and that you want to hear them. Show that you understand their thoughts even when you disagree. This shows them you are interested and engaged and actually care what they think. Keep your face positive and alert, something as simple as a yawn can send a very negative message (not rocket science!). This alone will increase motivation and their engagement in work.

Feast on feedback

Who doesn’t love a bit of feedback? Seriously though feedback is so important for everyone, we all benefit from being given a different perspective. It broadens our thinking and helps us to grow. When we feel listened to and cared about we feel more confident in giving and receiving feedback so make it part of the team culture. Be open to someone approaching your desk to share some critical comments or information. Believe it or not, conflict or constructive challenge has a very positive effect on teamwork but people have to feel comfortable to challenge in the first place so encourage people to push back against the “norm” or the “we do it this way” mentality. If people know they can challenge they also then accept more accountability for their actions.

Don’t play the blame game

This is a tricky one to maintain but the change will bring about a much more engaged team and generally much more. “What”, “why” and “how” have a tendency to prevail but it’s best to reframe the questions to something more like “how can we improve this for next time?” Wherever possible use “we” in your analysis or questions, making sure that it is a collective responsibility. 

Try not to drive the focus on error avoidance either, we all need to make mistakes and push the boundaries to learn and grow.

Knock out negativity

Once you have a strong team culture calling out negative behaviour becomes easier as the whole team will call people out on it. In the early days, it is important to decide what is or isn’t acceptable within your team and then you have to be brave and call it out when you see things are unacceptable. Often negativity starts small and just the odd voice but if unquashed it will grow into a disruptive force. If members of the team speak negatively about peers, or the program or processes then talk to them about it. Let them know that as a team you work together and negativity will not be tolerated. 

Include 

Often we ask others for their opinions on a decision and then make a decision that seems to have ignored their input. Once you make a decision do you feedback on why it was made that way? Have you explained the reasoning behind your decision or how the opinions they gave shaped that decision? What other demands or constraints did you have to consider? They may not like your decision or agree with it but they will appreciate the explanation and therefore continue to contribute.

Know yourself – and encourage your team to do the same.

Do you conduct 360 feedback from those around you? Are you aware of your own impact? How do you become more aware? There are many profiling tools in the market place (Myers Briggs, DISC and Insights to name but a few) and they can help you to know yourself better, to understand where you feel comfortable and where you don’t but they also identify key areas in which each member of the team may behave differently to others. Doing as a team also raises trust in the whole group and can encourage people to feel more comfortable with each other and should allow for an element of accountability on behaviours within the team. Most of the teams I have worked with have done this to some degree.

Walk your talk

Or live your values, if you as a business stand for openness and innovation then you must make sure that you are open to hearing challenging new ideas and give your people a platform to make suggestions. Another one to consider is to tell your stories with your team, share your failures as well as your triumphs. Often this will help the team to feel more connected with you and encourage a feeling of safety when discussing failure. 

Step by step if you embrace these steps you will improve your teams and probably all your working relationships.

Mhairi Richardson
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Mhairi Richardson

Mhairi specialises in coaching teams to help them achieve more and improve their wellbeing. Her focus is on building trust within the team and a combination of coaching, mentoring and facilitation and she can tailor the program to the needs of your business. She enjoys working with newly formed teams, established team or teams who just feel they should be achieving more. Mhairi is also a coach with a strong SME background, a focus on the detail, a high level of emotional intelligence and a strong desire to develop talent and grow high performing teams.