Teams

The Rules of Improv

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By amplifying everyday interactions, the core principles of improvisation highlight how what might initially seem trivial components of communication actually has a big impact on the direction and results of conversations and discussions.

Make Each Other Look Good;

The easiest way to look good is to make others look good. Throwing other people under the bus might give you momentary glory but it is a sure way to break the fabric of a team.

Accept All Offers;

Without the first offer, nothing will get started. Shut offers down often enough and no offers will come anymore, stifling any opportunities for progress.

Don’t Hog the Stage;

Know when to shine, and when to shut it. Make sure you listen actively and try to make others look good to avoid being a stage hog.

Yes, and...Yes, but.... > No, but....

Be careful with your buts. Often this little word will have a big impact, it will shut down any further exploration.

And some fun activities to bring some improve into your teams:

21

Stand in a circle. The goal is to count to 21 as a group. The moment that two people say the same number or if two people standing next to each other follow each other, you'll have to start over.

Clap

Stand in a circle. without instructions or any signals try to clap at the same time. Feel the moment and try to get as close as possible.

The Fabric of High-Performance Teams

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To perform on a high level with your team, the team needs a robust fabric.

The psychological safety this fabric creates will fuel an even higher performance, which in turn will strengthen the fabric. This positive feedback loop will make everyone more engaged, fulfilled and effective.

Care.

Or give a sh*t. To be able to work effectively with others, you need to care. You need to care about the others, the work that you’re doing, and how and where you do this work.

Tips & Tricks: Delight your fellow team members by bringing in some coffees or treats to your next meeting. Ask that extra question and show genuine interest.

Trust.
We believe that the language around trust is broken. People talk about trust being something that is built slowly over time, in today’s fast-paced world being able to assume trust is critical.

Tips & Tricks: Assuming trust rather than building trust is not easy. Separating intent from behaviour is often a good first step, the second one involves assuming a positive intent behind the behaviour.

Respect.

Hard to describe, but easy to recognise. We constantly send implicit messages with our behaviour, that might not align with the explicit messages we want to send...

Tips & Tricks: Make the implicit explicit the moment you feel respect is breaking down. Without respect admiration will never be built.

Admiration.

Admiration is a true indicator of high-performance. Once people start admiring each other, things start humming along. And everyone has something admirable about them!

Tips & Tricks: If you can't find anything to admire about someone, you don't know enough about them. Use the life map exercise to build admiration and don't be afraid to share what you admire about others.

Common goal.

The one thing that ties it all together. For high-performance you want to pursue a stretch-goal where the odds are stacked against you, why perform on a high level otherwise?

Tips & Tricks: Frequently discuss, adapt and agree upon the common goal. Goals change when plans meet reality and they are critical for establishing and maintaining a shared reality.

Thought from the Road #004: Coach, Manage, Lead...

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Join Gus for another thought from the road, this series comes to you straight from the airport lounges, hotels and AirBnB’s around the world.

A good developer friend reminded me on Twitter a few days ago something I used to say to my team:

“ I loved the framing I learned from @gusbalbontin years ago - you need someone to coach you (improve skill), someone to manage you (remove blockers), and someone to lead you (give direction + purpose) “

Let me add, irrespective of those roles being formally part of your job description or title, if you belong to a team (literally always) they are informally your responsibility. You have to always, coach, manage and/or lead, you cannot shake the responsibility if you want to achieve things with others ;-). ...

Culture

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How we behave will determine the culture that we build. At the same time the culture that we build will shape the behaviour we display. So to change our culture, we'll need to change our behaviour.

And this is of course easier said than done.

Because of our social nature, we just can’t help ourselves. The moment a group of individuals comes together; a culture gets formed. People will start determining how they like to interact with each other, what artifacts they like and the meaning of those artefacts. The group will amplify the values and and beliefs they can agree on. As the group starts interacting with other groups the culture gets shaped further and amplified, creating a powerful feedback loop.

This distinction between us and them is one of the most powerful forces driving interaction. The us and them distinction will build cohesion and strengthen the group, however at the same time as these positive emotions towards ‘us’ develop, negative feelings towards ‘them’ are created. Who belongs to ‘us’ and who belongs to ‘them’ is determined by setting and context.

At times when these forces are preventing collaboration, a simple reframe or explicit discussion about the common goal might be all that is needed.

Cultures get formed almost immediately but, like behaviour, might be hard to change. Like any change, this is a two-step process, insight followed by actual change.

Thought from the Road #002: Unrealistic

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Join Gus for another thought from the road, this series comes to you straight from the airport lounges, hotels and AirBnB’s around the world.

Don’t let anyone’s realistic expectations destroy your unrealistic dreams!

Somebody needs to be unrealistic at some point in time to create new realities.

The damage we unintentionally cause in the development of our kids through the school system is often a worry for me, situations that may seem small have a powerful long lasting impact happen every day.

My 12-year-old and the rest of the class had to do a budgeting exercise at school a few days ago. The idea is to first identify what your income would be in 10 years’ time and then figure housing, expenses, food, etc. and conclude with savings.

He looks up the average income of a professional NFL player, writes down $20m per year and starts the exercise. The teacher says “it’s going to be hard to figure out costs in America....let’s pick something more “realistic”. The teacher then convinces him on a Job as a chef for $70k per year.

I was not impressed. That night I told my kids: “my life has been anything but realistic, someone has to be unrealistic at some point in time for new realities to exist. Our life right now is unrealistic but here we are, forging forward carving our unrealistic path, not someone else’s realistic path. Kids! Unrealistic is critical”