Last week was all about how, unless Team Leaders quickly get organised around their “people practice

As usual, when we celebrate the birth of a new feature at PeopleNotTech I try and bring you guys along for the ride so you see inside the sausage factory. This is mainly to show you how and why we arrived at it so that it hopefully informs your own individual people practices whether you use our team solution or are doing this herculean work “by hand”. 


Today’s feature has me very hopeful and excited and it’s called “Team Action”. In particular at times of extreme hardship like now, nothing grounds us more than burrowing into our togetherness and tapping into the power of what it is we can do when we have a solid shared vision and enough love and hope to move mountains as one.


It’s very simple - as you guys probably know what our software does, is ask team members questions regularly, and based on their answers and behaviours, it shows how the team is doing on the elements of Psychological Safety tracked on the Dashboard - Courage, Openness, Flexibility, Resilience, Learning and Engagement. Teams then use that space openly, together in team meetings to discuss what has been transpiring in their team’s dynamic of late and how they can better any of the areas that need work. At the same time, the team leader, in particular, is getting aid in increasing their EQ and working on their people practice with visual nudges, tips, coaching and guidance.


This new feature is a simple text box where the team is asked to formulate a short and clear goal for what they decide to work on to improve depending on the data they saw come through. “Set Team Action”. It’s a simple workspace to be filled in together when in a meeting they looked at the dashboard and noticed some things slipping or needing bettering, something the team together commits to doing to increase one of the elements above. 


As our Covid offer went out at a time when it was acutely needed by so many, we have had to condense or even do away with any training and let many teams use the software pretty much independently of us which is both amazing (yey feedback and #UX_FTW) but also a bit of a baptism by fire for the team leaders who had never done anything about their people practice before. Thankfully, because the software doesn’t -by design- have too many features, this was doable. Which is why, when we decided to bump this new feature up in prioritising the backlog until it made its way in the last sprint, it wasn’t without some “product-owner-agony” (TM?) as I wondered if we aren’t overloading the system or creating the need for too much external coaching with it. 


The name of the feature we discussed extensively in the design leg of the sprint wondering whether it should be “Aim”, “Goal”, “Intention”, “Pledge” or the winner - “Action”. We settled on the latter for the behavioural “nudge” value of the name in its actionable and practical nature. It is for that same nudge value that we decided on the placement on the screen and a couple of other design traits. It’s an important part of what teams do together as it strengthens their commitment towards improving their dynamic and the more visible and clearly actionable it is, the more effective it will be. 


The theory behind the need for the feature lies in one of the many Motivation Theories (look it up, there are ridiculously many!:) Locke’s and Latham’s Goal Setting Theory. It’s the most simple and actionable framework addressing both the reasoning behind goal setting and the content they must show to be efficient. 


They postulate the elements of useful goal setting are: Task Complexity; Clarity; Challenge; Commitment and Feedback. The idea is that the goal should be more of a task when it is set - it should be actionable, very clear, it should be important to the team, it should be easy enough (but not trivial) and it should be measurable. The software is helping with all of those through the way it asks it to be formulated and when, and of course by reinforcing the feedback. But you can remember those elements and do them in your "non-team-solution-having" or “by hand” people practice too. 


To use “Set Team Action” effectively a Team Leader must remember:

  • It’s never *your* workspace. This is a shared goal setting exercise to be used In meetings, together as a team. Tempting as it may be, don’t ever write anything in the Set Team Action box on your own without the team and then communicate it to them. #CommandAndControlFTL

  • If your team is Agile, once agreed and written down make sure you transport it as an epic, a user story or at least a card or a ticket to wherever you are having your Sprint representation too whether Jira, Trello or other. It’s one of your most important to-dos not a separate afterthought for Friday's virtual beers;

  • If you only use our team solution’s dashboard in some meetings but not others (i.e. in retros but not daily meets) then you're responsible to keep the Action you set together top of mind, and see if it can be applied in the other times that the team is together or even in their daily communication;

  • Mind how you formulate it. For a goal to be effective it has to be “specific”, “measurable”, “achievable”, “relevant”, and “time-bound”. By discussing it and setting it together in the team meeting you are already ensuring all of that is true and of course, reviewing it and then changing it to something new depending on the data next time you use the Dashboard together, ensures it’s time-bound but your task is to keep an eye on the formulation - is it clear, is it somewhat pushing your team and is it relevant and emotionally important to them? Then you’re good. If it takes you being the pedantic and obnoxious one asking “do we want to say “achieve” or “do”?” when you type it in the Set Team Action box then so be it! 

  • Be mindful of how this translates into individual goals - i.e. “We will do a “Failing is good” hackathon and work to become more open as a team” is a great shared goal but it is much more effective when it is supported by a collection of mini-actions that each team member can take to ensure they are catching micro-behaviours that are negative such as impression management and that they increase their own abilities in communicating openly. At times, to underline this, it suffices to add something like “We will become more open as a team ... together and individually” to give more weight to the intention. 

In tomorrow’s video we’ll go into some individual examples of goals set by some of the teams we are working with depending on what aspect of their team’s Psychological Safety they are trying to improve, so be sure to check that for some ideas and tips but meanwhile, remember, even if you don’t have access to our solution (not sure why not, takes minutes to get set up and it’s still free for the time being!) then you can still do this on your own as a powerful team exercise and it will reframe your understanding of your people practice as a team leader and of the elements that affect your team wellbeing and therefore productivity as a team.


Stay Psychologically Safe to stay productive, connected and sane.

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