Positivity … it really works!

Today’s working environment consists increasingly of a complex network of virtual teams, project teams and self-managing teams. All these teams are under pressure to organise efficiently, perform effectively, and continually adapt to changing circumstances – all at breakneck speed. And it is assumed that the team members already know how to achieve those results by collaborating with each other and with other teams. However, data collated by Team Coaching International tells a different story; it seems that less than 10% of the 200+ teams studied consider themselves as ‘High Performing’. Isn’t it time to do something about this?

What do people understand by the term ‘high-performing’? It’s all about finding the balance between productivity (the functional side of teams) and positivity (the relational side of teams). Examples of productivity are factors like strategy, goals, agreement, clarity of tasks and roles, clearly-defined decision-making, etc. Typically, these are rational factors that people think about where both conscious decisions and – if things go according to plan – business decisions are taken. These are often the factors that are given the most time and attention within organisations. Which is not entirely illogical, since teams are actually formed to achieve results. If there’s no need to achieve any results and/or there’s nobody waiting to take up the service or product, a team cannot justify its existence. In that case you’re better off dismantling the team and putting the members to work in positions where they can contribute to a meaningful result.

In addition to these factors, positivity factors within teams also play a key role. As already mentioned, this concerns the relational side of teams. For example, aspects such as the degree of respect and trust, optimism, the appreciation of mutual differences and the extent to which conflicts are seen as an opportunity for new discoveries, growth and creativity. These are factors that you can reason rationally, but ultimately they are primarily rooted in emotions. And that is an indicator of the importance of emotional intelligence (EQ). Daniel Goleman introduced this concept in the 1990s and his definition of it is the capacity to acknowledge our own feelings and the feelings of others. But, he claims, we don’t just need to acknowledge these feelings, it’s even more important to motivate ourselves to ‘manage’ these feelings both with regard to ourselves and to others

Just like your IQ, your EQ can be expressed as a figure. Research carried out by Goleman, in which the importance of IQ and EQ in being able to fulfil a certain function are set off against each other, produces an interesting insight. For the majority of functions, it seems that 33% of the time is spent on IQ-based actions, whole the remaining 67% is spent on EQ-based actions. For managers however, this ratio is different. In their case it’s 15% IQ versus 85% EQ!

What can we learn from this? That it’s good to spend more time on positivity (relational side) in addition to the natural focus on productivity (functional side). To put it even more strongly, we can say that positivity is an accelerator for achieving higher productivity. So instead of continually stressing the aims, and the hows and whys of the chosen strategy, a keener focus on and greater attention for the atmosphere and culture of the teams and the organisation is required. Is all this sounding rather vague? Then try this quick test. Think back to a manager you have worked with or under and whom you highly respect. Someone you admire a lot and whose qualities you envy. Before continuing reading, list the eight most important character traits of that person.

Is your list complete? Then here’s mine, which I expect will have a lot in common with yours. In fact, these are the character traits that are most frequently cited by people whose teams I coach. In random order, these are the qualities most often mentioned: he/she treats me as their equal, listens to my viewpoint, believes in me, stimulates me, radiates pleasure and enthusiasm, creates a safe environment in which I feel supported, treats me with respect and trust, and finally, he/she takes the time to really listen to me. And when I question people more in-depth about what impact this approach – primarily based on positivity – has, I’m often told that people feel that they are special, appreciated and trusted, and that it increases their belief in their own abilities. This in turn prompts me to ask the following questions: isn’t this something we all ultimately want to feel? And what would be possible if teams and organisations start structurally focussing more attention on positivity factors? To get you into the right mood, here’s a link to the music of Najavibes with their song ‘Positive Action’.

As a challenge for you this time, I would like you to read the list of 7 productivity factors and 7 positivity factors thoroughly. And then, with your own team in mind, assign each of the factors a rating on a scale from 1 to 9, with 1 standing for ‘totally lacking within our team’ and 9 for ‘applies totally within our team’. What does the result tell you about your team? Is it time to start consciously working on team development? If you would like a ‘formal’ photo of how your team stands in relation to these factors, contact me for a team scan.

Positivity… why not?

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