Better Team Habits
Better Team Habits
Why Teams with Better Habits Get Better Results

Why Teams with Better Habits Get Better Results

Check out this recent Mojo Sessions episode | In conversation with Gary Bertwistle

Gary Bertwistle (of Mojo Sessions fame) and I had this meeting of minds back in February — truly jamming together over substantial territory: from the need to acknowledge change and challenges in the modern workplace, to building trust and autonomy in teams, and techniques for aligning habits, communication, and belonging. I hope you’ll get as much out of it as I did. 

Topics We Explored: 

  • The need for trust, personal responsibility, and sometimes dissent, to create productive forward-moving team dynamics

  • Strategies for improving teamwork, such as rotating the role of red cell thinker and eliminating the least valuable meetings and habits. 

  • Considering emotional and social data in decision-making, and asking specific questions to gather this data from your team.

  • Challenges involved with leadership, such as prioritization, health and wellness in a busy work life, plus practical advice for overcoming some of those obstacles

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Episode Timestamps

[0:15] The role of teamwork in productivity with the impact of AI on jobs. Teamwork and collaboration are vital to productivity and leadership, especially in a moment when we’re facing changes to the nature of work after COVID and now, with emergent shifts in AI.

[3:41] Consequences of the pandemic, and paradoxes we run into with teams. Some of the consequences of the pandemic have gone ignored, including cumulative burnout and fatigue on teams. Many leaders continue to pretend this isn’t happening. Teams often struggle due to evolutionary wiring for people pleasing & goal orientation. Even individuals who may think they're personally being productive are not necessarily finishing tasks competently with teammates.

[10:42] Team dynamics, productivity, and emotional intelligence. Individual productivity differs from team productivity partly as a result of the social and collective overhead involved. Charlie highlights the disconnect that can emerge between leaders and team members around productivity and goals. Leaders and team members can have different perspectives on what constitutes productive work, leading to tension and misalignment. 

[17:40] Social and emotional factors in decision-making — and their impact on your team. As leaders, we ought to be considering social and emotional factors in decision-making, and actively gathering information in this area from our teams. Taking a more holistic approach can lead to better business outcomes. Charlie offers three questions to help teams understand each other's perspectives on change initiatives, and explains why we need a team-based approach to change. Plus why viewing each other as teammates fosters a collaborative and human-centered work model. 

[24:35] Trust and its impact on team productivity, belonging, and performance. Trust is highly key to employee productivity according to research. It’s an essential for high-performing teams, as it enables members to take risks and rely on each other. Belonging is the first category of team habits, as it fosters trust and ensures team members feel supported and valued — and are therefore more interested and invested in contributing. 

[28:59] Workplace dynamics, trust, and autonomy. In many cases, people have given up on leaning on their teammates enough in the workplace — and that obsession with autonomy leads to burnout and stress. Trust and autonomy must work together when it comes to creating great teamwork. When team members feel safe and supported, they are more likely to do their best work. Gary suggests there’s a connection between giving each other that space and developing trust. For example, when individuals have more control over their schedules, they tend to feel trusted and safe in their work.

[34:37] Trust and autonomy in remote work. Issues of trust are particularly key in remote work but there’s a need to set clear goals and expectations. Leaders should give employees the autonomy to figure out how to meet those goals, while employees agree to do their best to make it happen. Trust teams to figure out how to work best, extend responsibility to tell the org what's working/not working. Autonomy of schedule, trust, and responsibility signal trust to teams, leading to better outcomes.

[39:16] Father's life experiences, military service, and overcoming obstacles. Charlie reflects on his father’s resourcefulness and standards-driven approach to work, and the challenges he faced as a black man in the South in the 1960s. His dad used creative discipline and training methods to help his own kids meet his high standards. While high standards and toughness are important to leadership, being able to show compassion and gentleness is just as vital. He credits his mother for playing a significant role in shaping his perspective on leadership and life. 

[47:07] Prioritizing health and wellness is a personal project — it requires time, energy, and attention. Health and wellness are a project, just like building a team and using productivity habits. There’s good reason to prioritize health, even over creative or business goals.

[51:27] Prioritize health and wellness by scheduling time for it. Prioritize your calendar to align with your priorities, not just your tasks. Individuals should focus on doing the activities that are tied to what they want to be, rather than simply wanting to be something. That’s one starting approach to making progress on any goal.

[55:35] Combine the team’s personal goals with team goals for high performance. Personal importance is often neglected in scheduling, leading to imbalance. Build Goldilocks-level cadence for weekly goal discussions to boost accountability. That’s part of how you build teamwork in a way that leads to accountability. 

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[1:02:09] Why dissent in teams makes for better decision-making and greater success. Gary highlights the importance of dissension in teams, citing Charlaine Nimeth's book on the topic. Charlie agrees on the need for rotating the role of “red cell team thinker” to maintain team engagement. “Red cell thinkers” identify potential risks and develop solutions.

[1:08:56] Improve team productivity by identifying and addressing broken systems and habits. Analyze the "broken printer" causing the most pain and frustration to your team. Start with easy wins to improve team dynamics and build discipline. Growing the team’s capacity for personal responsibility is the best approach to fixing team problems and helping folks work better together. Another first step is to fix your meetings and eliminate those meetings that are terrible for everybody.  

[1:16:16] Productivity, teamwork, and the right prioritization. Aristotle’s idea of thriving was that thriving is unique to each individual — but to reach a state of flourishing always requires principled action. Gary suggests sometimes it makes sense to prioritize execution over planning, and that burnout happens when we trade time and focus for other things. Examine your schedules and priorities, to decide if you’re making a good trade of your time and focus. 

Better Team Habits
Better Team Habits