Working effectively as an executive team depends on how well you are tuned into your own thoughts and feelings and the way these impact on the people around you, according to Jennifer Porter, writing for Harvard Business Review.
A partner in a leadership and team development firm, she has experienced myriad company set ups where this basic understanding is missing, resulting in disagreements, misjudgments and inaction.
So, what can you do to get everyone on the same page? The surprising answer is to start by looking at yourself and your own reactions, says Porter.
THE ROOT OF DYSFUNCTION
When people turn up late for meetings, when discussions go off course, or when you start to blame others for being “dysfunctional”, she says it’s time to stop and ask yourself where you stand in terms of mastering three fundamental capacities:
- Internal self-awareness
- External self-awareness
- Personal accountability
Porter says that if you – and preferably each member of your team – make an effort to become proficient in these key areas, there’s a good chance of improving communication as you work within a complex structure, where each individual has unique opinions, desires, skills, experience and habits.
INCREASING YOUR AWARENESS
The first step is to understand the importance of the three elements and deal with each, one by one.
1) Internal self-awareness. This is about figuring out your own feelings, belief and values – the personal codes that define how you live your life.
“Teammates with low internal self-awareness typically see their beliefs and values as ‘the truth’, as opposed to what is true for them based on their feelings and past experiences. They can fail to recognise that others may have equally valid perspectives,” says Porter.
Next time you find yourself in a challenging teamwork situation, question yourself about the emotions you are feeling and why you make certain assumptions about a particular person or scenario. How are your interpretations and values affecting your reactions?
2) External self-awareness. Lack of understanding about how your behaviour, in terms of language and actions affects your team members is very common, according to Porter. This dearth of awareness makes it difficult to identify how you contribute to discord and also stops you from putting it right.
Observing other people can help you establish how they are reacting in discussions. What are their body movements and facial expressions and what do those indicate?
Alternatively, you could also ask team mates for direct and honest feedback about your reactions and actions, and whether those could be changed for the better.
3) Personal accountability. This is about taking personal responsibility for recognising and solving problems in the team when they arise. It’s much easier to brush difficulties under the carpet and hope they will go away. Accountability is about accepting that there is a problem, that you are part of it, and that you are going to fully commit to resolving it.
Learning over time to connect with these three elements and using the knowledge you gain to tackle challenges is Porter’s number-one recipe for more effective teamwork.