Emotional Intelligence – Suggestion for a Self-assessment Exercise

Here’s an exercise I sometimes use in workshops, or as part of a coaching intervention.  I think that,  if completed candidly, it forms a good basis for some self-directed self-development!

Category Positive Behavioural Indicators Negative Behavioural Indicators Self-assessment
Empathy Share similar experiences

Acknowledge and respect feelings

Discuss possible solutions

Being constructive

Agreement of the situation

Dismissive of problems


Ignoring the issue

‘Pull yourself together’ approach

Positivity Flexible




‘Can do’ approach

Willing to do new things


Willing to challenge when appropriate


‘Can’t do, won’t do’



Unaware of limitations

Over assertive

Openness Approachable

Willing to listen



Willing to give people time

Receptive to new ideas

Acceptance of constructive criticism

Consistent and fair

Too direct

Risk of being taken advantage of

Taken for granted

Erosion of authority

Time management issues

Personal Self-Awareness Manage own stress levels

Home/work balance

Recognise own weaknesses and take action

Recognise strengths and use them to the full

Recognise own needs

Realistic assessment of own abilities

Recognise own influence on others

Too concerned with own needs

Unrealistic assessment of own abilities

Too self-focused

Inability to see own influence on others

Social Self-Awareness Being able to respond to others

Using own status appropriately


Sensitive to individuals’/ team workload

Overstepping the mark

Oversensitive to individuals and personal influence on them

Over-friendly and personal

Too status-focused

Confidence Accept challenge


Willingness to speak up

Accept criticism

Challenge appropriately

Too big for boots

Too overpowering

Unrealistic assessment of own abilities

Motivation Maintains focus on tasks

Engages others

‘Can do’ approach

Overcomes obstacles

Achieves targets

Little energy

Sits on fence

‘Can’t do’ approach

Puts up obstacles

Achieves little

Emotional Expression Friendly behaviour

Open to others

Good eye-contact

Appropriate body language

Puts people at ease

Appropriate expression of feelings


Closed to others

Too open to others

Wears heart on sleeve

Bottles up feelings

Temper tantrums



Inappropriate laughter


Putting people on the spot

Social Awareness Dressing appropriately

Encouraging others to have a view

Language matches the occasion

Showing consideration for others

Showing an interest in others

Dressing inappropriately

Hogging centre of attention

Using wrong language for the occasion

Lack of consideration

Bull in a china shop

Being self-absorbed

Not reading body language

Emotional Balance Acknowledging feelings appropriately

Identify appropriate outlet for emotion

Retaining control

Expressing reaction to a situation …

Constructive and positive

Overly controlled

Displaying emotion innapropriately

Assertiveness Create opportunities to put point across

Retain control where appropriate

Ability to assess right time to put point across

Ability to stand ground


Stifling debate

Not contributing on behalf of self or organization

Too assertive – may equal arrogance

Self-Reliance Sees the wider picture

Get on with the job

Being resourceful

Self organization

Manage own time

Exclude others

Don’t accept help when required

Insular – can be perceived as inapproachable

Put self in danger

Pressure Performance Responds well to deadlines

Maintains enthusiasm for the task



Maintains perspective

Thinking on feet

Lack of attention to quality

Inability to think clearly – flustered

Makes mistakes

Blames others

‘Brick wall’

My website contains further resources that may be of interest …


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Conducting a personal SWOT analysis

Guidelines for Conducting a Personal SWOT Analysis

What makes a personal SWOT powerful is that, with a little thought, it can help you uncover opportunities that you would not otherwise have spotted. And by understanding your weaknesses, you can manage and eliminate threats that might otherwise hurt your ability to move forward. If you look at yourself using the SWOT framework, you can start to separate yourself from your peers, and further develop the specialized talents and abilities you need to advance your career.

  • What do you do well?
  • What unique resources can you draw on?
  • What do others see as your strengths?
  • What could you improve?
  • Where do you have fewer resources than others?
  • What are others likely to see as weaknesses?
  • What opportunities are open to you?
  • What trends could you take advantage of?
  • How can you turn your strengths into opportunities?
  • What threats could harm you?
  • What is your competition doing?
  • What threats do your weaknesses expose you to?

How to Use the Tool

To perform a personal SWOT analysis, sketch out a template similar to that illustrated above and populate it with the answers to the questions posed.  And here are some additional guidelines …

Strengths -Think about your strengths in relation to the people around you. For example, if you’re a great problem-solver and the people around you are also great problem-solvers, then this is not likely to be a strength in your current role – it may be a necessity!

Weaknesses – What tasks do you usually avoid because you don’t feel confident doing them?  What will the people around you see as your weaknesses?  What are your negative work habits (for example, are you often late, are you disorganized, do you have a short temper, or are you poor at handling stress?)

Opportunities – What new technology can help you?  Or can you get help from others or from people via the Internet?  Is your industry growing?  If so, how can you take advantage of the current market?  Do you have a network of strategic contacts to help you, or offer good advice?  What trends (management or otherwise) do you see in your company, and how can you take advantage of them?  Are any of your competitors failing to do something important?  If so, can you take advantage of their mistakes?  Is there a need in your company or industry that no one is filling?  Do your customers or vendors complain about something in your company?  If so, could you create an opportunity by offering a solution?  You might find useful opportunities in the following:

  • Networking events, educational classes, or conferences.
  • A colleague going on an extended leave. Could you take on some of this person’s projects to gain experience?
  • A new role or project that forces you to learn new skills.

Threats – What obstacles do you currently face at work?  Are any of your colleagues competing with you for projects or roles?  Is your job (or the demand for the things you do) changing?  Does changing technology threaten your position?  Could any of your weaknesses lead to threats?

Performing this analysis will often provide key information – it can point out what needs to be done and puts problems into perspective.

My website contains further resources that may be of interest …


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Systemic Leadership – Part 4

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4.     Experiences that Develop Leadership Capabilities


In Parts 1 to 3 we explored the foundations of systemic thinking and its relationship to the reductionist and connectivist paradigms.  We considered new ways or working within organizations and new ways of leading in a time of change.  We will now turn our attention to how we can develop ourselves, and others who lead or aspire to lead, in ways that are consistent with the challenges of the 21st Century and underlying assumptions of systemic leadership.

A fundamental theme of this penultimate Post on Systemic Leadership is that whatever approaches are taken to leadership development, they will be more effective if they incorporate the three key components of assessment, challenge and support.  Drawing on the work of The Centre for Creative Leadership (McCauley, C.D., Moxley, R.S., Van Velsor, E. (Eds), (1998), Handbook of Leadership Development, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco), the following five approaches will be used to illustrate this theme:

  • 360-Degree Feedback;
  • Feedback-Intensive Programmes;
  • Skill-Based Training;
  • Job Assignments;
  • Developmental Relationships;

4.1    360-Degree Feedback

360-degree feedback is a method of systematically collecting opinions about a person’s performance from a wide range of co-workers.  The benefit of collecting data of this kind is that the person gets to see a panorama of perceptions and is able to see these in the light of their own perceptions.  When embedded in a larger leadership development process, the impact of formal 360-degree feedback can be highly significant.  Below is a typical example of part of a 360-degree feedback form.

MANAGING INFORMATION Evidenced strength Development need
1 Seeks information energetically.
2 Creates order out of large quantities of information.
3 Keen observer of people, events and things.
4 Gets to the heart of the problem
5 Spots trends early
6 Adept at disseminating information to others.
7 Crisp, clear and articulate.
8 Good public speaker, good at performing.
9 Makes points effectively to a resistant audience.
10 Strong communicator on paper.
11 Action oriented, presses for immediate results.
12 Decisive, doesn’t procrastinate.
13 Trouble-shooter, enjoys solving problems.
14 Implements decisions, follows through.
15 Weighs consequences of complicated actions.

In the life of a busy organization, people often find themselves feedback-starved as they get caught up in day-to-day pressures and fail to pick up the cues from others.  Furthermore, giving and receiving feedback are threatening activities for many people, and they may not feel that either is worth the risk.  Formal 360-degree feedback processes help to address these issues, although the process may take significant effort in terms of understanding and interpretation the results.  This usually requires the services of an expert.

The benefits of multiple views are:

  • They reflect a more comprehensive representation of a person’s reality;
  • They reduce the potential for bias;
  • They reflect the new reality of networked systems;
  • They include feedback that would normally be untapped (customers, suppliers, clients).

The assessment component of 360-degree feedback is self evident.  It can be use to help people answer the question “How am I doing?” by providing the perspective of multiple raters.

The challenge component of 360-degree feedback is in facing what people who have multiple perspectives really think of you, and comparing this with your self-concept.  This kind of introspection can seriously challenge our comfort zone.  But perhaps the greatest challenge of all is answering the question “Now that I have the data, what do I do with it?”  In this sense, it serves as a valuable ‘unfreezing’ process.

The support component of 360-degree feedback involves building in various features to the feedback process.  These include:

  • Maintaining the confidential nature of the feedback data;
  • Using a trained feedback facilitator for clarification about the data;
  • Gaining senior level support for the participant’s development plan;
  • Making clear the goals for the process from the outset;
  • Offering organizational support for the kinds of assignments that are known to contribute to the effective development of leaders;
  • Enabling systems for on-going feedback;
  • Following-up conscientiously on the development plan.

4.2    Feedback Intensive Programmes (FIP)

Typically, a feedback intensive programme is a room based exercise that takes place away from work.  It is particularly relevant as a leadership development tool under the following circumstances:

  • A time of career transition, either to a new organization or to new responsibilities in the present job;
  • In developing the careers of people identified as having high-potential;
  • When someone shows signs of potential derailment, being passed over for promotion or faltering in performance in normally strong areas.

The defining features of a FIP include:

  • A classroom based educational experience;
  • Typically takes place away from work;
  • Feedback is intensive and comprehensive, comes from multiple perspectives and uses various instruments and experiences;
  • Feedback is constant throughout the process;
  • The programme provides concepts and models for reflecting on various aspects of leadership.

Programmes have three phases.

(a)       Pre-programme Activities

These may involve:

  • Responding to open-ended, essay type questions;
  • Interviewing the participant’s boss about how s/he views effective leadership in their organization;
  • Completing a number of personality inventories, attitude surveys, questionnaires about their current leadership challenges, and self-rating of their skills and abilities;
  • Rating forms completed by their bosses, peers and staff (360-degree processes).

Programme staff use the data as raw material for feedback reports that are delivered at appropriate times during the residential component of the programme.

(b)       The Residential Component

Generally, this is a five-day event containing structured experiences such as leaderless group discussions, simulations and targeted exercises.

When placed early in a programme, leaderless group discussion can help group members get to know each other and provide valuable corroborative data to compare to the feedback they receive later in the programme.

Simulations in some way replicate aspects of people’s real-life jobs.  They can be as small as an in-tray exercise taking an hour to complete or as large as a full-scale simulation of two organizations working together that takes a day to complete.  Watching how people perform in simulations can provide data on how effectively someone finds and assimilates information, communicates it to others, and works with others to solve problems.

Targeted exercises are short, experiential exercises done in small groups that provide assessment data and serve to reinforce a point made in the classroom or a theme that is central to the programme.  Unlike simulations, targeted exercises such as do not attempt to replicate the actual work environment.

In many exercises, people are encouraged to choose a behaviour they are considering changing and experiment with it in the safe environment of the classroom with a group of trusted peers.

(c)       Post-programme Activities

It is important to provide participants with structured support as they continue to reflect on what they have learned about themselves and pursue goals and action plans.  This may come from a wide variety of coaching or peer relationship options, often combined with the keeping of a journal.

The assessment component of feedback intensive programmes is present throughout the process, which immerses participants in rich data about themselves and their interactions with others.

The challenge component of feedback intensive programmes comes from the amount and intensity of the feedback, the discomfort of being rated while engaging in new and demanding tasks, and encounters with different ideas and perspectives.

The support component of feedback intensive programmes is provided by both the programme staff and the other participants.  The climate in the training room is relationship-based and over the course of the programme the group becomes a community of learners who grow to trust each other.

4.3    Skill-Based Training

The basic assumption of skill-based training as applied to leadership is that through a series of step-by-step instructions and demonstrations, managers can learn the skills and techniques of leaders.  This approach encompasses two types of learning – knowledge and skills, i.e. the cognitive and the action domains of learning.

The basis of modern skills-based training programmes is the research that has been carried out over the last decade or so, which has identified a range of specific competencies that are linked to effective leadership, e.g. visioning, self-awareness, systemic thinking, motivating others and self-confidence.  Some of these lend themselves to the feedback-intensive approach, others lend themselves to skill-based training approaches whilst others benefit from a combined approach.

A criticism often levelled at skills-based training when used in the context of leadership development is that leadership competencies are too broad-based to be approached in this way.  However, broad competencies are made up of a range of more focused skills, and it is these skills that are amenable to development through skill-based approaches.

The variety of training methods available

With regard to the approaches typically applied to skill-based training, these can be view on a continuum from low to high interactivity, with each suited to its own category of skills.

Interactivity       Methodology           Examples of Skills Learned

Low Lecture Conceptual information such as theories, models, principles and techniques.
Low/medium Case Study Complex skills such as the ability to see alternative solutions, question assumptions, think analytically, detect and solve problems.
Medium Role-play Interpersonal skills such as conflict management, negotiation, influencing, team building, active listening, giving and receiving feedback, and communication.
High/medium Behavioural role-modelling Same as role play.
High Simulations Problem solving, interpersonal skills and analytical thinking.

The assessment component of skill-based training is through pre- and post-training measures of skills in the specific content area.  Added to this, on-going feedback improves the effectiveness of skill-based training

The challenge component comes from being taken out of one’s comfort zone and into new waters.  Moreover, role-plays, behaviour modelling and simulations are relatively safe ways to put individuals into situations where they can try out skills, with relatively little consequence from their mistakes.

The support component is around providing the opportunity for learners to apply newly acquired skills within their job context, i.e. supporting the transfer of learning.  Organizations, and line managers, vary greatly in their willingness and ability to allow appropriate transfer of learning.  Barriers include competing priorities, fear of errors and cognitive dissonance.

As there is some overlap, and often confusion, between feedback-intensive programmes and skill-based training, it is worth considering the similarities and differences in a structured format.

Skill-based Training                             Feedback-intensive Programmes

Purpose To improve performance in specified skill areas. To gain in-depth understanding of strengths and weaknesses and develop increased self-awareness.
Focus Narrow focus on only specified skill areas. Wide focus on a broad range of potential strengths and weaknesses.
Use of feedback Feedback is used as a tool for assessing pre- and post-training skill levels and for increasing skill level during training. Feedback is used to understand how one is viewed from multiple perspectives and how one’s behaviour has an impact on others.
Use of practice An ample opportunity to practice new skills through experiential activities is essential to good skill-based training design.  Practice is necessary to improve skill levels. Little, if any, practice of new skills.  Experiential activities are used to generate data about oneself, one’s behaviours, and how these behaviours are viewed by others.
Content Design includes prescriptive information, specific models, checklists and tactics for use. Design includes information that helps participants organize their experiences (rather than prescriptive information).  Typically includes models and concepts.

Skill-based & Feedback-Intensive Training Compared and Contrasted

4.4    Job Assignments

Job assignments are one of the oldest and most effective forms of leadership development as they provide the opportunity to learn by doing.  What makes a job assignment developmental is an appropriate degree of stretch or challenge.  Below are some examples of the types of challenge that can be provided by a range of assignments.

Type of challenge                                      Appropriate assignments

Managing personal transitions Being the inexperienced member of a project team.  Taking a temporary leadership job in another function.  Managing a group or discipline you know little about.
Leading change Launching a new product, service or system.  Dealing with a business crisis.  Reorganizing a team.  Resolving performance problems.
Adapting to high levels of responsibility A high level assignment with tight deadlines.  Representing the organization to the media or influential outsiders.  Acting-up in a manager’s absence.
Influencing and negotiating Presenting a proposal to top management.  Serving on a cross-functional team.  Managing an internal project such as a company event.
Overcoming obstacles Working in a situation where there is little or unclear direction from senior management.  Starting a new project with few resources.

Critically, a structured approach needs to be taken to job assignments if the greatest benefit is to be obtained, and a typical time scale would be 2 to 3 years for effective learning and consolidation.  The following questions will facilitate learning from a developmental assignment.

About yourself 1.  What strengths do I bring to this job?  What will help me?

2.  What are my developmental needs?  What might hinder me from being effective and successful?

3.  What aspects of this job may be particularly challenging?

4.  What can I learn from this job?  What do I want to learn?

5.  What do I need to know to do this job effectively?

6.  What might make it difficult for me to learn?

About the assignment 1.  What are the organization’s objectives for me in this job?

2.  What are my own personal objectives in this job?

3.  How does this job fit with the organization’s mission, values and goals?

4.  What do I know about this job?  What are the tasks, responsibilities and   requirements?  What are the key leadership challenges?

5.  What are my staff like?

6.  What is my boss like?

7.  Am I likely to encounter any resistance/  What steps might I take to overcome it?

8.  Who can help me?  Where can I turn for support?

9.  What other resources do I have available to me?

10.  Is there anything I would like to change about this assignment?

During and after the assignment 1.  How can I monitor my learning progress? (e.g. journal, coach).

2.  What am I learning?  Anything I didn’t expect?

3.  What am I not learning that I thought or hoped I would?  Why?

4.  How will I know I have learned what I wanted and needed to learn?

The assessment component of job assignments may be grounded in a gap analysis of the individual’s current job description and that of a target job to which the individual and the organization are aiming.  Alternatively, job assignments may form part of a fast-track programme for individuals perceived to have high potential but who lack experience.

The challenge component of job assignments comes from having the authority to do something new.  When taking up a job assignment, the sources of power or influence you bring will have a very different profile to that available to you in you ‘normal’ job.  Generally, these sources can be summarised as follows:

  • Referent Power.  This is the quality that causes an employee to emulate his or her boss.  Bosses who have referent power are regarded as role models; people want to become like them.  Their views, values, mannerisms, skills and even gestures may be studied and copied.  A manager with referent power exercises a strong influence on the thoughts and actions of employees.
  • Expert Power.  A manager who possesses relevant expertise can influence others because of this expertise.  This is the one area in which technical competence, skill and knowledge can contribute to a leader’s effectiveness.  Expert power is related to referent power in that knowledge is a respected characteristic.
  • Reward Power.  Since people are motivated by the desire to satisfy a particular set of needs, rewards are valuable tools for influencing behaviour.  These can take many forms, ranging from money to praise (especially in front of a worker’s peers).  Most managers control rewards; employees understand this.
  • Coercive Power.  Use of reward power is positive leadership; use of coercive power is negative leadership.  The stronger the penalty, the more negative the leadership.  Many managers use both types of power every day.  Whichever predominates sets the climate within the work group.
  • Legitimate Power.  Managers doing prescribed jobs within their rightful authority have, by definition, legitimate power.  Because they represent authority employees normally will follow their lead.  Only if managers exceed what employees believe are their limits of authority do the managers cease to have legitimate authority, in the eyes of their employees.

The support component of job assignments may take a variety of forms such as endorsement of one’s ideas and actions, coaching, mentoring, facilitating and providing an outlet for stress.

4.5    Developmental Relationships

In this section we focus on relationships within work settings that are particularly developmental, i.e. relationships individuals point to as being their key sources of assessment, challenge and support.  The first thing to consider is the various roles other people can play in the leadership development process, and then look into how the use of these relationships can be maximised.  Thereafter, ways to enhance access to these relationships within organizations should be considered.  The role of others in the developmental process is outlined below for each of the elements … Assessment, Challenge and Support.


Role: feedback provider, sounding board, point of comparison, feedback interpreter.

Function: to provide on-going feedback as the person learns to develop and improve; an evaluation of strategies before they are implemented; a benchmark for evaluating own level of skill or performance; assistance in interpreting and integrating feedback from others.


Role: Dialogue partner, assignment broker, accountant, role model.

Function: Perspectives or points of view different from own; access to challenging assignments (new or additional); pressure to fulfil commitment to development goals; examples of high competence in areas being developed.


Role: Counsellor, encourager, reinforce, cohort.

Function: An examination of what is making learning/development difficult; a boost in own belief that success is possible; formal rewards for progress towards goals; the sense that you are not alone.

The role of others in the leadership development process

Personal guidelines for capitalising of developmental relationships include:

  • Seeking out multiple relationships for development;
  • Establishing which roles are needed for current development goals;
  • Using, fully, the 360-degree field of relationships;
  • Not assuming relationships need to be long-term or intense to be developmental.

Organizational guidelines for capitalising of developmental relationships include:

  • Communicating overt organizational support for the programme;
  • Developing and maintaining clarity of purpose, expectations and roles;
  • Ensuring participant choice and involvement;
  • Providing careful selection and matching procedures;
  • Maintaining continuous monitoring and evaluation.

The most frequent application of developmental relationship initiatives are associated with:

  • The organizational socialization of new managers;
  • Preparing people with high potential for more responsibility;
  • Developing individuals from minority groups;
  • Meeting the development needs of senior executives;
  • Facilitating organizational change initiatives.

The forms that formal developmental relationships can take on, along with considerations around when to use them and the potential problems they may generate, are summarised below.

Form of relationship When to use it Potential problems
Mentoring – When senior mangers have the time, experience and expertise to share with junior managers.

– When junior managers need exposure to the perspectives and job demands of senior managers.

– There may be a lack of integration with other management development strategies within the organization.

– Senior managers may not have the skills and motivation to teach others.

– There is the potential for role conflict between the boss and the mentor.

– May cause resentment for managers who have not been selected to participate.

Peer Coaching – When individuals need experience or familiarity with issues and perspectives in other functions or parts of the organization.

– When individuals need coaching to get up to speed in a business knowledge or technical area.

– When improved cross-group communication is desired.

– When peers going through similar experiences need opportunities to learn from and support each other.

– Managers may not complement each other.

– The organizational climate may not promote open communication between colleagues.

– Managers may feel resentful about being asked to coach and assist other managers.

– Managers may not have the time or motivation to participate.

Executive Coaching – When a high-level executive has no peer or boss who can serve as coach.

– When there is the need for the professional skill of someone in behaviour change strategies.

– When a concentrated period of coaching on a particular skill is required.

– The experience and skills of the coach may not meet the needs of the executive.

– May be too expensive.

– May undermine other’s confidence in executive coaching if it is not kept confidential.

Coaching in Groups – When potential coaches are in short supply.

– When it is anticipated that peers can learn and benefit from each other.

– When increased cohesion among group members is desired.

– Some participants may need more individualised developmental attention.

– Potential coaches may lack the skills, time or motivation to mentor a group.

– Requires a fair amount of time and planning to be effective.

– There is the potential for conflict between the group coach and the managers of participants.

A Summary of the Issues Associated with Formal Developmental Relationships

The assessment, challenge and support components of developmental relationships are, as shown in the table at the top of this section, integral with the relationships themselves.

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Systemic Leadership – Part 3

My website contains further resources that may be of interest …


3.     Integrating the New Paradigms


Systemic leadership actively incorporates, integrates and practices the new ways of working – relating, influencing and leading.  It is a higher order of leadership, one that matches the complex complexity of the 21st Century.  In Part 3 we will explore eleven new competencies that flow from the four new ways of working.  A competency is the ability to learn new knowledge and/or skills and be able to apply them to a wide range of situations.

3.1    Competencies for a Highly-connected World

Each of the competencies we will now explore has a personal and organizational dimension.  This reflects the depth of transformation required for real change to happen.  In the spirit of drawing on analogy from the natural world, the relationship between the personal and organizational dimensions may be represented by the double helix in a DNA strand.  One strand is related to personal competencies, whilst the other strand is related to organizational competencies.  These two strands of competency combine to create a code that determines the nature and behaviour of the organization.

(a)       The ability to actively engage.

People make choices with regard to their engagement with change that include:

  • Withdrawal
  • Cynicism
  • Disenfranchisement
  • Feigned participation
  • Victim
  • Active engagement
  • Committed participation
  • Leader
  • Active change agent

On a personal level we have to develop an action-oriented mindset, i.e. one associated with the latter four engagements given above.  This requires the belief that our actions can make a difference (a key prerequisite of motivation) and therefore we should choose action over passivity.

On an organizational level we must start to learn how the system operates, what our role is within the system, who our allies are with respect to change, and where the leverage points are within the system that allow natural dynamics to bring about transformation.

(b)       The ability to collaborate.

On a personal level, collaboration requires the development of trust and authenticity.  When we trust others we share our thoughts and feelings because we believe they will not be held against us.  When others share their thoughts and feelings with us, they perceive us to be trustworthy and believe we will not hold their thoughts against them.  If we have relationships built on trust we will be more open and able to collaborate with others.

On an organizational level, this competency involves cultivating collaborative relationships and, in order to influence change, developing a network of individuals who will help influence the system in a desired direction.

(c)       The ability to continually learn.

On a personal level, this competency involves becoming an integrated learner, i.e. one who continually creates feedback loops between the domains of new knowledge, skills and daily practices in order to accelerate and inform learning and creativity.

On an organizational level, constant change requires groups to accelerate the sharing of new knowledge, skills and daily working practices in order to adapt to the changing conditions of their environment.  The purpose of continual learning is to survive and thrive within an ever changing environment.

(d)       The ability to hold diverse perspectives.

On a personal level, appreciating different perspectives is an essential prerequisite for a full understanding of highly-connected systems.  This appreciation has its foundation in our individual responses to diversity.  Do we value and respect difference?  Do we believe that diversity enhances and enriches our personal lives?  Individuals who thrive on diversity would seek it out and actively incorporate different perspectives, experiences and individuals into their lives and worldview.

On an organizational level, leveraging multiple perspectives is needed if the system is to benefit from the diversity that is inevitably present, rather than be restricted by the prejudices or fear often associated with diversity.  The ultimate aim of capitalising on diversity is to move from individual intelligence to collective wisdom.

(e)       The ability to express emotional maturity.

On a personal level, emotional maturity is the capacity to be attentive to what is happening around us and empathic with others, enabling us build relationships based on trust and authenticity.

On an organizational level, we must be aware that in a highly-connected world, emotions flow freely through the connections.  During periods of change, an organization can be swamped with emotional overload.  Collective emotional maturity allows organizations to deal productively with the emotions they propagate and, as a result, personal and organizational learning is accelerated.

(f)        The ability to engage with paradox.

On a personal level, seeking out paradoxes and living with them can prepare us for the jumps and leaps that are the natural dynamics of highly-connected systems.  Paradoxes often provide a way of seeing the non-linear nature of networks.

On an organizational level, optimising the relationship between opposites can help systems evolve.  For example, the tension between chaos and control can lead to new forms of innovation in an organization.  Optimising the tension between challenge and support can facilitate growth and development in individuals.  The tension between anxiety and boredom can facilitate learning.

(g)       The ability to make meaning.

On a personal level, what this search is, and how it is conducted, is highly individualistic.  The search for meaning has been a human pastime for at least five millennia.  Some argue that it is the inevitable consequence of a self-conscious brain.

On an organizational level, fostering communities that are organized around a shared sense of vision is critical for the leadership of a highly-connected system.  And communities of meaning in a highly-connected world can be created over great distances, e.g.  the development of ‘virtual universities’ that draw on expertise that would otherwise be impractical to draw together into one physical space.

(h)       The ability to see and understand patterns.

On a personal level, the ability to recognise the paradigm that provides the most powerful explanation of the dynamics of the system we are interested in is a critical competency.  This is about recognising the importance of context and understanding its effect on what we are seeing and on the interventions we may make when trying to influence the system.

On an organizational level, pattern recognition is the key.  In any situation there are multiple assumptions and paradigms that can be chosen to provide explanations as to what is happening and what needs to be done.  In a closed system, tradition ‘blinds’ insight.  Seeking and being open to new patterns is what is needed in a highly-connected world.

(i)         The ability to undergo profound change.

On a personal level, in order to facilitate deep organizational change we need first to develop the capacity for personal transformation.  Most people will not follow a leader who does not lead by example.  And we must overlay this with the recognition that all influencing relationships are two-way.  If we are asking others to be open to our influence, we must be open to being influenced by them.

On an organizational level, the transformation of an organization is the product of the transformations of the individuals within it.  In turn, the transformation of individuals is a product of the transformations of the organization.  An understanding of this feedback loop is essential for guided evolution – and revolution.

(j)         The ability to see and understand connections.

On a personal level, seeing connections within a highly-connected system is a core competency in facilitating effective influence.  People become ‘systems thinkers’ when they see and understand how their part of the organization fits with the whole system, when they see how the past effects the present and how the present effects the future.

On an organizational level, highly connected systems have emergent properties, i.e. are greater than the sum of their parts.  System dynamics looks at how the whole organization behaves, anticipates, understands and then engages with change.  Once individuals can see the connections within systems, they need to apply this knowledge to the organizational level by developing the capacity to leverage the dynamics of the connections to facilitate and influence change.

(k)       The ability to sustain effort.

On a personal level, this is about sustaining your personal balance.  Because highly-connected systems constantly change, and never shut down, we need to develop and conserve our energy and resources over the long term.  In finite games, we can come close to burn-out or injury because we know there will be a rest period between games.  In a highly-connected system there is no rest period – the action is non-stop.  Therefore we need to develop the competency of sustaining our own balance so we can maintain endurance over time.

On an organizational level, we need to develop the capacity to sustain the organization and its resources over time.  Resources include people, material and intellect.

3.2    Enriching the Meaning of Work

The practice of systemic leadership challenges us to formulate new assumptions that explain our world and the organizations we inhabit.  Applying these assumptions to our work leads us to adopt new roles within our organizations.  These new roles can be practiced from anywhere, not just through positions of authority.  The development and refinement of the eleven new competencies are necessary for the practice of systemic leadership, and with these competencies we can help our organizations transform themselves and increase their capacity to thrive within our increasingly connected world.

The ideas that have been introduced and explored in the preceding sections are not complete until each of us further develops them to our own individual and organizational contexts.

If not this, what?  If not now, when?  If not me, who?

Hock, D.W. (1996), System thinking. Keynote address presented at the Systems Thinking Conference, San Francisco.

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What button pushing can tell us about management behaviour

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What button pushing can tell us about management behaviour!

When waiting for lift/elevator most of us will push the call button repeatedly, even though we know it doesn’t do any good to press it more than once.  This tells us a lot about our human response to anxiety.  We keep pushing the button because we are cognitively hard wired to do something when we feel anxiety, not because we have an illusion that it accomplishes anything.

Metaphorical button pushing can be observed when leaders and managers are faced with an anxiety-inducing problem that they can’t do anything about.  But in this context, button pushing takes the form of meetings, planning sessions, the setting up of special teams, team retreats, etc.  These activities tend to give us a sense on control and make us feel better.  But as good as it makes us feel, holding more meetings is almost always the wrong answer, as are most of the other displacement activities in which managers engage, e.g. writing reports, creating PowerPoint presentations, commissioning surveys, pacing around the office making sure that everybody is doing something that at least appears to be productive.  At best, these are harmless button-pushing behaviours.  But more likely they are counterproductive because they take time and attention away from other things and communicate to the organization a sense of anxiety.  When did you last ‘button push’ ?  And what should you have been doing instead?

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Guide to managing and optimising team performance

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Guide to Managing and Optimising Team Performance

Section 1: Introduction

1.1 Teams

Teamwork drives the performance of most organisations with the success of performance dependant on the team members, their commitment, direction and drive to perform for the common goals of the team. A team can be defined as:

“A small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.” (1)

This guide has been developed for staff who:

  • lead newly established teams;
  • lead teams that are not performing to their potential;
  • lead high-performing teams who wish to review and reflect on their team performance;
  • participate as a team member and want to learn more about team functioning and dynamics; and
  • recognize potential issues in teams and seek advice on ways to improve team functioning.

A team is distinct from a group of people who come together for a common interest. Establishing a team involves gathering a group of people who work together in concert to achieve a common goal (2).

Teams have a purpose and direction and team members have clearly defined roles and responsibilities within the team. Key characteristics of teams include (3):

  • common purpose
  • complementary skills
  • interaction
  • shared resources
  • consensus decision-making on major issues
  • synergy (output greater than sum of parts)

Section 2: Team Development Model

2.1 Stages of Team Development

Building a team requires a period of goal-setting and strategy development for completing goals. Once a team has been established and roles are clarified, the team usually progresses through a series of developmental stages (see below) (4).

Stage Description
Forming This stage includes building a common purpose, understanding personal expectations and interests, clarifying accountability, recognition and rewards.
Storming The storming stage gets the team focussed on goals, managing processes, conflict-resolution procedures, integrating everyone in the team and building good relationships between team members.
Norming At this stage, team members begin to work towards consensus on issues and develop the processes for information sharing and feedback. Team members are given more opportunities to lead.
Performing Team members seek to improve tasks and relationships, test for better methods and approaches, and celebrate successes.

Although this model describes an ideal team development process, many teams do not have a clear start or end point. This model can also be applied for existing teams with new members or a new team leader as the principles are the same. The remainder of this Guide will detail each of these stages.

Section 3: Forming

This stage includes building a common purpose, understanding personal expectations and interests, clarifying accountability, recognition and rewards.

3.1 The Role of Team Leader

The team leader plays an important role in providing structure, support and direction for the team during the ‘forming’ stage. As a leader of a team there are several roles and strategies that you can fulfil in order to motivate and improve team performance. The team leader can play many roles and may vary according to need and focus of the team and the individual members of the team. For a full description of the various roles a team leader can play, see Appendix A.

The role of team leader will vary according to the identified needs of the team, stage of team development and level of functioning. It will also depend on the style, qualities of the team leader and how comfortable they are in each of the roles.

3.2 Setting Team Goals and Direction

The primary focus of the team leader is to set team goals and ensure alignment with the strategic direction of the Service. Teams are brought together with common goals and purpose. In order for team members to be effective they need to be clear on team direction and purpose and what they are working towards. The following elements can help team members create a commitment to a common vision:

  1. Supportive Environment: A team needs internal support from management or the team effort may fail. Team members require the essential resources to get the job done, such as materials, supporting ICT systems and human resources.
  2. Clear Goals: Clear goals provide a structure and direction for each individual member of the team and they create the context in which team members can make their day-to-day decisions. Team involvement in goal setting will increase each member’s buy-in and commitment. Clear goals are also supported by good planning.
  3. Operating Agreements: These explicit agreements detail how each member of the team will behave, and how the team will work together, make decisions, communicate, share information, and support each other, (Refer to Appendix B).
  4. Competent, Dependable, Trusted Team Members: Teams have the most difficulty with this part of the equation. All members need to feel confident that team members are trustworthy.

3.3 Becoming an Effective Team Member

When individual team members behave like team players instead of solo performers, the collective output of the team increases, so the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. The following checklist has been designed to assess whether you are an effective team player. Often such checklists are looked upon cynically, in which case they are of no value.  Alternatively, an authentic engagement with both the content and ‘spirit’ of the questioning process can be a strong basis for both self and team review and renewal.  If you wish to engage in a more sophisticated approach to using the checklist, rather than simply tick the ‘Y’ or ‘N’ column, place a score out of ten in the ‘Y’ column, where 10 = ‘Fully’ and 0 = ‘Not at all’.

Team behaviour Y N
Am I open to new ideas?
Am I open to and do I encourage different ways of working?
Do I share my knowledge and skills with team members?
Do I seek alternatives and explore options before concluding on a course of action?
Have I developed working relationships with people from different functions/disciplines?
Do I work towards win-win solutions?
Do I only join teams whose goals I highly value?
Am I reliable? Do I do what I say I am going to do?
Am I results-oriented?

Section 4: Storming

The storming stage gets the team focussed on goals, managing processes, conflict-resolution procedures and integrating everyone in the team. It is important for the team leader to generally provide support and remain positive and firm in the face of challenges. The team leader may consider explaining the stages of team development to normalise ‘storming’ behaviours and manage team member expectations.

4.1 Managing Team Performance through Difficulties

As the name suggests, the ‘storming’ stage can involve a period of uncertainty while team members integrate and find their way in the team. During this stage, there can be conflicts and dysfunctional patterns starting to emerge, so it is important to monitor and evaluate factors that may be impeding the overall team’s effectiveness.

A number of operational stressors (e.g. high workload, organisational change, conflict) can have a negative impact on team performance. The following factors have been found to mediate the influence of these operational stressors (5):

  • high level of individual morale
  • supportive leadership
  • positive work team climate
  • individual employee receptiveness

When morale decreases, individual’s become increasingly sensitive to perceptions of organizational support and fair treatment. A high-level of morale increases resilience and creates a ‘buffer’ against operational stressors. Supportive leadership is characterised by a range of behaviours. If you would like to know if you display effective team leadership skills, complete the checklist below.  As with the checklist above, if you wish to engage in a more sophisticated approach to using the checklist, rather than simply tick the ‘Y’ or ‘N’ column, place a score out of ten in the ‘Y’ column, where 10 = ‘Fully’ and 0 = ‘Not at all’.

How do I know if I am an effective team leader?

Leadership behaviour Y N
Do I delegate effectively?
Do I treat all staff with respect?
Am I accessible and approachable?
Do I encourage staff to take initiative?
Can I be relied upon under pressure?
Do I actively seek the input and involvement of staff?
Do I try to understand the problems faced by staff?
Do I proactively address staff concerns?
Am I generally supportive to my staff?
Do I value and encourage diversity of thought and expression?
Do I ensure that all staff are clear about their roles and responsibilities?
Do I provide fair and timely feedback to staff?
Do I focus on the strengths and achievements of my staff in performance development discussions?
Do I remove obstacles and roadblocks so that staff can be more effective in their roles?
Do I make staff development a priority?
Do I create opportunities to challenge my staff and create interest in their roles?
Do I communicate clearly, regularly and authentically?
Do I engage staff in change initiatives and seek their input?
Do I monitor workload and address resource gaps promptly?

4.2 Assess Team Functioning

In order to improve team performance and increase outcomes it is crucial to gain insight into how the team is operating and identify opportunities for improvement. It is advisable to collect data on the team’s functioning which can be collected in a variety of ways. Some options are listed below:

Review staff data including absenteeism data.

Use of a team survey which focuses on team effectiveness (6).

Individual interviews can be conducted with the aim of seeking perspectives from team members. It may also help to assist your understanding of the team dynamics and functioning

Conduct your own team health assessment (see Section 4.4).

4.3 Symptoms of Dysfunctional Teams

Reviewing your team in its current state will indicate the degree to which dysfunction exists. Various symptoms, outlined below, should help you recognise the degree to which your team is performing sub-optimally. Patrick Lenconioni (2007) outlines the five dysfunctions of teams as follows (7):

Dysfunction Description
Absence of trust Stems from a team member’s unwillingness to be vulnerable within the group. Team members who are not genuinely open with one another about their mistakes and weaknesses make it impossible to build a foundation for trust.
Fear of conflict * This failure to build trust is damaging because it sets the tone for the second dysfunction: fear of conflict. Teams that lack trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered and passionate debate of ideas. Instead, they resort to veiled discussions and guarded comments.
Lack of commitment A lack of healthy conflict is a problem because it ensures the third dysfunction of a team: lack of commitment. Without having aired their opinions in the course of passionate and open debate, team members rarely, if ever, buy in and commit to decisions, though they may feign agreement during meetings.
Avoidance of accountability Because of this lack of real commitment and buy-in, team members develop an avoidance of accountability, the fourth dysfunction. Without committing to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven people often hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviours that seem counterproductive to the good of the team.
Inattention to results Failure to hold one another accountable creates an environment where the fifth dysfunction can thrive. Inattention to results occurs when team members put their individual needs (such as ego, career development, or recognition) above the needs of the collective goals of the team.

*For a general overview of conflict consult the Monash Guide to Managing Conflict – Positive steps for managing and promoting a health workplace culture

4.4 Team Health Assessment (8)

The following instrument can help assess team health and isolate whether a particular dysfunction exists in your team.

Instructions: use the scale below to indicate how each statement applies to your team. It is important to evaluate the statements honestly and without over-thinking your answers.

1 = Rarely     2 = Sometimes     3 = Usually

Behaviour 1-3
1. Team members are passionate and unguarded in their discussion of issues.
2. Team members openly acknowledge one another’s unproductive behaviours.
3. Team members know what their peers are working on and how they contribute to the collective good of the team.
4. Team members quickly and genuinely apologise to one another when they say or do something inappropriate or possibly damaging to the team.
5. Team members willingly make sacrifices (such as budget) in their departments or areas of expertise for the good of the team.
6. Team members openly admit their weaknesses and mistakes.
7. Team meetings are compelling, and not boring.
8. Team members leave meetings confident that their peers are completely committed to the decisions that were agreed on, even if there was initial disagreement.
9. Morale is significantly affected by the failure to achieve team goals.
10. During team meetings, the most important and difficult issues are put on the table to be solved.
11. Team members are deeply concerned about the prospect of letting down their peers.
12. Team members know about one another’s personalities and are comfortable discussing them.
13. Team members end discussions with clear and specific resolutions and calls to action.
14. Team members challenge one another about their plans and approaches.
15. Team members are slow to seek credit for their own contributions, but quick to point out those of others.


Combine your scores for the preceding statements as indicated below.

Absence of Trust Fear of Conflict Lack of Commitment Avoidance of Accountability Inattention to Results
Statement 4: Statement 1: Statement 3: Statement 2: Statement 5:
Statement 6: Statement 7: Statement 8: Statement 11: Statement 9:
Statement 12: Statement 10: Statement 13: Statement 14: Statement 15:
TOTAL: ___________ TOTAL: ___________ TOTAL: ___________ TOTAL: ___________ TOTAL: ___________

A score of 8 or 9 is a probable indication that the dysfunction is not a problem for your team. A score of 6 or 7 indicates that the dysfunction could be a problem. A score of 3 to 5 is probably an indication that the dysfunction needs to be addressed.

Regardless of your scores, it is important to keep in mind that every team needs constant work, because without it, even the best ones deviate toward dysfunction.

4.5 Strategies to Address Team Dysfunction

The following table outlines some further indicators of team dysfunction and provides a range of potential strategies (9).

Problem Characteristic behaviours Strategy
Unhealthy conflict Personal attacks


Some members shut down in face of heated discussion

Dialogue argumentative

Absence of expressions of support for others’ views

Aggressive gesturing

Interrupt personal attacks or sarcasm

Ask members to describe behaviour, rather than attack character

Encourage all members to express views

Review or create norms about discussing contentious topics

Trouble reaching consensus Holding onto positions regardless of others’ input

Same argument continues to be repeated with no new information

No one formally closes the discussion

Solicit input on members’ key interests and needs

Discuss consequences of not reaching consensus

Ask what needs to happen in order to complete discussion

Team isn’t communicating well Members interrupt or talk over others

Some members are excessively quiet

Problems are hinted at but never formally addressed

Members assume meanings without asking for clarification

Nonverbal signals are at odds with what is being said

Review or create group norms for discussion

Actively solicit all members’ views

Routinely ask members to be specific and give examples

Address nonverbal signals that are at odds with verbal content

Consider using an outside facilitator

Lack of progress Meetings seem like a waste of time

Action items are not completed on time

Closed issues continue to be revisited

Restate direction and assess what is left to accomplish

Ask members to identify causes of late work and brainstorm solutions

Leader should discourage revisiting closed issues by reminding team of previous decisions and focusing on next steps

Low participation Assignments are not completed

Poor attendance

Low energy at meetings

Confirm that leaders’ expectations for participation are shared by other members

Solicit members’ views on reasons for low involvement

Develop a plan to address reasons for low participation

Assess fit of members to team tasks

Unclear goals Individual members promote outcome that is in conflict with the team goals

Team members capitulate too quickly in discussions

Team is spending an inordinate amount of time discussing actions that are not aligned with team goals

Remind members of team goals during each meeting

Ask how each action being discussed will contribute to the teams goals

Be suspicious of premature agreement. Ask members to play ‘devil’s advocate’ about issues around which everyone quickly agrees

Inept leadership Leader does not solicit enough involvement from team members

Leader does all the work

Team falls behind

Conflicts become unhealthy

Lack of vision

Leadership perspective is myopic; it represents one area rather than full constituency

Be brave: meet with leader to express concerns about perceived leadership deficiency

Consider how you might help the leader to be more effective eg. volunteer for additional tasks

If leadership problems persist, express concerns to sponsor

Lack of management support Work of team is rejected by management

Senior managers express discomfort about the team’s work

Necessary resources are not provided

One of several preventable problems has occurred:

Team does not have an adequate sponsor

Sponsor has not ‘signed off’ on goals and resources

Team sponsor and/or other stakeholders have not been adequately informed of team progress

Work with sponsors to clarify team charter and resources

Lack of resources Team ‘work’ assignments are not coupled with a trade-off from regular job responsibilities

No budget for necessary materials or outside participation

Negotiate trade-offs with sponsor and member’s supervisors

Negotiate for budget

If sponsors and stakeholders will not contract for needed time or resources, team success is unlikely; consider disbanding the team

Absence of trust Team members unwilling to be vulnerable within the group

Team members are not genuinely open with one another about their mistakes and weaknesses

Identify and discuss individual strengths and weaknesses

Spend considerable time in face-to-face meetings and working sessions

Fear of conflict Teams do not engage in unfiltered and passionate debate of ideas

Discussions characterised by veiled discussions and guarded comments

Acknowledge that conflict is required for productive meetings

Establish common ground rules for engaging in conflict

Understand individual team member’s natural conflict styles

Lack of commitment Teams do not engage in debate and discussion and therefore do not air their opinions regarding a course of action Engage team members in discussion regarding a course of action and ask for their opinion

Review commitments at the end of each meeting to ensure all team members are aligned

Adopt a ‘disagree and commit’ mentality – make sure all team members are committed regardless of initial disagreements

Avoidance of accountability Team members do not commit to a clear plan of action and therefore do not feel responsible for the outcome Explicitly communicate goals and standards of behaviour

Regularly discuss performance versus goals and standards

Inattention to results Team members put their individual needs (such as ego, career development, or recognition) or even the needs of the collective goals of the team Keep the team focused on tangible group goals

Reward individuals based on team goals and collective success

Section 5: Norming

At this stage, team members begin to work towards consensus on issues and develop the processes for information sharing and feedback. Team members are given more opportunities to lead. It is important for the team leader to step back and help the team take responsibility for milestone achievement.

5.1 Evaluate and Review Team Success

When you believe the team has successfully navigated through the ‘storming’ stage, it is important to develop a process for tracking team performance and measuring overall team progress as part of a continuous improvement process that will contribute towards a culture of high performance. The following assessment provides feedback on how effectively your team works together.

On a scale of 1 (not at all) – 5 (very often)

Characteristic/behaviour 1 2 3 4 5
My team is knowledgeable about the stages of development teams can be expected to go through.
Team members are provided with a great deal of feedback regarding their performance.
Team members are encouraged to work for the common good of the organization.
There are many complaints, and morale is low on my team.
Team members don’t understand the decisions that are made, or don’t agree with them.
People are encouraged to be good team members, and build good relationships.
Team members are provided with development opportunities.
Meetings are inefficient and there is a lot of role overlap.
Team members are encouraged to commit to the team vision, and leaders help them understand how their role fits into the big picture.
Team members are often given a chance to work on interesting tasks and stretch their knowledge and capabilities.
The team understands what it needs to accomplish and has the resources needed to be successful.
Conflict and hostility between members is a pervasive issue that doesn’t seem to get better.
People feel that good work is not rewarded and they are not sure what is expected of them.
Team members balance their individual needs for autonomy with the benefits of mutual interdependence.
Working relationships across units or functions is poor, and there is a lack of coordination.

Calculate your total score ____________

Score Comment
45-51 You’re a solid team member working well as part of an effective team. Lower scores in this range show that there is room for improvement. Read the following summaries of key teamwork functions and determine which of the tools will help you become a better team player and build a stronger team.
30-45 Your effectiveness as a team player and your team’s effectiveness are patchy. You are good at some things, but there is room for improvement. Focus on the serious issues (refer to Section 4.5) and you will most likely find that you and your team will start to achieve more.
1-30 This is worrying. The good news is that you have got a great opportunity to improve your effectiveness as a team member and the effectiveness of your team (refer to Section 4.5).

5.2 Evaluate and Review Individual Team Members’ Success

The performance development process provides an opportunity for both the staff member and the manager / team leader to review the performance of individual team member’s and provides an avenue for discussion about future performance indicators and career development strategies.

Section 6: Performing

Team members seek to improve tasks and relationships, test for better methods and approaches, and celebrate successes. It is critical that the team leader delegates as far as possible. Once the team has achieved high performance, the team leader should aim to have as ‘light a touch’ as possible.

6.1 Create a High Performance Team Culture

It is important to monitor and evaluate your team’s effectiveness in an ongoing way to ensure that you are constantly looking for ways to improve. There are a range of management systems, processes and practices that contribute to creating a high performance team culture at the organisational, manager and staff level. The following checklist outlines these in more detail (10). As with earlier checklists, if you wish to engage in a more sophisticated approach to using this checklist, rather than simply tick the ‘Y’ or ‘N’ column place a score out of ten in the ‘Y’ column, where 10 = ‘Fully’ and 0 = ‘Not at all’.

Management practice Y N
Performance Development System
Do team members understand their performance standards?
Are performance standards fair and linked to organisational success and strategy?
Is feedback provided to staff from multiple sources?
Performance Culture
Do I encourage, yet manage, risk taking?
Do I institutionalise (create processes and systems for) the free-flow of information, innovation, openness and flexibility?
Manager-Staff Member Interaction
Do I help staff find tangible, immediate solutions to specific work challenges to improve performance?
Do I provide needed information, resources and technology?
Formal Review
Do I emphasise the positive during performance reviews?
When I discuss performance weaknesses are my observations clearly focused on specific suggestions for improvement or development?
Do I discuss the staff member’s long-term career in the organisation?
Informal Feedback
Do I provide fair and accurate informal feedback on performance?
Do I provide detailed, immediate and positive feedback?
Day-to-Day Work
Do I carefully match staff to jobs?
Do I take time to explain the big picture?
Job Opportunities
Do I provide staff with highly-visible opportunities that leverage their strengths?
Do I support training or development that is functionally relevant and job specific?

6.2 Delegating and Empowering Team Members

In the ‘performing’ stage of team development, the team leader should delegate as much as possible to allow team members the opportunity to lead and take responsibility for major tasks through to completion.

So why don’t people delegate?

If you are the team leader, chances are you already have the skills to do most of the work yourself and are likely to do it a lot quicker than bringing someone else up to speed. However, by doing the work yourself, you are not making the most of your time and are not developing your team member’s skills and abilities. By investing a little bit of time up-front, you will be able to delegate tasks with confidence the next time around with less involvement from you.

When do you delegate?

Delegation, when done properly, is a win-win. However, this does not mean that you can delegate everything. To determine when delegation is appropriate, ask yourself the following questions:

Delegation checklist Y N
Is there someone else who has (or can be given) the necessary information or expertise to complete the task? Essentially is this a task that someone else can do, or is it critical that you do it yourself?
Does the task provide an opportunity to grow and develop another person’s skills?
Is this a task that will recur, in a similar form, in the future?
Do you have enough time to delegate the job effectively? Time must be available for adequate training, for questions and answers, for opportunities to check progress, and for rework if that is necessary.
Is this a task that I should delegate? Tasks critical for long-term success (for example, recruiting the right people for your team) genuinely do need your attention.

If you can answer “yes” to at least some of the above questions, then it could be well worth delegating this job.

To whom should you delegate?

Having decided to delegate a task there are some other factors to consider as well. The factors to consider here are:

(a) The experience, knowledge and skills of the individual as they apply to the delegated task

What knowledge, skills and attitude does the person already have?

Do you have time and resources to provide any training needed?

(b) The individual’s preferred work style

How independent is the person?

What does he or she want from their job?

What are his or her long term goals and interests, and how do these align with the work proposed?

(c) The current workload of this person

Does the person have time to take on more work?

Will delegating this task require reshuffling of other responsibilities and workloads?

How should you delegate?

Use the following principles to delegate successfully.

  1. Clearly articulate the desired outcome. Begin with the end in mind and specify the desired results.
  2. Clearly identify constraints and boundaries. Where are the lines of authority, responsibility and accountability? Should the person:
    • Wait to be told what to do?
    • Ask what to do?
    • Recommend what should be done, and then act?
    • Act, and then report results immediately?
    • Initiate action, and then report periodically?
  3. Where possible include people in the delegation process. Empower them to decide what tasks are to be delegated to them and when.
  4. Match the amount of responsibility with the amount of authority. Understand that you can delegate some responsibility; however you can’t delegate away ultimate accountability. The buck stops with you.
  5. Delegate to the lowest possible organisational level. The people who are closest to the work are best suited for the task, because they have the most intimate knowledge of the detail of everyday work. This also increases workplace efficiency, and helps to develop people.
  6. Provide adequate support, and be available to answer questions. Ensure the project’s success through ongoing communication and monitoring as well as provision of resources and credit.

Once the delegated work is delivered back to you, set aside enough time to review it thoroughly. If possible, only accept good quality, fully completed work. If you accept work you are not satisfied with, your team member does not learn to do the job properly. Of course, when good work is returned to you, make sure to both recognise and reward the effort. This effort will go along way toward building the team member’s self confidence and efficiency.

Appendix A – Roles of the Team Leader11

Role Description
Inspiration and visionary Ensuring the team and the wider organisation is aligned, focused and committed to a common direction.
Innovator Encouraging the team to try new ways of doing things, take risks and experiment.
Long-range strategic planner Keeping the team connected to the business strategies. Constantly gathering and analysing information on changing needs.
Resource provider The leader is there to be a resource to the team by removing barriers, supplying tools and providing information.
Resource manager Helping the team to manage resources and set priorities.
Coach Raising other people’s game. Taking the time and having the talent to help raise individuals’ understanding, motivation, skills and confidence.
Counsellor This leader takes responsibility for creating consciousness in the team about what is really going on. It is about surfacing the games that are regularly played out within and between teams and other parts of the organisation.
Observer and evaluator This leader is constantly alert to the full situation; everything that could impact the achievement of the task.
Active team member This leader is an active team member who treats team members as true partners, not followers to be commanded and directed from the sidelines.
Motivator Pursuing performance and promoting individual fulfilment and the personal fulfilment of team members.
Performance development supervisor Provides ongoing, regular and constructive feedback to staff to assist them in achieving their personal and professional goals and to contribute to the goals of the unit and Monash University.

Appendix B – Operating Agreement Template

Develop an Operating Agreement

The Operating Agreement acts as a ‘roadmap’ that the team and its sponsors create at the beginning of a project to make sure that all involved are clear about where they are heading, and provide direction when things get tough. The precise format of a Operating Agreement varies from situation to situation and from team-to-team, and although the actual charter may take several forms, its value comes from thinking through and discussing each of the elements.

These elements include:

Element Definition
Context What is the problem being addressed?

What result is expected?

Why is this important?

Mission and objectives By defining a mission, the team knows what it has to achieve. Without a clear mission, individuals can too easily pursue their own agendas independently of, and sometimes irrespective of, the overarching goal.

Once the mission has been articulated, it is important to define the goals and objectives. These are the critical targets and milestones that will keep the team on track.

When writing goals and objectives, consider using the SMART framework (specific, measurable, agreed, relevant and time bound).

Composition of the team and roles Members have the skills and experience to do the job.

Members can bring their experience and approaches from a range of different backgrounds.

There are enough people to do the job, but not so many that people get lost.

There is representation from involved functions, schools, departments, campuses.

Look to your mission and objectives to determine who is needed on the team to make sure your goals can be accomplished. Once you know who should be on your team, look at what each person will do to support the team in its mission. Spot gaps in skills and abilities that are necessary for the team to reach its goals. The best way to go about this is to list each team member and define the role and responsibility for each:

Who is the team leader?

Who is the liaison between the team and the other stakeholders?

Who is responsible for what duties and outcomes?

Authority and boundaries With the roles defined, you now need to look at what team members can and can’t do to achieve the mission:

How much time should team members allocate to the team mission, and what priority do team activities have relative to other ongoing activities?

How should team members resolve conflicts between their day jobs and the team mission?

What budget is available? What resources are available?

Can the team recruit new members?

What can the team do, what can’t it do, and what does it need prior approval to do?

Resources and support This section lists the resources needed for the team to accomplish its goals. This includes budgets, time, equipment and people. In conjunction with the performance assessments, changes to the resources required need to be monitored regularly.

In addition to this, it details the training and coaching support available to the team to help it do its job.

Operations This section outlines how the team will operate on a day-to-day basis. This can be as detailed or as minimal as the situation warrants. It may be comprehensive and detailed in a long-established team, or limited to a few dot points in a team that is expected to have a short life.
Negotiation and agreement The Operating Agreement emerges naturally through a process of negotiation. The team’s client establishes the context and mission. Objectives, composition, roles, boundaries and resources ideally emerge through negotiation between the sponsor, team leader, team and other stakeholders.

Operating Agreement Template

Team Name
Team Leader
Team Members
i.e. What is the problem being addressed? What result is expected? Why is this important?
Mission and Objectives

“To ensure all Child Protection Cases are appropriately allocated in order to manage risk and promote timely interventions.”

Composition and Roles
i.e. What is each team member’s contribution, role and responsibility?
Authority and Boundaries
i.e. How much time should team members allocate to the team mission, and what priority do team activities have relative to other ongoing activities? How should team members resolve conflicts? Can the team recruit new members? What can the team do, what can’t it do, and what does it need prior approval to do?
Resources and Support (including budget)
i.e. Allocated budget, resources and equipment.

“Team meetings:

The first team meeting will be held on Tuesday 16th March, 09.30 – 11.00 am;

The team will thereafter meet at the same time on the third Tuesday of every month with a clear commitment to close the meeting at 11.00 am;

Each member is expected to present a three minute status report for the group at each meeting;

If a member is unable to attend, a notification must be sent to the team leader with someone else designated to attend prior to the meeting;

Action Items will be noted by the Admin Officer and circulated to all team members by close of business on the same day as the meeting.”

i.e. Are there any projects or other teams that this team is required to work with or take into account?
Stakeholder Analysis
Approval stakeholders Stakeholders that give endorsement, provide resources and budget.
Implementation stakeholders Stakeholders that are required for implementation and therefore need to be engaged through the process.
Interested stakeholders Stakeholders that play no formal role but have an influence on the service or need to champion the service in some way.
Risk Analysis
Risk Priority/Likelihood Strategy
e.g. change of strategic direction Medium / Unlikely Although this is unlikely as it is in the strategic plan and fully funded, if the strategic direction changes it will have a significant impact on the Service. Ensure appropriate managers are engaged and communicated with periodically and their concerns are addressed.
Success Measures

Collaborative budget arrangements are agreed

A multi-agency approach is developed through the new Trust arrangements


Development of a shared budget for Service x is achieved by 30th August

Map current service offerings in both Service disciplines by 30th October

Identify opportunities for further tangible multi-agency collaboration by 31st November.

i.e. How successful are the initiatives implemented? Have these initiatives had an organiational and Service User impact?


Service x engages y children and families in the first year and continues to grow to z by April 2012

Collaborative Service delivery results in clear improvements in outcomes 3 and 4 for ‘Every Child Matters’.


Team Leaders, Principle Social Workers, District Manager, Head of Service.

Team Charter: Endorsed / Not endorsed
_____________________________________ Date     /     /
_____________________________________ Date     /     /
_____________________________________ Date     /     /
_____________________________________ Date     /     /
_____________________________________ Date     /     /
Team Members


  1. R. Katzenbach & D. Smith, The Wisdom of Teams. Harvard Business School Press, 1993.
  2. M. Hays, Building High-performance Teams: A Practitioner’s Guide, Argos Press, 2004.
  3. L. Marlow & R. Jones, Leadership in Action, PowerPoint Presentation, Monash University, 2008.
  4. Catalyst Consulting Team. (2002). Accelerating Team Development: The Tuckman’s Model.
  5. Cotton, Dr. P. (2005). The prevention and Management of Psychological Injuries: An Evidence-Based Approach, Department of Human Services, Occupational Heath & Safety Forum.
  6. Carl Taylor (cpmtaylor@msn.com) can provide assistance in the selection of an appropriate proprietary instrument.
  7. P. Lenconioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – A Leadership Fable, Jossey-Bass, 2007.
  8. Source: ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – A Leadership Fable,’ © 2002, Patrick Lenconioni, Jossey-Bass
  9. Harvard Business Essentials. Creating Teams with an Edge. Harvard Business School Press, Boston: Massachusetts, 2004.
  10. Corporate Leadership Council, 2002. Performance Management Survey.
  11. McKenna, revised 2008, http://www.lindsaymckennalimited.com, viewed 9 November, 2008.

My website contains further resources that may be of interest …


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Tips for Running an Effective Meeting

Meetings are a fact of organizational life. When conducted well, they are a great opportunity for increased productivity and ultimately bottom-line growth. However, inefficient and ineffective meetings represent a hidden cost draining people’s time and undermining potential for creative problem solving.

Why have meetings?

Meetings are the ideal platform to:

  • engage and motivate your team
  • communicate key strategies
  • gain feedback on initiatives
  • build relationships
  • create new business opportunities
  • deliver tangible business results

It is not unusual to hear people talk about meetings in negative and unproductive terms. Many describe them as a necessary evil that has to be suffered as opposed to energetic, collaborative events.

Effective meetings do not begin when participants enter a room, nor do they end when they leave the room. Only by addressing the before, during and after phases can a truly successful meeting be achieved – where objectives are met and things get done.

Top meeting tips


  • Clearly identify and clarify your meeting objectives. Ensure that you have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve from the meeting and then communicate these objectives to participants so they can be fully prepared and feedback any updates that may influence the agenda.
  • Identify the right people to have in the meeting to achieve these objectives. Based upon the objectives invite participants who are able to contribute to the agenda topics. All too often people are invited to meetings merely because they are part of a wider team, irrespective of whether the meeting is relevant to their area of the business. Everyone invited to a meeting should have an active role in contributing to the meeting’s success and outcomes.
  • Create a highly-focused, yet flexible, agenda.Critically the agenda should be distributed to participants in advance of the meeting in order to provide feedback as in item 1 above. The agenda should also be designed to allow sufficient time for each item to be fully discussed in the time allowed. It is much more effective to have fewer agenda items that result in action points rather than many points that are not resolved.
  • Identify and assign pre-meeting “prep-work” – so participants are prepared. Prep-work should be distributed prior to the meeting along with the meeting objectives and agenda. This has a two-fold effect. Firstly participants take ownership in the meeting before the start and are already fully prepared to contribute before the meeting even begins. Secondly, the meeting is established as work in progress, and rather than being an isolated event is part of the daily workflow.


  • Maintain delegate engagement and focus to maximise individual contribution. This is achieved by asking delegates to write their thoughts down first without the influence of the rest of the group. This ensures that everyone participates and that all views are heard and taken into consideration thereby maximising individual contribution.
  • Maximise the performance of the group as a whole, raising creativity and collective intelligence. Ask the group to collate all individual thoughts without judgement with each delegate explaining their rationale. The group is then fully informed and can collaboratively prioritise the key points. This maximises the group potential and the final result is a manageable, prioritised action list agreed and committed to by the group as a whole.
  • Secure commitment on deliverables. Ensure all of the knowledge created and tasks assigned are electronically documented with simultaneous agreement of all present. In this way, valuable information is not lost and all participants leave the meeting knowing exactly what is expected of them after the meeting.
  • Initiate transition to the next phase. By immediately distributing documentation/minutes created during the meeting to the participants and other stakeholders there will be no delay in action.


  • People and projects are managed, results are measured and information is updated and shared.


By following these simple tips your meetings will become part of your everyday work flow. No longer will they be isolated, distracting events, they will drive continuous development – reaping results with very little financial investment