It appears that team building will always be a hot topic, whether the current rage is ropes courses or simulating NASA rocket teams. However, regardless if the team is a work group, volunteer board or planning committee, the focus of improvement is often on the wrong thing.
THE PROBLEM: Most training, or even therapy sessions, focus on what the group is doing together. Do people acknowledge each other, share information, and like my Uncle Sol used to say, play nice?
Yet even the bad kids know how to do the right things in the eyes of their supervisors while still managing to destroy the team’s efforts.
WHAT’S MISSING: Group moods, such as frustration, anger, and distress, can spiral productivity downward regardless of any incentives a manager can offer. When people lose their optimism and good spirit, they are less able to be creative and productive no matter their level of intelligence and skill.
A recent Harvard University study led by Nancy Etcoff, Ph.D. looked specifically at how moods affect the dynamics of a work area. Where employees laugh more and talk informally with each other, they take fewer sick days, quarrel less, and are employed longer with the company. On the flip side, negative group moods correlate with more stress, conflicts, and higher turnover.
BRAIN TIP #1: People should not just be evaluated on their personal achievement. They should be assessed on how well they contribute to the overall quality of relationships to the group. A high-achiever can be toxic to a group. It might be a greater loss to keep the person than to let them move on to somewhere where they might be happier.
BRAIN TIP #2: Give people the space to complain. Listen for what they are missing that is hindering their happiness. Ask them what it would take for them to look forward to come to work or to the meetings.
BRAIN TIP #3: Some people are hooked into feeling negative. Ask them if they would be willing to give up on their right to be disappointed or underappreciated. Sometimes we have been feeling these emotions for so long, they run like broken records in our heads and become the lens through which we see our lives. Ask the nay-sayers if they deserve to be delighted and valued. If they feel they do, ask them what has made them feel delighted and valued in the past, in any situation. You have to conjure up good feelings from the past before you can imagine good feelings in the future.
BRAIN TIP #4: A good way to initiate a mood shift is to model the behavior we want from others, such as honoring and appreciating those we live and work with when we want them to honor and appreciate us. As a leader or dominant member, you set the emotional tone. Check your own emotions before requesting others change theirs.
BRAIN TIP #5: Sometimes the team loses track of the good they are trying to create together. When every member of the team can articulate simply and visually the good they are working to achieve, then they have an anchor for their positive moods.
If your ring is broken in any group you belong to by negative emotions, it’s time to reinforce the circle with good feelings. And what better time of year to do this?