Creating Genius Teams

In the last two months, we looked at how teams and partnerships can come together by recognizing the similarities in their desires and struggles. Then we looked at how to appreciate differences as contribution to the shared outcome.

These are good relationship-building exercises, but they will fail to sustain the productivity of a team or the health of a relationship without complete agreement on how they will achieve their goals together. There needs to be a process conversation. The intent is to bring people into alignment.

Just as you need to realign the tires on your car so the ride is smooth, teams and partnerships need regular adjustments to ensure alignment.

I was reading Peter Barr’s book, Born Genius, on a recent long trip home from China. As I did the exercises to discover if I was focusing on my unique contribution in life, I realized that the activities could be modified for groups. The questions take an appreciative approach to discover the strengths and focus of the group’s process.

Barr’s process is simple but more comprehensive than I will attempt to explore with you here. Yet the first part of the journey is to identify the potential of the team’s effort and what is blocking them from achieving their best work.

You can ask the following questions of the individual team members by interviewing them before the team meets. Then you would share a summary of their answers and facilitate a dialogue to agree on the themes and opportunities.

However, if there is open communication in the group, it is better to explore the questions together in a team meeting. When the members answer the questions together, the questions can awaken the spirit of the group. In this space, they can discover what will easily take them to the next level of performance.

To encourage the group to focus on their potential, ask the following questions. Facilitate full participation. Ask for explanations and examples for each answer. Record the answers on flipchart paper so they can review their responses later:

1. What are we good at doing?

2. What do we believe we can be great at?

3. What did we used to be good at before things changed? What can we revive?

Before asking the next question, ask the team to review their answers. What stands out for them? What hopes do the members now have for the team? Record these answers on paper and display them around the room.

Now help the team discover how they work together under stress by having them answer these questions:

1. In times of crisis or under pressure, what do we do well?

2. What seems to disappear?

When looking at your answers, what themes emerge that define, “who are we at our best?” First, ask the teams to further crystallize their strengths as a team. Then help the team to narrow their strengths into themes. Once they identify the themes, ask them to summarize the themes into a statement that defines their process in as few words as possible. This statement becomes their unifying slogan, the flag they carry with them when the work becomes intense.

In the future if the process begins to deteriorate, the identity statement they created is a quick reminder of what is possible for the team if they re-align with their combined strengths.

To finalize the session, ask the team what opportunities they see to do better work together. Discuss and agree to two or three actions or goals intended to improve how they work together. Make sure all participants state their commitment to the group as a final exercise.

You can have this conversation with one person or many. It is a great reminder how we express “our best self” when we are together.
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