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In the world of sailing, many events can capsize your boat, such as the uneven distribution of cargo/crew, leaks, and inclement weather. Therefore, a successful voyage is determined before a ship even leaves port and by being highly adaptive in turbulent tides. Effective crew members know their role and provide open communication when issues arise. So what’s stopping you from creating this same stability on your own teams?

Here are three essential components needed to create stability across your teams.

1. Establish what each role is accountable for

Instability arises when there is misunderstanding related to both tasks and outcomes. Whenever a team is being formed, everyone on the team must understand what is expected of them and the outcomes they are accountable for. A crew member in charge of raising and lowering the sail is not the one in charge of looking at the compass. A helmsman must steer the boat and a captain manages the operation. Once this role clarity is established, then the leader can specify, in a tangible manner, ways to ensure each task is completed to the highest level of quality. When teams are experiencing turbulent times, leaders should re-evaluate and re-discuss whether these tasks need to be re-distributed based on their new climate.

A key distinction worth mentioning is that stability isn’t created by telling someone how to do their job. Instead, it is created by outlining the goals they are expected to achieve and the outcomes they are accountable for. While enforcing quality outcomes is a top priority for managers, each team member likely has a different set of strengths and approaches for how they achieve these outcomes. Therefore, as a leader, being receptive to behavioral differences can create greater fulfillment for each member and provide a more diverse set of strengths across the team as a whole. Of course, if you do spot any ineffective approaches, work to improve those appropriately.

2. Create team norms

One of the amazing outcomes of creating stability is the resulting “unspoken rules” that everyone follows. In theatre, a common communication practice amongst stage managers and crew is to say “thank you ____” followed by repeating whatever direction was given. For example, if a stage manager says there are 5 minutes left until showtime, a crew member will respond with “thank you five” to tell the manager they have been heard. However, continuous production serves as an acknowledgment of any stage direction given and will commonly be used for things other than timing cues. These subtle cues can be integrated into any team to increase comradery and ultimately engrain new practices within the team. Here, the idea is to use small actions to greatly increase the comfort of the team, and in turn, increase team effectiveness and stability. In a work environment, a custom norm could be to share a fun activity someone did over the weekend before starting a meeting, engaging in meditation before a collaboration session, or setting intentions before a critical meeting. Any action that can become a sustainable practice that benefits the team can become a beneficial norm.

3. Be vulnerable

Demonstrating vulnerability is very important to building trust and psychological safety across teams. Being honest about issues and challenges is a great way to practice being vulnerable. And while there are a lot of issues that come up within the work environment, it is critical to also share issues outside of work that affects job performance. Creating this space for team members to share what is on their minds can also translate into a greater sharing of their challenges inside of work, and permit them to feel more comfortable admitting to their mistakes as well.

When individuals openly share their concerns, ideas, and perspectives within their team, the levels of self-awareness and social awareness rise. With the right tools and skills, leaders can work to increase the team’s self-management and relationship management as well. In turn, overall levels of emotional intelligence will increase, leading to a more stable, collaborative team.

How can Birkman help?

As we continue to work in unprecedented times, give your team the tools needed to not only complete the job but become a higher performing team through Birkman’s High-Performing Teams workshop. In this course, learn how to create alignment by establishing Purpose, creating Clarity, and demonstrating Psychological Safety. Learn more about how Birkman can empower your teams here:

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