What if you could measure your team’s culture?
It’s that lovely time of year where we are all making plans for a better version of ourselves. It could be a detox, dry January, writing that book, or hitting the gym. This can also be true for teams. Teams are making a New Year’s resolution to be the best they can.
A word of wisdom: as all those unused gym memberships show, we humans struggle to make change stick past the initial rush of enthusiasm. However, there is something that can help. Measurement. Numbers and targets work in driving change. Giving yourself a score and aiming for a higher rating can make the difference between changing with all the best of intentions and change for good.
The power of measures
In our modern lives, we now measure and track pretty much everything we do. And all those numbers influence our behaviours.
Phones tell you how long you’ve been looking at your screen to help you regulate. And while we know we should put them down we don’t. Knowing something is different from being faced with the facts.
There is also a reason we talk about doing our 10,000 steps a day. And a reason we aim for five portions of fruit and veg. Those targets are more about the numbers than the facts.
You see, the fact is that there is no scientific proof those metrics are the true ones to work to or are valid targets. They were plucked out of the air as good numbers to work towards. We like a number, and it’s the numbers that get people motivated. From workouts to our sleep patterns, how far and how fast we can run, to how we use our time. We measure a lot, and it’s driving our behaviours.
How to measure help
Measurements help in the following ways.
- Measuring equips us with an understanding of how well we are doing and how far we have come. It’s feedback.
- Measurement makes us pay attention to things, reminding us what’s important.
- Measures stop us procrastinating on what to do and focuses our attention on what’s important.
- Measurement is exact, differentiates factors and makes it difficult to hide what’s going on.
- Metrics remind us what is most important.
The Hawthorne effect
There is a famous experiment looking at the influence of numbers. It was run in the 1900s and provided useful insight into the power of measurement. It gave us the term the ‘Hawthorne Effect’.
The study looks at the effects of ambient lighting on workers and productivity. There was something funny about the result: whatever they measured improved. If they measured high ambient light – productivity grew. If they measured low ambient light- productivity grew. And when they stopped measuring performance, it fell back to normal. What it found is that the thing you measure improves. What you shine a light on improves.
Now think what would happen if you could measure how happy teams are, how empowered they feel and their wellbeing. Measuring those areas can have a positive impact. It influences our brains and groups can use that to work for them in the same way a FitBit makes us move more.
Here is the crucial part in all of this: you have to measure the right thing to influence the right behaviours.
Most of the decisions we make have some measures involved; we don’t notice them. When we make a decision, we weigh up the risk, the effort and, how popular a choice will make us. Now imagine if you could make all those mental measures less subjective. Less in our heads and less unspoken.
Workplaces like numbers and are very driven by metrics. When it comes to team performance, they don’t always measure the right things. Let’s think about how organisations have tended to measure team performance.
How business has measured teams
Businesses have used the personality of the individual team members in the hope of understanding what they do and why they do it. Creating behavioural boxes in which to assign people. In the case of Myers Briggs – 16 boxes. Which can be great for looking at work preferences and styles. How Bob or Jill like to work. Understanding the individuals in a team. But does it help a team improve how they work together? And whether the group culture fosters a great team working?
Looking at individual personalities is a bit like knowing the guest list to a party. It measures the individual people outside of any social context. It assumes the person only has one way of being, one behavioural pattern, which makes looking at the different guests a bit like looking at a guest list of pre-set robots.
Personality assessments mark how you felt when you took the test and having one profile assumes that you have one operating style in all situations. Which at a party would mean we’re assuming each guest has only one default operation mode — the one on their personality assessment profile.
Now here is the problem with using individual personality – we go and change how we behave with different situations. Damn! We adapt who we are to the situation. If you take your personality test at home, you’ll probably get a different profile to the one you get at work. 50 per cent of MBTI profiles are different when taken three months later. But not many people know that. And go around quoting out of date profiles.
Use the team as the unit
When looking to improve team performance, the key thing to measure is the team as a whole. Groups form their way of doing things; they have their own set of social norms for “the way we do things around here”. Teams have their individual identities that we step into when we join that team. Therefore, each unit has its chemistry. By understanding the chemistry of a team, we can take the steps we need to make teams feel a productive and rewarding place to be.
Going back to the analogy of the party. The whole party is different from its parts. You need to not look at the individual first but instead, look at who the individual becomes when put in that group context.
What teams should measure
Businesses are made up of teams, and those teams influence how people behave. You can feel how culture shifts from team to team. If you look back at your work history, you will see how some teams brought out the best in you while others had the opposite effect. Here are our four dimensions to measure team chemistry which, in turn, will influence how each team behaves.
1. Emotional connect
This is how connected the team is with organisational purpose. Measuring a team’s emotional connect will tell you the extent to which their hearts are in it and whether the team is committed to giving its very best under all circumstances. When teams are low on this you know, they’ll be working to the bare minimum, and this is something you will want to work on.
2. Psychological Safety
Psychological safety is how safe a team feels to speak up, problem solve and put ideas forward. (We work a lot with teams on this see here for more details). Measuring psychological safety, lets you know how comfortable they feel speaking up and putting forward ideas. You get to understand how much of their ideas they’re putting forward or how much they are just following orders and keeping their thoughts to themselves. Creativity, innovation and an ability to come forward with ideas and catch things before they trip you up are priceless. This score will tell you how far you have to go.
3. Team wellbeing
Team wellbeing shows you the extent to which your team are supporting each other and how valued they feel. It measures the team’s psychological health in terms of general happiness. And as a happy team performs better, if your score is low here then you know straight away you can make significant improvements.
4. Readiness for change
In a world of constant change, measuring how well a team can cope with change is a considerable measure to let you know where there may be bumps in the road coming. Where teams may need help to build their resilience. Where scores are high, they love change and can propose lots of ideas for change. But not all teams are like that, and you need to know so you can help reduce anxiety and stress that can manifest in a team.
Back to those New Year resolutions
Measuring the chemistry of a team on these four dimensions will help you set targets for that shiny new version of your team – that allow ongoing action to happen. When you measure the right things within the team, you give them a measurable and tangible goal that they can work towards. With the important benefit that having a measure allows you to track progress and direct effort long past January.
Scores on a scale are the carrot that can motivate teams. They guide in an informed and data-driven way to change effort. This means the investment is targeted exactly to where it’s needed. It shows the team where they need to focus and where to invest their precious time and energy. It gives them a goal to work towards.
Once you know what you need to measure, you have a base from which you can show sustained changes within your team and how they have helped improve outcomes. And one last note on that.
Setting your New Year resolutions
Our online Team Chemistry tool measures the four aspects of team chemistry, giving you a true team score for psychological safety, team wellbeing, readiness for change and emotional connect. Which we then use to run workshops with teams to have informed conversations about behaviour change. But let’s start with something smaller but still useful which equips you with a gut feel measure for where you are now and where you want to be in six months. Here’s how you could set some gut feel New Year resolutions:
- Draw four lines on a piece of paper and label them with the four dimensions, marking the left side HIGH and the right side LOW.
- Put a cross on each line where you think your team is now
- Then pick a different colour to mark where you’d want it to be.
- If you have time, ask others in the team to do the same, which will give you a range of perceptions and a mean. (Adding a big caveat here that this will only be a measure of perceptions and will come with a level of presentation bias as to what people feel comfortable disclosing.)
- When you have scores, step back and think about what action you can take to close the gap over the next six months. And what New Year’s resolutions you’d want to set to make that change happen.
And if you’d like to get then a true score that tests each measure accurately and more thoroughly, we can help you with. Just get in touch. Happy New Year!