How to be a Member of a High- Performing Team

It's taken me a while to get my writing back into gear for 2021 but I'll be visiting your inbox more regularly this year as I'm in the process of writing my first book!!

It's very exciting and I'm really looking forward to bringing together my thoughts, research and stories about high-performing teams and leaders in my book written for rural and regional leaders.

I will share more with you over the next few months but I have an editor booked in with a date of the end of July for the manuscript and thoroughly enjoyed doing a book mapping session with her last week.

So the topic for this newsletter is thinking about how you contribute to your team being high-performing. Do you know how to be a member of a high-performing team? What do you need to do?

One of the foundations of a high-performing team is psychological safety - that is, everyone feeling that they can be themselves and speak up in the team without fear of being judged or punished.

Yet one of the biggest barriers that continually comes up in my workshops and in coaching sessions is that people have a fear about speaking up and having courageous conversations. So they don't.

But they still have expectations about other people that they haven't shared and get resentful when people can't read their minds and don't do what is expected of them......yet they've never had the conversation! As Brene Brown says, "Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind."

In the work I do with teams and leaders, we focus on being accountable for our own behaviour and doing what might cause us discomfort but is the fair thing to do - have the difficult conversations.

Giving feedback needs to be done in a way that doesn't blame or shame the other person and that comes from a place of being helpful, not malicious.

Yet there is another side to this process and that is how do we receive the feedback?

Feedback can be a great gift for our development if we are open to it. Do we make it "safe" or easy for people to give us honest and constructive feedback? Are you approachable where you are open and listen or are you ropeable where you are defensive and dismissive?

When you think about the last time someone gave you feedback - how did you respond? Or doesn't anyone ever give you feedback that will help you improve? If no-one's given you feedback for a while what's going on there? It might be time to seek it out or to look at if you make it safe for people to do so.

A moment that was a game-changing lesson for me on how to receive feedback was a few years ago when the leader of a team I was working in spoke to me in a dismissive way in front of the group a couple of times. This left me feeling hesitant about speaking up in the group, feeling anxious about future interactions and shamed in front of the group.

I decided to have a conversation with the leader. I felt safe to do this as I knew they were a person of great integrity and were probably unaware of the impact their behaviour had had on me.

Even though I knew this, I still had to summon up my courage and stretch myself to have the conversation. It was uncomfortable but I knew I had a choice to say it and deal with it or ignore it but carry on feeling resentful and being a victim.

Sure enough, when I raised it the leader apologised straight away, said they were unaware, and thanked me for being courageous and raising it. They also encouraged me to step up and claim a greater role in the group. It was a very positive interaction and they role modelled receiving feedback gracefully and effectively.

As a result, we were able to continue working together well and the trust between us grew. I felt safe to be myself. I stepped up more in the group and I grew in confidence as I had challenged myself to exercise my courage muscle. The whole team benefitted as a result because my voice was being heard.

But imagine if the leader had have been defensive, hadn't listened, shamed or blamed me, or told me to stop being so sensitive? That would have eroded trust and meant that the team would have been negatively affected as I may have disengaged and stopped contributing and my voice would have been lost.

As psychologist, author and pioneering researcher in the field of motivation, why people succeed (or don't), and how to foster success, Carol Dweck says, "In a growth mindset, challenges are exciting rather than threatening. So rather than thinking, oh, I’m going to reveal my weaknesses, you say, wow, here’s a chance to grow.”

So to be a member of a high-performing team, you can contribute to the culture of psychological safety and trust by receiving feedback gracefully and as a gift, as well as having the courage and generosity to give it.

How could you contribute to the level of psychological safety in your team?


XX Cynthia