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Three Steps to Creating a High-Performing Team

Radical transparency is a key factor in developing a high-performing team, and it starts with you, the leader. It's about identifying your expectations and how you want the team to work together. It seems like a colossal task, but it's simpler than it sounds.

When you clearly define how to work with one another and uphold agreements through your actions, you create the space for radical transparency to occur.

Here are three steps for making radical transparency a reality within your team.

1. Define and prioritize your values by drafting team agreements.

Team agreements are made between you and your employees on how you will work with one another. They're important because they establish what's OK, what's not OK and what you can expect from each other. Having a set of common rules gives employees clarity and also provides a structure for them to feel psychologically safe.

In concept, team agreements are a great idea. But in execution, they're hard to establish. For starters, we aren't always clear as leaders on what we want and expect from our team. To get over this confusion, here are a few tips for drafting your team agreements:

  • Create a list of expectations you have for team members in the workplace.

  • Create another list of agreements you want team members to uphold when working with one another.

  • Once you have a relatively long list of expectations and agreements, consolidate the five most important agreements.

  • With your five in hand, define what success looks like for each. Each agreement should have a few sub-bullets outlining how you will know if an employee is embodying these expectations or values.

In my team, "embracing a beginner's mind" is one of our agreements. Employees who successfully honor this agreement ask tough questions, challenge the status quo and are curious to find out what they don't know about a given situation.

Direct communication in a team setting is triggered when we are clear about our team agreements for how we work with one another.

2. Turn your agreements into actions.

Just because you've defined a set of team agreements doesn't mean you now have radical transparency in your team. You now have to turn these agreements into actions by introducing and aligning on the agreements as a team.

Here are a few tips for getting aligned:

  • Start by communicating your drafted team agreements from above to the team.

  • Share what each agreement means and how you define success in that agreement.

  • Ask the team if they can commit to demonstrating these behaviors. If they align with the agreements, ask them to commit to exhibiting each behavior.

  • If they can't commit, ask what they are willing to commit to instead. Continue the discussion until all agreements are committed to by team members.

The goal of turning your agreements into aligned actions is to make sure there is no space for confusion. You and your entire team should know exactly what's expected of each other.

Once the agreements are in place, you've triggered radical transparency to happen more rapidly. However, there's a chance most people on your team will not be ready to change course and their behaviors so quickly. So, as the leader, you'll need to model it.

3. Model open, honest and direct communication with your team.

Agreements are not meant to simply be used as inspirational quotes. To work, they need to be used daily.

In the beginning, when your team is getting used to the new agreements, it's vital to share feedback with them when they are honoring an agreement and when they're violating one. As a rule, make sure to recognize, call out and check in on agreements weekly with your team. Radical transparency is not a one-time thing - it is meant to be a habit you practice every day. The more often you offer and receive feedback, the better the team can work.

When you have feedback to give to a team member, whether it's positive or negative, give it live and make sure it's actionable. Make the feedback specific so they can identify what to do differently next time.

Over time, this type of live feedback becomes infectious, and the more you do it, the more others will adopt your model of open, honest and continuous feedback. The result is the creation of a learning culture within your organization where people give and receive feedback in the moment they need it most to support their growth and the company's success.

Your biggest barrier to making these steps work with your team is consistency. In business and in life, we often want to take the quick and easy route. We are often willing to "try out" a strategy for a few weeks before we either forget about it or deem it unsuccessful. I see this all too often with leaders. If you think this will provide a quick fix to your team dynamic issues, it won't.

To create a radically transparent team, it takes committing to your agreements and consistently upholding them on a daily basis. It will likely take a few months of consistency for your team to truly understand these agreements are here to stay and for them to fully get on board with operating by them. Nevertheless, be patient and be consistent.

Originally Published on June 5th, 2018 in

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