Performance Conversations for a Team – for Leaders

Teams need great collective performance as much as great individuals in the team.

The simple mwah. performance form, is equally powerful for teams.  The process to use it is slightly different, as the team completes it together, not the manager.

So, get your team together – either regularly, or as the team requests it (i.e. use language like “Team Performance Session” or simply a “Team Session” or you can brand them as “Ignition Sessions” or another creative name that aligns to your culture and your business).

Allow an hour (or two if it’s a team that needs a bit of extra time together – there’s nothing as powerful and connecting as talking about the actual work and how they’re working together), and then let the form guide the team. The aim is to give the team an opportunity to realign, applaud, or reconnect any disconnections. This can be done with the team leader, or amongst the team, with individuals taking the lead as they see fit.

  1. Name – of the team
  2. Value – open the discussion, from the top, about the value of the work being done by this team, specifically in relation to the overall purpose of the business. Everyone should be able to quickly say what this is. Jot it down on paper, on a whiteboard, or on the screen. 
  3. Goals – What and How – Start with a long list and work it down to the top five goals. Make sure everyone on the team is aligned into the five major goals. Note how you’re going – progressing well, on time, with some difficulties that are being resolved – whatever it happens to be.
  4. Ratings – once you’ve agreed on the major goals and how you’re tracking, move to scoring. In a loud team, talk the scores through, calling for a proposal and then any different views, until there’s consensus. In a quiet team, make sure you’re including everyone by asking people to jot down scores and do a lap of the room to see how aligned (or not) they are, then debate.
  5. Relationships – Talk through the relationship between the team between the team themselves. Talk about relationships between the team and the overall community. Community can include customers, suppliers, and other teams in the business.
  6. Development – Start by talking through strengths of the team, skills or ways of working well together, that can be leveraged and used to support the work and goals. Then talk about development opportunities – ways for the team to be even better. Frame it as “every team can be better, how we can be better?”. Move to barriers, or things that aren’t working well. Pay attention to inclusion – is everyone feeling really good about being in the team, is the way of work, working for everyone? Finish with a quick note on any specific training or change people want to see.
  7. Challenge – The best teams and businesses love the challenge of stepping it up a notch. Talk about something outside the comfort zone that the whole team wants to try. This can be inside the team, or between the team and another team, as long as the team has responsibility. Be supportive of everyone participating.
  8. Conversation –Quick check. How was the team session? Fair? Valuable? Forward Facing? Did the session move everyone forward? And then land on how could the session have been better? In a loud, easily connecting team, have this discussion out loud. In a quiet team, let people score personally and then talk. If you’re working to mend a team, perhaps let people reflect personally for a few minutes, and then do a lap of the room.


© 2017 All rights reserved
mwah. making work absolutely human

Performance discussions across a team are unique. So many teams, just don’t do them, until they’re so overdue that you end up talking “team bonding” and trying to repair fractured relationships. Frankly, that’s a bit late.

A mwah. Team Performance Session is a proactive move to reconnect the team, to the work and to each other. You’ll know the culture and the team is really humming, when teams randomly seek these sessions without any prompting from you. It will be “how they work together”. 

Like any way of working, or team process, teams get better at it when they practice. There’s a little bit of process, which the form guides you through; there’s some EQ, caring about each other, and responding to each other in situ; and there’s some art and fun to really bringing them energetically to life. Like any other skill, to be great at it, you have to go into the discussion with the right mindset. Every person needs to go in feeling equally responsible for getting the team humming along, and getting the team session working well,

Let’s talk first about mindset, and then let’s give some more thought to the steps in the conversation.

Mindset is really important in Team Performance. Everyone needs to feel equally responsible for the team dynamics and how it works. If there’s an imbalance in accountability, then some people turn up to provide feedback and someone else takes on the actions post meeting. You need everyone turning up having given it some thought, being open about giving feedback, being open about receiving feedback, and being accountable for getting the team humming. Great teams have every person at their best, feeling involved, valued, fully engaged, and fully supporting each other. Every member of the team leans in on each other, and wants every other person to feel great about the team and do well. There needs to be in complete understanding of the interdependency you each have on each other. You’ll only be successful, if everyone is successful. You want every person feeling great – confident, supported, safe and able to give their best. You’re not swanning around ‘judging”. You’re the coach and inspirer. As a leader, you need the whole team, super connected, supporting each other, leaning in together, for a great overall effort.

So, you mindset is to build confidence, support, inspire, encourage, coach, and appreciate contribution, all the time, over and over, and on every opportunity. So, as you prepare for the team Performance Session, you’re thinking how can you have every person at their best, feeling they give it their best work – to the Team Session and to the Team. 

Now, let’s take that mindset into the steps. 

  1. Name – Don’t get this wrong. Make sure you know not only the team, but every person in it. Who they are, what they’re doing and what they’ve done.
  2. Value – This is the team’s to own. Everyone should be absolutely clear on the value, aligned to the work of the whole business, so anyone can guide or step in if its going wildly off-track, but don’t step in too early. If you’ve had good leadership and good relationships to this point, the team will also be really clear on the value they create. If not, you need to hear what everyone thinks, so you can get better at aligning everyone to the work and purpose of the business.   
  3. Goals – Again, this is the team’s to own. If you’ve had good leadership in setting the team up well, then these common goals should be well known and clear. Let the conversation go, and facilitate only as needed if it goes wildly off track. Unless the team has elected an facilitator, the objective is discuss until there is agreement. The team needs to own the goals, and they need to give feedback – appreciating where it’s going well and raising concerns where it’s not. Watch for inclusion of every person in the team. Watch for divisions or cliques forming. Get good at calling them without derailing the conversation. Its everyone’s job to get the team aligned and humming. 
  4. Ratings – During a team session, the assessment piece of how things are doing needs to honest and realistic. As long as its honest and real, the team will be in good shape. 
  5. Relationships – The relationship component of a team discussion is the trickiest and one of the most important. If there are fractures, this is where it will come out. The positives are great, appreciating each other and tweaking how they’re working together.  Where there’s small fractures, make sure they not all offloaded as someone’s fault. It’s critical that a team truly owns their relationships – their expectations of each other, their strengths and shortfalls. The earlier and more frequently, you can talk relationships, the easier they are to work with.
  6. Development – Again, this belongs to the team. As they talk strengths, only add where your think something amazing has been missed. Otherwise the list the group comes up with is great. When you move to development areas, again, only add the game changers. Their list is where their energy and commitment will be. Don’t make a shopping list, unless there is really a shopping list that is critical to address.      
  7. Challenge –Keep pushing to where you’re confident the whole team could go. Where the challenge moves to one that includes another team or a customer, and upping that relationship too, assign roles around building the bridge to have these conversations across another team. Think of it as someone (possibly your leader) running ‘scout’ and creating receptivity so the team isn’t seen as ‘rogue’ or interfering.
  8. Conversation – This is a quick check at the end of the session. Keep it honest. Don’t allow anyone on the team to be disrespectful, but equally don’t let anyone wallpaper over cracks? How was the team session? Fair? Valuable? Forward Facing? Did the session move everyone forward in the same direction. Land on how could the session have been better? Keep an eye on every person, making sure they’re included and heard. Keep an eye on the team mood, moving to a loud energetic discussion for a loud team. Hold a more reflective discussion for a quiet team, letting people score personally before talking. If you’re mending a team, you’ll have to work a little harder, perhaps let people reflect personally for a few minutes, and then do a lap of the room for responses, or even letting a few days pass before reviewing, or re-reviewing a few days later in a quick add-on session for ten minutes.

A great team Performance Session, is an awesome step in connecting and aligning a team, using their own opinions and voice. There is nothing more powerful than a team that is aligned on work, understands their interdependence, and fully appreciates their mutual accountability to be a great team for every member. 

© 2017 All rights reserved
mwah. making work absolutely human

Once again, how do you become an expert in these simple processes? Three things –

  1. Know the business and know your team – Every person needs to know the business and know each other. If you’ve been through a Team Session, and you can see people who don’t know each other, intervene. Suggest people grab a coffee or catch up, and get to know each other a little more. 
  2. Practice and be prepared. Practice and practice these sessions with the team, until everyone fully expects that it will be a great conversation that will add real value.  Make sure it matters to you, and then make sure it matters to others too. Don’t ‘wing it’ when it matters so much.
  3. Have such frequent conversations across your team, that the actual Team Session is seen as another great opportunity to catch up, talk work, and jot down a few notes and make sure everyone is engaged, supported, and feeling fully included and valued. Work hard to make sure every person feels safe, secure, supported and highly connected to the team and every other person on the team. Make these team sessions, one of the best parts of being on your team.


© 2017 All rights reserved
mwah. making work absolutely human

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