If you want to know if your team is ORDINARY or EXTRAORDINARY simply ‘put your ear to the ground’ and listen to the internal conversations that are taking place within your team.
In an ordinary team when people deal with challenges and new opportunities, the conversations are often oriented around how hard it will be, why it won’t succeed, what are the barriers and problems that will get in the way, and whose fault it is that these problems are in place.
Eavesdrop on people’s ‘around the cooler’ conversations and you will most likely hear phrases such as: “This sucks!”,”You would never believe what happened to me today…”, “They only care about themselves…” and “It’s all their fault…”
You will hear a lot of complaining, judging, invalidating, blaming and winning.
The mood and spirit that accompanies these conversations is often sarcastic, skeptical, resigned and negative.
People’s behaviors and action follow the same tune. In ordinary teams there is no sense of urgency to keep commitments, meet deadlines or get things done, people comply with the minimum standard necessary to keep their job, but they don’t go out of their way to ensure their customers are delighted.
In fact, as stated above, people often blame circumstances and other teams or leaders for why things move slow and they are unable to drive progress with greater speed and efficiency.
In ordinary teams, people tend to take other people’s efforts and contributions for granted so you won’t hear a lot of “Thank you!”, “You did a great job” and “I appreciate your contribution!”
However, in an extraordinary team, people think and talk quite differently about their circumstances, challenges and opportunities.
People don’t indulge in blame, fault or victim-type conversations. They don’t cover their behinds when things don’t work and they don’t let their ego get in their way,
In fact, if you listen in to the ‘around the cooler’ conversations in an extraordinary team you will hear conversations that are oriented around “What can we do about it?”, “How do we breakthrough?”, “What is missing or in the way?” and “How do we fix it?”.
No matter how challenging things are, people quickly take ownership of the challenges and opportunities and they only tolerate conversations that make a difference and focus on moving things forward.
In an extraordinary team, people go out of their ways to recognize and thank their colleagues. “Thank you for doing a great job“, “I appreciate your help” and “I couldn’t have done this without you” are the daily expression of gratitude and acknowledgment.
It is extremely difficult to change people if you believe they are sarcastic, cynical, circumstantial and negative in nature. However, it is much easier to change the conversations people are engaged in.
You have to start by paying greater attention to and having a greater awareness of what comes out of people’s mouths, including your own. Most people don’t have strong awareness in this area. They tend to express negative and undermining opinions and views about areas that are important to them as if these are undisputed truths. The consequence is a loss of possibilities and ability to shape or change their situation and future.
When you consider the cumulative effect of conversations in a team setting, the impact and opportunities are significant. In fact, you can use team conversations as the lever to elevate your team to extraordinary levels. And, extraordinary teams generate extraordinary results.
When an entire team is negative you can be sure to have a very toxic, suffocating and unproductive environment. However, if everyone talks in the same positive, empowering and effective way you will experience a different-level of collective power. If you keep that focus going over time, you will reach new heights of high performance.
Power requires rigor and discipline. Make sure commitments, timelines and expectations are clear and bold. And, make sure people hold each other to account for their commitments.
Don’t be fooled by appearances. People often say the right politically correct things in public and then they pay lip service to their pronouncements in their actions.
Pay attention to what people actually do after they speak and also how they speak behind the scenes. The ‘around the cooler’ chatter is often more impactful on shaping the mindset, spirit, and mood of the team.
Enroll people in speaking and acting in a way consistent with their vision and commitment. In fact, hold them to account and encourage everyone to do the same.
By changing the talk in the team from “Why we can’t…” to “How can we…” you will start changing the attitude and culture of your team toward extraordinary.