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A Culture of Accountability: A Culture Transformation Success Story

How Eagle’s Flight Helped A Global Fortune 500 Financial Services Company


Client Request

A sustainable and engaging Culture Transformation initiative focused on creating a strong risk and compliance culture while also incorporating strategy, quality, the customer, and corporate values



– 14,000+ employees of all levels across the United States

– 4,000+ international employees who support the United States business


Eagle’s Flight Delivered

100% customized two-year, multi-phased Culture Transformation initiative, which dramatically changed the culture of this organization


Tools Provided

– Two 360 degree assessments for all leaders and managers were conducted over the two-year initiative

– Various models designed to encourage targeted learnings and behaviors

– Participant takeaways and resources

– Six digital reinforcement activities

– Comprehensive communication strategy and support


Approach for Distributed Workforce

Targeted and customized approaches were taken during each phase to ensure appropriate content was delivered to each audience

Specifically designed training for leaders, managers, and employees

Leaders and managers also attended all employee sessions

During the final phase, all levels were brought together in one day of training, intentionally designed to encourage networking and open discussion between various levels and positions within the organization

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The 10 Qualities of a High Performance Culture

Creating a high-performance culture is a journey that has the potential for many pit stops and breakdowns along the way. Plastering your company’s desired idea of a high-performance culture throughout the walls of the company is certainly a step in the right direction, but a company’s culture is really defined by what the people of the organization do.

In a great culture, people contribute to their fullest. Unfortunately, most organizations leverage only about 70% of an individual’s contributions. The remaining 30%–what the company doesn’t get—is the high performance. Here are 10 qualities a high-performance culture must consistently demonstrate:

1. Embrace a change mindset.

Change is central to innovation and growth. To get ahead of the competition, companies reinvent jobs, processes, structures, and work practices. Ultimately, the future of most businesses and individuals depends on the ability to change, learn, and to grow, which means each individual on the team must demonstrate a change mindset.

2. Develop strong leaders.

Creating a high-performance culture composed of individuals eager to outperform requires leaders who constantly inspire and engage employees to be the best they can be. Strong leaders build loyalty and inspire people to work hard to fulfill their job duties. Leaders need to engage, align, inspire, and mobilize individuals and teams to create a high-performance culture.

3. Empower people to make decisions.

Companies with high-performing cultures encourage individuals to ask questions, make decisions, and act upon those choices. High-performance cultures trust individuals’ decision-making abilities and create environments where they feel like owners. In this setting, individuals who feel empowered to solve problems and try new approaches to old problems or procedures tend to be more enthusiastic about their jobs. And, individuals who feel this way are less likely to become disengaged or seek work elsewhere.

4. Adopt a strategy of continuous improvement.

High-performing companies constantly strive to simplify, improve, and align their processes to respond to events effectively and to eliminate unnecessary procedures, work, and information overload. These companies also measure progress, monitor goals, and report everything that matters to everyone in the organization so that all individuals have the necessary information to drive improvement.

5. Establish meaningful core values.

Companies with this type of culture ensure that their commitments are aligned with established core values and have clear ethics supported by organizational policies.

6. Develop a coaching mindset.

Companies with high-performing cultures insist that coaches make their people feel valued and powerful; ask questions and listen; offer reflections, observations, and suggestions; and schedule debriefing sessions. Individuals in coaching roles take responsibility for their own development and performance, too.

7. Enhance training and development.

Engaged organizations recognize that setting their people up for success will result in continuous improvement and growth for individuals and for the company. Talent is viewed as an asset and customized training and development plans align with the organization’s overarching objectives and direction, providing individuals with clear career pathways.

8. Share information.

Creating a culture of transparency, openness, and trust by encouraging the free flow of information can give companies a powerful competitive edge. This happens when individuals share knowledge and ideas because they’re part of a culture that wants them to do so. It’s also important to encourage open and honest debate and urge people to report errors or concerns without fear.

9. Make work enjoyable.

High-performing companies that incorporate fun and engaging activities into their cultural fabric report many positives including higher morale and productivity, reduced stress levels, lower absentee and attrition rates, and an increased ability to attract and retain key people. While individuals are encouraged to have fun at work, they also work hard and are judged on their successes and job performances.

10. Measure culture.

High-performing cultures are characterized by an ability to align, execute, and renew. Moving towards and maintaining a high-performance culture requires measurement along the way to determine where progress is being made. As the age-old saying goes, what gets measured, gets improved.

Creating and maintaining a high-performance culture is challenging, and it can be done. Ultimately, though, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to culture. The specifics of a high-performance culture are unique to your company because they’re based on what will work best for you to reach your destination.

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Teamwork in the Workplace: Enthusiastic, Consistent, and United Effort



When people think about what makes a great team great, they often gloss over “effort.” After all, it seems a bit obvious to say that a team can only succeed by putting in hard work.

But for teamwork in the workplace to be truly effective, the definition of team effort must extend beyond “working hard.” Effective effort involves three key components: enthusiasm, consistency, and a united commitment. In fact, consistent, united, and enthusiastic effort is so important to team success that we’ve named it one of our “seven cornerstones of teamwork,” which make up the foundation for exceptional teamwork in the workplace. Read on to see which component of effort your team might be missing:


Armed with shiny, new resources (or budgets) and a well-defined goal, teams often start off incredibly excited to tackle the task at hand. That excitement, however, comes in waves—morale is high at the launch of the project and gets another boost at the completion of big phases, but it dissipates between these peaks when the hard work must be put in. Unfortunately, that’s when teams need an injection of enthusiasm the most!

Teamwork in the workplace suffers and slows when members are not enthusiastic and fully engaged; a study by Gallup revealed that engaged workplaces outperform their peers by 147 percent in earnings per share. If you look around and see that your team members are putting in the work, but your project still seems to be moving at a glacial pace, a lack of enthusiastic effort may be to blame.


It’s an all-too-common scenario: A team member shuffles into a meeting 15 minutes after it starts, offering a half-baked excuse. It’s one thing if this were a one-time experience, but it happens again for the next meeting…and again after that. This team member needs a major reminder that the effort he or she contributes must be consistent (and that doesn’t mean being “consistently” late!). That means being there for every meeting on time, answering team emails in a timely manner, and not making excuses when the going gets tough.


While team members must be consistent in a practical sense, they must be emotionally consistent in their effort, as well. For example, a lack of consistent emotional effort may manifest itself in a team member’s tendency to pull out his or her phone during Friday-morning meetings—she’s physically at the meeting, but, mentally, she’s totally “checked out.” It’s not enough to just show up consistently; for teamwork in the workplace to succeed, each team member must consistently give the project his or her all.


Today, many smart companies are changing up teamwork in the workplace by instituting subgroups, which are smaller “teams within teams” strategically formed in order to focus on a specific subset of the overall team’s goal. Sometimes, unfortunately, forming subgroups can have an adverse effect on team effort. Subgroup members may become jealous that they’re not on a more “glamorous” or client-facing subgroup, or they may slack off on subgroup tasks, because they don’t see how their subgroup is important.


That’s where the importance of a united effort comes in. Subgroup members must remember that every subgroup performs an indispensable function to teamwork in the workplace—therefore, each and every subgroup needs to be united in its effort to reach the overall team goal. On an individual level, a united effort is so important to team success because team members naturally rely on one another, like for a report that can’t be written until the data are collected by a certain team member. When one team member slacks off, that will inevitably affect another team member’s ability to contribute to his or her team fully.

Set the Expectation Early

Putting in consistent, united, enthusiastic effort should be a given for every employee—but, unfortunately, that’s not always the case. That’s why team leaders must be up front about the level of personal commitment and discipline that will be expected of each member. If a prospective team member is not willing or is unable to commit to this kind of effort, then allow him or her to bow out of the team. It may be hard to find a replacement, but it would be even harder to get through a project with team members who must be cajoled at every turn into putting in effort. Although, at a company with a high-performance culture, once the expectation for consistent, united, and enthusiastic effort is set, the chances of high-performing members “bailing” on the team are minimal.

If a lack of effort may be the culprit in your own company’s teams, which specific component do you think your teams are struggling with the most?

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7 Ways to Improve Teamwork in the Workplace



Off the top of your head, you can probably think of at least a few ways that teamwork in your workplace has fallen short. The team may have missed a deadline or failed to meet a set objective. Regardless of what happened, when these incidents happen it is a usually a sign that teamwork and collaboration are not functioning properly. Even when a team’s efforts lead to seemingly good results, there are often plenty of missed opportunities because of issues such as:

  • Not every voice on the team was heard.
  • Communication roadblocks prevented good ideas from coming to fruition.
  • Subgroups went in a direction that didn’t support the team’s objective.
  • The team fizzled because there wasn’t a consistent and united effort.

If any of these issues sound familiar, it might be time to take steps to improve teamwork. Effective teamwork doesn’t happen overnight. It takes intentional effort and a thorough understanding of what teamwork actually is.

Below are seven cornerstones to improve teamwork in your organization, along with links to resources that will help you learn more.

1. Understand the Importance of Leadership

Every team needs a leader to encourage accountability, model empowerment, facilitate streamlined decision-making, and maintain momentum. However, the appropriate team leader isn’t always the person you first expect. Team leaders are typically individuals who know the most about the project—which means they might not have extensive experience with leading. They might not even be the person with the most ‘senior’ rank in the room. That’s why building in leadership skills exercises into your teamwork training in the workplace is so important.

The role of a team leader extends beyond conducting everyday meetings and capturing action items. The person in a leadership role must recognize their importance, model the expected behaviors, and understand how to harness individual strengths to achieve the outlined objectives.

2. Create Unanimous Focus on a Common Goal

When teams get distracted and stray away from the defined objectives, the project will take longer, or worse, never be fully achieved. Even when teams are working on a simple project, team members still need to see it as their own project. But for that project to truly be the best it can be, each person on the team must have a unanimous focus on a common goal.

It’s not uncommon for the individuals in a team to be pulled in multiple directions. They have daily tasks that must be completed, long-term projects to move along, and departmental objectives to bear in mind. Clearly articulating and repeating the team’s common goal can help the group maintain focus, especially between meetings.

3. Clearly Define Roles in Subgroups

When a team is faced with a large goal, it’s best practice to create smaller teams, or subgroups, within the project to address more specific tasks that support the overall goal. The goal of a subgroup is also more tightly focused than the overall team goal. This means less input from higher-ranking members who are most enthusiastic about the ‘big picture’. Instead, subgroup members with specialized knowledge will steer the subgroup towards its goal.

Subgroups should operate as mini-teams, using all seven of these cornerstones in their own work. Each subgroup needs its own leader, a unanimous focus on a common goal, and so on. They must also be subordinate to the larger team, always supporting the larger goal.

4. Tap into Your Shared Resources

Many people only consider hard resources—money,  equipment, technology, and so on—when thinking about the resources that are shared among a team. However, soft resources can be just as important when cataloging your inventory of shared resources. While they might not seem like elements that must be shared for team success, but think about what would happen if just one person was passionate about the team project, or if only one person ever tried to overcome the inevitable project hurdles that sprung up. Just as when hard resources aren’t spread around equitably, it’s unlikely that project would ever be completed.

In a work environment where budgets are closely followed and individual productivity is valued, it can be culturally challenging to effectively share resources, both hard and soft. Organizations that are committed to improving teamwork must make it clear that team members have access to the resources they need in order to accomplish their goals.

5. Use Frequent and Effective Communication

Every individual on a team must always be able to say, “I know what I need to know,” and, “I understand everything.” If these two statements are not true at any given time, there is potential for the team to break down. The keys to communication in a team are for it to be both frequent and effective. And remember that effective communication requires all team members to know on a high level what’s going on within the team, but also to truly comprehend what’s going on.

Effective communication in a team requires both the right skills and the right tools. Ongoing training can help build the necessary skills to improve teamwork, such as active listening, giving feedback, and creating an environment in which people are comfortable speaking up. The right tools will depend on the team, but could include a document management system, an internal messaging platform, or a system for sharing and storing meeting notes.

6. Offer Enthusiastic, Consistent, and United Effort

The whole point of creating a team is to accomplish a specific goal. This requires effort on everyone’s part, but unless that effort meets certain criteria, you’ll soon find yourself spinning wheels. Putting in consistent, united, enthusiastic effort should be a given for every employee—but, unfortunately, that’s not always the case. That’s why team leaders must be up front about the level of personal commitment and discipline that will be expected of each member.

In addition to articulating the need for this type of effort, team leaders must also model the desired behavior. If team members see that their leader isn’t accountable for his or her commitments or makes excuses for substandard work, they will eventually conclude that this is acceptable behavior and reflect their leader’s level of effort.

7. Employ Periodic and Temporary Suppression of the Ego

Essentially, the principle of teamwork related to ego is about ensuring that individual agendas don’t take over the team’s goals, inhibit other team members’ contribution, or development and create a cycle of diminishing team effectiveness. No team will succeed if it is composed of members with a “me first” attitude. Successful teamwork depends on every individual feeling that their contribution matters.

Keeping egos in check without quashing them requires a delicate balance. Everybody on the team must intentionally manage their ego and shift the focus from individual agendas to the team’s objectives to effectively achieve the desired outcome.

Next Steps to Improving Teamwork in the Workplace

While the teams in your organization might have mastered some elements of this list, it is important to understand that in order to improve teamwork in the workplace it cannot be done alone. So, if you are committed to creating a workplace where teamwork thrives, start by performing an assessment of to determine which areas could improve. You will inevitably find a few gaps. When you do, provide competency development to bring all seven cornerstones into balance and see how the organizations in your team transform.

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4 Essential Keys to Understanding Your Company's Culture

You’ve heard about the importance of company culture and how it can both attract new employees while keeping current ones engaged. However, you might still be wondering what exactly makes up company culture, why is it important, and does my own company even have a defined culture?

Company culture may seem like a vague and elusive concept, yet there are several ways to define it. Here are four keys to understanding your organization’s culture and the necessary criteria to determine whether yours may need to evolve.

Key 1: Recognize That You Do Have Company Culture

Every organization has company culture, whether intentionally cultivated or not. In short, it refers to the combination of values, goals, ethics, and expectations that govern and influence employee behaviors. If negative behaviors have been left to develop unchecked, with no guidance or direction, then yes, a company culture that supports bad habits may have taken root.

Simply put: There’s no blank slate when it comes to company culture. If you’re envisioning a specific kind—for instance, a customer-centric one—it’s not enough to simply announce that vision. You must first figure out what (and how) current behaviors need to shift in order to develop a roadmap to achieve those changes. That’s why it’s so important to define your current company culture before you try to steer it in a new direction.

Key 2: Analyze Your Company’s Priorities

If you want to better understand your culture, look at your company’s priorities. These goals and initiatives reveal what your organization values and what it does not (both explicitly and implicitly). Questions to ask yourself about company priorities may include:

  • Do your employees hear more about increasing the bottom line or increasing customer satisfaction?
  • Does your company give employees the freedom to experiment and innovate when it comes to solving problems, or is following protocol more important?
  • Is taking calculated risks seen as a distraction or opportunity?
  • How much (or how little) does your company invest in ongoing training efforts, both in terms of money and time?
  • When your company considers adopting certain efforts or changes, are the thoughts and feelings of both leadership and employees considered?

Exploring questions like this can give you clues as to what kind of culture your company has cultivated. Is it one with a workforce that’s empowered, engaged, and encouraged to innovate and improve? Or a culture where the bottom line is often prioritized? If your company’s priorities give you pause, it may be time to explore a culture transformation.

Key 3: Inquire About Company Culture

Your company culture is made up of behaviors, those that are encouraged, permitted, and hindered. To understand what kind makes up your organization, it’s best to go directly to the source: your employees.

Consider ways to get feedback on which behaviors currently serve the company well and which need to be discouraged or changed to elevate your organization. Gather feedback from all levels of employees, from executives to front-line managers. Surveys, company-wide assessments, and focus groups can all help create a clearer picture of the behaviors that define your current company culture. Again, the key is to engage every employee as you ask for feedback because the sum total of all employee contributions and behaviors are what make up your culture.

Key 4: Look to Your Leaders

While every employee contributes to company culture, leaders have more impact and influence. Examine the messages your leadership team puts forth, and whether action follows those words. Leadership may espouse values and a mission that excites employees, but if leadership itself doesn’t “walk the walk,” their behavior can contribute to a culture of distrust and disengagement. Culture starts from the top down, and your leadership sets the tone for what’s permissible and encouraged in your company and what’s not.

After examining your culture using the four keys listed, where do you think your company culture needs a tune-up—or is a complete culture transformation in order?

4 Essential Keys to Understanding Your Company's Culture.jpg


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8 Strategies for Running an Effective Team Meeting

Attending team meetings are an everyday occurrence for many of us. Gathering people together to discuss a topic or decide a course of action can help to maintain and improve workflow. However, not all meetings make good use of employees’ time.

A team of researchers surveyed senior managers across a range of industries, and 71 percent of them said meetings were unproductive and inefficient. One key reason meetings can be unproductive is because only an estimated 20 percent of leaders receive training on how to run them effectively, according to research by Steven Rogelberg, author of “The Surprising Science of Meetings.”

Meetings don’t have to waste anyone’s time. With targeted training, leaders can learn to take the following eight steps to ensure every team meeting is effective and relevant.



Know the Meeting Objective

Team meetings can have all sorts of objectives, from informing to providing an update to getting input from others to solve problems. Unfortunately, many meetings don’t have a stated objective. They may simply be called based on an assumption that participants understand and agree on the purpose of the meeting. To ensure that everyone involved understands the objective of the meeting and the intended outcome, it’s necessary to establish what the meeting will accomplish before or at the beginning of every meeting. Before the meeting, send out an agenda that outlines the goal of the meeting, along with any items you want people to prepare or provide updates on. Once everyone understands the meeting objective, you can start the meeting off on the right foot.

Get Input from Everyone

A meeting is not effective if only a handful of participants are actively involved in the discussion. All participants in a meeting should be contributing, whether by offering new ideas, asking questions of others, or volunteering to take responsibility for follow-up action. Some ways to get input from meeting participants include:

  • Regularly asking for input during the meeting, including from those who have not yet spoken up
  • Having the team engage in brainstorming or brainwriting exercises that encourage idea generation
  • Asking a select number of individuals to perform follow-up work and present their findings at the next meeting

Ensure Clarity Between Fact and Opinion

Although an effective meeting benefits from participant viewpoints and opinions, it must also include facts and data that help the team make progress. After all, a team project is not likely to find success if activities are guided by individual guesses or conjecture. Instead, reports, trend analyses, and other data will be more effective guides for team discussion and action. One good way to ensure clarity between fact and opinion in a meeting is to include a presentation of key data, and then offer each person the chance to weigh in on their interpretation of the data.

Recap Periodically

It’s not uncommon for a meeting discussion to stray from the agenda. Team leaders can ensure agenda items aren’t overlooked by adding periodic recaps of what’s been discussed and agreed upon. Periodic recaps ensure that each agenda item gets its necessary attention and discussion. Recaps also help to focus the team and keep off-topic discussion to a minimum.

Make Decisions

An effective meeting doesn’t dance around issues but brings them to closure through definitive decision-making. A decision outcome can be as small as an agreement to revisit a specific topic once more information has been gathered. It can also be as large as a decision to change some part of the team strategy. Making a decision ensures the team doesn’t stagnate and keeps the agenda moving forward to action.

Assign Tasks to Individuals

An effective meeting specifies deliverables and who will be accountable for achieving them. As one Inc. article describes, “Great meetings result in decisions, but a decision isn’t really a decision if it’s never carried out.” When you carefully assign follow-up tasks along with deadlines, there’s a greater likelihood of ensuring that nothing is forgotten and that team members aren’t duplicating efforts. Producing meeting minutes and using project management software are examples of ways you can ensure efficient task assignment and keep track of deliverables.

Keep the Meeting Engaging

Meetings shouldn’t be tedious or boring. Instead, they should be designed to hold participants’ attention and use everyone’s time efficiently. Some ideas for keeping meetings engaging include:

  • Limiting the duration of the meeting
  • Adding an experiential activity that encourages participants to interact and communicate on a deeper level
  • Using video conference tools to involve remote employees

Commit to Follow Up

An effective meeting requires follow-up so that each member of the team knows what to expect and what they need to do after each meeting. Following up after a meeting also ensures that important information isn’t lost and helps to memorialize what was discussed and agreed upon. Whether the meeting follow-up is in the form of an email to the team or a discussion in a subsequent meeting, it keeps the meeting agenda and deliverables top of mind for meeting participants.


Conclusion: Start Running Effective Team Meetings Today

Running an effective team meeting is a critical skill for leaders to master because it helps to move projects forward in an efficient manner. Because leading meetings effectively doesn’t come naturally for many individuals, it makes sense to include opportunities to learn and master that skill as part of a robust leadership development program. From there, individuals will be equipped to get broad participation, regular follow-up, and clear decision-making in each of the meetings they lead.


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The Importance of Emotional Intelligence When Leading Change

Organizational change is happening all the time, especially during times such as these. It can bring about a range of emotions in people, including fear, resistance, frustration, and confusion. Leading change successfully in the midst of those emotions requires the ability to define and communicate a vision that inspires others. It also requires helping others to adjust their thinking and behavior in the workplace so that they can successfully navigate change.

One powerful tool that helps leaders guide their teams through change of any kind is emotional intelligence—the ability to identify and manage one’s emotions and to handle interpersonal relationships with empathy and good judgment. Not only is emotional intelligence a strong predictor of overall job success (research has found that it accounts for 58 percent of success at work), but it also influences individuals’ ability to successfully navigate the emotions and behavior of others during times of change. Here are four ways emotional intelligence helps leaders guide their employees through changing times.

Helps to Overcome Resistance

Resistance to organizational change is common for many reasons. Some individuals may want to avoid certain changes to their responsibilities and work processes, and others may simply resist being pushed outside of their comfort zones. Because emotional intelligence involves understanding others’ emotions, it requires listening and asking questions rather than simply telling employees what they should and should not do.

Leaders can leverage emotional intelligence to hone in on the source of employee resistance to change and can offer ideas, strategies, and coaching that will help to overcome feelings of resistance. Some key activities that can support getting at the heart of resistance to change include:

  • Q&A sessions that allow employees to air their frustrations and fears about change
  • One-on-one discussions that provide opportunities to talk about specific employee experiences with change
  • Employee surveys that ask individuals to describe their experiences and share feedback on company change initiatives

Encourages Continuous Learning

Change implies that there will be an ongoing requirement to think and behave differently in order to be successful in the future. Change in the workplace requires the same—that individuals will acquire new knowledge and skills to help them navigate the waters of change. Research points to emotional intelligence as a key factor that drives the willingness and desire to learn because it helps to encourage both curiosity and an openness to learning lessons from successes and failures.

Leaders who possess emotional intelligence and model behaviors that demonstrate their support for continuous learning can encourage those behaviors in others. Leaders can further instill a dedication to continuous learning by encouraging employees to participate in training that helps them develop healthy attitudes toward change.

Improves Decision-Making

When navigating organizational change, individuals must be equipped to use their judgment and make decisions in the midst of uncertainty and shifting circumstances. Because those with high levels of emotional intelligence are more self-aware and also more socially aware of others’ feelings and emotions, they are better equipped to make well-informed decisions when solving problems or determining a course of action.

Leaders who employ emotional intelligence can help themselves and others become better decision makers during times of change. Instead of making a decision based solely on assumptions or a single person’s interpretation of the facts, emotional intelligence helps leaders consider the emotional needs of others when leading their team through important decisions.

Supports Healthy Relationship-Building and Trust

During times of change, individuals need support from leaders and need to feel like they’re not alone. Emotional intelligence allows leaders to provide the understanding and empathy that builds confidence and trust in others. Through active listening, patient conflict resolution, and mentorship, emotionally intelligent leaders build healthy relationships with others and allow employees to trust them as they lead the team through change successfully.

Emotional intelligence is a valuable tool in all aspects of working life, but it is particularly important when leading in times of change because it helps individuals take the emotions and feelings of others into account. When leaders take the time to provide support, training, and coaching to help individuals manage their emotions during the uncertainties of organizational change, there is less chance for resistance, fear, and distrust to derail organizational change efforts. With a combination of leading by example, providing opportunities for employee learning, and establishing forums for communication and feedback, it’s possible to fully leverage emotional intelligence to successfully lead others through change.


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Teamwork in the Workplace: Frequent and Effective Communication


Clear communication and alignment are key to successful teamwork in the workplace. According to one survey, 97 percent of respondents believe that a lack of alignment within a team plays a big part in a team’s outcome or impact. Understanding how to implement clear communication strategies, however, is often — well — less clear.
How do you cultivate a strong ethic of teamwork in the workplace through communication? The answer is twofold: by ensuring communication within teams is both frequent and effective.

Frequent Communication: “I Know What I Need To Know”

Frequent communication means keeping everyone in the loop. Teams execute more efficiently when everyone’s on the same page. First, team members avoid duplicating their efforts when knowledge is shared. Second, while each member has a specific role within the team, those roles are interrelated, so communicating frequently about one’s role speeds up the project. For example, let’s say one team member can’t start her role until another has the results of a specific task. In this case, knowing exactly when the other member completes the task keeps her – and the project – moving forward.
To keep communication frequent, the team should revisit key points and ask questions whenever it’s needed. If the team seems a bit too timid about frequent communication, it’s up to the team leader to model the desired communication behavior. Leaders should start each meeting with a “catch up” on accomplishments made since the last, and end with  a “recap” of what was covered.

Effective Communication: “I Understand Everything”

When it comes to successful team communication, just communicating frequently isn’t enough. Team members may know everything going on within the group, but they may still be left in the dark. How? Because they don’t understand everything. Think back to your school days — it’s the difference between scoring high on a quiz that requires rote memorization, but scoring low on a problem that requires you to link those quiz concepts together.

Effective communication requires all team members to know on a high level what’s going on within the team, but also to truly comprehend what’s going on. That can get tricky when your team is composed of members:

To achieve effective communication, each team member should be able to summarize each key point that a speaker makes, if asked. If at any point during a meeting, something is not making sense, he or she must speak up to request clarification. Ensuring your team communicates effectively takes time, but ultimately you’ll save time by cutting down on costly mistakes that arise from a lack of understanding.

Cultivating Psychological Safety for High Performance Teams

Cultivating a team that engages in effective and frequent communication as described above is far easier said than done. Why? People don’t like to admit that they don’t know or understand things — especially in a group setting. That’s where the tenant of psychological safety comes in. First described by Amy Edmondson, a Harvard Business School professor whose work had a profound influence on Google’s recent study on teams, psychological safety refers to the idea that a team provides a safe space for “interpersonal risk taking.”
That includes the risk of appearing vulnerable by exposing the gaps in your knowledge. In a psychologically safe environment, team members don’t worry about feeling embarrassed or being ridiculed for saying, “Hey, I think I missed something” — or more importantly, “Hey, I don’t understand something.” Teams that exhibit high levels of psychological safety are ones where members, and especially team leaders, ask a lot of questions, which encourages everyone in the group to speak up more without fear of judgment. For effective and frequent communication to take place, a team must cultivate a culture of psychological safety. According to Edmondson, when you combine psychological safety with accountability, a high performance team is created.
Teamwork in the workplace will truly blossom when team building activities move beyond standard communication exercises — like improving listening and feedback skills — to also focus on communication that’s frequent and effective.


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4 Ways to Measure the Impact of Corporate Team Building

Team building activities have been shown to improve overall workplace performance by increasing productivity, improving communication patterns, and encouraging creativity and innovation. But measuring your progress toward these overhead objectives can be challenging if you don’t know where to look or what metrics to focus on.

Measuring the return on your corporate team building investment is not as elusive as you might imagine, especially if you plan ahead and set clear goals. Some impacts can be observed, while others can be objectively measured. Our list includes both evaluation methods to help you gain a more complete picture of how team building initiatives are impacting your business.

1. Establish a Baseline of Comparison and Identify Long-Term Goals

It’s much easier to measure the success of your team building event if you establish a baseline for comparison and defined key objectives early in the planning process. Recording certain metrics prior to hosting your event will help you establish a benchmark and identify areas for improvement. Indicators such as absentee rates, retention rates, productivity rates, and customer satisfaction rates are all good metrics to consider measuring against.

In addition to collecting performance and productivity data, observe how your team operates on a daily basis and take note of internal dynamics and behavioral patterns. Do meetings drag on too long because people aren’t aligned on key issues? Do only a few employees contribute to group discussions? Have miscommunications resulted in inefficiencies or mistakes?

Identify areas where your team is struggling and decide how you will define improvement in those specific areas. Measuring against this definition using your baseline metrics and observations will help you gain a clear picture of your progress.


2. Know What a Successful Team Looks Like

Although this may sound abstract, studies have shown that successful and productive teams share certain social characteristics. In a Harvard Business Review study, researchers were able to accurately predict what team would win a business competition based on learned social characteristics alone—regardless of the quality or strength of their pitch.

Of course, some people are naturally more charismatic or communicative than others, but research shows that group dynamic—specifically group communication—is as important to a company’s success as the innate skills of individual contributors. Unlike our more hard-wired qualities, effective communication skills can be nurtured through team building activities that aim to establish trust and respect. Furthermore, team building events encourage individuals to forge personal connections that engender more engaged and cohesive group dynamics.

Clearly, communication is king. But what does effective communication look like in a professional, group setting?

The most successful teams exhibit these qualities:

  • Everyone in the group speaks and listens roughly the same amount.
  • Contributions are clear, succinct, and energetic.
  • Communication is multi-directional and not just between leaders and subordinates.
  • People demonstrate engaged body language, such as facing one another and using active listening and speaking gestures.
  • Members actively brainstorm in small groups and bring ideas back to the larger team.
  • Team members make an effort to collaborate face to face whenever possible rather than using technology.

Knowing how a successful team operates will help you determine if your employees are trending in the right direction and will allow you to identify areas to target in your next team building event.

3. Ask for Feedback

This is perhaps the most obvious evaluation method and the most widely overlooked. If you’re not sure where your team stands, it never hurts to ask. Sending out anonymous surveys using apps like TINYpulse or SurveyMonkey can help you gauge how your team feels and measure the impact of team building events.

Ask questions about workplace communication, group dynamics, productivity, creativity, job satisfaction, and office environment before and after your event. This can not only help you identify which areas need immediate focus, but also help you track your progress and identify opportunities for growth. To understand the long-term impact of your team building initiatives, make sure to ask for feedback at regular intervals rather than limiting responses to a one-time questionnaire.

Along with asking for more general feedback, don’t be afraid to ask employees about the team building event itself. Encouraging them to reflect on the event and discuss how team building lessons or skills might be applied to their job will boost engagement and content retention. In addition, this feedback can promote buy-in for future events by ensuring that their thoughts are heard.

4. Look at Your Bottom Line

Companies that invest in team building activities typically have higher employee retention rates and are more cohesive, innovative, and efficient—all qualities that directly impact their bottom line.

For example, when employees stay with a company longer, recruiting, hiring, and employee onboarding costs decrease. If teams are more effective, efficient, and innovative, then customer satisfaction and retention rates should improve, driving sustainable revenue growth. If your employees are happy and feel valued, you’ll not only attract the best talent, but also retain them—helping expand your brand’s influence.

These impacts may not be immediately evident, but team building should be thought of as a long-term investment in your company’s health. The behaviors and thought processes that you nurture today will lead to greater success and savings down the road.

The Takeaway

For the best results, make a commitment to incorporating team building events into your annual calendar and optimize as you go. Take stock of what worked and what didn’t after each event and identify areas to improve upon in the future. Don’t be afraid to seek out professional guidance to help you make the most out of your event budget, determine what activities are most likely to accomplish your goals, and execute the most engaging and compelling team building experience possible.


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3 Team Building Lessons from Google

While the importance of teamwork has been recognized in business for 100 years, technology has deconstructed boundaries of work and made the skill of teamwork more important and more complicated to operationalize in the modern workplace. Given this reality, many companies are focusing on improving the way teams work together to get the benefits of more innovation, better problem solving, and faster results through high functioning, competent teams. However, these benefits only come to fruition when the team is working collaboratively and firing on all cylinders.

Google recognized the many benefits of high-performance teamwork in a software engineering environment and committed to building the perfect team. In 2012 they launched Project Aristotle, an initiative to analyze teams and identify which factors contributed to success (and which ones did not).

While it’s true that few companies can match Google’s resources, you will see from their findings that many of the essential elements are not resource dependent at all.

One of Project Aristotle’s key findings was that it doesn’t matter who is on the team, but what the accepted behaviors within the group are. So what are those behaviors and group norms that help make a great team?


1. Allow Equal Talk Time

Teams in which every member speaks in roughly the same proportion tend to be more successful. Interestingly, the distribution doesn’t necessarily have to be even all the time, but as long as all members of the group have an equal opportunity to speak, the team will work better together. To ensure each team member receives an equal opportunity to provide input, implement one of these methods at your next meeting:

  1. Every team member speaks for about the same amount of time on each topic
  2. Team members speak up more when they have more expertise on the topic, but the total amount of speaking time is roughly the same

Researchers found that either way was likely to succeed, but teams in which some members spoke little or not at all suffered from a lower collective intelligence.

The team building takeaway: Make sure all members of a team have an equal opportunity to share their thoughts.

2. Empathy is Important

The ability to recognize how other team members feel contributes to a more successful group. An important empathic trait on a team is noticing when others are not participating and giving them an opportunity to share their thoughts. Of course, some individuals are naturally more intuitive than others, but team building training can teach empathy skills like active listening, sharing your own vulnerability, and considering how others might feel.

The team building takeaway: Highlight the importance of recognizing how other people in the group feel to encourage a more collaborative environment.


3. Create a Safe Space

The researchers at Google discovered that encouraging equal talk time and exhibiting empathy are two critical factors for creating a safe space in which every team member believes they can voice an opinion without risking judgment or rejection. Groups in which the leaders set a calm, respectful tone are more likely to succeed than those in which the leaders have little emotional control.

The team building takeaway: Create a team culture of mutual respect and interpersonal trust to allow all team members to feel that they can safely contribute to the conversation.

Google spent the resources to crunch the numbers and found that the best teams were those that created safe spaces that allowed every individual to speak for an equal amount of time. The most successful teams also displayed more empathy, recognized when other members weren’t contributing, and made an effort to include them. You can apply this knowledge to your own company, no matter how small or large, to develop strong teams. Remember, it’s not the individual personalities but the culture you create that will inform how well a team will perform.


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