Eight Principles for Sustainable Teams - a summary

Specific Goal
Clear Roles
Inclusive Decision Making
Positive Feedback
Psychological Safety
Conflict Prevention
Collaboration with Other Groups

1.Specific Goal - The goal shows which behaviors help your team

Developing a compelling vision is crucial, but it becomes even more impactful when accompanied by a well-defined goal. The goal serves as a unifying force for the team, providing clarity on the necessary actions and key behaviors required to achieve it. Identifying these key behaviors is best accomplished by analyzing specific situations and examples within a defined time and place.

2. Clear Roles - Roles provide the basis for fair rewards and workload

How does each team member contribute to the achievement of your goal? By beginning with the team's overarching goal, you can establish individual goals and assign specific roles to each team member. This clear allocation of responsibilities facilitates transparent workload distribution, simplifying the process of establishing fair compensation.

3. Inclusive Decision Making - Take care of everyone's opinions and distribute authority

How can you follow a decision you didn't vote for? Two key factors can make it easier: feeling that your voice is valued and trusting the decision-making process. Inclusive decision making should not be mistaken for achieving consensus. You can have clearly defined authority where everyone knows who is responsible for which decision and how their input is sought. For example, you can gather information and opinions on upcoming decisions through voting, surveys, or by going around the table and letting everyone contribute in a meeting. Ensure that everyone has access to information to provide input in the best way.

4. Positive Feedback - Provide positive feedback on behaviors that lead towards the goal

Promoting behaviors that align with the goal and foster collaboration is crucial, and the most effective approach is to encourage them through positive feedback. Why? Because feedback given after the behavior has a greater impact than providing instructions beforehand. To offer meaningful feedback, it is essential to gain insight into the actions of your colleagues. Cultivating curiosity about their work and actively seeking out specific examples of their successes (defined in time and place) enables you to provide more valuable feedback than a generic  "good job."

5. Psychological Safety - Psychological safety provides a foundation for kind responses that can be escalated

Within any team, it is common to encounter problematic behaviors that stray from the agreed-upon goals. When such behaviors arise, it is crucial to address them promptly. The level of psychological safety within the team plays a pivotal role in determining how early and effectively these issues can be confronted.In many instances, we tend to take strong action only when significant problems manifest in the workplace. However, with a foundation of psychological safety, it becomes possible to address and discuss concerns at an early stage. By focusing feedback on the specific behavior rather than targeting the individual, it becomes more feasible for the person to modify their conduct. Nurturing psychological safety within the team not only fosters a supportive environment but also enhances overall performance.

6. Conflict Prevention - Prevent and manage disputes by understanding the underlying situation

What appears to be a problem with a person, is usually a problem with a situation. Conflicts seldom arise solely from personal chemistry. Instead, conflicts are more likely to occur in situations marked by unclear goals, inequitable workloads, ambiguous roles, unfair decision-making processes, inadequate feedback, and unresolved problematic behaviors.

You don't need to be friends with everyone at work. Instead, prioritize aligning with shared goals, understanding roles, and focus on the work that needs to be done instead. By proactively identifying situations that can potentially lead to conflicts, you can prevent them from happening.

7. Autonomy - Trust, independent employees, and autonomous teams

Lack of trust and excessive micromanagement can foster passivity within employees and teams. To counteract this, it is essential to cultivate a healthy level of autonomy within the team. Employees and teams should not be required to seek permission for every choice and prioritization they make. By demonstrating trust and granting autonomy, you can encourage active engagement from employees and teams. Independent employees and teams are better equipped to adapt to new conditions and be innovative. Show trust and foster autonomy by delegating with clear goals instead of prescribing the exact path towards achieving those goals.

8. Collaboration with Other Groups - The same principles are needed between teams as within teams

A sustainable and successful team is created with clear goals, clear roles, inclusive decision-making, positive feedback, psychological safety, effective conflict management, and autonomy among team members.

Expanding our perspective to encompass collaboration across multiple teams within an organization, these same eight principles hold true. To scale up collaboration and create a sustainable and successful organization, we can extend these principles to guide inter-team relationships. Use the first seven principles for the relationship between teams as well. For example, setting clear goals helps align the efforts of two teams towards a shared objective.