In the first two parts in this series, we built upon the work done by a Google research team that identified two key elements present in high performing teams.
1. Psychological safety—people felt safe to talk.
2. Broad participation—all team members have equal opportunity to contribute to the group conversation.
The third element of being a high-performing team involves creating a culture of accomplishment. Having effective conversations during a meeting isn’t enough if you are not productive between meetings.
How reliably do your team members do what they said they will do? How many of the agreed-upon action items are completed?
Four steps will help:
- Close each and every topic or agenda discussion with specific actions with completion dates for each item. (See the HBR article on how to effectively close a conversation.)
- Get a one-page summary of the meeting out within and hour if possible so the discussion and next steps stay in everyone’s field of awareness.
The palest ink is better than the best memory.
— Chinese proverb
- Assign someone to track and follow up on action items between the meetings. One of the keys to making things happen in life is tracking and measuring. This is not about micromanaging or not trusting—this is simply good project management.
- Ask people to do what they say they will do. If your team completes 85 percent of the action items after each meeting, you’ll set yourself apart from most teams that in my experience complete about 60 percent.
Clearly, there are valid reasons why some items assigned in a project team meeting are not completed. Things come up. Circumstances change. Priorities shift. Most people are on more than one team. Most are also working more hours than they want to work and still taking work home. Acknowledging everyone’s reality and then having an open and honest conversation about keeping the agreed upon commitments is often useful.
Here are the questions to ask of yourself and your team:
- Is each action item essential to completion of the project?
- At the time we commit, do we fully intend to do whatever it takes to deliver?
- Are we clear about what needs to be done, who will do it, and when it will be done?
- Do we have the ability to say no or negotiate when we can’t fully commit?
- Do we have a system to keep track of action items and their completion?
- Do we have an agreement to be in communication if something comes up that might interfere with our completion of the task?
- Is it okay if someone follows up and checks on our progress?
What is your say/do ratio? Part of being a remarkable team member is taking on work and then delivering. Keeping your word is a hallmark of effective organizational members—they don’t keep their word because it’s an important action item or because they promised someone important. They keep their word for only one reason—because they said they would. Being dependable—time after time, day after day—is what’s required.
Do. Or not do. There is no try.
—Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back
Getting to a higher level of completion on action items leads not only to exponential progress toward goals, but also to a tremendous sense of accomplishment—both personally and for the group.
Thank you for reading and good luck with your team.
This article first appeared on LinkedIn November 4, 2016