The Sweet Spot Between Relational Leadership, Work and Learning for High Performance Teams
High performance teams are highly valued and often difficult to cultivate in the world of teams and team development. And to be clear, not every team needs to be a high-performance team to deliver results. However, leading edge, innovative organizations interested in attracting and retaining highly motivated employees want to encourage high performance teams, and the leadership that grows and sustains them, as a competitive advantage.
In the well-known Google study of high-performance teams, Google discovered that the most successful teams provided the opportunity for all members to have equal voice or contribution and these teams had higher levels of social sensitivity. Worldview Intelligence offers insights into both of these aspects. It explicitly invites multiple worldviews by looking to the intersectionality of views rather than the dominance of one or a few. The frameworks, templates, practices and processes of Worldview Intelligence provide a means to increase social sensitivity by offering each or all of the Six Dimensions as lenses into understanding more about another person, team or organization and their views. This enables both increased connectivity and the opportunity to align views to powerfully move forward on issues that matter.
In our work with teams we present a model for cultivating high performance in teams that has three components – learning, relational leadership and work – and at the intersection of these three components is the sweet spot of high-performance teams. These teams have mastered the ability to take learning concepts into practical application at work and sustain the results or impact over time thanks to relational leadership skills. Success comes from an appropriate emphasis on each of these aspects of team development and performance. In high performance teams, members seamlessly adjust the emphasis on each of these aspects based on changing circumstances, and never ignoring any one of them for any length of time. Tuning into what is needed most at any given time and stepping outside of the pressures of time when needed means these teams are dynamic, responsive and flexible.
We apply a Worldview Intelligence lens and skills to learning, work and relational leadership to highlight the sweet spot of team performance that describes how and why high-performance teams are successful.
Sustainability of high performance and desired outcomes is supported through relational leadership. Relational leadership skills include the ability to build connections through a genuine interest in others, cultivate long term relationships, be collaborative, engage value-added exchanges and create environments that are generative and responsive to emergence. High performance team members are vested in each other’s success and have a high degree of trust. This supports innovation, creativity and connectivity, which are all solid outcomes of relational leadership practices.
The Worldview Intelligence Six Dimensions Framework has proven versatile and adaptable in illuminating the influence of worldviews on relationships in workplaces and in communities, particularly in uncovering sources of tension, conflict and hidden dynamics. It is a powerful resource in identifying blind spots that can negatively impact relationships, torpedo change initiatives or affect policy implementation.
Once discovered, blindspots, sources of tension, conflict or hidden dynamics can be directly and specifically addressed using Worldview Intelligence frameworks, processes and strategies. High-performance team members learn how to be in lively, animated conversations, discussions and debates in honest, open, healthy and productive ways. This gives an organization or team a strategic advantage in achieving results, leading to greater motivation and higher performance. Understanding how to use Worldview Intelligence frameworks, processes and strategies effectively provides ways and means of inviting all the available worldviews into team discussions so that the team sparks and enhances its creativity and innovation. In high performance teams, leadership and responsibility are shared based on what each member brings to the team and the knowledge, skills or abilities needed in the moment.
Ultimately, high performance teams are tasked with getting things done – with the work at hand. Knowing that the team’s interpersonal relationships have been attended to, trust is in place, and recognizing the importance of keeping what is being learned on the table, realizing that how knowledge is approached or that the information used matters, members of the team and the team as a whole can focus on the tasks they have been charged with. The attention, creativity and energy of the team can be focused directly on the work.
Here several of the dimensions can be used to advance the work. In thinking about reality consider in what context the application of the work of the team will take place. Be sure not to work in your own bubble of personal perspectives or reality. Consider any historical factors that might impact implementation, including cultural, gender or societal factors that may impact how people – customers, clients, social groups, other stakeholder. – might respond. This is an area where exploration of language can be helpful. In our work we have had more than one experience where we thought the language being used was neutral and carefully considered only to learn that certain words with certain cultures can carry hurtful reminders of the past, present and even future.
How the team individually and collectively thinks about the future is another area to be given consideration within the scope of the work. People approach thinking about what the future offers in varying ways. It is important to reflect on how the people impacted by the work might view it from their perspective on the future. Will they welcome what is offered or might they see it as a threat to their well-being. A few years back we were working with a group of union organizers who were quite resistant to discussions about a different way to work in the future as they thought it was a ruse to get rid of them.
Worldview Intelligence Learning
Learning in a team often means that some or all of the team members – or the team leader – learn new skills, attend conferences or educational seminars or have common reading lists. What is learned is then put into practice in the work environment, sometimes including a teaching component to share new knowledge with the rest of the team. Worldview Intelligence learning also applies to the learning of a team over time. Many teams do not take the time to make visible what they are learning about the work they are tasked to do, how they are working together and what past learnings might impact the current work tasks.
Teams commonly assume everyone shares similar knowledge. Our work with Worldview Intelligence has shown that these assumptions are often wrong. People bring into any work situation their own worldviews on the tasks at hand and how they can be accomplished. Taking time to both learn about each team member’s perspective on the work and process and continually checking in on what is being learned can keep a team focused, innovative and productive, with greater connectivity and limited diversions.
Two of the Worldview Intelligence Six Dimensions in particular are applicable here – practices and knowledge. High-performance teams use practices of open communication and personal awareness, as the Google study noted, which helps them stay innovative and productive. They also regularly check-in on their practices to make sure they don’t get stuck in a rut of continually doing things the same way and that their team practices continue to do what they were intended to do. High-performance teams question their sources of knowledge to be sure the information they are working with is accurate. They recognize that knowledge can be emergent and so hold open the space for new ideas and possibilities to emerge.
Other key considerations affecting the work task include: does the approach to the work fit within the company’s or organization’s values and will the outcome of the work – the proposed action – also fit within the company’s values. Related is that the practices used during the work align with company values, are attentive to learning and are relational.
High-performance teams are created and developed through attentiveness to cultivating the right conditions for the team and its members to flourish. Attending to relational leadership, work and Worldview Intelligence learning is a game changer in sustaining high performance teams over time.