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Team Vitality - The Energy to Thrive

Nov 28, 2022

There is so much "noise" around team performance. When it comes down to it, team success is based on common sense things:

  • How well does the team connect with each other?
  • How aligned is the team?
  • How much energy is generated by the team effort?
  • How healthy are the relationships between team members?
  • How well does the team execute?
  • How change embracing is the team?
  • How much trust exists within the team?
  • How much joy exists in the team?

The measure of these elements in a team will determine whether a team is simply surviving, or thriving.

Story

When I was in high school, I played on an intramural volleyball team. Looking back, this is funny since I am 5"4" and on the stocky side. My team was made up of a bunch of guys who were a mix of all of the different people in the school...geeks, honor society students, band kids, and a couple of athletes (I do not like labeling people, but most of us can relate). We did not have any goals for our team other to enjoy ourselves and have fun. Then a funny thing happened. We started to win. At the time, we did not think much about it...but we kept winning. We were having a great time. Energy was high, we were having fun, and we celebrated our wins as a team. Eventually, we found ourselves in the finals. As you can imagine we were elated! Then we found out that our opponent was the team with the best athletes in the school. The normal thoughts went through my mind; how would we beat them, how bad would we lose, how could we ever compete with them at their level? In my defense, I think most of us might feel similar.

We started the match by losing a few points. Then we started a comeback and won 10 points in a row. At the end of game one, we won by 2 points. This is when I learned a very important life lesson! The capabilities of a team are not measured by the capabilities of the individuals on the team. Yes, each individual team member brings personal strengths and gaps, but team performance is not addition or subtraction...it is multiplication or division. More on that in a minute.

Something happened in that magical moment. My team gathered together before game 2 started and we realized the other team could be beat. But it was even more than that. We realized that our team had something that other teams did not...we had something special. Call it synergy if you want. It was more than the sum of each team members' capabilities. We had the "special sauce"! We were laughing and grinning at each other. Hope blossomed. We actually started to believe we could win. I am sure the other team thought we were complete idiots.

When we lined up for game 2, we started to hear the "trash talk" from the other team. They were going to crush us, to humiliate us. They made that very clear. The reality was that they probably should have but we just kept true to who we were as a team. This was another great life lesson. If we put the good of the team first then it was easy to sacrifice personal glory for team success. This was not the case with the other team. These were the school's elite athletes, some of the best in the state. In their personal athletic arena, they would be unbeatable...but in a team sport like volleyball, they could not find a way to work together. As game 2 progressed, we took the first several points. Then they took a few points. Then as we started to score again, they started to focus more on their mistakes. They turned their frustration on their own players. This is when division set in for them. They began to try to win individually instead of as a team. The tension continue to build for them. Something interesting was happening. The elite athlete team became divided and lost energy and focus. My team became more energized and focused with every game and not simply because we were winning, it was more about how well we were working together. We knew each other, we trusted each other, we adapted when we needed to. We had shared values and goals. We were aligned! We took game 2 easily.

To the other team's credit, they fought valiantly in game 3. They took a commanding lead early. But it was too late. Our focus and energy was so high, we did not even consider the possibility of losing. We were a well oiled machine, working within our limitations and producing excellent results. When a team member made a mistake, we rallied around them. Our success was multiplied by our dedication and support of each other. Yes, we took game 3 and the match. I think the reward was to get our team picture in the school newspaper (this was before the Internet...I know, I am old). But the real reward was the joy our team experienced. This is one of my fondest memories of my high school days athletic experiences.

Reflections

There is so much in this true story that taught me the value of team vitality. Can you see where the other team lost energy and focus? Can you observe how my team generated energy and focus? By all accounts, we should never have reached the finals. But we did. Not because we were great athletes but because we were a high functioning and vital team.

The Vital Team

We use a tool called "Team Vital Signs" (TVS) from Six Seconds to measure the critical elements for team success. Here is a quote directly out of that report:

TVS measures the drivers of team effectiveness, offering insight into the workplace climate and team dynamics. Climate is an overview of the employees' relationship with and within the team. The climate is the context in which employees work each day; research shows climate strongly influences how people perform their jobs.

 The climate in my volleyball team was highly conducive to success. I did not know this at the time, but all five (5) of the drivers of success in a team were present at very high levels. Here are those five (5) drivers:

Trust: Build safety & assurance to risk for innovating, sharing, learning.
Motivation: Clarify meaning & commitment to drive toward excellence.
Teamwork: Collaborate & communicate to take on the challenges.
Execution: Focus on what's important & be accountable to generate results.
Change: Adapt &innovate to go into the unknown, risk, learn.

Out of these drivers, outcomes are generated:

Sustainability: Driven for long term ­success.
Satisfaction: Committed to the team.
Results: Focused on achievement.
Agility: Ready to take new opportunities.

So, what does this have to do with vitality? Think of vital signs. When someone is in the doctors office or hospital, taking their "vital signs" is critical to understanding their current state of health. If any of the vital signs are out of the norm, then specifically addressing those will provide a path to improved health. Think of a time when you were sick. Did you have more or less energy to do normal things? Were you more or less focused? Were you more or less able to think clearly and make your best decisions?

The same is true for a team. All of the vital signs must be at appropriate levels to achieve the outcomes desired. Vitality is the path to greater team health and generating the energy needed to meet the next challenges or take advantage of the next opportunities. Here is another quote expressing the value that can come from the Team Vital Signs report by Six Seconds:

What is Team Vitality?
How is the "weather" in your workplace? Are people constantly on the lookout for dangerous storms of destructive team member behavior? Or are they looking forward to coming to work each day? Team Climate is an indicator of the collective feelings, relationships, and reactions in the workplace. The culture is rules and norms; climate is how people feel about the culture. A team with a healthy climate has strong Team Vitality. Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is being smarter with feelings. Since part of team vitality is emotional, leaders and team members who develop and use EQ have the skills to increase Team Vitality.

As shown in the graphic above, the business case is simple: EQ and other skills produce a positive climate. Climate drives engagement which fuels performance.

 Vitality Generated

If you are looking for a simple and practical way to measure team vitality, then the Team Vital Signs report provides highly validated and actionable data. Whatever measures you use, the key is to identify the current status of team vitality, then build a path to grow team vitality. How do you build that pathway? By identifying gaps and then creating action steps to close those gaps. Example: If TRUST is low, then that needs to be enhanced.

Trust = Credibility + Reliability + Connection

If trust is low, then it is most likely due to one or more of the elements in the trust equation being low. These are elements that can be enhanced. Assess where the gaps are then equip people to close those gaps in alignment with the goals of the team. You can do this with each of the five (5) drivers of success.

As team vitality is increased, then engagement improves and performance goes up. Back to my story. As we as a team became aware that we could win, our team vitality went up and our engagement to the team and the effort increased. The results - high performance.

Vitality Applied

When team vitality reaches a certain level, then sustaining energy, focus and effort becomes easier. In the case of my volleyball team, we reached a point where the vitality was so high that the energy, focus and effort almost became self-sustaining. That was a lot of fun!! You may have heard the term, "Success breeds success." The experience with my team was a great example of that... BUT, the success was not focused on rewards, it was focused on the two (2) things that bring joy in a team, Results + Satisfaction.

When you think about team success, do not settle for vague definitions or unclear measures. Real team success is sustainable. That happens when team vitality is high driving engagement levels up. Engagement is the emotional commitment that a team member has to the team and the effort. That is why emotional intelligence is the primary skill set to enhance team vitality.

If you have not already had an experience on a team like I did with my volleyball team, I hope you will in the future. I have had a similar experience with other teams in my life. I love those teams. There is something very special about being a part of a team that has high vitality. The good news...we can all be a part of a team like that. We know what it takes to create high team vitality...now all we have to do is have the courage to invest in that effort. I highly recommend that you do...it is worth it!

 

For more on these, check out our other resources:

EQFIT® YouTube Channel

EQFIT® Blog

EQFIT® Podcast

 

Copyright © 2022 EQFIT® - Author: Steven Goodner All rights reserved. No portion of this material may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except as permitted by U.S. copyright law. For permissions contact: [email protected]

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