Habits are a popular topic for people who are looking to improve. Lots of popular authors including Gretchen Rubin and James Clear have written about how to create and maintain habits with techniques such as habit stacking. And since I’m interested in how we can leverage personal productivity improvements to improve team effectiveness, I will outline five habits that teams can create that will improve your project success. And it doesn’t just apply to project teams. These can work for any kind of team.
1. Start a book club habit
Everywhere I turn someone is mentioning their book club to me. And I have enjoyed the ones that I have been in over the years. Why can’t business teams create their own book clubs? It might meet monthly or quarterly, or whatever you choose. But I find it works better if it is a routine, or a habit. Somehow, putting it on auto-pilot reduces the stress.
One of the conversations that you should have when you get started is around the administrative piece. Will you rotate leadership or location? Is food part of the equation? Who gets to choose the next book? One of my favorite book clubs had one person who was particularly interested in writing up summaries and we ended up with a blog about the books we had read. It was great fun, relaxing, and educational. What more could we all want?
2. Use the morning meeting to express gratitude for something
I’ve written before on using standing meetings, which are a habit that teams can use. I’ll add to that here. Find something in your daily standing meetings that everyone can be grateful for and celebrate that moment. It might be the discovery that someone uncovered a new risk, or that a new task was completed, or that someone’s child just got out of the hospital.
You may choose to thank others, to thank God, or you might just thank fate. The point is to give thanks. We don’t do enough of that these days. Sometimes what it takes to improve team effectiveness requires a collective mind shift. So let’s shift to a mind-set of gratitude.
Sometimes what it takes to improve team effectiveness requires a collective mind shift. So let’s shift to a mind-set of gratitude. #gratitude #teamwork #habits #leadership #business #projectmanagement
3. Commit to what you plan to accomplish as a team every day
Some companies and teams have resisted the need to physically, or virtually, meet every day. And I acknowledge that not every team needs to meet every day. But if you have a project that is moving, even at a snail’s pace, I believe it makes sense to commit together to what you plan to accomplish each day.
The power of that commitment to accomplish something specific is well-known. People wanting to lose weight will tell you that having an accountability partner is helpful. We’re seeing more virtual working spaces popping up — like Caveday and Flow Club — to encourage deep work by creating accountability.
We cannot continue to think that it is okay to work, day after day, for an organization and not deliver value. And those of us who work for ourselves need to have that same level of accountability — maybe more. Working is not supposed to be easy. It’s called work for a reason and bosses have every right to expect employees to perform to high standards. Team effectiveness is an ever-present aspiration. And committing daily to what you plan to accomplish is a great start.
4. Agree, as a team, on a regular decluttering habit
Are you familiar with working in a company and having a problem with co-workers leaving food in the refrigerator and forgetting it’s there? It’s the same with leaving work papers lying around, and coats or umbrellas that never seem to go home with the owner.
It adds up, and at some point, the distractions of that mess can keep our brains from functioning at full capacity. Have you ever noticed that little children absolutely engage with toys that are put away and get bored by toys that are in the middle of the floor? Why is that? All that clutter shuts down the brain.
So, agree as a team on a regular decluttering habit and what that means.
5. Establish a daily shut down process
I remember working in a company some years ago, and everyone in our department always quit working at about the same time. And inevitably, as the time approached it got harder and harder to walk out the door. The phones seemed to ring off the hook in the last fifteen minutes of the day.
These days, with the ubiquity of technology, quitting cannot mean that technology stops. We must be willing to turn it off. And depending on the type of company you work in, shutting down may be something that teams can do together, or individuals must do on their own.
We need to acknowledge that none of us should be on the job for ridiculously long hours day after day. A healthy work life balance is important, and companies and leaders need to encourage it. We all live with high levels of stress; just read the news. Employers don’t need to add any more stress than needed.
Building team effectiveness is no different from improving your personal productivity except that we are working together towards the same goal. And having consistent behaviors from day to day helps.
Get together with your team and decide when you all want to quit for the day, and what that looks like for everyone. Talk about whether you want to get and receive communications (and what kind of messages) outside of work hours. If you work from home some, establish signals so that your family knows when you are working and when you are just paying the bills. Particularly for moms who carry a larger domestic load of responsibilities, our young children may feel like we are always working.
If you want to read more about teamwork, I’d love for you to buy my book — Herding Smart Cats: Project Management Reimagined.