How self-aware is your team?

How self-aware is your team?
Do you have individuals or teams that could work more effectively together? Do you want access to tools that can deliver self-awareness, flexibility, capability and performance?

By creating a working environment where trust is high, communication is open and diversity is embraced, you can foster the development of a high-performing team that is resilient under pressure, is motivated and is able to sustain continuous achievement. Best Practice Consulting's self-awareness tools can help you achieve this. 

One of our most popular self-awareness tools is DiSC.

DiSC is a behavioural profiling tool that is designed to help understand how a person is most likely to behave in a particular situation or environment.

DiSC is an acronym for the four primary dimensions of behaviour.
1. Dominance: direct, results-oriented, strong-willed and forceful.
2. Influence: outgoing, enthusiastic, optimistic and lively.
3. Steadiness: even-tempered, accommodating, patient and humble.
4. Conscientiousness: analytical, reserved, precise and systematic.

By using DiSC effectively in the workplace, you can: 

Understand and appreciate strengths and challenges within teams to help build productive teams.
Identify the motivations and needs of team members.
Improve communication skills by identifying and adapting to different preferred styles.
Reduce personal and organisational conflict and stress.
Improve personal diversity, awareness and recognition.

Best Practice Consulting has a successful track record in assisting organisations to effectively review their operations and improve their organisational effectiveness and performance. To ensure your organisation meets the above outcomes Best Practice Consulting recommends DiSC.
To find out more about this and other self-awareness assessment tools and how they can be used to maximise individual or team effectiveness and success, contact us at here

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Are you delivering feedback as well as you could be?

If you asked 1000 managers what they considered to be the most difficult part of their job, “delivering job-performance feedback” is certain to be one of the top three responses.

Why is it so hard to tell our employees that they’re doing something that’s not working, and needs to change?

Fear of others’ reactions, saying the wrong thing or being labelled a “bully” are common reasons why managers are reluctant to give feedback. Such fears combined with differences in personality and work styles, perspectives and cultural backgrounds can lead to uncomfortable and unproductive feedback situations. In fact, in an extensive literature review Denisi and Kluger (2000) found that in more than one-third of cases, performance feedback actually resulted in decreased performance across the 131 studies analysed.

Despite these challenges, helping employees improve job performance on an ongoing basis is a key responsibility of successful managers. When feedback is delivered well, the benefits are significant not only for the employee, but for the manager and the organisation. So, it’s important to get it right. The following tips will help you deliver feedback more effectively in the workplace.

1. Get the focus right

The feedback you deliver at work should focus on:

a) Job performance and actions. This concerns competency, that is, whether or not the person is capably performing specific tasks assigned.
b) Observable work behaviours. This concerns the way in which tasks are performed, for example, whether the person arrives on time, works cooperatively or speaks courteously and respectfully to others.

Feedback that falls outside these categories, such as statements about someone’s attitude or personal characteristics, can lead to negative outcomes for both parties.

2. Follow a few simple feedback tips

Tip 1 - Create the right environment. Feedback is best delivered in person and in a private setting.

Tip 2 - Provide constructive feedback. Feedback conversations should benefit the recipient, not allow you to vent your frustrations. If you can't think of a constructive purpose for giving feedback, don't give it. Make sure there is a dialogue and not a monologue. Ensure the recipient leaves the conversation knowing exactly what action to take next.

Tip 3 - Deliver feedback in a timely way. Give feedback as soon after the event as possible. This prevents bottling up of bad feelings about the person’s performance. It also flags the issue or problem at the time it occurs, when the details are fresh in everyone’s minds.

Tip 4 - Talk about feedback in specific terms. Be factual in your discussion and cite specific examples or instances. For example: “I noticed there were several calculation errors in last month’s report”. Focus on the action and the impact.

Tip 5 - Focus on description rather than judgement. Describing behaviour is a way of reporting what has occurred, while judging behaviour is an evaluation of what has occurred in terms of "right or wrong", or "good or bad". By avoiding evaluative language, you reduce the need for the individual to respond defensively.

Tip 6 - Offer suggestions for improvement. If the objective of your feedback discussion is to improve performance, then come equipped with specific suggestions on what the person can do to affect that change. Engage them in coming up with solutions that they can buy into, by asking questions and seeking their thoughts and ideas. If you don’t get buy-in, change will not happen.

3. Follow the steps to effectively deliver the feedback

Step 1 – Be clear about the purpose of your feedback. Indicate what you'd like to cover and why it's important. This focused statement keeps the other person from having to guess what you want to talk about. For example: "I have a concern about…" or "I feel I need to let you know…"

Step 2 – Describe specifically what you have observed. Say when and where it happened, who was involved, and what the results were. Stick to what you personally observed and don't try to speak for others. Avoid talking vaguely about what the person "always" or "usually" does. For example: "Yesterday afternoon, when you were speaking with Sally, I noticed that you kept raising your voice."

Step 3 – Describe your reactions. Give examples of how you and others are affected. When you describe your reactions or the consequences of the observed behaviours, the other person can better appreciate the impact their actions are having on others and on the organisation or team as a whole. For example: "Sally looked embarrassed and I felt uncomfortable about seeing the episode. Shouting at our people is not acceptable behaviour in this department."

Step 4 – Give the other person an opportunity to respond. Indicate that you are waiting for an answer. Remain silent to allow them to answer. For example: "What is your view of this situation?" "What is your reaction to this?" “Tell me, what are your thoughts?"

Step 5 – Offer specific suggestions. Whenever possible make your suggestions helpful. Offering suggestions shows that you have thought past your evaluations and moved to how to improve the situation. Even if people are working up to expected standards, they often benefit from ideas that could help them to perform better. For example: "Jill, rather than telling Ed that you're not interested in all the details, you might try asking him specific questions about the information you are most interested in.”

Step 6 – Summarise and express your support. Review the major points you discussed. Summarise the action items, not the negative points of the other person's behaviour. This summary is an opportunity to show your support for the other person - a way to conclude a possibly negative feedback situation on a positive note. For example: "At least we understand each other better since we've talked. I'll do what I can to make sure your priorities are factored into the schedule, and I'll expect you to come straight to me if the schedule is a problem.”

While it may seem like an added, challenging responsibility to a manager’s already "full plate", managers who provide ongoing and effective feedback against established goals and objectives are actually making their job easier. So, it’s worth investing the time and effort to get it right.

If you or your team are grappling with giving effective feedback or you'd like a fresh perspective about how to help your team move forward, contact Best Practice Consulting today at One of our experienced team can deliver training to increase staff capabilities, maximise staff effectiveness and help your organisation reach its goals. 

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The benefits of a creative workplace

It’s no secret that organisational leaders in the 21st century need to cope with and respond to increasingly complex organisational issues.

Sometimes, these issues and problems can be solved by applying a standard formula or set of actions: rigorously analysing the circumstances and drivers, applying logic to determine a course of action or following what’s been done before. Other times, particularly when the issue is something the organisation hasn’t faced before, genuine innovation is needed to solve problems and satisfy stakeholders.

In most organisational settings, leaders are expected to be able to think creatively and come up with innovative solutions to work-based problems. And they often do. But fostering and harnessing the creative abilities of a whole team is likely to produce an even richer selection of creative ideas and solutions to work tasks and problems. This is because diverse group members collectively possess knowledge and a variety of perspectives not found in just one person.

Specific benefits of creativity in the workplace include:

  • Better teamwork and team bonding;
  • Increased workplace engagement and interaction;
  • Improved ability to attract and retain quality employees;
  • Increased staff morale, fun and happiness; and
  • Increased workplace problem solving and productivity.

But in busy workplaces where time is limited, how can a leader establish a climate conducive to creative thinking and problem solving?  

For more than two decades, Teresa Amabile (1998) and her associates investigated the link between the work environment and creativity. She identified six leadership and management practices that foster creativity in the workplace. These findings are consistent with the observations of many other researchers and creativity consultants. The six practices are:  

Intellectual challenge

Match people with the right problem-solving experiences, that is, experiences that challenge or stretch them intellectually. This enhances creativity because it supports expertise and intrinsic motivation. But, the amount of stretch is critical; too little challenge leads to boredom, but too much challenge leads to feelings of being overwhelmed.

Freedom to choose method

Employees tend to be the most creative when they are granted the freedom to choose which method is best for attaining a particular work goal. In other words, leaders and managers can set the goals, but it should be up to the team members to decide how to achieve them. Stable goals are also important because it is difficult to work creatively towards a moving target.

Supplying the right resources

Time and money are important resources for enhancing creativity. Deciding how much time and money to give to a team or project is a tough judgement call that can either support or stifle creativity. Under some circumstances, setting a time deadline will trigger creative thinking because it represents a favourable challenge. False deadlines or impossibly tight ones can create distrust and burnout. To be creative, groups also need to be adequately funded. But it should be noted that creative activities can be achieved at little to no cost with very few supplies, depending on the activities chosen (see below for some ideas).

Effective design of work groups

Work groups are the most likely to be creative when they are mutually supportive, and when they have a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives. Cross-fertilisation occurs and the various points of view often combine to achieve creative solutions to problems. Homogenous teams might argue less but they are often less creative. Getting the mix of team members ‘right’ does require experience and intuition on the leader’s part.

Supervisory encouragement

The most influential step a leader can take to bring about creative problem solving is to develop a ‘safe’ atmosphere that encourages people to think freely.

This includes making it okay for people to challenge assumptions and disagree with the leader.  If people don’t feel safe, they will only parrot their leader’s ideas.

Praising creative work is important because, for most people to sustain their passion, they must feel that their work matters to the organisation. Whenever possible, a leader should notice and publicly affirm creative thinking.  Creative ideas should also be evaluated quickly rather than put through a painfully slow review process.

Organisational support

The entire organisation as well as the immediate leader or manager should support creative effort if creativity is to be enhanced on a large scale. Organisational leaders should encourage information sharing and collaboration, which lead to the development of expertise needed for creativity and to more opportunities for intrinsic motivation. Executives who combat excessive politics can help creative people focus on work instead of fighting political battles. In a highly political environment, an employee would be hesitant to suggest a creative idea that was a political blunder.

Adapted from Dubrin, Dalgleish and Miller (2011)

Other tips and actions to foster creative thinking at the individual level and organisation-wide:

  • Encourage a mindset of continuous learning.  If you aren’t constantly refilling the creative pool, it will eventually run dry. Encourage staff to seek new information, new knowledge and new ways to do things, constantly. Support team members to attend conferences or other learning and development events.  Model habits of curiosity, observation, listening, reading and recording in the workplace.
  • Seek multiple options. Don’t be satisfied with one solution. Once the team has a good idea, encourage them to look for another, and then another. Give yourself and the team the opportunity to choose the best from several options.
  • Suspend judgment. To encourage new ideas, don’t evaluate them too  early. Relax your guard and let the ideas flow.
  • Lunchtime brainstorms. Encourage weekly, fortnightly or monthly lunchtime meetings of a small group of staff to engage in creative thinking and share ideas for how those ideas could be applied to the organisation.
  • Engage fresh eyes. Provide opportunities for employees who do not normally interact with one another to meet. Invite people from other departments or areas to your brainstorming sessions, and ask them how they would solve your problems.
  • Take breaks. The human brain uses more energy than any other part of the body and so needs constant replenishment. Rest is one of the key components to increasing personal energy, productivity and creative thinking. Many people do not take advantage of their breaks (lunch or other) during the day and, as such, are not giving their mind a true break from the stresses of the day. Encourage staff to use break time to walk around the building, sit outside or chat to colleagues about non-work related topics.
  • Get the culture right. Research suggests that the most effective group environment for creativity is one in which there is fun, humour, spontaneity, and playfulness. However, creating such a climate in a workplace setting isn’t easy. But, leaders can support this by fostering a permissive atmosphere in which individuality and humour are acceptable and mutual respect, trust, and commitment are the norm.

Some final words on workplace creativity

The general consensus in the research is that the more one engages in creative thinking, the better one becomes at it. Ideas produce even more ideas. But inspiration is only a small part of creative thinking. Commitment and application are also essential ingredients.

Once you and your team know the idea you want to work on, be prepared to work at it, and to work at it some more, to fine-tune it.

In addition, to be worthwhile and effective, a creative idea must also be appropriate, useful and actionable. It must somehow influence or improve the way things get done in the organisation. 

And finally, as Harvard Business School Professor, Teresa Amabile, notes: “The final stage of getting creativity to work is deciding how to put an idea into practice.” 

Ultimately, you can come up with a brilliant creative idea, but if you haven't thought about how to implement it, it will die without seeing the light of day.

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The anatomy of a great team

We’ve all heard of ‘high performing teams’. But what does a high performing team actually look like? Do they really make a difference? And if they do, how do you ‘make’ one?

A high performing team can be defined as a group of people with specific roles and complementary talents and skills, who are committed to a common purpose and who collaborate to produce superior results. 

This might sound idealistic, but high performing teams are not as rare as you might think. Most of us have actually led or been a member of a high performing team at one time or another in our careers. Think back. If you’ve ever been part of a project team or functional unit where team members all got along, had the right skills and all worked hard to pull together the project and achieve top results for the organisation, then you’ve experienced a high performing team.

What’s so good about high performing teams?

The link between teams and positive organisational performance is undeniable. And there’s plenty of evidence to support it.  

For instance, Cohen and Ledford (1994), examined more than eighty self-managing teams at an American telecommunications company and found that self- managing teams had significantly better job performance and higher employee job satisfaction than traditional working groups or departments.

Batt (2004) showed that self- managed teams were associated with significantly higher levels of satisfaction for workers and were effective in improving objective performance measures.

In a wider European study, Benders et al. (2001) also found a positive effect of teams for reducing employee absenteeism rates and improving organisational performance.

Furthermore, a review of survey based research on teamwork and performance over the last decade concluded that the great majority of studies had found teams had positive effects on operational measures of organisational performance (Delarue et al.2008).

A central argument for linking teamwork to higher productivity is that it gives employees a sense of empowerment, by increasing the control they can exercise over their immediate work environment (Goodman et al. 1988; Harley 1999). Ultimately, workers with higher control over their jobs are likely to feel more committed to their organisations and more satisfied with their jobs. As a result, they will be more willing to deploy discretionary effort, thereby enhancing organisational performance (Cohen et al. 1996; Dunphy and Bryant 1996; Pil and MacDuffie 1996).

The benefits are clear, but how do you ‘make’ a high performing team?

Creating a high performing team does take some work. For some leaders and managers, it can be a particularly difficult task; they may be very organised, technically competent, and masters at navigating their way through complex organisational politics, but they may not be very good people managers and not very effective at building a team. But, this doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

In our experience, there are four important things for leaders and managers to consider if they want to create a great team.

1. Foster a teamwork culture

In every case that has been studied at the Europe-based Centre for Organisational Research, teams that 'click' always have a leader who creates an environment and establishes values that are conducive to high performance. Dubrin, Dalgleish and Miller (2011) believe there are a number of ways leaders can do this.

  • Develop a norm of teamwork. Promote the attitude among your employees that working together effectively is an expected standard of conduct.   
  • Display a consensus leadership style. Whenever you can, demonstrate to employees that you value their input on important decisions. Consensus decision-making also leads to an exchange of ideas within the group including supporting and refining eachother’s suggestions which is proven to achieve better outcomes.
  • Be a positive teamwork model. Practice what you preach! Seek out opportunities to work as a team member with your employees and with other team leaders. Interact extensively with your fellow team members and when appropriate, be as candid as you can about ideas and attitudes relevant to the group’s work. A leader’s self-disclosure fosters teamwork because it leads to shared perceptions and concerns.
2. Understand what a team is, and what it isn’t.

If you are in charge of a work group, it’s worth remembering that teams are definitely forms of work groups, but not all work groups are teams. The table below will help you to distinguish between a work group and a team.

Work Groups


Individual accountability

Individual and mutual accountability

Come together to share information and perspectives

Frequently come together for discussion, decision making, problem solving, and planning.

Focus on individual goals

Focus on team goals

Produce individual work products

Produce collective work products

Define individual roles, responsibilities, and tasks

Define individual roles, responsibilities, and tasks to help team do its work; often share and rotate them

Concern with one's own outcome and challenges

Concern with outcomes of everyone and challenges the team faces

Purpose, goals, approach to work shaped by manager

Purpose, goals, approach to work shaped by team leader with team members


3. Understand the ‘life cycle’ of teams

Teams that have not worked together before usually go through several stages of team development. Bruce Tuckman’s enduring four-stage model (forming, storming, norming and performing) is a great starting point for understanding the development life cycle of teams.

The four original developmental stages are:

  • Forming:  Team members get to know each other and try to comprehend their task. This stage is characterised by lack of clarity and unclear roles and responsibilities. The team leader must take an active role setting the team's purpose, boundaries and structure.
  • Conforming: Team members fall into an easy consensus in order to feel as though they are really working together.
  • Storming:  The boundaries set by the leader are tested as team members jockey for key positions or promote their own agendas.  Frustrations may emerge over differences that have been surpressed. Factions often form and there may be power struggles. The team leader needs to adjudicate disputes and deal with challenges, reinforcing the team’s boundaries and structure.  Clear and effective communication is crucial during this stage.
  • Performing:  The good team dynamics start to pay off as the team produces high volumes of quality work.  There is a focus on over-achieving goals, and the team is able to function without instruction from the leader, who now takes on more of an ‘overseeing’ role.

Understanding these stages is useful because it will help you to identify where your team is, where it needs to be and most importantly, what you need to do as a leader or manager to support them.

Your role as leader needs to change as the team develops. For example, the leader’s need for conflict resolution skills increases as the team develops towards the performing stage. Once the team reaches the performing stage, the leader assumes the role of ‘boundary spanner’ ensuring that team members can get on with tasks without external interference. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the arrival of a new team member or a team restructure can cause an established team to revert back to the ‘forming’ stage, if only briefly.  

Tuckman’s original model has been expanded over time.  Other proposed team stages you might recognise in teams you lead include:

  • Norming (comes after storming):  This is where confidence and trust within the team starts to emerge, with the team working more cohesively as an integrated unit.  The team roles and expectations of each other are bedded down, while the team leader is able to take on a less directive role.
  •  Reforming (comes after norming): The team checks the new norms and behavioural patterns and reorients itself to the new standards in practice and corrects any problems. The maturity of the team dynamic is able to resolve problems that arise.
  •  Mourning (comes after performing):  This is the break-up of the group, usually when the task is completed successfully.   Team members move on, after being closely bound for a period of time.   This can be an emotional time, with some team members experiencing feelings of loss. When group members are involved in new projects, they may try to recreate the old project in a new form, saying things like ‘we always did it this way in my old project team/company’.
4.  Know your role as a leader of high-performing teams

So, you’ve established the right culture, understand what a true team is and have a good feel for the stages of teams. Now what?

 Sometimes a leader’s inspiring personality alone can foster teamwork. But more often than not, leaders need to encourage teamwork by proactively demonstrating certain attitudes and behaviours and acting in certain ways. 

 The most significant behaviors and actions consistently demonstrated by leaders of high performing teams are:

  •  Defining clear goals or a vision of the future for the team that aligns with overall organisational aims;
  • Creating blueprints for action to achieve those goals and clarifying priorities on a regular basis;
  • Using language to build trust, encourage forward thinking and create energy within the team;
  • Getting the right people involved;
  • Emphasising pride in being outstanding. Helping the group to realise why it should be proud of its accomplishments builds team spirit.
  • Establish urgency and relevance. The more urgent and relevant the rationale for the team, the more likely it is that the team will achieve its potential.
  • Promote self-awareness in the team, including an understanding that people contribute and work differently. Increased self-awareness amongst team members can result in a greater understanding of their own behaviours and the impact of that on others.  There are many tools available to help with this process including the Executive Leadershop Profile (ELP), DiSC, Team Management Profile (TMP) and Hogan assessments.
  • Keeping channels of communication open. Knowledge and information should be shared on all levels; and
  •  Empowering the team to make decisions and self-managing. This encourages members to take ownership of the work and fosters a deeper sense of commitment to achieving project goals. Just remember, for empowerment to work, team members must have the appropriate skills, job knowledge and motivation and be ready accept greater responsibility.

Other things leaders can consider to improve team performance include:

  • Team recognition or rewards. Giving rewards for group accomplishment reinforces teamwork because people receive rewards for what they have achieved collaboratively. Examples could include certificates or recognition at the broader organisational level in newsletters or all-staff messages.
  • Initiate rituals and ceremonies. This enhances team spirit and encourages team members to bond. For example, send the team on a retreat to further develop their mission or goals or organise a team dinner when milestones are reached. 

So there you have it. The anatomy, as we see it, of a high performing team and some advice on how you can create one. We wish you luck on your journey as a leader of great teams and achieving your organisational goals!

If you are grappling with the effectiveness of your team, or you'd like a fresh perspective about how your team is placed to move forward, contact Best Practice Consulting today on One of our experienced organisational consultants will be happy to talk to you about practical strategies to increase staff capabilities, maximise staff effectiveness and help your organisation reach its goals.  

If you want to re-used this article in part or whole, we are happy for you to do that. All we ask is that you reference us either within the article or in the footnotes, with a link that points back to our article.

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