Improving team culture is a challenge that is universal to all leaders. At their roots, teams work best with a shared purpose, good communication, and collaboration. Like a rowing team, everyone must have a cadence for working together and rowing in the same direction. One of the primary roles of a leader is to bring talented people together, create that cadence, provide guidance, and help them to achieve more together than they could apart. Implementing Recognition, Obstacle, and Win (ROW) meetings can help leaders achieve these goals. ROW meetings improve communication, encourage recognition and bring visibility to obstacles in a time-efficient and effective way.
ROW meetings are about developing a cadence for communicating the good and bad things happening in a business. These meetings are typically 15 to 20 minutes long. Each participant comes to the meeting prepared with a 2-minute recap of their week. The summary should include recognizing one person for doing a great job, one obstacle they needed help with, and one team win they wanted to celebrate. Since each participant only has 2 minutes, it forces them to be brief and only focus on the highlights. These recaps should mirror the trailer for a movie. The goal is to provide enough information for people to know what is happening in the person's area of responsibility. If anyone attending the meeting is interested in learning more, they can follow up after the meeting with questions or suggestions.
Recognition of Employees
One of the hallmarks of a good culture is recognition. Adam Grant and Francesa Gino's research has shown that expressions of gratitude can help build employees' self-efficacy and social worth, motivating them to engage in prosocial behavior. Thanking employees for a job well done is one of the best ways to improve a team's culture. Employees go to work every day, doing their job, and many never hear a thank you from their peers or boss. Organizational culture improves when leaders maintain a process for slowing down, considering the contributions made by those ad them, and expressing gratitude.
A supplemental benefit of this routine is how it supports people in getting to know each other. During group meetings, there is a tendency for some extroverts to dominate conversations and for everyone else to listen. The imbalance of communication can create group thinking and blind spots within a team. The two-minute target for each participant ensures that everyone has an equal opportunity to communicate. More value is generated during the meeting because there is a greater diversity of thought and inclusion of everyone's ideas.
Sharing of Obstacles
Each participant will share one obstacle they needed help solving. Initially, leaders might be uncomfortable voicing challenges if it is different from the norm within the organization. It is common for employees to be private about the barriers preventing their success until they have done everything possible to solve the issue independently. The hesitation to share challenges creates unneeded pressure within organizations and can slow down the removal of obstacles. By individuals being vulnerable in the group setting, other participants that have prior experience with similar obstacles can assist the person in need. In addition, when there is a commonality in challenges, participants can partner together to find solutions.
Obstacles are like weeds that prevent organizations from reaching their full potential. Employees within organizations do their best to pull weeds. Often the process is long and complex because employees need more tools, resources, and power to address complex issues. Managers are essential in getting employees the tools they need to overcome barriers. The ROW meetings provided a cadence for managers to check in with employees. As they inquire about challenges, they can provide tips and guidance for addressing opportunities. If they cannot solve the problem at their level, the manager can bring it to the meeting and seek advice and support from the team.
The final segment of the recap is a review of wins for the week. Celebrating successes is essential for locking in learning. In Whitney Johnson's book Smart Growth, she evangelizes celebration's role in cementing lessons learned and strengthening relationships. Leaders work hard to drive results. Time must be allocated for them to feel the joy of their team's accomplishment. Sharing of wins provides examples of excellence for the broader group. It also creates opportunities for individuals to be more aware of success outside their direct business, which can both motivate and inspire others to greatness.
Talking about team wins during group meetings helps the team focus on the big picture. Most organizations operate in silos. For information to be shared, it has to flow up one silo to the leader and then back down another silo. The multiple communication points can be slow and weaken the benefit of the message. Often this results in team members focusing too much on their silo and not dedicating time or energy to thinking about what is vital for the overall organization. Good teammates care more about winning the game than their individual performance. By celebrating the wins generated across the different teams, the collective group can take pride in the overall organization's progress.
Weekly meetings can be an excellent way for a leader to do a temperature check with the team. When things are going well, meetings will be super positive, high energy, and upbeat. The organization will feel healthy, similar to a person with a 98 degrees temperature. When the obstacles are growing or when stress rises, the meeting will have a completely different feel. There will be more negativity. People will struggle more with finding and talking about wins. And the group will spend more time discussing obstacles. When this occurs, it will feel like the organization has a fever. Just as you would take an aspirin and get some rest at the first signs of a fever, it will be necessary for the leader to take steps to bring the team's temperature down collectively. The best way to address the tension is to recalibrate goals and verify that project timelines are realistic.
The ROW meeting approach can effectively establish a culture of recognition, positivity, and accountability within the team. It will ensure that every member of the team speaks during each meeting. It encouraged them to spend 66% of their time talking about positive events in the last week and only 33% of the time on obstacles. It challenges them to prioritize, summarize and be direct with their communications. Recaps will be 2 minutes, so there is not much fluff. Speakers must communicate what is essential and pass the spotlight to the next person.
The call will be engaging because multiple voices will be heard, and the topic of conversation will be focused on the remarkable things that are happening in the business. Team members will find it refreshing to get obstacles brought to the table, and the group will feel a greater sense of cohesion as they discuss ways to solve problems after the calls. Implementing this 15-minute-a-week routine can do a lot to improve the culture of an organization. The practices leaders establish say a lot about who they are and what is essential. Leaders who build routines around recognizing team members, capturing obstacles, and celebrating wins build a strong foundation of trust within their organization. The very trust needed to build a strong culture.
Dorian Cunion is an Executive Business Coach with your Path Coaching and Consulting. He specializes in coaching services for managers, executives, and small business owners.
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