Monthly Archives: September 2013

A Great Way to Improve Team Performance

Count on me-dreamstime_7405973-smallerIf you’ve ever played a team sport on a competitive level, you probably know the difference between a bad coach, a good coach, and a great coach. For me, the difference is often the coach’s approach to improving performance in the team members. A bad coach will tell you that you did something wrong. A good coach will tell you that you did something wrong and tell you how to do it right. But the best coaches, I think, are the ones who make you evaluate your own performance and find ways to improve.

That kind of thinking is highlighted in some recent research on business teams from The University of Alabama in Huntsville*. In the study, teams that used “structured reflection” improved performance by a statistically significant amount when working together to play a team video game.

In applying this research to “real” teams in the “real” world, team leaders need to provide a time for teams to communicate together to reflect on their own performance and how to improve the team effort.

Here are some keys to implementing structured reflection.

  • Team communication is imperative. Time spent in training team members to communicate better is time and money well spent. They need these communication skills to be able to do well in a structured reflection situation.


  • The time together needs to be guided. The team leader needs to have a plan for the meeting and where it should be headed. The team leader should even have specific guiding questions that will direct the discussion.


  • The meeting needs to be reflective. Each team member should be able to look at their own performance, evaluate it, and develop a plan for future improvement.


  • Each team member needs to know the skills of the other team members. In communicating, each team member learns what the other team members are good at and can pass off items that are better handled by someone else. That leaves team members available to commit to tasks that they, in turn, can perform better.


  • In theses guided discussions, the team discusses the tasks, the goals, and the plans to achieve those goals. This is done in a team setting and is guided by the team leader.

Structured reflection may be able to help your team create better team performance. It might be one tool that will help you win the big game!

*University of Alabama Huntsville (2013, April 8). Structured reflection improves team performance.

How Deep Is Culture?

I was thinking about this post from a few months back and wanted to share it again. I think it is extremely important. Enjoy!

When I’m speaking or conducting workshops about culture I usually ask, “What is your definition of culture?” Usually, there are many good answers that come forward like “things we learn from our parents,” “music,” “clothing,” and “language.”

A couple of definitions that have become popular these days are “software of the mind” (Hofstede)
or “the right way of doing things” (unattributed).  All of these point us in the right direction, but I think culture is much “deeper” than that.

As I am exposed to more and more cultures and think deeply about my own culture I’ve come to the conclusion that culture is much deeper than we often realize. One prominent culture scholar (Trompenaars) puts it this way, “Our own culture is like water to a fish. It sustains us. We live and breathe through it.”

My favorite definition of culture is: “The human-made part of the environment.” That idea includes everything that we do and think. A tree growing outside in your yard is not culture, God made it. But as soon as we trim the tree, use it as the support for a swing, or make something from the wood of the tree, culture is involved because your culture will decide what the swing, chair, or table will look like.

Everything you have done or will do today from the time you wake until you go to sleep is affected by your culture. But like a fish that doesn’t notice the water he is swimming, breathing, and moving in, you have probably given little, if any, thought as to how culture is influencing you today.

So as an experiment, for the rest of today give some conscious thought as to how culture has formed the way you are acting and thinking.