We have learned that if you can personally commit to:
- Seeing others as free to choose and accountable for outcomes
- Using language for disclosure and engagement
- Choosing accountability for the success of the whole
- Forgoing compliance for consent and commitment
- Grieving and letting go when necessary
And you conduct yourself by:
- Sharing your point of view truthfully and with goodwill
- Taking the other’s person side
- Owning your contribution to a difficult situation
- Framing choices for yourself and others
- Acknowledging doubt, concern and failure
Then you will be having authentic conversations that build highly effective teams, organizations and communities in which we can believe. We believe and teach this, and our experience has proven the effectiveness of this strategy. Recently discovered a 1999 study by Marcial Losada, cited in the Nov. 20, 2009 Ottawa Business Journal by Craig Dowden, that supports our experience. Team performance was assessed on three metrics: profitability, client satisfaction and 360-feedback scores. Dr. Losada examined the “interpersonal dynamics” (conversations) and coded statements by the meeting participants as positive (content of the message was supportive, encouraging or appreciative) or negative (content of the message conveyed disapproval, sarcasm or cynicism). For the highest performing teams the ratio of positive to negative statements was 5.6:1 and for the lowest the ratio was 0.36:1 (3 negatives for each positive).
Dr. Losada found “ . . . the single most important factor in predicting strong team performance was the ratio of positive to negative statements,” says Dr. Dowden. By using advanced analysis techniques, he also was able to show that positive communication (conversation) patterns caused the high performance – not the other way around.
Positive statements are not code for insincere platitudes, nor does it mean that it’s unacceptable to raise difficult issues. You can be positive by focusing on the content of the conversations, managing yourself using the commitments and conversational skills listed above, and choosing for goodwill — even when things get tense. The commitments and skills of authentic conversations allow any of us to engage issues directly while being respectful and empathetic to each other. And that is the foundational step for building high-performing teams.