Early in my management days I stumbled on this exercise and it got my attention: Have each member of your team or department share their “get-along” rules. Get-along rules are things like:
- Tom replies to an email in two minutes flat but never answers the phone?
- Jen thinks out loud, so what she says is process, not decision?
- Kate asks a lot of questions because she’s super detailed-oriented?
- Jessica thrives on interruption but Jack hates it?
Wow. I knew right away that if I knew these things it would help me a ton as a manager. And, if my team members knew these things about their colleagues, would their work together improve?
We tried it. I loved it — it gathered huge amounts of information that helped me lead, manage, and mentor better. I think the team liked it, or at least found it useful. We definitely grew stronger as a team and continued the exercise over the years as people and positions changed.
One caveat — your team must have a very high level of trust in each other and you to do this exercise to its full potential. If anyone is afraid of a colleague undermining them or a boss looking to undercut them, they won’t answer truthfully. This doesn’t work for everyone or every team.
GET ALONG TO GET IT DONE
When I do this exercise, I have each person answer these questions and return them to me. I compile and share with the entire team.
1. What is your preferred form of communication? (Email, phone, in-person, text?)
2. What’s your least-preferred form of communication?
3. What is the best environment for you to do your best work/be the most productive?
4. What conditions deplete your productivity?
5. How do you feel about interruptions?
6. How do you prioritize your work?
7. What are your favorite tools (shared calendars, shared drives, email-as-to-do-list, etc.) and why?
8. Do you usually think-out-loud or think-it-through?
9. What do you wish your colleagues knew about your work or your work process?
There are no wrong answers, and while you will not accommodate everyone’s “rules” all the time (and there should be no expectation that you do), it helps enormously to know that Jen never checks her voicemail (true) but doesn’t mind being interrupted no matter how engrossed she appears to be (also true).
A great team will remember their colleagues’ rules and either follow them as much as possible, or remember that the negative reaction they got from someone was more about being put on the spot (for someone who likes time to process) than the idea or person delivering it.
If you try this with your team, please let me know how it worked for you.