In one of my previous posts, I talked about why group discussions matter and four ways to develop your team. In this post, I am going to expand on some easy ways to implement a straightforward development plan based on leader led material and guided discussions.
Bottom Line Up Front: Allocate 1 hour a week for a group discussion, put it on the calendar, and rotate which member of the team leads the discussion.
Team discussions serve multiple purposes:
- Helps the person leading the discussion develop public speaking and critical thinking skills.
- Increases unit cohesion and mutual understanding across the members of the team.
- Shapes team norms and behaviors toward each other. *Team behaviors are key in dictating performance.
- Teaches and develops the members of the team.
- Establish a learning environment at work.
Frame Team Discussions as Learning Opportunities
In college, I took a class called The Code of the Warrior led by Dr. Joseph Thomas. Dr. Thomas is a retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel and the current Director of the Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership at the U. S. Naval Academy.
When we began the first class, Dr. Thomas made this short but profound statement:
I may be much older than you [referring to the class of students], but as I look around this room I see 20 twenty year-olds. That’s means there’s at least 400 years of unique experience here in this room.
Hearing this simple, yet humbling statement from a retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel with a Doctorate Degree set the tone and environment for development. We realized that if this man can learn something from us, then everyone here is worth listening to and we all have something worth sharing.
When you start a group discussion, share this idea or a similar thought. Your goal is to prime your audience with the expectation that they won’t be judged for sharing their thoughts and that we are all here to seek truth and learn.
Make Time for Development
If you don’t have a weekly team routine, I recommend establishing a rhythm for when regular meetings or tasked items are expected to be completed and collected. Once you have a weekly routine established, make a point to schedule 1 hour a week for team development that ideally will occur on the same day and same time each week. Put it on the team calendar whether it’s Google calendar, Outlook calendar, or a shared paper calendar. Put team development time on the calendar. Do it before the end of the day, before lunch, or even over lunch while you eat together. Setting deadlines drives action and keeps us focused that’s why putting it on the calendar matters.
I often hear people say that they don’t have time for team development and group discussions, but in truth: it’s not about having time, it’s about making time. Do you control your time or do you let others control your time and attention? When you take time to deliberately schedule events and stick to your schedule you are ensuring that your priorities stay the priority. Of course, there are times when you will need to adjust you schedule and refocus priorities… it’s the nature of a fluid and dynamic work environment. In general, I have found that we are often get side tracked by tasks that can be handled later. Is this new task really an emergency that demands that I derail the planning and coordination already completed? Can it wait until tomorrow or next week?
You can’t afford not to invest in people and team development. Team effectiveness and cohesion is built gradually and deliberately. Investing every week in your people will help your team work better together, increase retention, and develop the individuals who make up the team.
Rotate Who Runs Your Weekly Team Development
Every time I have incorporated a development plan into my team’s weekly routine, I lead the first group discussion. When I share with my team that I’d like to include time for weekly development, I explain why it matters and how I believe it can help our team as a whole and as individuals. Lastly, I explain that we will rotate who leads the discussion and that everyone will get a chance to lead a discussion.
Rotating who leads the discussion serves multiple purposes:
- Creating content can take an hour or more if you put a lot of thought and care into it. Rotating who leads the discussion spread loads the responsibility across the team.
- The leader isn’t the only person who has knowledge worth sharing. Everyone can teach/share ideas that they are passionate about.
- The action of leading a discussion will be a learning/skill development opportunity for members of the team.
When you start the development program, ask for volunteers to run the next few sessions and then add them onto the calendar. Remember, who’s in charge of a given task needs to be specified or it won’t get done. People who volunteer to lead a discussion are likely going to be a bit more prepared because they chose to lead it. Choice is an integral part of human motivation (I covered this in depth in a previous post). You want to get the program started on the right foot, so your people, who struggle with public speaking and leading, can see some good examples of how to run a development session or discussion.
When members of your team run a group discussion, take the time to give the leader of the discussion some feedback, so they can improve for the next time. When you run a group discussion, ask for feedback to improve the experience.
Allocate 1 hour a week for a group discussion, put it on the calendar, and rotate which member of the team leads the discussion. Frame the discussion as learning opportunity. Your goal is to prime your audience with the expectation that they won’t be judged for sharing their thoughts and that we are all here to seek truth and learn. Rotate who leads the group guided discussions to build cohesion and give everyone a chance to develop new skills.
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