Team Learning

For decades, team building and team management have been around, including Total Quality Management (TQM) and Six Sigma. Research continues on how to build effective and efficient teams. Have you been in meetings or on committees when you feel like it was a complete waste of time after the sessions? Sure, you have. We have all experienced this where the lead person makes suggestions, and no one shares ideas or thoughts. Maybe the experience was that you shared an idea, and immediately it was dismissed or not acknowledged that you said anything. In 2015 a survey found that only half of the employees perceived workplace meetings as productive. The fastest way to a dysfunctional team is having team members not feeling valued.

Continuous improvement means a commitment to learning. A learning organization creates, acquires, and transfers knowledge that modifies its’ behaviors to reflect the new knowledge and insights. New ideas are essential for learning to take place.

Peter Senge, the author of The Fifth Disciple, shares the idea that there is a distinct difference between individual learning and team learning. The first step to team learning is to empower the individual before empowering and aligning the team. Work cultures need to encourage learning, and with learning comes mistakes. When people are comfortable and condiment that learning and creativity are encouraged, they will be better equipped to contribute to the team. When teams align themselves toward the mutually shared goal of learning how to learn, they will be more effective.

What is Discussion and Dialogue? Is there a difference?

Everyone is entitled to an opinion. However, in discussions, one person often pushes their opinion or idea on the team and does not always encourage a healthy dialogue. Meaning the person is trying to gain support from the majority in the discussion.

A discussion is where people want their views accepted by the group, emphasizing winning rather than learning. In dialogue, people freely and creatively explore issues, listen deeply, suspend their beliefs, and search for truth.

Ways to build a climate that supports dialogue:

  1. Ask questions.
    • According to Ed Catmull, creator of Pixar who said that unhindered communication is essential, and finding a solution is a multi-step endeavor.
  2. Make Suggestions.
    • Acknowledge teammate’s ideas and contributions.
  3. Encourage others.
    • When you send the meeting invite, ask team members to come prepared to share at least one idea each.
    • In the opening remarks, remind the team members that you are there to share ideas and that no idea is a bad idea.

Sometimes ideas are shared, and the idea is good, but the timing or circumstance is wrong. Acknowledge the thought and discuss other opportunities to fit the right situation. Acknowledging the person and the idea makes the team member feel valued.

  1. Ask for Feedback
    • Ask what people think of the ideas, allowing for constructive feedback.
  2. Look for Common Ground.

Teams are the primary vehicle for delivering performance and innovation in a business or organization and must learn to balance dialogue with helpful discussion. Good dialogue promotes sharing and accepting different views, leading to a healthy discussion on the path to making a shared decision about the right action.

By: Cheryl Viola, MBA, Executive Director, April 4, 2022