Good Customer Service Skills Every Employee Should Have

They know that you want them, they know that you need them and all too often customer relations end up in a bad romance.
In the beginning, we put a lot of effort in selling ourselves, building a relationship and getting their attention and interest. These early sparks make us happy and engage us the most. But wait… is this meant to be a marriage lasting forever? Yes!

About half of all marriages get divorced, that’s a fact and that’s sad enough. But make sure you keep your customers for your lifetime! Make sure you and your team develop the right mindset and skills to keep them happily married to you.

It’s common sense: You offer what someone else needs or desires. Thus, what makes a truly successful business is a strong focus on customer needs and exceeding their expected value far beyond what competitors offer. But hey, good news: An existing customer decided for your company already, the only thing you have to make sure is keeping him. This won’t be hard with the right customer service skills.

Anticipate customer needs

By asking open questions that aim for an understanding of the customer’s needs pay attention on gestures or verbal communication elements. You can be sure that certain expressions will be emphasized verbally or non-verbally. Clearly focus on understanding those and interpret their meaning. Observe carefully and listen attentively to find details that indicate specific interest or dissatisfaction. Find and communicate solutions clearly and with a smile.

Understand product/service well

Make sure everyone understands your product or service deep into the tiny details. Why are things done like this? Why did you include this small extra feature? Let’s assume things are done in the best way to serve your customers, it’s important that everybody understands why it’s done exactly that way. Having a great understanding will not only allow everyone to give the best answer to customer questions but also significantly improve your product or service because your team is encouraged to take a customer’s perspective.

Look for differentiation from competitors

You want to stand out with your product, your service, your corporate culture and your people. Make sure that you find strong differentiators on all levels and communicate them to the outside with pride. Rethink ordinary processes and stand out whenever you interact with customers, which is hopefully all the time. Pay attention to details in every single email, marketing campaign or how people perceive your corporate identity. Allow your people to be engaged in the innovation process and let them be your best ambassadors to your customers.

Seek and track customer feedback

Customer Service is all about delivering a great service or product, measuring customer satisfaction by gathering feedback and learning quickly to improve further. This feedback loop has to be as short as possible to show that you care and are eager to develop based on your customers’ opinion. Be sure you and your people actively request feedback at any time. This not only accounts for the actual product or service but even more for the way you deliver your customer service itself. Your people also need to be empowered to request feedback for themselves, for their own improvements.

To get there you want to make sure that not only people reaching to the phone or replying to a customer email take a close look on the customers’ needs. Everyone in your organization is meant to serve customers, no matter whether Marketing or Engineering.
To support your whole company strengthening customer focus and customer service skills, Impraise makes it really easy to improve every day through mobile, real-time feedback. You can find even more helpful customer services skills in the app.

Top Workplace Issues for 2018 and How to Overcome Them

Workplace transformation affects how we work and impacts employees of all ages.
Top Workplace Issues for 2018 and How to Overcome Them

Image credit: Shutterstock

A Note From The Editor

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With 2018 just around the corner, it’s not too early to think about how the workplace is being transformed and the potential issues involved. Business owners need to know how to adapt, to ensure their organizations keep humming. After all, retaining employees and recruiting the right mix of talent offers employers many benefits.

Related: 5 Workplace Trends That Will Impact Your Business in 2017

How has the workplace changed? The answer includes how we work, whom we work with and where we work. Factors like these impact employees of all ages and their happiness levels.

Those levels aren’t always what owners would like. Human resources company Robert Half U.K. surveyed more than 2,000 U.K. employees and found that one in six of the British workers polled who were over the age of 35 said they were unhappy at work; that was more than double the number for those under 35. While many factors come into play here, it’s important to note that the changing workplace affects all workers.

Here are a few workplace transformations that could have a big impact on your business:

The gig economy

The gig economy refers to workers of all ages who are either remote or transitory or provide their services as a contractor or freelancer. This growing segment provides employers many benefits but also a host of new problems, if not handled efficiently. For example, how well is your office environment set up to handle internal and external collaboration? Do you have document repositories that can be easily (and securely) accessed by on-premise employees as well as by those working from home or in other offices?

For many small businesses, where a culture of community and family is natural and desirable, how can this extended workforce feel that same sense of community? You might consider that some of the time and money saved by employing remote or transitory employees be used to unite and foster good working relations. This could occur in the form of company off-sites or regular time set aside for team-building within departments, even if that’s done remotely.

When companies hire workers on a seasonal or project basis, bringing these employees up to speed quickly is an important aspect of the business’s success. In an age where every brand can be represented in social media by any employee, the ability to train employees about your brand, rules of conduct and processes can be challenging.

Stephen J Gill, who helps companies with training and development plans, suggests that ethical behavior cannot be learned in a training course but is instead something supported by a company’s culture. With a remote or transitory workforce, however, that company culture cannot be observed as closely.

Related: Workplace Revolution: Key Trends Changing How Work Is Getting Done in 2017

To help employees with their observations, assess your company’s onboarding tools and processes and evaluate how quickly new employees can get onto a path of training with appropriate checks and balances so that managers can ensure that no one gets lost in the cracks. The emphasis should not always be about the quantity of work completed but the manner in which it gets done.

Digital efficiency (technology)

While most organizations are making their customer-facing interactions digital, there remain employees who have only antiquated processes for handling a variety of paperwork, whether it be HR-related forms, invoices and expense reports or other paperwork related to their individual jobs.

In a recent U.S. study, 52 percent of employees ages 18 to 44 thought their companies had too many paper-based processes, which could be digitized. No one likes being bogged down in bureaucratic paperwork, as it takes away from the enjoyment and pride in the job. Take a look at the many repetitive paper-based processes that exist in your organization and work with employees and available technology to turn those processes into digital workflows.

Other types of technology are finding their way into the workplace. Unilever, for example, is using artificial intelligence in its recruitment efforts, to engage with candidates through a series of games and tests. The point is to analyze keywords, body language and intonation to see if the candidates match the desired profile. Only upon passing this initial screening are candidates moved through to meet with hiring managers. The results are impressive.

In a similar way, virtual reality technology is being used in recruitment and to enhance conference calls. While technology for technology’s sake can be counter-productive, investment in digital technologies that keep employees inspired can help your bottom line.

Digital privacy

Ongoing data hacks and breaches at large companies have made us aware of risks associated with sharing our personal information. The Equifax breach has shown us that we often lack a choice as to where our information is shared. Yet, as employees, sharing our personal information is a must, to be considered for employment, and again during the hiring process and post-hiring paperwork.

As an employer, you may need to revisit your own personnel processes to ensure employees’ and customers’ expectations of security around their personal identifiable data. You want to be sure that data can be deleted if requested and that it complies with state and federal guidelines. In fact, according to a PwC survey, 92 percent of U.S. companies said they were paying attention to and adhering to the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) that will start being enforced — with fines — in May 2018 in Europe. While GDPR is a European Union regulation, it applies to any company doing business in Europe or with European citizens.

While most companies realize the seriousness of protecting customer data, employee information should have the same protection. Review your hiring processes to ensure that a candidate’s personal information is not shared with the hiring team, that information is stored securely and that procedures allow for the deletion of personal data, according to GDPR and local U.S. laws.

Related: What Millennials Want in a Workplace Really Isn’t So Crazy After All

The workplace is constantly changing. Happy employees make for healthier and more productive employees, so the benefits of accessing your workplace for 2018 will be well worth the effort.

3 Strategies to Increase Employee Retention

You started young. You were still growing when you started your first business. You felt the thrill of making something out of nothing. Or maybe you needed a taste of the real world and you got a job after college. Either way, here you are now.

You’ve got a business.
You worked through the tough times. You had credit card debt and you put it all on the line because you knew there was something there. Now your relentless entrepreneurial commitment has, at the very least, led to putting food on the table. Or even better, perhaps you’re killing it, driving a Tesla to your hip office with brick walls and an industrial ceiling.

The only problem … one of your key employees left this week. It wasn’t about the money. It was “about the future … the opportunity ahead. It’s not you. It’s me”.

You’ve got other key players in your business that you need to stick around to make it tick. What are you going to do to make sure you don’t lose another?

I was the one that went to college, got my MBA, and stepped on the first few rungs of the ladder. I worked for some huge software companies and consultancies. I was told by my manager one day that I “lacked a sense of urgency.” He offered some advice … when I walk down the hall, I should “walk faster and smile less, because perception is reality.”

I was fired.

I started my own software business on the antithesis of his advice, and sold to private equity 14 years later. I built a culture that attracted some of the best talent and kept them around for the long haul.

Through the years, I learned three strategies that you can begin to implement today to ensure you keep your key employees around not only through thick and thin but, as Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia, says, “coming to work on the balls of their feet climbing the stairs two at a time.”

3 Strategies to Increase Employee Retention

1) Motivate from the inside.

Look at the organizations around the world that drive their followers to do unbelievable things. Look at SpaceX, Google, HubSpot, and the tens of thousands of charitable entities driving people to do amazing things.

What do they all have in common? They have followers and employees that believe in a vision and mission so much so that it’s aligned with their personal values or even becomes their own mission. These are the people that are passionate and committed. They are not leaving that organization any time soon. So what can you do to motivate and therefore retain your key employees?

Try it out: Start the dialog around why you’re doing what you’re doing. Bring your employees into the conversation. Spend weeks on this, if not months. Don’t rush it, but be deliberate about it.

Identify a purpose. The why… Watch Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why” TED talk. With purpose comes dedication. With a purpose comes the person that goes well beyond the job description. With a purpose you have an employee who is by your side faithfully.

It’s not the salary. It’s not the bonus. Those are nice, and the money is necessary, but it’s not what really drives people and keeps them around. You may even find a couple other little things like a vision and values come out of this little exercise, as well.

2) Trust your employees like they’re family.

I don’t mean trust that they’ll pay you back for the $20 you let them borrow at the casino 3 months ago. And I’m not talking about the trust it takes to open up and spill your soul. I’m talking about the trust it takes to give them something important to figure out, knowing that it’s going to be ok.

Giving them a project without necessarily weighing in on it, uninvited. Give them a little dang breathing room. If failure is too common, figure out why, but have some faith that you hired the right people for the job. Because, here’s what happens: The employee starts to own it. I mean really, really own it. They begin to take pride in it. And nothing drives someone as much as pride, except maybe autonomy and mastery… Yep. That’s Dan Pink.

Try it out: The next time you give someone a project or something to figure out, let them own it. Give them the desired outcome and ask them to report in on regular milestones.

Here’s the one rule: You need to let them own it and intervention can only happen if it’s going to hurt the business. That’s it. Mmmmm. Try it. Hey, try it at home with your kids too. But don’t hold me responsible for that one.

3) Create a cadence that form good habits.

So think about all those nasty habits you have. Ok, you don’t have any, but others do … like your grandmother who smokes a pack a day and she’s almost 90. And your college friend that hasn’t grown up yet still drinks too much because cool kids drink, right? Why is it that we don’t do good things as habitually?

Well, we do actually. You have a morning routine. I’ll bet you work out, brush your teeth, and clean yourself. Let’s open that up to the office now. Every business has a cadence — your team meetings, your company meetings, your financial reporting, Taco Tuesday, etc … There are other things, however, that you can start to make routine that will help drive employee engagement and therefore retention and loyalty.

Sustainability is all about the habit forming cadence. Recognition and feedback often lack consistency. Cadence. Career and professional development often lack consistency. Cadence. Attention to strategy often falls on the way-side. Cadence.

Try it out: Identify a few things in your company that are hard to keep top of mind. For example, employee recognition. This is something we tell ourselves we need to do better. I’ve even talked to some entrepreneurs that set calendar reminders to give props to their employees. It can be easier.

Get your employees helping you out. Establish a peer to peer recognition program and set it up with a cadence that creates a habit. It might be a weekly or monthly routine. Or find something else you need to do better. Turn it into a cadence. Turn it into a habit.

At one point, while building my business, we ran into a difficult period. We were losing money. We needed to either let some people go or reduce compensation across the board. I reached out to my key employees and told them the scenario. I needed to ensure they were behind me on this. All of them confirmed they were on board. I made the difficult announcement and over the six month recovery, we didn’t lose a single employee.

We had built a strong culture and money was not the key motivator. There was trust and autonomy. And our best habits were driven by a cadence.

Put These Strategies Into Practice

If you’re successful at embracing these three strategies, you will never ever lose another key employee, even in the tough times — or at least it reduces the likelihood.

In fact, you’ll have their friends hitting you up for jobs. You’ll have customers and clients asking to work for you. And you’ll see your employees walking in the door with smiles on their faces. They’ll arrive to work in the morning “on the balls of their feet climbing the stairs two at a time.”


Teams vs. Groups and Why Teamwork Rules


“Teamwork” is a term that is used so frequently in professional and academic settings that it means different things to different people. Younger employees, have probably heard it so often that they’ll conflate it with group work — basically, any time they’re working with other people.

Teamwork and group work are two quite different things, even though many people don’t distinguish between them.

A group is simply a loose organization of people who coordinate their efforts. A team, by contrast, is a collection of people with shared goals who are bound by their commitment to reach these goals. They share a common purpose, and they regulate their behavior and performance to fulfill this purpose.

Since teammates share goals, they also hold each other accountable while pursuing these goals, and they have to be good communicators. Most importantly, teams are characterized by synergy, the combination of individual efforts to create a team effort that is greater than the sum of the individual efforts. Simply put, teams do things that groups can’t. That’s vital for organizations, which typically have goals stretching far beyond individual capabilities. Organizational success is built on effective teamwork.

Teams need to be built; they are not automatically fully formed and functional. That’s not to say teams can’t be created organically, but the best teams usually have members picked to fill specific roles or functions (to create synergy). Ensure that teammates complement each other and build relationships that allow them to do this most effectively.

Teammates can complement each other in terms of skills, diversity of perspectives, personalities, thinking styles, experiences, training, and social abilities. In an increasingly globalized world, even different cultural backgrounds might be an asset. Bringing diverse talents together can translate into tangible benefits.

What Are the Hallmarks of a Strong Team?

High-performing teams are more efficient because they coordinate their efforts better. The combination of different perspectives, thinking styles, and experiences translates into better decision making. Since these teams are better at managing themselves, they usually do a better job of sticking with their decisions, too. They are aware of what each teammate has to offer, and they usually experience less interpersonal conflict.

The strongest teams are characterized by clear, fair communication. They also have more clarity about the team’s purpose and goals, and thus more accountability. Working together is generally a positive experience, which means team members are happier — both with the team and the organization as a whole.

If teamwork is not cultivated, problems often arise. Many people who say they work on teams — which, in the modern workspace covers most of us — are actually members of pseudo-teams.

Pseudo-teams refers to groups of people who are intended to achieve team results but who do not share the common purpose and interdependence of true teams. When that happens, the results are usually suboptimal, and the teammates don’t enjoy themselves.

This might help explain why so many people say they don’t like teamwork. According to a 2013 survey by the University of Phoenix, only about one in four American workers who has ever worked on a team says they prefer it to working solo—even though almost all of them agree that teams are an important feature of the workplace. Why?

According to the survey, seven in 10 workers who have been on teams report they have been part of a dysfunctional unit at least once. Four in 10 say they have seen verbal confrontations between teammates, and about one in seven say they have seen these lead to physical confrontations. Office gossip is also a persistent problem; about one in three say they have seen teammates start rumors about each other.

When done properly, team cultivation allows people to develop an understanding for and an appreciation of what each individual brings to the table. This doesn’t preclude conflict, but it goes a long way towards minimizing it.

When rapport doesn’t exist among team members, poor personal relationships and mistrust become far more prevalent. A culture of poor or disrespectful communication is much more likely to give rise to harmful politics, and decision making suffers. When the team doesn’t have a shared purpose, they struggle to achieve, meet objectives, and deliver on time. Any of these problems result in lost synergy.

Characteristics of High-Performing Teams
  • Common purpose
  • Shared Goals
  • Synergy
  • Diversity of members
  • Complementary rules
  • Efficient
  • Well-coordinated
  • Strong decision making
  • Persistence
  • Less interpersonal conflict
  • Clear communication
  • Mutual respect
  • Accountability
  • Positive relationships

Use Team Assessments to Uncover Performance Issues

So how do you tell if your team is working the way it’s supposed to? You may instinctively feel that some element of teamwork is missing or sense that you could get even better team performance if you spent time on team-working activities. But rather than guessing, you need to perform a structured team assessment to analyze, identify, and get to the bottom of issues.

A team assessment is an exercise that allows you to evaluate a team’s strengths and weaknesses. As a recognized management technique, team assessments began attracting attention in the 1970s and 1980s, after American organizational practice wholeheartedly embraced the idea of teamwork as a primary driver of success (in professional sports, which has always emphasized teamwork, different team assessments have been used for even longer).

Scholarly interest in measuring team performance followed shortly after, as Michael T. Brannick, Eduardo Salas, and Carolyn W. Prince note in their 1997 book “Team Performance Assessment and Measurement.” This trend coincided with a wider turn toward the use of formal theories and frameworks in measuring team performance. In the 1990s, team assessment methodologies adopted from professional contexts such as the military and theater were widely disseminated.

Although even an informal assessment can be helpful, team assessment tools have grown more sophisticated, applying principles from organizational theory and human resource management. Today, specialized team assessments are designed to measure multiple facets of team performance based on formal models of how teams should operate.

Team assessments can be conducted in a lot of different ways: in-person sessions, via email, or with tailor-made online surveys and apps. Many assessments use specially designed worksheets.

Some team assessments are based on particular theories about what drives effective teamwork. These include the work of management theorist Meredith Belbin, who suggested that good teamwork was predicated on the presence of different personalities on a team and having individuals who fit specific behavior roles, and of business consultant Patrick M. Lencioni  who identified five major team dysfunctions.

Other assessments focus on different measures of team effectiveness, such as the quality of organizational support, clarity of goals, a team’s ability to learn and grow, team diversity (not only in terms of culture, race, gender, but also thinking styles and personalities), and, most importantly, the ability to deliver results.

Managers most commonly perform a team assessment to uncover problems and shortcomings within teams. Weaknesses may be difficult to pinpoint if you are closely involved with the team and have difficulty making an objective assessment.

A skilled outsider offers neutrality and a fresh eye. He or she generally has higher credibility with the team since the consultant is removed from organizational politics. Team members are also likely to be more willing to speak candidly with a consultant because they have more trust their confidentiality and worry less about repercussions.

While diagnosing problems is good, you should also conduct team assessments to identify fault lines where future problems might emerge. Going through the assessment process usually also strengthens a shared sense of purpose, trust, and communication among teammates. The end goal remains the same: ensuring the team is operating optimally and positively impacting the team experience.

As you prepare for a team assessment, make sure to choose a tool that matches your needs and objectives. Some assessments focus on how individuals contribute to teams: what strengths and weaknesses they bring to the table, how their behavior affects the team, and how effective their individual efforts are. Others focus on the team as a whole, evaluating the team’s processes and the quality of their results.

While team-focused assessments may be better markers of team results, which is usually the first concern for people managing teams, there’s a strong case to be made for understanding individuals before you can understand the team. And it may be worth considering a specialized assessment for your team leader, who fulfills the separate, challenging functions of coordinating, motivating, and directing the team.

Understanding the Roles People Play on Teams

To understand how team assessments can be used to improve teamwork, let’s dig a little deeper into teams — how they are set up, how they evolve, and what problems they are likely to run into.

When picking people for a team, a manager or supervisor must take into account each individual’s  personality, social style, skills, and thought process. Imagine, for instance, having a team staffed solely with introverts or extroverts, or solely with creative or practical people. It probably wouldn’t work very well.

Earlier, we mentioned Belbin, a British management theorist who in 1981 described eight personality types that needed to be present (and balanced) among members of a team for the team to function optimally. Belbin’s work is among the best-known theories of how diversity impacts teams. He believed that these personality types emerged naturally, meaning the roles cannot be learned or sufficiently cultivated. So, they are a critical consideration when picking people to form a team.

Here are Belbin’s roles (including the ninth he added in 1991):

  • The completer-finisher – Deadline driven and conscientious; takes pains to ensure quality.
  • The coordinator – Natural organizer who excels at delegation and facilitating decision making.
  • The implementer – Practical thinker who brings ideas off the page and into the real world.
  • The monitor-evaluator – Known for logical and thorough judgment — and for healthy skepticism.
  • The plant – Out-of-the-box thinker whom people rely on for creative solutions to tough problems.
  • The resource investigator – Extrovert who excels at developing vital contacts outside the team.
  • The shaper – Thrives under pressure, a clear role model for the team when things go wrong.
  • The specialist – Highly knowledgeable in a particular field, or possesses a specific skillset.
  • The team worker – Diplomatic, perceptive figure who reduces friction between team members.

Belbins team roles

Belbin’s theory focused on naturally emerging personalities, but alternative theories focus on other characteristics. These include late business journalist Robert Heller’s seven functional roles, which relates team members to the responsibilities they take on (rather than their innate strengths), and psychologist Edward de Bono’s six thinking hats, which represent different thinking styles that we all can wear at different times. Kenneth Benne’s and Paul Sheats’  26 group roles combine aspects of function and personality.

Interestingly, Benne and Sheats also described eight so-called dysfunctional roles, which could potentially harm team efforts. These included aggressors, blockers, recognition seekers, self-confessors, disruptors, dominators, help seekers, and special-interest pleaders.

Whichever system you prefer, you want to build a team that capitalizes on people’s differences by having everyone play to their strengths and compensate for their teammates’ weaknesses. A good team improves its performance by making sure that everyone is in a role that is right for them.

One way of doing this is to use a tool such as a responsibility assignment matrix (RACI matrix). RACI stands for the four types of responsibility typically undertaken: responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed. A RACI matrix is a visual tool that indicates the responsibility each person holds for a particular activity or work item. By assigning teammates responsibilities that are a good fit (and appropriate for their skillsets), you ensure that you’re getting the best from your team.

RACI- Matrix Template Smartsheet

Create a RACI Template in Smartsheet

A similar technique for task allocation is the BALM method for (Break down, Analyze, List, and Match). It’s a four-step method that involves breaking downthe team’s goals into discrete tasks, analyzing the skills or competencies required to complete each task, listing the skills and competencies of each team member, and then matching team members to tasks accordingly.

Assessments and the Stages of Team Development

Teams develop and behave differently as they pass through a number of developmental stages.

The framework most commonly used to illustrate team development is known as Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing and was created by a psychologist named Bruce Tuckman in the mid-1960s. In 1977, Tuckman added a fifth stage, Adjourning, though it isn’t consistently referred to today.

Judith Stein wrote an excellent article identifying, characterizing, and explaining the four main stages of development (read it here). Here’s a quick rundown of the Tuckman framework:

Forming:Teammates are excited but nervous about the work. They act to orient themselves with the group, introducing themselves and asking questions. Though some may be anxious about the project — particularly if they have never worked with this team before — feelings are mostly positive.

The forming stage is when the foundations for teamwork are laid. Activities include defining the team’s goals and purpose, teammate bonding, and deciding the rules and processes by which they will operate.

The forming stage is the foundation that teamwork is built upon, and not getting off to a good start can mean more difficulties during the storming stage. So it’s a good idea to plan and conduct a formal team orientation that facilitates introductions, goal setting, and rule defining. This is also a good time to create a team charter, which is a document that formally defines a team’s purpose, scope, goals, and deliverables.

Project Charter Template Smartsheet

Download a Project Charter Template

Excel   |   Word

Create Your Project Charter Template in Smartsheet

New Hire Checklist Smartsheet

Create Your New Hire Checklist in Smartsheet

During this stage, try icebreaker games and other activities that help the team bond. Check out these great resources including team-building questionsteam-building games and experts’ favorite team-building activities and exercises.

Storming: Storming usually occurs fairly quickly after a team begins its pursuit of its goals. Even the best-laid team strategies don’t always go according to plan, and the early excitement quickly ebbs. As the team’s progress slows, members of the team become frustrated, and this is the stage at which conflict is most likely to break out.

In the storming stage, teammates must negotiate with each other to manage and refocus expectations. Openness in communication is vital, and it’s not uncommon for teams to revise the way they approach tasks or problems based on the results of team negotiations.

Norming: Norming marks the gradual reduction of conflict within the team, as members come to terms both with what the team is supposed to achieve and with what other people bring to the team. Cohesiveness increases, and members of the team start feeling more comfortable with their teammates.

During the norming stage, teams typically embed some lessons learned during storming. Teammates may make more of an effort to communicate and to coordinate their efforts. The focus shifts from the team’s interpersonal relationships back onto the team’s tasks. Productivity increases.

Performing: By the time a team reaches the performing stage, it is running like a well-oiled machine. Teammates have learned to work together and are coordinating their efforts most effectively. Synergy is at its peak. As a result, individual members’ satisfaction with the team is usually high.

A team in the performing stage will make near-optimal progress towards its goals. Interpersonal relationships are good, but efforts to maintain and enhance them must continue. The team looks forward to celebrating progress milestones and eventual completion of project objectives.

Adjourning: As a project winds to a close, team members generally feel satisfaction with their performance, though it’s not unusual for some to be nervous about what comes next. It’s important to make sure that motivation doesn’t flag, and that the team finishes the project strongly. It’s also vital to check and ensure the quality of deliverables.

An adjourning team should take time to review their overall performance and to share lessons learned. This is also a great time to celebrate the team’s achievements.

Assessing How Your Team Executes: The Z Process

One alternative to Tuckman’s framework is the Z Process. The Z Process is similar to Tuckman’s framework in that it has four stages, but it doesn’t focus on team dynamics. Instead, it describes four stages during which a team comes up with an idea and brings it to life. The Z Process suggests that there are individuals whose natural strengths correspond to each of the four stages. If you know what your team members are good at, you can have the right people take charge of the project at each stage.

The first Z process stage is creating: when people come up with ideas for what the project’s goals are and how best to achieve these goals. This is where creative thinkers, or creators, shine. No idea is off the table.

The second stage, advancing, involves gauging and building interest in an idea. Advancers excel at getting people to buy into an idea before the team starts to refine it.

Refining, the third stage, is all about critiquing and amending an idea so that it’s practical and implementable. Project details are fleshed out in this stage, and a plan of action is created to execute the project. Refiners, strong critical thinkers and detail-oriented planners, take charge here.

Executing is the final stage, when the plan is put into action. Executors are good at implementing plans and bringing ideas to life.

When To Do a Team Assessment

Team assessments provide more value to the team at some times over others. Unfortunately, team assessments are too often done only after things go wrong. While this is a perfectly legitimate reason for an assessment, organizations can reap more benefits when they do not think of team assessments only as a response to difficulty. Conducting assessments before problems arise can avoid or mitigate them as well as potentially save time and money.

Here are some good times to do a team assessment:

  • To strengthen a team that is having problems
  • To get a new team started right
  • To help a team grow
  • To prevent problems from arising
  • When team members turn over
  • To bond teams in situations such as remote teams and startups
  • Before a major strategic shift or campaign towards a big goal
  • As part of ongoing team development to baseline then compare at intervals

Team-building experts say early in the team life cycle is a prime opportunity for a team assessment. Make sure team members get off on the right foot by learning about each other’s strengths during the forming stage.

That can reduce conflict that occurs during the storming stage. These assessments are also useful for introducing new members to a team, since turnover isn’t unusual. When teammates haven’t met each other before (such as with new teams or remote teams), or when getting things right the first time is critical (such as with startups), these assessments lay a strong foundation for the team.

Reactive assessments are usually conducted during the storming stage, which is when problems are most likely to appear. Even if the forming stage sets a strong foundation in terms of interpersonal relationships, conflict can rarely be eliminated.

At this point, some team assessments help members negotiate and grow past their differences. The storming stage is also a good time to use an assessment to determine team performance baselines, so you can compare performance in the norming and performing stages. If conflict is resolved successfully, you should see performance improvements.

Team assessments also offer value to already established teams, especially when there is a change in organizational framework or when the team is preparing to tackle a new project that is different from those they have done before.

What Can You Evaluate With A Team Assessment?

With the variety of tools available, you can focus your team assessment on different aspects of teamwork. Let’s look at some of these.


Feedback is integral for individual growth, both as members of teams and as individual contributors. Good feedback is an honest, fair exchange of information and opinions on how people are performing. Delivered effectively, it’s an excellent source of firsthand advice that will help people advance themselves and their careers.

Delivering feedback effectively can be a challenge. Feedback should not be unnecessarily harsh nor put people down — quite the opposite. Remember you are trying to motivate the individual to adopt the desired behavior. So you want him or her to leave the encounter feeling that success is possible and with a clear idea of what they need to work on. Make sure you only give feedback in private, and if it is prompted by a specific incident, deliver it after.

Experts generally recommend starting feedback on a positive note, appreciating a person for what they have done well. This allows the person receiving feedback to relax, and they usually become more receptive to criticism.

If you are the person delivering the feedback, prepare your comments beforehand so you stay on topic and remain professional in the session. Make sure you can cite examples to illustrate your feedback. Anticipate questions, explanations, or objections the individual might have and think through your responses in advance. Good feedback is specific and actionable, and you follow up to encourage people to make improvements in the areas highlighted.

We’ll briefly discuss two models for delivering feedback to team members: the GROW model, which can be applied by a leader for a junior teammate, and 360-degree feedback, which is delivered by a person’s teammates.

GROW: This model stands for Goal, Reality, Options, and Way forward. It’s a coaching technique designed for team leaders who want to help members progress. The GROW process begins with the team member identifying a progress goal that is both SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound) and compatible with both the person’s individual interests and the team’s interests.

The next step is determining the team member’s reality —how far they are from the goal. Then the team member identifies their options for meeting the goal. The coach, or team leader, guides both of these assessments. To end the session, the coach has the team member find a way forward. He or she decides upon concrete steps to achieve the goal. The team member leaves with a plan to put this idea into action.

360-degree Feedback: A set of feedback techniques designed to gather information from people in a full circle around the individual — not just supervisors, but teammates, coworkers, and customers. It’s an excellent way to elicit feedback for team members. After all, few people know you better than your teammates, who regularly observe your behavior firsthand. 360-degree feedback is popular because it’s more holistic than single-point feedback (like from a boss). The process also reduces bias in the assessment process. However, it’s a complex system that assumes that everyone involved knows how to give fair and effective feedback. Also, the fact that feedback is delivered anonymously means it must be accepted at face value, and there’s usually little room for further discussion.

360-degree assessments use 360-degree feedback to create holistic evaluations. You’ll see them in assessments of teams or individuals with multiples interfaces, and especially for leadership assessments. The assessment design means they are able to measure performance in a large number of competencies, including hard skills such as strategic orientation, goal setting, decision making, delegation, achieving results, collaboration, and political and organizational savvy, and soft skills such as positivity, respect, communication, integrity, courage, self-awareness, and concern for others.

Doing self evaluations can also be enlightening. You can download this form as a starting point.

 Download Employee Self-Evaluation Template – Word

Using Team Assessment Tools for Enhancing Vision

Vision encapsulates what the team is striving to achieve. It motivates and guides a team to achieve its goals. Since vision is such an important contributor to a team’s sense of purpose, the best teams spend time developing and understanding their vision. To ensure buy-in to a team’s purpose, make sure everyone participates in developing the team vision.

A team’s vision represents the basis for managing performance. You can think of performance management as the process by which organizations allocate, assign, and use their resources to meet the objectives outlined in their vision statement.

Teams will can also identify KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) by which to assess their own performance. Commonly tracked KPIs for teams include customer satisfaction, project cost and schedule variance, missed deadlines, and process costs. Avoiding micromanagement (which can lead to employees feeling stifled and frustrated, especially if they’re creative people) and effective delegation of duties are also indicators of good team management.

This participation in developing team vision also enables management by objectives, a management technique introduced by Peter Drucker in 1954. It aims to increase employee motivation and buy-in by giving staff a say in setting organizational objectives.

These organizational objectives translate into personal objectives for each employee, and employees are encouraged and rewarded for meeting their personal objectives. In the long run, success in meeting personal objectives is directly connected to success in meeting organizational objectives. This approach can be scaled down to translate team objectives into personal objectives.

The Role of Team Assessments in Managing Conflict

According to Bruce Tuckman’s four-stage team development model, team conflict is inevitable. That’s because people vary in their perspectives, values, and working styles. For teammates still getting to know each other, some degree of disconnect is likely.

When these differences aren’t dealt with, things can escalate. Experienced managers and team leaders typically build some time into the schedule for teams to hit their stride, but delays beyond this can be expensive, in terms of both time and money.

So team leaders need to be experienced in the basic principles of conflict resolution: listening closely and treating team members fairly and equitably; focusing on shared interests and attacking the problem, not the people; and encouraging clear, honest communication to find a way forward. Role play, a tool for helping people step into each other’s shoes, can help.

The Benefits of Assessments for Team Member Development

As we noted earlier, effective teams are distinguished by their synergy, and good teamwork is based on team members playing to their strengths and compensating for each other’s weaknesses. But team member development also requires improving in areas of weakness.

Let’s look at Edward de Bono’s six thinking hats as an example. Being especially proficient in one thinking style certainly doesn’t mean there’s no need to improve the others — even if other teammates already excel at those skills. Team members are inherently dissimilar; they bring different combinations of knowledge and experience. So improving thinking and communication skills allows people to leverage their knowledge and experience for the team’s benefit.

One important tool in team member development is the training needs analysis, a method to determine who needs to be trained, what they need to be trained in, and how best to train them. A training needs analysis reconciles a team’s need for specific competencies with the team member’s interest in being trained, and ensures that training, when delivered, is effective for both the trainee and the team.

 Download Employee Training Plan Template

It’s worth discussing a couple of approaches for managing team members: Theory X and Theory Y, and the Blake-Mouton managerial grid. They both address different ways of seeing, interacting with, and managing the world.

Developed by social psychologist Douglas McGregor in the 1960s, Theory X and Theory Y are shorthand for two contrasting ways of viewing a workforce. Theory X can broadly be described as a pessimistic opinion of the average worker: He or she doesn’t enjoy work for work’s sake, has little ambition of his own accord, and works only in expectation of rewards. Theory X also views subordinates as inferior to managers in terms of both intellect and willingness to exert effort, which means they need constant oversight to work properly. Theory Y, on the other hand, is optimistic, viewing people as intrinsically motivated actors who actually enjoy the work for its own sake, and for whom remuneration isn’t the sole reward. It views subordinates as intelligent and responsible in their own right, needing minimal supervision.

While Theory-X-style managers enjoy a consistently higher quality of output, Theory-Y-style managers tend to have better relationships with members of their teams. Research suggests that the nature of work to be performed is the best determinant of which management style is more suitable. As a general rule, managers obtain better results by using Theory X to manage workers who perform repeatable tasks, such as workers in the manufacturing industry. Conversely, workers who undertake non-repeatable, creative, or intellectual tasks respond better to Theory Y.

The Blake-Mouton managerial grid is a visual representation of how managerial styles differ in how people focused and task/results focused they are. Being people focused means you prioritize your team members’ happiness. Being task or results focused means you prioritize task requirements and deadlines.

The Blake-Mouton grid doesn’t encourage striking a balance between the two: it terms this “middle-of-the-road management.” Instead, it encourages managers to develop both management styles to their fullest possible extents, thus maximizing both team members’ happiness and team performance.

Blake Mouton Managerial Grid

The Blake-Mouton model plots these two orientations on different axes. Managers or leaders fall into different quadrants based on how they weigh people and results. This indicates their leadership style.

Understanding and Collaboration in Team Assessments

Synergy relies on two things: individual strengths (which we’ve discussed) and effective collaboration. Teams need people who complement each other, but they must coordinate their work.

Some aspects of effective collaboration, such as communication, tend to deepen naturally with time. Others, such as group cohesion, have to be actively worked on. The members of a successful team are all oriented toward achieving the same purpose, and they have the same idea for how to get there. When team members’ orientations diverge, the team’s ability to collaborate — and their productivity — takes a hit. If goals diverge further, tensions or even conflict may appear, costing the team more time and money.

To preserve the team’s orientation, consensus must be developed and then maintained. This can be tricky since you do not want to go too far in the opposite direction and impose a “consensus” from the top down.

A second risk (though one that’s not usually considered) is groupthink, the tendency of groups to sacrifice creativity to conformity. Teams who fall victim to groupthink have little trouble developing consensuses, but this is only because they actively refuse to consider anything beyond a small subset of ideas and do not want to engage critically with unfamiliar or dissenting alternatives.

There are, however, team learning and negotiation techniques that can reduce the effects of groupthink. One of these is concept attainment, a teaching technique that can be used with groups of middle-school age and older. Concept attainment promotes understanding of concepts via observation, rather than using concrete definitions.

For example, a concept-attainment-style lesson on different schools of art might show students several different art works and encourage them to form definitions for each school based on common characteristics. The same can be done with groups of adult learners. The technique relies on the group building a consensus to define concepts, but it also reduces groupthink by removing the boundaries created when concepts are defined outright. This tends to make alternative definitions seem somehow wrong.

Another technique for building consensus while minimizing groupthink is the Delphi method. This technique was developed during the Cold War to project how technology might change warfare. But it can be used to develop consensus around any continuous variable.

To begin the exercise, each member anonymously estimates a given variable. The group then reviews the anonymous estimates, and sets a baseline for the next round of estimates; the process is repeated until a consensus is reached. The fact that estimates are made anonymously and concurrently prevents groupthink, as each participant is not aware of the limits that other participants impose on their own estimates.

The “Five Dysfunctions” Team Assessment Model

Earlier, we discussed how team assessments are based on theories of what makes teams work. One of the most widely used theories comes from business consultant Patrick Lencioni’s 2002 book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

As the title suggests, the national bestselling book  traced problems with teamwork to five root causes, which Lencioni termed “dysfunctions.” Today, a consulting company called The Table Group, which Lencioni and his colleagues founded in 1997, offers online team assessments based on Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions model. A number of other consulting companies, such as Performance Management Partners, also offer team assessments that draw from Lencioni’s model.

As you’ll see, starting with the absence of trust, each dysfunction gives rise to those that come after it. This is why the Five Dysfunctions are represented as levels on a pyramid, with the absence of trust represented as the foundation of the pyramid.

Five Dysfunctions of a Team

As Defined by Patrick Lencioni

  1. Absence of Trust: This dysfunction is best understood as a fear of vulnerability, which inhibits trust building among teammates. A lack of trust is to be expected among people who may be working together for the first time, but it must be addressed nonetheless. Trust is a prerequisite for effective collaboration. Lacking trust, the team becomes prone to the other dysfunctions.
  2. Fear of Conflict: The second dysfunction recalls a phenomenon we have already discussed: groupthink. While consensus helps collaboration, it can stifle creativity if people are unwilling to propose ideas they think the group might reject. This can be ascribed to a lack of trust in teammates, and a perceived need to conform to the group’s opinions (if you don’t trust the group to receive your ideas fairly). In not trusting teammates to value and examine all ideas fairly and critically, group members become uncomfortable with disagreement, even if it is productive. Inevitably, they are dissatisfied with the group’s approach, since their own ideas were not taken into consideration when determining it.
  3. Lack of Commitment: Failure to commit to a single, defined purpose can cripple the team’s pursuit and overall performance. This dysfunction harkens back to the team’s need to ensure buy-in to a common purpose. Buy-in only happens if team members trust each other and communicate honestly and without fear of ostracism.
  4. Avoidance of Accountability: For all practical purposes, a team needs to regulate its own behavior to ensure progress towards a goal. Holding members of the team accountable for their responsibilities to the team is a big part of this, but team members who aren’t committed to the team’s purpose are unlikely to hold others accountable to their responsibilities. Without accountability, motivation and productivity can dip, even among committed team members.
  5. Inattention to Results: The last dysfunction is a confluence of the previous four. Without commitment and accountability, it’s almost impossible for any team to produce their best work, as people focus more on individual pursuits than on achieving the team’s purpose. This reduces the team’s synergy.

How to Act Against the Five Dysfunctions

Many team assessments are modeled on Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions. If one of these suggests that your team needs to work on certain dysfunctional behaviors, here’s how to go about it:

Build Trust

A lack of trust, says Lencioni, is the root of all dysfunctional behavior. But since trust is an inherently personal relationship, how does one improve it throughout a team? The answer: You can’t really foster trust, but you can put people in situations that encourage them to open up to each other, because openness can breed trust. This works especially well when a team is still young, but it can work with people who already know each other, too.

Try having team members complete a personality instrument such as the MBTI or Everything DiSC Workplace, and then share their results with the team, with insight into how they think their personality type and natural traits influence their behavior. Otherwise, try using an icebreaker exercise to get people to open up and talk about things they wouldn’t normally discuss at work.

Open-ended questions that encourage people to talk about themselves are the best choice here. And lastly, make sure your team members see each other face to face often. This isn’t a problem for many teams, b. But it can be for cross-functional teams who don’t work in proximity and remote teams, and it’s generally difficult for people to trust each other when they don’t interact face to face very often.

Become More Willing to Engage in Productive Conflict

In teamwork, conflict isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Remember, it’s necessary to develop ideas and to ensure buy-in to the team’s purpose. Problems arise when team members are not willing to engage in conflict at all, even if it’s productive. This can happen for a couple of reasons.

Sometimes, team members may not be confident enough to challenge senior figures within the team, or they may keep clear of conflict out of desire to be accepted by everyone in the team., This is a reluctance to engage in conflict at the individual level. At other times, however, the reluctance to engage in conflict is more a structural feature of the team, such as the presence of naturally dominant personalities within a team, or intra-team politics that means those in conflict aren’t treated equally.

At other times, the avoidance of conflict at a team level may be a function of a general reluctance to deal with conflict among a majority of team members.

To address individuals’ reluctance to engage in productive conflict, a personality or styles assessment such as the MBTI or the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Instrument can help people understand their natural response to conflict, and how they might become more willing to participate in productive conflict. If results are shared with the team, these tools have the added benefit of enhancing mutual understanding of conflict styles, which can make things a little easier for everybody.

To address a lack of productive conflict at the team level, set clear expectations for how team members are supposed to interact with one another: fairly, equitably, critically, and with an open ear. You may also want to set rules for engagement; some teams, for example, allot people uninterrupted time to speak during discussion sessions.

These things can help productive conflict emerge during meetings, which can otherwise be intimidating for those reluctant to engage in conflict. If your team displays a general reluctance to deal with conflict, talk to the team leader about having someone to ask the tough questions and thrash out the decisions that team members are reluctant to make.

Increase Commitment

If team members don’t trust each other, they’re unlikely to engage in productive conflict, and if team members don’t engage in productive conflict, they’re unlikely to see team decisions as representing shared perspectives. This results in a lack of commitment to team decisions and team goals, which can cripple a team. This kind of commitment problem is best treated by addressing the underlying causes:  lack of trust and reluctance to engage in conflict.

Lack of commitment can spring from other causes besides a lack of trust and productive conflict. Sometimes teams struggle to set goals for themselves, or the goals they set are unclear. In this case, it’s the team leader’s responsibility to steer the team towards closure and clarity.

When decisions are made in a meeting, review them at the end of the meeting, and make sure the communication is cascaded. Lencioni explains the cascading communication tool as a way of having leaders communicate key messages to their staff, who do the same with their staffs and so on. Try setting a thematic goal, which, according to Lencioni, is the “single, temporary, and qualitative rallying cry shared by all members of the team.”

Sometimes, a team makes decisions based on the views of a small majority. When this happens, you need to ensure that the whole team commits themselves to the decision — but how?

In cases like this, it’s important to recognize that people will not commit themselves to a decision if they don’t believe it’s the right decision. (That is, if they fear it’s unwise and that things will go wrong.) But since a compromise does need to be reached, have the team set up a contingency plan that allows them to revisit the decision. This removes people’s fears of assuming that one bad decision will spell the end of the project, and allows them to dedicate themselves fully and without worry to a decision they may not have fully favored.

Articulating the worst-case scenario might also be a viable tactic here. Sometimes, it helps for people to know that a bad decision probably won’t lead to a catastrophic outcome. Also, some members of your team might respond to hearing what might go wrong by committing themselves at least to ensuring that this doesn’t happen.

Practice Accountability

Like a lack of commitment, the absence of accountability is a result of preceding dysfunctions. In the same way, it’s also best addressed by building trust, increasing acceptance of productive conflict, and increasing team commitment.

That said, there are some things a team leader or supervisor can do to ensure the team practices accountability. Start by having the team identify behaviors that are potentially harmful via a team effectiveness exercise, where team members communicate each other’s positive and negative behaviors. Then, publish a set of behavioral standards which the team is expected to follow. It’s much more likely that team members will follow — and make sure that others follow — a code of conduct that is clearly enunciated.

You can also build accountability into the team’s operating structure. Get each team meeting started with a lightning round, where team members quickly report on their progress since the last meeting. And make it a point to conduct regular reviews of progress towards the team’s thematic goal.

Increase the Focus on Results

In theory, you can go a long way towards increasing a team’s focus on their results by addressing the dysfunctions that precede a lack of attention to results. But you can also cultivate this directly.

First, have team members publicly commit themselves to the team’s thematic goal as that by itself with increase follow-through. Also, make sure that a team’s thematic goal is in clear alignment with organizational goals. If team members understand how their work contributes towards the organization as a whole, and if they buy into the organization’s purpose, they will see the relevance of their efforts to the larger effort. You can also incentivize team performance by having compensation programs reward team-based achievements.

Lastly, remember that in most organizations, people shoulder a number of responsibilities besides their membership in a team. A general rule of thumb is to have people prioritize their responsibilities to the teams they lead over the teams they participate on.

The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team

Lencioni’s five dysfunctions offers a roadmap for what not to do. If lack of trust leads to fear of conflict and a variety of other problems, it follows that building trust would reduce fear of conflict and prevent the succeeding dysfunctions: lack of commitment, accountability, and poor results.

This is the idea behind The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team, a collaboration between Lencioni and Wiley Workplace Learning Solutions. The Five Behaviors is a team development program that reverses Lencioni’s five dysfunctions to propose a model for functional teams. If the five dysfunctions are the root causes of problems with teams, the five behaviors help you avoid those problems.

The five behaviors are simply the reverse of the dysfunctions: trust, (productive) conflict, commitment, accountability, and results. Just like the dysfunctions, each positive behavior breeds the next. By building trust, you lay the foundation for an effective team.

Choosing an Assessment For Your Team

There are several things to keep in mind when selecting an assessment for your team and your situation. No single assessment works for all situations or teams. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses.

Cost, as always, is a consideration. Some well-regarded online assessment tools can be used for less than $20 a person. But the most effective and sophisticated tools cost more and are usually part of a package that involves a consultant to oversee the assessment, explain the results and draft action plans. These engagements typically run into thousands of dollars.

Before selecting the assessment tool, isolate what you want to learn about your team. Are you hoping to understand team members’ personalities better? Are you looking to gauge the quality of team processes, such as communication or delegation? Or are you trying to assess your team leader’s leadership skills?

If you have a team that’s already facing problems, you’ll need to identify the broad area within which the main problem lies, and then pick an assessment that specifically targets that area. Always aim to address the biggest problems first.

In fact, shoot your team an email, or have them answer a few questions with a simple online survey to get their input on the type of assessment needed. Here’s an example of one.

Download Form Here

During the assessment, you’ll need to plan time accordingly. If the assessment is to be followed by a discussion, workshop, or group facilitation, run the assessment before you start working with the group, so you have the results to shape the rest of your program. Make sure all team members participate. If you’re facilitating the session, make sure you set a good example.Keep in mind that even within each broad assessment category, different assessments are designed for different purposes. It’s important to understand exactly what an assessment is measuring and how, so you can determine if the assessment is right for you.

For example, if you’re focusing on team communication, don’t talk over people. Better still, bring in a professional to run the assessment. They’re typically more experienced and are not tainted by organizational politics, so they generally get more accurate results.

Lastly, remember that team assessments are simply an evaluation tool that cannot necessarily override the nuance and subjectivity involved in teamwork. If something works well for your team, don’t feel you have to abandon it just because an assessment says you should. Trust your team.

Personality and Behavioral Style Assessments

Personality and behavioral style assessments try to help individuals understand their behavior as a function of naturally emerging personality or style traits. Understanding your own behavior helps put your strengths into perspective, while allowing you to understand how your coworkers perceive you. Your coworkers do the same, which creates a greater, team-wide understanding of why people behave the way they do.

Personality and behavioral style assessments are designed to be taken by everyone in a team or workplace as a way of understanding how coworkers can work together most effectively and minimize frustration.

These tools are not suited to solving specific problems, but they provide a common language for people to understand workplace behaviors. By understanding work “styles,” as these assessments term them, you’re better able to appreciate other people’s perspectives and communicate and work together more effectively.

Tips: Assessments of this type often produce lengthy personality reports – allow your team some time to digest them before debriefing. When working with teams, raise the question of behavior style representation in your team. Does your team have a single dominant style? What does that mean for their work?

Personality and behavioral style assessments can be tailored to highly specific skill assessments. One example is the SPQ*GOLD Sales Preference Questionnaire, which measures sales call reluctance —the degree to which individuals are comfortable initiating first contact with potential customers — in prospective salespeople.

Examples: Everything DiSC WorkplaceHogan Personality InventoryGallup StrengthsFinderSocial StyleRiso-Hudson Enneagram Type IndicatorFIRO-B

Birkman Method Personality Assessment

Leadership Assessments

Leadership assessments usually have two main aims: helping leaders understand the behaviors they exhibit (their leadership style), and helping leaders understand how they are seen by the people around them. These assessments usually look at such things as communication, creativity, decision making, planning, goal setting, progress monitoring, team communication, coaching, and operational knowledge. Some are 360-degree assessments, gathering data from people at all levels of the organization who interact with the leader to create a holistic picture.

Leadership assessments are designed to be used with people who have occupied leadership positions for long enough to have settled into a reasonably consistent leadership style. They can be used to troubleshoot specific problems or to broadly develop a leader’s toolkit.

Tips: It’s important to do a leadership assessment in a way that does not undermine the leader with his or her team. Gather feedback discreetly and as always, discuss the results privately.

Examples: LPI 360, Lominger/Korn Ferry Voices 360Checkpoint 360Everything DiSC Work of Leaders

Team Assessments

Team assessments are based on diverse approaches. Some view teams primarily as sets of individuals fulfilling different roles, and explain team success as a function of a team’s ability to balance these roles (think Z Process strengths or the Belbin roles). Some focus primarily on the nature of a team’s processes (their communication, levels of trust, practice of holding team members accountable, etc.), and some examine the quality of a team’s outputs, treating these as proxies for overall team health.

Think about your reason for conducting the assessment. Are you trying to help new team members understand each other better? If so, pick an assessment that focuses on individuals’ roles as part of a team. Is your team running into communication problems? Choose a tool that focuses on the subtleties underlying this problem. Are your team’s results suffering? Select an assessment that examines performance factors.

Tips: Behavior style assessments and leadership assessments can also be viewed and used as team-building assessments. The former increases interpersonal understanding, which improves collaboration. The latter improves leadership, which can strengthen team efforts.

Examples: ShadowmatchEverything DiSC Team DimensionsThe Five Behaviors of a Cohesive TeamThe Table Group team assessmentLinkage Team Effectiveness AssessmentHarrison Assessments Employee Engagement

Tools to Help New Teams Build Trust

While assessments that focus on leadership and behavior styles are helpful for all teams, new teams should prioritize trust, which according to Patrick Lencioni, is the foundation of all good teamwork.

Assessments may focus either on the trustworthiness of individual team members or shared trust within a team. Since trust is a highly abstract concept, different assessments measure it in unique ways. Regardless of which trust assessment you choose, however, some determinants of trust appear to be almost universal — comfort with intimacy, reliability, integrity, and loyalty. And the end goal of all trust assessments is the same: helping team members build better relationships.

Trust-building exercises work well with new and newish teams because of Lencioni’s observation that a lack of trust is the root of all team dysfunction. While levels of trust may generally be lower among new teams, their newness also makes them more receptive to trust development exercises, which can double as team bonding exercises. If a lack of trust is a problem, address it early on, before it can spiral into other problems that hurt the team’s work.

Tips: Trust-building exercises can be difficult to conduct because many determinants of trust are really moral characteristics. Games are often a great way to get around people’s natural discomfort with overt trust-building exercises.

Examples: Trust QuotientSpeed of Trust12 Dimensions of TrustEverything DiSC Team Dimensions

Tools for Building Team Understanding

Tools for building understanding among team members usually involve some aspect of learning about one’s self in order to understand other people. This is especially true for the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Thomas-Kilmann Instrument (TKI), but it’s also the way many icebreakers work. By revealing how people think, act, and behave — usually in terms of comparing themselves to others — these exercises build mutual understanding. This fosters empathy and better communication.

The MBTI is a personality inventory that classifies people into one of 16 personality types according to how they perform on four continuums. It’s a big-picture view of how people see the world and what functions they’re best suited for. The TKI is an assessment of how people behave in conflict situations, and it’s specific to helping people understand how they approach conflict.

Although it’s tough to go wrong with tools to improve understanding in almost any situation, think about what you’re hoping the team will take away from the assessment.

Tips: Exercises to build understanding can be fun. Try using some funny icebreaker questions to kick off – they’ll relax team members and encourage them to be more forthcoming.

Examples: MBTI, icebreakers, Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument

DIY Team Assessment Tools

If the cost of a consultant is prohibitive, or if traditional assessments models don’t offer what your team needs, you might opt for a do-it-yourself assessment.

If you’re thinking about conducting your own assessment, ask yourself what you’d like to achieve. First, who or what is the assessment supposed to evaluate? Are you interested in the nature of a leader, an individual team member, or a team as a whole? Secondly, is there a particular problem you’re trying to address? Or are you conducting the assessment to improve general performance and reduce the probability of problems in the future?

Answering these questions will help you to determine whether you need an assessment for individuals, teams, or leaders, and whether you need an assessment that targets a specific area of concern or one that aids overall development.

Some consultancies offer to help you customize team assessments based on your organization’s particular needs. Let’s look at a couple of these customizable assessments — the Leadership Gap Indicator and KEYS to Creativity and Innovation, both offered by the Center for Creative Leadership.

The Leadership Gap Indicator is designed to help organizations understand where and how leadership training efforts are best directed. But organizations may define good leadership in different ways. Leadership might entail one set of competencies in one organization or industry, and a completely different set in another. To facilitate this, the Leadership Gap Indicator is based on a model of effective leadership that can be customized to feature different leadership competencies, depending on the participating organization’s specific needs.

KEYS to Creativity and Innovation (KEYS) is an assessment of how conducive a team or organizational climate is to creativity and innovation. It works by surveying employees to gauge their perceptions of the climate.

However, some organizations are not necessarily supposed to be conducive to creativity and innovation. For example, you wouldn’t expect as high a degree of receptivity to creativity and innovation in an assembly line as a marketing or public relations department. In recognizing this, KEYS allows organizations to choose the normative group — that is, the industry type to which their organization’s climate is compared.

Another low-cost, self-led option is Gallup StrengthsFinder test. The company says it has been taken by more than 16 million people and identifies individual’s’ natural strengths. Its “StrengthsFinder 2.0” book and other resources can help you understand and apply the results.

If you want to see how far you can get with DIY assessments, start simple. Have a few managers assess team members privately and then compare results. Here’s a form you can use.

 Download Group Evaluation Template

Choose the Right Team Assessment Tool


Tool Type and Examples


Best for cross-functional teams

Personality assessments (e.g. MBTI), strengths assessments (e.g. Strengthsfinder), specialized performance assessments, DIY performance assessments

When working with individuals in cross-functional teams, use easy-to-understand assessments that provide a common language to help teammates understand each other. For evaluating team processes and performance, industry or area-specific assessments are a better choice than general performance assessments, which may not be relevant to your team’s specific function. Can’t find a performance assessment that’s suitable for your team? Pick one that comes close and adapt it.

Best for new teams

Simple personality and strengths assessments (e.g. MBTI, StrengthsFinder, Social Style), tools for building trust (e.g. Trust Quotient, Speed of Trust), tools for building understanding (e.g. icebreakers)

For new teams, stick with simple, easy-to-understand assessments like the MBTI, which some team members will already be familiar with. Don’t use performance assessments for new teams, as they’re not very useful markers of team ability until basic trust and understanding have been developed. Instead, pick tools that focus on building these vital foundations.

Best for mature teams

General performance assessments (e.g. Team Effectiveness Assessment by Linkage), specialized performance assessments, DIY performance assessments

Teams that have been working together for a while should have fairly robust levels of trust and understanding, and members will already know each other quite well, too. Assessments that focus on measuring aspects of effectiveness and productivity are a good choice. You may want to pick an assessment designed for use with specific team types.

Best for trust problems

Tools for building trust (e.g. Trust Quotient, Speed of Trust)

Patrick Lencioni’s “Five Dysfunctions of a Team” says an absence of trust is the root of all team dysfunction. If you think your team has a trust problem, use a team trust assessment and trust-building exercises to identify and rectify it as soon as you can. Until your team resolves their trust problems, they won’t be able to operate to their full potential.

Best when problem is lack of shared vision

Tools for building understanding (e.g. MBTI), tools for building trust (e.g. Everything DiSC Team Dimensions), leadership assessments (e.g. Everything DiSC Work of Leaders)

It’s tough to pinpoint the causes of a lack of shared vision. Are your team members not speaking the same language? Is there a lack of trust? Or is the team leader not helping the team to develop a vision? Since a lack of shared vision is usually very apparent to everyone in a team, it’s worth talking to the team first to find out what they think is the problem. The team’s insights on what isn’t working should help you figure out what needs to be fixed.

Best when there is conflict

Tools for building trust (e.g. Trust Quotient), tools for building understanding of conflict (e.g. Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Instrument)

Conflict in a team isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because it ensures buy-in to the team’s purpose, and thus the commitment of all team members. Besides, some amount of conflict is natural. If, however, your team suffers from harmful conflict, you can target it in two ways: with Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions model to target an underlying lack of trust (which may be the reason behind harmful conflict), or to tackle the conflict itself by helping team members understand how they approach conflict.

Best for project teams

Targeted tools that focus on behaviors and interpersonal preferences (FIRO-B)

Project teams may be thrown together on short notice, and because they are focused on executing their project, they don’t have time to bond. Practical, outcome-oriented assessments work best here.

Best for start-ups

General performance assessments (e.g. The Table Group team assessment)

Teams working at startups tend to be homogenous and motivated, and it’s quite likely that they’ll comprise people who have already worked together. As such, help them get off the ground quickly, and to achieve consistent improvement. Pick a general performance assessment that provides a broad overview of the team, so they can focus on any problem areas and aim for quick, measurable improvements.

Best for remote teams

Personality assessments (e.g. MBTI, Hogan Personality Inventory), tools for building understanding (e.g. icebreakers), individual performance metrics, and tools that enhance communication

Managing a remote team is considerably more difficult: It’s tough to make sure people stay on track, it’s difficult to motivate employees via digital channels, and the lack of social interaction means commitment to colleagues can be lower. To combat this, try using personality assessments to see if people are actually suited to remote work. Give your remote workers reasons to engage and bond with each other, even on a small scale. Plus, set and measure short-term performance metrics so you can keep an eye on productivity.

The Pros’ Top Tips on Using Team Assessments

Joe Bake

Joe Baker, Partner at PeopleResults who coaches teams and leaders, says teams generally face two common problems: they are either not working well together, or they are at a point in their development where they need to clarify direction. “Which goal they are most concerned about drives how I work with them,” Baker says. His favorite team assessments are Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team and Shadowmatch, and he has written about when and why he recommends different tools.

Baker recommends gathering some information from the team in advance through interviews or a survey to get a better sense of the obstacles. He usually addresses the team assessment as part of a one to two day in-person group consultancy, and stresses the need for teams to follow up on the outcome of the exercise within six weeks to two months. “It’s a really helpful way to continue the momentum and have an effect on individual and team commitments,” he says.

Deb Calvert

Deb Calvert, President of People First Productivity Solutions, says she most frequently uses custom-designed surveys for team assessments as well as the Team Assessment Report from the Table Group, Myers-Briggs and Thomas-Kilmann tools. She stresses the importance of simplicity.

“A tool or process that can pinpoint the most critical areas of need creates a common focus for the entire team to work together on resolving. If there is a great deal of complexity in the findings, teams can’t see or achieve the solution as readily,” she says.

She also notes that using free tools or not working without a trained facilitator can limit the effectiveness of assessments. “Unfortunately, the misuse of assessments causes teams to miss out on the benefits that can come from them. I’ve encountered many who don’t believe, for example, in MBTI because it was poorly administered or because they used a free knock-off that didn’t give accurate results. While it may save money to internally administer a free version of this tool, it is subpar at best,” she says.

Joel Quintela

Joel Quintela is the Chief Executive Officer of, a company that makes talent assessment technology. He has implemented assessment systems as a consultant to major companies, and says that team problems generally involve communication issues and/or conflict. He believes individual assessments such as psychometric tools are the best starting point, and team problems can be evaluated afterward. Bringing in a consultant as an “objective outsider is critical because he has credibility,” Quintela says. Whatever assessment tool is employed, “the value is in how you use the test… The power of the assessment is not the assessment itself. It’s the use of the assessment,” he says.

Sarah Croft

Sarah Croft, Director of Assessment and Instructional Design at Koru which makes predictive hiring technology,  says one benefit of assessments is that they help establish a common language for the team. She likes Social Styles and StrengthsFinder.

“We check in with our teams once a quarter,” she says. “I think it’s helpful to check in on a yearly basis to help with any new hires since the last check in. Some tools take a weekly pulse of teams which might be helpful if you’re going through a stressful quarter or a period of change. In general, the more frequent you poll, the shorter your questions should be.”

When assessments aren’t productive, inaccuracy is a common culprit. Croft explains some causes:

“Respondents may try to ‘game’ the test and select answers they think are ‘right’ instead of honest. Other people may be afraid of what their manager will think if the feedback is non-anonymous, resulting in inaccurate results. Other respondents may not understand the goal or what the test is being used for which can result in thoughtlessly speeding through the test. Also, offering a reward might backfire if that’s the primary motivator, not completing the survey itself. Finally, the survey tool itself could be flawed if it is not validated or doesn’t measure the concepts they say they measure or if it’s really long or boring.

Sara Tucker

Sara Tucker, Director of the coaching and team skills program at University of California, Los Angeles Anderson School of Management, says the vast number of assessment tools is a challenge because of the difficulty in choosing, training, and gaining experience in them.

While she finds the Birkman Method assessment valuable for team coaching, she does not hold fast to particular tools. “I interview individuals and see how teams operate before providing advice and experiential activities to understand current performance and practice optimal performance. The processes, practices, and behaviors that I use are applicable everywhere. They are leadership 101 and rest on face to face communication, integrity, setting the right example, being team and mission led, focus, [and] objective feedback,” she says.

Pat Wheelan

Pat Whelan, an Organizational Development Specialist at UMassMemorial Healthcare, says assessments can be powerful drivers of improvement. “Based on more than 25 years’ experience working with teams, the top 3 challenges I have seen are poor communication, lack of trust, and the inability to resolve conflict,” she says. “Using assessments can surface and identify these issues.“

Whelan stresses the need for follow-up. “It is critical to have the team create an action plan based on the assessment results to improve their teamwork. It’s important that they monitor and track their progress on implementing their action plan.  It is helpful to have the team complete the assessment again in three to six months so they have metrics to track their progress vs. a vague sense that ‘things are better,’” Whelan says.

Robby Slaughter

Robby Slaughter, Principal at AccelaWork, explains the most common problem plaguing teams: “The assumption that a project needs to be handled by a team. We use the word team to describe a group of individuals who are all collaborating simultaneously to accomplish a specific task – even if they have different roles,” he says.

“But often, we’re better off if the workflow is designed by an individual and then delegated to a series of individuals. In this sense, it’s more like an assembly line than a sports team. Each person has their area of expertise, but people aren’t constantly waiting for the ball or frustrated by someone else’s performance.”

Lisa Philyaw

Lisa Philyaw, an Advisor with FMG Leading, is a fan of using the Enneagram inventory of personality type, which focuses on nine personality types based around core motivations and fears. She recommends using it as part of a facilitated team workshop. “While on the surface, this tool may not come across as a team building assessment, I have repeatedly found it to be one of the most influential tools in first building team awareness around how different team members operate and view the world, and second in improving team dynamics as members gain understanding of the different ways people approach the world,” she says.

She also recommends FIRO-B (Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation-Behavior) tool because “each team member learns a different way to approach their relationships, and the different desires and needs of each team member. Having this understanding allows team members greater insight into how others operate, in the roles each person can play on the team, and how to work with one another more effectively.”

Scott Crabtree

Scott Crabtree  of Happy Brain Science, who has taught team building at Nike, DreamWorks, Boeing, Intel and other companies, advocates using the team assessment tool to pave the way for better relationships among team members. He uses Gallup StrengthsFinder.

“The most common weakness I find in teams is a lack of quality relationships. Teams focus on technology and process more than culture and each other. But quality relationships strengthen teams in many ways,” he says. Using an assessment with the help of facilitator and  “discussing what team strengths and weaknesses mean, and how to best work with them … are great steps to address the lack of relationship focus on teams,” he says.

Marian Thier

Marian Thier, a Team Coach and Founder of Expanding Thought Inc, stresses the benefits of using a consultant for the team assessment process. “With humility, I’d say there’s nothing more valuable than to have someone like me, an experienced and skilled coach, observe a team in action, provide them with feedback, and then arm them with tools to build their competence and contributions,” she says. “I’ve developed several assessments that help teams and the individuals on them understand how they tend to operate, what their strengths and challenges are, and how to be at their best. It doesn’t much matter how the assessments are administered. What does matter is the ensuing conversations.”

Nick Jermyn

Nick Jermyn, a Team Building Consultant in Los Angeles, cautions teams against putting too much emphasis on assessments. “People become obsessed with tools and miss the true diversity in the room – we need to be focussed on the individual, not the tool,” he says.

Jeffrey Byrd

Jeff Byrd, a coach in Norfolk, Virginia, says he gains a lot of insight using the Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team model. “Assessments, when utilized properly, cause a team to see the big picture much more clearly. They are able to help people turn issues from a petty, personal level, to a big picture level of what common issues people are experiencing and together finding solutions to move the entire team forward, toward reaching its greatest potential,” he says.

 Andrew Thompson

Andrew Thompson of  PEAK Performance Professionals in Hendersonville N.C., recommends companies use experiential tests. His company runs competition events with obstacle courses, white-water rafting, and parachuting at a mountain retreat to help stimulate team building.

“The best team tool we have is the human experience,” he says. “Students need their emotions stimulated. They need to learn the value of trust and commitment to a single vision. Leaders who watch the students go through our programs find out who they truly hired, and unfortunately there are some regrets. But also they learn how their team functions under pressure.”

Assessment Tools for Healthcare and Science

To see how team-building tools and team assessments can achieve very tangible benefits in healthcare, let’s look at how they’re used in TeamSTEPPS, which is a teamwork system for healthcare professionals provided by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Its objectives include optimizing the use of information, people, and resources to improve clinical outcomes for patients. According to the AHRQ, TeamSTEPPS does this by increasing team awareness, clarifying team roles and responsibilities, and improving conflict resolution and information sharing.

TeamSTEPPS is a multi-stage training endeavor with three stages: a needs assessment, planning, training, and implementing the actual TeamSTEPPS intervention, and sustaining the effects of the intervention. As such, it’s an excellent example of how team assessments can serve as a precursor to implementing and sustaining real change.

The first TeamSTEPPS stage may be thought of as a training needs analysis. It involves assessing the current state of teamwork in a particular area, deciding which aspects of teamwork need to be worked on, and defining the goal of the TeamSTEPPS intervention. The second stage involves planning and delivering the intervention, as well as deciding how to measure its impact, and the last stage provides mechanisms for ensuring that training benefits are continued, such as ensuring buy-in by team leaders, providing opportunities for practice, and continuing to monitor impact.

It’s important to note that the TeamSTEPPS training needs assessment determines the way in which the training is implemented. For example, implementation may take an organization-wide approach, target specific organizational units, or implement only certain teamwork tools and strategies, depending on the organization’s particular needs.

A number of other assessments also attempt to capture aspects of team performance that have real, often critical impacts on health care and clinical services. For example, the Simulation Team Assessment Tool (STAT) assesses team performance during simulated pediatric resuscitations, and the Communication Assessment Tool-Team (CAT-T) attempts to have patients assess communication with medical teams in emergency departments.

Team assessments can be used to assess team performance in other sciences, too. One good resource is the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, whose Berkeley Lab Learning Institute offers three assessment tools: a supervisor and team lead self-assessment, a team self-assessment, and a team role assessment.

The supervisor and team lead self-assessment is, as the name suggests, a way for leaders to compare their own skills and behaviors to a set of 30 best practices. It’s designed for both current and aspiring leaders.

The team self-assessment allows for comparison of a team’s own practices to a set of 21 best practices. It zeroes in on identifying areas where teams hoping to achieve high levels of creativity and productivity could improve.

The team role assessment is based on the Z Process model of creators, advancers, refiners, and executors. This tool seeks to help team members identify the roles they and others play during the various stages of a project, as described by the Z Process.

How to Get the Most From Your Team Assessment

Team assessments can pave the way for a lot of learning. They identify a team’s strengths, and also its areas for improvement. Assessments that focus on both team processes and on individual team members can paint a picture of a team’s dynamics, and how balanced a team is.

Assessments that focus on performance measurement can provide a baseline for comparison after team development measures are implemented. They also provide reliable metrics for reassessment, to see whether a team is making progress. And lastly, participating in team assessments can be a way for a team to revisit its purpose and strengthen its commitment, which can make for meaningful performance improvements.

Since assessments are meant to provide actionable findings, hold debriefing sessions (especially after whole-team assessments) to discuss the results and evaluate options for moving forward. For these debriefs, consider bringing in a specialized coach who can help teams discover, discuss, and plan improvements.

If this isn’t financially feasible, or if you’d want to facilitate the debriefs yourself, keep in mind that discussion should be constructive, rather than critical. Attack the problem by having team members float suggestions for how they might incorporate best practices in their work. Once some solid ideas emerge, consider setting development goals and action items so your team has concrete targets to work toward.

For some individual assessments, you’ll likely want to allow team members to keep their results anonymous, or at least private from their teammates. For these assessments, one-on-one discussions with team leaders or supervisors are a better option. Encourage team members to start with providing feedback on the results of their assessments. Personal development goals are an option here, too.

Leaders may be awarded a little less anonymity, especially if they’re participating in 360-degree feedback assessments. Some leaders may be forthcoming about their weaknesses, while others may not like to discuss these with their teammates for fear of losing face.

Make sure that leaders have a trusted senior employee to talk with about their assessment results, as they’re better equipped to discuss the meaning and nuances of good leadership in a particular role, sector, or industry.

Also, encourage your leaders to develop skills on their own by directing them toward leadership development resources. One popular title is Jim Kouzes’ and Barry Posner’s “The Leadership Challenge,” which identifies five simple “practices of exemplary leadership.” These include Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, and Encourage the Heart. Kouzes and Posner believe that leadership is a learned skill, and examine, among other things, how introverts and extroverts can translate their respective natural strengths into strong leadership.

If you have used Everything DiSC’s Work of Leaders leadership assessment, have your team leaders read The Work of Leaders, which details the leadership practices used in that assessment, including the VAE Process (Vision, Alignment, and Execution).

The authors of The Work of Leaders suggest that good leadership can be traced to good performance on these three fronts: crafting a vision, building alignment, and championing execution. This recalls our discussion of team purpose, and how important it is to team members’ commitment, willingness to hold each other accountable, and the quality of work.

Lastly, remember that assessments are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. If your team or team members have set goals for themselves, follow up with them to see how they’re doing. And think about having a follow-up assessment to see whether your team has made — and, just as importantly, maintained — good progress.

Track Team Assessment Outcomes and Goals in Smartsheet

Participating in a team assessment can enable team leaders to identify weaknesses, assess individual problems and setbacks, and create actionable goals to drive future team success. To measure team progress, however, you’ll need a tool to track and manage team growth over time.

Smartsheet is a collaborative work management and automation platform that enables enterprises and teams to work better. In Smartsheet, you can create sheets to record team assessment outcomes, individual performance, and team satisfaction. Track goals and objectives with the built-in Gantt charts, attach performance documentation directly to rows in your sheet, and share your sheets with team members to provide transparency into group performance. Additionally, use Forms in Smartsheet to collect anonymous feedback – information from the forms will feed directly into your sheet. Use one of Smartsheet’s built-in templates, such as the Team Objectives Tracker, to get started quickly.

Build trust and maximize team performance with Smartsheet

Top 7 Tips For Having The Best One On One Meetings With Your Team

Top 7 Tips For Having The Best One On One Meetings With Your Team

One on One meetings are crucial to the success of your team. It is a time when you get to know the challenges and problems of your employees more closely and offer them needed counseling and motivation. Some companies have strict policies about one on one meetings between managers and their team members; all for good reasons. During the meeting, a manager will be able to understand hidden problems and have a clear understanding of factors affecting the team’s performance as a whole. If you plan on arranging a one on one meeting process with your team members, do make sure you stick to a routine which could be weekly, monthly or quarterly, depending on your goals. Secondly, you have to ensure the meeting isn’t just conversation but one that has certain achievable goals as an outcome. Here are top 7 tips for having the best one on one meetings with your team.

Start with a Written Report

One on ones are usually most effective when you have a written record of your employee’s performance and the pointers you need to talk to them about. The report should ideally be written by your team members on their own performance and achievements, which is usually known as the Win Report followed by your own assessment of the report. Discuss the achievements, challenges, and any other pointers you may have about the report during the meeting. When you have a written document, both you and the team member can have a meaningful conversation that doesn’t digress.

Tackle Pointers One by One

Out of the WIN report, discuss the pointers that you think are most important. List them according to priority level and ensure that your team member understands the importance of the pointers. For example, if you think late arrivals is a factor impacting team values then you could choose to talk about that aspect first within clear intentions. Avoid being sarcastic, threatening or passive aggressive. The one on one is the right time to discuss matters with your employee that you wouldn’t discuss openly in a team meeting.

Start with the Positives

Never. Let’s repeat. Never start a meeting with the negatives. You need to start from the positive and connect each negative with a positive aspect. So, for example, you want to talk to the employee about arriving late to work, don’t start with, “You’re always late. You need to be early or else…” Instead, “I like the fact that you get most of your work done within work hours, but it would be much better if you could come in time so that we can all get kickstarted for the day and be on the same page.” When you start with the positive, the employee feels motivated and is eager to listen to other factors.

Prevent the Employee from Being Confrontational

Sometimes, employees may have their own assumptions of certain situations and are not able to be objective. This may cause them to become confrontational and in some cases extremely negative. If you happen to face such a situation, do not lose your cool and try to direct the conversation towards more meaningful conclusions. If despite your best efforts, the employee is still being aggressive or confrontational, you can choose to end the meeting there and carry it forward some other time. Remember where you can draw the line.

Discuss Career Pathways

The purpose of this meeting is not just to resolve problems but to discuss career pathways. However, in order to achieve that, you the manager must have a clear understanding of what you want each of your members to achieve. Not only should you motivate them to achieve company goals but also personal goals. Utilize this meeting to give them quarterly personal goals that can be tied to their performance at work. It could be learning a new language, a new skill, a new software or a new program – whatever is needed to get work rolling. This way your team members will not just be achieving company goals but will also enhance their personal career in the right direction. When you assist your team members in being the best versions of themselves, they won’t disappoint you.

Develop the Art of Listening

Managers often make the mistake of using the one on one meeting to dictate their views and opinions instead of actually listening to the candidate. If you use this method, you won’t really be achieving anything positive and would actually override the purpose of a one on one meeting. Develop the art of listening and understand what your team members are going through. Some of them will be blunt and honest and yet some will beat around the bush in the hope that you get the point without them having to be explicit. So during these interviews, not only do you have to develop listening skills, but you may also have to understand personality types and how to handle each of your team members according to their personality.

Build Trust Instead of Distance

It’s important to build trust with your employees and share with them your struggles as a manager too. When you’re transparent, understanding, and willing to develop a certain trust level, you’ll be giving your employees a chance to work with you in collaboration as a unit and as a team. On the other hand, if you are rigid, refuse to trust them, and are constantly using the one on one meeting to pinpoint their flaws or create distance between them, you’re responsible for creating a negative company culture. And when that happens, you will begin to lose out on valuable team members. You definitely don’t want that to happen, which is why the one on one is to be used wisely.

At the end of the day, as a manager, you are responsible for your employee’s growth because it is closely tied to company objectives. As a rule of thumb, never let your managerial ego or your role as, “THE BOSS,” cloud your judgment or your assessment of the matter. During personal discussions, refrain from office politics, demotivating talks or unnecessary arguments. Maintain a professional stance, have a written record of everything and keep a mindset that is aimed at resolving problems. The more you use the one on ones wisely, the eager your team members will be to report to you their achievements. Gradually, you’ll notice that you wouldn’t even need one on ones except probably once or twice a year to discuss overall achievements.

5 simple tactics that will improve Employee Engagement and Retention

We all know that engaged employees are more likely to stay within the business if they are engaged with you as a leader, as an organisation and within their role and team. We have the most diverse and demanding workforce we have ever had with generations working alongside each other and people demanding more flexibility, which can make responding to these changes to improve employee engagement and retention even harder.

A recent survey by Hay Group found that of the 300 heads of engagement from FTSE 250 and Fortune 500 companies surveyed, 84% agreed that companies will need to engage their workforce differently if they are to succeed in the future, but only 30% believe that their organization is adapting appropriately to the changes that lie ahead.

Recruitment companies that act positively, stay true to their word, set targets, create incentives and train and motivate their staff will find they not only have a happy and engaged workforce but a high performing workforce.

Often as leaders we think it takes too much time to ensure all our staff are happy, after all they are adults and they would tell you if they were unhappy wouldn’t they? Adopting this attitude can be dangerous, you may be lucky and your staff will have an open and honest conversation with you if they are feel disengaged, but chances are they are just going to find another company who can fill the gaps, whatever those may be for the individual.

Engaging our workforce comes down to some very simple things;

Train your workforce and keep training them – investing in your employees is a great way to show you care about their personal and professional development. Achieving increased results through training you have provided them will give them a sense of pride, achievement and keep driving up their results.

It’s true we may invest in individuals who then go on to leave the company anyway – we just have to accept that it might happen and move on. If we are letting our employees know their professional development plans based over three/five years and are sticking to those plans at intervals, we are encouraging employees to invest with us over those years to fulfil these plans and reduce early leavers.

Communicate company goals – it is important that you communicate regularly the company goals and how they play their part in achieving those goals. Without this communication to feel like part of the team and the big plan all they see is their boss driving to work in a new car and they loose their feeling of working hard for the company to achieve the goals.

Set individual goals – employees want to take responsibility for their own achievements and goals. Setting realistic goals on an individual level that they can relate to the company goals (as mentioned above) will let them see how their day-to-day efforts can make a difference. These goals aren’t a chance to discipline, any goals that haven’t been achieved are an opportunity for you to understand why and what you can provide to overcome this – it may be they are weaker in certain areas and these need to be trained and developed.

Think about the working environment – the working environment can play a huge factor in in how an employee feels about coming into work. Have you created an environment that will allow employees to feel comfortable voicing their opinion? Do you encourage communication across teams and allow all employees to have time to knowledge share? These seem like simple changes but this gives your employees the chance to really feel like part of the whole team – segregating teams and individuals can automatically put a barrier up between your team.

Provide incentives that suit all – after all the hard work it is great to provide some fun and relief from the day-to-day work by rewarding your employees. Incentives can vary greatly and it is a good idea to provide a mix of activities to allow all your team to take part in something they really enjoy.

These are just a few ways you can increase levels of engagement across your business to retain recruiters.

5 Keys to Engagement


I am frequently asked “what are a few things I can do to ensure that I am doing my part in the the engagement process?”  I respond with these “5 Simple Keys to Engagement Success.”

5 Keys to Engagement:

  1. Make eye contact.  Eye contact is an art form. For many, it is awkward and uncomfortable. To reduce the fear associated with eye contact, practice it.  Practicing creates an opportunity to work through the awkwardness.
  2. Be appropriately physical.  Formal greetings, handshakes, high-fives, etc. allow for the opportunity to create physical communication. Appropriate human-to-human contact communicates a value of importance to all “humans” involved in an engagement transaction.
  3. Be present.  Focus undivided attention to the human directly in front of you.  If multiple humans are present, share the attention.
  4. Be the active listener.  Truly listen. Other humans know when attention is cursory and inauthentic.
  5. Respond appropriately.  While responding, make eye contact.  Keep language appropriate to the entire audience that is present.  Use proper words.
When the “5 Keys to Engagement” are turning, the locks are opening:
  1. Making eye contact creates a sense of safety and authenticity.  This is valuable to the engagement transaction.
  2. Appropriate physical communication reduces fear and tension while creating comfort.  This is often be achieved with a formal greeting, handshake, high-five etc.  This human-to-human contact is calming and communicates respect.
  3. Being present creates a human desire to engage.  This communicates a sense of respect.
  4. Listening provides an opportunity to effectively contribute to the conversation.  Active listening takes work.  Instead of preparing the next response, create questions to ask such as: What was that like?  Did you enjoy that? etc.
  5. Responding appropriately, in all circumstances. creates feelings of safety and security.  This communicates that value is being placed on the engagement transaction and those involved.
When the “5 Keys to Engagement” are not turning:
  1. Lack of eye contact creates doubt and mistrust.  This, in most humans, causes a “gut” reaction to create space  or push away.  This is especially true in difficult or demanding situations.
  2. Inappropriate physical communication causes fear and feelings of confusion and uneasiness.  This creates distance.  It may also cause shame and anger.
  3. Being absent communicates the other party does not matter.  This is disrespectful to others and both communicates and demonstrates a disregard of value.
  4. Not listening – like being absent – communicates that the other party does not matter.  This is disrespectful to others and demonstrates a disregard of value.
  5. Inappropriate responses cause doubt in the ability to deal with the engagement transaction.  This reduces the confidence level of all involved in the exchange.
Failing to understand relationship and its overall impact on engagement may slow both personal and organizational growth.

10 Affordable Ways To Improve Team Morale at Your Company


Posted October 13, 2017 by Caroline Whitney in MANAGING YOUR TEAM
Higher employee morale means more productivity, collaboration, and retention at your company. So how can you easily boost morale on a budget?

What is morale? And why is it important to a team’s success and a company’s business goals? Morale is the capacity of a group of people to pull together persistently and consistently in pursuit of a common purpose,” says sociologist Alexander Leighton. Clearly, this is something everyone wants for their company.

Good morale means employees are productivecollaborate bettermiss fewer workdays, and feel more satisfied by their work. If people feel good about their team, they’ll work seamlessly towards a common goal.

Alternatively, when a company lacks morale, it will suffer. So, how can you avoid a work atmosphere teeming with unhappy employees, and maybe even this? How can you effectively build team morale, and do so on a budget?

I’ve compiled the ultimate top ten list.

10 Simple Tips For Boosting Team Morale on a Budget

10.  Volunteer Together

Volunteering as a team will make employees feel good, and will help them feel connected to their community.  They’ll also see another side to each other.

Maybe you didn’t realize that ultra-serious Frank in accounting loves working with underprivileged kids, just like you do. And now that you know you have that in common, your happiness factor rises just a smidge when you see him at work. Your company could even partner with a nonprofit that ties into your corporate philanthropy. Volunteering is an activity you can do together that does good, but makes you feel good too. And it’s free!

88% of Millennials want a fun and social workplace environment.

9.  Work on Your Fitness

We’ve already outlined the  benefits of having active employees, and it bears repeating. Be active, and be active together! It’ll make your employees more productive if they’re getting healthy and fit, and if they’re doing it together, it’ll build morale too. There are so many possibilities: attend athletic events as a company, join a corporate challenge, do a fun run, or join a sports league as an office. Have office-wide fitness challenges. Think about combining fitness activities with volunteering: participate in a dance-a-thon for charity, or Relay for Life. These activities are affordable and will bring your employees together.

Boost morale with fun activities.Lemon and donuts.Boost team morale with these activities.

8.  Host Themed Potlucks

This is by far my favorite morale-building tool. At my very first job, we turned our serious, lengthy monthly meetings (tips on how to improve those here) into events we truly looked forward to: themed potlucks! This turned a meeting we all dreaded into a meeting we liked. We had a fun time brainstorming ideas for the next potluck, including: a milkshake bar, a big cheese plate (my favorite), summertime foods, a cereal bar (with various milks), rainbow food (everyone picked a color), chinese food day, and even a nautical theme (this featured tuna rolls, goldfish crackers, and blue cupcakes with anchors on them). Food helped us to get excited about the meeting, and in turn, our work.

You don’t even have to hold your potluck during a meeting — you could host a makeshift tailgate, or a yearly BBQ. so will allow employees to socialize and have fun at work, making them happier to be there. And since everyone will bring their own dishes, the cost will be minimal to your company!

You don’t even have to hold your potluck during a meeting; you could host a makeshift tailgate, or a yearly BBQ. Doing so will allow employees to socialize and have fun at work, making them happier to be there.  And since everyone will bring their own dishes, the cost will be minimal to your company!

7.  Plan Happy Hours and Dinners

While I’ve got food on the brain, allow me to quickly mention team happy hours and dinners. Everyone loves food and drinks, so team happy hours or dinners are events that everyone will want to attend.

IIf your company can’t afford footing the bill, simply organizing a monthly event (where everyone pays for themselves) could give employees something fun to look forward to that helps them to build rapport.

Get your free copy of 109 ways to appreciate employees on a budget.


6.  Watch TV Together

Is football a huge deal in your town? Baseball? Maybe you’re not into sports but your office can’t stop talking about last week’s Game of Thrones? Watching a sports game or TV show with your office group gets everyone’s mind off work, and again, having fun together. Combine this with a happy hour or dinner, and that’s what I call good office morale!

5.  Play Games

Yes, you could plan a team building day in your office, featuring various ice-breakers and skill-driven activities. And there are definitely some fun ones out there

But mention the word “ice-breaker” and you’re sure to hear a collective groan.

Why not take a day or a half day to play fun games that people actually — gasp — enjoy? Or incorporate games into the work week? It could be as involved as a scavenger hunt around the city, or as small as a weekly trivia question posted on the wall by the water cooler. Or maybe you want to invest in a used ping pong table? Your employees deserve a break, and perhaps having a Connect Four or Operation in the break room is just what the doctor ordered.

Easy ways to boost team morale.Easy ways to boost team morale.Easy ways to boost team morale.

4.  Have Decorating Contests

A little healthy competition is good for everyone! Have a decorating contest, and make it an annual event. At that first job of mine, we had a yearly “holiday village” door decorating competition (I totally should have won that year — I had a “wine and cheese shop” door. It was 3D!). You could even make it a team activity, pitting cubicle rows against each other. Check out this awesome McDonald’s themed row at Linkedin’s contest!

3.  Give Out Team Swag

Who doesn’t love free swag? Create fun, original, affordable company shirts at CustomInk, or get Knockaround sunglasses in your company colors. Order frisbees (incorporate them into your game day!), water bottles (use ‘em at the race you signed up for!), or koozies (for that annual summer BBQ your company initiated).  Birchbox gives each employee these awesome custom shoes on their one year anniversary. These items are fun, functional conversation pieces — not to mention constant, continuous branding for your company.

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2. Include Families

Whether it’s a “bring your kids to work day,” or simply an open invitation for significant others at your next happy hour, including families helps employees see a more human side of each other. It gives them little glimpses into each other’s home lives, which helps people feel more connected.

Related article: Beyond Paid Maternity Leave: 5 Ways to Create a Family Friendly Workplace

1. Change the Way You Operate

Make your company more team oriented, even in the smallest ways. Changing your everyday verbiage can help employees to feel more included and essential to the company’s success. Talk about people working with you, not for you. Replace the word “supervisor” with “team leader.” Call your departments “teams.” Justworks even rebranded our HR team as “employee success.” Furthermore, allowing your employees to get involved in areas of the company that aren’t necessarily their job will benefit your company (more minds = more ideas), and it will increase their self worth within the company. Most importantly, celebrate accomplishments. Little (or big) rewards will make your employees feel good, and encourage them to keep going.

BONUS IDEA: Learn to Give Quality Feedback

One other great way to boost morale? Help your employees feel heard! Your employees may be frustrated if they’re not receiving constructive feedback, whether that’s from their peers or their boss. If you’re wondering how to make it better, check out companies like LifeLabs. Justworks brings them in to train all their employees on a variety of skills such as giving and receiving feedback, workplace negotiation, and career growth. If your team feels like they are listened to and able to give feedback in a healthy way, it will help with team morale and working better together.

Still looking for even more ideas? We have 10 delightful employee reward and recognition ideas on a budget.

So what’s the moral of this morale story? Mix it up! There are so many possibilities for boosting team morale. Certainly, what’s feasible for your company depends on its atmosphere and culture; but no matter what your budget may be, there are affordable options.

Think about the activities you would want to do socially, and make time for those activities with your teammates. Solicit ideas from employees. Build the culture that your team needs to thrive by offering creative outlets. It will pay off! The morale will be high, and your company will be at its best.

Is workplace loyalty dead in the age of the millennial?

As workplace demographics shift, with boomers and generation-Xers increasingly leaving the work force and more millennials entering, the common belief is that employees are no longer loyal to their employers. Young people are regularly maligned for being self-absorbed and entitled; not willing to “pay their dues”; and impatient to get the promotions and compensation they feel they deserve. As a result, the unfortunate, widely held sentiment is they cannot be counted on to stick around for the long haul, nor ever be loyal to a company.

But this point of view is flawed. The millennial generation can be very dependable and reliable, but “loyalty” has a different meaning than it might have had 20 or even 10 years ago. Younger workers have grown up in a world where layoffs were common. They’ve seen their parents, aunts and uncles get terminated from companies with nary a nod to their years of service. So their frame of reference is different; they think of being tied to an organization in terms of months, not years.

Workplace loyalty is not dead. But if you’re going to hire and retain a sustainable employee base, then your perception of loyalty may require a significant shift in mindset, if for no other reason than to maintain your sanity. Career employees are no longer dreaming of the day they retire with gold watches at the age of 65. Today’s employees are thinking of themselves more as free agents in a sports franchise.

To successfully attract and keep employees in this new age of loyalty, you’ll have to do two things. One, build a franchise in which players want to sign up for the season. And two, create a working environment that compels them to renew their contract repeatedly. What can you do to attract the best players and then keep them for repeat seasons? Here are three proven ideas.

Provide variety

Tedium is taboo. Today’s reality is that most young workers have grown up in an environment in which they’ve been constantly occupied. With soccer camp, science club and saxophone lessons, there has been relatively little free time in which to get bored. Engage and excite your employees by changing things up. Modify responsibilities frequently, or rotate staff in assignments more often. Send them on work-related field trips such as visits to customers or to off-site locations. Provide abundant opportunities to learn. Make work fun.

Offer flexibility

Work-life balance is key. More and more, employees see work and play as simply two sides of the same coin. Whether it is shinny hockey on weekday evenings or the much-anticipated Bruno Mars concert, they’re equally as important as the paying job. While this may sound completely irrational to some, it’s worth remembering that the give-and-take goes both ways. If you extend flexibility to your staff whenever you can, they’ll happily roll up their sleeves and willingly pitch in when a deadline is impending or a major company objective is at stake.

Give feedback often

Two-way dialogue is essential. Most new entrants to the work force have grown up in a highly connected environment, accustomed to receiving instantaneous feedback from parents, teachers and coaches. Besides, it is not a bad thing when employees want to know how they’re doing; it means they want to improve and make a positive impact. So tell them. Frequently. In fact, a June, 2016, Gallup poll showed that employee engagement was highest for those who met with their manager at least once a week, or more often.

The new age of loyalty means that you can’t assume that your employees will be with you forever; most of them won’t. You’ll do much better to take the “while we have them” outlook. Think of them as the really nice house guests whom you want to stay, but you know will eventually leave. Or if you’re a parent, as the kids who will eventually grow up and move out of the house. Ironically, if you regard them in this light, they will probably stay longer than you expected. And who knows? Just like adult children who nowadays are often prone to moving back home, maybe your departing employees will return once again for an encore stint with your company.

Merge Gupta-Sunderji is a speaker and consultant on leadership, based in Calgary and Vancouver


The Real Meaning of Company Culture


OCTOBER 18, 2017  BY 


At Zenefits, we strive to bring you the most cutting edge and up to date news around people experience, work life balance, and optimizing your workflows for your most productive career. This fall, we’re excited to kick off a series of blog posts as written by HR industry experts and thought leaders. In the following post, Dr. Matt Stollak weighs in on the meaning of authentic company culture – we hope you enjoy it! 

HR professionals are busy, but many of us spend a lot of time trying to tackle fleeting concepts like constructs. Most, if not all, constructs in business and psychology are hypothetical (including such notions as satisfaction, equity, quality, and diversity). They are not ‘things.’ We cannot take one and place ‘it’ on a table for examination.

Note that hypothetical constructs can (and do) have biological, behavioral, cognitive, and affective correlates, causes, consequences, and dimensions. Rather, the distinguishing characteristic of a hypothetical construct is that it has no arbitrary definition. The definition must be ‘made up’ by theorists, and theorists can disagree as to what we should include in the description or if the construct even has any utility.

Which brings us to one of an organization’s favorite constructs — “culture.”

What is Culture?

A standard textbook definition might refer to culture as a system of shared meaning that consists of norms, artifacts, values, beliefs, and underlying assumptions.

That’s a pretty straightforward definition for something so ephemeral. Take values and beliefs, for example. Do employers walk the walk when it comes to a values statement? Do employees embrace the values espoused by the organizations? If you meet a random employee, can he or she enthusiastically repeat what the company stands for without hesitation? Are employees able to explain the values of the organization without the use of confusing internal jargon? If people are an essential resource, does the company pay people fairly and root out discrimination?

Culture is one of those things where you know it when you see it. Most often, employees feel in their bones when it isn’t working. So how do we drill deeper and define a healthy, workable culture?

Healthy Cultures on Display

One aspect of culture that is often ignored and underestimated is the role of kismet. The culture of your organization is the consequence of sheer luck. Lots of decisions that could have had disastrous consequences if they went in a different direction.

Could you imagine seeing Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly instead of Michael J. Fox in “Back to the Future?” Tom Selleck as the dashing Indiana Jones, instead of Harrison Ford, in “Raiders of the Lost Ark?” The phrase “Must See TV” was coined at random from a guy who worked at NBC named Dan Holm.  No research.  No focus groups. The culture at NBC enabled him to have the freedom to try out the phrase.

As with kismet, another underappreciated aspect of culture is alchemy. In Warren Littlefield’s book “Top of the Rock,” John Wells, creator of “ER,” was quoted as saying, “There’s an alchemy to TV, like anything else.” David Schwimmer echoes this statement:

Having been on the other side of it now in terms of directing and producing, to find one magical actor who is just right for the role is difficult enough, but to find six and then to have them actually have chemistry with each other is just kind of a miracle. I think we were just lucky. I looked at the five of them (the rest of the cast of Friends), I watched their work, and I thought, “Everyone is just so talented and perfect for their character.”  And they grew into their characters and enriched them and deepened them.

Human resources professionals may write phenomenal job descriptions, put together a killer recruiting ad, and place it in the right locales, but our recruiting pool is subject to the whims of those who see it and apply. The choice we make at the end of who to hire is a crapshoot.

The daily reality of culture is similar. If we relocate our company from Green Bay, WI to Boise, ID, bring all the employees along and conduct the same work, it is unlikely that the same feelings of belongingness will carry over. We need kismet and alchemyto enhance and amplify an organization’s missions, values, and beliefs.

So What, Exactly, is Culture?

Culture, quite simply, is temporal. The real meaning of company culture is of its time and place. Those leaders and HR professionals who don’t take the time to reflect on their organizations and consider hypothetical constructs are missing out on an opportunity to improve the culture and, ultimately, the productivity of their companies.