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Making Your Team Stronger

by Karen Mathews

Most of us focus on what's broken. Actually we can't help it, we are wired that way. To move forward as a species, we have always had to figure out how to improve things. But only concentrating on what's wrong doesn't give us the best solution. Instead, doing an analysis of the breakdown may help us to see just exactly what, when and how things went wrong.

In an exact science like computer programming, this approach is helpful. In the nebulous dynamics of team performance, it doesn't work as well. People are not machines. We don't always respond to stimuli in the same way. Even if the circumstances appear to be the same, we are complex, and many factors are affecting us at any given time.

Even if you already know all of this, you also need to be prepared to deal with challenges as they come up. Issues that you ignore have the potential to get worse. You can't go around like Pollyanna and think that if you think positive thoughts and ignore the problem, things will just get better by themselves. The team may need to do something different to surmount the problem. And it may be important to do it now.

How can you solve these problems and make your team stronger at the same time? By using Appreciative Inquiry. This method is all about looking at what the team does really well and understanding that in depth. Since we tend to look at problems, looking at what is going right can be very insightful.

Once you understand what, how and when your team works well, you can apply that dynamic to the situation that is breaking down. In other words, you map the special way your team performs well over to the undesirable performance behavior.

There is real magic in this method. Your team will access a new level of confidence and empowerment that strengthens them, both as individuals and as a team. They will have a deeper appreciation for each person's contributions and identify strongly as a team.

I'd love to know what your team does really well. What "secret sauce" do you wish they would apply to other challenges? Join the conversation on my blog.