An organization’s culture ripples out from the team leading it. The behaviors of the leadership team are THE single biggest influence on what’s expected/rewarded and discouraged or unacceptable for everyone else. Despite what’s proclaimed in vision, mission, or core values, these set the organization’s true cultural norms.

Team meetings reflect the team’s effectiveness. Too many virtual or in-person meetings waste time and frustrate everyone. As Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman report in their book, Speed: How Leaders Accelerate Successful Execution, “One of the most frequent written complaints people make about their bosses in our 360-degree assessments zeros in on the quality of their meetings…our research on productivity improvement shows high correlation of improved productivity with the efficiency and effectiveness of meetings.”

Stanford sociologist, Elizabeth Cohen, found when putting kids together and asking them to solve a problem, they often let one kid dominate while the others disengaged. Sound familiar? But when the teacher established group norms such as roles, goals, ground rules, etc. “not only will [the children] behave according to the new norms, but they will enforce rules on other group members. Even very young students can be heard lecturing to other members of the group on how they ought to be behaving.”

Decades of Emotional Intelligence research shows that groups of leaders can be individually brilliant and a collective bunch of dim wits. In what’s still one of the best books in the EQ field, Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman and his co-writers report, “Collective emotional intelligence is what sets top-performing teams apart from average teams…in some teams, contention and heated confrontation are the order of the day; in others a charade of civility and interest barely veils everyone’s boredom. In still other, more effective teams, people listen to and question each other with respect, support each other in word and deed, and work through disagreements with openness and humor. Whatever the ground rules, people automatically sense them and tend to adjust how they behave accordingly.”

We’ve facilitated dozens of team development sessions (often as part of a virtual or in-person leadership team retreat). We frequently use surveys and interviews to gather data and perceptions on team effectiveness.

Here’s a typical survey you might want to use with your team:

  1. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “Totally Ineffective” and 10 “Highly Effective,” rate our team’s current level of effectiveness.
  2. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “Not at all important” and 10 being “Critically important,” how important is it for our team to improve its effectiveness? Why?
  3. If you didn’t score a 10, what do you think is holding our team back? Please provide specific examples.
  4. What are our team’s biggest team accomplishments of the past 6 to 12 months?
  5. When our team is working well and the most effective, what factors have helped to make that happen?
  6. What are our team’s three greatest strengths?
  7. How should/could those strengths be further leveraged to improve team effectiveness?
  8. To help increase team effectiveness, what should we (please provide three per category):
    1. Keep Doing
    2. Stop Doing or Reduce
    3. Start Doing or Do More
  9. What else should we discuss to boost our team’s effectiveness?
  10. Other comments/suggestions.

To see your team’s true dynamics, survey participants must answer these questions without being identified. Their answers can then be anonymously compiled, and a summary report with data and key themes brought back to the team for discussion, learning, and action. If you can’t use a neutral, third-party facilitator, you could post them in an online, anonymous survey tool like SurveyMonkey and compile the responses.

Is yours a scream team or a dream team? Are your meetings a PLO as Tom Peters outlines in his book, The Excellence Dividend: Meeting the Tech Tide with Work That Wows and Jobs That Last, “Every meeting that does not stir the imagination AND curiosity of attendees AND increase bonding AND cooperation AND engagement AND sense of worth AND motivate rapid action AND enhance enthusiasm is a PLO/Permanently Lost Opportunity.”