Tools, Duels, and Rules

3 steps for driving a higher-performing team


Published on: July 2021

Written by: Alan Sim

Looking to make the most of your teams?

There are a few small steps that any leader can implement to shift the way their team works together. By creating simple tools, putting them into practice, and sustaining the lessons, you can amplify your own, and therefore your team’s, intelligence.

Use simple tools.

Think of simple tools you use to remember things, like tying a string around your finger or writing down a grocery list. This strategy can also be applied in a work context.

Here’s an example of an effective mnemonic device: try using wooden poker chips, coins, or paper to moderate meetings. Give yourself five of these “chips.” Every time you speak, you must “play” one of your limited number of chips. If you play all your chips at the start, you must remain silent for the remainder of the meeting.

Such a simple tool teaches you to literally chip into the conversation with thoughtfulness, rationing your contributions! (Given that many of us now carry out our meetings via video conference, you might wonder: is this tool still effective? Yes, it is, and can even be enhanced by generous use of the mute button.)

This idea of sharing the floor draws from Liz Wiseman’s New York Times best-selling book, Multipliers, which shares her research-backed perspective on how the best leaders can amplify their team’s intelligence by tapping into each individual’s inherent genius.

Put the tools into practice.

What were the effects of implementing the chips? One team experienced considerable change.

A team member known for dominating conversation quickly used up all their chips, became frustrated that they could no longer contribute, and therefore left the meeting. In their absence, the remaining participants had more opportunities to speak, listen, and debate, and collectively improved their decision-making. The impact was immediately felt by the whole team, as the once-domineering individual also recognized the benefits of making space for others.

As demonstrated in this example, practicing new behaviors in a risk-free environment provides an incredible advantage. One way to do this is by leveraging customized business simulations. By modeling behavioral changes in realistic situations, simulations allow people to concretize abstract concepts and reinforce shifts.

Make the commitment to behavior change.

Providing people with right tools brings them a step closer to behavioral change, but only sustained application leads to true transformation. Given that results are not guaranteed, people need to be held accountable. How?

Firstly, ensure execution on the job by requesting that people write down their commitments to change, then follow up on them with digital tools. Larry L. Jacoby, psychologist at Washington University in St. Louis, affirms that information is better remembered when it is self-generated, rather than simply read or revisited.

Secondly, embed desired changes by establishing a cadence of follow-up sessions and by assigning reflective between-session tasks. Personalization, paired with periodicity, will cement critical changes in behavior.

To make the most of your teammates’ talent and potential, make sure that you provide them with thoughtful tools, facilitate their implementation, and offer support for long-term revision.

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