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July 7, 2020

7 Things You Need To Know If You Want Your Crew Operating In Team Flow

In the Power of Team Flow, I mentioned,”flow is the holy grail of business—it’s the ability to get top performance from employees through their efforts, above what’s required.” 

By creating a framework that fosters team flow, you’ll be able to squeeze every drop of productivity from their workday. Not only will it be like rocket fuel for your business, but you’ll also create a work experience that’s meaningful and inspiring. 

After directly implementing techniques for team flow at Flow Marketing, I’ve experienced the success firsthand. In one month, we were able to: 

  • Double the annual recurring revenues of our business
  • Increase the throughput of workflow without adding headcount
  • Generate innovative ideas that led to better results for our clients

I’m sharing the exact components you need to trigger team flow to help you beat the odds during these shifting times. 

Not quite sure what the heck flow is? Read Flow State at Work and download your Flow State Canvas

1. Collective Ambition

Ambition is centered around your team’s belief system. Ambition addresses why your team comes together, if they realize they are working together towards a common goal, and understand that together they are going to do something amazing. 

A team’s collective ambition is shaped by its members’ reasons for collaborating, their values and beliefs about how they should accomplish their goals, and their recognition of one another’s complementary skills. 

2. Common Goals

The difference between a collective ambition and a common long-term goal is that the latter is more concrete, like medaling at the Olympics. For example, saying, “I want to be masterful at soccer,” is very different from saying, “I want to win a world cup.” The first is ambition, and the latter is the goal. Your team needs both to get into a collective flow. 

It’s important to emphasize that common goals must be internalized because a team can’t reach a flow state when working from compliance. In other words, your team won’t flow when they meet goals because they have to.

Internalization goes much deeper, and fuels flow because your team genuinely is working to achieve their goals because they want to, not because they have to. 

It’s a mentality that “I’m driven to achieve my team’s goals because I want to be masterful, and it will let me reach my individual goals.”  

Overall, teams require a clear, team-level common goal, internalized by all team members. It needs to be ambitious to promote growth and is compatible with the team’s personal goals. 

3. Aligned Personal Goals

You have to ensure that there isn’t a conflict of interest between what the team is trying to achieve and what the individual is trying to achieve. 

Going back to the sports analogy, if there’s an individual player that only wants to put up stats, but doesn’t care if their team wins or loses the championship, they are working for themselves. But when there’s a shift from the individual to the team mindset, the team can work together to win more championships. 

For example, if you watched the Last Dance, you saw Jordan, after winning some championships, making a shift. His team moved to a triangle offense, and when they went to a triangle, he realized that he could utilize his other teammates so they could start putting up some points. He became masterful at dishing the ball because it was no longer about Jordan, the individual, it was about the team, which scored them even more wins.  

There must always be a bridge that aligns personal and team-level goals to ensure everyone is working in the right direction.

4. High Skill Interaction

To make sure that your team has the perfect balance of skills you have to: 

  1. Know your team’s strengths to determine who will fit specific roles
  2. Create team-level goals that necessitate the high-level use of complementary skills in the team
  3. Match the challenge assigned to each team member to their abilities
  4. Coordinate the team to use their skills collaboratively

When everyone understands each other’s skills and knows who’s playing what part in the business, you effectively create smooth processes and clear coordination within your team. Without it, your team can’t get into the flow. 

5. Open Communication

From a communication standpoint, you need to: 

  • Be clear and unambiguous whether explicit or tacit
  • Timely and consistent
  • Be united by mutual accountability
  • Connect individuals’ contributions to the team goals
  • Use close listening
  • Be genuinely constructive and appropriate

It’s important to expand on the fact that open communication can either be explicit or tacit. This may mean clearly laying out processes and expectations for team members that need it. At the same time, tacit communication can be leveraged for talented team members that only need clarification on their general swimlanes. This enables them to interpret and complete the task in their way, instead of spending time on the minutiae in processes, which may not be beneficial.  

It’s important to realize there will be both in your business. You have to document general processes and standard operating procedures to create a backbone of explicit communication in your team while understanding there are plenty of areas where tacit communication will be required to complete unique tasks. 

6. Safe Environment

You always need a physically and psychologically safe environment for your team to trigger flow state. In terms of psychological safety, you have to make sure your team knows it’s okay to fail. 

Not to say that failure is celebrated, but it’s okay that they did as long as they learn valuable lessons. This leans on John Wooden’s mentality to “focus on the effort rather than the success.” On top of that, the environment needs to encourage learning and growth. Investing in your team’s growth is required for them to get into flow because people want to feel like they are learning and growing. 

To sum it up, a safe work environment: 

  • Encourages and rewards effort rather than success
  • Allows necessary risks to be taken
  • Doesn’t punish failure
  • Fosters the feeling of being in control
  • Encourages learning and growth

How many times do people leave jobs because they feel like they aren’t learning or growing? That tells you that your team needs to be fed knowledge. 

7. Mutual Commitment

A mutual commitment to the team and business is characterized by: 

  • Full attention at the individual level
  • Awareness of the common goal and each member’s contributions
  • Disregarding distractions external to the team’s common tasks
  • Keeping one another on task
  • Cognizance of the team dynamic
  • Alignment with the team’s purpose and reason for being

The bottom line is mutual commitment means that the entire team is down with each other, has each other’s backs, and encourages each other towards success. 

For example, the day before I was giving the Flow State for Teams webinar, I didn’t have the presentation ready. I had the research, but no slides. I pinged Shaye, the COO of Flow, and told her that I didn’t have the presentation ready yet. She was so encouraging, reminding me that I was capable and how impactful our webinars are for our audience and us. 

When your team can encourage each other on that level, then they will feel a sense of commitment to the larger purpose at hand. 

Is Your Work Environment Fostering Team Flow? 

Though the value of creating a flow within a group of high-performing individuals is transparent, creating the environment can be a challenge. 

The challenge comes because it’s much more than just creating a positive team dynamic—it’s about finely tuning ambition, motivation, safety, and skills in an individual and understanding how that individual affects the group. 

However, the results are well worth the high-level insights and work it takes to create an optimized team. 

Flow state is vital to happiness and fulfillment, and research shows that work produced in this state is more creative, satisfying, and higher quality. It also helps to create a team with a strong mental and emotional connection with increased fire to crush their goals together. 

Which elements of flow state do you believe your team intrinsically has? Which ones do you find you struggle with?

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