How To Improve Team Performance With An Anatomy Lesson

“Our leadership talks about culture, but there is a real lack of strategy with organized focus. We are not aligned as individuals on how we are really contributing to the whole.”

Sound familiar? Too many of today’s workplace teams are struggling because they are moving so quickly to get something done that they aren’t investing time in determining the right work to be accomplished. The individual contributors are relegated to checking items off a list, not stopping to reflect on how their actions might affect a coworker or customer. Innovation is lost in the rush to just move on to the next assignment. Employee engagement suffers because most people want to be a part of meaningful work, and instead they are experiencing a never ending tsunami of demanding deadlines and ineffective meetings.

If you’re ready to change the health of your team, start with a basic anatomy lesson. The incredible way in which the human body functions as a unit offers some powerfully practical ideas on how your team members can improve their performance.

The Mission Is The Life Blood Of Your Team’s Success

The mission statement and values can’t be brought out once a year and placed into employees like an IV of saline solution.

Like the blood coursing through your veins, the mission and vision of your team has to flow through everything for good team health. The mission statement and values can’t be brought out once a year and placed into employees like an IV of saline solution. They might not be stated in formal terms in every conversation or action, but principles of the mission should be heard in conversations and seen in how a task is completed. Leaders need to frequently speak of how an action to be taken is an expression of the mission, and model the values of the group with their behaviors.

If any one of your team members isn’t clear on how the mission should be pulsating through their daily activities, take the time to help them see the connection. A lack of blood flow reduces the ability of a body part to function. In the same way, a team member who isn’t fully engaged with the mission can’t perform at their best.

Each Team Member Contributes To The Success Of The Body

Once you have initiated the discussion with the idea of mission, there are numerous ways to use the analogy of anatomy in demonstrating how your team can function better. Have each team member identify how they see themselves contributing to the success of the “body.” If you’re the team leader, start with your own contribution. You might see yourself as the lungs, responsible for giving people the mental oxygen they need to get their work done. Others might see themselves as the hands, feet, ears, or eyes. Encourage creativity in their comments, which also helps them practice innovative thinking. And yes, someone will jokingly tout themselves as the brains of the group, and that’s okay.

Interdependence Is The Hallmark Of A Healthy Team

If the team leader is so overwhelmed with their work load, and they are the lungs, how can they expect to give others the mental and emotional energy they need to do their job well?

Once team members have expressed how they contribute to the success of the team, a natural next step is the interdependence of each team member to another one. How does their choice of action affect someone else’s ability to act? For example, if you are running too fast for your eyes to evaluate the ground in front of you, you are more susceptible to falling. If the team leader is so overwhelmed with their work load, and they are the lungs, how can they expect to give others the mental and emotional energy they need to do their job well?

Use The Analogy To Frame Issues Differently

Taking the anatomy analogy one step further, have your team describe current challenges to performance improvement. Comments like, “We need another set of hands,” or “I’m always running and never have a break” give your team members a more non-threatening way to share their barriers (perceived and real) to taking their performance to the next level.

Lastly, don’t forget the idea of muscles. Our muscles only grow when challenged with something heavier than we think we can handle. If your team is to increase in strength, each team member needs new opportunities to stretch and develop their individual muscles in order to make the team a stronger unit.

How are you developing each member of your team to make a bigger contribution to the body?

Are you even a little curious about the overall health of your team?  I’d welcome the chance to start the conversation with you about to take their performance to the next level.