We may have witnessed it before; a sports team going on an incredible run and performing as if one single “group mind”, an executive team coming up with consistently new and exciting ideas for a new project, or a jazz group, building off each others jams and producing great music on the spot. Individual flow can be great, but research shows flow at the group level is more intense and enjoyable. After all, we are social beings, so it would make sense that we prefer activities that involve collaboration.
However, achieving group flow is a difficult task. To get everyone on the same page, and thinking like one unit is easier said than done. In a previous blog post we talked about some of the triggers for group flow, but here we will expand on it by focusing on 3 key elements that each team should develop in order to maximize the opportunity for flow to occur. These 3 areas can be summarized in the model below:
Feedback is the process of providing performers with frequent and accurate measures against a known standard of performance. In the absence of adequate feedback, efficient learning is impossible and improvement only minimal even for highly motivated subjects. One of the conditions for individual and group flow, is that feedback should be immediate and ongoing. This can come in the form of verbal, and/or performance measures and evaluations. If an athlete or employee knows exactly where they currently stand in the eyes of the coach or leader, and get frequent data on their progress, they are more likely to reach their target. This creates a sense of self-awareness for both the individual, and for team progress.
All great teams have an established philosophy of what it means to be them. Understanding what core values are important to the group will help the team stay on track. Creating a philosophy entails three main elements:
A coach or leader must first define what their own personal philosophy is before anything can move forward. Once that is established, the leader should try and blend his or her own philosophy with the group, and not force their values into the picture.
What values are important to the leader and the group? Creating a list of keywords, or phrases as a group can help filter out what should be focused on, and what shouldn't.
Once the values are refined, the team needs to make the values visible, which means incorporating them into team vocabulary, as well as literally having them visible in the locker room, water bottles, etc. In terms of behaviours that have been deemed important, if you’re not coaching it, you’re allowing it. So teams should keep each other accountable to catch behaviours that do not live up to the values created by the group.
SHARED GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
Another prerequisite for flow to occur is shared goals, which means the group as a whole comes up with and agrees on a shared vision and plan. The #1 barrier to performance is unclear objectives. So this means answering (a) what do we want to accomplish?, and (b) what are we capable of accomplishing?
This way we trim the fat of focusing energy into unnecessary areas such as winning the league, or earning a certain revenue, when current performance suggests that is not a realistic goal. It is not about being pessimistic, but rather basing performance goals on what the current situation is, and moving forward from there.
Successful team performance equals capability + behaviour. We cannot fully control each and every individual’s behaviour on the team, but we can build environments that drive the behaviours needed to get into group flow. There are of course a lot more variables for maximizing team performance, but by creating a feedback system, defining a clear philosophy, and coming up with shared objectives, a team can start breeding the right environment for consistent peak performance and growth.