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Seeing Clearly: Why Teams Can’t Flow Without Clarity

We work in teams because we are striving to reach a common goal, a goal that is too complex, challenging or large to be achieved alone. To achieve that goal, we need to know where we are going and what is expected of us in getting there. This is why clarity is so critical: we all need to be pulling in the same direction.

We are going to explore why clarity is essential in teams experiencing ‘flow’ together. Flow is the optimum state of intrinsic motivation, in which people experience peak performance and greater wellbeing.

Clarity is one of the nine conditions for TeamFlow, Bailey & French’s groundbreaking new team intervention, which brings together performance and wellbeing and is based on peer collaboration and guided development. These nine conditions are grouped under the three rules that define TeamFlow.

– Separation: Each individual needs space
– Alignment: Each individual needs to know the way they are going
– Cohesion: Each individual needs to know they belong to something bigger than a group of autonomous operators

According to Gallup: “Clarity of expectations is perhaps the most basic of employee needs and is vital to performance.”

Gallup research has fond that “knowing what’s expected” from us at work can correlate with productivity gains of 5-10%. It has also found that within productive teams, individuals are more likely to agree with the statement “I know what is expected of me at work”.

Clarity is therefore a major contributor to achieving team flow. Teams need a clear and common goal to aim for. At an individual level people need clarity of responsibility; to be clear on what is expected of them in their role, and how their role contributes to the team goal. We need clarity on what is expected from us by our organisation, by our manager, by our fellow team members and other colleagues.

Without clarity, we are fumbling in the dark. Teams may be disengaged or ‘floating’, and continue to do what they’ve always done, without much success. This has become even easier with the increase in virtual working limiting overall visibility or awareness of what a team is working on.

Flow Through Clarity

Without clarity, people will not be able to contribute to the team, let alone reach the optimum team flow state. So what are the steps you need to take to achieve clarity, and take you closer towards team flow?

– To get high level of clarity of what the job requires, you need to ensure structured conversations are taking place through platforms like performance reviews. However, this is only a starting point and clarity must be embedded more deeply and at a cultural level

– Make sure people are able to actively seek clarity on what is expected of them by their team, by their manager and by others. Create space and a culture of safety and openness, where people are empowered to regularly seek specific feedback to ensure their work is meeting the expectation of others. It sounds simple yet is rare for people to know what their peers are expecting from them so make space to discuss and share this explicitly.

– Give clarity on what people do well, not just what they don’t do well. Focus on strengths.

– Establish that expectations will need to flex and change. They are not static, therefore we need to seek feedback and clarity regularly.

– In fast-paced world of work, the big picture may not always be immediately obvious. What is the core, essential information you need to give people, to give them enough clarity to progress? In the words of Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson: “Offer some structure – figurative scaffolding – to help the team function effectively.”

– Some leaders struggle with not wanting to be too directive and then don’t offer enough information, so keep it outcomes focused which empowers people to find their own route.

– Some leaders struggle to translate high level strategy into day-to-day communications about ways of working which leads to confusion and inefficiencies, remember to keep it practical and as simple as possible.

Why not take our Team Flow Pulse check which looks at several areas of your organisation; separation, alignment and cohesion. Once you submit the survey you will receive your results and suggestions for supporting your people to return to a human world of work.

Take the Pulse Check