Want High Performing Teams

Want High Performing Teams? Get Them Giving Their Point of View

We all know that high performing teams achieve great results that are just not possible with a middle or low performing teams. We have seen some major public disasters such as the Challenger Space Shuttle as a result of lack of communication and ‘groupthink’ in teams(1).

A study published in American Behavioral Scientist(1) shows that high performing teams have a nonlinear dynamic in the connection and positivity of their members. In addition, high performing teams also have the following characteristics:

The connectivity between the team members are high
They have a complex but organised dynamic
Their speech patterns are balanced on Inquiry/Advocacy
Their speech patterns on Other People/Self are balanced
Their Positive/Negative ratio is high, suggesting optimism
They have expansive emotional space that opens possibilities for action.

As part of keeping an expansive emotional space, the teams have a safe psychological environment, making the members feel they can express their opinions securely, creating healthy conflict that produces better results.

Creating a safe psychological ground doesn’t happen overnight. It starts small, with each interaction of a team member and the response of another.

One way to identify a high performing team

One of the ways you can observe how psychologically safe the environment is by watching the teams in a problem solving meeting or brainstorming session where inevitably, different opinions will show up. How are the opinions addressed? Openly or brushed aside?

Or worryingly, there are no opinions? Is it a case of artificial harmony?

Perhaps there is disagreement, but they are not verbally expressing it?

If this is happening, how can we encourage healthy conflict in teams?

One of the ways is to develop a point of view (POV) in team members. However, it is not enough to just develop points of views, they need to learn to say it!

Think on Your Feet® is one of our communication programmes that focuses on how to answer questions, clearly, briefly and with impact. It was developed to help managers and executives with answering questions on the spot in presentations and meetings.

Insider Secret. Workplace stress management workshops sometimes miss considering power skills that increase our capability in handling conflicts, better conversation skills and improving listening skills.

Over the past 25 years that we have delivered this programme, one of the most common questions we hear from participants is about how to give their point of view without offending the other person in the discussion?

“I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief.”
~ Gerry Spence

Swing the Pendulum

One of the plans in Think on Your Feet® is called a ‘Pendulum Plan’ and it is perfect for those who want to express their point of view without feeling scared of being offensive in a meeting.

It is called a Pendulum Plan because you are giving opinion from one extreme side to another, then settling in the middle, swinging like a pendulum. For example:

(Swing to the left) “I think this project can benefit from extra funding to see it to the desired completion, ideally in the range of $50,000”.

(Swing to the right) “However, I can completely understand that the company is trying to save cost and would prefer to make do with the budget that has been allocated”.

(Settle in the middle) “Perhaps we can come to a middle ground, where we revisit the specs and revise the feature that is most resource consuming. That way we can minimise the extra funding requirement while still achieving the project objective”.

Do you see the pendulum in your head moving from one position to the opposing position then stop in the middle?

That’s exactly how the pendulum plan works!

Of course, you would need some extra keywords on hand to avoid overusing the same connecting word ‘however’. Here are 9 other words you can use for variation when using the Pendulum plan:

1. Nonetheless
2. Otherwise
3. Alternatively
4. That being said
5. Whereas
6. In contrast
7. On the contrary
8. On the flip side
9. On the other hand

PRO TIP! Try the Pendulum plan in your next email.  It’s a safe way to practice and hone your skill. If you’d like feedback, send it to us and one of our coaches will get back to you.

Now that you know how a Pendulum plan works, we want to dare you and your team to use it in your next meeting and see the results for yourself!

When your team can express their points of views, they are on the path to an environment with healthy conflict, better communication and thus, higher performance.


1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_Challenger_disaster
2. http://www.factorhappiness.at/downloads/quellen/s8_losada.pdf
3. Marcial Losada and Emily Heaphy, 2004, “American Behavioral Scientist”, http://abs.sagepub.com/
4. Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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