Teams that slow down are more productive

Teams that slow down are more productive

You might not expect it, but slowing down can be profitable. Yet in a world where speed is associated with success, we find this quite an uncomfortable thought. Internationally certified team coach Angela van Dorssen explains why.

I work with teams in various fields. The topics are diverse and always focused on improving team performance and cooperation. To build a team, trust and a sense of security are essential. I deliberately slow down at the beginning of a process. Often, I can sense restlessness and even resistance. Which is not surprising, I think as we can all feel the adrenaline of the planning of the day – the tasks ahead of us as soon as we finish the meeting. Phones lighting up, activating our brain and making us feel restless. We have come to believe that ‘being busy’ and ‘staying active’ are linked to being productive. However, this is not true.

Popcorn decision-making
The performance of a team is reflected, among other things, in the quality of the decision-making process. I look at a number of things: who does the talking – who doesn’t? How are ideas brought forward and how are they assessed? How does the team deal with differences of opinion? Are decisions being made and are they clear to everyone? Is there common ground and how is this achieved? To what extent are decisions concrete and explicit?

For convenience, I like to compare what I see on a regular basis with popcorn. Put the bag of kernels in the microwave. Set the timer. The temperature is rising and in the meantime the bag of popped corn is bulging. The result is a bag full of steaming hot popcorn. They are barely contained in the bag, but one is already almost escaping. Back to decision-making in teams. Ideas pop up, but no one is listening or considering them. No time, because the next idea is already being floated. Sure, it is high-paced. The heat is rising, with irritations bubbling up. It then becomes a crossroads, where everyone is heading in a different direction. Some people become silent, some were already silent and will now do absolutely nothing, and some will continue to talk and defend their own positions. Or no decision is taken, and the subject is back on the agenda at the next meeting. Or the manager has had enough and moves the decision forward. The question is, will everyone agree and, more importantly, will everyone act accordingly?

Wisdom in silence
By slowing down, you can see more. When you see more, you will have more knowledge and more options. By weighing up the pros and cons and considering different angles, a team will reach better decisions. Challenging each other on content, while maintaining trust and a sense of security, creates an environment where you can work together to achieve the best possible results. Learning to deal with the discomfort of being ‘stuck’ and of reconciling differences is key. It is challenging and that is exactly the point. Whenever teams grapple with the content, I see an increase in confidence.

Slowing down = speeding up
Teams that can slow down save time and perform better. And meetings become much more enjoyable in the process.

Team coaching