Project Management Focus: Wayne Pearce comments on Putting High Performance, Teamwork and Leadership into Perspective
Posted: 11/13/2011 12:00:00 AM EST | 0
Project Management Focus on Mining IQ
Mining IQ recently interviewed Wayne Pearce and discussed his experience with respect to project management, leadership and teamwork and how that relates to high performance across larger scale and complex projects.
Could you put into perspective your experience with high performance team cultures? Can you also share how this relates to Project Management and other environments?
I’d be happy to. As a former professional league player I have played in a number of outstanding teams and also some pretty ordinary teams too. As a result I was able to identify some important behavioural differences between them. I also coached after I finished playing; at both NRL and Sate of Origin levels and I took a lot of lessons from that time in my life.
After I finished coaching ten years ago, I wanted to branch out into the corporate world as I believed there were a number of improvements that the corporate world could make with regards to team work and productivity. I’ve worked with a whole range of businesses over the last ten years and I’ve seen – as with league teams – some pretty good and some pretty ordinary cultures and to this day. In fact, I spend most of my time nowadays helping businesses engage and activate the discretionary effort of their people. To maximise productivity we need to not only motivate our people, but we need to get them to want to support and encourage each other as team members
What’s the gap between an outstanding versus an ordinary team culture?
The really good cultures I have worked with have some distinct features; everyone is clear on what’s expected and works passionately to achieve those outcomes. Individuals have a desire to do their best rather than turning up to work to do an ok job that meets basic requirements. In high performing cultures the team members are motivated to want to give their best every day and that becomes infectious and becomes an attitude that permeates the whole environment. Whilst this high performance team culture construct is aspirational for most businesses, it actually can, and does happen in businesses where bosses understand the key triggers. It does take some effort but the ongoing productivity returns on that effort for the business are quite incredible. These returns are not just in terms of the usual financial productivity gains but also in spirit, morale, less turnover of staff, less sick days etc.
Why is the psychology of high performance project team work something that you are so passionate about?
It really goes back to my rugby league career. I was nowhere near the most gifted player on the field but I wanted to be the best prepared player in the country as I believed this would help me maximise my ability and the results I’d achieve. It was about getting the most out of my physical body but also about focusing my mind as well. I guess it yielded results because I went onto play and captain Rugby League at the club and state and national levels. I also studied psychology at university and that gave me a real insight into human behaviour.
I believe that business leaders would benefit enormously from an improved understanding of human instincts, needs and behaviour which would enable them to be more proactive rather than reactive in the workplace. A productive leader doesn’t have to deal with bushfires; rather they have a high performing business that is going forward. Teamwork is the cornerstone of any high performance culture and for me I believe that the fundamental cornerstone of teamwork is trust.
When you talk about trust you mention the need to ‘take off your mask’, can you share further detail about what that entails?
I think the best way to demonstrate that is probably by example. Consider a representative sporting team, such as the State of Origin, when players are picked from a whole number of clubs to play together for a specified period or number of matches. Mid-season you are asking players to park their allegiances to their own side and come together to play for NSW or QLD. Their competitors are now their teammates. That’s an enormous task for any coach and the first 48 hours of establishing this new team is critical. The coach must fast-track and embed high levels of trust across the team and the biggest impediment to building trust is a lack of knowledge about what makes people tick.
The assumptions we make about other people tends to be the nemesis of trust. The more we understand someone, the more we feel empowered and connected to them, hence the importance of the disclosure exercise I call de-masking.
In Origin football, players go into a camp for 8 days prior before the match and the first two days of that camp is based around the players and the coach building a platform of trust, the public refer to this phase of the camp as bonding.
To get back to your question, a large part of that process is providing a safe environment for players to ‘take of their mask’. This ‘mask’ is the facade by which they want to appear to everyone else. In order to remove the mark you need to put your cards on the table and be honest about a number of things; what makes you tick, what drives you, what motivates you and so on. When people can better understand those things about others they immediately tend to experience increased understanding of each other and this naturally leads to greater opportunities to develop high levels of trust.
What do you do if your team isn’t taking off their mask and aren’t aligned within a project team environment?
It’s a situation a lot of businesses find themselves in. It’s about creating a safe environment in the first place.
If you don’t create opportunities to bond, then trust will remain an elusive dream and performance levels will remain sub-optimal. Quite you may have to take your people out of the actual workplace to an off-site location to establish an environment that supports de-masking, but the benefits you’ll gain from this process are huge.. To gain buy-in to the process of trust-building, give your people and insight as to what the benefits of high trust levels are. One of the biggest sticking points I’ve observed in businesses is the lack of free flowing conversation, a lack of feedback and a lack of holding each other accountable, and this all related to poor trust levels.
If you can overcome this problem you will see the difference in terms of energy, spirit, morale and tangible changes that people can feel and that people will buy into. Once you have established the benefits you can get people talking in 1-1 situations or in small groups about what is important to them. Most people are willing to share if they are in a ‘safe’ environment. The desire to understand each other is compelling as it enables people to feel as if they have some insight or control over a situation. If I know someone a bit better I feel as if I can be a little more proactive with that person and trust that person more.
What constitutes a safe environment and how important is it?
The importance of the environment is huge and if you can’t create a safe environment then people aren’t going to disclose much. The important thing is that people are empowered to disclose what they feel comfortable disclosing. Firstly there is a no-go zone for everyone. There are certain things that people simply do not want to talk about. For some people this zone is broader than for others. Most people are happy to disclose more stuff in the workplace than they currently do but they simply don’t have the opportunity. They are too busy and their discussions are usually about work or surface level personal information that doesn’t actually give any insight into what makes that person tick.
To create a safe environment means you have to be quite clear about the fact that no-one is expected to talk about their no-go zone; simply communicate around the stuff you are more comfortable with. It comes back to how much trust you have previously facilitated with your team as a boss. If you haven’t established reasonable trust levels with team members then they aren’t going to trust your intention of holding such a session.
Mining IQ thanks Wayne for his time and his commentary. More information about Wayne is available at his website: http://www.waynepearce.com.au/
For the full audio interview please visit the media / podcast library at: http://www.miningiq.com/mining/podcasts/examining-the-common-fracture-points-within-a-tea/
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