I’m excited to announce that my forthcoming book, Team Habits (previously known as Workways), has been acquired by Hachette Go. The focus of Team Habits is enhancing team performance and belonging by improving your team’s workways, with workways being your team’s defaults, team habits, and tacit behaviors. The more common approach of focusing on improving people to get better performance and belonging usually doesn’t work and, when it does, it doesn’t endure for long.
You can think of Team Habits as “Start Finishing for teams” in that they have some shared themes. Both books posit that:
- People aren’t broken, incompetent, or lazy — if they’re not doing their best work, it’s because there’s something else in the way.
- Work can fill our joy, meaning, and belonging buckets instead of being a mere dreadful exchange of life for money.
- Everyone has the ability to evolve to meet the moment and thrive, especially if they’re in a team of supportive people committed to helping them thrive.
- Small changes, made with intention and patience, make a big difference over time.
The majority of us would probably agree with those four points — if you didn’t, you likely wouldn’t engage in my work for long. But if those four assumptions are true, we’ve got a bit of a paradox on our hands: why can working in teams be so hard? Why is it so hard to change a team?
The simple answer to both questions is that there’s a shift that happens when we switch from individual action and choices to social action and choices. If I’m a solo worker and I change my schedule to work for me, there may be a few consequences of it, but, mostly, it’s pretty straightforward. If I work in a team setting, changing my schedule requires negotiation, communication, consideration of other people’s needs and availability, precedents it may set, and a whole litany of other considerations that are essentially social overhead (the ongoing or indirect social costs to operate or maintain a team or organization’s way of being).
Most business books miss the social overhead and instead focus on an individual’s Herculean efforts to overcome those overheads and get things done. Sometimes the books will guide the reader to address the system they operate in, but it’s often pretty hand-wavy and refers to other books that focus on specific skills, like meeting management. This oversight leads to three consequences:
- If an individual is successful, they rise to new challenges and have to work harder to overcome the new kinds of social overheads they’re dealing with. The Peter Principle (an individual gets promoted to their level of incompetence) and burnout are natural follow-ons.
- If an individual isn’t successful, they and their managers assume they’re not the person for the job — because the person for the job would have more grit, courage, smarts, know-how, or whatever was assumed to be needed.
- Everyone else is stuck working with the same social overhead and having to make scores of decisions every day about whether they’re up for trying to make work a little better or if they’re just going to show up, do their job, and go home.
Team Habits is going to address the social overhead head-on, by guiding the reader on how to fix the workways that are in the way of team performance and replace them with workways that enhance team performance and belonging. Many of us have experienced that feeling of working in a team that makes work a lot more flowful, fun, and purposeful. We’ve been in teams where, even when a project or activity wasn’t our thing, we happily did the work because we were part of a great team.
I want the positive experience of working in high-performance, high-belonging teams to be the default rather than the exception. While this may seem like some West Coast, kale-inspired dream for a lot of people, I’ve either led enough team turnarounds or coached others on how to do it that I know it’s possible for every team to get there. It’s not easy, it doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s not something that one person can do by themselves — but it’s possible.
Since most books on team change are written for managers and executives, a lot of people are left out of the conversation. Team Habits will focus on ways everyone can change their teams and I’m going to show you how. So the good news is that no matter what role you play on the team, you’ll have a role in making your team better. (Tweet this.) The bad news is that you’ll be on the hook to make your team work better, too. You’re welcome. 🙂
I’m really excited to be working with Hachette Go on Team Habits, as well. Their mission is “to give people the best information on how to change their lives for the better….we’ll publish the most exciting ideas for change, in both work and life, by authors ready to stand out and make a difference.” Their mission aligns well with my own of helping people thrive in life and work. Since most work happens in teams and a significant slice of our life is spent working, guiding teams to work better together is a great way to help people thrive and change their lives for the better.
Team Habits is going to be published sometime in 2023. Yes, that feels like forever to me, too, but I’ve been doing this long enough to know that it’ll be here before we know it. As I mentioned in my December post about this book being in the works, you’ll start to see more and more team-centric content show up here on the blog since writing a book becomes an organizing principle for what I’m thinking about and I write about what I’m thinking about. If you’d like to get updates on the book as it’s coming along, sign up here.
I’ll leave you with three questions since apparently putting people to work is what I do:
- What one of your team’s workways is most bugging you today? It could be something like the cc thread from hell or contextless meeting requests.
- What are you going to do to change that with your close team of 4-8 people?
- When are you going to do #2?
Go make work better together, today. 🙂