Conversational Habits are a High Performing Team’s Superpower

Lisa Blosser | Next Step Partners

Your experience of work is your experience in teams.

Most people spend 80%+ of their work time “teaming:” working with a collection of individuals who come together for a shared purpose.

Gone are the days of stable, intact teams that remain constant for years. Today’s teams are dynamic, ever-evolving, and fluid. Cross-organizational teaming is now a regular part of organizational life. Yet, most teamwork models are outdated and fail to capture the emerging skills of today’s most effective leaders.

That’s where team coaching comes in. We help teams learn two of the most important and difficult skills of high performance: assessing their current working patterns (in the moment) and course-correcting them repeatedly.

And it all starts with awareness.

Here’s an example of one way we help a team ‘see itself’.

Picture a seasoned executive team who thought they knew themselves well, individually and collectively. We asked each Executive to share something happening in their life, and every person in the team got to ask them a question…but it had to start with the word ‘What.’ What was that like for you? What did you do next?

The idea was not only to deepen understanding and connection, but also to give us a diagnostic view of how the team behaved.

During the debrief, we asked what they noticed.

It started with what you might imagine: “Wow, I’ve known you for years and I never knew that story.”

So, we asked them to look more closely—as an observer—at the types of questions they saw themselves asking.

The result? Every single question, except one, was an action oriented problem-solving question. No one asked deeper exploration questions, such as ‘What was that experience like?’

“That’s interesting, where else does that come up?” I asked.


Someone replied: “That’s what we do in every meeting.”

They quickly realized their number one team dynamic habit was trying to problem solve without listening or probing deeper. Light bulb moment!

From there we then explored the impact this had on their decisions, strategy and outcomes.

This technique allowed them to see their conversational pattern playing out.

It’s one of the small ways in which a team coach reveals the team to itself—to help make what is invisible, visible.

High performing teams pay attention to how they are having the conversation, even when it’s uncomfortable. 

Lower performing teams shy away from examining their patterns and fail to grow their collective intelligence.

Conversational habits are not something individuals are often skilled at noticing, particularly when they are IN the conversation, so having a team coach first identify these, in a non-judgmental way, can raise the consciousness of the group.

As a team coach, I’ve observed common conversational habits that reduce team performance and effectiveness. Here are 10 that occur frequently.

Read the full article here, including the top 10 common conversational habits that reduce team effectiveness. 

By MIT Sloan CDO