Re-imagine: Building a high-performing team

Posted Sep 24, 2018

Kristina Watkins, HQCA employee and alumna Re-Imagine facilitator, shares a bit about the HQCA’s approach to building a high-performing team.

What an interesting time to be asked to write about the HQCA’s approach to building a high-performing team. I am feeling anxious and overwhelmed by my workload, stretched in quite a few directions. It is in these cycles of stress and intensity when my attitude lacks its usual pep and polish. My flexibility turns rigid. My olive tree has (a lot) less branches. This makes adhering to the HQCA’s social contract (the document at the core of our approach, below) difficult.

HQCA social contract – launched in February 2016.

In January of 2015, we (HQCA employees) started a process called “Re-imagine”, initiated by our executive leadership.  Re-imagine was introduced as a way of learning to connect and become more effective communicators with one another. It is meant to help us function as a high-performing team.

A team of five internal employee facilitators from across departments and levels of the organization guides this work. The facilitators’ first task was to help employees collectively develop a social contract. This social contract would be agreed to and signed by all employees to set core expectations about how we work together.

When you read the outcome of this work, the social contract above, it sounds pretty easy, right? Address issues so they don’t fester, celebrate good work, and respect your co-workers. Common sense.

I think this is easy to understand, but really hard to practice consistently. Especially the part involving feedback. What an important activity, but I have to agree with this article. Our “nice” and “kind” culture makes delivering and receiving feedback HARD.

So, we use a “balanced feedback” model developed by an external expert to overcome barriers to resolving differences and crediting accomplishments.

Our Re-imagine model incorporates elements from some of these well-known practices and models:

The team develops and maintains awareness to help us see opportunities to use this model to check assumptions and then deliver balanced feedback, if needed. However, as I mentioned, I’m writing this during one of those cycles of self-doubt and frustration. I am less likely to deliver or ask for feedback because I know there is a risk I might not be in the best position to give or receive it in a “nice” or “kind” way. I worry about the potential risk to my long-term relationship with the person I need to check assumptions and discuss feedback with. I have always lived by the adage, “Treat people the way you want to be treated.” This week that just might not be possible.

Here’s the thing I’ve learned, though. That is not an excuse to avoid feedback. If your professional environment is practicing feedback regularly, delivering or receiving it should be no more difficult than your other to do’s. Feedback does not have to create anxiety. It guides our behaviour and allows us to change our approach. Reframe a challenge. Hit a target more successfully. These feedback interactions add up and, if consistently delivered in a respectful way, can create a working environment where psychological safety is real and innovation can thrive. These are excellent reasons and incentives to embrace feedback.

While absolutely logical, I am not there yet. I don’t “walk the talk” as consistently as I should and still make awkward mis-steps that could be avoided with more practice.

The great thing about Re-imagine is that it is a process, not a goal. I make time and have the space and support to do this work. And, as the organization and individual relationships change and evolve, there will always be new opportunities to improve my practice and ultimately, our team’s performance. I welcome this personal and team development opportunity and am proud to work for an organization that makes this work a priority. Turns out taking a moment to acknowledge this at a time when I am channeling more Maleficent than Wonder Woman is part of that ongoing self-awareness and self-improvement.

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HQCAMatters is published monthly and presents HQCA representative perspectives on topics or issues relevant to healthcare in Alberta.