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Improve Your Teamwork With “Keep/Stop/Start”

A good way to start this new year off right is to analyze and upgrade the effectiveness of your sales team— and a group self-improvement exercise called “Keep/Stop/Start” is a quick, easy and low-risk way of accomplishing this.  It’s a simple process— an idea generation/problem solving meeting in which the team members, themselves, first define the issues affecting the quality of their collaboration, and then develop practical ways to work better together.  Here’s how it works.

This is a free form, no-holds-barred listing of the things the team should keep doing, the things it should stop doing and the things it should start doing to better meet the challenges lying ahead in 2012.  Call them out and display them on easel pads.

The Keeps:  this list is fun, because it’s about things that the team is already doing right.      It’s deceptively important because, even though it won’t lead to change, it will assure top-of-mind awareness of those things that the team must continue to do to be effective.

The Stops:  this list is easiest:  everyone can identify counterproductive practices and process gaps which reduce team effectiveness.  Sometimes a “stop” will readily suggest a mirror-image “start” — an immediately obvious solution.  (An example: “meeting leader should stop blindsiding team members with unexpected questions in client meetings” easily leads to, “start always giving the team member a verbal alert that he/she will soon be asked for a comment.”)  Replacing a “stop” with a productive “start” is always better than merely ending a negative behavior.

The Starts:  of the three, this is the most rewarding and team-energizing list.  The ‘bad news’ is that some “starts” are not obvious mirror-image “stops,” but require generating new, creative solutions to often vexing, long term problems.  The ‘good news’ is that groups invariably do this list better than individuals.  This is where the team can shine!

Four important Do’s and Don’ts of the Keep/Stop/Start exercise:

  • Do focus on behaviors— team process and procedures— not on assumed attitudes and motivations (which can get personal, emotional and confrontational in a hurry).
  • Don’t ever call out individuals;  treat all behaviors as collective, even if not everyone is doing them.  Focusing on individuals is divisive, and risks that the alienated team members won’t support and adopt the subsequent improvement plan.
  • Do end the meeting with tangible, accountable next-steps;  assign tasks with deadlines to (all) team members.  Otherwise, you’ll end up with a new year’s resolutions list of “good intentions.”
  • Do plan for group follow-up meetings.  Make sure that the new practices are being implemented, and expect the need for a mid-course correction or two.

Always remember that a sense of personal authorship and ownership is the prerequisite to genuine, enthusiastic commitment.  The Keep/Stop/Start model is an especially powerful team tool because all the team members contribute to the change mandate.  Now’s a particularly good time to put the Keep/Stop/Start exercise to work for your team.