It pays to have great teammates, just ask Rob Gronkowski. Gronk needed one more catch to receive a $1 million bonus from the Bucs during their game against the Carolina Panthers so he let his buddy Tom Brady know. A few plays later, Tom delivered right on the money, literally.
As we watch a wild NFL playoffs where we see teams like Cincinnati go into Nashville and beat the #1 seed Titans, or the #6 seed 49ers go on the road two weeks in a row and grit out impressive victories over Dallas and Green Bay; I can’t help but notice the importance of group flow.
What exactly is group flow?
It’s when a group of people come together and click on all cylinders. It’s what we witness when a team “gets hot at the right time” or when a company continues to drive innovation (looking at your Apple). You know what the beautiful thing about group flow is? We don’t have to be on a professional sports team to get it.
Whether you are a soloprenuer trying to scale their company or an employee within a larger organization, we can all get into group flow and benefit from it. Heck, you can get into a group flow experience with your partner or a stranger you just met.
I want to show you how today.
It starts with understanding the group flow triggers, the pre-conditions that, when present, help get into and deepen the heightened experience.
- Shared Goals - having a general idea of where to steer the ship is pivotal in group flow success. The more everyone is on the same page, sharing a vision and mission, the closer the connection that develops between you all. Teams that actually embody their mission and vision do better long term than teams that just share it once and expect it to stick. A goal should be more than just some words on a poster board or what’s spoken in that Ra-Ra annual sales meeting.
- Close, deep listening - Our ability to truly listen, becoming an active listener to our teammates allows for innovation to arise. We must be fully engaged to energize those around us. In a world of distractions, this gets harder and harder to do, but the flow is worth the focus.
- Complete concentration - flow exists in this present moment. Not anywhere else. The team must not be focused on outcomes, rewards, or punishments. The only thing that matters is the endeavor itself. That’s why we must leave our issues at the door when it comes time to lock in.
- Blending ego’s - we call this hive mind, when we are no longer acting solely in accordance with your internal sense of self. You feel like you are a part of so much more and get totally immersed in the experience at hand. Think of the best orchestras in the world, all of their individual egos get blended together to create an overall elevated, magical moment that is greater than anything any one person could produce.
- Being in control - Autonomy is key in helping us feel flow from the driver’s seat of our sense of self. The more autonomy we have, the more flow we can experience. The best teams have a shared goal, but complete freedom on how to reach it. Understand that your navigation of direction will be different than those around you and that’s ok. Team players know their role and what’s expected of them to operate best.
- Equal participation - members of the team have to be able to contribute equally to the activity at hand. They should have comparable skill levels and complement each other. Think your Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Different skills, but very complimentary of one another, hence why Apple is the company and culture it is today.
- Familiarity - being familiar with each other’s performance style goes a long way in flow. You don’t have to be best friends and complete each other’s sentences, however you should have an understanding of how they perform, especially in the novel situations so you can collectively solve more complex problems.
- Open Communication - the thing our society seems to suck at these days. Your typical conference meeting doesn’t usually produce flow because it lacks the open communication. This is why vulnerability, honesty, and openness should be a fundamental value of a team. The more open you can be, the more flow that is collectively produced.
- Moving it forward - think of improv here, being able to build on the last step and create something a little bit deeper. The brain gets flooded with feel good neurochemicals when we are making forward progress. That’s compounded when we as a team are making progress. Focus on progress and growth, watch what that can do to your performance as a whole.
- Shared risk - the feeling of flow is ten fold when the stage lights are on and it’s time to perform. This really boils down to how well do you harness the stage fright and performance anxiety into a powerful flow state. When there is shared risk on the line, the team is more likely to rise to the occasion. Much like a playoff team fighting off elimination, this why there’s nothing more exciting for flow that a game 7. We can create our own game 7 environment by using shared risk to our advantage.
- Empathy- Gary Vee talks about this as an emotional ingredient of winning businesses in his most recent book, 12 and a Half, for a reason. Our ability to empathize with our teammates allows us to develop a trust that they have our back no matter what. When we fully understand what those around us are going through, we deepen the level of familiarity, we remove our ego, and we feel more comfortable taking on more risks. Empathy is a great accelerator of building familiarity with those around you.
These triggers aren’t exclusive of one another, in fact, the more you mix and match them, the more likely you are to create that unstoppable flow you’re after as a group. You also probably noticed how there is an overlap around a lot of these triggers. Your company culture is a result of your ability to develop your own unique flow recipe with each of these serving as a spice that gets the flavor just right.
Most blogs/articles on leadership give you generic, overplayed, and often corny team building exercises to improve chemistry. We aren’t most blogs. Let’s look at 3 ways we can develop group flow and improve our team’s overall efficiency:
- Raise Your Vibration Hour: once a week, create a social hour that’s one focus is on raising the vibration of your team. What does that look like? It starts with a shared expression of gratitude. Have each member of the team say out loud something they are truly grateful for in that moment (it doesn’t have to be work related). This can be really powerful when Suzzie speaks up and expresses appreciation for how another teammate stepped up to handle her work as she dealt with a family crisis. From gratitude, we shift to an open forum feedback discussion. This is what we mean by an “open door policy,” but employees rarely feel comfortable to take advantage of that. During this discussion, the conversation should be focused on the feedback each employee has received throughout the last week. Giving them the floor to speak into how they feel certain things are going and allowing them the space to clarify what they might not fully understand. Getting on the same page knocks out the shared goals, blending of egos, equal participation, and open communication triggers. Talk about a cascade of flow. If you’re a company, I highly suggest implementing some variation of this raise your vibration hour into your weekly meetings; it’ll be more beneficial to your team’s success than boring them about sales quotas. Trust us.
- Introduce a Question Encouraged Environment: we’ve all heard the saying, “there’s no such thing as a bad question.” Yet somewhere along the way in most companies, questions get labeled bad and employees stop feeling comfortable enough to ask them. There’s a time and place for every question, and while some questions might annoy your teammates when asked in the group setting, you getting clear on where you need to go is priority number one. Leaders in business need to create an environment that encourages questions, and not just from the lower level employees up to management, but the other direction as well. Most riffs on teams are a result of not being on the same page; we would call this a flow blocker (the opposite of what we are seeking). As a leader in your company, step up and ask questions of your employees, especially new employees. You have the opportunity to set the example; if your employees see you asking questions of them, they will be more likely to ask in return. Open communication is a two way street, don’t complain when numbers are down if you never ask your employees how they’re doing. PS: you actually have to care about their answers.
- Creation of boundaries for work flow. Open floor office plans absolutely suck for individual flow. We know complete concentration is needed to be able to achieve any flow what so ever and open floor office plans rarely allow for that. Team meetings should be the time where collaboration and communication happens the most. One of the most helpful, top down boundaries that will encourage better efficiency in your team is creating expectations for email. Odds are, your inbox is flooding from messages of clients, bosses, “important reminders”, and every clothing company you’ve somehow managed to subscribe to (pro tip, use unroll.me to quickly unsubscribe from all those, we got you). Companies, and leaders in particular, need to ditch the unrealistic expectation that everyone should be on their email at all times. Create boundaries that encourage a “F off” flow block period of time that allows your team to get done what it actually needs to get done. Boundaries are what protect our focus and focus drives flow. The clearer we can communicate the boundaries we need to be successful, the more flow triggers above we are able to meet.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where you are, you need to be able to trust the people around you. From your spouse to your coworkers and teammates, the more chemistry that exists there, the more flow you get in your day to day life. At Forever Athlete, we are focused on growing further together, creating group flow experiences that do just that. We have an upcoming Away Game that’s centered on further sharpening these tools discussed above, join us in Austin, Texas from February 10th to 13th to experience in person exactly the impact group flow can have on all areas of your life. If you’re looking for more flow in your every day, come join our Forever Athlete community platform where you can connect with high quality life teammates from all over the world!
It truly pays to have great teammates. Happy Monday my friend, may you catch a $1 million incentive pass from the GOAT this week.