Building a Collaborative, High Performing Culture

Interview with Jill Sansone and Jill Semegran

Q: What problem were you working to solve for the client?  What was the burning platform?

A major medical center was in the midst of a high profile, multi-million dollar implementation of an electronic record management software system for the entire enterprise. To achieve this end, the project would need a brand new team with varied professional backgrounds – IT, Operations, and Clinical Services. This new team was now working together for the first time on this extremely critical effort for the center. The team members were all high performers and were hand-picked for this very important, high profile initiative. The objective was to quickly take the team from the ‘forming’ and ‘transitioning’ stages and build a high performing culture that was both collaborative and innovative.

This team was now forming amid pressures of tight timetables and heavy workloads.  Some team members were beginning to voice concerns that they were not getting clear direction, coaching or feedback from their supervisors to meet the team goals and objectives.  Others were beginning to feel that the organization was not structured correctly to meet the project’s technical requirements efficiently.

Q: How did you approach the work?

In order to uncover issues, we conducted focus groups with small groups of individuals. The focus group environment was one in which participants could freely express their concerns and opinions. These focus groups allowed us to conduct a needs assessment in an unstructured way, where we were able to gather qualitatively rich data and study nonverbal communications.  Ultimately, we were able to explore, analyze and prioritize issues in order to develop recommendations and next steps. One of our immediate recommendations were workshops focused on Situational Leadership. These Situational Leadership Workshops were conducted with Directors and Managers. The purpose was to help them analyze the development level, strengths, and challenges of their direct reports. In turn, these Directors and Managers would be able to identify the most effective and efficient coaching strategies to get the best results from their people. 

Q: What was the biggest ‘aha’ you had during this project? 

If you want to achieve a high performing culture, you need high performers. High performers, just like all employees, continually need to be reminded of and practice fundamental management skills. Communication, coaching, and providing feedback are critical ingredients needed on any project, whether small, large, or technical in nature.

Just because you have a team of stars doesn’t mean you can ignore coaching and feedback.  Kenneth Blanchard references that coaching and feedback are the breakfast of champions. And that breakfast has two food groups. Specific feedback and strategic feedback which are keys to success.

Q: How do you know the work had impact?

As expected with any behavior change, there was a lot of emotion and some resistance in the workshops.  There was one comment, in particular, that sticks out: “This is all good in theory, but in the real world…….”  A comment like that one illustrates that you are striking a nerve or hitting on something that needs to be addressed.  Resistance often times signals engagement. It was beneficial to facilitate a dialogue about the possibilities within their environment, including discussing the barriers, struggles, and most importantly, what they could do about it to bring change.  

Meet Jodi Sansone
Meet Jill Semegran