Improving teamwork is like training a puppy.

Every morning, while settling in for my meditation with muse, a female voice introduces the challenges of training your mind:

“Training your mind is like training a puppy. You sit the puppy down and tell it to stay.

But eventually, it runs away

Then you kindly and gently sit it down and tell it to stay again.

But then, of course, it runs away again.

You know it is going to take a while to train the puppy, so you don’t worry about it too much.

You just keep repeating the exercise. Getting angry at the puppy isn’t going to get you anywhere.”

This introduction always brings a smile to my face. In my mind I see a Labrador puppy bouncing off within a second of being told to stay, chasing a butterfly or anything else that caught its attention. Indeed, training a puppy is a challenge and requires a lot of patience.

Interestingly enough, when interacting with colleagues, we seem to forget that changing behaviour is difficult, requires time and support. For example, how often do we expect team members to change their behaviour instantaneously, once confronted with their unproductive behaviour or after attending a training?

Changing behaviour is a complex and often challenging process. The insights and learnings that have been gained through feedback, during training or a team coaching session need to be processed and internalised in order to create behaviour change that eventually produces desired results. Support, encouragement and a safe learning environment are paramount for successful behaviour adaptation.  

When developing your team keep in mind the analogy with training a puppy

Every team member has committed himself to the mutually agreed upon team rules and goals

But eventually, team members fall back into old habits

So the team members kindly and gently give feedback and remind each other of the team rules and goals.

But then, of course, some team members will fall back into old habits again

All team members know how hard it is to change behaviour so they don’t worry about it too much. Getting angry at each other won’t get them anywhere.

They just keep supporting each other to improve collaboration.

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