Blog 6. Unproductive Teams


A new team often wonders how it should proceed. Longstanding teams can lose focus or sense of purpose.

A simple technique gets the team to inspire itself to high performance. Once a facilitator from outside the team gains the team’s respect and trust, the facilitator asks about the team about the importance of what they are doing. The facilitator lists answers so everyone can see.

When the team feels complete, the facilitator makes a fresh list and goes through the first list item by item, asking its importance. At the end, the team will state their purpose or the facilitator will express a sense that they are saying/meaning/suggesting X.

The team feels revitalized, wanting to give high performance. Because they feel they inspired themselves the facilitator doesn’t need to return.

For example, the government cut back re-imbursement to a nonprofit, Abilities United in Palo Alto, CA. The managers of its service departments and programs, largely trained in social work and education, needed to explore new approaches.

We used the iterative questions as above. By the end of an hour, the managers inspired themselves to make plans for fee-for-service activities for each program. Abilities United soon improved its financial stability.

I was twice assigned to help failing Toastmasters clubs. Once we had mutual rapport and trust, each club spent an hour working with the iterative technique. Each club inspired itself. They succeeded. I never had to come back. To this day each club continues to flourish.

On the other hand, my wife and I mentored a new club. What we did worked, but we had not yet learned the importance of motivating–to-inspire and didn’t suggest it. The club faded away a year later.

Illustrations in my blogs are either my own drawings or courtesy of 

Contact me at 650-762-6755 or for more information or to start a conversation.

Pieter Kark, MD, San Mateo, CA 94401-2238


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