management Team building

Check your team’s pulse

Imagine yourself as the sparkling new manager of a team, like any good manager, you listen attentively, trying to learn anything and everything there is to know about your team.

You set up one on one meetings, embed yourself in your team’s processes, and get to know all stakeholders personally.

All great initial steps for your first 90 days, but is that enough? can we determine if there is trust within your team? do you know if they have all the tools they need? can you figure this out consistently? Can you devise a team-building strategy?

Next, I’ll introduce a consistent, simple, and proven technique to get a good hold of your team’s pulse, allowing you to plan accordingly to meet your team’s needs and expectations.

Introducing – the survey

Surveys have been around for a while, and they tend to stick around because they are excellent tools to gather information consistently, allowing for anonymity when desired, and being useful to visualize changes over time by running the same survey at given time intervals.

The surveys I am about to present came from different sources.

I used books such as

As well as my own experiences in various managerial roles.

I aimed to get a pulse at the company level, drilling down to the team level, and lastly to the individual, which resulted in 3 different surveys being created.

Workplace survey

The first survey covers the state of the workplace.

12 questions should be studied in blocks of 3 questions at a time.

Each 3 question block is meant to build on the following 3 questions, in other words, if we find that we are doing bad on any 3 question block, the earliest block is the one we need to concentrate our efforts before we try to fix any of the subsequent blocks.

Think of each set of 3 questions as a step in a pyramid, with the first step being the base for everything else.

Company basics

The first set of questions will surface if your team knows what they are supposed to do, have been given the materials they need, and if they are working on what they enjoy.

All statements receive a rank from 1 to 5, where 5 denotes strong agreement with the statement

  • I know what is expected of me at work
  • I have the materials and equipment to do my work right
  • At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day

Care for the individual

We now move from the basics to the individual. We want to know if we are caring enough that it is noticeable. People don’t stay at jobs where they don’t feel appreciated.

  • In the last 7 days, I have received recognition or praise for a job well done
  • My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person
  • There is someone at work who encourages my development


While the prior questions focused on a top-down view of the individual, this set of questions try to get the story of how the individual perceives their contributions are being received, as well their alignment with the company’s mission.

  • At work, my opinions seem to count
  • The mission and purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important
  • My associates are committed to doing quality work

Personal growth

The last set of questions is about growing as a person. Understanding that maturing with us is a winning proposition for everyone.

  • I have a best friend at work
  • In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress
  • This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow

Team survey

Our team survey is mostly based on the 5 dysfunctions of a team, and similar to the workplace survey, we group the questions in such a way that we can get answers to very specific needs.

We are ranking statements from 1 to 5 as well, with 5 determining strong agreement.

Absence of trust

Trust leads to excellent teamwork, open communication, and probably more important, actually looking forward to working with your team.

The statements to surface absence of trust are as follows

  • Team members quickly apologize when they do something damaging to the team
  • Team members openly admit their weakness and mistakes
  • Team members know about one another personal lives and are comfortable discussing them

Fear of conflict

This section is all about ensuring that we don’t ignore controversial topics, that all opinions and perspectives are heard, and that no time is wasted in interpersonal risk management (appearing to be something we are not)

  • Team members are passionate and unguarded in their discussion of issues
  • Team meetings are compelling and not boring
  • During team meetings, the most important, and difficult, issues are put on the table and resolved

Lack of commitment

Not suffering from lack of commitment means that we have clarity around the direction and priorities for the team.

As well as being aligned around a common objective and having the ability to change direction without hesitation or guilt.

  • Team members know what their peers are working on and how they contribute to the collective of the team
  • Team members leave meetings confident that their peers are completely committed to the decision that was agreed on, even if there was initial disagreement
  • Team members end discussions with clear and specific resolutions and calls to action

Avoidance of accountability

Accountability aims to improve performance. Peer pressure, while not politically correct, maintains a high standard of performance for any team.

If your team suffers from avoidance of accountability, some proven techniques include increasing pair programming efforts, surfacing goals and standards, and constantly reviewing your progress against them.

  • Team members call out one another deficiencies or unproductive behaviors
  • Team members are deeply concerned about the prospect of letting down their peers
  • Team members challenge one another about their plans and approaches

Inattention to results

When we care about something other than the collective goals of the group, it becomes very difficult to show meaningful results.

We must be careful about what a celebration looks like, think about the reasons for Wikipedia to be so successful. It has nothing to do with money or status, and everything to do with buy-in and passion for knowledge.

With that said, if your team suffers from inattention to results, some proven techniques include committing publicly to specific results and celebrating your achievements.

  • Team members willingly make sacrifices (such as taking on support) for the good of the team
  • Morale is significantly affected by the failure to achieve team goals
  • Team members are slow to seek credit for their contributions but quick to point out those of others

Individual autonomy survey

The individual survey is all about autonomy.

Using Carrots and sticks to influence behavior has been very effective to get performance gains on work that already has a predetermined solution.

Think of work that you could put in a to-do list, and requires mostly effort, and not thinking, to complete it.

In other words, when the solution is known and we just have to implement it, carrots and sticks work extremely well.

Carrots and sticks, however, has been proven to decrease performance on any type of work that requires any amount of thinking and creativity

A good presentation on the subject can be watched here

How do you achieve performance, results, and keep people happy if rewards and punishment are ineffective?

You allow for autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

The prior surveys already touched on mastery and purpose, so I am concentrating on knowing how much autonomy the team has to perform their work.

  • How much autonomy do you have over your tasks
  • How much autonomy do you have over your time
  • How much autonomy do you have over who you work with
  • How much autonomy do you have over your technique

To close up on autonomy, an easy way to think about it is

do not micromanage and lead with questions.

Icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com