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Building Great Teams: A Q&A with Richard Kasperowski

Richard Kasperowski is the guest speaker at our next COHAA event (2/23). He is an author, speaker, trainer and coach, and he teaches a class on Agile at Harvard. I interviewed him over e-mail this week, and this is what he said:

You are the guest speaker at out next COHAA evening event, what are some things you will be sharing?

Hi, Joe! I’ll be talking about high-performance innovative work teams and how to get your team there on purpose. I’ll start by introducing the science and research behind high-performance teams. The research includes Google’s work with psychological safety, as well as other important work on team emotional intelligence. From there, we’ll do practical hands-on activities to learn some of the Core Protocols. We’ll practice a few of the behavior patterns that high-performance teams use. We’ll experience how they get your team into a state of high emotional intelligence and psychological safety, which causes high performance.

Who should come to this event?

Everyone should come to this event. Everyone is a member of a team of some kind—any group of two or more people with a shared goal is a team. It might be you and your partner, or you and your family, or you and the people you work with. Every group of people deserves to know how to be their best, and that’s what we’ll talk about.

What do you hope people will take away from this event?

I want people to appreciate the science and research on high-performance teams and know that it’s all about safety and emotional intelligence. And I want them to get a taste of the practical skills for getting to high performance quickly and on purpose.

How do you know if you have a low-performance team?

Well, we usually know in our gut when we’re on a low-performing team. It doesn’t feel good. The people on the team act like they’re not friends, they act in ways that are at odds with each other and their stated goal.

And they’ll have measurably low performance. When we work with teams in industry, we measure their performance. The best team performance metrics are objective, and they measure outcomes like revenue. If you have objective metrics, it’s easy for a team to gauge their performance. They can use that information to guide whatever changes they want to make for themselves.

Where have you seen low-performance teams transformed by applying your principles?

We’ve begun an original research program to test whether these principles are effective. Steven Wolff and I are collaborating on the research. Steve is co-author of the Harvard Business Review article on team emotional intelligence. In one of our studies, we track a group of teams over a six-month period. The teams and their leaders undergo training and coaching in agility and emotional intelligence. We observed significant improvements over the duration of the study—improvements in team emotional intelligence, agile fluency, and performance. It’s quite remarkable!

How long have you been in the industry and what positions have you held over the course of your career?

I’ve been working with innovative technology companies for almost 30 years. The companies range from tiny start-ups to some of the largest companies in the world. I’ve played pretty much every technical role as well as in various leadership roles. These days, I work primarily as a speaker, trainer, and coach, and I teach Agile at Harvard University’s summer and extension programs.

What’s an experience you had with a low-performance team? What have been some of you best team experiences? What made it good?

I typically work with lower performing teams that want to improve. The teams and their leaders are willing to study and practice ideas like the Core Protocols and Agile. It’s great to watch them transform from low performers to high performers. When they’re in that state of high performance, they can get anything done. They love each other, they love their work, they love their customers, and their customers love them. It’s awesome!

You have a book out titled The Core Protocols: A Guide to Greatness, tell us about it.

The book is a concise introduction to the Core Protocols. The Core Protocols are the work of Jim and Michele McCarthy. I’ve combined their material with the instructions for a short workshop that you can use to introduce your team to practical emotional intelligence skills that you need for high performance.

What led you to write this book?

I wanted a book that I could hand to a friend or a client. I wanted something you can keep in your back pocket as a reference on the Core Protocols, the behavior patterns for high-performance teams. It didn’t exist, so I created it. And I have another book in the works. Now that we have research results and a couple of years of practical experience guiding teams through these practices, we’ll be sharing that in an upcoming book.

What else would you like to say about your upcoming event?

I’m grateful to the folks at Central Ohio Agile for inviting me to visit this week. I’m excited to make some new friends and share with them the best of what we know about high-performance teams. And be on the lookout for a full-day class in Columbus on this material. If you want a high-performance innovative team, you’ll want to be there!