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February 07th, 2012
Many of my clients have recently downsized and are expecting fewer people to do more work. The business world has changed and companies are realizing they need to adopt new behaviours in order to be successful these days. In order to keep up with the demands, companies want more effective teamwork to keep productivity levels high.
I read an article in the Globe and Mail Report on Business. In “There is no shirk in teamwork” article, Wallace Immen describes teamwork and productivity as it relates to personalities on a team. He talks about how the ‘sucker aversion affect’ is a result of one person (a bad apple) not caring about project results or how the very idea of working collaboratively with others can spread quickly amongst a team and erode team productivity.
Wallace discusses how ongoing team peer feedback and rewarding team performance help defuse the negative impact of the sucker aversion affect. This struck a chord with me, as I’ve had personal experience with the the sucker aversion affect in recent team facilitation’s and wanted to share with you the various outcomes.
- With ongoing peer feedback, a bad apple left the company and team results are now soaring.
- Now that a reward structure is team-based rather than individual-based, a CEO recently reported hearing people ‘laugh in the hallways’. Furthermore, relationships are better and individuals are more engaged in their work.
- A team-lead reported that the shift to rewarding team work has resulted in faster execution on projects.
So, I ask all of you. Peak into your boardrooms, are groups working individually on projects and being pulled into the sucker aversion vortex or are people rewarded for team-work and giving on another feedback to short-circuit the bad apples behaviour?
January 12th, 2012
In a recent blog-post, I discussed the importance of creating different types of business meetings to improve team productivity and results. A proper structuring of meetings – some for strategic and other for tactical initiatives – results in individuals having an understanding of meeting expectations, topics for discussion, parties involved, expectations and how to prepare properly. Without agreement and buy-in for proper meeting structures and norms, meetings can start to become very costly time wasters and productivity drainers.
Have you been in a meeting recently wondering why you are there? Have you looked around the room wondering why others are there? If you have, your team is suffering from ineffective meeting structures.
I recently received this email from a client:
I just came out of a meeting that had been set up for five of us to discuss two points in a contract. What could have been a 2-minute discussion between two key players turned into something much longer and more complicated.
Generally, contracts are negotiated by one manager and one employee. Once our lawyer’s consulted, the manager comes to me for final approval on the deal and then relays the deal points to the employee assigned to the contract.
In this case, five people were involved, none of whom had clarity on the results required. To further complicate things, this particular contract was long overdue.
It appears our team is starting to operate as a “decisions by committee”, hence stalling a formerly effective process. I’d like to know why this is happening and what we can do to resolve it.
What can you do if you are in my clients shoes?
Consider the types of meetings your team needs to engage in on a regular basis.
- Daily or Weekly Huddles for quick statements of activity; ie: working on, stuck-points, and recent successes. These short meetings increase shared information and accountability,
- Weekly Meetings between managers and direct reports. Discuss the tactics of the week, focus on expectations and celebrate results,
- Monthly Team Meetings a more robust meeting with the full team discussing strategic initiative results and measures, reporting on tactical initiatives and discussing areas that require full team decision-making,
- Quarterly Strategic Meetings an opportunity to more thoroughly dive into reviewing the strategic initiatives. Leave the tactics behind for this one, stay focused on the big picture by working on the business not in the business.
- Plan who needs to be at each meeting, how long the meeting will be and the agenda items to cover. Then, schedule meetings for the next 90-days. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.
If you need more information on meeting agendas for each one of the meeting types above, please email email@example.com.
May 23rd, 2011
I am often brought in to executive teams which are newly formed or in some sort of stalemate. My job is to help re-birth the team (hence the company name ‘reneevations’).
Setting norms of engagement for improved executive team development and productivity is essential. Once executive teams understand the problem solving stages and key conversations required, they can ignite productivity like never before.
- Identify the Problem/Issue/Challenge
- Gather the Facts
- Brainstorm – search for ALL possible ways
- Develop, then choose a Plan of Action
- Gain/Obtain Commitment from Stakeholders
- Implement the Action Plans
- Evaluate/Revise/Articulate the Learning’s for future use
- Celebrate, Celebrate, Dance to the Music!
Have you been part of a newly formed team? What were the challenges you faced?
Check out next week’s blog to find out more about positive perspectives.
April 19th, 2011
Emotional Intelligence is a critical component for healthy teams and productive meetings.
When working with others, I develop my emotional intelligence by practicing a high level of self-awareness. This came in handy the other day when I was on a conference call with two experts on my team to develop a new, web-based tool.
When I say experts, I mean that each one of these individuals has specific strengths that I do not possess. Therefore, when we are on a conference call, it’s really important that all three of us have acute listening skills. In order to be effective in our collaboration, we need to understand the other person’s position as much as we understand our own.
On this particular day, I was quite stretched. It was late in the afternoon and I could feel a cold coming on. At the 60-minute mark into our call, my concentration ability had flatlined.
Instead of hanging tight, I stated “I am full, I need to end this call because I can no longer listen or take in any of the details that are being discussed…are you willing to continue this conversation in the morning?” I then shared the information about my cold, etc.
The next day, one of my colleagues told me that he really appreciated how I ended the call. He admired my ability to be straightforward and stated that, in the past when he had been in similar situations, he often toughed it out in order to get through the meeting. He now realized the consequences to himself and others in doing that.
When you feel full, make sure you let others know so that you can get back together and have another effective meeting at a later date. With this behaviour, you will raise the bar for meeting engagement on your team.
Have you been in a situation where you zoned out of an important meeting because you were overloaded? What did you do? What did you miss? Or maybe you’ve been able to speak your truth and end a meeting before your brain shut down. How did that feel? How did your colleagues respond? We’d love to hear from you!
April 06th, 2011
Does your email inbox make you smile?
For most people, the answer is a definite and resounding NO. For many people, email management is a stressful, brow-furrowing experience.
It doesn’t have to be. With 5 simple tips, you and your team can work effectively and not frown when you open your email inbox.
1. The Subject Line
As this is the first thing people see when they receive an email from you, let them know what the email is about.
Is it regarding a particular client? An upcoming meeting? An issue in the office?
Instead of “The next meeting for our new client”, try
“KLEENEX: Feb 10th meeting.”
If you deal with a number of different clients like I do, putting the name of the client first in the subject line is very helpful. Right away, I know who it’s about.
2. Set up rules in your email program
- Create folders with client names, meeting dates, proposals, etc. In the settings section of your email program, set up rules that state when a meeting or a proposal or a client comes in, it goes directly to their respective folders. The computer then does all the sorting for you.
- Alternately, you can colour-code your emails. One of my team members knows that the yellow highlighted emails are people she’s waiting to hear back from, while the green highlighted ones are upcoming training and the purple highlighted emails are ones she needs to take action on.
Find a system that works best for you and then stick to it.
3. Talk to your team about TO, CC and BCC
Who’s taking an action/owns a particular task, who’s supporting an action and who’s simply being informed on an action. This is where the TO, CC and BCC field’s are quite handy.
When I receive an email where my name is in the TO field, I know right away that it’s something that I’m responsible for dealing with or taking action on.
However, if I see my name in the CC field, I know that someone else is taking action on that task, but that I am to support that action if needed.
Finally, if my name is listed in the BCC field, I know that I’m simply being kept in the loop and no action is required on my part.
4. This step is a repeat of step 2 – Set up More Rules
Just as you created rules for emails to go to a certain folder when they come in, so you can set up rules for emails where your name is in the TO box to go to a folder you create called TAKE ACTION.
Subsequently, where your name appears in the CC field, you can direct emails to a SUPPORT ACTION folder and for emails where you’re in the BCC field, you can redirect emails to your FYI ONLY folder.
Of course, what you name your folders is up to you, but remember to name them in a manner where you’ll take action appropriately.
5. Talk to your team about PRIORITY, MODERATE PRIORITY and LOW PRIORITY.
What do each of these terms mean to you and your team? How are you supposed to act/respond when you receive an email that’s marked LOW PRIORITY?
What about going one step further?
Instead of “KLEENEX: New Client Addition” (Marked as High Priority), try
“URGENT: KLEENEX: New Client Addition”
Within my team, if I send a message with the word URGENT in the subject line, before the client name, the recipient knows that it’s something that needs to be taken care of in the next few hours.
Defining what Priority/Urgent, Normal/Non Urgent and Low Priority/FYI means to your team will determine how quickly a turnaround you’ll receive on that email. Remember that your URGENT might be someone else’s NON URGENT, so be clear on how you’re defining each level.
If you follow these five simple steps, I promise you that your email inbox will become managable. Will it make you smile? Perhaps not, but you will no longer dread checking your email.
What tips and tricks do you use to make your email inbox bearable?
March 29th, 2011
Are you tired of attending meetings full of people who don’t need to be there, who aren’t up-to-date on the issues at hand, who bring up points that aren’t on the agenda, who show up late or leave early? Perhaps it’s time to hire a meeting fairy.
By facilitating your meetings, the fairy’s job would be to ensure that meetings were short, efficient and effective. S/He would focus on:
- Getting precisely the right people invited, but no others.
- Making the meeting start and end right on time.
- Ensuring that every meeting has a clearly defined purpose, accomplishes that purpose and then ends.
- Welcoming guests appropriately. For example, if you are hosting a special guest/speaker, the fairy makes sure the guest has adequate directions, a place to productively wait before the meeting starts, access to the internet, something to drink, biographies of who else will be in the room and a clear understanding of the goals of the meeting.
- Managing the flow of information, including agendas and presentations. This includes eliminating the last minute running around looking for a VGA cable or a monitor that works. The fairy would make sure that everyone arrived and left with copies of whatever they needed.
- Issuing a follow-up memo to everyone who attended the meeting, clearly delineating who came, what was decided and details about the next productive meeting.
Hiring a meeting fairy means that, initially, it will cost more to get a meeting up and running than it does right now, but how effective are your meetings being run now? Once you get into a regular rhythm of on-time, productive and efficient meetings, the meetings will get shorter, you’ll meet less often and more will get done in the long run.
How much would your meeting fairy be worth?
March 22nd, 2011
If you think your team could do a much better job at getting project results, being accountable and supportive of one another, then I would assume you have yet to establish and agree upon a set of team norms.
Team norms are a set of rules or guidelines that a team establishes to shape the interaction of team members with each other and with employees who are external to the team.
Once developed, team norms are used to guide team member’s behaviour(s) by;
- assessing how well team members are interacting,
- bringing to attention any behaviour that is dysfunctional or that is negatively impacting the success of the team.
It’s important to build team norms together. By gathering agreement from all parties and being clear about what the consequences are if the norms are not upheld, your team becomes accountable for themselves and each other.
Once you’ve recognized that your team needs to create team norms, how do you decide what areas to focus on?
- Focus on 3 areas where your team feels like they’re walking in quicksand.
- Once you’ve chosen your 3 team norms, think about the most effective ways to achieve your ideal scenario
- Lastly, attach a consequence to each team norm as a safety net for how to deal with a situation if the team norms are not being followed.
For example, I recently worked with a team that created key norms for these three areas; accountability, communication and celebration.
Team Norm: ACCOUNTABILITY
- Work out issues face-to-face using communication model (which one)?
- Make sure requests are prioritized
- Make clear when a response/action is needed
Consequence: If repeated communications (e-mail or face-to-face) do not resolve issues, have both parties meet with a manager to try to work things out.
Team Norm: COMMUNICATION
- All communication will be direct, open and honest – no gossip.
- Each team member is responsible for their own communication loop (both listening and speaking).
- In all situations, be respectful and use appropriate tone in both verbal and written communication.
- Hold each other accountable – if you are not getting the required communication, let the other person know.
Consequence: Not adhering to the norm will be dealt with by all of us in a team meeting.
Team Norm: CELEBRATION
- Look for ways to recognize and appreciate the many great things that we do for each other and the company.
- Celebrate our successes on a quarterly basis.
- Focus on building and maintaining personal relationships with each other to help strengthen our team.
Consequence: There is potential for members of the team to become disengaged or unmotivated. We could end up working back in silos, causing isolation to go up while productivity goes down. We miss out on celebration or fun times of team focus.
With effective team norms in place, your team will be able to focus on its purpose and continuously improve and achieve its goals.
Does your team need to establish team norms? What areas would you focus on? If you’ve already created your team norms, we’d love to hear how they’re working.
March 16th, 2011
Individuals need to be highly aware of their own assumptions in order to avoid being blinded by missing key data in conversations with co-workers. A critical element of productive conversation is the ability to assess what you really know from what you think you know.
Each of us needs to continually check-out our assumptions to have crystal clear conversations.
Recently, I met with a top executive of a large organization. He is an extremely busy man or rather, that’s the assumption I made. He announced his desire to stay connected with our team project, then stated it was relatively impossible for him to do that based on his schedule.
I asked him how I could support his ability to stay connected to our project, thinking maybe I could produce a dashboard of progress for him. His response was “Just call my assistant to book a face-to-face appointment with me”.
Okay, now this was not the answer I expected.
When I reflected back to him that he had stated it was “relatively impossible for him to connect based on his schedule”, he shook his head and said “Yes that’s right. I can’t connect with the team during their regular progress meetings, as they conflict with my schedule. But, I have many openings to connect with individuals on the team with face-to face meetings in my office and I wish to do so”.
I had made an assumption based on his title in the organization and his statement that he was point-blank too busy. Had I not inquired more deeply, I would not have had a crystal clear understanding of what he meant.
I was missing some key data! Do you have a similar story of how an assumption almost trumped your productivity? Let me know.
February 22nd, 2011
In my recent blog-post, Team Building Activities, I quoted Duane C. Tway, Jr. with his definition of trust as being “the state of readiness for unguarded interaction with someone or something.”
Wikipedia defines trust as “reliance on another person or entity.”
Tway refers to trust as comprising of three components;
1. The capacity for trusting,
2. The perception of competence, and
3. The perception of intentions.
Let’s break this down…
1. The capacity for trusting evolves from an individual’s life experiences, knowledge and judgement. This then promotes or erodes their ability and willingness to risk trusting others.
2. The perception of competence originates from an individual’s perception of their ability, and that of their co-workers, to adequately perform the task at hand.
3. The perception of intentions is an individual’s view-point that actions, words, behaviours or decisions are motivated by mutually-serving the team rather than self-serving.
Keeping these components of trust in mind, where is your team successful and where are they falling short?
February 13th, 2011
Team building activities create trust.
Trust generates effective communication, employee retention, employee motivation and, at the end of the day, team results.
Team results motivate people to voluntarily invest in their work.
When trust exists in an organization or in a relationship, almost everything else is easier and more comfortable to achieve.
Trust is “the state of readiness for unguarded interaction with someone or something.” – Duane C. Tway, Jr.
I recently met with one of my clients in their office boardroom. When the meeting was finished, we opened the door into the open office area and were both delighted to see a bowl of fresh blueberries, some chocolate pastries, an assortment of dark and milk chocolate pieces and a bottle of sparkling wine.
Without hesitation, my client exclaimed, “Oh tea-time, you must stay!”
Thursday afternoons was “tea-time”, which is a ritual this company created to build trust within their organization. Each week, a different employee hosts.
I was amazed to see everyone in the office drop what they were doing and gather around the table of delicacies. For the next 20-minutes, tension melted away as co-workers shared their stories and wins for the day. A true, unguarded interaction for all.
What does your organization do to build more effective communication, employee retention, employee motivation and team results? Whether it’s tea-time on Thursdays or pizza lunch on Fridays, count me in!