team development posts
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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?
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.
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?
November 03rd, 2010
Multi-tasking executives are constantly trying to find new methods for email time management. With statistics like the following, it’s easy to see why:
“A 2008 survey at Intel showed employees receive 350 emails per week on average; at Morgan Stanley, employees get 625 new messages per week. Executives’ incoming email volume was much higher. In some cases, workers spent 20 hours a week just dealing with email.” (Gina Trapani, “Work Smart: Conquering Your Email Inbox”)
Working with teams, I often hear firsthand the stress that email overload places on productivity. Most often, this is a sign that “team email norms” have not been articulated, agreed upon–or worse–are not being implemented.
If your team is overwhelmed with a tsunami of emails, it’s time to get a grip. Improve email time management in your organization by creating personal and team email norms:
Step 1: Schedule a Meeting to Create Team Email Norms
With post-it notes and a flip-chart, brainstorm ideas on how to increase email management effectiveness. Ideas could include:
- Agreements regarding email responses
(see my email management post, “Don’t Throw Your Junk on My Desk”)
- How to use TO:, CC: and BCC
(see: “Email Noise? Create Team Email Norms“)
- Ways to write an effective subject line
Step 2: Prioritize 2-3 Email Management Norms
Once all ideas are spoken and posted, ask each individual to place a dot on their top two ideas. This allows each team member to vote, buy-in, and agree upon the need for email norms to be implemented. Take the two ideas with the most amount of dots and implement them as your new team email management norms.
Step 3: Implement a Two-Week Team Email Trial
It’s important to try out the email norms for a defined period of time and then review how effective the changes have been for team productivity. Schedule a second meeting to alter anything that’s not working and to recommit to norms that are working.
Once you’ve got your team email norms in place, consider your own personal email time management techniques. My recent post, The Secret to Email Productivity for Executives, outlines an email time management technique I practice myself.
Every now and then, I need a reminder to increase my ongoing commitment to managing my email. I’m a huge fan of Gina Trapani, who has the same theory on email management as I do. Sometimes it’s helpful to hear the same message from someone else. I encourage you to take a few minutes to watch her most recent video posted on Fastcompany’s site, Conquering Your Email Inbox:
I hope these tips help you overcome your email management issues. How have you managed to get your email under control? If you’ve tried any of the above tips, how has it worked or not worked for you? We’d love to hear from you!
November 02nd, 2010
Have you ever led a meeting where one of your team members sat slumped in their chair, arms crossed, and not said a word for the duration?
Often we hire individuals to be members of our team because they have a particular skill set. A VP of Marketing, for example, can be highly committed and competent when designing consistent marketing messages… BUT not be committed nor competent when collaborating during a team meeting.
This is a problem.
All members need to be fully engaged in order for meetings to operate effectively. So how do we use our leadership communication skills to provide direction and support for apathetic team members?
Holding a meeting “check-in” is the first vital step. A check-in encourages team members to effectively solve problems, make decisions, get results, and even celebrate successes. And it’s also an effective way to reach out to disengaged team members. (Read my post on using the check-in to increase team productivity.)
As a facilitator, I am often brought in to be the interim leader of a meeting to work towards developing a more effective leadership communication style. Here’s how I use a check-in to that end:
- I clearly illustrate what a check-in includes: “Please tell us what you are working on, how heavy your current project load is, what your “stuck-points” are, and whatever else you think we need to know.”
- When the response is a reluctant two-word sentence, I direct the uncommunicative team member to “say more.” Once the team member is asked to explain more about their project load, I notice that their arms are no longer crossed, and that they are formulating five- to six-word sentences.
- I spend some time with the uncommunicative team member describing how the check-in can help increase team productivity. Once they understand that communicating during team meetings is an important part of their job, they usually become more forthright.
Although you might notice greater engagement during the first check-in you conduct, remember that building effective communication skills is a process. Over time, check-ins usually begin to occur without leadership prompts.
As leaders and peers of team meetings, we need to stand up for effective communication. If there is an individual on our team who is disengaged, we need to use our own leadership communication skills and cross-lead to increase competence.
Do your team meetings involve check-ins? How have you used your leadership skills to engage uncommunicative team members?
October 18th, 2010
Often when I am working with senior leadership teams, it becomes evident that team results are sliding or faltering as a result of the CEO’s task saturation.
Task saturation typically occurs when team members are overloaded with information or they fail to adequately prioritize. When this happens the mind tends to use one of the following coping mechanisms to stabilize the situation: quit, compartmentalize, or channelize.
The result is unnecessary time-sharing between important and unimportant tasks.
CEO task saturation can easily be overlooked. Team members often see their leader as infallible, so it can be difficult for them to pinpoint when behaviours affecting the productivity of the team are coming from their leader. Sometimes senior leadership team members are simply unaware of what task saturation looks like.
Before executive teams can deal with task saturation, they first need to be able to identify the tell-tale signs. Here are three scenarios that illustrate what a task-saturated CEO might look like in your organization:
This CEO came to meetings ready to interact with his senior leadership team, but he was not able to provide feedback or guidance on new projects. He was so focused on the fact that Project A wasn’t done, that he couldn’t offer support for projects B, C, and D. By focusing on just one project, CEO Jones was dealing with information overload by channelizing.
This CEO came to meetings with glazed eyes, shoulders hunched over his hot cup of coffee. He was often seen walking around the room straightening the frames of the boardroom artwork in the midst of a VP’s presentation. John was dealing with a personal issue that caused him to shut down or quit at work.It wasn’t until one VP took charge and called a meeting with the other senior leadership team members that a temporary solution was reached. The team decided to step up their own game and fill in the missing leadership in order to give John the time and space needed to deal with his personal crisis.
CEO Jane arrived at senior leadership team meetings with file folders, and charts and graphs of the company’s progress. But she was more focused on reporting on measurements than collaborating with her own team. Jane was compartmentalizing one task with another to the point that even she was not aware of what still needed to get done.
It’s just as important to be aware of the important inputs and cues of task saturation in your CEO as it is in your fellow team members. Safeguarding company productivity and team progress depends on it.
Have you been in a similar situation? How did you deal with it?
* Names have been changed.
September 23rd, 2010
Wikipedia states that Silos are used in agriculture to store grain or fermented feed known as silage.
Are you fermenting your team’s business knowledge in your own wee silo?
As my neighbour’s children run around their backyard chanting this favourite tune; “I am the King of the Castle, you’re the dirty rascal”, I am reminded of one leaders’ “aha” moment about “silos” in a recent leadership team meeting.
In business, silos can be created by an individual, a team or an operating division/department. Silos, within business, are characterized by holding on, controlling or turf protecting which become synonymous with power struggles, lack of cooperation and loss of productivity.
In this recent leadership team meeting, Rory* commented that he often had difficulties being productive because he judged his fellow leadership team-members as working in silos. He felt that each member focused on their own tactical projects, but didn’t take the time to support their fellow team members on common initiatives.
For the following monthly meeting with this leadership team, I introduced our ‘feedback matrix’ competency. The feedback matrix teaches members about and offers the opportunity to practice how to give one another corrective and directive feedback.
I asked each member of the team to make two statements to each of their co-workers. The statements were;
- “Working with you, one of the difficulties that I have is…”, and
- “Working with you, one of the appreciations I have is…”.
The greater the number of team members, the greater amount of feedback each person receives. It is very useful for each member to note any repetitive feedback they receive from their co-workers.
In his group of ten colleagues, Rory learned, from many, that his co-workers rarely knew what he was working on. They commented that their personal interpretation was that Rory was not sharing information about his project because he assumed they were too busy to hear from him. They stated that they often learned about a projects’ tasks far too late to offer Rory any support or resources.
With his jaw on the boardroom table, Rory realized the company did not have operating silo’s but rather that he had created his own silo.
Once Rory became aware of his own behaviours that lead to creating his own departmental silo, he was able to take the necessary steps to overcome those behaviours. He began by connecting with co-workers more often, sharing current tasks and reporting on project progress.
In leadership meetings, Rory started to experience many leadership team benefits; improved team relationships, higher productivity, better use of resources and personally feeling more effective and engaged.
The feedback matrix helped Rory increase his own awareness and responsibility of creating his own silo. He is no longer fermenting important team knowledge.
What silos are you stuck in?
*Name has been changed.
December 24th, 2009
With 2010 right around the corner, executive leadership teams and entrepreneurs pull up their sleeves to renew their vision for the future. In order to engage your teams and create increased buy-in and alignment, consider a meeting with the sole purpose to ‘reflect and renew’. Break out the post-it notes and sharpie pens and ask team members to brainstorm on the following questions.
THE BIG PICTURE – Reflecting on the Last Year
- What successful strategic decisions did we make? And how did I measure success? eg. $ or non-financial reward?
- What strategic decisions did we make that were not successful? And why?
- What strategic move did we make that surprised me with its outcome? eg. professional ease, profit, customer experience?
- What strategic decisions do we need to consider going into this upcoming year?
- What strategic decision am I holding back from making? Why?
THE BIG PICTURE – Looking Inward. Looking Forward.
- What do I want to continue doing in our business?
- What do I want to stop doing in our business?
- How am I holding the development/growth of our business back?
- How am I promoting the development/growth of our business?
- What is one personal bad habit that I have that I need to stop?
- A year from now – what will our business look like?
Let me know how it goes! All the best in 2010 to you and your teams.
October 06th, 2009
I’d like to share a story that doesn’t have a happy ending. It’s a story about what happens when a high-functioning executive team with well-defined roles, strengths, and dynamics suddenly loses a member and fails to adjust. If you’re a CEO or senior executive, don’t let this happen in your organization.
I recently worked with a company that had offices across Canada and an executive management team that had been together for over 10 years. They communicated well, were willing to give direct and corrective feedback, shared an understanding of the strategic and tactical goals of the company, and reviewed their metrics with regular monthly strategic meetings.
The company was lead by a female CEO, whose father had passed the company to her 10 years prior. She had stepped into the role with no previous experience and decided to bring in outside resources to establish norms of effective teaming, help the team articulate the strategic plan and understand how to review it on a regular basis. (This is where I came in – facilitating the annual strategic planning process and monthly management meetings.)
She had a consensus building leadership style; she put issues on the table for discussion with her trusted team and then, if necessary made the final decision after weighing all of the viewpoints. A key role at the table and, definitely her primary strength.
As profits soared and the executive management team dynamic flowed effortlessly, she decided to have her first child. I was excited to see how this team would now step up and take on strategic and tactical decisions in her absence. What a possibility for the team to grow to new heights, to function with a deeper level of commitment. It’s interesting how her decision to have a child, could also birth the next level of possibility within her executive team.
Before she left, this CEO needed to pass her authority to another member of the team, but, unfortunately, she didn’t let go of her role. She chose not to do so. Instead she simply left to have her child. She assumed the team would continue to function in her absence.
Instead the team floundered because a primary leadership strength – building consensus and making the final decision was no longer at the table. Not one of the executives had the ability to make final decisions when needed. Their once dynamic meetings became meetings of discussion after discussion without decision making and actions of how to move forward.
I sometimes wonder whether this CEO recognized her primary strength and role on this team. Why didn’t she assign responsibility for decision making while she was gone? Was she paralyzed with fear that the executive team would function in a different way in her absence. making it difficult for her to find her place on the team when she returned? Watching the team flounder was extremely difficult – I was saddened by the lost opportunity for the CEO to birth both a child and a more highly functioning team.
September 24th, 2009
When I’m working with teams to improve communication, the issue of email generally produces stressed faces, furrowed brows, and sweaty foreheads. It’s astounding how depressing and chaotic our inboxes have become. But it doesn’t need to be that way.
When I sense stress around the issue of email communication, I ask teams “Have you ever sat down together to discuss how you will send and receive messages to one another?”. Most teams respond with a clear “No, we haven’t done that and we don’t have a clue of how to start that type of conversation.” Fortunately, it’s not a difficult conversation to start.
We just roll up our sleeves and discuss these issues:
1. Subject lines norms– Create agreements within your team regarding what goes in subject lines. For example, if the message concerns a client, start the subject with that client’s name – that simple step will help recipients identify the purpose of the message and effectively catalog it.
2. Set up mailbox rules - Set up rules and filters to organize your inbox. (See my Tuesday post for more on rules and sorting.)
3. Establish team norms around who’s taking an action, who is supporting an action who is to be informed on an action. The team should clearly identify an owner’ to respond and handle the issue.
- TO: if I ‘own’ a particular task and somebody wants to send me an email notifying me of an action that I need to take, my name will be in the TO: area. I will immediately know that I am responsible for taking action.
- CC: means that I am “supporting” someone else’s action and,
- BCC: means that all I need to be is keep myself “informed”.
4. More Rules Emails that have my name is in the TO: area – those emails can be sorted as action emails. Really really helpful!!
5. Discuss the use of high priority, moderate priority and low priority.
If you set aside to have these types of email norm conversations, you’ll help your team become more productive and save them from inbox stress!