10 Things to Do When Your Team's Not Listening

Her call touched me deeply. She was trying so hard…to establish the right vision, to key in on the important behaviors, to scaffold and develop…and her team just wasn’t listening.

Perhaps you’ve been there too. You’ve got vision. You care deeply. You teach. You repeat yourself. But no one seems to “get it”?

Here are ten questions worth asking when you hit that wall–when your team is just not listening. Note this is a preview of Winning Well Insights from our new book. You can download the first few chapters for free here).

1- Do you say it in different ways?
People learn differently—some by seeing things, some by hearing, some through practice, and so on. As you practice communicating frequently, use different techniques. Try our Winning Well 6×3 communication strategy: repeat critical information at least six times through three or more channels. For example, to communicate a new procedure, you might use email, a staff meeting, and one-on-one meetings for your three channels.

2- Do you say it often enough?
We have worked with so many frustrated leaders who complain that their team is insubordinate or unresponsive. When asked if they communicated the issue to their team, they say “yes.” Here are a few of the answers we got when we asked, When was the last time you communicated the issue?
“Last year.”
“At that off-site the year before last.”
“We were in the hallway six months ago.”
“At the staff meeting last month.”
“In an email.”

If you’ve communicated something once, you haven’t communicated. Managers who win well communicate frequently.

3- Do you check for understanding?
An idea is rarely as clear to the listener as it is to the speaker. Ask your listeners what they heard, what they understood you to be asking, and what they understand the consequences to be.

4- Have you explained the “whys”?
Even military briefings include the reasons and objectives behind the orders. Sometimes people’s lack of response results from not understanding the consequences of their action or inaction.

5- Are you ordering or inviting?
Invitation is the language of collaboration. We don’t mean the literal phrasing of the words (although that can make a difference too), so much as the attitude behind them. People know when you focus on relationships along with results. Do you communicate that you’re better than everyone else and they should serve you? Or do you invite people with mutual dignity to participate with you?

6- Do  you know what matters to them?
Everyone values something. If the values you promote conflict with your people’s values, you’ll have trouble being heard.

7- Do you have credibility?
If your team can say, “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” and they have evidence to back up their conclusion, expect to be ignored. Credibility is built, not demanded. If you don’t know what you’re doing in a certain arena, admit it and seek out others with the expertise to supplement what you do know. When your people can’t trust you or rely on you, but you insist on compliance, you fight an uphill battle you cannot win in the long run.

8- Do you listen?
If you don’t hear what people tell you, they’ll naturally think you don’t care, they’ll lose heart, and they will stop caring. To learn whether or not you’re hearing people, ask a few team members to share with you: “Is there anything you’ve been trying to tell me that I’m just not hearing?” Be quiet and listen. Thank them for sharing, and respond in time. You don’t have to agree, but you do need to hear. It takes both internal values of confidence and humility to truly listen without defending yourself. When you listen, you strengthen the connection with your people and learn what areas of training, execution, and accountability need attention.

9- Do you speak their language?
Do the words and concepts you use mean the same thing to your team that they mean to you? Do you share numbers and facts when stories and demonstrations are needed—or vice versa?

10- What do you really want?
Whenever you have management challenges, the first thing to examine is your own motivation. Are you truly focused on results and relationships, or are other self-protecting or self motivations creeping in? There’s a big difference between wanting what’s best for the team and wanting what’s best for you. So what is it you really want? If the answer is submission—“I know what’s best, and they’d better listen to me”—then you won’t ever have a team that wins well. They will act out of fear when they have to and ignore you when they feel it’s safe. When you want more—for the group to succeed together, to make an impact—you’re on your way to Winning Well

If you feel as if no one’s listening, ask yourself these ten questions, be honest with yourself, and take action in response to your answers. Winning Well managers master these challenging communication moments.

Want to learn more about Winning Well? You can see our book trailer, and download the first few chapters for free by clicking here. 

What's the Real Problem?

Have you ever had a leak, repaired it, only to find the drip, drip, drip showing up someplace else? Or have you recognized a familiar employee engagement problem, and breathed an immediate, “Oh, I’ve seen this movie before” sigh of relief and began to apply your time-tested know-how, only to realize the sequel was far different from the original?

When Sebastian was little, our dining room chandelier started leaking. It didn’t take us long to realize the drip was related to the tub on the floor above. We caulked. We tightened up the faucets. The problem seemed to stop, until one day, it didn’t, and the water dripped down right into our lasagna. This time, the water all over the bathroom floor gave it away. Our leaky lighting was a result of over zealous bath-time fun. A quick conversation on bathing etiquette, and we never had the problem again.

So the other day when the recessed lighting in my new home office started to weep, I knew just what to do. “Sebastian, stop it!” “But Mom…. “of course he was right. As it turns out, the builders had missed an important piping connection.

Getting to the Root Cause of the Problem

What people bring to you is likely a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself. Pause. Get curious. Ask questions. Get the relevant facts. Here are three specific questions you can ask to help identify the real problem and not waste valuable time addressing symptoms:

1. What is different from what you expected?
In The Rational Manager, Charles Kepner and Benjamin Trego identify a problem as “a deviation from some standard of performance.” Simply put, what didn’t go the way you expected?

2. What has not changed?
This is a critical step that most managers skip altogether. When you identify a problem, it is helpful to know what has not changed. This helps eliminate issues that needn’t concern you.

3. Have I faced a similar issue before?

What’s the same? What’s different about this scene?

4. Why? Why? Why?
Once you’ve limited the problem to what it is and what it is not, look for causes by asking, “Why?” You will often have to ask several times.

You can waste incredible amounts of time in vain attempts to solve the wrong problem. Managers who win well don’t leap in with solutions right away. When they are presented with a problem, they pause, ask questions, and work to identify the real issue.

Winning Well Pre-Order Bonus

Winning Well-3DFor every copy of Winning Well that you pre-order, David Dye and I will send you a free custom-signed bookplate with your requested message.

Simply order Winning Well from your favorite bookstore (eg Amazon) or CEO Reads for bulk orders, then go to www.WinningWellBook.com. Click on THE BOOK, then on CUSTOMIZE YOUR BOOK, and submit your message in the form. When the book ships, we’ll send you a custom, hand-signed,adhesive bookplate that you can put inside the front cover.

Even better, there is no limit to the number of bookplates you may get. Get an affordable, customized resource for yourself and for all the managers in your life!

You're Busy, But Are You Productive?

I see them in every organization I work with–the super-busy, really stressed manager who gets in early, stays late, eats lunch at their desk, and still can’t get it all done. Sadly they’re also often resentful that their performance doesn’t warrant an “exceptional” rating or a promotion. They lament: “Can’t they see how hard I’m working? I’m sacrificing everything for this job.” The problem is not lack of effort, it’s effectiveness. Often this stems from letting other people set your agenda and spending too much time on tasks that add little value.

This week, I was interviewed for the terrific post by Kelsey Manning in the Levo League:  11 Differences Between Busy People and Productive People. It’s so timely for our LGL Accelerator week, that I’ve shared an exerpt here. I loved all 11 tips.

The Difference Between Busy and Productive

1. Productive people view productivity differently.

Get rid of that checklist mentality, stat. “Busy people concentrate on the task completion aspect of duties and responsibilities—maintaining a ‘checklist’ focus—while others embrace a broader perspective of contributions that measurably contribute to the higher strategic objectives of the organization, says Donn LeVie, Jr., a career strategist and former Fortune 500 hiring manager. “Workaholics ask: ‘What’s next on the list?’ while high performers ask: ‘What’s going to provide the biggest bang for the buck for the organization?’”

2. Productive people understand which tasks actually matter.

The tasks that feel urgent are not always the most important. Productive people understand that the point of any job is to deliver value. “It’s vital to understand which behaviors and actions are getting results and which are not,” says Karin Hurt, CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders. “And then, you need to have the courage to stop wasting time on the behaviors that get no ROI [return on investment]. The biggest time-suckers are conference calls and unproductive meetings. Truly productive people don’t sit on conference calls that don’t add value. If you find you can multi-task through an entire call, that’s not an indicator that you’re productive, it’s a sign that you shouldn’t be on that call. Speak up and change the approach.”

Continue Reading…

How to Help Your Team Get Results FAST

You need to move results– quickly. It’s tempting to try everything you can to make things better.  But the all too common “throw everything at the problem and see what helps” approach may make things worse in the long run. Your team will be frantically trying to execute on too many cylinders, and even if results start to improve, you won’t know why.

When you need a quick turnaround, I recommend following this Winning Well F.A.S.T. model.

F-Focus

To move results quickly, focus is key. Resist the urge to fix everything. Identify and communicate the biggest priorities and break the work into manageable tasks. Focus on what each team member needs for success.

  • Communication: Align on 2-3 key leadership messages to share in every context.  Communicate them to the point of obnoxious… then communicate more. Check for understanding. Communicate again. Test it, “What do you think I most want to talk about today?” If they don’t shout out your priorities, you’re not clear.
  • Activity: Make big work small. It’s tempting to build action plans with lots of activity to show you are trying. Less is more. Too much action overwhelms and confuses. Identify 2-3 actions that will make the biggest impact and hit them hard. Reinforce with focused and consistent leadership messaging.
  • Outliers: Use data to get surgical in your approach. Know the outliers and give them focused recognition and support. Avoid broad-brush interventions. Focus just-in-time actions on those who need them. See Also: How to Break the 80/20 Rule

A-Acknowledge

When results aren’t moving, your team probably knows why. It’s tempting to start with answers–it’s far more useful to ask great questions and truly listen.

  • Slow down early and listen to concerns. Stop to acknowledge progress.
  • Competing Priorities: New initiatives are almost always piled onto existing workload. Acknowledge conflicting goals and competing priorities. Listen carefully to concerns. Prioritize. Give permission to stop. Some balls must drop. Decide which ones.
  • Progress: When you’re moving fast, don’t forget to pause at progress. Acknowledge small wins. Celebrate new behaviors. Recognize breakthrough thinking (see also In Defense of Wow)

S-Stretch

Fast-paced change provides great growth opportunities. Stretch yourself and others.

  • People: Fast paced change provides stretch opportunities. Provide special projects and stretch assignments. Turn strong players into teachers. Ask everyone what they must do next to achieve.
  • Boundaries, Assumptions and Rules: Stretch people to try new behaviors. Stretch boundaries, assumptions, and rules. Spend time asking the question, “What have we never tried before…?” Engage unlikely thinkers from outside the team.

T-Think

Go slow enough to think about what you’re doing and who you’re involving.

  • Stop stupidity: Every fast-moving project contains elements of stupid (e.g. time wasting tasks, old processes and reports that no longer align with new vision). Empower everyone to say stop as needed. See Also: Seth Godin’s Basting the Turkey)
  • Assess and Fine-tune: Carefully measure progress and fine-tune as needed. Watch for unintended consequences. Be ready to change course as needed.
  • Stakeholder: When moving fast it’s easy to exclude. Think about peripheral players that must understand your plan. Slowing down to include the right players early, leads to smoother acceleration.

When in doubt, go slow to go fast. A few deep breaths before launching will provide vital oxygen for the sprint ahead.

#resultsthatlast

3 Roadblocks You Must Remove For Your Team (before they go insane)

Even if it all feels warm and wonderful, your team needs you to remove roadblocks. If they’re frustrated with stupidity in the organization, they’re frustrated with you. Sure, they appreciate the check-ins about their kid’s soccer victories. And they want you to prepare them for the next promotion. But, if you’re not out there with them doing some basic blocking and tackling, I’d venture to guess, they’re frustrated. Be a backer, and remove these three common roadblocks.

Three Roadblocks Your Team is Longing For You to Remove

Roadblock #1:

You’re clear about what you want, but your colleague in the other department is sending an equally strong message to his team leading them in another direction.  Your team wants to achieve your vision, and feels your urgency, but they can’t resolve the conflict without involving you–and the other team feels the same way. The conflict is getting more intense because no one feels empowered to reach a compromise. Both teams worry that any level of “giving in” will tick off their boss.

  • The Roadblock: Lack of Leadership Alignment
  • To Get Results That Last: Meet with your peer (and include a few key team members as appropriate) and align on a path forward. Hold metaphorical hands and send a clear messages to both of your teams about what needs to be accomplished and how they must work together. Anything else will waste precious time and energy, and make them question your leadership tenacity.

Roadblock #2

You know what your boss is asking for doesn’t make sense for customers, employees, or shareholders.

  • The Roadblock: Your Boss’ Idea is Going to Hurt the Business
  • To Get Results That Last: When you let this go, you’re hurting the business, and seriously damaging the relationship with your boss you’re looking to protect. Trust me, your boss would much rather you take him off-line, in a private conversation and explain your concerns (listen carefully, she may have more information and an alternative perspective), than have you make a stupid decision.

Roadblock #3

Your team feels like they’re operating in the dark. They do the best they can to guess what the stakeholders want, but when they present their strategy, it gets shot full of holes and creates frantic rework.

  • The Roadblock: Unclear Expectations
  • To Get Results That Last: Identify the key stakeholders and discuss their vision and expectations before your team gets to work. If gathering them all in the same room (or phone call) isn’t wise or practical, do it one-on-one. If expectations aren’t aligned it’s better to work that out before the work begins. (See #1.)

When you remove roadblocks, the team feels like you’re on their side. Work gets done faster and with higher quality and less stress.

3 Ways To Challenge Your Team Toward Higher Performance

“But we’re already doing so much better than last year, when is enough, enough?” “Don’t you see how overwhelmed we are already?” “That’s not a stretch goal, that’s a delusion.” If you’re like most managers, at some point you’ve heard this kind of pushback from your team. Challenging your team to do more (often with less) is one of the biggest challenges of a manager. I’m a big believer in isolating the variables, and making the big goals feel small. Here are three easy techniques I’ve seen used well across multiple contexts.

3 Ways to Improve Your Team’s Performance

1. Do the Math

The other day I was listening to the SVP tee-up my keynote to his frontline team. His math was brilliant. If they could move the needle .1% on a key performance metric, they would save 2 million dollars! If they actually achieved the goal on the scorecard it would completely change their margins and enable them to reinvest in some of the additional programs the employees really wanted. It’s pretty hard to argue that it’s impossible to improve .1%. That afternoon, we worked so that every manager left with specific commitment to improve (which we collected in an online forum.) When they all execute they’ll blow that metric away.

I did a similar math exercise when I was in my sales exec role. Instead of saying I wanted to move our team from 1% small and medium business sales to 10% which sounded like a ridiculous leap, I simply said I needed each sales rep to close one small deal (of at least 5 lines). I knew it would actually only take 80% of the team to hit that easy target, and that some were already over-achieving. Five lines sounded quite doable and in a few months we were there, and kept improving each month after that.

2. Pairing Contests

Pair off your team into performance-enhancing dyads (although they work like steroids on your results, they’re perfectly legal.) The idea is to pick someone who is high-performing in the skill you’re trying to cultivate and one who is struggling. Then you give them a joint target to hit. Any diads that makes the joint goal win a prize. Since the teams are only competing against their collective target, not one another, encourage the diads to share best practices with one another as well. Everyone wins. Results improve quickly.

3. Weekly Wins Recap

This may sound old school, but when executed well it does wonders to keep people focused on the right behaviors and warms up lines of communication.  Each Friday ask each member of your team to send you a quick email focused on these areas: what they feel best about what they accomplished this week (a great opportunity for you to do some informal recognition); a performance area they’re focusing on next week and what they plan to do to improve; and any help they need from you.

Builders make stretch goals feel easy by breaking it down.

7 Strategic Questions Your Team Should Be Able to Answer

I’ve never met an executive who said, “My team’s just too strategic. I just wish they would focus on the day-to-day work.” Nope. In fact it’s quite the opposite concern. “How do I get my team to think more strategically?” “Karin, I just don’t think anyone on this team is ready to take on my role…. and I can’t get promoted until I find a successor.” And the phone call of the week is, “These millennials just don’t seem to get it. There’s no long-term commitment. I don’t think they care. (PS: if this one sounds familiar, click here and scroll down to download my FREE e-book Mentoring in the Age of the Millennial.) I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, if your team is not thinking strategically don’t write them off, until you take a good look at what you’ve been sharing. It’s impossible to connect the dots if you only see a third of them. If you wait until everything’s fully baked to share it with the team, they’ll never learn to be bakers. Not sure where to start without going out-of-bounds? Start here with these 7 strategic questions, that won’t get you fired.

7 Strategic Questions Your Team Should Be Able to Answer

translator1. Why do we do what we do? Note: “to make money” is not the only answer. Dig deeper. I ask this question every time I go into a focus group. You would be surprised how few can articulate a compelling answer. Start here. Talk amongst yourselves. Challenge one another. I promise this is worth every minute of time spent not “doing work.”

2. How does our team’s work contribute to the company’s mission? This one’s more tricky. At the levels closest to the customer, it’s easy to feel like a bot, and that’s precisely where it’s most dangerous.

3. What do our customers really want? Your team knows. Write it down, and then be sure your policies and procedures align.

4. Who are our major competitors and what differentiates us in the market? My guess is that some of your team will be all over this and others won’t have a clue. Having the dialogue will offer great opportunities to explore perceptions and promote learning.

5. How does the way we do our work impact other departments? Some time spent here,  looking candidly from both directions, will save days (maybe weeks) of unproductive time.

6. How can we better articulate what we need to the departments we rely on? Make a short list and use it.

7. What’s the most important thing we’re working on and why? This one seems tricky, but it will open up a hornet’s nest… so why do we?  Resist the urge to blame others for stupidity. If something really feels stupid, have the managerial courage to lift up the concern. The best way to help your team to become more strategic is to teach them to talk strategy. Imagine the possibilities if you were “that guy.”

How to Succeed With Limited Resources

You don’t have enough time, enough resources, or budget– or maybe you lack all three. You may be surprised to know that’s exactly what stacks the odds of success in your favor.

According to research psychologist Adam Grant, increasing resources increases your likelihood of a project’s  success… but only for a while. There’s a critical point when too much money, time, or support actually hurts your mission. When we have fewer resources, we have to embrace the restraints and make careful decisions. When we’ve got everything we think we need, it’s easy to spend time and money on wasted efforts.

In her new book, Disrupt Yourself, Whitney Johnson shares an important observation of the 500 fastest growing companies (as ranked by Entrepeneur magazine.)

“I was intrigued by the various ways these companies had funded their growth, rather than taking on outside cash. Only 28% had access to bank loans/lines of credit, 18% were funded by private investors, and 3.5% received funding from VCs: as many as 72% of these successful businesses were pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. I believe these companies were successful not in spite of, but because of their constraints.”

I’ve seen this first hand, when I look back at the most creative times in my career and in how I’m approaching my business now, the best solutions came when we felt the most stretched.

I also watched the evolution at Verizon Wireless in this regard. When the going was easy, and so many customers were getting their first cell phone, it was no big deal to try something, and if it failed, no big deal. When constraints became tighter and competition stiffer, it became critical to make smarter choices at every stage of the game. It was critical to get feedback on what worked (and didn’t) more quickly. Whitney explains:

“Including constraints allows you to make a faster, more accurate prediction of the consequences of your actions, letting you determine which course of action will likely give you the best results.”

Embracing Constraints When You’re Not in Charge

So when I interviewed Whitney, I explained that most folks in our LGL tribe are quite influential–but for the most part, are not running the show. I asked her for her thoughts on embracing constraints, when you’re not in charge. She offered this advice.

  1. Do your best to stakeholder initial buy-in for your idea.
  2. Identify the minimum viable product–a prototype to test. This is the best way to prove-in your idea with minimum investment (P.S. any one who’s ever worked with me knows that I’m a HUGE advocate of pilot programs. Low risk, high value in convincing others to your point of view. It’s hard to argue with success.)
  3. Figure out how to speak the language of the folks you’re trying to convince. The finance crowd speaks and entirely different language than sales or IT.
  4. Then ask this question: If this prototype works, what does that mean for what’s next?
  5. Get the right people involved. Whitney astutely pointed out, “The people who have the hardest time with this are middle managers. They have the most to lose from a big mistake.” I agree. Having been in several middle manager roles, I also know that when you’re in the middle, feeling constraints from all angles, you’re also  in the best position to know what will make the biggest impact.

How to Stop Drama Queens and Chronic Complainers From Destroying Your Team

I often start my speeches on employee engagement sharing prototypes of various kinds of disengagement. The favorite is always Barbara Boatrocker– “her life feels like a sad country song, every little thing is wrong”– for the appropriate audience I’ll even sing that line ;-). “She’s always stirring the pot. Nothing’s ever quite right when Barbara’s around. She sucks the life-force out of your team.”

Last week, when I asked what we should do about Barbara, the entire audience screamed out in unison, “Fire her.”

I paused.

“How many of you have a Barbara on your team?” Again, almost 100% raised their hands, with lots of knowing laughter.

Clearly, it’s not that easy to fire the “Barbaras” of the world, or this exchange wouldn’t continue to work across all kinds of industries and cultures– even the top-notch law firm I spoke to recently hasn’t cracked the code in their own organization.

5 Ways to Deal With Drama Queens and Chronic Complainers

First let me emphasize the CHRONIC part of the syndrome I’m talking about here. Open dialogue and employees expressing concern is not complaining. Seeking to understand is not resistance. I’m talking about the handful of looney tunes you’ll encounter in your career who consistently make matters worse.

1. Take it Off-Line

What Barbara wants more than anything is an audience. Don’t let her hijack your meeting. Acknowledge her concern and schedule some limited time to understand her concern privately (always good to have someone headed to your office right after). Trust me, your team will thank you.

2. Listen with an Open Mind

Honestly, the reason these Barbaras are so annoying is that they have a point. Some of what they say is true, and you know it. But, you understand the bigger picture and the constraints. I must admit, I’ve gotten some great insights from the Barbaras of the world. Pay attention enough so you don’t miss the good stuff.

3. Give Them a Project

I swear this works. Get them involved in solving the problem, not just talking about it. It’s always easier to tear something down than to build something up. Pull her into the solution-building equation.

4. Watch Your Body Language and Facial Expressions

Looking annoyed and ticked off will only reinforce her opinion that you’re an idiot who doesn’t care. It’s easy to slip into passive aggressive mode here, to roll your eyes, or sigh deeply. Remember that Barbara is annoying, not stupid.

5. Fire Them

Not for complaining, but for the other complicating factors. All that miss-spent energy normally comes at a productivity price. If Steps 1-4 still don’t work (be sure you’ve given them a chance), pay close attention to the side effects and document them.

The Secret to Holding a Meeting that Gets Results

Does this sound familiar? You went to a meeting where you had invigorating discussions, examined alternatives, came up with a cool plan of action, everyone left the meeting feeling motivated, and then six weeks later you get back together. As everyone enters the room and takes their seat, there are sideways glances, “Did you do that thing we talked about?”

“No…how about you?”

A quick shake of the head and you realize that the great idea everyone talked about has languished.

The prior meeting, the discussions, the new meeting – all of it – are a waste because nothing happened. In fact, it’s worse than doing nothing because now you’ve created negative energy…that feeling that “it doesn’t matter what we talk about because nothing really changes around here.” That corrosive malaise will eat away at your people and leave them looking for excuses to take your next meeting via conference call so they can multi-task and “get real work done.”

Every meeting you hold should produce activities that move results forward, build momentum, and build morale with healthy relationships. You can achieve all this in just ten minutes at the end of every meeting.

The Best 10 Minutes of Every Meeting

At the end of every meeting ask these three commitment questions:

Commitment #1:  Who will do what?

There are actually two questions here:

  1. What is to be done?
  2. Who will do it?

Every task must have a specific person who is responsible to complete it. For smaller decisions there might be only one or two answers to this question. For larger strategic initiatives you might have an entire work plan that outlines dozens of tasks and people responsible.

Commitment # 2 By When?

This one is straightforward. What is the finish line for the tasks people have agreed to complete? When these deadlines are shared and publicly available, everyone is more likely to meet them.

Commitment #3 How Will We Know?

“How will we know?” is the magic question that moves your meeting from good intentions to real-world impact. It’s also the one managers most frequently ignore. “How will we know?” closes the loop from intention to action and creates momentum without you having to spend hours every day tracking down action steps. Here’s how it works: When someone completes a task, what do they do next?

  • Do they need to pass the results to another person or group?
  • Should they update the team and let them know?
  • Will they make a presentation of their findings?
  • Do they report completion in a common area or software?

The specific answers depend on the task and project. What matters is that the accountability and next step are “baked into” the decision. Everyone knows what he or she is accountable to do, the team knows if it’s been completed, and no one is left waiting around for information they need.

Combine these commitments into one sentence: Who does what, by when, and how will we know? and you have the Winning Well Meeting Formula to get clarity, accountability, and results in just ten minutes at the end of every meeting: In fact, you can ask these questions whether you are the positional leader of a group or not. That’s a great way to establish yourself as a leader who gets things done – people notice when you produce clarity, accountability, and results. Don’t let the simplicity of these questions fool you into not using them.  These are the most important ten minutes you’ll spend to make your meetings achieve results.

Winning WellExciting news, the book I’m David Dye and I are publishing is off to the AMACOM for publication this Spring. We’re jazzed and honored that Marshall Goldsmith wrote a smashing foreward. More to come, but in the meantime here’s a peek at the cover.

How To Move a Team from Forming to High Performing in < 48 Hours

Our MBA Orientation committee debated whether was this too much pressure.  The second week on campus, teams of first year MBA students would have 48 hours to research and make recommendations on a real business challenge for a large, high-profile company and package and communicate their recommendation to a high-profile audience.

Clearly, it’s more than a “game” when potential employers and university leadership are involved. I served as executive communications consultant, equipping them on presentation skills and packaging a compelling story, and then visited their case rooms up until the late night pancake “breakfast” critiquing their rehearsal and helping them fine-tune.

Every team was given the same challenge, information and resources. What was fascinating was how the teams varied in their approach to team dynamics and interaction. I got an insider’s view to most of the teams and watched the teams and their presentations transform (a few didn’t think they needed any help, but that’s another story.)

How to Move a Team from Forming to High Performing in < 48 Hours

I spoke with several of the teams that made it to the final round–mostly curious about how the most successful teams accomplished so much so quickly.

You guessed it–they had a balanced focus on results AND relationships, confidence AND humility. #winningwell

1. Quickly Identify Each Team Member’s Strengths (and Challenges)

The strongest teams didn’t waste time jockeying for position or covering up weaknesses. They weren’t afraid to say what they were good at, “Oh, when I worked for the World Bank, I used to work on this kind of stuff all the time, let me lead the analysis.” Or where they weren’t, “I don’t have much of a finance background, that’s why I’m here to round it out, BUT I’m GREAT at PowerPoint.”

2. Work Extremely Hard at Communication

Every team had International students studying in their non-native tongue. This often meant slowing down to repeat or find different words to explain a complex idea. The teams that won well understood the deep value their teammates were bringing to the table and took extra time to ensure they were heard and understood.

3. Invest in the Long View, Even in Short-Term Projects

Sure they all wanted to win the 48-hour challenge, but they also knew that the relationships they were building would last at least two years as they worked together throughout the program, and of course could become a powerful network down the road. They kept the big picture in mind as they managed their interactions.

4. Establish Formal Norms

Before they began they wrote down the big rules for team functioning AND they called each other on it when someone was out of bounds. This happened most during times of stress, “We agreed we do a little one-minute dance party when the stress got to much.”

5. Offer (and Receive) Candid Feedback

There was no time to sugarcoat. They cut through the B.S. and feedback was offered and received with the understanding that they all had the same big goal. When their second year coach, or someone gave them ideas to improve, they quickly said “Thank you,” took the advice, and made their presentation tighter.

Here’s a quick interview with one of my favorite winning well teams.

To learn more about these leaders you can click on their LinkedIn profiles.

Alison ScharmanMohamed BoraieShengnan WangSunghooh Huh,Will Boddy

Thanks to my nephew, Jared Herr for producing this video.

Need help accelerating your team’s development, or communicating more effectively? Please give me a call 443/750-149.

Effective Delegation: An Easy to Use Tool

When you’re overwhelmed, stressed, and busy, you know the natural answer is to delegate more. But there’s a risk. When you’re moving fast it’s easy to get sloppy or overbearing in your delegation: (see 3 delegation mistakes you don’t have to make). That’s why I’ve created this easy checklist for you to use the next time your delegating an important task. I’ve listed the questions here, but you can also download in a checklist form:  free PDF for easy use with your team. 

Questions to Ask Yourself When Delegating

Before Delegating

  • Does the person I’ve selected have the knowledge, skills and resources necessary to do this task?
  • Does this person have bandwidth to do this task (do I need to help them prioritize)?
  • Are there any roadblocks (e.g. political, funding, approvals) I need to help remove to make this task possible?

In Delegation Conversation

  • Have I explained why this task is important?
  • Have I clearly articulated the “finish line”–what’s to be accomplished by when?
  • Have I left room for the employee to determine the best way to get the task accomplished (delegated outcomes, not process)?
  • Have I checked for understanding and heard the employee state what needs to be accomplished by when?
  • Have I established clear accountability checkpoints and a mutual appointment to review the completed task?

After Completion

  • Have I said “Thank you?”
  • Have we had any needed conversations about lessons learned or process improvements?

Note: This is an in-progress tool we are testing as supplemental resource to our book coming out in early Spring. Would love your feedback on how it can be improved.