5 Ways to Strengthen Trust With Weak Ties

I would describe our meeting as a roll of the dice. Perhaps someday we will upgrade our relationship to “weak ties,” but yesterday we were just 2/850 at the Great Ideas Conference chatting through our freebie Hyatt sunglasses over lunchtime brisket and gluten-free potato salad. “Joe,” the CEO (named substituted for anonymity and rhyme), seemed genuinely intrigued by our LGL mission. He works with significant innovators (with a capital I– think people who will invent the next product you must have and will be willing to spend too much for.)

“Karin, what I’d be most interested to hear from you is how you build trust with weak ties. We depend on that. Getting true innovators to connect with and trust one another online and around the globe is a vital ingredient of real progress.”

Game on. I’ve got perspective (as Granovetter’s strength of weak ties theory is arguably my favorite communcation theory of all time), but I’m sure our LGL tribe is up to the challenge. Let’s go help Joe (and others ready to go) make positive change in our world.

5 Ways to Strengthen Trust With Weak Ties

All the components of the Green’s trust equation still apply (credibility + reliability + intimacy/ self orientation)

1. Share expertise (Credibility)

Share your good stuff. Showing up with real expertise will attract other curious and innovative souls. The more people are talking about your ideas, the higher the probability of being introduced to other experts with complementary or challenging views.

2. Respect Others Consistently (Reliability)

I’m always amazed at the stupidity of those who check out credentials before helping. Or treat folks differently based on letters behind their name or klout scores. Discriminatory respect ignores the strength of weak ties theory. Treat everyone with deep respect and you’ll be known as the “really great guy (or gal)” others “just have to meet.” The brother of the intern you met in the forum may turn out to be just who you need on your next project.

3. Do What You Say (Reliability)

It’s certainly easier to blow off a commitment to a weak tie than a colleague. You don’t have to help everyone, but if you say you will, do.

4. Be Real (Intimacy)

Don’t be a snob or tell us how wonderful you are, just show us through your ideas and engagement. Share a bit about yourself as a person. Be honest about where you’re stuck. Whether you’re around the world or sitting in the cube next door, human beings want to work with other human beings.

5. Give generously without expectation (Self-Orientation)

If you’re just out for yourself, people will smell it and tell their weak ties. Social media makes it easy folks, to warn the world. In my own collaborations, I’m consistently being warned of when to steer clear. “Trust checks” are often only a DM (Twitter Direct Message) away. (See also:  7 Reasons Collaboration Breaks Down.)

People trust people who know what they’re doing, who show up consistently with a generous heart. Be that guy, and your weak ties will quickly tighten into trusted bonds of true collaboration.

Other LGL Fun

Karin Hurt, CEO

I’ve had some fun with media interviews this week. A Fortune article on the hottest job trends, and Blogging and Marketing Tips by Experts on FirstSiteGuide and a round-up of most vital leaderhip characteristics. Tip: Blogging is a great way to give generously. Check out Matt Banner’s updated guide to starting a blog here.

The Score Isn't the Game

Sarah’s face winced as the hourly stack rankings beeped through her smart phone. She didn’t have to say a word, I knew that look from the inside out. I’ve been on the frantic receiving end of such beeps. Hourly results coming in 15 times a day–quality, efficiency, sales–all neatly stack ranked as a constant reminder I wasn’t doing enough. And just in case the beeps didn’t get my attention, at least one or two of the hourly blasts were typically followed up by a call from my boss, “Have you seen the numbers?”

Sarah interrupted my painful flashback. “I’m sorry, but I’ve got to huddle the team. We’ve got to get to 94 by the end of the day.” “What are you planning as your key message?” I asked. She looked at me as if I was crazy, “94.”

When I met with her team later in the day and asked what success looked like, I got more of the same.

“94, 540, and 56.” Well, at least they were consistent.

5 Ways Focusing on the Score Lowers Performance

Metrics matter. A balanced scorecard, with well-selected KPIs, will reinforce your strategy and align actions with goals. But when the metrics are the message, the business suffers. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, check your messaging. Don’t let the urgency of a stack rank distract your team from a long-term win.

1. False Sense of Competition

A sure sign the stack rank is holding you back is an inflated sense of internal competition. If, “We’ve got to beat Joe” is a louder rally cry than “Make a genuine connection with every customer,” or ______(insert your most important business behavior here), your smack talk is backfiring and it’s time to regroup.

2. Gaming

I’m always astounded by the creativity and lengths some employees will go to game the system. If they would spend as much time improving the quality of their work than working the work around, they’d be knocking results out of the park. Talking only to metrics encourages such gaming, which wastes time and often gets people fired.

3. Volatile Performance

You can’t truly respond to metrics on an hourly (or even daily) basis. And your reaction is likely more annoying than helpful. If metrics go up when you rant, scream, or dress like a superhero, and then come right back down, take a step back and plan a consistent approach to reinforce key behaviors, again and again– five times, five different ways.

4. Unintended Consequences

If “I fixed this, but broke that” sounds like the sad country music soundtrack of your team’s performance, you’re likely focused on one or two KPIs, rather than the key game-changing behaviors that will lead to lasting performance. In every business there are one or two vital behaviors that will improve your overall scorecard. Be sure you’re focusing on those early and often, and use them as foundation from which to build.

5. Stupid Decisions

This happens at all levels, but can be particularly disastrous when an executive becomes focused on a short-term adrenaline shot to force up results. “Oh sure we can bring on 500 people in 10 weeks to get the contract” is not rational thinking. Focus decisions on what will lead to consistent upward trends and sustained performance.

The secret to sustained results over time is identifying the behaviors that matter and executing on them every day. Respond to consistent improvement and celebrate upward trends, not flash in the pan reactions to an urgent call to action.

The Score Isn’t the Game

Sarah’s face winced as the hourly stack rankings beeped through her smart phone. She didn’t have to say a word, I knew that look from the inside out. I’ve been on the frantic receiving end of such beeps. Hourly results coming in 15 times a day–quality, efficiency, sales–all neatly stack ranked as a constant reminder I wasn’t doing enough. And just in case the beeps didn’t get my attention, at least one or two of the hourly blasts were typically followed up by a call from my boss, “Have you seen the numbers?”

Sarah interrupted my painful flashback. “I’m sorry, but I’ve got to huddle the team. We’ve got to get to 94 by the end of the day.” “What are you planning as your key message?” I asked. She looked at me as if I was crazy, “94.”

When I met with her team later in the day and asked what success looked like, I got more of the same.

“94, 540, and 56.” Well, at least they were consistent.

5 Ways Focusing on the Score Lowers Performance

Metrics matter. A balanced scorecard, with well-selected KPIs, will reinforce your strategy and align actions with goals. But when the metrics are the message, the business suffers. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, check your messaging. Don’t let the urgency of a stack rank distract your team from a long-term win.

1. False Sense of Competition

A sure sign the stack rank is holding you back is an inflated sense of internal competition. If, “We’ve got to beat Joe” is a louder rally cry than “Make a genuine connection with every customer,” or ______(insert your most important business behavior here), your smack talk is backfiring and it’s time to regroup.

2. Gaming

I’m always astounded by the creativity and lengths some employees will go to game the system. If they would spend as much time improving the quality of their work than working the work around, they’d be knocking results out of the park. Talking only to metrics encourages such gaming, which wastes time and often gets people fired.

3. Volatile Performance

You can’t truly respond to metrics on an hourly (or even daily) basis. And your reaction is likely more annoying than helpful. If metrics go up when you rant, scream, or dress like a superhero, and then come right back down, take a step back and plan a consistent approach to reinforce key behaviors, again and again– five times, five different ways.

4. Unintended Consequences

If “I fixed this, but broke that” sounds like the sad country music soundtrack of your team’s performance, you’re likely focused on one or two KPIs, rather than the key game-changing behaviors that will lead to lasting performance. In every business there are one or two vital behaviors that will improve your overall scorecard. Be sure you’re focusing on those early and often, and use them as foundation from which to build.

5. Stupid Decisions

This happens at all levels, but can be particularly disastrous when an executive becomes focused on a short-term adrenaline shot to force up results. “Oh sure we can bring on 500 people in 10 weeks to get the contract” is not rational thinking. Focus decisions on what will lead to consistent upward trends and sustained performance.

The secret to sustained results over time is identifying the behaviors that matter and executing on them every day. Respond to consistent improvement and celebrate upward trends, not flash in the pan reactions to an urgent call to action.

The Powerful Side Effect of High Standards

My friend, Regina, says that she considers a kid’s book report a win if only one person ends up crying. I remember the wailing and gnashing of teeth I put my parents through in the early years. And last night was one of those nights at the Hurt household. My husband, a firefighter, was on an overnight shift, so it was just me, Sebastian, a bucket of Swedish Fish and the promise of a very long night.

I imagine most parents are familiar with the “I didn’t start early enough, and now we need to go to the Walgreens for supplies, stay up half the night and get up early in the a.m., finish just in time to get to school with wet hair and no breakfast kind of loving feeling.”

What makes these nights so hard is that the parent holds the standards.

“Nope, that’s not what the rubric says. We have to follow the guidelines or you’ll lose points.”

“I know it’s late, but your handwriting is getting really sloppy. I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to re-write that part.”

Cue the tears.

“Okay, you’ve done all the basics, now how are we going to make this really stand out?”

“But Mom…”

It be much easier to just get through the basics. After all, it’s JUST a book report.

The Powerful Side Effect

And then there’s the side effect. On the ride to school this morning, Sebastian was glowing. “I think this is the best report I’ve ever done.” “I’m sure this is going to be the very best one.” “I can’t imagine I won’t get an A.” “I can’t wait to show my teacher.” And my personal favorite, “Mom, you know you did a really good job too.” 😉

Pride. Confidence. Energy.

Too often I see managers back off their standards, letting their team just get by. After all it’s only a ______.

That’s not leadership.

Tough standards, gentle inspiration.

When you’re tempted to buy into “This is impossible,” consider the side effect.

See also The Power of Great Expectations

7 Ways to Outsmart the Competition: The Series

This is the final post in the series of 7 ways to outsmart the competition. Links below. I’m considering turning this into a keynote. What do you think?

1. Get there early

2. Be an explainer

3. Pay attention to your own game.

4. Help your team get smarter

5. Be easy to follow

6.Ignore them 

7. And today’s: Hold a higher standard

 

What To Do When Results are in the Toilet

I’d much rather take over a team with results in the toilet than one executing on all cylinders. Sure they’ll be some long days and sleepless nights, but there’s nothing better than the electric feeling your team experiences when they accomplished what no one (particularly them) thought could be done. Inspire results like that, and your “A” players will follow you anywhere, and you get to do it all again.

Approach 1: Redefine the Problem

At Verizon, my biggest turnaround successes came in jobs where I had the least expertise. Ironically, we didn’t succeed IN SPITE of my lack of technical knowledge, but BECAUSE of it.

Perhaps you’ve been there (or are here). You’re so entrenched in solving a big hairy problem, all your energy goes to solving that issue. The brainstorming and action planning leads to only incremental improvement.

On the other hand, when you have no freaking clue what to do to fix the problem, you begin looking for problems you DO know how to solve. When the results really suck, and everything’s been tried, solving the problem from a different angle is often just what will change the game.

Approach 2: Redefine Markets

When I took over responsibility for 100 or so Verizon Wireless stores our biggest problem was a saturated market. Everyone had a cell phone. It was all about “switchers” from other carriers.

I encouraged my team to redefine the problem. We didn’t need more retail customers, we needed to convert the small business customers that were already coming into our stores to manage their personal accounts. Look for muddy boots (contractors), ask every customer where they work (“Oh, I’m self-employed”) and we often found they had their business accounts elsewhere. Now we were switching not one line, but five or ten at a time. We quickly led the nation in small business sales which went from 1% to 20% of our revenue mix. Other regions came scrambling to understand our approach.

Approach 3: Redefine Assumptions

I’m embarrassed to admit that when I was tapped to transform our customer outsourcing channel, I didn’t even know that we outsourced calls. I was told the problem was, “How do we hold our outsourcers accountable?” But as I dug further, I was sure that the current approach was the cause of many contentious and frustrating relationships with mediocre results.

When we redefined the problem as “How do we get our strategic partners (we stopped calling them “outsourcers”) to care as much about our customers as we do?” the entire strategy changed. We worked on culture, training and understanding. We treated human beings as human beings, not outsourced gadgets. We reached parity with internal centers.

When you’re really stuck and your results really suck, back away, and try redefining the problem. Ask some naive people to take a look. Perhaps you’re solving the wrong problem.

Tune in on Wednesday for more suggestions on improving bad performance.

Why HR Gets a Bad Name

I’ve been noticing a pattern with some of my clients when I utter the word “HR”–the proverbial eye roll. “What does HR say?” Queue the eye roll. “I think an important next step would be to bring HR on board.” An eye roll rapidly followed by, “Do we have to?” Now before I completely tick off the entire SHRM organization, please know I’m on your side.

I spent the first decade of my career in HR. I spent the next decade keeping my HR and Finance partners as close as possible. In fact, my support team was so valuable in my sales exec role, I gave up revenue generating headcount to build critical staff support functions.

4 Reasons HR Gets a Bad Rap

So if you’re an awesome strategic partner full of confident humility and strategic vision, with a seat at the table, and focused on business results, please comment and share your secret.

If you’re in HR and not getting the respect you want, or if you’ve suffered through a bad HR experience, please share your words of wisdom as well.

1. Weak Talent

Of course this is a real head scratcher that can damage the credibility of the entire HR organization. The HR (or training) organization becomes the dumping ground for people who struggled to “carry a bag” in the sales function or meet their P & L in an executive role. After all they’ve “always been good with people,” so someone “saves” them by moving them to an HR role where they can do “less harm.”

Of course no one says any of this out loud, but the masses are watching. Your A players are watching the most closely, so if this is the game, you can bet your 9 box performance potential grid, they’ll have no interest in an HR assignment, even to round out their resume.

You need YOUR BEST players managing your people strategy, not your leftovers. And even letting one or two mediocre players hang on diminishes credibility for an organization proposing candidates or offering advice on performance management.

2. Disconnected Metrics

If the most important HR metrics are anything other than tangible business results, you’ll never be a serious strategic partner.  Sure you can have process metrics like “time to staff positions” or “diversity profiles,” but HR departments that are focused primarily on such metrics lose focus and make stupid recommendations that result in the wrong candidates being hired or promoted for the wrong reasons.

3. Power trips

I’ve seen witch hunts, goose chases and all kinds of stupidity when a frustrated HR person gets caught up in the power of their position rather than what’s right for the business or for the human beings inside it.

4. Blinding rules and regulations

Strategic HR people sit at the table offering highly creative solutions to real business problems. Sure, they offer advice and stay on the right side of compliance, the law, and the overall good, but stupid adherence to policies that make no business sense will immediately cause people to work around you, rather than inviting you to the bigger conversation.

HR belongs at the table. The best HR folks I know are business leaders first, who also happen to have amazing expertise in HR.

5 Ways to Rebuild Confidence

It didn’t go well for Jennifer the last the time, and now her confidence was shaken. She was doing everything she could to avoid the situation, which only increased her anxiety and frustrated the rest of us. We had to rebuild her confidence and encourage her to try again. When the last time goes south, it can be hard to pick up the pieces.

Perhaps you’ve heard similar concerns.

“The last time I gave someone feedback they cried.”

“The last time I was honest with my boss, I got a negative review.”

“The last time I presented to senior management, I got so nervous I forgot what I was going to say.”

“The last time I stayed up late working on a report, they didn’t even look at it.”

“The last time I interviewed, it turned out the job had already been promised to someone else.”

The memory of last time can destroy this time before you even start.

5 Ways To Get Your Team Past a Bad “Last Time”

1. Acknowledge What’s Real

If last time really was a complete disaster, acknowledge the issue. Trying to say something “just wasn’t that bad” — if it was–will only make you lose credibility. If they’re blowing it out of proportion, offer evidence to help them see the past from a different perspective.

2. Break It Down

Ask questions to help them understand the root cause of what went wrong the last time. Chances are not everything went wrong. It’s much easier to improve when you know what you’re fixing.

3. Outline What’s Different About the Scene

They may think they’ve seen this movie before, but the truth is, last time was different in many ways. Take the time to explore how today is different from yesterday, or this guy’s different from that guy.

4. Celebrate the Learning

Help them consider all they’ve learned from the last time.

5. Help them Prepare an Approach

The best way to create a winning this time, is to fully prepare. Help them create a strong strategy and approach.

The Biggest Reason Teams Get Stuck

Unsticking your team is one of the biggest challenges of a leader. When inertia sets in, there’s almost always a breakdown in belief at some level. When teams stop believing they stop doing. If your team has lost that magic feeling, look for signs of lost believing.

6 Ways Teams Stop Believing

1. They Stop Believing in You

This can take a variety of forms, but it almost always comes down to a matter of trust. They’ve stopped believing you have their backs. Or, they’ve stopped believing you have the guts to speak the truth up, down or sideways. Or perhaps, they’ve stopped believing your guidance is sound.

This is the hardest one to fix, but you won’t be successful until you address the issue. Look for ways to open the conversation one-on-one to get to root cause. Know that your words will only go so far. They’ll be scrutinizing every behavior for signs of what to really believe.

2. They Stop Believing in the Organization

The trust in you may run deep, but if the team has started to question the ethics or the future of the organization, they may be distracted and lose steam. They’re watching you for clues. They’re unlikely to believe if you’ve stopped believing. If you suspect the team has concerns in this arena, it’s best to give them an opportunity to express and discuss their concerns. It’s likely that the story they’re telling themselves is much worse than the truth.

3. They Stop Believing in the Cause

Teams and people are motivated by WHY far more than how. Ensure your team understands the greater good and how they fit in.  It’s a good time to ensure you have a strong team vision and that each team member knows where they fit in.

4. They Stop Believing in One Another

No employee engagement strategy is going to work if your team’s stop believing in one another. Take a close look at what you’re doing to encourage teamwork.  

5. They Stop Believing in Themselves

You can a clear role and vision, and a team that gets along like peanut butter and jelly, but if the individuals on the team lack confidence in their ability to execute, they won’t succeed. It’s good to gauge confidence levels at an individual and a team level from time to time. If they think your goal is impossible, they’ll talk themselves out of trying.

6. They Stop Believing They Can Make a Difference

Perhaps they’ve worked on a  big project, only to see a change in direction make their work obsolete. Or perhaps the downstream processes are so screwed up, any work they do is inadvertently sabotaged by later incompetence. If people don’t think their work really matters, they stop doing work that really matters.

Great leaders inspire belief in the vision, the cause, themselves and one another.

Leadership Below 100 Feet: Leadership Scuba Style

Leadership lessons come in many contexts. Last year,  I shared what I learned about inspiring “courage” from my Scuba instructor on my first panicky intro to Scuba. A few more dives logged, I continue to see more connection between leadership and Scuba. Part metaphor. Part reality. I look forward to hearing your real-life metaphors and application.

6 Leadership Lessons From Scuba Diving

1. Breathe

This one seems obvious, but as we were travelling around the island, one of the most frequently uttered phrases we overheard from surfacing divers was, “I just keep forgetting to breathe.” Each time, my son and I would grin at each other and ask “how is that possible? “

It happens in leadership too. When the going gets toughest, it’s easy to “forget” to breathe.

Leaders need oxygen, and pause. Next time you’re feeling underwater, notice your breath. Gaining control of your breathing helps the rest of the scene feel more manageable.

2. You can say a lot without words

4by4handsScuba divers are taught hand signals for the basics: “shark,” “I’m out of air,” “look now,” “Are you okay?” It’s fun to jump in with a new group of divers and fit right in with our common language. Teams need a system of common, simple communication.

But it’s also so important to know your team and watch their non-verbals.. “Something’s wrong with his equipment”. “She’s swimming like crazy away from the crowd, she’s off to take a picture of a lion fish.”

Leaders can learn a lot by just paying attention to their team’s movements, expressions and focus.

 3. There’s a lot you can’t see at the surface

It all looks so calm at the surface: the sunshine and the crystal blue water. But go a little deeper and there’s many beautiful mysteries waiting to be discovered, along with rocky edges that will rip you up if you’re not paying attention.

Great leaders go deeper and don’t rely on the apparent answers

4. Slow down or you might miss something2lions4by4

I’ll admit it, my natural instinct is to race around and “see” as much as possible. But going a little slower is way more efficient (your air lasts longer) and the best discoveries are tucked deep inside the coral.

Leaders who slow down enough to really take in the situation, will spot more.

5. Stay close to your team

When scuba diving, it’s tempting to work you own agenda, but the consequences may be severe. We learned that clearly established roles and agreed upon strategy at the beginning was vital. When in doubt, stay together.

Strong leaders know that a highly-coordinated team is the best defense against tricky situations.

6. Panicking makes the problem worse

It’s easy to panic fast when you’re 100 feet underwater, and can’t see your partner. A frantic response leads to crazy solutions that will immediately aggrevate the situation.

The same thing happens in leadership. The immediate reaction is seldom the best response. Leaders stay calm amidst the urgency to make more informed decisions.

How To Ensure Your Greatest Fears Come True

After a hectic but fun Saturday morning of speaking on a Lead Change panel and schlepping my son to baseball practice and art lessons, Sebastian and I decided to try out the newish Ethiopian restaurant for lunch.

“Every man, through fear, mugs his aspiration a dozen times a day.”
~ Brendan Francis

The place wasn’t crowded and the engaging owner did the cooking, waiting, and busing himself. The food was amazing. I asked how long he had been in business (a year), and admitted that I had never realized the place was there. We were politely interrupted by a woman asking to see the dessert menu.

“Oh no, we don’t carry desserts. I fear not enough people will want them. Once we really get things going, I’ll feel confident to expand the menu.”

As he came back to our table,Sebastian 8-years old, apparently now my Chief Marketing Officer, offered:

“You know, I think my mommy might really be able to help you with your business (I’m now searching for a menu to duck behind). She knows a lot about leadership and making money. You see she…”

The fantastic chef shared his story: “I’m a really good cook. My friends all told me I should open a restaurant. I’m taking a cautious approach. I know this location is not ideal (it’s really tucked away), but I didn’t want to invest much in location, until I knew for sure it would be a success. I want to attract a crowd, but it’s hard.”

He must have seen me glance around (I’ve never been accused of having a poker face).

“Yeah, I didn’t want to invest too much in decor to start either. Same philosophy. Better to play it safe, it might not work out. Once I have more customers, I’ll make the place more attractive. I have a vision.”

I had already picked up a take-out menu, because I couldn’t imagine convincing my husband this was a great place for romantic dining so I asked, “have you ever considered letting your customers bring their own wine at dinner?” (several really successful BYOBs are within a 5 mile radius) in similar rustic locations.

“Oh no. The insurance would be too much, you know and there’s the fear that a fight could break out.”

Okay, I don’t know about you, but the last fear on my mind when I plan for an evening of romantic ethnic dining (in a Suburban area) is a brawl. His fears were driving his business plan. A coat of paint, some sorbet in the freezer it wouldn’t take much. What was he really afraid of?

When Fear Takes Control

Fear based thinking happens in big business too:

  • “Let’s be like Zappos and truly empower our customer service reps to do what’s right for the customer. BUT if they need to give a credit over ten bucks they need to bring in a supervisor.”
  • “Forbes and Fast Company have great ideas about leadership. Joe has fantastic business results, and everyone wants to work for him, but, his approach is still unconventional for our culture. Not sure he’ll play that well in the board room, better promote the guy that leads like us.”
  • “Sure access to social media at work would help our employees promote our company, BUT what if they say something stupid?”
  • “I have a great idea, but what if my boss hates it? Better to lay low and do what she thinks is best.”

Don’t let fear stop your greatness. We need your creative cooking in our neck of the woods.

7 Ways To Spring Your Team Into Spring

Spring is springing. The vortex is melting, and now you sense spring fever coming on…for you and your team. Embrace this season of new growth and possibilities. Making Spring a workplace celebration will help offset the “wish I was outside” blues.

Spring Into Spring

  1. Establish Spring Growth Goals – Challenge your team to a growth spurt before summer. Help each person identify concrete way they will grow in the next 90 days: a special project, a new skill, mentoring someone or finding a mentor. Model the way. Pick your own goal and talk about your challenges and progress.
  2. Hold A Spring Training – Pick an exciting team stretch goal for the team and rally the troops. Hold a “spring training” to get everyone “in shape” to win against this challenge.
  3. Make Work A Game – Challenge another team to a friendly competition that will help both teams stay more focused and have a little fun. Engage in a little trash talk.
  4. Plant Some Seeds – Hold a “seed planting” campaign. Have your team identify other areas of the business (or prospects/customers) where they could plant some “seeds” (e.g. ideas, new relationships, collaborative work) for future growth. Have each person share their seedling idea in a team meeting.
  5. Do Some Spring Cleaning – Have the team pick something specific they can do to improve their work environment: Clean-up their emails, throw away unnecessary files, bring in some flowers, create a motivational display. Even remote teams can engage in a Spring cleaning competition and share their pics.
  6. Give In (a little) – Plan a team picnic lunch outside. Create an after work walking group. Have everyone pick one day they will leave an hour or two early and plan something fun for themselves. Find ways to share what they’ll be doing with their Spring Fever early start. Plan an outside teambuilder, like bird watching over lunch.
  7. Volunteer – Pick a volunteer project you can do as a team. They’ll have a break, grow as a team, and do something for the greater good.

5 Ways To Give Without Getting Taken

You want to be a team player, but the more you give, the more folks take– without offering much in return. It’s not that you’re keeping score, but you’ve noticed a pattern, and you know something’s wrong.

You look around and realize that others seem to have more balanced relationships. But there you are, once again, left feeling like a sucker. If this sounds like you or someone you love, read on. Some of the best givers I know get taken. It doesn’t have to be that way.

How to Give Without Getting Taken

  1. Continue With Generosity – Although this sounds counter-intuitive since that’s what got you into this mess to start with, don’t lose that giving feeling. I’ve seen over-givers swing their defenses too far in the other direction. They put up their guard, and miss the beautiful relationships and productivity that comes from balanced giving and receiving. Don’t keep giving to takers, but stay open to the possibilities the rest of the world has to offer.
  2. Exude Confident, Humility – Don’t be cocky, but do be confident. Other leaders admire and respect peers who show up strong and open. Showing up weak makes you an easy target for takers. Radiate the same respect for yourself as you give to others.
  3. Articulate Your Feelings – Over-givers have a tendency to give until it hurts, but not talk about the pain. Resentment secretly builds and sucks out necessary energy. Letting someone take advantage of you weakens leadership– yours and theirs. Teach people how you want to be treated. Usually these conversations have to do with boundaries. It’s not a matter of if you want to help, but when and how much. I’ve seen many cases where people are shocked when an over-giver suddenly erupts with pushed down emotion, after appearing to be “happy to help.”
  4. Question Your Motives – Without getting to deep into psychology here, if you’re repeating an over-giving pattern, consider what you’re “gaining” from all the giving. Are you a people-pleaser looking for affirmation? Are you feeling insecure about your place on the team? Getting clear on the underlying issues will go a long way toward building more balanced relationships.
  5. Ask For What You Need – It’s easy to assume that others know what we need and how they can help. Tell your teammates how they can be most helpful to you. Ask for what you need, and don’t be afraid to receive the support. You may be surprised at how relieved your teammates feel when they finally have a concrete way to return the favor.
“Sometimes, teams are moving so fast and are so focused on results, they don’t take time to talk as a team about what’s happening,” says leadership expert Karin Hurt, author of the blog Let’s Grow Leaders. If no one is articulating their feelings and everything seems to be going great, says Hurt, negative patterns get embedded and can be hard to reverse.”
~ Karin Hurt, Founder of Lets Grow Leaders