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.

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.

5 Ways to Surface Team Conflict and Live to Tell About It

We all know deep in our hearts that teams need conflict.

Conflict is “healthy.”

Leaders and teams have been talking about Tuckman’s forming, storming, norming, performing model since the mid 1960s.

Teams were storming long before that.

We get it intellectually.

We’ve even seen the value of addressing conflict play out practically.

But conflict is uncomfortable.

Sometimes addressing conflict does more harm than good.

Stirring the Pot

I am a pot stirrer.

If you have ever worked on a team of mine, you know I am constantly encouraging you to “air and discuss your concerns” with one another.

I will listen (for a minute) and then immediately send you back to the person with whom you need to engage.

People love that or hate that– that too, can create conflict.

When the pot gets stirred, and the going gets tough, that’s when the calls usually come in from all parties. My stance remains the same.

“I don’t need to hear the play-by play. Everyone gets an extra smile from my heart for working it through. I’m glad you are talking. Have as many secret meetings” as you need. I won’t take sides.”

The biggest worry seems to be, “what if I get exposed?” The truth is, there are at least two sides to every story. I know that. If your boss has any sense, she knows that. If YOU are the boss, same rules apply.

Once the storming is over, I love to ask “what did you learn about how to do conflict better?”

The truth is I ask myself this same question every day.

Sometimes I screw it up.

Conflict is never handled.

Conflict Survival Tips

Here’s what folks have told me they have learned (from addressing conflict in real situations). I hope this helps.

  1. Don’t wait too long.
    Your issues become less relevant and feel more stupid to the recipient as time passes.
  2. Own it.
    No one wants to hear “everyone is saying” comments
  3. Carefully consider the input of others
    Don’t let your response feel like retaliation
  4. Watch your facial expressions when giving and receiving feedback
    Everyone is watching those more than your words
  5. Be prepared to give specific examples
    Even if you are absolutely right, it’s difficult to digest and even more difficult to take action without the details.
  6. ??? My list goes on but, I’ll stop here and let you play. what would you add?