Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. This month’s festival is a celebratory finish line of the Winning Well International Symposium with themes of confidence, humility, results, and relationships. Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors! Next month’s Frontline Festival is all about handling conflict in your team. Submit your relevant blog posts by June 9 here!
If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life. Marcus Garvey
The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual. Vince Lombardi
David Grossman of The Grossman Group tells his story of self-discovery and stresses the value of leaders living authentically so you can be your best self, motivate your teams, and get results by showing leaders how to bring your best to work and bring out the best in others. Respectful AuthenticityFollow David.
Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. This month’s festival is all about growth and change. Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors! Next month’s Frontline Festival corresponds to the Winning Well International Symposium. We will run the Frontline Festival as our closing post for the symposium, the week of May 22. Please share your best blog post that correlates with one of the four Winning Well principles: Confidence, Humility, Results, or Relationships. Submit your item here by May 15.
Chip Bell of ChipBell.com comments: After watching Will Smith in the new movie Collateral Beauty I want to pay more attention to and value the details of my experiences and be more in the moment. I am an overachiever (a trait I like) and try to maximize productivity (a trait I also like). But I too often miss the beauty of the cardinal outside my office window or the amaryllis starting to bloom or the pain on the face of the guy who picks up my garbage each week. I need to remember to ask him a question about his life and thank him for his work. Follow Chip.
Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. This month’s festival is all about team time. Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors! Next month’s Frontline Festival follows up on this month’s with a theme all about growth and change. The question for the month is: What is an area of growth you are focusing on, either professionally or personally?Submit your growth and change related blog posts and answers to that question here!
This month’s question was: What tips do you have for working well with a team?
Part of developing a team that works well together is developing the individual skills of people. A bigger part of it is developing an understanding of the system within which those people must operate and adjusting that system to the people on the team. Too much time is devoted to changing people to fit into the constraints of the existing system and too little to changing the existing system to take advantage of individuals on the team now. Thanks, John Hunter of Curious Cat Management ImprovementFollow John.
Building product is not about having a large team to manage. It is about having a small team with the right people on it. ~ Fred Wilson
Robyn McLeod of Thoughtful Leaders Blog notes that at times, the way a team is set up and work gets done, can cause a team to be more at odds than pulling together. But with four simple tips – as simple as reducing conflicting goals – you can help your team work as one rather than against each other. Follow Robyn.
If you’re like most managers, you’re neck deep in performance agreements, stretch goals, and the dance between managing your boss’s expectations and warning your team not to sandbag. How you spend January can make the difference between a breakthrough and mediocre 2017.
Too many managers take the goals handed to them, wring their hands for a day or so, and then pull the team together to figure out how the heck they’re going to accomplish all THAT and still “Do their day job.” That approach will get the job done, but it’s unlikely to unleash breakthrough innovation or a head-turning year.
A Fresh, Fast, and Fun Way to Focus Your Team (or Yourself)
One of the most important questions you can ask your team (or yourself) is “What will it take to make 2017 the very best year of your career?” In my exec role at Verizon, this was always one of my favorite questions. It’s amazing how few people start their year thinking that way.
We now build that question into the strategic planning work we do with teams. Here’s one easy DIY exercise you can do to help focus your team (or yourself).
The End of Year Letter
Ask each member of your team to write you a letter, as if it were January 2018. This can be done in email, or the old fashioned way. Just be sure you save it, so you can review at midyear and again this time next year.
It’s helpful to give them a few prompts. Here are some to get you started.
Dear __________ (insert your name here, if they report to you; if you are doing this for yourself use your bosses’ name).
2017 was the very best year of my career.
From there, pick some sentence starters as prompts for them to complete.
We totally changed the game by ____________.
The most important thing we accomplished was ___________.
Everyone is looking to us to understand how we ___________
I (we) got so much better at ______________.
Our customers are delighted because_______________.
I really improved my working relationships with __________ by___________.
Feel free to make up your own. You don’t need to pick many. The point is to ask your team members to reflect individually about what an extraordinary year would look like and then to identify specific behaviors and actions to help them get there.
I encourage you to proactively write a similar letter to your boss, and to ask them to pull it out mid year. It’s amazing how motivating this can be.
Let Us Help You Jump Start Your Team in the New Year
In our strategic Winning Well workshops and off-sites we always include exercises to get past the “Ugh, how can we get all this done?” mindset to identifying what matters most, isolating key priorities and behaviors.
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.
“Oh she didn’t copy me on purpose.” “He’s withholding information to make my life harder.” “Making us guess what he’s thinking is just a big power play.” “Why would she put something that important in email?” “What’s that supposed to mean anyway?” “Why did she copy my boss?”
Some teams spend more time second guessing the intent behind poor communication than working to improve it.
3 Communication Mistakes Screwing Up Teamwork
“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” -George Bernard Shaw
1. Assuming mal-intent
Sure people play games… but not most of us, most of the time. Don’t let an innocent oversight like being left off an email or out of a meeting degrade trust.
I’ll never forget the time a peer executive left me off a meeting invite. Our departments had some competing priorities, and I was sure it was intentional. I stewed on it for weeks. Finally after I’d let the fuel from my fabricated fable of his intentions combust into full-on stupidity, I blew a gasket when he asked me to move one of my meetings around so he could attend. As the drama unravelled, it became obvious that the original oversight was just that, an oversight.
We cleared the air and it never happened again. I could have saved both of us a lot of angst by just picking up the phone and asking to be included.
2. Hiding behind email
Email is fast and easy, but rarely effective for important communication. Never assume “they got the memo,” and your work is done. Don’t use email as a way to communicate bad news, or as a way to escalate over a peer’s head by copying their boss.
The best communication happens five times, five different ways. Email’s a great supporting tool, but rarely plays well as the lead medium.
3. Failure to write down decisions
I’ve seen great teams with excellent communication skills break down because they miss this simple step. High-trust teams will often raise a lot of creative ideas, debate pros and cons, and then challenge the decisions some more. All healthy. Once the debate has concluded be sure to summarize the final decisions, along with next steps and timeline.
With all that discussion, I often find team members each leave with their own memory of what was decided, which may or may not match the recall of other team members.
Writing down and reading back key decisions and next steps is an important way to keep the team all moving in the same direction.
Communicating well builds the most important ingredient of any successful team–trust. Take the time to establish clear expectations around how your team is communicating, and to discuss where it’s working best and how it’s breaking down.
Welcome to the July, Teams and Teamwork Edition of the Frontline Festival. I am pleased to bring you another International line-up of thought leaders sharing their best posts on teams and teamwork.
David Dye of Trailblaze, shares his post Give Me 3 Minutes and I’ll Make You a Smarter Leader. I love his application of crowdsourcing, and the leader’s responsibility for making the most of group thinking. “In the era of crowdsourcing and the reality that your front-line people have unique and vital knowledge, you help your team make the best decisions.”
Skip Prichard, of Skip Pritchard, shares a fantastic list, 10 Lessons in Teamwork, Top 3: Make the team the rock star; Remove all excuses for failure; Find and focus on the winning scenario.
Susan Mazza shares her post, 3 Ways Anyone Can Boost Team Performance, on her blog Random Acts of Leadership. “Some mistakenly believe that culture can only be affected (for better or for worse) by the CEO. However, regardless of your level in an organization you have the power to impact culture and boost your team’s performance.” Right on!
Lolly Daskal of Lead From Within shares her post, The Honest Truth About Teams. Great insights. The most important point, “There will never be a perfect team, because teams are, after all, made up of imperfect people,” She shares important characteristics to get strive for within that imperfection.
Tanveer Naseer of Tanveer Naseer discusses the Role Leaders Play in Developing Great Teams. Among his great thoughts: “Making the effort to talk less and listen more is a powerful way to not only demonstrate how much you respect your employees’ insights, but of how much you trust their abilities to understand and evaluate the best options for your organization to achieve its shared goals.”
Jon Mertz offers The Greatest Satisfaction for a Leader from his blog Thin Difference. Encouraging leaders and team members delivers the greatest leadership satisfaction. This post encourages us all to test our encouraging leadership style. As always, a fantastic contribution.
New to the Festival, Michele Cushatt of Michelle Cushatt shares 4 vital characteristics of collaborative teams in her compelling post, The Four Requirements of Collaboration. She offers what to do if “the group you thought was “just what I was looking for!” ends up a soul-sucking, eyeball-scratching, mud-wrestling match for attention. Instead of collaboration, it turns into a struggle for leverage, connection, or an opportunity that might be “The Opportunity.”
Julie Winkle Giulioni of Julie Winkle Giulioni shares Group, Team or Train Wreck . I love her comparison matrix on characteristics of effective teams. “Because of this deep appreciation for the contributions of each member to the joint mission, teams operate from a natural sense of respect. While they might have ground rules that include respectful behaviors to demonstrate, most team members volunteer respect organically and authentically.”
Mark Miller of Great Leaders Serve shares his provocative post Are You Leading a Team or a Family? The post presents a comparison of two ways to think about an organization and explains the importance of treating your team like a team. “My recommendation is to treat your family like family and your team like a team. You’ll win a lot more games if your second baseman can catch ground balls.”
Mike Henry Sr. of Lead Change Group, shares his excellent post Sacrifice and Teams. We must address our economy and our quality of life as a team. If one groups’ quality of life continues to grow while many others deteriorate, our culture will eventually fragment and die. Our teamwork needs to be focused on the goal of improving the quality of EVERY life in our communities. There is little teamwork in hoarding or consumption. There is great teamwork, reward and accomplishment in sacrifice and contribution. Our championships need to happen at the community level if we’re going to make a positive difference.
Joan Kofodimos of Teleosconsultingshares Have You Created an In-Group on Your Team? Such an important post, and a dynamic I see all to frequently. “If you can shift your perspective on who’s in and who’s out, your new attitude is likely to manifest itself as a more equitable treatment of your reports, and a better opportunity for your less-preferred reports to flower.”
New to the Festival, Irene Becker, Just Coach It, shares The Thriving Organization: Ten Power Steps Out of Jurassic Park She addresses the important topic of team communcation in this fresh post. “Develop vertical and horizontal communication. Success is not achieved alone. Your people, your relationships (social, person to person) are your most important asset. Develop a ME to WE culture where shared objectives, values, communication, learning/relearning and collaboration are entrenched in every communication and initiative. Systems theory tells us that one small, consistent change will in turn change the whole system. The positive, purposeful small and consistent changes you make will reset the individual and organization GPS to fast forward”
Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vixwerxoffer their creative teamwork pic, Team Under Construction. I’m always inpsired by their strategic art.
New to the Frontline Festival, Ali Anani, shares creative and useful presentations on teams. The first, Metaphors for Wrong Management explores the importance of team collaboration and learning. The second Building Engaged Teams, shares insights on team motivation.
Upcoming Frontline Festivals
You are welcome to submit your links for the upcoming Frontline Festivals.
August: Energy and Engagement, due August 9th
Sept: Leadership Development (and self-development), due September 13th
October: Vision and Values, due October 11th
November: Gratitude, due November 8th
December: Gifts (take any spin you would like), due December 13th
It’s been a rather heavy week on Let’s Grow Leaders, talking about Courage,Fear, Transparency, and Chaos. So I am going to end the week on a lighter note. I had my team in town this week, working on business strategy and plans. We also made time the day before for a few practical and easy team building activities.
These activities are not original, but they worked quite well, with little prep, and without an external facilitator. If you are looking for a good way to kick-off the year, you might find value in giving them a try.
Making it Personal
We held the team building session at my house, followed by a home cooked dinner. I am a huge believer in having my team to my home, a tradition I have done for over a decade. There is value in wearing jeans, eating together, seeing the natural habitat, and meeting my family.
I now have a National team, so including significant others in the dinner is not practical. However in years past, I have included spouses and friends in the evening activities. A few years ago, my son ended up on the shoulders of team member riding a unicycle on my deck, so you have to be prepared for surprises.
I asked each of us to identify one word that we would focus on for the entire year (across all aspects of our lives), which served as the center of the boards. We then spent the afternoon sifting through stacks of magazines, cutting out words and pictures, sharing hopes and dreams, recognizing common interests and plans, and finding humorous suggestions for one another.
My word for this year is “inspire.” What’s yours?
I’ll pause here.
In lieu of holiday gifts we elected to draw names, and we each purchased a book for one member of our team. The reasons for selection made for interesting conversation, some were strategic and business focused, other’s were more personal. I chose to give How To Work for an Idiot to one of my direct reports 😉
“What I Get From This Team” Matrix
We also did an exercise designed to talk about how we were doing as a team. I can’t remember where I learned it, so I apologize for not knowing the original source.
We used a 4 quadrant matrix, and asked one another 4 questions in the context of the team. and also in the context of my leadership.
What I get that I want.
What I get that I don’t want.
What I want that I don’t get.
What I don’t get that I don’t want
That simple structure led to rich conversation. It also led us to share some of our struggles and leadership philosophy What Are Your Team Building Favorites?