Nothing beats a great mastermind group to challenge your thinking, spark new ideas, and help you grow.
Most of the time, we think of these mastermind groups as people from different organizations with similar levels of ambition and experience who meet to share ideas and support one another.
What if you could use a similar approach to spark innovative thinking and problem solving within your own team?
4 Steps to Holding a Team Mastermind Problem Solving Meeting
We recently helped a leader from a well-known tech giant design a mastermind problem-solving session for her leadership offsite. It worked so well we thought you might also like to try the approach.
It works like this:
Every team member brings a strategic business challenge they’re wrestling with and pitches it to the group for ideas. Everyone gets an opportunity to share their challenge and explain why it’s hard, what they’ve tried, and where they need some ideas. Once they’ve explained the challenge the other members of the team ask additional probing questions and share their best ideas.
This works particularly well to build trust and teamwork in diverse teams that don’t have a lot of natural interdependencies. Or teams that tend to operate in silos and not rely on one another for support.
1. Start by introducing the concept and the ground rules.
This is best done live (in a meeting or conference call), so you can generate excitement and answer questions.
Establish the parameters (e.g. the type of challenge, how long each person will have.) Have some sample challenges in mind, so people can get a sense of what you are looking for. For example, one parameter might be: the problem you’re looking to solve must have a measurable business impact within the next six months.
We highly recommend that you lead the way by having the challenge you plan to bring to the mastermind to use as an example.
2. Set up the structure.
If you have a large team, you’ll want to do this in multiple sessions. Having more than six people share will feel overwhelming.
Each team member gets 5 minutes to explain their challenge. These sentence starters will help streamline the set up:
My challenge is _________.
It’s important to the business because _____.
Success looks like __________.
It’s hard because _______.
I’ve already tried_________.
I could really use your thoughts on _______.
After each person presents their challenge the rest of the team has 15-25 minutes (you pick the length and ensure everyone gets the same amount) to share their best ideas.
This is intended to be a rapid-fire brainstorming where the recipient takes it all in. It works best when recipients commit to not argue with what is shared, but just ask questions to help expand or deepen understanding. Of course, the best ideas can be explored further with their teammates after the meeting.
3. Select a timekeeper.
You’ll want to use a timer and have a designated person to keep things on track. It can be tempting to spend all the time defining the challenge.
4. Debrief the process.
Ask your team what they found helpful and challenging about the process. And explore other ways they can share ideas and help one another solve problems formally and informally going forward.
As we continue our research and writing toward our next book on Courageous Cultures, we would love to hear your best practices for building teams of micro-innovators, problem-solvers, and customer-advocates. Would love your ideas in the comments, or reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This months topic, collaboration, is particularly poignant for me, as the Frontline Festival has now been an active collaborative adventure including thought leaders around the world for five-and-a-half years.
In March of 2013, while still working at Verizon and having been blogging for under a year, I sent a curious email to thought leaders whom I respected and asked them if they’d be willing to share their very best leadership thinking for frontline leaders. I was overwhelmed by the response of so many well-established bloggers willing to play along.
I was a busy executive and an earnest rookie blogger. For grins, you can see my headshot at the time 😉
I could never have imagined how many of those who originally contributed would still be sharing their insights on this our 66th Frontline Festival, as well as all of the new people who would have joined along the way.
Some of you may remember our original Festival branding (see right.)
I’m delighted that so many of these contributors have become collaborators in many other ways and some of whom have now become incredible friends. And yes, this first Frontline Festival is the first nugget of collaboration I had with David, who is now my husband, co-author, and business partner.
I have learned so much from all of you. I am grateful for the work you on our shared mission of growing leaders.
We’re always welcoming new contributors. In honor of customer service week, next month’s festival is all about customer service. You can submit your blog post URL here!
Now, on to collaboration!
Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors!
Collaboration Tools and Techniques
Julie Winkle Giulioni of DesignArounds writes The Work of ColLABORation. Done well, collaboration looks effortless. It appears to be a fluid give-and-take, a hand-in-glove partnership among individuals who make it all look natural and easy. But these appearances belie the fact that ‘labor’ is at the center of collaboration… and that most collaboration is the result of very deliberate work and attention.
We particularly love Julie’s 3D reflection approach where people are encouraged to reflect on what they need, what the other person needs, and what they most need together. Follow Julie.
Laura Schroeder of Working Girl shares Get Off the Couch: Agility, Innovation and Failure. Collaboration helps drive innovation but how you do it matters. Without a cohesive strategy and clear priorities pulling everyone in the right direction – and clear game rules – collaboration on its own can result in wasted effort and demotivated teams. Follow Laura.
Great insights here about how collaboration relates to vision. True collaboration involves working together to achieve something new.
David Grossman of The Grossman Group provides What Great Teams are Made Of (It’s Not What You Might Expect.) A study found that the time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities has ballooned by 50 percent or more over the last two decades. The message is clear: paying attention to how teams interact is critical for effective leadership. Research shows that the best and most effective teams aren’t those that combined the best and brightest people, but rather, something you might not expect. Follow David.
Collaboration is like carbonation for fresh ideas. Working together bubbles up ideas you would not have come up with solo, which gets you further faster. ~ Caroline Ghosn
As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life. ~ Amy Poehler
Paula Kiger of Big Green Pen gives us a book review of What the Eyes Don’t See. When Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha saw signs of a problem in her community, her questions were refused and minimized. It took collaboration with other caring people to help her get her message across and save lives. Follow Paula.
Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. This month’s festival is about handling conflict in your team. 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 building brand awareness. What approaches are you and your team using to build your organization’s brand? Submit your relevant blog posts here!
Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict. William Ellery Channing
From Paula Kiger of Weaving Influence: In this post, Paula shares the story of a father who sends his children to learn teamwork via a “challenge course.” The situation deteriorates when there is conflict over who will lead and who will follow. Gambling on LeadershipFollow Paula.
Chip Bell of Chip Bell.com challenges us to get a child to hear your positions and make recommendations. There is nothing more sobering than hearing an eight-year old comment on your positions and practices. Their innate humility and innocence can be a boon to seeing through the minutia and sometimes silly things that trigger conflicts. Follow Chip.
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.
Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. This month’s festival is all about creating connection. 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 team time. The question for the month is: What practical tips do you have for working well with a team and building a sense of teamwork??Submit your teamwork related blog posts and answers to that question here!
According to David Grossman of The Grossman Group great leaders don’t just manage employees; they make sure employees are motivated, engaged and inspired when coming to work. There are a number of ways this can be done, from asking open-ended questions to create dialogue and being a role model, to recognizing employees for doing their job. More on these, and 7 other ways to engage and connect with employees here. Follow David.
David Chaudron of Organized Change recalls that Traditional Management theory had managers dictating work and assigning tasks to workers. Today we know that an engaged employee is more productive and has more to offer than completing assigned tasked. 360 Feedback systems connect the loop for communication and engagement Follow David.
David Dye of Trailblaze tells us that one of the most powerful opportunities you have to connect with your team – is when things go wrong. David shares how you can Own the Ugly and show them they can trust you. Follow David.
Loneliness is proof that your innate search for connection is intact. ~ Martha Beck
Lisa Kohn from Thoughtful Leaders Blog shares a challenge that teams sometimes face. It’s the amount of work that needs to get done, and the tendency to “dump” work from one person to another. When team members find ways to work together to solve a joint problem or issue, the dumping often lessens or stops, but sometimes getting together isn’t that easy to do. She gives a few suggestions on how to do it. Follow Lisa.
Chris Edmonds of Driving Results through Culture reminds us that creating authentic care–a genuine connection where team members like and trust each other-takes time, energy, and consistency. A bowling event or a trust fall exercise won’t have long term benefits unless the experience can be quickly tied to daily challenges the team faces. In his post, “Most Teambuilding Isn’t,” he proposes a proven path to helping create trust and respect across a team. Follow Chris.
Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. I’m delighted to have so many thought leaders weighing in on the seven roles I see as most critical to building results that last.
This Festival is also a celebration of my new multi-media e-course that is launching October 27th. You can learn more about it by clicking here.
On that page, you can also download my FREE ebook: Mentoring in the Age of the Millennialand sign up for my FREE 5 Day Leadership Challenge.
Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors!
Thought Leaders Share About 7 Roles That Lead to Lasting Results
Translator: Don’t Motivate Until You Translate
Key Question:What’s most IMPORTANT?
Key Behaviors: Stays on top of industry and competitive trends; helps his or her team understand how their work fits into the bigger picture; works to ensure other departments know what we do and why it’s important.
Charles Saliba of HR Works tells us that leaders are messengers. They play the most important role in mobilizing their teams, helping them see the whole picture, and stimulating their motivation. Hence, if Leaders are unable to translate the Business Vision to their employees, they will not be able to motivate them. Follow Charles.
Builder: To See More, Be More
Key Question: How do we IMPROVE?
Key Behaviors: Challenges each team member to continuously improve their skills; addresses performance issues head on; provides consistent, candid feedback.
Thought Leaders Share:
Chantal Bechervaise of Take It Personel-ly reminds us that Leadership is a skill. And like any other skill, it can be something you’re naturally talented at, something you practice, and something you learn. This post examines some of the “good” skills that leaders have or should have. Follow Chantal.
Lisa Kohn from Thoughtful Leaders Blog presents Building with Thrown Bricks where she shares that successful times are those when we take the bricks that others throw at us and choose not to be defeated, not to give up, and not to live our life dodging thrown bricks, but instead to build an even stronger foundation for the project we’re leading, the goal we’re after, the life of our dreams, and the person we want to be. Follow Lisa.
Connector: Trust Them to Trust You
Key Question:How can we best work TOGETHER?
Key Behaviors: Communicates frequently through multiple channels; provides opportunities for cross training; helps the team surface and discuss their conflicts productively.
Paul LaRue of The UPwards Leader reveals that routine can slow down an organization; excuses even more so. By burning the script of “we’ve always done it this way”, organizations can start to move forward towards faster innovation and growth. Follow Paul.
Key Behaviors: Provides the team with opportunities to communicate their results to key stakeholders; advocates for team members and their careers; helps employees build a strong network of position relations with other departments.
If I had to pick a side, I would have chosen hers. But picking sides was entirely beside the point.
The other guy’s heels were dug in deeper than skis sunk in a tree well of deep powder. No amount of convincing was going to change his mind. “It’s time to let it go.” I offered. “This battle is not worth winning.”
“But I’m right, she insisted.”
That’s entirely possible. But the battle was weakening the relationship, and was making the project much less fun. When projects feel hard, they seldom blossom with creativity which is what we needed most. Plus the wasted energy was exhausting all of us.
Should the other, older and theoretically more mature guy have been the one to succumb? Perhaps. But he didn’t. Age isn’t necessarily a leadership competency.
And so I offer our collective wisdom from the scar tissue from this battle. I’m book marking this page as a reminder to myself as well. Battle losing is never handled.
5 Reasons to Lose a Battle
1. To maintain your dignity.
This may sound counterintuitive, but trust me, no one shows up at their very best when they’re spitting teeth mad. Even the ugly words that you’re saying on the inside ooze toxins from your pores.
2. To enhance your reputation
Others are watching how you handle the small battles. People respect (and look to follow) leaders who get the big picture and focus on the end game over minor irritations and disagreements.
3. To win the war
Getting mired down in the debate over the small stuff will drain the energy for what matters most.
4. You might be wrong
5. To preserve the relationship.
In long-term collaborations it’s almost always true that it’s more important to preserve the relationship rather than win on some minor point. Even if you’re majorly ticked off, consider the satellite relationships that are impacted by your disagreement.
How To Decide If a Battle’s Worth Losing
Members of our online community weighed in with some initial advice. I hope you’ll add yours.
The phrase I use is “Do you want to be effective…or “right”?”As a leader, your team exists to achieve results. That, and the leaders you leave behind you, are the measures of success. More of than not, insistence on being ‘right’ prevents you from achieving either of those outcomes.
Great ideas come in halves. Work is enhanced by true collaboration. One of the best parts of my entrepreneurial journey has been the amazing collaborations, in writing, in business, in shared passions.
I’ve got four deep collaborations in process now, including writing a children’s picture book with Alli Polin and the launch of a Parent’s Guide to Leadership (a free ebook downloadable from the sidebar.)
I’ve also had a few false starts.
7 Reasons Collaboration Breaks Down
Here are my lessons learned. I look forward to hearing what you would add
Misaligned Passions –Collaboration works best when you’re both deeply in it to win it. Your shared passion fuels inspiration. If one or the other of you is less of a zealot, sooner or later the spark will fade.
Propinquity- Joining up with the usual suspects or the guy next door, simply because of convenience limits possibility. Go slower and cast a wider net when looking for potential partners. When you stumble on chemistry search deeper. Sure working with partners around the globe is logistically more tricky, but becoming easier each day due to amazing technology.
Score Keeping – Real collaborators don’t keep score. They’re too engaged in the cause to count who’s doing what. The focus is on the end state.
Surface Respect – For true collaboration to blossom mutual respect must run deep and thick. It becomes slippery when one or the other feels superior.
Fuzzy Communication- Collaboration requires a constant flow of real-time communication. Don’t rely on email or chats, look in each other’s eyes, even if it’s over Skype.
Short Term View- True collaborators value the relationship over the small stuff. They’re willing to let go of what really doesn’t matter and spend time seeking to understand differences that do.
Rigid Boundaries – True collaboration involves doing whatever it takes to get the job done. Toe stepping goes unnoticed or is met with a real-time discussion.
If your team has as much teamwork as a box of crayons without a child to guide them, don’t blame them. Consider what you may be doing to inadvertently sabotage their teamwork.
5 Ways You’re Sabotaging Teamwork
Insisting On A Team That Doesn’t Make Sense – I’ve seen so much energy and money wasted to improve the team dynamic when the real issue is organizational structure. A cluster of human beings is not a team. No one is bonding if the only common denominator is who they report to. If you can’t identify several common goals (beyond your performance agreement), consider the structure rather than organizing a team karaoke night. The best teams truly need one another to be successful. If you can’t change the structure, think harder about a few collaborative goals or projects that can get the team moving forward together.
Ignoring The Obvious Dynamic – If everyone on your team is frustrated by one member, stop pretending it’s not an issue (yes, even if she’s an a player). I once worked on a team where one of our peers won a numbers-only based National recognition. Every one of her immediate peers understood the nasty back-stabbing dynamics beneath the surface. Our boss seemed to get it, but she got results, and results helped him. Instead of addressing it, he chose to call each of us individually and remind us of the right thing to do, to call her and congratulate her. The truth is, those calls had already begun. But his call assuming we couldn’t get there with her, reinforced the fact that we all had work to do in these relationships. Pushing us to be cooth was scratching the surface on a bigger issue that needed to be addressed.
Fuzzy Vision – Teamwork blossoms when the group is inspired by a vision bigger than themselves. If all you’re doing is passing down organizational goals, you’re missing an opportunity to energize your team toward creating local magic. Everyone likes to be part of a winning team. See: Teams Need Vision Too.
Misusing Your Staff Meetings – If you’re using your staff meetings as an opportunity for serial updates from your team, instead of a high-energy brainstorming of ways to collaborate, you’re wasting time. Trust me, everyone hates your meetings if all they’re really doing is reading out to you with no engagement from others. If you want your meetings to inspire teamwork, save updates for your one-on-ones, and then shorten the team readouts to what’s most relevant for the whole crew. Have updates conclude with statements such as and what this means to the team is or the implications for our team are. It will take a bit more time investment on your part, but the resulting teamwork will be worth it.
Overusing Competition – Trash talk has its place, but it’s tricky. In many organizations there’s an unspoken stack ranking dynamic that’s already out there. See: 6 Secrets To Building Teams In A Stack-Ranked World. Instead of firing your team up to out do one another, reward the sharing of best practices and collaboration. Be sure that leadership toward the greater good and team behaviors are part of your performance evaluation and recognition strategy.