Tag: Team

What Light Do You Cast?

What Light Do You Cast?

He and I had worked together for a few years when he stopped by my office. He needed an unbiased ear to help with a staff issue. His team had taken on the habit of always criticizing each other. At first, he thought it was a good sign because he believed that they had started to bond. But the more he listened, the less he liked what he heard. They were disrespectful to each other.

He didn’t know what to do.

 

The people that you have around you are your biggest influence.

RJ Mitte

 

I asked him how their performances were. He described a litany of issues that each of his team members was having. Listening to him, I would not have believed there was a good one in the bunch.

“How valuable are the players on your team to the organization’s goals?”

“Valuable,” he replied, “we have accomplished so much.”

“When was the last time you told them?” He stopped, pausing, “It had been awhile.”

“When you talk about their performance do you focus on how well they are doing or what they can be doing better?”

“I want them to be better so we can keep doing amazing things.”

“I get that,” I explained, “but let me ask you this, why do you think they criticize each other?”

It took him a moment, but he realized that they were following his lead.

Our job as leaders is to influence those individuals around us. And we do this by our behaviors. Studies have shown that people adopt similar patterns of behaviors from those they respect and those that are in positions of power. I separated respect and power because they are different qualities. Respect is something that is earned within an organization. Power is something that is given due to a higher level of authority. Great leaders get their power through respect. Bad leaders get their respect through power.

In either case, we are apt to imitate the behaviors of those around us. We can see this easily in our families. Think about your parents, what behaviors of theirs, do you do? For example, my father is an avid hiker, each week leading hikes through the mountains of South and North Carolina’s. I too am an avid hiker and enjoy hiking in the woods whenever I get a chance.

At work, this influence may not be as easily recognized but does happen. I collaborated with a group of individuals who were all fantastic about being open about their strengths and their limitations. At first, I was guarded and spoke more of my strengths, but as time passed, I noticed that I too was talking about my limitations. This built trust up in the group and allowed us to work together to get the best possible outcomes.

Our behaviors influence those around us.

The good news is that we also positively affect people. Have you ever worked for a manager who was good at going on break, leaving on time and taking vacations? I bet, in time, you started to get these habits as well.

 

There is no influence like the influence of habit.

Gilbert Parker

 

The aim is to know that your behaviors affect those around you and to make the best effort to influence their behaviors positively. When you have a behavior that is negatively impacting the team, focus on it and work to improve it. If you can share your work to change your behavior with the team, even better. This action will stop them from imitating you and may also provide you feedback so you can continue to improve.

The Leadership Team

The Leadership Team

Donald Trump has been elected 45th President of the United States of America. The moment Hilary Clinton conceded, his transition team started working in overdrive to figure out who would serve on his Leadership Team.

In his Book Good to Great, Jim Collins talks about how important it is to have the right people on the bus as you lead an organization to greatness. Mr. Collins stresses, and I whole heartily agree, it is not about having one genius and a thousand soldiers. It is about having a team of equals working together to achieve greatness. In his cabinet, Abraham Lincoln had a team of rivals because he wanted to get best people for his team.

 

“We” multiplies the power of “I”.”
― Aniekee Tochukwu Ezekiel

 

Below is a crucial list of items to consider when building your leadership team;

Diversity of thought: One person, no matter his/her experience, cannot have as great of perspective as a group of individuals. Having a diversity of thought allows old ideas to be challenged and for new ideas to be advanced. In one instance, I was working with a group of leaders to discuss the potential of a major reorganization of the broadcasting division of a major electronic retailer. We stood in a conference room, talking, arguing, challenging and finally agreeing on the best organizational structure for the department. It was not easy work, but by having a group of individuals, we got to see and hear from a greater perspective than if one person made the decision.

Balance of Strengths: All of us have strengths that we offer to the world, we also have limitations that hold us back. By creating a balance of strengths in a team, we can offset the limitations and build on our individual’s strengths. Working with a small manufacturing company, I noticed that the leadership team was a diverse group of people who had various strengths and limitations. One member was good at communicating and getting messages across; one was an idea generator; one was process driven; one as good at working with people. Separately they could not have succeeded, but together they did some amazing things.  When you are looking to build a team, consider the following strengths: Social + Emotional Intelligence, Communication, Systemic Thinking, Operational and Process Excellence, Technical Expertise, Problem Solving and idea generator. What other strengths should be on your team?

Trust: Trust among team members is crucial to the success of the team. Will the individuals on the team trust each other? Trust is multifaceted. There is trust that each can and will do their job to the best of their ability. Trust that when a team member has limitations they will ask for assistance. Trust that each is working for the betterment of the team and objective. Trust that although we may disagree, we will continue together to find the best solution. Trust that we can share our concerns and not hear them on the nightly news. Trust happens not by expecting it but by building it. By showing you are trustworthy and in return trusting others.

Work Ethic: Have you ever worked on a project and one individual did a lot less work than all of the others? This lack of work ethic or more precisely this unequal work ethic can negatively impact the team. Work ethic is not just about the amount of time; it is about the amount of effort an individual is willing to dedicate to reaching success for the team. This may mean working long hours. It also may be sacrificing other corporate activities to support the team. When you become a member of a President’s Administration, there is a lot of challenging work to accomplished; you cannot expect to work only forty hours each week.

Common Vision: This may challenge the notion of diversity of thought but when you are working together, a shared vision of a better future is necessary so the team is working toward a single objective. For instance, I served on a non-profit board, and we had the goal of improving our infrastructure. In all of our meetings, we were able to keep this as a focus. However, we had spirit discussion on how best to do this. The shared vision grounds the team on what they are working towards and what they will accomplish.

Level of Expertise: This may be challenging because it is easy to use this as the first measurement for the team. They must have a certain degree of competence in a particular area. And if this is use, you may eliminate diversity of thought, the balance of strengths and trust. However, I do agree that some level of expertise needs to be considered when building a team. In general, you would not want a middle school footballer on a college level team. However, at times, we hold individuals back because they don’t have a level of expertise but we could use their strengths in communication or emotional intelligence to balance out the team. In this case, knowing this person limitation as a subject matter expert helps you balance out the team with other subject matter experts.

 

“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”
― Phil Jackson

 

Building a leadership team is critical to the success of an organization. My research and experiences have shown me that a leadership team has more impact on an organization than a single leader. When leaders surround themselves with other excellent leaders, the team can achieve great things. There is a trend in the NFL to hire ex-head coaches as assistant coaches, not only can the head coach tap into their skill level and knowledge of the ex-head coach but can also tap into their experience and shorten their learning curve.

Is your leadership team set? Or do you need help building your leadership team?

Does your team know when it is winning?

Does your team know when it is winning?

It is always satisfying at the end of the game to see my Green Bay Packers with the winning score. Every player knows, no matter how well they did individually, it does not matter unless the game ends in the win column. This same expectation is found in the performing arts as well. When the audience rises in ovation at the end of the show, the cast and crew know they have succeeded in delighting the audience with their work.

In business, the connection is not always clear cut. Sure profits are always good. Increase Sales are also always good. High customer service ratings are also always good. Best Product or Service Best Quality Awards are also always good.

Unlike a single game or performance, work is an ongoing process that never has a satisfactory conclusion. There is always more you can do the next day to change the score. However, like a game, there are times when you are losing (not meeting expectations), or there are times when you are winning (exceeding expectations). Near the end of each financial period, we tally, looking at the data whether we are successful or not. At the year’s end, we look even harder at the numbers squeezing every piece of information to achieve our objectives.

However, these defined objectives are hard to understand because they can seem arbitrary to the people on the front line. For instance, at one large corporation, I worked for our goal was to increase EBITDA by a certain percentage point each year. We use the traditional business formula to make this happen, cutting expenses and increasing sales. When we meet our goals the front office was happy; when we did not achieve our goals, they were unhappy. The staff on the front line felt the difference in numerous ways but had a hard time understanding how their work impacted the outcome.

However, there are successful companies that are transparent on how success is measured. In one company I know, they were bold and proud about what success was. In the manufacturing plant’s main hallway a sign was posted defining success.

We win when:

  1. There are zero safety or security issues or violations.
  2. Our values remain intact
  3. We produce ### of widgets at a rate of 96% Quality Perfection Rate
  4. Keep waste to 1% of the run – the aim is zero. (It is our Planet, after all)
  5. We hug our families today

At the end of each shift, the General Manager would record how well they did on each with the exception of #2. The #2 tally was given to an employee chosen at random who privately handed his score into the General Manager. Because it was more subjective, it was always interesting to see how the score varied day to day. No matter, the general manager always addressed the score and talked to the shifts about it. Good or bad.

The employees at this manufacturing plant knew when they had succeeded; they also knew they would have an avenue to discuss challenges that kept them from being successful at the end of the day.

Unfortunately, this is not the case for most employees. The information necessary for an employee to understand if the team has been successful is too far removed, i.e. the percentage change in EBITDA or too vague, good customer service values, to have any impact. Every manager needs to communicate clearly, consistently and continuously how the individual is successful, how the department is successful, and how the business is successful.

In one case, one of my colleagues had a new role and started working on what success looked and felt like for one of the positions within his team. He did this first my understanding the position through interviewing and shadowing the employees. After a period, he narrowed the definition of what success looked and felt like to his team. He presented this to his team and then listened to their feedback and made adjustments he thought made sense.

He started tracking success for each shift and each employee. The employees knew when there were and when they were not meeting this new definition of success. In time all his employees were exceeding his expectations, so he raised the requirements slightly to challenge the employees. Moreover, again his employees rose to the challenge. Some struggled at first but he paired them with more successful employees, and they too raised to this new level of excellence. However, what he was must proud of was during this whole period, was that his employee engagement scores continued to rise. He contributed this to working with the employees to set the expectations and to the communication of the results on a consistent basis to his team. They knew they were winners.

Does your team know if they are winning?