individual, team, team identity, team purpose

5 Ways to Transform a Group of Individuals into a Team

In the U.S., most people are taught from an early age to be individually competent and independent. It’s no wonder that most of your employees have some difficulty in knowing how to work effectively within a team. Here are five things you can do to forge a collective sense of “team”:

1. Create Routines That Signal Start of Team Space

Being part of a team is like being a partner in a marriage — both require individuals to give up some of their individual desires and aspirations in service to the group. (Read a previous post I wrote about the ego “sacrifice” required here.) As a team leader, you can reinforce this notion with routines that are designed to signal that the group is entering “team” mode and to put their individual goals to the side.

Examples of these routines are:

  • At the beginning of team meetings, consider starting with a few seconds of silence to allow everyone to bring their focus into the meeting.
  • Use a team “check-in” to allow each individual to engage with the rest of the team from the start.
  • During an initial team or project launch, ask each individual to share what baggage they intend to leave behind (past quarrels or resentments, habits, tendencies, etc.) that won’t serve the team purpose and stakeholders.

In short, you can build small habits into team processes to reinforce the notion that everyone is moving into team mode where the team and its work is the focus instead of furthering individual agendas.

2. Frequently Revisit Team Purpose

To maintain the focus on the collective team endeavor, always remind your team of its purpose. Reminding the team why your team exists is a fundamental way to establish and re-establish team focus. Everything team members do — from the behaviors needed to achieve team success, to the goals and objectives they strive to achieve, to the processes they create for high quality output, should all come from to the team’s purpose. This is also true for each decision made and the roles and responsibilities assigned. In short, team purpose informs everything your team does. Team purpose reminds your team that their collective endeavor is not about them as individuals as much as it is about the team as a whole and the benefit it provides to others.

3. Keep Stakeholders at the Center of the Team’s Work

It’s easy for team members to get overly focused on their individual agendas and responsibilities. Yet, your team’s success is ultimately measured by how well its collective work provides beneficial value for stakeholders. In fact, stakeholders and their needs are the reason for your team’s purpose, which in turn drives your team’s work. (Read a previous article on how to take yourself out of the center.)

To keep your team’s focus on stakeholders, connect with them from time to time. Staying in touch allows your team to discover how well your team is providing valuable benefit to them and whether the relationship is good. When your team sees its stakeholders as central to team operations, you prioritize the collective team endeavor of serving stakeholders over individual team member interests.

4. Make Vulnerability and Fallibility Okay

One of the big reasons individual team members can be overly focused on themselves is that they want to appear capable. Yet, each human on your team has flaws. To mask those flaws, individuals often balk at admitting they sometimes lack skills or that they make mistakes. That’s why it’s important that you as team leader show that it’s okay to admit you aren’t all knowing, may lack some ability, and will own up to mistakes in the spirit of learning. Additionally, your team might consider creating norms around these concepts.

Acknowledging human frailties permits team members to accept each other as individuals. It also can focus them on learning together as a team rather than protecting their individual egos.

5. Create Team Accountability for Individual Team Member Development

As suggested by Keith Ferrazzi, you can forge a deeper focus on the team by creating a Team Relationship Action Plan. The key to such a plan is to ensure each individual team member identifies their own areas for growth. Then, they ask for what they need from other team members to make gains in those areas. This creates mutual accountability between each individual and whole team for individual development that furthers the team purpose and goals.

To conclude, individual talent and creativity are necessary contributions to team success. However, successful teams are able to create a singular team focus to serve their stakeholders. Don’t rely on this happening naturally; consider trying some of these ideas to routinely reinforce what it means to be a team.

 

WANT TO USE THIS IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with executives and senior leaders to create team environments that optimize ownership, accountability, learning, and results. Learn more at firebrandconsultingllc.com.

new growth

Stop Distractions By Going Back to Your Purpose

With all the distractions in today’s world, it’s easy for your focus to blur and boundaries around your time to erode. Devices, apps, and social media comprise the main technological distractions, with open offices and co-workers creating distractions as well. All told, it’s estimated that you are distracted from your work approximately 2 hours per day!

Additionally, you can create your own distractions. You might want to be (overly) helpful to others and be seen as a team player, so before you know it, you go out of your way and spend time on activities that are not about what is important to you/your team. It is also easy to distract yourself from the things you don’t want to do or don’t feel confident about doing. Moreover, simply the day-to-day busy-ness of life and work can pull you away from the important things to what’s urgent.

Go Back to Purpose

To re-orient yourself, go back to purpose. It seems odd that something as general as “purpose” can create more targeted focus. However, the reason you become unfocused is you lose sight of where you’re headed and the reason for all of your activity. And that reason your doing the work you’re doing comes from a larger purpose. Your personal purpose, the company’s purpose, or the purpose of an initiative can put things into perspective and allow you to re-dedicate yourself to focusing on what matters.

To that point, purpose is what you believe in. It’s “why” you do what you do. For example, at work, you might be leading a team to implement a piece of the company’s strategic plan. What’s the purpose of that plan – why is it important to the company and how does that “why” translate to the work done by your team?

Use Purpose to Re-Commit and Re-Focus Others

Simply re-stating the purpose is a great way to re-focus yourself and others. Even if your colleagues or direct reports disagree about the current work tasks, they will most likely agree on what the purpose is. Starting from this area of general agreement, you can then facilitate a meaningful discussion about what the most relevant daily and weekly activities should be. And this allows a re-alignment of focus. In general, go to the general ideals, like purpose, to re-align yourself and others when things get stuck or discombobulated.

Use Your Purpose to Focus Your Attention

Whether personal or work-related, check to see whether your time and energy is aligned to purpose. Look at how you spend your time over the course of a week (longer if you can). Can you see the connection between your purpose(s) and the activities you spend your time on and people you spend your time with? (Don’t expect that 100% of your time is tied to directly to purpose – you’re doing well if there’s a connection between a larger relevant purpose and at least 25% of your time.)

If it’s not evident what is important to you after examining how you spend your time and energy, it’s time to go back to your purpose and rededicate yourself to behaviors and activities that reflect it and further it. The next time you feel your focus waning or the boundaries around your time getting fuzzy, prioritize your weekly focus by aligning it with your purpose.

WANT TO USE THIS IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations, by gaining greater composure, focus, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Align Your Leadership Spine

leadership alignmentRemember the 55-38-7 communication rule? Even though its specifics have been disputed, there is truth to the idea that the messages you send are muddled when your words don’t match your behaviors. The same confusion can occur between your company’s strategy, initiatives, and daily work. To avoid confusion, align this leadership “spine” by adjusting your intention, attention, and actions. When you do, strategy and initiatives inform daily work and flow together. When you align these leadership activities, you bolster your capacity to lead. Here’s how:

Clarify Your Intentions

Intentions set the course for what you want. Your intentions seem obvious to you, but they aren’t necessarily obvious to everyone else. Without the benefit of knowing exactly what is in YOUR head, others interpret your messages based on what’s in THEIR heads. For example, from your perspective, if you’re hesitant to move forward on something, you might be concerned about identified risks. However, others might interpret your slow decision-making as a lack of know-how or of confidence or interest in moving forward with an initiative.

Your intentions are unclear, when:
1) your decision and resulting action plans are disconnected from your company’s vision, mission, values, and strategy and/or
2) you haven’t communicated your decision and proposed action plan in a way that explicitly ties them to the company’s broader strategy.

To clarify your intentions, create a clear line of connection between company vision, mission, values, and strategic priorities/goals by highlighting the decisions you made and actions taken. Communicate these connection to direct reports and others before you start moving your decisions forward.

Move From Distraction to Focused Attention

With clear intentions, your employees will follow your lead regarding where to put THEIR focus. Thus, you must limit distractions and model an ability to focus your attention on the things that will help your company stay the course.

To determine your level of distraction versus focus, look at how much time and effort you give to people and tasks related to what you say are the company’s most important priorities. The 80/20 rule serves as a general guideline. That is, strive to spend approximately 20% of your weekly working time performing tasks that are appropriate to your role and that relate to your team or company’s important initiatives.

Check yourself by looking back at how you’ve been using your time over the past couple of weeks. If you’ve been distracted from the company’s most important priorities, look at what’s getting in your way (e.g., allowing unnecessary interruptions, unclear work processes for direct reports that create dependency on you, failing to take time to analyze data or to plan next steps, etc.).

Take Deliberate Action

With clear intentions and focused attention on important priorities, you’re ready to “walk the talk” and to take action, appropriate for your role, to move things forward. You could . . .

  • spend time following up with direct reports on progress in their respective roles,
  • communicate with a broader group of employees about what’s happening and how progress is being made,
  • spend time fostering internal and external relationships that will further those initiatives, and/or
  • ensure direct reports develop new competencies that support the initiatives.

The bottom line is to do the tasks and strengthen the relationships that will further the original intention of the strategic and tactical plans.

It seems so simple to make sure your words and actions are reflecting company priorities. Yet, if you don’t consciously maintain that aligned focus each day, you can easily become reactive and find yourself distracted by events that aren’t worth your time and attention. In the end, you will see how powerful it is to align the leadership “vertebrae” of intention, attention, and action.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with corporate leaders to increase employee engagement and retention by aligning strategy and tactics during rapid growth and change. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting LLC at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

3 Payoffs of “No-Excuses” Leadership

Know Align InfluenceToo many leaders are quick to make excuses for why their companies aren’t performing to expectations by blaming others or circumstances outside themselves when things don’t go as planned.  However, if you are a true leader, you make no excuses and accept the responsibility for the results you get. By honing your own ability to lead, you will experience three payoffs that lead to success:

Payoff #1: You Know Yourself. As a leader, you have a life-sized laboratory or playground for exploring who you are, what you really want in life, and what you do to get what you want. As you become a more intentional leader, you shift to more deliberate, conscious choices and see more alignment between your intentions and impact. With this level of intentionality, you get the results you intended and don’t make excuses for the results you get.

Feedback is a primary way to get you to a place where you know yourself better, whether this feedback comes from assessments, other people, or the results you get from your actions. The trick is to be able to reflect on this feedback and to integrate it with your experiences. This allows you to know yourself better, which puts you well on your way to becoming a no-excuses leader.

Payoff #2: Align Your Business. Once you are more deliberate in the personal impact you intend, it follows that you would create that same alignment in your business. This alignment is about using your company’s intention (its mission, vision, goals, and values) to craft plans, procedures, processes, and systems that guide your employees to “walk the talk” regularly.

Creating and using a living, breathing strategic plan and current company goals, you and your leadership team ensure that daily work aligns with the company’s most important priorities. Every action taken, every promise made and acted upon reflects what you intended and wrote in the mission statement, your vision statement, and the strategic plan. You cultivate this same alignment with individual employees and teams throughout the company. With the business aligned, you decrease the need to make excuses for the outcomes you get.

Payoff #3: Express Yourself Clearly and Powerfully. The final payoff as a no-excuses leader is clear and powerful communication.  To achieve this, you see communication as a powerful, unifying process throughout your company. You check your own actions and words as well as your company’s systems to ensure the important communications employees need to hear are sent without mixed messages.

As a no-excuses leader you use a mix of stories, facts, and images to engage employees’ hearts and minds. You also learn to use influence more often than coercion to get stakeholders to join with you to accomplish you most important goals.

Socrates is attributed with saying, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Are you ready to examine your leadership to become a no-excuses leader?

 
WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations, by gaining greater focus, self-awareness, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

6 Behaviors That Move You from “Impostor” to “Leader”

impostorIt’s very easy to go along, get along, with the fear that if you really showed others who you are and what you really believed about your company’s current strategy and tactics, others would question your loyalty or competence. To be grounded and sure of yourself, however, you need to be authentic about who you are. Here are six behaviors that will move you from being an inauthentic “pretender” to a true leader:

Know Your Motives for Leading. There are many reasons for taking on a leadership position. What are yours? Reflect on the underlying fears and/or aspirations that drove you to accept a leadership role. Look at how these underlying (and even hidden) motivations have shaped the difference you strive to make as a leader. Being aware of your personal leadership “why” will serve as a compass to guide you when the going gets tough.

Give Constructive Feedback. Without being a jerk, a true leader is expected to give feedback that serves the good of the company by providing opportunities to improve. At times, however, you might find yourself withholding constructive feedback from a colleague or direct report simply to avoid an uncomfortable situation. Remember: there is no movement without friction. Go back to your leadership “why” and see whether remaining silent serves the company and everyone else involved.

Engage in Disagreement. As with giving feedback, you may be able to help resolve an issue but are avoiding it. If you find yourself avoiding a situation, examine your reasons for steering clear of the potential conflict. If you determine the avoidance isn’t serving you or the company in the long run, determine the most appropriate and respectful way to address it. Also help co-workers and team members who don’t work well together move through past issues or conflicts.

Share an Alternate Opinion. A true leader speaks up when concerned about the direction the company is going. When you think it’s heading in the wrong direction, you must express your point of view as effectively as possible. Whether or not, the company alters its path based on your opinion is not the point. It’s the fact that you didn’t act like a sheep and spoke up when you believed it was warranted.

Bolster Professional Relationships with Authenticity. The higher up the corporate ladder you are, the more important building and maintaining relationships becomes. Often relationships are weak because you have not been open and honest about the way the relationship is working (more conflict avoidance). Find ways to strengthen those relationships by revealing your real assumptions and beliefs about important issues that come up.

Amplify Misaligned Mission and Company Action. When your company doesn’t walk its collective talk about its mission and values, weigh the cost of going along, rather than highlighting the disconnects. Determine what you can do to encourage your company to bring its “walk” and “talk” into alignment.

You’re a “leader” not an “avoider”. Stop pretending to agree and step forward into the uncomfortable space where motives, thoughts, and opinions differ. Lead out to acknowledge and resolve issues for the good of your company.


WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations, by gaining greater focus, self-awareness, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.