individual team member and team

Sacrifice for the Team

Mythologist Michael Meade wrote, “All meaningful change requires a genuine surrender. Yet, to surrender does not simply mean to give up; more to give up one’s usual self and allow something other to enter and redeem the lesser sense of self.” Your employees do this every day as they surrender or “sacrifice” at least some of their individual expression and preferences in service to the team. It is a profound things we ask of people but don’t realize what we’re asking until we encounter some of the issues that arise with teams.

The word “sacrifice” means to surrender something as an offering to something greater. It comes from ancient words that mean “to make holy”. In turn, the word “holy” comes from words meaning to make whole.

The Sacrifice of Individual Identity

When you form a team, you ask individual team members to bring an individual contribution to a unique collective group. That is, you ask each individual to contribute in a way that will transform a collection of individuals into something qualitatively “more” – a team. Like a well-composed piece of music, visual art, or dance, the individual parts (people) by themselves have their own qualities and aims. However, when assembled in a deliberate way, that collection of individual “parts” transforms into an entirely different, cohesive whole. They form a cohesive composition that becomes more than the sum of its individual parts.

While not usually stated explicitly, when you ask individuals to join a team, you are asking them to surrender personal focus and concerns in favor of the team’s collective interests in serving stakeholders. Thus, working on a successful team asks team members to let go of or sacrifice parts of their egos in service of the cohesive whole of the team and to contribute their time, talent, and energy as offerings in service of the team’s stakeholders.

Personal Development from Sacrifice

In doing so, individual team members can evolve to become (more) whole themselves. On an individual level, team members can develop new capabilities. Also, they can let go of old ways of being to become better people. For example, you might expect team members to sacrifice or give up any or all of the following:

  • Insistence on having things done their way;
  • Personal dislike of others they interact with;
  • Making the team’s work about themselves and their personal contribution to the work; or
  • Judging and blaming others to avoid responsibility for mistakes and failures.

On a team level, the group then offers up its collective work product to serve the team’s stakeholders.

Forming a cohesive team is no small feat. You can appreciate why forming a cohesive, purpose-driven, high-performing, stakeholder-centered team eludes most. It takes skill and care to forge a group of individuals into a cohesive team. Maybe it’s time to appreciate what you ask and to acknowledge the sacrifice.

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.

implement idea

This is Why It Takes Patience to Implement Your Brilliant Idea

Difficult and uncertain situations often highlight weaknesses and failures in our habits, systems and practices. Energized by any “Eureka” moment, you might emerge from difficult situations as an evangelist for a new ideas or ways of doing and being. As you begin to enthusiastically share your ideas and insights, you will often find your brilliance and excitement are not enough to energize others to change or act.

Instead, successfully bringing your brilliant insight into concrete reality when others are involved is not only about the specific policies, procedures, processes, and finances required to implement it. It requires understanding the psychological and sociological aspects of the stakeholders who will implement it, benefit from it, and be otherwise impacted by it.

Here are two things to focus on to make implementing a new idea a little easier over the long-term:

Develop a Shared Cause or Purpose with Others

Dale Carnegie famously said, “People support what they helped to create.”  Others won’t readily get on your bandwagon, even if you have authority over them. Even though your idea, insight, or cause has become apparent to you, others may not have shared the difficulties that gave birth to your idea. For this reason, many won’t understand what your insight will do for them. For some, it might even be threatening.

Thus, much of your initial work will be to create dialogues with stakeholders. These dialogues should center around the themes related to your new idea. This way, you can discover how it could relate it to their experience and be worthwhile for them. Additionally, you’ll see how you can adapt your purpose to encompass a wider group of stakeholders.

With a shared purpose, it’s more likely others will willingly invest their time, talent, and energy to bring it to life. With a critical mass of stakeholders joining you, momentum will begin to carry you forward.

Be Prepared to “Go Slow to Go Fast” Despite Your Enthusiasm

Turning your valuable insight into real change may require letting go of quick fixes and embracing delayed gratification. Meaningful change is often systemic change, and that can take time. This is true especially in the beginning stages when you are enlisting others to join with you. You must be prepared to change direction and handle setbacks.

For example, some stakeholders will be very supportive of your endeavor. You will be tempted to focus on their validation and stay the course. However, be mindful of less enthusiastic stakeholders. Some may attempt to slow or even undermine progress openly or covertly, quietly or adamantly. Take the time to engage with less supportive stakeholders to discover their concerns and how those concerns can be addressed. You may need to re-visit and adapt your shared purpose. And you may not be able to please everyone, but engaging with even the naysayers and remaining open to concerns will build your credibility.

Another way to “go slow to go fast” is by experimenting with one little change at a time to see how it goes. You’ll will be able to test any assumptions about which new ways of operating are needed or practical.

Don’t underestimate the psychology and group dynamics of creating a worthwhile endeavor from a new idea or insight. The hard work is not creating the new processes or procedures to implement. Rather, the real work happens when you bring together multiple stakeholders, who have different points of view, visions, fears, and allegiances. With time, patience, and a willingness to adjust and learn, you can make progress with a shared purpose and permission to experiment.  You’ll be fine — as long as you are prepared for conflict, resistance, complaining, uncertainty, disappointment, and disillusionment along with excitement, satisfaction, and sense of achievement.

 

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 team ownership, accountability, learning, and results. Learn more at firebrandconsultingllc.com.

8 Reasons Your Employees Want to Break Up With You

February is the month we think about our relationships. While you might not go so far as to call them your “valentines”, do you have good relationships with your employees? Having good relationships with your employees increases productivity and retention of top talent. Leaders who don’t foster good relationships with employees will find themselves rejected and abandoned like a jilted lover.

Beware of these eight reasons your employees might want to break up with you:

1. You’re Incompetent. Employees want a competent leader who knows how to communicate, sets clear expectations, addresses all relevant issues (even tough ones), gets results, and holds everyone accountable. In short, they want a good leader. If you’re not at least average in these areas, you’ll see higher than average employee turnover rates for your industry as employees say, “It’s just not working for me anymore.”

2. You’re Not Credible. (Note: there is a difference between lacking credibility and being “incredible”.) Employees want a leader who says what she means, means what she says, and does what she says she’s going to do. These admired leaders have character and integrity. Employees notice when a leader’s conduct is inconsistent with her stated values and when promises are broken. In that situation, employees will dump you for someone else as soon as something better comes along.

3. You’re Not Personally Committed to the Organization’s Mission and Goals. While you ask your direct reports and other employees to give their “all” at work, do you put the effort and time into achieving your company’s goals? As a role model in your organization, you of all people should be working hard. To do this, use your time wisely and put in the planning it takes to fulfill the requirements of your leadership role. Otherwise, your employees will break it off saying, “I’m not saying it’s you; but I know it’s not me.”

4. You’re Rigid or Stuck. While “resilience” might be an over-used, trendy buzzword right now, your employees don’t want to be involved with a boss who can’t roll with the punches. Employees want a leader who can bounce back from failure, who can cope with the disappointment of an unrealized goal, while renewing their sense of hope and re-energizing them as the company gets back on track. If you can’t bounce back when you fall, your employees will break it off and find someone else they can admire on this score.

5. You Are Focused On Your Own Needs First. Do you seek personal ambition over putting the needs of the company first? When you egocentrically put your own desires and ambitions first, your employees understand that you are simply using them to enhance your own status instead of the company’s brand. Employees provide better value to customers when they feel they matter and their leaders care about their well-being. If you’re a “user”, employees will kick you (and your company) to the curb.

6. You Are Not Committed to Employee Success. Do you think your employees should just know what to do with little guidance from you? Employees want to know how they can improve. A good leader understands that talent must be continually developed for the good of the organization. Leaders who don’t, lose bench strength quickly. Without giving specific and frequent feedback and without supporting employees to gain skills, you might just miss out on some of the best employees you could have ever asked for. They will be the “ones that got away”.

7. You Don’t Admit to Your Mistakes. Can you admit when you are wrong? Or do you stubbornly insist on being right? Leaders who admit to their mistakes show humility and courage and emphasize that taking risks may not always lead to the ideal outcome – and that’s OK because you learn something along the way. Leaders who admit their mistakes teach employees that failure is a part of trying and can be more helpful than success.

8. You Need to be Liked Instead of Respected. This is the romantic equivalent of being co-dependent. These leaders curry favor with employees in the hopes of making a friend at the expense of their duty to do what’s right for the company. Of course, it’s ideal to be both liked and respected, but if you have to choose one, choose respect. Employees will see you as unbiased and consistent (fair) if you do. And you’ll respect yourself in the morning.

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman is the Executive Coach for senior leaders who want to get focused and get results. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting at: www.bethstrathman.com.

It’s Spring. Time to Renew Your Commitment to Your Work

renew your commitment to workAs the hours of daylight increase and the outside temperature is warming up, I find myself leaving the behind the gray, unmotivated mood of winter and actually feeling . . . cheery.  What a great opportunity to renew my commitment to my work and to spread more sunshine throughout the office.  If you read Shawn Achor’s, The Happiness Advantage (2010), you’ll recognize these simple things you can do to stretch your happiness muscles:

1.    Consciously Re-Focus on the Positive.   It is well-established that we humans pay more attention to negative events than positive.   “ . . . [M]ost findings indicate that people react more strongly to bad than good events.  The evidence covers everything from minor everyday events and brief experimental exposure to objectionable odors to major life events and traumas.  Bad events produce more emotion, have bigger effects on adjustment measures, and have longer lasting effects.”  Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Finkenauer, Vohs (2001).

So, is it any wonder that we drive to work most mornings, dreading what might be in store for us at work?

Aware of this human tendency, you can now counteract the negative bias we all experience and consciously focus on the positive.  To do so, write down 3 good things that occur each day.  Or write about a positive experience at work for 20 minutes, 3 times per week.  Burton, C., & King, L. (2004), The health benefits of writing about intensely positive experiences.  Journal of Research in Personality, 38, 150-163.  (Concluding that writing about positive experiences for short periods of time led to increased happiness and even led to greater physical well-being).

2.    Reframe Your Work to Find Your Calling.  There’s nothing wrong with seeing your job as just a way to pay the bills.  It’s just more satisfying to think that you’re actually contributing to something larger in the world.  How can you find the meaning in the more unrewarding aspects of your job?  List a task you might define as meaningless.  Next, ask yourself what the purpose is for that task or what it accomplishes.  Keep asking yourself these questions about the task until you hit on a purpose or reason for the task that is more meaningful for you.   In other words, connect the task to something larger or with greater impact in the world.

And to lift your mood even more, watch Shawn Achor talk about happiness in his 12-minute presentation he made at a TED conference.