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.

failure, learning

Why You Should Prize Failure

Failure happens when a desired or expected outcome doesn’t materialize. It can happen whether or not there was something you could have done about it, too. Whether the mistake is a small glitch or a major flop, failure often weighs heavily on you personally because you’ve been conditioned that, without exception, “failure is not an option”.

This is a lot to overcome. In most people’s experience, nothing is perfect; you and the people around you are flawed, and the world is constantly changing. Thus, you’re not always going to get things right on with mistakes, foibles, and failure and re-frame them as ”learning”:

1. Failure points to weaknesses in behavior, skill, processes, your overall system, or level of support provided.

Use an error to examine a weakness in how you are performing the work. People involved may need to build technical or interpersonal skills. The steps designed to produce the work output may be inadequate. Also, you might need to increase follow ups or check ins during a process to increase the ability to get and give needed guidance.

2. Failure provides you new information and data about what does and doesn’t work.

Mistakes help you home in on what will ultimately work well, especially when you are in uncharted territory. Repeated, incremental failures can help you fine tune toward success.

“Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” – James Joyce

3. Failure can highlight false assumptions.

Consumers didn’t embrace the Ford Edsel in the late 1950s in part because the company mistakenly assumed consumers wanted big cars when they wanted smaller, more economical ones. The maker of Coke incorrectly assumed that it would convert Pepsi drinkers if it made its product taste more like its rival. While it’s too bad that these companies went all the way to market with ill-conceived products, they did learn that their thinking was flawed at a fundamental level.

4. Failure can create curiosity that leads to inquiry and more engagement.

With an eye towards learning, you can use failure to focus your team on the work. To do this you must avoid blaming and shaming individuals, which can drive a wedge in the middle of your team. Instead, focusing on what happened can bring your team together to solve problems. Additionally, your team can go one step further to share what they learned with others in your organization.

Perfection is not the goal. Nothing and no one will ever be 100% error free. Rather, view the performance of work as a creative process that can teach you a lot through the errors, mishaps, and failures that occur along the way. Be grateful you have opportunities to discover what and how you can improve the next time.

 

WANT TO USE THIS IN YOUR NEWSLETTER OR BLOG? 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.

team - put work at center

Build a Team of Self-Motivated Self-Starters with This Subtle Mindset Shift

Are you frustrated because you don’t think your team takes responsibility or is as accountable as they could be? Do you feel like you have to hold people’s hands too much? Do you believe all or some team members lack self-motivation?

You might be feeding into this problem.

You could be unwittingly creating a dynamic that subtly communicates to your team that they shouldn’t make a move without you. For example, if you have a more directive leadership style, you might consider yourself the “hub” to your team’s “spokes”. Effectively, you place yourself in the middle of almost every interaction and decision made on your team. In contrast, let’s assume your leadership style is more “hand’s off”. In this case, your team might be confused about their roles, accountabilities, and decision-making authority. With this confusion, they are more likely to hold back from taking appropriate action.

Assume you have the right people on your team. You can make a subtle mindset shift in how you envision your team, its focus, and way of operating to get things done. Instead start by taking yourself out of the center of that team. Stop seeing yourself as its “hub”. Instead, shift to envision yourself on the “rim” of the team “wheel” along with and your team.  Then, envision the team placing the “work” or current goal in the center. In other words, make the “work” the hub and focus for all action and decision-making instead of you.

When you and your team put the work in the center, you are no longer the “go-to” person . . . the action taker . . . the person team members need to appeal to for permission. Also, you won’t feel the need to be in every little loop.

Rather, you’ll begin to see each of your team members spot what they need to do to address an issue or to move a project forward to reach the goal. Your team will take the reins more readily and more often without feeling the need to rely on you to get the go-ahead.

This frees you up to take on the role as resource, guide, facilitator, and obstacle remover — a much more productive place for a team leader to be at any level in the organization.

If you don’t want to be the parent or the babysitter to your adult team, stop putting yourself in the center of the team. With this one small shift, you will lead your team towards greater self-direction, accountability, and responsibility.

You can view a short, related YouTube video on my channel here.

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. Take her 5-minute quiz on to find out how you’re doing at creating a high-performance team environment.

teams, adaptive leadership

How Uncertainty and Conflict Lead to Innovation and Creativity

Did you know that teams rated as the “best” make more mistakes (not fewer) than others? How come? Because the better teams that make more mistakes DISCUSS them. When they do this, they can work together to reduce them. In short, these “better” teams operate in an environment of “psychological safety”.

According to Harvard Business School professor and researcher, Amy Edmondson, psychological safety is the “belief that you will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.”

In contrast to a work environment the emphasizes only accountability to produce results, an environment of psychological safety is one that:

• Appreciates diverse perspectives and encourages disagreement instead of assuming there is one correct perspective or answer.
• Allows team members to admit what is unknown, uncomfortable, or uncertain. It is not a trendy “safe space” designed to shelter team members from things they don’t agree with.
• Focuses on experimentation to find ways to address current challenge. To this end, it encourages appropriate risk and allows mistakes.
• Approaches challenges as a system instead of looking for one thing or individual to blame.
• Allows for imperfection and encourages acknowledging personal fallibility and flaws without encouraging unproductive, dysfunctional behavior.

Through her research, Edmondson identified 3 leadership behaviors that help create psychological safety:

1. A Learning Framework.

Work is framed as a learning problem; not an execution problem.  This is accomplished, in part, by acknowledging uncertainty and interdependence. In this way, the team knows it’s OK to encounter fits, starts, detours, and failure before it arrives at an end result.

2. Lean in to Vulnerability and Flaws.

As a leader, when you acknowledge your own fallibility, you emphasize the need for all to speak up and add their perspectives. You can say things, like, “I’m curious to know how you see this.” or “What am I missing here?”

3. Model Curiosity.

Ask lots of questions to show the team how to speak up to get the information they need without being afraid to look less than competent.

For your part, creating psychological safety means that you as a leader must manage your emotions and reactivity. You might think you’re modeling curiosity to encourage participation in a discussion. However, if you get visibly upset at what your team’s input, you’ll undermine psychological safety.

In conclusion, when you create psychological safety with your team, you create an environment that taps into the human element of work instead of treating them as simple cogs in a machine. When coupled with high accountability for results, psychological safety helps you create a learning team that constantly adapts to challenges. In this way, your team has the best chance of expressing its full potential. And that leads to more innovation and creativity in your organization.

Learn more about Amy Edmondson’s research and how to create psychological safety in your organization with her book, The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety or her TedX Talk.

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 presence and composure, focus, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

By the Numbers – Capturing Lessons Learned

Much institutional knowledge in companies is lost through turnover and poor communication. Such institutional information is often critical to successful operations and execution of company goals. One way to preserve and share knowledge and expertise is to actively capture, store and share “lessons learned”. However, for most, it’s easier said than done.

This infographic compiles the numbers related to capturing, retaining, and sharing lessons learned:

lessons learned

 

 

How to Shift Your Leadership from Park to High Gear

shift leadership into high gearLeadership is the process of inspiring others to achieve what you have in mind. And it will be one of the most challenging things you set out to do. You may have found out soon enough that you can’t do everything to achieve your business goals alone. It may be even more surprising that your employees aren’t mind readers. Consequently, they often do things in ways you never anticipated . . . or not at all.

Like a finely-tuned machine, the component parts of your company must work together in a highly-coordinated and high-functioning manner. You can use the following touchstones to coordinate and maintain your “machine”, and you will shift your leadership from park to high gear:

1. Formulate and Convey Your Vision

Leaders create a compelling vision of the future to create mutual understanding and to enlist the enthusiasm of others to join in the bringing of that vision into reality. Create a detailed picture in your mind of where you want your company to look like in the foreseeable future. Then, share that vision, or at least relevant aspects of it, with employees in almost every interaction. This serves to describe the finish line you’re heading to and ties what employees are doing now to where the company is going.

2. Practice Humility

Truly powerful leaders know their capabilities and are comfortable in their own skin. Hold on to your confidence but set your ego aside and acknowledge that others have talents and capabilities that you don’t. Take yourself out of the center and out of the role of “doer” and see yourself as the conductor of a very capable orchestra.

3. Put Strengths in the Limelight

Great leaders know that strengths will move your goals forward, not weaknesses.That’s why it’s important to know which strengths you need in each position in your company, so you can hire employees who have them. Then harness and highlight those strengths through coordinated effort to move the needle on your company goals.

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists. Of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say, ‘We did this ourselves.'”  — Lao Tzu

4. Make Performance Discussions the Norm

Dynamic leaders know that high performance doesn’t happen if things are left to chug along on autopilot. It’s important to continually channel people’s focus and efforts on the right activities and to the standards required. Focus these discussions on key performance indicators and high-value activities for employees. Meeting regularly keeps you abreast of how they are doing. It also allows you to assist with removing obstacles and gives you an idea of training employees need. Additionally, you can more timely celebrate “wins” with each employee.

[bctt tweet=”Dynamic leaders know that high performance doesn’t happen if things are left to chug along on autopilot.” username=”@FirebrandCoach”]

5. Access the Wisdom of the Team

Leadership is about bringing employees together to access all available wisdom and using it to the company’s advantage. In small and large companies alike, employees depend on each other to get their work done. The beauty is that each has a different perspective and can see things the others can’t. Create regular opportunities for work groups or teams to come together to share what’s working and what’s not working. This will also allow them to provide advice and support to keep things moving forward in the right direction.

Your employees need your attention and guidance. Your leadership will shift into high gear when you learn that it’s less about you “doing” and more about you “allowing” others to do.

 

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.

 

This post was inspired by a conversation with colleague, Clay Neves.

Clay Neves Personal Sales Dynamics - Sales Leadership

Clay Neves brings 35 years of sales management experience to solve your specific sales challenges, with several Inc.500/5000 awards for sales growth. He designed, implemented and managed successful campaigns for Fortune 500 companies like Pacific Bell, Sprint, AT&T, Citibank, Showtime, and others. He has worked with thousands of business owners throughout the United States and Canada to grow their businesses, through seminars, workshops, and one on one coaching. He served as Executive Director of the Murray Area Chamber of Commerce and was awarded the Book of Good Deeds Award from the Murray Exchange Club for his community service.

Clay lives in West Jordan with his wife JaNae. They have two children, Janessa and Jordan. He enjoys playing his guitar, singing, writing poetry, solving puzzles, history, reading, and hiking the many canyon trails along the Wasatch front. He’s an award winning competitive speaker.

Contact Clay at clay@personalsalesdynamics.com or at 801-792-7929 for a STAR (Standards/Training & Tools/Accountability/Rewards) worksheet.

6 Leadership Fails That Make Incentive Plans More “Incite-ful” Than “Insightful”

compensation-incentives

Struggling to figure out how to increase customer satisfaction? Tired of the lackluster employee performance that can come with simply paying employees to show up and breathe? There might be some benefit in creating a formal incentive plan for employees in hopes of producing more and better products or customer service.

An incentive is the reward given to an employee in exchange for a behavior or performance of a task. “If you do ‘x’, then you’ll get ‘y’.” However, with the complexities of employee incentive plans, proceed thoughtfully and with care. Without thoughtful advanced planning and insight into the correct way to align the incentives with business needs, you will most assuredly end up “inciting” employees to exhibit unproductive behaviors. In that case, your company ends up with unwelcomed and unintended consequences.
Here are 6 leadership failures that could cause incentive plan to be more “incite-ful” than “insightful”:

1. You failed to align the incentives with business needs.

With poor alignment, there is little or no
correlation with your business processes, products or services, or customers’ needs. To avoid misalignment, think about what you are trying to achieve by using an incentive, including what you want to achieve with your customers.

2. You forgot about fairness.

An unfair incentive fails to account for the amount and extent of control participating employees have over the end result, whether they work individually or with a team. This means employees don’t have a good opportunity to affect the desired result. To create a fair incentive, the design must account for the employee’s abilities to have an impact on the desired outcome and to control what they do to affect the outcome.

3. You weren’t transparent about how it works.

Employees don’t have a clear understanding of what’s important to do for the sale and for the business need. Spelling out the reasons and working of the incentive program to employees is key.

4. You don’t understand the “M.O.” of the participating employees.

Incentives work best with functions that are very production-based versus with those functions that require more creativity and discernment. Additionally, the incentives used should be correlated to the intrinsic motivation(s) of the type of employee who typically works in those positions.

5. You’re missing out on other types of rewards you could use, such as recognition.

An incentive program isn’t just about the “if-then” rewards available. Its effectiveness can be greatly enhanced by using acknowledgement, recognition, and even bonuses.

6. You fail to pilot the program and to monitor it throughout implementation.

Before rolling out the plan, it helps to have participating employees weigh in on just what the proposed incentive will encourage them to do – good and bad. Then during implementation, watch for unintended behaviors and results, so you can tweak as needed as soon as an unintended result is noted.

People are not machines. Before implementing an incentive plan, call on experts to assist in the design and carefully consider what outcome you are really trying to accomplish.

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: leadlikenobodysbusiness.com.

 

russell-lookadooThis blog post was inspired by a conversation with Russell Lookadoo of HRchitecture. Russell Lookadoo is the HR Guy for small businesses. His firm, HRchitecture, specializes in helping business leaders accomplish their goals by effectively using their teams. Russell brings three decades of experience designing Human Resources solutions that achieve business strategies in varied organizations ranging from a small manufacturer to the nation’s second largest bank.

Since 2005, Russell has enjoyed focusing on small businesses and has honed his skills in family business matters, partnership disputes and other challenges unique to small privately-owned companies.

He is the only consultant in the area to combine his broad corporate Human Resources background with a decade of practical business advising with small businesses. This unique combination allows Russell to work closely with business owners and key leaders to find solutions to their business challenges and align the personal vision of the owner with that of the companies.

Russell holds the Senior Professional in Human Resources designation from the Society of Human Resources Management and earned the Certified Compensation Professional designation from World at Work. Russell attended the University of North Carolina on the prestigious Morehead-Cain Scholarship and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Industrial Relations. Visit his website at http://www.theHRGuy.biz.