team, collective, individual

Challenges of Forging Individuals Into a Team

How does a sense of team emerge where the whole is prioritized over the individual, especially in Western cultures where the emphasis is on the individual?

A team is a specific type of group where individuals come together to accomplish a shared purpose. In a team, the individual team members bring their unique talents and perspectives and work interdependently to achieve a unified outcome. This requires mutual responsibility, accountability, and support.

Move from a Focus on Individual Team Members to a Focus on the Team Purpose

With the complexity of today’s world, many companies are finding that individuals working by themselves but together with a common goal doesn’t rise to meet the demands of today’s complex and changing world. The creates an “every person for themselves” approach that falls short. Thus, the challenge for many companies today is to create true team where its “all for one and one for all”.

Forging individuals into a team requires the ability to create conditions where team members express their individual talents in service of the team, while keeping their focus on achieving the team’s purpose and serving the team’s stakeholders.

This is easier said than done because most people have been raised to focus on their own talents, needs, and goals. When this is the case, a focus on individuals is at the center of decision-making. Instead, this is where the team’s collective purpose, goals, and stakeholders should be. Consequently, the team can easily devolve back to being a group of individuals, each in pursuit of looking good individually.

As with most things in life, it’s a balancing act. A healthy team must strive for a balance between encouraging the individual team members to fully contribute while ensuring the shared team purpose drives the work.

Here are some things to monitor if you want to forge a collection of individuals into a high-performing or even transformative team:

Strive For Your Team’s Individual/Team Balance

A team leader along with the team must strive to create conditions where individual team members:

  • know which unique skills, knowledge, and abilities they contribute to the team.
  • are willing to reflect on their abilities and their limits to grow through the challenges of working with others.
  • have interesting and purposeful tasks to perform.
  • are willing to engage in productive conflict to find creative solutions with others.
  • are willing to ask for and offer help when needed without judgment.

Additionally, the team as a whole must:

  • agree upon a shared purpose, norms, goals/aspirations, and priorities.
  • recognize and appreciate individual contributions and encourage individual growth.
  • prioritize its work together with the stakeholders and shared purpose at the center.
  • take collective responsibility to improve as a team and to assist each team member in their individual development
  • engage in dialogue and productive conflict to find creative solutions
 Warning Signs That You’re Losing the Individual/Team Balance

To strike that individual/team balance, there are also things to avoid.  For example, signs that the focus is too much on individuals include:

  • individual opinions and preferences drive decision-making over what’s best for the team and its stakeholders.
  • the team allowing a louder or outspoken team member to dominate team discussions frequently.
  • the team allows individual preferences or behavior to derail group progress towards a shared goal.

Signs that the team might be stifling individual participation include:

  • group think sets in — team members don’t challenge interpretations or points of view out of habit or because they fear not being seen as “team players”.
  • a dogmatic or misguided group personality emerges that isolates the team and creates difficult interactions with others outside the team.
  • the team as a whole dismisses individual contributions (+ and -) that could lead to breakthroughs.

Building a great team is not easy. When you get full team member participation that serves the purpose of the team, it will be a thing of beauty.

 

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.

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.

speaking up, truth to power

Speak Up to Disagree with Someone More Senior

Have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to state your disagreement or take a stand with someone who’s in a high position than yours,  like your boss, board chair, or someone else in leadership? It’s tough because you want to respect the person and/or the position, and at the same time, send the message that you think they’ve got something really wrong. Disagreeing with those in power was seen as an important function even in medieval times to the degree  that it was institutionalized in the form of the court jester. The jester was the only person who could use humor to disagree with or point out the follies of a ruler.

In today’s world, when you want to take a stand, or state something that someone in power may not agree with, consider a few things before you do that, so you remain a credible, respectful team player.

1. Check Your Own Motivations

Make sure that your message is not about you, but is for the good of the organization or your team. This is key because when you work with others, the central objective is not about furthering your own agenda. Rather, it’s about keeping the work at the center of the discussion and doing what’s right in the best interest of the project, the team, or the company. When you act out of unselfish motivations, you will likely reap personal benefits in the long run because because you will be seen as someone who is credible and has honorable intentions.

2. Assume Good Intentions

Everyone has good intentions and so does your boss and other powerful people. You might disagree with an assumption, an approach, the way they have framed the issue, but assume the underlying objective or reason for their “take” is good. You just need to figure out what those underlying motivations are for this individual and acknowledge them.

3. Speak Up When Stated Principles and Values Are at Stake

It’s not worth it to speak up about every detail that you disagree with. Speaking up to disagree with someone in a higher position is warranted when you see a stated ideal at issue. As you speak up to address the issue, go to the root of your disagreement by referring back to a broad principle that is very important to the company or to that specific individual. Observe how their current position seems to be at odds with a deeply held principle, purpose, value, or behavioral norm. By highlighting where you see the rub with what they’re advocating, speaking up to disagree is based on a loftier ideal and not simply a difference of opinion.

4. Help Them Save Face

This is not about you putting your boss or other senior person “in their place”. This is about you simply speaking up in a way that helps them to see the deeper issue that you’re trying to highlight. To avoid making their viewpoint seem “wrong”, you can propose a different solution or alternative that aligns with the higher ideals and with their their concerns. When you disagree in this way, other with seniority are more likely to listen to you and see you as someone who speaks up thoughtfully.

I can’t guarantee that everything will work out every time, but when you do seek to speak up to disagree with those more senior than you in this way, you remain respectful, maintain your credibility, and will be seen as a “team player”.

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. Take her 5-minute Leadership Impact quiz at https://assess.coach/firebrandconsulting to discover how you might be holding yourself back.

Learn more at firebrandconsultingllc.com.

How to Avoid Being Misunderstood

misunderstoodDo you feel misunderstood by your direct reports or colleagues? Do they think you’re an ogre when you’re really fun and fair? Or maybe they think you’re a pushover when you’re really purposeful and committed.

There might be a disconnect between what you intend and how you’re coming across. Here are four ways avoid misunderstandings by closing any gap between your intentions and your actual impact on others.Get clear about what you want to happen. Conventional wisdom says that we are on auto-pilot about 95% of the time. Which means we are consciously thinking about or aware of what we are doing very little during the day.

  • Get clear. Know what you want to accomplish before you go into a meeting, have a conversation with a co-worker, or work on a project. Ask yourself what you want to get out your time spent.
  • State your intentions. Based on the outcome you want to create, state your intentions out loud, especially when interacting with others. By doing so when going into a meeting or conversation, you are not leaving to chance how the other person will interpret what you say or do.
  • Ask for the other person’s perspective first. As a leader, when you speak, your words carry weight, and that weight often shuts down others who are further down the food chain. Additionally, listening first will give you a chance to tune in to the other’s perspective.
  • Seek to reconcile different perspectives. With a clearly stated intention and after sharing perspectives, you will have a better understanding of how the different perspectives overlap or don’t. Revisit your intention again, and ask for how you can move forward by using what most important from each perspective.

By consciously focusing on a clear intention and being open with your perspective, you can create conditions that allow others to “see” you for who you are.

 

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 leaders to maximize the “people side” of business and evolve into the leader they are meant to become. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

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lack of trust

8 Traits That Make You Untrustworthy

You would think that because people spend roughly 1/3 of their time at work, the workplace would be a critical venue for establishing trust. Yet, the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer reported that only 49% of employees think CEOs are very or extremely credible. Along the same lines, a recent HBR article on trust at work reported that only 46% of employees place “a great deal of trust” in their employers, and 15% report “very little” or “no trust at all.”

No wonder work is stressful. If employees are spending a good deal of time in a place where there is at least some distrust, you know they are diverting time and energy to activities to create safety and security that hedge against their lack of trust, instead of putting that time and energy towards innovating and otherwise doing their jobs.

Here’s what you’re doing that might make your employees see you as untrustworthy:

 

1. You are Unpredictable.

When people can’t count on what you stand for or on the processes or criteria that govern how decisions are made in our company, they don’t trust you. Create certainty to combat your employees’ wary reptilian and avoid being erratic by switching the fundamental principles or values that guide your behavior and don’t be wishy-washy. Say what you mean, mean what you say, and follow up on the things you commit to doing.

2. You Are Incompetent.

When you don’t have the basic background and knowledge to make good judgment calls, your team will not have faith in you. Cultivate your personal knowledge and abilities instead by educating yourself on issues and concepts or asking others to enlighten you in your area of responsibility. You don’t need to be THE expert, but you need to be competent enough.

“Trust in institutions and their license to operate is no longer automatically granted on the basis of hierarchy or title, rather in today’s world, trust must be earned.” — Richard Edelman, President/CEO of Edelman, a communications/marketing firm

3. You Have a Hidden Agenda.

If others believe you aren’t being upfront about what you think or why you think it, they will definitely be leery of you. Instead, become more transparent by explaining your underlying assumptions and rationale for the opinions you hold and stances you take and do it in a way that is the company’s best interests – not your own.

4. You Come Across as Fake.

Whether you’re trying to be a super hero, a brown-noser, or are just too good to be true, if others can’t relate to you human-to-human, you won’t have their trust. Instead be genuine by owning up to your failings and to the fact that you don’t have all the answers.

5. You’re Clueless.

When your attention is elsewhere instead of on your area of responsibility, people don’t trust that you know what’s going on. Combat cluelessness by keeping your eye on the ball and focusing on issues and trends in the industry, your profession, and most certainly in your company.

6. You Have a Big Ego.

You think only you can save the day or have the answers. Broaden your perspective to avoid being immersed in own your world or focused only on your own prowess or needs and wants. Make it a practice to seek out differing points of view and explore their assumptions and backgrounds that led them to their conclusions.

7. You Live in Your Own Little World.

Foster better relationships with others to build trust. Connect with others in your company at all levels. This means you need to ask questions about their experiences and thoughts on an issue then listen to them and appreciate where they are coming from. You’ll be more likely to build more trusting relationships when people see you and interact with you.

8. You Don’t Acknowledge the Work of Others.

If you don’t recognize the contributions made by every level of employee in your company, you miss out on a big opportunity to show that you are indeed clued in and understand the impact that is made throughout your company every day. When people understand you really “see” what they are doing, they learn to trust that you are minding the store.

Ultimately, trust starts with each person, and as with most things, leaders get to go first. So, start with yourself and see how you can create more of the following in your company and become a more trustworthy and all-round better person in the process.

 

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 companies by gaining greater focus, self-awareness and influence with their teams.  Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Is Your Company Culture “Incognito”?

 Incognito:  with your true identity kept secret.
Merriam-Webster.com

lack of trustIn 2013, the Miami Dolphins released Richie Incognito after an investigation concluded that he bullied and made racial slurs against a teammate. Although the sport recognized Incognito as a top player, he had a history of a explosive emotional outbursts and “dirty play” against other players, coaches, and fans.

Lately, example after example of a leader or star performer with a long history of “bad” conduct have come to light, showing time after time, that company boards, leaders, and practices dismissed it, enabled it, and allowed it. It highlights the conundrum that many companies face: How to balance the equation when a leader or star performer gets results but behaves badly and counter to your stated company values.

“Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch”

Culture is those shared norms, assumptions, experiences, and beliefs that distinguish your company from others. Peter Drucker’s quote, “Culture eats strategy for lunch,” underscores how influential a company culture is.

The question is, is the company culture you describe in your mission, vision, and values, the same culture that shows up in your workplace every day? In short, is your company or team culture evident  . . . or is it “incognito”?

As a leader, whether formal or informal, you must go first. You reinforce and redefine cultural norms based on how you act, what you pay attention to, what you praise and reinforce in others, and how you react when challenges occur. In spite of what you say about who you are as a company, is there an unwritten assumption that the ability to produce excellent results will “hide a multitude of sins”? At least for your leaders and top performers.

All employees — especially leaders and top performers —  must be held to the same behavioral standards as everyone else; otherwise, employees get a mixed message. This muddies the waters about what is expected for how they should treat co-workers and what kind of treatment they should expect in return. If the stated culture isn’t evident in how people work together, such a mixed message can signal to employees that it’s “everyone for himself”, which leads to a lack of the necessary trust and team camaraderie.

If your leaders and superstars are not displaying the kind of behavior that reinforces your team culture on a consistent basis, what are you prepared to do about it?

Postscript on Incognito

After being released by the Dolphins, the Bills signed Richie Incognito in 2015, where he has been elected to the ProBowl each year since (2015-2018). In 2017, an opposing player accused Incognito of using racial slurs. After an investigation, the NFL is not expected to impose any consequences.

 

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 leaders to maximize the “people side” of business and evolve into the leader they want to become. Learn more about her at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.