team, purpose, trust, psychological safety, goal

5 Reasons Your “Team” is Not a Team

Although there are countless books about creating better teams, participating on and leading teams remains a top frustration in most companies. Here are 5 reasons your “team” might not actually be one:

1. There are no shared goals or values.

Your “team” may believe it is working together and headed in the same direction, but when push comes to shove, each of you pursue activities that serve your individual interests and behave without accountability to each other. In other words, your oars are rowing in different directions.

In contrast, you know you are a team when you are a group that shares a few core values and pursues a measurable goal that will define the team’s success. Once a measurable team goal is set and values identified, each of you ensure every person on the team understands how to behave according to those values and is held accountable to do so. Further, you understand how each person contributes to achieving the team goal through individual competencies (e.g., ability to build consensus, drive for results, etc.) or technical expertise.

“Finding good players is easy. Getting them to play as a team is another story.” — Casey Stengel

2. There is low trust or no trust.

With little or no trust, members of your so-called “team” withhold their best and secretly look for ways to “win” at someone else’s expense without regard to a common goal. 

Team trust is strongly correlated with team commitment and follow-through on promises made to each other. To work together effectively as a team, each or you must believe the others have your back.  Also, when setbacks occur (and they almost always occur), you have to believe/trust everyone else is doing his best. This helps your team avoid the blame game and to get back on track quickly.

3. There is not a clear path to achieve the team goal.

When you only have a destination but no map to get there, a group of individuals will spend precious time wasting uncoordinated effort in different directions.

Mapping the route to achieve the common team goal assists your teammates in understanding how and when all team members’ contributions come together to achieve success. A clear path often includes quick wins to gain momentum and milestones to mark the way.

4. Communication is not open, honest, and transparent.

If people on your “team” are more concerned with withholding information and opinions while masking what they really see happening, team accountability and effectiveness are severely hampered.
To behave as a team, you must communicate in a forthright manner to get on the same page, to stay on the same page, to coordinate action, and to hold each other accountable to team commitments and values.

5. “Team” members are overly focused on their own contributions, wins, and reputations.

Ever seen a scoring basketball player point to the teammate who passed him the ball? Acknowledging contributions by teammates reinforces the notion that each person’s success is dependent on the contributions of others, no matter how small or behind-the-scenes.  No one does it alone. Recognizing each other’s contribution to the team fosters better relationships and, in turn, more trust.


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 executives and senior leaders to create team environments that optimize ownership, accountability, learning, and results. Learn more at firebrandconsultingllc.com.

How to Be a Credible Leader

Previously, I wrote about four areas for leadership focus.  In this post, I’m focusing on establishing your credibility.

Over the past century or two, the expectations of what a leader is and does has shifted and that applies to how leaders established credibility.  Used to be that a leader was credible if he was “large and in charge” as set forth in the Great Man Theory.  To establish credibility in previous centuries, an individual (usually male) needed to dynamically leave his mark on the world through personal power, charisma, intelligence, and wisdom.  From the top, down, he directed, commanded, provided answers, intimidated, kicked butt and took names, and was always deferred to by everyone else.  In short, the leader sat atop the pyramid in a hierarchical paradigm borrowed from the military.

Today, a shift has and is still occurring that is questioning the heavy reliance not only on top-down hierarchy but also the traditional tough-guy leadership traits that formerly formed the basis of a leader’s credibility.  Sure. In a crisis, expediency and taking charge can pay off.  You absolutely want a leader who can take control of the situation and go into command-and-control mode to alleviate a big threat quickly.  Yet on a day-to-day, non-crisis basis, the credible leader of the 21st century is one who enlists others to follow through competence, transparency, inspiration, and being forward-looking.

How are you reflecting these 21st century aspects of credibility?

Competence.

In the past and for today’s leader, a large component of credibility comes from being competent. Competence is being qualified for the job.  It comes from knowing your stuff and being intelligent enough to ask the right questions if you don’t.  Increasingly, the competent 21st century leader is also emotionally competent, meaning he is aware of his emotions, can regulate them, and is aware of how others are feeling.

Being competent does not mean the individual is an expert in all things related to the business or of managing his emotions; rather, it means the individual is adequately knowledgeable and skilled and has a basic knowledge and ability with most things that come his way.  Competence is often an issue when someone is hired or promoted through political wrangling, nepotism, or favoritism.

Transparency.

People don’t like being manipulated or lied to.  That’s why leaders who are open and honest with their employees earn high marks.  Openness and honesty keeps everyone together as a unit, sharing the same experience.  It also, provides the leader an opportunity to teach employees about his thought process, including underlying assumptions.  In addition to being instructive, transparency can invite the sharing of alternate viewpoints.  The back and forth exchange of ideas that comes from such openness helps forge a stronger bond amongst the group and furthers the leader’s believability and credibility.

Inspiration.

To be inspiring, you don’t have to be Martin Luther King, Jr.  It does, however, mean that you can help others see that they are part of something bigger and can accomplish great things in concert with others.  This is about helping employees see the “big picture” and their place in helping the grand plan come to fruition.  Neurologically, by way of mirror neurons, followers’ brains light up in many different areas when they interact with a leader who can enthusiastically connect them with the big picture.  This increases the chance that employees will be open to new ideas and new emotions as they scan the business environment for options to attain a corporate goal or vision.  And that is exactly what a leader wants to inspire employees to do.

Forward-looking.

Finally, today’s leader must have the ability to scan for future trends, opportunities, and threats.  The marketplace changes so quickly that leaders must have an eye on what is coming down the pike – good, bad, different and indifferent.  This gives the organization advanced notice allowing it to adapt and stay relevant and in business. The leader who is uncomfortable with change or unaware of trends will react slowly if at all, failing to catch the next wave that will keep the business afloat.  Because followers rely on the continuation of the organization, the credible leader is in tune with what’s happening now as well as with what is likely coming in the future to ensure the longevity of the organization.

What do you need to do differently to be  credible enough to lead?

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: www.bethstrathman.com.

4 Leadership Focal Points to Guide the Way

focus, clarityI haven’t met a leader yet whose day is not full of information, fast-paced action and distractions.  At any given moment, you are bombarded with input from multiple directions. To appear “in control” and competent, you feel you have no other choice than to react to the situation demanding you immediate attention.  Now!  Yet, when you reflect on your day, you don’t seem to have gotten anything done.   You are exhausted.  How can this be?

The problem is failing to focus on what’s important.

Here are four tips for keeping your leadership eyes focused in the right direction:

1. Focus on making a difference with your employees.

Employees admire leaders who have a positive impact on others.  It shows that you understand that you are not the center of the universe and that you are here to serve others.  So, maximize the impact of you have on others by shedding your Superman cape.  Instead of you taking responsibility to react and solve the problem or provide an answer, coach those around you to think through possible answers or responses to the issue.  It not only shows your employees that you care enough to take the time to include them in the solution, but it builds capacity in those around you and relieves you of shouldering all responsibility.

2. Focus on being credible.

According to Kouzes and Posner, the one characteristic employees look for in their leaders is credibility.  You don’t have to be perfect, but to build and keep credibility, you must demonstrate competence, meaning you can cogently converse about what’s going on in your organization and industry and deliver on what you say.  You must be forward-looking to help your organization adapt to changing market conditions.  You must be transparent and honest, so others will believe what you say over time. Finally, you must be inspiring, meaning that you can communicate to others how they are part of something bigger than themselves and can achieve great things.

3. Focus on a common vision.

Crafting a vision for your organization takes work.  The REAL work starts when you start making that vision a reality. Communicating the vision in ways others can relate to and support takes constant effort and stewardship.  Keeping the vision in focus for others is a daily task that leaders must do.  You must “walk the talk” and live the vision by being an example and use that vision to constantly frame the work done in your organization — everything from how a receptionist greets visitors to the principles used to make big decisions about products and services.

4. Focus on learning.

Be open to looking at things in new ways.  Be curious as you approach new technologies or even problems. Ask questions.  Always seek to improve yourself by getting feedback on how you’re doing.  And view the workplace as one, big scrimmage field where people can take chances, practice and fail, and learn from their mistakes.

So, at the end of the day, ask yourself:
• Did I make a positive difference with at least one employee today?
• Was I credible?
• Did I further our mission and vision?
• Did I learn something new today?

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 composure, focus, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: : http://www.bethstrathman.com.

Leader as Thinker

neuron thinkingIt’s the end of the day, and you’re beat.  You’ve been “on the go” since 7 a.m. and you’re ready to call it a day.  Most of your days seem to go this way. Do you make time to think rather than react all day?

When I ask my clients when they do their strategic thinking, I get predictable responses – everything from a look of “you’ve got to be kidding” to a question like, “Really?  It’s OK to spend my time doing that?”  I take the responses as a symptom of American culture that preaches “to be busy” equals “to be productive”.

But the higher up the corporate food chain you go, the less time you should spend on “being busy” and the more time you can and should spend on thinking.  Insufficient time spent thinking about your business can lessen the quality of the decisions you make about it.

In the Western world, the basis of good solid thinking goes back 2500 years to Socrates in Ancient Greece.  His method involved asking deep questions and probing for answers before accepting an idea of as worthy of belief.   Fast forward to our experiences today, where we spend hours on activities that are quick, immediate, and/or passively mindless, like texting, watching TV, spending time online updating our status, or engaging in various other forms of pure entertainment.  No wonder we find it hard to believe that we ought to spend time engaging our minds in a deep, intellectual pursuit.

“Thinking time” doesn’t have to be spent alone in a locked office working on your company or department’s strategic plan (although that could be very productive).  It can be time you spend walking around a competitor’s retail store, observing how they operate.  It can be lunch in a nearby park, observing the comings and goings of local flora, fauna, and people, which may lead to serendipitous connections later on.  You can walk around your own corporate office, retail store, or manufacturing facility to observe what’s going on.

Would you rather think in tandem with others?  Invite someone out to have a beverage and conversation.  You can even spend your commute time thinking.  Whatever will afford you time for meaningful introspection and reflection is the type of thinking activity that will be beneficial.

The point is that your “thinking time” will provide you with information when you need it later on.  From observations, come connections, and the more connections you make, the better prepared your mind is to draw upon seemingly unrelated information and events that might just provide you with that next brilliant insight.

 

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