“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” - Former CEO of GE, Jack Welch
In my last blog, I talked about the importance of your continuing to grow and develop as a leader. Now let’s talk about the importance of growing and developing your people. Both are essential if you want to prepare your organization to succeed today and into the future.
Employees need to feel valued, connected, challenged and recognized. Providing them with opportunities to build on their strengths, learn new skills and prepare for the future needs of the company demonstrates in a very real way that they are integral to the organization and its success. And when employees feel that kind of connection they will be more engaged and loyal.
Employee development can happen in many different forms: on-the-job training, personal development, cross-functional projects, coach and/or mentor, special projects, stretch assignments, training courses, reading and personal study, online courses, peer coaching, job shadowing, etc. The important thing is that it is available and encouraged.
Too often development opportunities are limited to “fixing” an employee’s weaknesses rather than leveraging and developing their strengths. Yet, according to Gallup, organizations that focus on employee strengths have higher engagement, less turnover and a better bottom line.
Create development plans that take into consideration organization goals and the skills and behaviors employees will need to contribute to achieving those goals. It’s also essential that individual employee career goals and personal interests be taken into account in development plans. All too often employees have skills and talents that are under-utilized. In fact, 74% of employees feel that they are not reaching their full potential. (The Learning Wave)
Also consider the skills and behaviors employees will need in the future to succeed (yes, even if it’s not in your organization). According to a report from the World Economic Forum, the top 10 skills in 2020 will be:
- Complex problem solving
- Critical thinking
- People management
- Coordinating with others
- Emotional intelligence
- Judgment and decision making
- Service orientation
- Cognitive flexibility
Creating, implementing and supporting development plans for your employees will not only help keep them loyal and engaged, it will ensure that your organization is ready for the challenges and opportunities of the future.
"The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay." - Henry Ford
Till next time,
Conflict on teams is inevitable. Yet when managed effectively, it can actually be a good thing. New ideas are born; relationships are deepened through the airing and resolution of differences; teams grow stronger. When you are a leader in the midst of conflict, however, and attempting to deal with it while juggling everything else, it can be a bit overwhelming.
Here are 5 tips for managing team conflict effectively.
Be self-aware. Understanding your leadership strengths and how you react under stress is essential to handling conflict in a constructive manner. Often our positive traits can be perceived as negative when we are overextended. For example, if you tend to set the bar high for yourself and others, this may be perceived as an unreasonable demand for perfection by a team that is struggling with workload or other internal issues. If your strength is leading through people, when stressed you may spend too much time trying to make sure everyone is happy rather than focusing on the collective team goals.
Know your team. The best teams bring diverse personalities, skills and experience to the table. Recognizing the value each individual’s skills and traits contribute to the team and how they complement (and potentially conflict with) each other will help you lay the groundwork for effective conflict resolution. Build team awareness and appreciation of different styles, and provide opportunities for productive interactions and mutual understanding.
Make the time to just listen. When a deadline is looming, and the team can’t seem to get past a conflict barrier, you may be tempted, as the leader, to force an end to the issue and just push your position through. Don’t. Make time to listen to all sides so you can get to the core of the issue and help the team develop a solution.
Harness the power of diverse thinking. Create an environment that encourages open communication and fresh ideas and approaches. Reach out to those who are less vocal to ensure that their ideas get added to the mix. When everyone feels heard and appreciated, “conflicts” become productive discussions.
Chart the way forward. Embrace the “lessons learned” from the bumps on the journey, refocus on the goals and move forward.
Want to learn more about your leadership style and the styles of your team for more effective conflict resolution? Contact me at kcolligan@PeopleThink.biz.
Till next time,
If you’re a leader, chances are that at least a portion of your team is working remotely, or for that matter, in another part of the world. Increased globalization and advances in technology have changed the way we work, with some teams never actually being in the same room together. While virtual teams have many benefits – an expanded talent pool, reduced office space requirements, the ability for employees to work from anywhere – they are not without their challenges. Especially for leaders.
A 2016 study by RW3, LLC, a cultural training service, Trends in Global Virtual Teams, found that some of the biggest challenges for global teams were: colleagues who do not participate, pace of decision making, and different role expectations held by team members. The study also found that the biggest challenge to productivity was the lack of face-to-face communication, which respondents said impacted managing conflict, establishing trust and building relationships. All important components for team success.
Leading virtual teams, especially global teams, requires an additional set of leadership skills. Yet few leaders receive training that specifically prepares them for this role. According to the RW3 study, while 74% of respondents had received formal leadership training, only 34% had received global leadership training. Likewise, although 85% of respondents said they work on virtual teams, only 22% said they had received training to increase their productivity on virtual teams. Clearly, there’s a development opportunity here.
In the meantime, here are some tips for leading virtual teams effectively.
Be engaged and available. Team members working from a distance, whether it’s in a home office in the US or from a global location, can feel isolated. Engage with individual team members on a regular basis to ask how things are going and to provide support. Be available to them when they have concerns, ideas, or just need to talk.
Leverage video technology. Use videoconferencing, Skype or any other tools available to you to allow team members to see each other. This is especially important when the team is forming, and when critical issues and/or decisions need to be discussed. Also consider having a team site where members names, locations, role and images are posted.
Create ground rules for virtual meetings. In our ever-connected, multi-tasking world it’s hard to keep people focused on one task, especially if they’re out of sight. Agree on ground rules up front, such as “cell phones off,” “one person speaks at a time,” etc. Distribute the agenda prior to the meeting and send out a recap afterward. Factor some time into each meeting for team members to have open discussion and to get to know each other better.
Establish communication guidelines. Create a process for regular communication, expected response time, and how issues will be prioritized. Encourage team members to use video or phone calls to work out issues or when information may need clarification. Remember, email is one-way communication. Picking up the phone (or Skype!) can go a long way in building trust and developing relationships.
Respect and rotate time zones. Be sure that everyone knows where their team members are located and their respective time zones. Establish a “best time to call” list for intra-team communications. Rotate time zones for team meetings so one person isn’t always the early-riser or later-worker.
Practice cultural sensitivity. Minimize misunderstandings by providing cultural training to all team members. Create a team environment that welcomes diversity of thought, backgrounds, experience and communication style. Provide opportunities for team members to educate each other about cultural nuances.
"Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success." – Henry Ford
Till next time,
As I work with leaders in different organizations, I’m hearing a common frustration: “there’s no sense of accountability.” When things don’t get done – phone calls returned, reports submitted on time, projects completed on time and within budget – instead of people owning the problem, they make excuses or shift the blame.
“I don’t know how it happened.”
“I think Sally is the bottleneck.”
“It’s not my job.”
“I didn’t have time to do it.”
“It’s not my fault.”
“No one else got theirs in on time.”
Sound familiar? I agree with Ben Franklin, who said, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”
It’s time to ditch the excuses and create a culture of accountability. And it takes leaders, teams and individuals working together to create and maintain that culture.
Set the example by owning up to your mistakes, oversights, missteps. If you never accept personal responsibility for something, how can you expect your team to?
Find (and share) the lesson in the failure. What could you have done better, what will you change? Acknowledge the impact that your actions (or lack of action) had.
Create a trusting environment with open communication where all team members are encouraged to share successes and failures for the purpose of learning and continuous improvement.
Be clear about expectations. Employees are responsible for tasks and activities and accountable for outcomes. Be sure those are clearly defined and understood.
Hold people accountable. Be clear about both expectations and consequences.
Understand what accountability means. Merriam-Webster defines it as "the quality or state of being accountable, especially: an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions." A lot of people use responsibility and accountability interchangeably. A responsibility is something you are required or expected to do, such as an activity or task. Accountability is you owning up to the consequences if you don’t do it or the outcomes are less than expected. Accountability is after the fact.
Avoid the blame game. Children often deflect blame because they are afraid of getting in trouble. Some adults do it for the same reason. Others because they are embarrassed and want to save face. Still others (one particular example in the news a lot lately) because their POV is that nothing that goes wrong is ever, ever their fault. It’s always someone else’s. Pulease! Be a grown up. Accept the blame. Apply what you learned. And do better next time.
Ditch the excuses. Instead simply say: "Yes, it was my fault. I dropped the ball. Here’s what I learned. Here’s how I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again."
As a team, hold each other accountable. Get clear about interdependencies and the impact of mistakes and missed deadlines. Work on creating an environment of open, honest communication that will support this.
“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have the time to do it over?” – John Wooden
Till next time,
Or better yet, A LOT!
Let’s face it. Work environments are pretty stressful these days. The constant push to get more done (often with fewer resources and less time) can take a toll on your mood, your health, and your relationships. But here’s the thing. Adding a little levity to your day will not only help you get more done, it will improve your mood, your health and your relationships!
How great is that?
In a recent Fast Company article, “The Surprising Ways Humor Can Improve Your Culture,” author Harvey Deutschendorf outlined five reasons why putting some humor into your work culture “can have you laughing all the way to the bank.”
1. It lowers stress and improves motivation
2. It builds stronger relationships
3. It helps you show appreciation
4. It improves your health
5. It makes for smoother transitions
If you know me, or have been following my blogs, then you know that I’m a major advocate for infusing some fun and laughter into the workplace. In fact, I wrote about the benefits of laughter early last year. In addition to the benefits Deutschendorf describes above, research shows that laughter contributes to increased creativity, improved problem solving, and enhanced memory.
I’ve seen how this works firsthand. Back in my hi-tech corporate days, I was asked to create a strategy that would improve communication and integrate the cultures of a number of newly acquired teams located on multiple campuses. The teams included senior managers, individual performers and all levels in between. The challenge was that they were not, and were not going to be, under one roof. And there was a fair amount of cultural resistance in becoming part of the new organization. I definitely had my work cut out for me!
I put together a team, booked a conference room for several weekly meetings, and armed myself with colored markers and blank flip chart paper. And then the fun began. A few ideas. Laughter. More laughter, more ideas. At one point we were laughing so hard that someone asked us to “pipe down.” OK, so disturbing others is probably not such a good idea, nevertheless, we made it fun and got it done! The outcome was the “People Road Show” - a traveling troupe of presenters who communicated the new culture, learning and volunteer opportunities, benefits and other people-related messages in a very creative and positive way. We had music, a tag line, a logo, and plenty of opportunities for the audience to ask questions and share concerns. Each “Road Show” concluded with a company-sponsored barbecue where employees from different campuses could get to know one another and feel part of the bigger picture.
The fun we had in the development process became an integral part of the product, and helped create one cohesive team out of many.
“A wonderful thing about true laughter is that it just destroys any kind of system of dividing people.” – John Cleese
Till next time,
We all tend to gravitate toward people who are like us. This is true in our friendships, our relationships and, yes, our work teams. We hope that by focusing on those similarities there will be more harmony and, by extension, a better, more productive work environment. But think about what “harmony” is, in the true sense of the word. It’s NOT everyone singing the same note. It’s people singing different notes that creates harmony.
As a team leader, it’s easy to fall into like = harmony thinking. Avoid conflict. Get to the performing stage quicker. Shorten the decision cycle. And yet, without giving air to those different notes – different ideas, strengths, approaches, views – you miss the opportunity to create something innovative and new. Same ol’, same ol’ produces the same ol’, same ol’. Every time.
Consider this scenario.
Mike is about to meet for the first time with a temporary project team he’ll be heading up for the next several months. The members were assigned to him, so he had no input into their selection. He’s disappointed that he wasn’t asked to pull together a team from “his” people, who think just like him. Life would be so much easier. He hasn’t met any of the team yet, but he’s spoken with four of their managers and has made some notes.
Robert. Quick-thinking. Direct. Not afraid of conflict or challenging the status quo. Confident and decisive. Track record of meeting deadlines and staying within budget. Competitive. Task-focused.
Yolanda. Lots of ideas. Good at creating a vision and inspiring others to follow. Outgoing and friendly. Likes variety and flexibility. Tends to change topics quickly during discussions. Relationship-focused.
Gary. Quiet and reserved. Great listener. Works to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to be heard. Good at coordinating efforts and maintaining strong relationships. Strong focus on values.
Barb. Analytical and detail-oriented. Excellent at ensuring all bases are covered. Processes information by asking questions. Lots of questions. Takes a systematic approach to decision-making.
Mike wonders how he will ever be able to meld these diverse styles together to complete the project. He worries that Robert will compete with his leadership, and that Barbara will get too caught up in the details to get anything done. And how will Yolanda and Gary work with the other two?
Mike decides that the only way forward is to embrace the differences instead of fearing them. And a magical thing happens. Yes, there are some conflicts at the start – as there are on all teams – but those conflicts, and the different approaches, perspectives, talents, ideas, and strengths harmonize into a final product that is far superior to anything Mike in his monotone world had ever seen. Because…
Yolanda created a vision.
Robert kept them on track.
Gary ensured they were heard.
Barb let nothing fall through the cracks.
Want to learn more about individual styles and the value each can add to your team? Contact PeopleThink: 415.440.7944 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Till next time,