What is it that differentiates a high performing team from a team that never gets beyond the “storming” stage in the forming/storming/norming/performing (The Tuckman Model) journey? How does a high performing team continue to achieve milestones and meet deadlines even as dynamics change due to a new or departing member? How do they manage to overcome the inevitable differences of opinion or even conflict to stay on track?
They establish and adhere to Rules of Engagement.
Think back, for a minute, to when you were in school. No, not college. Think waaay back to kindergarten or elementary school. Most likely on the first day of class your teacher shared with you “the rules.” No talking in class. Raise you hand to go to the bathroom. No fighting. Turn your homework in on time. You knew what the expectations were upfront, and you knew (and, yes, perhaps even experienced) what the consequences were if you didn’t meet those expectations. The goal of the rules was to create a harmonious and productive environment for learning. Without establishing and enforcing those rules, the classroom could have been chaos.
And so it goes with teams. In fact, we’ve seen (or at least read about) that chaos on a nearly daily basis with one very, very visible team. Don’t let that happen to your team.
Allocate some time – as a team – to establish your team Rules of Engagement. These should align with your company values and culture. As you think about what to include, consider things that have been an issue for the team in the past – what guideline can you put in place that will prevent that issue in the future? Here are some topics your rules can address:
Communication. What is the preferred method – email, phone, in person – for sharing information vs. decision making vs. resolving conflict?
Meetings. Is there a limit on length? How will you handle chronic late-comers? How will you ensure that everyone is heard (at the meeting rather than post-meeting in a hallway discussion)?
Decisions. How will you make them? A vote? Who’s the tie breaker?
Conflict. What’s your process for managing it? What will you do when it escalates?
Other potential topics are prioritization, accountability, coordinating task hand off, reviewing each other’s work. And certainly don’t forget to include a general rule about good behavior – kindness, respect, integrity.
Diversity of ideas, opinions, skill sets, experience and background enhances a team’s ability to innovate, and to provide the full complement of capabilities to achieve desired results. The best way to leverage those capabilities and to increase your team’s performance is by defining and maintaining your Rules of Engagement.
Till next time,
Is it just me, or does rudeness seem to be on the rise?
You walk through an airport and it’s like “bumper-people” – people walking and talking on their phones and not paying attention to what’s in front of them. Or what about people who have a long (and loud) conversation on their phone without considering that maybe no one else really wants to hear it? Or when you’re in a restaurant with someone and throughout your conversation you can see that they have one eye tilting toward the mobile which they’ve left on the table top because they’re waiting for an “important call.” So what am I, chopped liver?
Seriously, people. Put the phone away. Talk softly. Look where you’re going.
And it’s not just phone etiquette. It’s common courtesy and respect for others that seem to be taking a back seat to some individuals’ needs to be first in line, to take all the credit for something (that they worked on with others) or to shape their environment so that it works best for them, regardless of the consequences or how it might impact others.
A while back I wrote a blog about “The Young George Washington’s Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.” (Leading by example. Ahem.) I’ve borrowed a few and added a few to create Karen’s Rules of Civility.
Smile – even at a stranger – you never know what amazing things may come of it.
Say “Please and Thank you.” Always.
Be accountable. Do what you say you’re going to do by when you say you’re going to do it.
Be on time. Being chronically late to meetings or events or dinner shows a lack of respect for others.
Remember, we’re all human; we have good days and bad days. Don’t glory in someone’s bad day.
Listen. Put down your cell phone and engage in conversation.
Be kind to one another. (Borrowed from Ellen DeGeneres).
Tell the truth. Mark Twain once said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
Be curious. Never stop learning.
Forgive. Life is too short to hold a grudge.
It’s not rocket science. Set the example and hopefully others will follow.
You can hear more on this blog topic in my podcast, Rudeness is NOT a Core Competency. Let’s bring courtesy and kindness back!
Till next time,
For employees to thrive (and stay!) they need to feel valued, connected, challenged and recognized. One of the best ways leaders can help employees feel this way is to give them timely and effective feedback on a regular basis. In other words, feedback that matters!
Now, I get that giving feedback isn’t always easy. For that matter, neither is RECEIVING feedback, but we’ll talk about that next time. Often when we hear the phrase, “I’d like to give you some feedback…” our defenses go up and we prepare for the worst.
Giving feedback, however, shouldn’t immediately trigger a negative response. Feedback is actually very much a positive. It’s a real opportunity to help someone get better and stronger. And as leaders, it’s our responsibility to help our employees get better and stronger.
Remember, employees want to know how they’re doing. You may believe “no news is good news” yet your employees may not see it that way. They may interpret your silence as apathy, and begin to wonder, “Why do I even bother?” Take the time to acknowledge and show appreciation for their efforts. Likewise, if there’s an issue, don’t assume it will resolve itself. Unless you say something, they may not realize there’s a problem. Poor performance does not improve with age.
Effective feedback is a gift and provides benefits for all.
Here’s how to give feedback that matters.
Make it timely. This doesn’t mean you have to praise them each time they complete a task. Be sincere! It means saying “thank you” immediately when they’ve made an extra effort or providing praise shortly after they’ve solved a complex problem or achieved a new skill. It also means giving negative feedback no later than 24 hours after observing the behavior. And be sure the feedback is based on your observation rather than what you’ve heard from others. Giving feedback regularly will help you build trust with your employees and make them more receptive and motivated to improve.
Make it specific. Focus on facts not feelings. Use the SAR method. Situation. Action. Results. “Thank you, Jane, for stepping in to complete that report while John was out. Without your help we would not have been able to complete the project milestone.” Or, “Bob, I’ve read through your proposal and some of the figures don’t quite add up. Accuracy on these proposals is essential to avoid future issues with the client.” Be sure you don’t fall into the “but” trap. “I really like your approach on the presentation, but I think the slides are too busy.” What will the employee hear? “The slides are too busy.” Use “and” instead. “I really like your approach on the presentation, and I think it will have more impact if you have fewer words on each slide.”
Be kind. As frustrating as the behavior may be, keep a check on your emotions and words. Stick to the facts and focus on the solution moving forward. Help them understand how what they do – or don’t do – impacts other individuals, the team, the project, or the organization. Also, be sure that you conduct negative feedback in private.
Listen. Deliver your feedback in a manner that allows a two-way conversation versus a finger-pointing monologue. Be open to the employee’s ideas as to how they might improve. Include them in designing the development process.
Follow through. Giving the feedback and recommendations is just the first step. If you leave it there nothing will happen. Once you’ve clearly defined expectations and next steps, help your employee improve by keeping them accountable. Set specific goals and periodic check-ins. Revisit the conversation to acknowledge progress made and/or reinforce development plans.
“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” – Ken Blanchard
For more on feedback, tune into my “Giving Feedback That Matters” podcast.
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,
When was the last time you woke up and decided it was going to be “your day” and you did EXACTLY what you wanted to do? Can’t remember? Well, you’re not alone.
If you’re like most of us, you spend a lot of time during your work week making sure you meet all of your commitments, arrive at meetings on time, return calls and emails promptly, and get done what you said you were going to do. Because if you want to get ahead, if you want the good performance review, you’ve got to be ACCOUNTABLE. And that usually means being accountable to your team, your manager, the company.
And little changes on the weekend. You need to be accountable to your family (as you should be!), accountable to the “homestead” and the pets and your friends and so on.
What about being accountable to yourself? Where do you fit in the mix? Generally last or a close runner-up. Am I right?
I’m here to suggest that it’s high time to start being accountable to yourself. This is different from “personal accountability” which is about owning up to your mistakes, accepting responsibility for your behavior, admitting limitations in knowledge or skills, etc. Most likely by now you’ve got that down. Being accountable to yourself means taking some time to think about what you really want and then allowing yourself (and expecting yourself) to do what it takes to get it. It means taking risks, being bold, stretching to the point that it’s scary and exhilarating and FUN.
Think about it for a minute. Is there something you’ve been longing to do – develop a long-percolating idea, get out of a job you hate, move to a place you love – but keep putting it off because you’re too busy being accountable to others? Who’s in charge here? YOU ARE.
Follow these steps:
- Write down what’s truly important to you. Don’t know? Get REAL and figure it out!
- Make a plan. Goals. Actions. Deadlines. STRETCH!
- Implement the plan. Be BOLD! Be ACCOUNTABLE (to yourself!)
- Give yourself a STELLAR review.
Remember, you’ve only got one life to live. Make sure it’s your own.
Till next time,