It may not be a welcome point of view, but a haunting reality started to appear to us about what happens when a leader laments or complains. It guts the commitment of almost everyone on your team. We identified three of these culture killers and share them in the hopes that you may check yourself in your efforts to improve. The first lament comes in the form of getting off focus. This occurs when you take different courses of action that are in your head and start to leak them to your task-oriented team. Your team wants to know what you need and what is the plan? If you are winging it or juggling multiple strategies and thinking it doesn’t matter because they don’t tell you about it, think again. They are not going to tell you, almost instinctively they will cut their commitment by 30% immediately.
The second lament comes in a moment of frustration when small items are brought back to you by the team. The questions are low level, off topic, and drive you nuts. Your response appears to be a clarifying statement, but it also stops your team in their tracks. “I Don’t Care” about this or that the leader says...
We started to notice that the right human system can build and develop character with a series of commonly held values, that allow all of the members to build daily momentum with good choices. This crystallized for us when visiting the Naval Academy in November with our 12 year old son, Ryan.
We were 90 minutes away from the Academy, and with a free afternoon couldn’t pass up the chance to check it out. The midshipmen have positioned the book store right next to the security gate, so our first step was to pick up a few souvenirs for Ryan's sister and mother. A favorite pastime of ours is to buy a magnet for the fridge to commemorate past travels. Within minutes a coffee cup, exercise shorts, a sweatshirt, and the magnet were easily secured. Navy had just beaten Notre Dame at the football stadium that day, so there was a bit of a line, and we passed the time looking out the windows at the ships bobbing up and down. Soon enough it was our turn and we chatted with our attendant, got our receipt, and were off.
How fast can you tell the mood of a room? How is it that in an instant we can pick up the buzz or the tone? Something in our make-up affords us this capacity, yet for decades managers have dismissed the productivity benefits of person-to-person energy transfer when it comes to getting things done. Often times the grumpiest person seems to be able to reign over all, and decide that smiling might hurt the bottom line. Culture-oriented advocates will run up against the dreaded “it is more about the return on investment” and seldom have any real proof behind their soft skills training.
Recently Wayne Baker of the Michigan School of Business wrote a short piece for the Harvard Business Review titled “The More you energize your coworkers, the better everyone performs.” It proves that attitudes matter and can increase worker productivity. Baker writes about concepts like a reciprocity ring and mapping relational energy, which have been effectively proven to increase the productivity of teams. We encourage everyone to click through the different studies they have completed as you look to develop your own teams.
Colin Powell himself has stated that “perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.” If you are trying to get the team across finish line it doesn’t hurt to re-read the Little Engine That Could. Attitudes ARE contagious.
Take your great attitude and read about mentoring in our Allowing Wisdom to Rise post.
Several years ago our work led us to draw the Tree of Performance as a way to illustrate the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation for a group of managers who were struggling to hit their goals. The idea of the image is to give the person in charge an idea of how many more levers they have to work with inside an individual, as opposed to the obvious "carrot and stick" behavioral outcome options. Recently, we began to return to this image as a way to suggest to business owners and executives that when it comes to power and influence the same could be true. Power typically only extends to the end of where the holder has the ability to monitor, and therefore control, outcomes (think US Military in a foreign country like Korea.) Influence, however, moves freely around and under borders, and trades on a completely different exchange: that of human emotion. It is our “ism” that flies around the world confounding leaders, and this greatly adds....
If your network is the sum of all your shared experiences, and your production is the outcome of your efforts, than we would like you to consider that your personal flywheel is the combined influence of all of your connections. The great thing about having a network of people you have shared life experiences with is that they are a primary source on you and your character. Another benefit is that your network also cares deeply about their own success, and they are actively growing their own careers. As the calendar year turns towards the summer months, consider allocating some of that lost time of production to feeding your relationships with genuine inquiries regarding well-being and current plans. We wrote a white paper on this topic so if it feels awkward, you can follow our script. The interaction with your network will keep your activity and acuity levels at game-ready speed at a time of year when things can slow down. The norms of reciprocity will also be in your favor, as you seek to understand what’s new with them, they will return the inquiry. Give it a shot and let us know how it goes.
Next read our post on The Long Tail of networking on LinkedIN
Eggs Anyone? What does Dr. Seuss have to do with your ability to use a constraint to improve your performance? Well, it turns out most of us only have so much resolve to repeat a task over and over, and there is a point of diminishing returns with the "rinse, repeat" strategy of human learning. This is where the concept of adding a constraint to your practice enters our field of view. Most of us have acquired some level of skill in order to meet our consumption needs, and if we are really fortunate we enjoy the tasks we are paid to perform. Yet the forces of creative destruction are high, and it pays to keep improving and adapting (anyone reading this on a blackberry??)
A recent study showed that when participants were given a constraint to their practice, their output increased over the average. A living example of this......
One of the benefits of helping companies work on turning groups of people into teams is that you get to visit a wide variety of settings and environments. A recent trip to a professional college had us buzzing and prompted the above title. This team of 125 teachers, administrators, and service staff were on fire from the very beginning of the two-day long all-hands meeting all the way until the end. Every member of the team was making a sacrifice to be present, and the business itself was closed the entire time. Thinking of the total cost to the enterprise would make most owners blink twice, yet like clockwork for years these days are reserved to fill up the tanks of the people that make the company tick. If your current culture is more of a Whatever these days than a Wow, see if implementing a few of these tips we gleaned will help.
An initial idea to consider is having a common way to signal the end of a situation or event. Most companies will have gatherings, and even with the best clock management they can run long. With attention spans waning you increase the chances of having the end of your meeting being a dud, which sends your people scattering and potentially lacking vigor. Consider having something.....
Recent sociological research has started to notice that our ability to perform well in a role as an individual or as a member of a team can be traced back to three quotients. The first relates to your IQ and speaks to your ability to cognitively handle the tasks required. Knowing your strengths and then training to improve on them is vital. There are very few roles in today’s economy for people performing out of their strength. Be sure you can articulate your capabilities and the contribution you can make.
Your performance will be enhanced when you show the ability to understand how your contributions can blend with others for your joint benefit. Central to this concept is acquiring empathetic traits and building your emotional quotient, EQ. The force multiplier of working well with others sky rockets when the team sees the goal through everyone’s eyes and then seeks to achieve for their mutual benefit. Yet being smart and caring, doesn't appear to be enough these days. It turns out that your ability to be resilient and adaptable in the face of change, both as an individual and as a teammate are game changers.
Click on the links for Ted talks from Amanda Lee Duckworth at Penn and Carol Dweck at Stanford, who are both actively researching how to add some grit to your life to help you improve your resiliency quotient, RQ. The next time you hear the phrase “Mind your P’s and Q’s” we hope you will not only remember to say please and thank you, but you will also think about combining your wit, your heart, and your gut to be the most complete contributor possible.
Try our post The RE Exercise For Self-Improvement next!
Sanders, can’t you just give me the three quick steps to take to get my team on point?" This is something we hear quite often from managers who don’t have time for long drawn out explanations and philosophy. Your world is impacted for time and it has to be simple for it to transfer through a human system. With that in mind, here are the three steps you and your team might consider. We call it the “RE” exercise.
You start by REflecting, go back in your mind 18 months and take a look at what has transpired. The key action here is to “ponder.” Get to the side of your life river and look back up stream and ask yourself, “what did I learn, and what does it mean?”
The second step is to REcreate by putting yourself in a fresh environment. Recreation is often associated with long trips away and those trips are very impactful, but watch what happens to you when...
Do you have a team member that is killing your "Swing?"
The book “The Weekly Coaching Conversation” by Brian Souza touched on this very issue. Business schools such as Harvard have shown a real focus in the area of career development and the term “coach” is evolving within corporations. Souza recommends a regular check-in session with your direct report to asses not only their performance, but also review softer metrics as well. We would like to add to this article with some of our own findings and offer a few tools for you to use with your team.
Whether your check-in meeting is quarterly, monthly, or weekly, having a template to work with as you are getting started can be a big in facilitating dialog. It will also allow the direct report to be speaking more than the boss, which is of particular importance if the boss is an extrovert and the direct report is not.
Our experiences have shown that a regular check-in on areas such as your team members Soul, Fuel, Work, Fun, and Community Service will quickly identify the area that is distracting them. A simple listening exercise along with a specific question on what steps they will take to remedy the concern can go a long way. We have been amazed at how well these templates work when it comes to getting what is in a person’s head out in the open, proving once again that “your head is a horrible place for a discussion”. Here is one of our templates from our book The Next Gen Almanac. Let us know how it goes.
You might like next our post "Does Competition Fuel You or Drain You?"
The Golden State Warriors haven’t just taken the NBA by surprise, they’ve knocked it completely on its side. From our vantage point it is another example of highly adaptable Bay Area executive talent deploying a winning strategy, and we would like to share one element that you can use with your team. The NBA’s history of success had been Jordan as the star with a Pippen on the side, or Larry Bird as the star with DJ or McHale on the side, or LeBron with a strong second in Wade even won a title. Yet, coming out of San Antonio over the past ten years is a different model. It is less about the one star and more about a fully functioning team of 9 to 10 players getting meaningful minutes throughout the entire season.
There may not be a “Money Ball” book out yet on the this strategy, but the ownership of the Warriors brought Steve Kerr in to run a system similar to the Spurs, and it works on many levels. The correlation to your business that we would like to highlight is that you should be taking more people out on sales and service calls. Nothing is more painful than watching a loyal bench warmer thrust out on the court and struggle at crunch time because they haven’t seen the light of day for months. The ball is moving differently than in practice. The heat of the moment melts them on the spot. Have you not seen this on your work teams? The back office person left stammering because the prime time player is out on vacation or is sick.
We view this as a mistake by leadership to not develop all members of the team to be able to “leave the building” and go see a client or customer. It doesn't have to be an everyday occurrence, but having a system in place to keep all team members on the court will do wonders for your company. We hope the Warriors go all the way this year. Just remember, get the ball in as many people’s hands as you can during the regular season so they won’t drop it in the playoffs!
Try out our blog post next titled "Designing Your Team From Scratch"
Everywhere you look companies and teams are looking for speed: foot speed, communication speed, and speed of delivery of goods and services. We started to notice a correlation between teamwork challenges and the duration of the team itself. In youth sports the average season is 16 weeks long, an eternity for the player, but a blip on the screen for an adult. In work environments temporary workers are the standard for most Global 1000 companies and they even have different color badges for all to see. The need for speed has created an environment where leaders can fill the room with people, but one layer down all parties are looking around the room to gauge the commitment to the group, and the duration and type of contract.
Regardless of your position on one of these new “iTeams”, factoring in the length of the time the team is to be together should help you work well with all parties. If you are the leader, missing this key dynamic can be costly to your performance especially with the lowest power participants. Often times the lower power groups will never communicate their frustration, rather they will find a way to hit a personal “release” valve that subtly kills the team culture. It can show up in their engagement level. They are present, but not clicked into the team's goal. Often times they vote with their feet, by not showing up at all. Dr. Suess’s “Yertle the Turtle" comes to mind here.
As you build your teams, keep a special eye out for your different groups. Don’t overlook the short duration participants. They often have long duration commitments elsewhere (spouses and children), that if tended to correctly can make a big impact on how they perform on your team. If you don’t, one named “Mack" may burp and like Yertle your team may end up flat on its back.
Susan Fowler has a book, “Why Motivating People Doesn't Work…and What Does” in which she smartly addresses the challenges with using extrinsic motivational systems within groups. We shared a bit about this with our “Tree of Performance” (photo below) and believe all leaders should be well versed in the six levers they can pull to guide a team in this area. Publicly many leaders joke that they expect all members of their team to be “self-motivated”, but privately they understand how to create a culture where people's need for Autonomy, Relatedness, and Competency are being met.
A client assignment had us diving further into this topic and how the topics of “Productivity” and “Engagement” can come into play. Engagement is something that does not....
Erin Meyer released “The Culture Map” in 2014 and it sat in my stack of books for a few months or I would have written about it sooner, for anyone working with an international team this book has the keys to team-building heaven. It turns out that in the midst of the United States trying to make amends for past sins in the “you and I are different” category, the rest of the world has known all along that a French Chef beats a British one, and that Indian executives are much less worried about timeliness than the Germans.
Meyer has created a global relative scale for culture differences in eight different categories ranging from timeliness to persuasion to performance review evaluation styles. The results are
In 1999 Peter Drucker wrote an essay for the Harvard Business Review titled “Managing Oneself.” We use it with almost all our clients, regardless of engagement. In 'John Wooden' speak it is at the base of our Pyramid of Success. Drucker asks a series of questions of the reader related to feedback analysis such as: "What are my strengths and values? Where do I belong? How do I work? What can I contribute?" One would expect that the motivated worker would be compelled to implement what they have learned and share with others their answer. Drucker’s logical explanation is sound, well written, and his authority as a leading thinker is beyond reproach. So why doesn't it work? Because it doesn't feel good, and it might not be safe…
Drucker’s logical argument sits right in your teammate’s brain and waits. it waits for an emotion to kick it into gear. This emotion accounts for up to 60% of the missing engagement reserves that plague our workplace today. Managers are responsible for creating the secret sauce, for having insight into what makes their people tick, and then making it safe for the worker to implement Drucker’s insights to strive and reach.
In looking to study this on a first hand basis and because we have the right age children we have volunteered as a youth sport coach for over 250 hours this year. In both recreational and....
The Leader's Compass: What do you use to navigate the storms and the seas that come with organizing and working with others? Our research is showing it is part head, part gut, part eyes, and part heart. In looking for an image that we thought would convey all of these the compass came to mind, that little device that helps you stay on track when visibility is low and the future uncertain. You can add more detail to the action phrases associated with the different directional points as it fits your needs and thoughts, and we welcome your feedback on how you Coach, Teach, Manage, and Lead.
Of note is that half of the compass requires silence from the leader. This maybe your strength or your greatest challenge. Regardless, make sure you have a trusted colleague who can give you “true” perspective on whether you need to speak up, or be silent.
As spring turns to summer most sports offer us a “Major” championship to follow. Media channels abound and the actors in these live dramas have massive exposure. The narrative of live competition is a draw to a huge percentage of our population and if you follow a sport like Golf or Tennis you can even go out and attempt to transfer some of the magic into your own game.
Yet most of us “compete” within a social context, few of us really play a sport for a living with people we don’t know, and once you have a social context much of the game gets tilted on a new axis. This new axis is very familiar to most as it is similar to our work life where your performance is all relative to the structure of your enterprise. (Don’t show up your boss etc.)
Add to this interesting fabric the dynamic of youth sports and it is hard to get a consistent definition of the word “competition”. However, because we study the performance of self.......
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Drew Sanders Blog
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