Leaders: If you Confuse, You Lose

There’s an old saying in the sales world. “The confused mind says NO.” Clearly that has big implications when trying to sell a product or service.

A prospect who gets confused by your sales pitch will revert to a NO answer all the time. On the other hand, a clear, concise explanation of the thing you are trying to sell will help close the deal.

The same is true of leadership responsibility. A confused mind says NO. If you confuse the people around you, the overall performance will be greatly reduced or even eliminated.

An employee’s willingness to perform is centered on their ability to clearly understand expectations and directions.

Clarity may be your best secret weapon to achieve better team performance.

It’s a Complicated World

There’s no denying the increased complexity in business these days. Whether you blame the exponential growth of technology or just the deeper understanding of things around us, it’s much harder to operate a business today than it once was.

Confused minds say NO

However, operating a highly specialized or technical business should not distract you from trying to make things simple for your team to comprehend.

Military people learned the KISS principle; Keep It Simple Stupid. When giving orders, it is the leader’s duty to make the instructions as simple to comprehend as possible. In combat, confused minds get people killed.

In business, the smartest guy in the room shouldn’t be rubbing that in, especially if they are the boss. Rather, if you think you truly are the smartest guy at the table, then you should be able to figure out ways to make directions and instructions easier to understand.

What To Do

Sometimes in figuring out what to do to make things more clear for your team, it is valuable to talk about what NOT to do. Here are a few big ideas to follow.

First, don’t be vague about directives. Masking your meaning immediately leads to confusion. The odds of your people going off in the wrong direction are far greater when you are unclear about your own expectations.

Think of 360 degrees on a compass (in a circle). The direction you need people to take is likely on one of a few degrees on that compass. If you are vague, your team has a minimum of 350+ other directions to go.

If you’re not exactly sure about the direction you want to take, invest the time and energy in getting your own clarity first.

Next, watch your communication style. In times of high stress and urgent deadlines, lookout for accelerating your own reactions to things going on around you. Create more measured responses.

Don’t react, respond instead. There is a big difference.

Lastly, remember the acronym FAST to increase your leadership effectiveness.

International leadership guru Gordon Tredgold coined the term FAST for his book by the same name and his teaching on effective leadership.

FAST is an acronym that encompasses all the best attributes for finding success. Whether your dreams are personal or professional, FAST can help.

FOCUS. You must be able to focus your vision and view of the goal you are trying to achieve. Too many business leaders are fuzzy on the exact expectation they have.

If you’re not clear on where you’re going most any road will get you there.

ACCOUNTABILITY. You must be accountable to the team, the cause and the process to get you to your goal.

Look at the organizational setup. Does everyone know what they are supposed to be doing, do they know what is expected of them, and do they have the right skills, tools, and training to be successful.

SIMPLICITY. You must find the simplest ways to make things happen.

It has been said complexity is the enemy of execution. Trying to reach the desired destination with too many complex and conflicting pieces of information or procedure can only interrupt the desired results.

TRANSPARENCY. Transparency allows the leader to be genuine and clear for the benefit of everyone around them.

Look at the progress tracking. How easy is it to check that progress is being made and was outcome-based rather than just recording effort spent? Is the information accurate and fact-based, or just based on gut feel? How often is it shared with the teams? Do they know how they are doing, or are they just running blind?

Eliminate Confusion

Eliminating confusion can bring greater results. Remember, the confused mind says “NO” every time.

Question: When was the last time you experienced being confused by what the boss said? Were YOU the boss creating confusion?

The Great Leadership Debate: Nature vs Nurture

Visit the best business schools on the planet and you are likely to hear a robust debate about the virtues of leadership. The central question is whether great leaders are born or bred; nature versus nurture.

One theory argues that true leadership is an inborn trait that few possess. The other popular and prevailing thought is that leaders can be developed. 

While certain natural talents afford some leaders with an innate sense of leadership, you certainly can train people to become better leaders.

The military does it on a regular and reliable basis. Whether you look at the non-commissioned officers (NCOs) or commissioned officer corps, the development of leadership talent is a business for the military.

People who exhibit good leadership talent are promoted to progressively more significant leadership roles until their capabilities are maximized.

As an example, few officers make it to the rank of general. Typically, officers are promoted several times in their career before their maximum efficiency as a leader is determined and the promotion train stops. The same holds true in corporate circles.

Some call this phenomenon the law of maximum incompetence. John Maxwell calls it simply “The Law of the Lid”.

Everyone who aspires to become a leader has a lid on their ability to lead. You can start a career with some natural talent (i.e. born with it) and you can work toward increasing your leadership capacity by training and coaching.

Yet according to Maxwell, you still hit a personal lid that limits the level of influence you achieve as a leader.

It is not hard to see this concept in real life. Not everyone who tries their hand at business leadership becomes the CEO of a Fortune 100 company. In fact very few do it.

What to Do

So what is the mainstream business executive or company owner supposed to do with his or her current leadership capacity? Have you ever thought of yourself as a Leader?

Looking at blind spots

Seek valid and reliable feedback about your blind spots. This immediate and valuable insight that can vault your effort above what it is today. Knowing what you don’t know or can see is vital information with which you can make changes and grow.

Here’s a diagram that outlines the ways we see (or don’t see) our blind spots.

Hire a coach. Coaching for executives is growing in acceptance and popularity. People have used coaches at the gym and for special hobbies and interests for quite some time.

Why not use the same approach when seeking to increase your leadership influence?

An effective executive coach will help you design a growth plan; personal growth. There should be measurable and tangible outcomes expected.

Improve your circle of peers. Be open to networking with mastermind groups and coaching groups where you can work with peers to gain insight for best practices and have a personal board of directors to whom you report.

Read – it seems so simple, but the power of reading has been proven time and time again. Take recommendations from leaders you admire. Read their selections of books. Consume what they consume and you will begin to grow.

Every leader I have ever admired has his/her own list. As soon as I asked about their favorites, they would gladly share. Of course, some titles get repeated, but that just serves as proof of the impact of that book.

Leadership growth is possible.

The best and greatest leaders claim a rigorous routine of seeking knowledge and information about ways to grow as leaders.

Stephen R. Covey called it “sharpening the saw”. As you move through the phases of your career and life, things change. You can get worn down. There must be an ever-present desire to stay sharp and grow.

Building Team Trust When Some Don’t Trust Anyone

Dan was recognized as a strong and effective leader. He had earned the respect from the CEO and other senior leaders at his company.

In his newest assignment, he had been working hard to establish the framework of trust that he knew would be vital to the team’s success.

From the very first day as the new division head, he was speaking with his direct reports one-on-one and in small groups, using his best practices to tear down walls and create the right harmony he knew he needed.

Yet he could sense total pushback from two of his longest-tenured technical people. Sandy and Ted were not buying it.

Dan decided to take his concerns directly to both Ted and Sandy. One by one he called them in for a private chat.

He opened with acknowledging how important he thought their roles were to the team’s success. They each agreed with that. Then he asked a fairly pointed question.

co-workers not trusting

Ted Went First

Dan started “I’ve been watching the development of this leadership team. We’ve been working to understand the clarity of our purpose and align our resources for the best outcomes toward our goals. Yet I sense a reluctance from you. I’d really like to understand what it is that is blocking things for you.”

Ted was pretty quick to respond. He said “Dan, I haven’t been honest with you. I’ve been at this company for a long time. This latest change is too much for me. I’m eligible to retire and I think now is the right time to do that.”

Dan was not surprised, that made perfect sense. He responded “Ted, I’d sure hate to lose you, but I respect everything you’ve done here. Is there anything that might help you change your mind?”

Ted smiled a wry grin. “Thanks, but no. It’s time. This has nothing to do with you or the company. I just need to get serious with my own situation and quit holding you guys back. It’s been a good run. I want to leave a good legacy.”

Dan said “Thank you for that honesty. If there’s anything I can do while you get situated, let me know.”

On the Other Hand

Sandy’s talk didn’t go so well. Dan opened the same way but got a totally different reaction.

Sandy shook her head and replied “I just don’t trust these people. I’ve worked with a few of them before and know what they do behind people’s backs.”

Dan thought about how contrary this sounded based on his own history with the team from prior assignments. He knew about their performance elsewhere and the accolades they had gotten from others, both above and below them in the organization.

He simply said to Sandy, “Tell me more.”

“Well…..” and her list began. Interesting to Dan was the level of petty complaints he heard. He was shocked at just how petty many of these grievances sounded when compared to the duties Sandy had on her plate.

He had not known Sandy that well from before, but had always relied on her technical delivery of work product and was pleased. Yet hearing her voiced concerns about others made him realize one big thing about Sandy.

She really didn’t trust anyone.

The Leader’s Boundaries

In the effort to be an effective leader, there are many things you must do but there are some you cannot do.

Becoming a therapist for an employee who exhibits behaviors that are not conducive to good teamwork is just not something you should delve into.

We’ve all been there before, realizing you have an employee who has some psycho-emotional baggage that will not allow open and reliable cooperation on the team.

So what do you do?

First, don’t let it get personal. Stick to team outcomes when describing expectations. Make those expectations very clear.

Shifting the Spotlight

Watch for tell-tale signs of behavioral problems. An untrusting soul may often try to shift the spotlight away from themselves onto others.

anger at work

Examples include placing blame for minor matters and accusing others of “failing” to deliver properly. They somehow think that constantly churning the team around them will keep the focus away from their own issues.

Someone who is more trusting will accept responsibility and become vulnerable to things needing more attention.

I’ve seen situations where the highest performer on the team was actually the least trusting individual. Despite adding significant value to the team, they cause so much confusion and disruption, their actual worth starts to be questionable.

This latter situation may be the leader’s biggest challenge. If you’ve ever been frustrated by someone’s behavior yet asked yourself something like this “Can I afford to lose them?”, you should start the process to do just that.

Keeping a team member who will never trust the rest of the team will derail everything you may try to accomplish. It happens every time.

Question: When was a time that you had someone on your team who couldn’t trust others? Leave a comment.

Leaders Don’t Kick the Can and Check the Box

Busy-ness is all around us. You hear complaints about how tired and frustrated people can be because of all the work they have going on.

Once upon a time, having work was a blessing, not a curse. Yet many workers in all walks and in all roles complain of just how busy they are.

Kicking the can and checking the boxes

If you lead a work team, there is a great pressure to kick the can down the road and tick a box. Box checking is our way of feeling a sense of accomplishment.

Ah Ha, the task is done!

Not so fast!

There’s no doubt we need to see progress toward a goal; projects need completing, deadlines must be met, and so on.

However, if the way you measure success has anything to do with the number of boxes checked, you might need to stop.

The more important question is whether the activity that is being checked off has a meaningful contribution towards desired performance.

ticking boxes off a list

As a leader, you need a system for tracking progress toward your desired goals.

The vision you see before you must be broken down into chunks that can be clearly communicated to the team.

Each person on the team must have clarity for the work they are supposed to be doing.

So what can a Leader do?

Keeping your focus about tracking meaningful contribution toward goal achievement can be realized by implementing a very simple method. The method/system is called “Big 5 Performance Management.”

With the Big 5 system, managers ask their direct reports to prepare a simple monthly report.

The report has only two parts. The first part is the top five individual accomplishments for the month. The other part is the top five priorities for the next month.

Accomplishments and priorities are tied to the individual responsibilities assigned.

Logically, what you entered as priorities last month should be accomplishments this month. If not, then address the matters that got in the way of achieving your stated objectives for the month.

This report is prepared within the first five days of the new month (keeping the Big 5 theme). Managers can review the reports with all the directs.

Going over the Big 5 report gives the manager and the employee the opportunity for a coaching moment.

coaching moment

Proper recognition for achievement can be shared as well as alignment on priorities. Any variances can be explored, evaluated, aligned and set in motion.

With a rigorous and faithful implementation of this Big 5 discipline, the bigger goals can be cumulatively achieved by the Leader’s group.

Simple elegance

The listing of each of the top five things is a simple bulleted list, not a long narrative. Save the lengthy discussion for the one on one coaching time.

In fact, this Big 5 Report can be accomplished in a single email from each party. (However, there is a cloud-based app for this if you are interested).

If this sounds too simple to make a difference, think again. I’ve had personal experience using Big 5 in several leadership roles from my past.

Each time it was used, my teams achieved more with less, hit higher performance marks, and achieved greater results. Why?

We did these things because the whole team literally ‘stayed on the same page.’ Forces from outside that may have otherwise robbed us of time and attention were identified early and dealt with properly.

We even found ourselves with extra time to look at creative opportunities that came up along the way, thus improving margin and total revenue.

When you feel overwhelmed by the Busy-ness of your work, think Big 5. Don’t just kick the can and check the box.

PS –

For a team to operate at its best, each member of the team must answer six key questions about the team before they feel a sense of trust and have a willingness to commit their “discretionary effort” toward goal completion.

(For more on these critical six questions, visit my Team Trust Model here.)

Change and Progress, Are They Twins?

In today’s complex business world, change is hard. Companies venturing through major culture shifts, mergers or other forms of change often struggle to make it to the end.

The idea that people hate change is a phenomenon that is taught, coached and wrestled with in many ways, shapes, and forms. Regardless of your mindset about CHANGE, there is one vital aspect you should explore.

PROGRESS is what you should be focused on. Change for the sake of change is meaningless. However, progress toward a new goal or achievement is more vital and more valuable to your organization.

Dean Lindsay, America’s premier authority on Progress, writes:

All progress is change, but not all change is progress.

Lindsay uses an illustration. If you wake up in the morning with a stomach ache, you want to change. You want it to go away.

If you tell a friend and they punch you in the nose, you got a change. But it wasn’t progress toward curing your stomach ache.

The Rhetoric

There are voices in the media demanding change. The word has been worn out. Again, change for the sake of change is not progress.

When you sense the need for change or you design an intentional change in the way your business operates, be sure you are designing progress toward a new goal.

I know companies who have launched major change initiatives (they call it that) with the intent to become more profitable, increase margin, find efficiencies, or become more competitive.

Those are great objectives.

Yet what they are really saying is we need progress forward to be better situated for growth and survival in our industry.

Too often the well-intended change that is initiated gets bogged down in all the adoption and adaptation process. As soon as the change feels hard and resistance begins to mount, plans are adjusted.

Many times the shift is pulled back or canceled in the face of resistance.

Living Through the Curve

Roxanne Chugg writes: “The fact is that most change initiatives are done “to” employees, not implemented “with” them or “by” them. Although leaders are pushing behavior change from the top and expecting it to cascade through the formal structure, an informal culture left to instinct and chance will likely dig in its heels and resist or even hijack the change.”

There is a popular model that describes the change cycle. Dr. Virginia Satir first introduced this model when explaining emotional life-change events in family therapy. However, it has been widely adopted in change management circles to help businesses plan for and implement change.

The “S” shape of this curve helps us see the complexity of making a change. When applied to a work team, each member of the team will experience their own progression through the curve, each moving at their own pace.

The key matter here is that everyone in the organization faces their own emotional curve when forced into change. Acceptance or adoption of the change is dependent upon the progress one can make moving through the curve.

If plotted together on a single graph you could see the lag points where the manager/leader may be further along the curve than his people. If the leader is not sensitive to this lag factor, then the message from the top might be skewed.

The leader could be thinking “Come on people, don’t you get this? Why aren’t we further along?”

In reality, the team may be lagging the leader’s position moving along the curve. A little bit of lag is normal. However, the leader must decide how much lag is tolerable.

Back to Progress

Given the tremendous effort and disruption a change may cause at work, leaders must be mindful of the progress being made.

Leaders need to ask: “Is the company moving ahead because of this change or are we merely spinning our wheels, burning out the staff, and creating very little value?”

Question: What change initiative has your company gone through recently? Or were you the one directing it?

Managers, How Do You Show Up?

As you go about your day to day activity, how do you show up?

Whether you are the boss or just one of the team, you have choices every minute of every day. The way you decide to show up in the moment can be the single greatest factor in measuring your effectiveness and success.

Domino Effect

It’s interesting to realize that one bad start early in the day can shape the rest of the day. But I’ll save that idea for another message.

Today we’re going to talk about three key opportunities where showing up matters most.

Showing Up One-on-One

No experience at work or at home matters more than the minute when you are one-on-one with someone. You’re alone together.

There are no distractions, no one else is competing for time and attention.

What are you going to do? How will you show up? Or more importantly, how can you change the way you usually show up.

Building strong, meaningful relationships happens best in the privacy of the one-on-one.

Showing up requires your attention. You must not let other things distract you from the discussion you are about to have. Ringing telephones or random interruptions leave the other person with the impression they are not important.

Your listening matters here too. Your ability to express the right amount of empathy allows a more freely flowing exchange. Proving to the other person that you are attentive and engaged is best done with feedback based on what the other person said.

one on one meeting

Being transparent matters here too. By being open, honest, and even vulnerable to the person with whom you are having the one-on-one allows the trust to build. The more you can do to achieve high levels of trust, the better your outcome will be.

Managers Engaging the Team

Management duties often involve team oriented situations. Having routine staff/team meetings creates the perfect opportunity to show up big or fail miserably. Which do you choose?

Showing up is not about dominating the room. Instead, it involves much the same as one-on-one with one big addition.

showing up at the team meeting

Keep an eye on the whole team. Watch body language and subtle hints about your team’s engagement.

Doing this requires showing up fully ready to engage yourself. Be prepared.

Also, think about intentional messages you need to deliver or consensus you hope to build. Know in advance what you hope to get from the team meeting. Respect other’s time. Use it wisely.

Be decisive if asked for decisions. If you’re really not ready to make a decision on the spot, again, be transparent. Say so.

Managers Showing Up in the Organization

Showing up also impacts your success with those above you or to whom your report. Even CEOs have boards or investors for accountability.

managing up the organization

When you must report up, show up. Likely you were selected or elected for the role, so someone had a belief you can do the job. Remember that.

Use it to strengthen your approach and confidence.

Here Are 10 Ways You can Show Up

  1. Be prepared – try not to let any interpersonal opportunities go by without some degree of preparation
  2. Be in the moment – as new encounters unfold, put aside all other distractions
  3. Listen empathetically – assure the others) you are hearing what they are saying
  4. Listen more than speak – two ears, one tongue is sage advice
  5. Be transparent – whenever possible be completely open and transparent and yes there are plenty of opportunities to be this way).
  6. Don’t judge – be fair in your dealings
  7. Model the right behaviors – know what your situation calls for in the way you present yourself
  8. Be genuine – be yourself. Trying to be something or someone else doesn’t work
  9. Be confident – work on this if you have to, but be secure in what you are talking about
  10. State the things you heard – recap the moment to achieve the best clarity for the communication

If you can do these things with each and every opportunity to show up, your reputation and effectiveness as a leader will grow.

Leave a comment or share any other experiences you have had “showing up” as a manager or a leader.

Making Behavior Change Stick

Have you ever tried breaking an old habit to replace it with some new behavior?

Of course you have. Whether it’s a diet, exercising more, reading more, less device time, or other lifestyle changes, adopting a new behavior can be tough.

Working on changes in your leadership style can be hard.

Just like any life changing decisions, your effort to become a better leader requires change on your part.

Without exception, my coaching clients decide on a path to making behavior changes. Regardless of the issue or the topic that first brings us together, once I start coaching with someone, we find ourselves landing on the need for a behavioral change.

The change can transform executive presence, influence, and effectiveness. It might involve communication or delegation. Maybe the change is about interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence.

One way or another, the change someone desires always requires a behavior change.

Why Change Can Be Hard

If you’ve tried any of the changes I’ve mentioned above, you know change can be hard. Why is that?

First, there is our comfort zone. Habits and behaviors get comfortable for us. We do things mindlessly ignoring other things or people.

Breaking away from that comfort zone is felt physically and emotionally. We sense the change and prefer to revert to a more customary approach or reaction.

Then there is fear. Most of us fear change. It’s the great unknown. We ask ourselves what if this doesn’t work?

Lastly, it takes effort. If we’re going to break some chains, it requires effort. Sometimes we’re just too busy or tired to make the change.

Here’s How to Make Behavior Change Stick

I found there are 4 things that can help facilitate a change of behavior that sticks. My friend and colleague, Cheryl S. Bryan has also written about these in her blog.

Purpose – Lock in on your purpose and the reason for the expected change of behavior. Let the reason you choose to change become a beacon for the effort. Don’t lose sight of your purpose.

Plan – Make a plan for the change. Plot a course for the beginning, middle, and end. Set your path for change. Decide on details. Get stakeholder feedback along the way. Measure yourself. Learn from setbacks.

servant leader

Patience – Be patient. You will experience missteps. Give yourself some grace as you attempt the change. It won’t all be perfect. If you slip up (and you will), pause, reassess and keep moving.

Practice – The only way a new behavior gets established is to practice it over and over again until it becomes more natural.

Go For It!

If you can follow these 4 P’s for making behavior change stick, you will achieve far greater success.

Use these when mentoring and coaching your team. Encourage others to embrace the change they need by observing these key principles.

If you would like to know more about making change stick, click on the links below. I’ll be happy to arrange a call.

More About Building Better Teams Thru Trust

Are you responsible for a team at work? Is it performing at the highest level you can imagine?

elevating team performance

I’ve been writing about the impact that trust can have on your team. But why does trust matter?

Trust is not merely a soft, social virtue; rather, trust is a pragmatic, hard-edged, economic, and actionable asset that you can create. There is a compelling case for trust. Teams and organizations that operate with high trust significantly outperform teams and organizations with low trust—this has been proven in dozens of studies, across a multitude of industries and sectors.

Stephen M.R.Covey

In my last article, I introduced a powerful and proven model that defines the stages for building trust on your team. (You can see it here).

The model explains the interrelationships between six sets of key questions that team members ask themselves about the team they are on. Leaders are responsible for influencing each team member’s answers to these six questions.

You, as the leader, must evaluate each team member’s progress in positively answering the questions. If you sense someone is stuck on one of the stages, it’s your duty to help them get unstuck.

Team Trust

Trust in Action

In this post, I want to share with you some of the examples of ways this model performs “in the real world.”

There is not enough time or space in this post to cover all of the possibilities. However, I can share some powerful insights that are actual examples of questions and stories I hear when I coach on this topic.

People

Step #1 is the key question “Do I even want to be here?”

Each individual member of a team must ask and resolve this fundamental question. The answer needs to be positive or else the remaining questions may be moot.

Clients of mine have stated “Everyone in the company has traveled unique paths to get where they are. Therefore, the definition of reality may be completely impacted by their personal perception of the business environment from which they came. i.e. there is little room for newness or change in the situation.”

This observation is not unique. The statement could be true for most employees everywhere. We all, in some way or another, look at new situations with a biased eye based on our experiences of the past.

The statement actually fits squarely with the meaning of step #1 in the model. Again, each person on the team must answer the basic question “Do I even want to be here?”

The model makes no attempt to qualify the answer(s). Your experiences do drive your perception and reality. The question becomes “what about now?”

Side note: If someone’s initial answer to #1 is negative, they can be swayed by learning and understanding the remaining questions. More on that later.

Purpose

Step #2 is about purpose. “Do I understand the purpose for this team and can I buy-in?”

At this step, the leader must provide clarity and simplicity.

All too often, the original purpose for creating the team gets lost along the way. New teams get the benefit of having at least some idea of their stated purpose to begin with. But as time goes on, that purpose can get confused or clouded. It’s the leader’s responsibility to keep the purpose focused, simple, and clear.

Without the clarity it is hard to get commitment. Click To Tweet

If the team starts to veer off course from the primary purpose, there needs to be a discussion specifically about reconnecting on the purpose.

Employees cannot give their all to a cause that is uncertain or unclear. Clarity elevates commitment.

Trust Comes from Relationships

When my model first hit the LinkedIn circuit, it went viral. I received comments reminding me about the power of relationships for building trust.

I couldn’t agree more. Leaders must build relationships with their team to establish a climate that allows trust to grow.

The leader must set the tone for the team to be able to establish trust. If you are responsible for a team, YOU have to set the course for whether or not trust might grow.

There are rare occasions when the team establsihes its own level of trust yet ignores the leader.

In my early career, I worked for an executive who was not worthy of respect and trust. My colleagues (his team) and I banded together to create an alliance against him. We didn’t do it maliciously. We did it for survival against his horrible leadership and management style.

We trusted each other explicitly. But we didn’t trust our boss further than we could throw him.

He had failed to build an environment that favored trust as a complete unit.

Thinking in terms of the six-step model, we were working among ourselves to find positive answers to make things work even though our boss was unable to guide and direct. We honored the position he occupied, but had no respect for him as a manager.

Wrapping It Up

These are just a few of the practical ways the team trust model works. I’ll be sharing more in weeks to come. In the meantime, if you have your own observations, comments or questions, leave them here in the comment section below.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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6 Steps to Build Better Teams

elevating team performance

Do you think your work team is just average? Have you ever thought about ways to make it better?

What if you had a highly effective and productive team?

Being a leader at work, at home, or in your community suggests just that. Your team has to be hitting the right marks to make you feel like your leadership is going somewhere.

When I start working with my executive coaching clients, we usually start out with very personal thoughts and ideas. They usually are looking for ways to improve something (or several somethings) about their ability to lead.

Yet upon reflection, the issues they frame as personal matters inevitably manifest as team-level issues. On one hand they are saying “If I did more of ‘X’ I believe I would become a better leader.” What is really happening is them saying “My team would operate at a higher level if I could help them with (blank)….”

It makes good sense that leaders should seek ways to influence their followers.

If you think you’re leading and no one is following, you’re just walking around.

John Maxwell

The Study

In a recent study published by Google, they revealed the findings from a two-year deep dive into the makings of their highest performing teams. The effort was named Project Aristotle.

While they uncovered several key aspects that contributed to making a great team, there was one that stood out. In the study, they discovered the number one attribute present in all the best teams was something called “psychological safety.”

Read the whole section on this idea and you learn they are talking about trust.

Team Trust

So you get it. Trust is the right stuff to make a great team. How does a leader build trust?

I’ve uncovered six key questions employees ask themselves about the teams they are on.

Each questions builds on the previous one(s). If leaders fail to provide clear and meaningful answers to these questions, employees either are not clear about the mission or not committed to the cause.

Fail on too many questions and the team is downright dysfunctional. Get them right though, our team will be unstoppable.

Here We Go

These are the six questions to know and understand.

Team Trust
Team Trust

People – Do I even want to be here? Each team member asks this fundamental question. Each member of the team must satisfy this basic question before any other work can be achieved.

Purpose – Do I understand why we exist as a team? Is there clarity around our mission? Each member of the team must satisfy this next question to gain clarity before commitment.

Plan – How is this going to be done? I understand the purpose but tell me more about how we’re going to do this. What is the plan that will be followed to get things done?

Process – What drives the way we will do things? This is the practice step or execution. What works and what does not? If we discover something is not working, how will we change that? There should not be any artificial roadblocks in the way of team success.

Performance – How will we measure success? Will it be a fair assessment? Fair and equitable standards and tools for performance evaluation and measurement are required. Old, stale ways of waiting for annual reviews must be eliminated. Today’s workforce demands better feedback and coaching from their leaders.

Payoff – What is the payoff for accomplishing everything we set out to do? Are the rewards worth the effort? Rewards are not limited to monetary compensation. Think about recognition, pride, self-esteem, and other measures of achievement.

To learn more, visit the page I have dedicated to the team Trust Model.

Dream Small

gratitude smile

The world around us tells us to Dream Big! Go for it! Reach for the stars! Be fast! Be bold, be brave. “Go big or go home!”

If you ever hear someone say “dream small” that sounds terrible, right? Totally counter-cultural.

The first time I heard it, I certainly thought so. “You’ve got to be kidding me.” I thought.

At first, the idea of dreaming small made no sense. For sure, it ran totally against all my coaching fibers.

Then it happened. The friend who was sharing this spent 45 minutes helping me understand the concept. Along the way I found myself aligning numerous principles I’ve always believed, yet never considered them as “dreaming small.”

Big Business Mindset

Even though I often work with entrepreneurs and smaller companies hoping to go big, my roots are in large global enterprises. Starting with the U.S. Army and moving into banking at JP Morgan Chase, I’ve spent many years walking the halls of some pretty big corporate giants.

Clients today include some of the largest global brands you can imagine.

Ironically, as I coach key executives and top-of-house leaders within these giants, I routinely get the individuals to focus on the smaller moments in their day.

Despite budgets that start in “Bs” (as in $ billions), we spend most of our time talking about the finer points of influencing teams, motivating individuals, and leading culture changes; dreaming small.

The opportunities for the biggest impact come down to small moments. You could argue it truly is dreaming small.

As my friend put it in perspective, I was reminded of many ways that leaders can and should dream small rather than focus on the big picture so much.

Remember the Bible story of David and Goliath. It was a small smooth stone that knocked out Goliath. David could have asked for a big sword. Instead he focused on finding the small stone. He dreamed small to accomplish great things.

Leaders Start Here

Dreaming small is really about taking advantage of key moments; not long term master plans, but simple moments. The moments you spend with your staff, your peers, and the key people elsewhere in your life.

You may have three minutes before a meeting, standing in the hallway as others gather. If an employee or peer is present, use the moment to connect. Whether officially or personally, you can make great strides in building trusted relationships by leveraging the short moments that are all around, every day.

In sports, we see this all the time. Baseball is particularly keen on key moments. Each time a batter stands up to bat, the whole game is simplified down to the duel between the pitcher and the batter. It even comes down to one pitch.

The right pitch, perfectly thrown can confuse and bewilder a batter. Yet a batter with focus and determination, plus a little discipline in the moment can avoid being fooled by a pitch. Instead, when the right pitch comes, he can clobber the ball out of the park.

These are small moment things that turn into big results. Dream small my friends.