Tag Archives: teamwork

Don’t Be A Super Chicken

[this is  a fall re-post series re-post]

This TED Talk resonated for me when I first saw it, because one of my early client success pivoted on recognizing that the best people for a particular client were the “helpful” ones. Margaret Heffernan puts her thumb on a sore spot  and pushes when she argues that individual achievement is actually counter-productive to achievement.

Margaret Heffernan: Why it’s time to forget the pecking order at work

Forget the Pecking Order

Google Does the Research on Team Dynamics

The new Google logo is seen at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, California November 13, 2015. REUTERS/Stephen Lam - RTS6X3W

…and here are the results

Your Team Failed. Now What?

A ship is safe in the harbour, but that’s not what a ship is for. Eventually your team is going to have a set-back. Now what?

How to Pick Up Your Team After a Fall

How to Spot a Great Team

Some leaders of teams that don’t regularly succeed will still insist that they have a great team because team members care about one other and no one ever leaves the team. A more accurate description of their situation would be to say that they have a mediocre team that enjoys being together and isn’t terribly bothered by failure. See, no matter how good a leadership team feels about itself, and how noble its mission might be, if the organization it leads rarely achieves its goals, then, by definition, it’s simply not a good team.

The Advantage – Patrick Lencioni

Laptops in Meetings? No. Just No.

When I see a laptop in a meeting I assume you’re cruising for porn.

Okay, that’s little extreme. I know you’re probably not cruising for porn, but I think it. You’re probably doing email, or writing a report, or something half-assed productive, maybe. But you’re not paying attention to the meeting. And that pisses me off.

If you’re not contributing to the meeting and not paying attention, then you’re wasting  your, my, and the organization’s time. And the time of everybody else in the meeting. Because we have to go back and repeat things just for you when you should have paid attention.

Your message to everybody in the meeting is “I have to be here, but I have more important things to do. So f*** all of you, I’m going to do the more important stuff in front of you now.” And that’s the generous interpretation that assumes you’re doing something work-related. Probably because you can’t manage your time well enough to get it done before the deadline.

So, to summarize, when you bring a lap-top to a meeting, and you’re not the assigned scribe or doing real-time research in support of the meeting, then I’m going to assume one or more of the following:

  • You can’t get your work done in the allotted time
  • You don’t respect me or the people who you’re meeting with
  • You think this meeting is a waste of your time (which may be true, so then why are you there?)
  • You waste company resources – your salary – by showing up to company meeting and not contributing anything because you’re too busy playing on your machine
  • The work you’re doing is of inferior quality (I believe multi-tasking is evil, but that’s a separate topic)

Please don’t do it. If other people in the room don’t think you’re listening, you’re not. You’re just damaging your relationships with them.

Bernie works with small, medium (and sometimes) large companies, start-ups, and volunteer organizations to help them set a vision that is executable, effective, and to surround themselves with people who will help them succeed. I believe the workplace is a place to thrive, not just survive. Call me if you want help transforming your business. 

Emotions are Contagious

There’s a joke I used to tell my Scouts around the campfire, when it was late and that youngest ones had turned in:

There was a pirate captain who, when attacked by the British Navy, called for his cabin boy to bring him his red vest. The captain fought bravely and his men, following his example, repulsed the Royal Navy ship trying to arrest (and then inevitably hang) them.

The cabin boy was curious but hadn’t worked up the courage to ask the captain why he called for a red vest when they were under attack. It seemed odd to the boy that a change of clothing be at the top of the captain’s mind at such a time.

The next time they were attacked, this time by three Royal Navy ships, the captain called for his red jacket. Again, he and his men fought bravely and barely managed to escape. The cabin boy couldn’t hold himself back any longer.

“Captain, sir, if you please. Whenever we’ve been attacked you’ve called for your red vest. The last time we fought off three ships, but not until you donned your red jacket, sir.”

“Yes, that’s right.”, replied the captain, “And you want to know why?”

“Yes sir, if I may.”

“Well, whenever there’s a chance I may be injured in a skirmish, I don my red vest or jacket so that the men won’t know if I’m injured and bleeding. That way they won’t lose heart no matter how dire our situation, and fight on.”

The cabin boy nodded and smiled, because he know knew how the captain inspired his men. “I want to be as brave as the captain one day.”, he thought to himself.

The next day six ships of the line came over the horizon, spotted the their ship, and made sail to catch the dread pirate.

“Shall I bring your red vest, sir?”, the cabin boy asked.

“No.”, said the captain.

“Shall I bring your red jacket, sir?”, the cabin boy asked again.

“No.”, said the captain.

“Then what shall I do, sir?”, the cabin boy asked a last time.

“Bring me my brown pants.”

I’m Going to Provide an Overwhelming Rational Argument, and then Fail

Third in a series about communication and change management

An Aurora Police Department detective takes a witness statement following a shooting outside the 16 movie theatre in Aurora. Aurora Police responded to the Century 16 movie theatre where police confirm at least 14 people are dead and 50 others injured. AP Photo/Karl Gehring Shooting at Batman screening

“Fact, just the facts ma’am.”

Great if you’re investigating a murder. Insufficient if you’re inspiring action or driving change. It is a mistake to believe that any solely rational, logical, or well-constructed argument will persuade people to set aside their own perceived best interest in favour of doing what’s right or doing what’s correct.

Many people will listen to a rational arguement, analysis, or well-constructed thesis and wonder what you’re up to. What do you really want? What are you trying to hide? Even executives – especially executives – know that any one set of numbers and facts can be tortured to confess whatever is needed to support both sides of the same arguement  Most of us make decisions based on gut, and rationalize that decision with facts and analysis afterwards.

I’m not saying you don’t need to be skeptical, or that you don’t need to do that analysis. As Stephen Lynch once said, “You can run your business with discipline, or you can run it with regret.” But rational  arguement is not going to overcome behavioural inertia in others.

You are going to need more than just the facts.

Fix #3 Appeal to Their Hearts Too

Martin Luther King didn’t say “I have a plan.”

He said “I have a dream.”

Stories, vision, passion, vulnerability. These are what persuade. Concrete, tangible, visual goals are what drive action.

Yes, your plan has to be based in reality. Businesses have to make money to live. But the purpose of a business cannot and should not be just to make money. Your body needs to make red blood cells in order to live, but that’s not your life’s purpose. A doctor gets paid well, but doctors don’t exist to make money.

Businesses need a higher purpose too. Maybe you’re not going to solve world hunger, but you should have a vision beyond just X percentage growth, or Y dollars revenue. Have the guts to stand for something. Something that inspires people to leap out of bed in the morning and eagerly embrace their work.

Amazon’s goal is to provide “Every book, ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds.” Henry Ford wanted to “Democratize the automobile.” Google wants to “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Not every purpose is going to appeal to every person, but you want it to appeal to the people that are working for you.

Hopefully your change is tied to the higher purpose of the company. An emotional, human connection that impels the actions, and energy needed to overcome inertia and drive change deeply and quickly in your team or company.

Or you could write another policy change. Your choice.

Over-Communicate to Drive Change

First in a series about communication and change management

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Mistake #1 They Know What I Know

You and your team have create a brilliant plan during that conference, workshop, planning session, meeting, brain-storming, or tiger-team. It is so blindingly obvious (to you and everybody that was in the room) what needs to be done. You’re inspired and energized. Momentum and success are sure to follow.

Yet think about the time your boss came back from a conference or a retreat full of vim and vigour, thoughts of incentivizations dancing in her head. How well does that usually work out? You try to carry out your brilliant plan, it falls flat. Bitterness and disappointment soon follow.

Other people cannot read your mind. They do not know what you know. They have not experienced what you experienced. They were not at the retreat with you. Your plan, initiative, or strategic shift may be brilliant, but it needs to be as inspiring for the people on whom we’re foisting change as it is for us.

Which is a shame, when may just need a little explaining and inspirational communication .

Say you’ve decided to roll out a performance review process. Please don’t, and I’ve seen this done – really, tell your managers: “Do performance reviews. Follow this process [hands over slide deck], use these forms [hands over forms], have it done by this date.” It will fail.

Fix #1 Over-Communicate

Back in my Air Cadet days, they forced us to practice “public speaking”. One of the simpler tools in our tool box was: “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them.” This pattern works for change management too.

That new employee performance review process? Your first communication might be just for managers who will be performing the reviews. Announcing the initiative, explaining the process, and inviting them to a training session. Tell them what you’re going to tell them…

Consider repeating this first step for different audiences. Your first communication to non-managers might be an all-hands e-mail announcing the initiative, explaining the process, and inviting people to an in-person information session (like a lunch-and-learn) where they can ask questions.

Now your managers are ready for the questions that will come from their direct reports (which inevitably won’t be asked when you’re at the front of the room), because you’ve already told them what you’re going to tell them…

After the review process is complete, you might consider having a “hot wash”, inviting feedback, and compare how the process was supposed to be carried out and against what actually happened. Share this analysis. Tell them what you told them…

When You Don’t Over-Communicate

When people don’t know what’s going on and why, they make stuff up. And not the good stuff with fluffy bunnies and unicorns farting rainbows. The bad stuff. Worst case scenario stuff. Corrosive speculation and rumour-mongering follows.

Over-communication will save you time, energy, and grief in the long run. It’s worth the effort.

Being Understood When the Dragons are Dancing

or How I Learned to Love to Communicate

My wife and I were at a Chinese New Year’s dinner at the beginning of February. It was a wonderful dinner with dragon dancers, drummers, musicians, photo ops with politicians, and a fantastic menu.

At one point, over the noise of the crowd and music, I tried to ask her if she wanted another drink. I pulled out the drink tickets and pointed towards her empty rum and coke. I mimed “yes” and “no” by nodding shaking my head.

She nodded yes, but there was something about her facial expression that made me pause. So I bent closer to hear what she was saying. “Yes, but later please.”

“So no then.”, I stated in my best patronizing, task-oriented voice.

This was a very simple, almost intimate, communication with a woman I’ve known for over thirty years, and we mis-communicated. Then I thought about the managers and executives whom I work with every week. Executives who are trying to make significant  long-term changes to their businesses and organizations with less forethought and planning. Changes like introducing corporate performance measures and evaluations, talent reviews, strategic priorities.

Then they wonder why making those initiatives are such a struggle or just plain fail. Which costs them and the company time, money, emotional aggravation, and goodwill among their customers, employees, and shareholders. 

The lesson for me, I think, has been that I need to do a better job of helping my clients plan and execute their communications. Some of them get it and don’t need my help. Some of them need more than a little help.

In the coming days and weeks I’ll be enumerating some of the most common mistakes I see. I’ve come up with eight so far, and I’m sure you’ll let me know of others. In the meantime, I invite you to think about how you communicate. I bet you aren’t as clear and concise as you think you might be…

Aside

When giving feedback is it better to dwell on the past or focus on the future? Continue reading