One element critical for team success

posted in: All, Change, Company culture, Trust | 1

If asked to name one element critical for team and organizational success across all industries and environments, what would you say?  Perhaps vision? Shared values?  Purpose?  Or possibly skills, and ensuring the people with the right skills are in the roles that make best use of their strengths. Maybe you’d say strategic thinking or an effective business plan.  Maybe camaraderie, cohesiveness, or focus on results.

All of these things are important, it’s true.  And still there is one critical element that everything else builds upon. Trust.  Trust creates the foundation for successful teams, and when trust is absent, the team struggles to move forward. trust fall

Why trust matters

Patrick Lencioni demonstrates this principle In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by looking at what happens when there is an absence of trust on a team, or in an organization.  When trust is missing, team members are more likely to withhold information, keeping their opinions to themselves.  They may not feel safe expressing themselves.  They may cover up mistakes, or fail to report potential problems. They may agree to a decision because it’s the easiest path, not because they believe it’s the right course. This leads to lack of commitment, accountability, and ultimately poor focus on results.

Trust – or the lack of trust – has direct financial implications for organizations.  Stephen M.R. Covey shows how trust impacts cost and speed in The Speed of Trust.  Lack of trust results in increased costs and decreased speed.  You can probably think of examples from your own experiences. What happens when people don’t trust each other?  Information isn’t shared, problems are not surfaced, excessive review and approval systems need to be navigated before people can act.  Bureaucracy and red tape, and work that needs to be redone because decisions have  been made based on incomplete or even incorrect data.

Absence of trust is demotivating.  According to Edward Deci and Richard Ryan’s Self Determination Theory, one of the pillars of intrinsic motivation is autonomy. We work so much more effectively when self-motivated rather than externally motivated.  Allowing autonomy requires trust – trust that people will do what needs to be done, with high quality and on time.  Micro-managing sends the opposite message, that people are not trusted.

It takes a lot to achieve peak performance on a team: Mission, vision, values, planning, strengths-focus, open communication, healthy conflict, collaboration, commitment. But without trust there is no foundation and performance will crumble.

How can you build a foundation of trust?

So how do you build trust within the team?  A good way to start is to be intentional about creating an environment where people feel safe sharing their thoughts, ideas, and opinions, without negative repercussions.  Find ways for team members to get to know each other and develop interpersonal bonds.  Create purposeful experiences for team members to help them build relationships and trust. Many of you have heard about or experienced activities such as the “trust fall.”  (You’re not rolling your eyes, are you?)  These trust-building activities take us outside our comfort zones.  Which makes us, well, uncomfortable!  That discomfort is powerful, though, in promoting growth and change.  As we begin to trust another person for our physical well-being, we also begin to trust them when it comes to our emotional or psychological well-being.

When there is a foundation of trust in an organization with a compelling vision, clearly-understood purpose, and shared values – a team performing at its peak can accomplish anything.  It can move mountains!

Create the company culture you want!

Culture in the workplace.  It can make the difference between a place people love to work or one they dread. For something that has such a profound impact on the success of an organization, the accidental company culture is surprisingly common!

If you are a leader in your organization, you have a choice. You can be intentional about establishing and developing the culture you want.  Or, you can do nothing toward creating culture and hope that what develops organically is what you had in mind.  Because whether or not you are intentional about it, your organization will develop a culture of its own. And as with most things, it’s easier and more effective to establish the culture you want if you build it from the start. When that doesn’t happen, you may find you need to change the culture, sometimes one that is firmly entrenched.

yoga at the beachThe core elements of culture are the same, in organizations, society, and families. Culture grows out of the mission, vision, and values of groups of people. And the leaders of people have a tremendous impact on culture. When leaders select and develop people who demonstrate values and behaviors that align with the organization’s purpose, they reinforce culture. In addition, the leader’s ability to communicate the vision, promote the values, and demonstrate the behaviors that support those values has a profound influence on everyone else in the organization.

So how can you be more intentional about creating culture and developing a team that embodies the culture you want?

Here are three keys to effectively establish or change an organization’s culture.

 

Mission and Vision:

First, be clear on both the organization’s mission and vision.  Make sure everyone has a solid understanding of why they do what they do, and where they want to go in the future. Leaders need to be able to clearly articulate both of these, and make them part of an ongoing conversation with everyone in the organization. Steve Jobs once said, “in a thousand  and one little, and sometimes larger ways, the vision needs to be reiterated.”  In your organization, are the people in every role able to talk about the vision and about how they contribute to achieving it?  If not, what steps can you take today to bring this about?

 

Values:

The values that are reinforced day-in and day-out are the ones that become part of an organization’s culture. What values are reinforced in your organization? Do the actual behaviors of everyone in the organization align with the stated values? Or are there areas of disconnect? Perhaps you’ve experienced something like this: A stated value that “work/life balance is important and respected.”  But the actual practice is for emails and texts to be sent at all hours, any day of the week. If there is a discrepancy, the behaviors will have far more influence on the culture.

 

Behaviors:

Determine the behaviors that align with your mission, vision and values, and then consistently demonstrate and reinforce those behaviors. Think about behaviors you would expect to see in your ideal culture. If building relationships is one of your organization’s values, you might expect to see people going to lunch together, or taking time to interact on a more personal level from time to time. If you value achievement, you might expect to see a focus on goals and celebration when milestones are reached. Ensure that the systems in place support the desired culture and behaviors.  Consider the behaviors that are rewarded in your organization.  Are desired behaviors sometimes inadvertently punished?  Or unwanted behaviors rewarded?  For example, perhaps top-performers are “rewarded” with extra work, while under-performers are given less work to do.

 

Once you start on the path of changing culture, remember that it won’t happen overnight! The larger the organization, the longer change will likely take. But as you consistently reinforce the mission, vision, values, and desired behaviors, your ideal culture will soon become a reality in your organization. Change, large or small, starts with a single step. What step will you take today to take your organization’s culture where you want and need it to go?

 

Why attend a conference?

posted in: All, Change, Learning | 0

You have many demands on your time and budget. Why would you want to add to that by adding a conference or two to your schedule?

Having just attended the AEE’s incredible 43rd Annual International Conference, I can share some of the reasons why I already have next year’s Association for Experiential Education conference on the calendar, set as a high priority. Connecting with others who share your interests, and at the same time bring divAEE Conference logoerse perspectives, is powerful! It:

  • stimulates fresh ideas
  • inspires
  • provokes new ways of thinking
  • provides endless opportunities for learning
  • builds relationships
  • stretches comfort zones
  • encourages collaboration
  • is energizing!

Are these things worth investing in? Absolutely! You are investing in yourself.

How will you invest in yourself in 2016? Whether you choose to attend a large conference or get involved in local events that connect you with things you are passionate about – whatever you do for your own growth and development is worth the investment.

 

Is yours a healthy workplace?

posted in: All, Change, Productivity | 1

Do you go to work each day in a healthy workplace, or do you consider it toxic? If it’s not as healthy as you’d like, what can you do to improve it?

You make choices every day that can influence the overall culture of your workplace – and that includes influence over how healthy that culture is.

When you hold an early morning meeting, do you bring: doughnuts? bagels? fresh fruit?healthy workplace

Do you use candy as a motivator in training sessions?

Do staff members eat lunch while sitting at their desks, trying to get caught-up on their work as their energy is draining away?

Do you do anything to encourage playfulness in the workplace? Toss a nerf football around, perhaps, or take a break to shoot hoops?

What about meetings? Do they always take place indoors with attendees sitting around a table? Have you ever tried moving your meetings outdoors, or at least into a room with lots of windows and the feel of the outdoors? Or what about a “walking meeting”?  Among the many benefits of walking meetings: brain studies have shown that we think better when we’re moving, and it’s much less likely for the meeting to expand arbitrarily just to fill the hour.

If you are looking for ways to make your workplace healthier, there are some great resources out there for you. Many cities and counties have developed Healthy Communities programs to partner with businesses, schools, and other organizations to find ways to make the healthy path the easy path. Here’s an example of a program in San Diego.

Small changes can make a big difference. What if you improved the lighting in your office stairwells and hung employee’s or their family member’s artwork there? What if you offered oranges at a training event instead of candy? What if everyone were encouraged to spend 30 minutes being physically active during each workday? Have you ever noticed an increase in your own energy and productivity after you’ve moved around a bit or eaten a healthy snack?

Imagine what you could accomplish if you worked every day in a healthy workplace! What small step can you take today toward creating that kind of environment?

 

Managing Change – Puppy Lessons

posted in: All, Change, Learning | 0

IMG_0990Yesterday we brought home a new puppy. Exciting and wonderful – yes! Absolutely. And also, perhaps, just a little bit scary. Any change, whether perceived to be positive or negative, holds unpredictability. Is this experience going to be as wonderful as we think? How will this change our lives?  Change means risk.

In her podcast Creativity and Risk TakingAmy Climer talks about how we experience a sense of risk when the outcome of what we are doing is uncertain. So even when engaging in something we think will have a favorable outcome, it can feel risky. Any change can be stressful.

As individuals and as members of groups, we encounter change constantly. Some changes are small, others more significant; some work in our favor, others may work against us. Sometimes we cope with change better than other times. Think about a recent change that you’ve experienced. What are the things that helped you to be most successful at managing that change?

Here are some of the things my new puppy is teaching me about successfully managing change:

  • Learn as much as you can about the upcoming change. Read books, talk to people who’ve had similar experiences, talk to others who have expertise in situations like yours, use technology to broaden your understanding.
  • Prepare! In addition to learning all that you can, prepare your environment in advance. Consider the supplies you need and have them ready. Make a plan for how you will integrate this change into your daily life. Who is going to be responsible for what? How might your schedule or activities need to be modified? What support will you need from others?
  • Trust your own instincts. Listen to the experts, and at the same time, remember that every situation is different and yours may not fit neatly into the examples provided by experts.
  • Be ready to adapt when something unexpected happens. It always does!
  • Pay attention to what your experiences are teaching you and apply those lessons going forward.
  • Forgive yourself when things don’t go exactly as planned. There are almost always setbacks and mistakes along the way. Learn from them and move on.
  • Stay positive!

I’ve learned a lot in just one day. Imagine how much more I’ll be learning from this puppy in the years to come!

 

Expand Your Comfort Zone

posted in: All, Change, Learning | 0

“Comfort zones are often expanded through discomfort.” – Mimi Solaire

Why would you want to expand your comfort zone? The comfort zone. It’s a safe place, probably one in which you feel confident. You know what to expect, how to behave. One might conclude that this is a good place, one to hang out in all the time.

I would argue “yes” and “no.” Yes, it can be a good place, one where you can restore your intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and physical energy. But no! Not a place to be all the time. Why not? Well, it would get boring for one thing. But more than that, learning isn’t happening in the comfort zone. It’s comfortable there because you’ve already learned what you need to know to get along there. Something else happens after too long in the comfort zone. You may have seen or experienced this yourself. Complacency, gradually affecting work, relationships, or health.Outside the comfort zone

What happens when you expand your comfort zone? Your capacity to learn and develop grows. And, each step you take along the path from beginner to expert expands your comfort zone that much more. As you think about all the things that come naturally to you now – perhaps things like walking, writing, driving, or typing – try to remember the awkwardness you felt when you were first learning, when these things took you out of your comfort zone. It took time, but the discomfort was worth it, right?

When you are developing a team, you are likely to push team members outside their comfort zones at times. This is good, because just as individuals experience growth outside their comfort zones, so do teams. The path to high performance is challenging and involves taking risks. It is anything but complacent. Purposeful team-building activities accelerate a team’s development and ability to perform at high levels by intentionally and persistently expanding comfort zones.

When I’m faced with something that takes me outside of my comfort zone, I find it helpful to focus on the things I’m going to learn from the experience, and how it will help me grow. What about you? What helps you get outside your comfort zone?

 

Photo courtesy of Tim Schultz

Making learning context work for you

A couple of weeks ago I attended a meeting for new members at my local Chamber of Commerce. One thing typically done at this meeting is an introduction of the Chamber’s staff. This is important because of the role the staff plays to ensure that members have access to all the resources offered by the Chamber. It’s an important part of a meeting jam-packed with valuable information for new members. I bet you’ve experienced something similar before. It can be difficult to keep your head from spinning!

But here’s what was different about this meeting – the meeting-planner recognized that without context the staff introductions would have little meaning to the new members. So instead of a random introduction, the staff members were presented to us in the way a new or potential member would encounter them. For example: “Hello, I’m Scott. I’m the first person you talk to when you call us or come into our building.”  “Hello, I’m Kathleen. Scott would transfer you to me to talk about becoming a member of the Chamber.” And so on. As the staff members were introduced in this way, I could see nods of recognition from meeting attendees, as they remembered their initial experiences interacting with these people. It was a brilliant strategy.

learning context
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Experience and learning. They are inextricably linked. Providing context helps us make sense of new information. Incorporating the learner’s prior experience with purpose and intention always makes learning more impactful.

learning context
In Context

 

What does learning look like in your organization? When things change in your organization and your team members need to learn something new – how do you approach it? Are they flooded with information in one unrelenting torrent? Are they learning in a vacuum, or is the material framed in a way that provides context? How much detail are learners given, and when? What mechanisms are built into the training to allow team members to apply what they are learning? How is the new information connected to things they already know? How involved are team members in their own learning? Do they set learning goals for themselves or self-evaluate progress? Is time allowed for reflection and processing? Are different learning styles or preferences taken into consideration in the development of training materials and delivery planning?

apply learning context
Applying the Concept

 

It’s a lot to think about. And yet, when you find a solution that offers context and mirrors the learner’s experience, it feels right, and you know you are off to a great start!

How have you used experience to make learning meaningful?

 

High-performing team transformation

posted in: All, Change, Team Development | 0

transformationTeams change. It will happen many times in your career. Team members come and go. It’s part of the team development process identified by Bruce Tuckman in the 1960s and 70s. Forming – storming – norming – performing, and at last, transforming.  After working so hard to reach and maintain the performing level, at some point things will inevitably change, and the team will transform to something else.

Perhaps you’ve been developing someone on your team to take on roles of greater responsibility, and that person has been an integral part of your high-performing team. And because of that individual’s efforts, your efforts, and the outstanding results of your team, the individual is offered a new position – one with even greater opportunities for development and impact. So the team transformation stage begins. The team loses a top contributor and you need to search for a quality replacement. The team is soon to find itself back in the forming stage as someone new joins the group, roles are re-evaluated, and the members of the new team get to know each other.

transformationIf this is your team, be glad! Yes, it’s going to be a lot of work. And there may be elements of sadness in losing a close working relationship. But teams need to continually evolve to maintain high-performance levels. New team members bring fresh perspectives and new skills to the team. Add these to an already strong team foundation, and performance can reach even higher levels than before.

It may feel discouraging to now feel like you are starting over at developing your team, after the high levels of performance you’ve achieved and become accustomed to. With focus and intentionality, you can help your new team develop through Tuckman’s stages more quickly. Over time, teams will naturally progress through the stages, but why not involve your team in purposeful activities to accelerate the process and improve their interactions? You might start with activities that build connection and trust among team members, and then progress to activities to improve communication, decision-making, and problem-solving skills. You’ll be back to working with a high-performing team that exceeds your expectations in no time!

Some great resources for team development activities are:

http://www.teamworkandteamplay.com/

http://www.training-wheels.com/

What kinds of things have you done to develop your team? I’d love to hear about your successes and challenges!

 

 

 

 

Fitting in on a new team

posted in: All, Change, Goals, Team Development | 0

We’ve all had the experience of being the “new kid” at one time or another. Whether it was the first day in a new school, moving to a new neighborhood, joining a new sport team, starting a new job, or countless other things – it can be intimidating. As humans, we have an instinctive need to belong, and the chance that we might not fit in to a new situation can be a little frightening.Fitting in

When a group forms, everyone takes part in the process of “fitting in.” This happens whether it is a newly formed group, or just one or two members have changed. The group dynamic is altered, and so is the performance level of the group, even if only temporarily.

When a new member joins your team, do you have a process to welcome the new member and make him or her part of the team? What do you do to ensure that both new and existing team members belong? Does your group rely on the mere passage of time to bring the group together into a cohesive unit, or are you more purposeful about it?

We tend to teach the way we were taught, and lead the way we’ve been led, whether consciously or not. If we don’t think about it, it’s easy to fall into the “that’s the way we’ve always done it” trap without even realizing it. Recently, when I asked a group about what they do to make new members feel part of their team, I was greeted with puzzlement. Being intentional about building cohesion was just not something they’d experienced before and the idea was foreign.

So how can you be more purposeful in developing your team, creating a sense of belonging where every member fits in?  Here are a few ideas. Consider how you might apply them – whether your team sees each other in an office every day, or members work remotely:

  • be clear about the purpose and goals of your team
  • talk about group norms and expectations
  • create opportunities for interaction among team members
  • show each member that you value him or her as an individual and as an important part of the team
  • make the environment psychologically safe so that team members are comfortable sharing ideas and voicing concerns
  • remember to make this an ongoing process, not a one-time effort

What would you add? What have your experiences been? Have you experienced, as I have, a well-planned first-day welcome, followed by … nothing? I’d love to hear your stories!

 

The Power of Story

posted in: All, Bookshelf, Change, Motivation | 0

The Power of Story

What are the stories that you tell yourself?  We constantly have stories running in the back of our minds, explaining what we do and why we do it. In The Power of Story, Jim Loehr helps us understand the role those stories have in our happiness and success.

Loehr shows how managing energy, not time, is the key to achieving goals. Managing physical energy has to come first, laying the foundation for intellectual, emotional, and spiritual energy. The book takes you step-by-step through the process of identifying old, potentially flawed, stories and rewriting them to the new stories, grounded in individual purpose, that lead toward your goals.

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