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?

 

Keep Team Development Momentum Going

posted in: All, Engagement, Team Development | 0

You’ve just wrapped up an energizing and motivational day of team development.  Now what?  How do you keep the momentum going?

Team developmentFortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to be purposeful about ongoing team development!  Looking for ways to make the most of those opportunities on a regular basis is the key to turning your team into a cohesive, engaged, and collaborative unit. And when you do that, your team members become more competent communicators, problem solvers, decision makers, and innovators. By making team development a priority, you demonstrate that you believe the team is worth investing in.  Sustained focus on the team builds on the foundation of trust, communication, and collaboration necessary to achieve peak performance in achieving your organization’s goals.

Here are a couple of ideas to continuously build your group into an effective team:

  • Include a brief icebreaker activity at the beginning of routine meetings.  Even something simple like having everyone share what they were listening to on the way to work that morning can help people feel more connected.  Try this activity – it’s easy to do and always energizing!  Tailor the questions to make the activity even more relevant to your team and organization.
  • Plan for more extensive team development interactions at quarterly or six-month intervals to reinforce team values and goals.  If your team already meets regularly, set aside time to focus on purposeful team development. You will be amazed at the impact an hour or two of sustained reinforcement will have on the cohesiveness and performance of your team!  Here’s an example of a trust-building activity that you might use.

Every step you take is valuable in developing your highly-effective, top-performing team. Team development is a process – it takes ongoing work and commitment.  But the outcome is well worth the effort!

What are some of the things you’ve done to develop a peak-performing team?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

On being a servant leader

servant leadershipWhat does it mean to be a servant leader?  Whether we recognize it or not, as leaders we have an enormous responsibility to those who follow us.  And the higher a leader is within an organization, the greater the responsibility. A leader has the ability to provide or withhold resources that others need to be successful. Access to training, coaching, tools, technology, or a psychologically safe work environment are all within the leader’s control. A servant leader focuses on how s/he can provide these resources in order for others to achieve success.

When the leader shares a vision, provides appropriate support, encouragement, and resources, and then trusts followers to work toward achieving that vision, amazing things happen!

How does it make an organization better when leaders embrace a servant-leadership mindset? If everyone within the organization acts as a servant leader, the focus within the organization turns to how each member can best support others to make them successful. When everyone has this attitude the potential for achievement grows exponentially.

As you reflect on your role as a leader, consider what your actions say about your leadership philosophy. Are your actions, beliefs, and values in alignment? Are you giving your team the support it needs to thrive?

 

To learn more about the servant leader philosophy, check out these resources:

 

Disconnect to Connect

posted in: All, Engagement, Team Development | 0

You’ve seen this before, haven’t you? A family or group of friends together at a restaurant, everyone focused on smartphones, tablets, or the sporting events on TV – but not interacting with each other. Perhaps your meetings at work are sometimes like this. Everyone is connected but not necessarily with each other.

Disconnect to connect

What happens when we disconnect from all of those distractions? We have a chance to reflect, think more deeply, find meaning in our experiences. We also have more person-to-person interactions, making connections that can have a lasting impact

As you are developing your team, it’s valuable to create space for connecting. Maybe you take time for a short icebreaker activity at the beginning of a meeting. Maybe you set a “ground rule” about how cell phones should be used (or not used) at your next event. Perhaps you might decide to set aside a day or part of a day for intentional team development activities.  The connections team members make create higher levels of trust and cohesiveness, with the payoff of improved collaboration and productivity.

Think about times you’ve been able to disconnect from the ever-present bombardment of distractions. What have your experiences been like? What kind of connections did you make?

 

 

 

Are you an engaging leader?

posted in: All, Engagement, Team Development | 1

I’m sure you’ve heard this statistic – the most common reason people leave their jobs is their immediate boss. Gallup surveys show this again and again. Disengagement with the boss leads to disengagement with the job and the organization. So, as a leader in your organization, what are you doing to engage your team?

team developmentOne key way to engage team members is to invest in them. More than salary and benefits, how can you invest in your team in a meaningful way? It’s not about just sending them off to expensive seminars or conferences – although at times these may be appropriate. No, I’m talking about everyday opportunities, many of which have little or no direct financial impact.

Here are some ideas:

 

  1. Invest your time getting to know your team members as people. Do you know anything about their interests outside of work? What about their career goals? What issues are important to them? This doesn’t mean you need to know all about their personal lives, or that you need to spend hours each day talking about things that aren’t directly related to your organization and its goals. But recognize that people feel valued when you, as a leader, take time to talk to them about what they find important.
  2. Provide opportunities to learn. This might look like training to enhance current skills or develop skills needed for future roles. Or it could be coaching, internships, outside education, or opportunities to attend meetings with different parts of your organization. Perhaps you might create an office library, including audio versions of books and articles to increase accessibility.IMG_0003
  3. Allow flexibility to work on special projects that are of interest to team members. This provides for growth and personal development for your team members while they work on projects that benefit the organization.
  4. Invest time to develop your team as a team. Make it part of your regularly scheduled meetings to include a few purposeful team development activities. You may want to sometimes dedicate time just for team development. Make it something you do on a continual basis for the greatest impact and engagement.

 

When I think about the best leaders that I’ve had, the ones who’ve inspired me to achieve even more than I thought I could, they all had something in common. They made me feel that they sincerely cared about my welfare and success. They believed in me and were willing to invest in me. What about you?

Feeling lethargic? Try this group energizer!

posted in: All, Engagement, Productivity | 2

How many meetings have you sat in this week where the minutes dragged by as the group crawled through agenda items at what felt like a snail’s pace? Were attendees interactive or disconnected? How productive were you?

Here is a simple and fun activity that will re-energize any group, and at the same time allow members to build stronger connections with each other. This activity works great at the beginning of a meeting as an icebreaker, or at any time during the meeting when energy seems to be dropping. It gets people moving, and helps everyone get to know each other a little better at the same time.

Beach Ball Energizericebreaker energizer

Start with a basic beach ball. Take a few minutes ahead of time to write a question on each different colored panel. Questions can be generic, or have some relevance to the meeting topic. Generic questions might include things like:

  • What’s the last book you read?
  • Where is your favorite place to eat?
  • What kind of music might we find playing on your phone right now?
  • What do you like best about the community where you live?
  • Where would you like to travel in the next six months?

To start the activity, toss the beach ball to anyone in the room. Ask that person to answer the question under his or her left hand. Anyone in the room can ask follow-up questions if they’d like to know more. After answering the question, the first person tosses the beach ball to someone else in the room for another question. Continue in this manner until everyone in the room has caught the ball at least once.

Any time you get people moving, you will create more energy in the room. After sitting for about 45 minutes, blood pools in the lower parts of our bodies, when what we want is for it to be circulating freely and carrying lots of fresh oxygen to our brains! So take a few minutes to stand up and move around at least once an hour. That short break will help you and everyone else in your meeting to be more productive.

 

Too much time in meetings?

Is your team spending too much time in meetings?  Does it sometimes feel like nothing actually gets done, other than having meetings to talk about what needs to be done?  Most of us have found ourselves on this seemingly endless treadmill at one time or another.

Here are five tips for getting off that treadmill and engaging your team to get the results you want from your meetings:

Icebreakers:

Include brief icebreaker activities at the beginning of your meeting as well as after any significant spending too much time in meetings?break such as lunchtime or on subsequent days of a multi-day event. Even groups who know each other well will benefit from activities that re-connect and energize. Just a few moments of engaging in this way helps attendees to be more present and focus their attention on the meeting at hand, rather than all of the extraneous things going on in their lives.

Icebreakers don’t need to be embarrassing or stressful. They should be fun and encourage interaction. An icebreaker can be as simple as asking each attendee to share what they were listening to on the way to the meeting that day. Or it can be something more complex, possibly using props or other materials. Check out this Wilderdom site for a wealth of ideas to help you get started!

Objectives:

What is the purpose of your meeting?  It seems like a simple enough question, but is sometimes overlooked. Are you having this meeting simply because it’s Friday morning and you always hold a meeting on Friday mornings?  Or do you have a specific need for gathering people together?

Set clear, realistic objectives for your meeting, and share them in advance with attendees so they have the opportunity to prepare and gather any relevant information or resources prior to the meeting. Consider how much time you’ll need based on the scope of the objectives. Will you need a full hour (often allocated by default), or even a longer block of time?  If more than one meeting will be needed, define the specific goals for each, ensuring that they support your overall objectives.

Ground rules:

What are the expectations for behavior and interactions at the meeting? Is it okay to step outside to take a phone call? Should attendees raise their hand or just speak out? What are the guidelines for computer use, texting, tweeting, instant messaging, etc?

Asking the group to define the ground rules is a great way to learn what is important to the members and ensure everyone’s commitment. Post these ground rules to increase awareness and adherence throughout your meeting.

Be inclusive:

Ensure that all voices are heard and everyone has an opportunity to contribute. Depending on the meeting objectives and the styles and personalities of attendees, you may find it effective to have attendees work in small groups at times. Or, you may go around the room in an intentional way to allow each participant a chance to speak. Another payoff from using icebreakers at your meeting is that they increase participants’ comfort levels, resulting in higher levels of participation, particularly from those who may be more introverted and reluctant to speak up about their great ideas.

Wrap up:

Have you ever experienced a meeting that felt so productive at the time, and yet ultimately did not result in the expected outcomes? Why does that happen? Often it’s because of inadequate or non-existent wrap-up. In closing your meeting, be clear about what agreements and commitments have been made. Exactly what is to be done, by whom, and by what date? What are the specific next steps? Who will follow up and how will they do so? Without clarity about what is supposed to happen after the meeting, the result can be… nothing. Nothing happens, and you’ve wasted a lot of everyone’s time – for nothing. Use your wrap-up to make sure that life’s obligations and distractions don’t prevent your team from achieving its goals!

 

Looking for ways to say “Yes!”

How often do you say “no” automatically, when the answer could just as easily be “yes”?  How might things change for you and those you work with if you were consistently looking for ways to say “yes”?

Recently I spent time with a family whose overarching philosophy is to say “yes” Say yeswhenever possible. To be sure, this sometimes results in muddy clothes or unorthodox uses of household items.  But really, why shouldn’t a water bottle be converted into an ant-farm or bee-house? And because of this parental mindset, the very young children in this family are curious, creative, courageous, and glowing with confidence.

How can you build these traits in the people you are developing at work? One thing you can do is to consistently and persistently look for ways to say “yes.”  Maybe it’s a suggestion for a new way to handle a long-standing procedure, or a change in the office layout, or introducing new items on the lunch menu. Whatever it is, try thinking first about how it might work, rather than how it can’t work. “No” shuts down communication and blocks creativity. An employee, or anyone for that matter, who expects to hear “no” as an answer will soon stop asking.

That being said, of course there are times when you do have to say “no.” It’s important to think ahead of time about what is non-negotiable for you and your organization and then make those things clear to others up-front. Getting a “no” response when you’ve crossed a line that you were previously aware of is a much different thing than experiencing a limiting environment where “no” is the pervasive mindset.

Think about your week so far.  How many times have you said “no” when you might have said “yes”?  How might you approach things differently going forward?

Engagement: a win-win

posted in: All, Engagement, Team Development | 0

Is engagement a good thing for businesses?  You bet it is!  So then does that mean it’s not a good thing for employees?  What do you think?  Are the two mutually exclusive?  I would say – Absolutely not!  When the people who are part of a business are actively engaged in helping that business achieve its goals and achieve its vision, everyone wins. The company wins, yes.  But so do the employees and the customers, too.

What does it mean when someone is “engaged” in an activity?  To me, it means being attentive, focused, interactive, and devoting energy with pleasure – which makes the activity satisfying and enjoyable.  Have you ever been so deeply engaged in an activity that hours passed without you even being aware?  Aside from the drawback of say, being late for dinner, that kind of absorption and focus is generally a good thing.

The reason engagement is good for employers is precisely because it is good for employees.  The outcomes that benefit the employer – such as: higher productivity, fewer absences, less turnover, and improved customer service – result when employees enjoy the work they are doing, understand their goals and how those goals align with the bigger purpose of their company, feel valued and supported, and are able to contribute fully by applying their strengths.

Now it’s your turn to weigh in.  Who do you think benefits the most when people are fully engaged in their work?

Capitalize on team strengths –

Every piece is important

One tiny lizard in the vastness of nature – and yet an integral part. Being part of a team is like this. Every member of the team is important, each with unique skills and abilities.  How can we best capitalize on team strengths?

Think about team that you’ve been a part of. Was there a role you considered less important than others? Imagine for a moment that no one showed up to fulfill that role one day. Would the team be able to function as effectively? On one team you may have a person that has outlandish ideas, one who asks dozens of questions, one who creates a safe environment, one who takes care of all the logistics, one who energizes the group, and one who moves them to action – all work together to make the group highly effective at achieving its goals.

One of the keys to developing a high-achieving team is to learn the strengths of each team member and then find ways to maximize use of those strengths. Doing so benefits both the team as a whole and the individual members, as they have opportunities to further develop their strengths through team efforts.

This goes a long way toward increasing engagement as well. How do you feel when you are working in your areas of strength? Productive? Capable? Confident? Energetic? Focused? Successful? A higher level of engagement means more satisfying work for you and typically a higher level of effort toward achieving team goals. A win for everyone.

Imagine what it’s like to work with a team where everyone has that level of engagement. What kind of highly-effective team experiences have you had?

 

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