When should you abandon a goal?

posted in: All, Goals | 2

Abandoning a goal. Ouch! For achievement-oriented folks, that’s a tough idea to swallow. But are there times when it might be the right thing to do? I’d say yes, actually. Here’s why.

I love audacious goals. And aiming high can often take you much farther than you might otherwise hasetting goalsve reached. So it’s hard to reconcile a basic philosophy that “if you can dream it, you can achieve it” with giving up on a goal. And yet…sometimes that’s the right decision.

Circumstances may have changed since you initially set your goal. Life events, market conditions, new laws, environmental changes all could impact your ability to achieve a goal. Or perhaps the goal was not as well thought out as it might have been. right from the start.

When you find yourself faced with the difficult decision about whether to continue pursuing a goal or not, here are some things to consider:

  • Is it realistic?  I might set a goal to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics, but if I’ve done nothing up to this point to prepare, it’s not remotely realistic that I’d achieve that goal.
  • What will it cost to achieve? Not only financially, but physically and emotionally as well. History is filled with examples from the military, where one side or the other “wins the battle, but loses the war,” because too much was sacrificed in order to win the battle. And how many businesses can you think of that expanded too quickly or too broadly, only to have to pull back and then struggle to regain their pre-expansion levels?
  • Can the goal be modified?  Are there changes that would make the goal more realistic, and still worthy of achieving? For example, while my goal of competing in the 2016 Summer Olympics is completely unreasonable, the goal of running a marathon might be more realistic.

Make it a habit to think through these questions when first setting a goal and you’ll be far less likely to face a decision to abandon that goal later on.

Why do team challenges work?

posted in: All, Goals, Learning, Team Development | 1

Recently I was hiking on a granite dome, and after exploring a bit at the top, found myself challenged with finding a navigable route back down. In essence, I was “lost” on the dome, climbing up and down steep slopes for a couple of hours, occasionally getting stuck and frequently wondering whether I’d ever make it down in one piece. At times I thought it was either going to take a rescue or a fall to get me off that mountain. But I kept at it, and after much scrambling, climbing, sliding, and scooting along the rocks, I successfully made it to a trail, and then back to camp (just in time for dinner).

The experience got me thinteam challengesking about team challenges and what makes them so effective. A typical workplace team is rarely tested in the normal work environment. Team members perform their duties, handle responsibilities, and complete tasks routinely, but usually without ever knowing what they are truly capable of. And because of this, they don’t necessarily stretch themselves to try to do more, and team potential remains untapped.

A well-designed challenge activity will take team members outside of their comfort zones (but not too far!). It allows them to step out of their normal work environment and into one that propels them to learn more about themselves individually and as a team. Those lessons can then be applied back in the workplace. For example, team members may recognize something about the way they communicate (or don’t) that influenced their ability to be successful in a challenge. Or, they may have found that it was necessary to rely on the diverse strengths of all team members in order to achieve a goal.

Often self-confidence increases through participation in challenge activities. Participants may recognize that: “If I could do that, then I can most certainly do this!”  In my own dome-climbing adventure, I had to rely on strengths that I didn’t even know I had, until they were tested on the mountain.

I also came to understand things at a deeper level that I had already known. For example, the importance of planning, and thinking ahead further than the next step or two. And how failure to look at the goal from a big-picture perspective can lead to dead-ends or jams that are really hard to get out of. Additionally, I had to recognize when something was beyond my skill.  Just because I wanted and was willing to climb up a certain slope didn’t mean that I necessarily had the size or physical strength to do so. These are similar to the types of things that team members may learn during challenge activities.

Every team and every challenge activity experience is unique. What insights will your team have that will drive them to peak performance?

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!

 

What makes a team a team?

posted in: All, Goals, Team Development | 0

What makes a team a team? You’ve probably been a part of many teams throughout your life – through school activities, sports teams, work groups, project teams, or volunteer organizations, to name a few. It’s just a group of people, right? Well, no, it’s really not.

So what is the difference between a group and a team? Sometimes work groups reporting to the same supervisor are labeled “teams.” Is that all it takes – a label? Sometimes we act that way. As if giving something the name that represents what we want it to be will make it so. And while that can be a good first step, developing a team requires far more than just calling it a team.

A team is a group of people working together toward a common purpose. Sounds simple enough. On paper. But when it comes to the actual level of effectiveness of a team, differences can be extreme. You’ve probably encountered a wide range in your own experience. Because their performance is highly visible and outcomes are well-defined, sports teams offer great examples of teamwork and team effectiveness. Last year, as I watched the LA Kings become the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Champions, I was struck repeatedly by the teamwork that propelled them to the top. Along the way, I also observed teams made up of highly-talented individuals who seemed to lack cohesion or were distracted by conflict, and failed as a result.

Team effectiveness
Teams can achieve great heights when members work in areas of strength and support each other.

Effective teams consistently exhibit certain characteristics:

  • clear understanding of mission and purpose
  • trust in the intentions and capabilities of members
  • open communication – all voices are heard
  • willingness to question ideas or actions – of self and each other
  • inclusive atmosphere
  • seek diverse perspectives
  • leverage strengths to support each other

 

 

It’s true that over time many groups will naturally gravitate toward team behaviors and characteristics. But why wait and just hope for that process to occur? The process of transforming a group into a team can be greatly accelerated through purposeful activity and discussion. Next time your group gets together, try including an activity to reinforce a certain aspect of teamwork. Here is an example of an activity that requires no props, can be done in any setting, and offers an opportunity for a rich discussion about how team members communicate with each other.

 

 

For more detailed instructions about how to use and debrief this activity, check out Teamwork & Teamplay by Jim Cain and Barry Joliff. Or contact me – I’d love to talk with you about this or other activities for your team!

 

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!

 

How does your team make decisions?

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

Think about the last time you made a decision as part of a group. How did it go? Do you think the decision was a good one, one that will result in the desired outcome? Are you satisfied with the way the decision was made?  Do you feel that all viable options were given appropriate consideration?

Whether it’s your family trying to decide which ride to go on first at Disneyland, or your organization deciding on a launch strategy for a new product, you’re likely to encounter similar challenges. When you’re part of a group and you need to make decision, how do you do it? Do you follow a set process, or is it different every time? Do a few people (or maybe just one specific person) always take the lead in making the decision? Or does everyone get a voice?

When team decision-making works, it can propel a team to remarkable levels of achievement. The team will act quickly, confidently, and effectively to accomplish tasks, find solutions, and generate new ideas. Unfortunately, when decision-making doesn’t work effectively, it can create enormous obstacles.  Team members who have no voice in a decision may lack commitment to achieving the goal. Delays become the norm, concerns are not brought to light, and small issues may turn into big problems.

It’s not just the big decisions that trip people up. Every day, team members make dozens of decisions, whether individually or collectively. When the decision-making process is dysfunctional, so is the performance of the group. So what can you do to ensure that your team is working together effectively as it makes those large and small decisions each day?

Team decision-makingExperiential learning activities can be a great way to help a team discover and improve its group process for decision-making. In their book Teamwork & Teamplay, Jim Cain and Barry Joliff offer an activity called 2B or Knot 2B. In this activity, participants need to decide, as a group, which one of several ropes is holding all the others together. Through the activity and debriefing discussion, participants gain awareness of how they interact with each other when making decisions, and learn how their actions either moved the group forward or hindered its success in solving the problem. This type of discussion becomes a springboard for change as the team works to develop new and more effective ways to interact.

Back to the question I asked at the beginning of this post – how did it go the last time you made a decision as part of a group? Would you like to improve on that experience? If so, perhaps experiential learning techniques can help!

Six strategies to achieve goals

Have you ever built a sandcastle at the beach or in a playground? Did it turn out exactly as you wanted it to? Bringing your sandcastle vision to life is lIke achievement of any goal, it’s not always as easy as it may appear to an outside onlooker.

Successfully achieve goals

The type of sandcastle you see here is not a casual undertaking. Success depends on the same strategies needed to achieve goals in other areas of life and work: vision, planning, resources, collaboration, adaptability, and tenacity.

Vision:

Do you have a clear vision of the outcome you are trying to realize? What will it look, feel, smell, taste, and sound like to have achieved your goal?  The clearer your vision, the more you will be drawn toward it and the greater the likelihood of achieving it. Consider the old proverb: “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”  Are you trying to get just anywhere, or do you have a specific destination in mind? What kind of sandcastle do you want to create? Is your team envisioning the same sandcastle that you are?

Planning:

What are the steps you need to take, now that you are clear on your goals? What is your overall timeline, and are  there interim milestones that need to be met? How will you sequence the steps? What role will each team member play? What other support might you need?

Resources:

Do you have the resources you need to be successful? Supplies, funding, training?  Do you have the right people on your team, with the right skills and attitudes? Are all of your resources organized in a way that supports you and your goals?

Collaboration:

Are team members working in their areas of strength? While we all have weaknesses, those are minimized when workng together as a team, at the same time that each individual’s strengths can be maximized. Have you ever seen the teamwork exhibited by children building a sandcastle while the tide is coming in? It’s remarkable to see what they can accomplish. Also consider who else can help you as you work toward your goals.  Collaborating outside your immediate team makes everyone stronger.

Adaptability:

No matter how clear your vision is or how well you’ve planned, there will likely still be times when you need to adapt.  The unexpected happens, circumstances change.  Be mentally prepared to adapt and foster this mindset with your team. Ask yourself, “What could go wrong?” during your planning stages.

Tenacity:

Challenges are expected on the way to achieving any goal. Don’t give up!  Take advantage of your team for support when times are difficult. Even though you may experience a setback or two while building your sandcastle, persistence will help you to ultimately achieve your goals.

What strategies have helped you to successfully achieve goals?

Overcoming setbacks – 6 tips

posted in: All, Goals, Motivation | 0

Face it – we all have setbacks from time to time.  There are times when things just don’t go our way, despite all of the effort we may invest.  It’s inevitable.  Maybe you don’t get the promotion you expected, or get overlooked for a highly-coveted project assignment.  Maybe you’ve experienced something in your personal life: health issues, an injury, family strife, divorce, or the loss of someone close tOvercoming setbackso you.  How do you overcome these setbacks?

Life’s demands on us don’t slow down just because we’re facing a personal crisis.  The report still needs to be written, the presentation delivered, the product launched.

Here are six tips to keep you performing at a high level, even when circumstances are challenging:

 

  • Stay positive:  Life is full of ups and downs.  While you may not see a “silver lining” in your current situation, focus on those things you are grateful for, that you’ve learned, or that will help you in the future.  Even the smallest things can make a difference in your attitude.
  • Maintain your physical energy:  This is the only way to maintain the emotional and mental energy you need to keep moving forward.  Take care of yourself by making healthy food choices, drinking plenty of water, getting 7-8 hours of sleep at night (it is possible), and staying active.
  • Communicate:  You don’t need to share all of the details, but do let others know when you are dealing with something that might put you slightly off your game for a time.  If you don’t communicate something, you will leave it up to others to speculate about your actions, opening the door for wildly inaccurate assumptions.
  • Focus on the goal:  What is your bigger purpose in life? Keep yourself moving in the right direction by focusing on your overarching goals.  We tend to achieve what we focus on, but the path forward is rarely a straight line.
  • Use it as inspiration:  While you can’t change the past, you can make choices that will make a difference in the future.  This powerful story shows how one very courageous woman did just that, and is saving lives because of her actions: Lifesaving donated defibrillator.
  • Forgive yourself:  We do the best that we can.  Even so, we make mistakes, we fail at times.  It happens to everyone.  Learn from those mistakes and failures, know that you’re doing your best, and move forward.

What are some of the things that have helped you to overcome setbacks in your life or career?

Navigate change successfully as a team

posted in: All, Change, Goals, Team Development | 1

Navigate change successfullyJust when things seem to be rolling along smoothly for you and your organization – BAM!  Something changes.  Regardless of your industry or the size of your organization, you can be assured that you and your team will face changes in the months and years ahead.  We do not live in a static world and never have.  Those that survive and thrive are those who can adapt to changes in their environment and circumstances and turn those changes into advantages.

How does your team respond to change?  What do top-performing teams do?  Times of change often illuminate team characteristics that lead to success or failure.  Several factors that influence the way a team functions, especially when dealing with changing circumstances, include:

  • the level of trust team members have for one another
  • how well team members communicate with each other
  • whether or not each team member is personally aligned with and supportive of the organization’s mission.

Here’s an example that you may have encountered:

A key employee is called away suddenly to deal with a family emergency.  How does the team respond to this change?  Do they offer support for the employee during what may be a personally challenging time?  How do they make decisions in order to fill the gap during the employee’s absence?  Are the decisions based on a desire to achieve organizational goals, or is the focus more on individual achievement?  Some team members may be tempted to “protect” their own resources in this type of situation.  And while this may result in apparent success at an individual level in the short-term, the long-term and organizational outcomes can be incredibly limiting.

Think about any team sport, and those teams that have achieved the highest levels of success.  Everyone contributes, right?  Along with performing at a high level individually, team member’s support each other, raise each other’s spirits, offer encouragement when times get tough, give feedback for improvement, and help each other stay focused on the goal.

Navigating change successfully begins long before a change actually takes place. As a leader, how can you foster the kind of environment that will allow your team to consistently succeed under changing conditions?  Here are five ways:

  1. Include as many voices as possible in looking for solutions.
  2. Clearly focus on the overarching purpose of the team and how to best achieve it.
  3. Communicate with transparency.
  4. Recognize and show that you value the achievements of the group as a whole.
  5. Foster a collaborative rather than competitive environment on a daily basis.

What would you add to this list?

Change management made easy

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

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard

Change management made easyThis book by Chip and Dan Heath is filled with sensible gems and practical advice for making changes that stick.  When I pulled it off my shelf just now I found dozens of passages marked in one way or another for easy revisiting.  The methods for change suggested by the Heaths are easy to apply - and in fact, you may find (as I did) that many of their successful strategies are already going on around you.  If that's the case, the book will help you understand why they work, and prepare you to use those strategies more purposefully in the future.

Using the metaphor of a rider and elephant, the Heaths share three main concepts for effecting change:

- directing the rider;

- motivating the elephant;

- shaping the path.

Check it out and see how you can improve the processes for change - for yourself and those around you.

 

To purchase

 

1 2