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?

What are you assuming?

posted in: All, Learning, Team Development | 0

Assumptions. They’re dangerous, and yet we make them all the time. When meeting someone new, for example, we may make assumptions about the person’s thoughts, actions, behaviors, or beliefs, simply based on external factors such as: age, appearance, clothing, skin color, or the type of work the person does. Our perceptions are filtered by our own self worldview, usually without us even being aware of it. Our previous experiences and personal histories influence the way we interpret new experiences, interactions, or information.

New situations are fertile ground for assumptions. Here’s an example: It’s your first day on a new job. Most likely you are making dozens of assumptions without even realizing it. Assumptions about how to dress, how to communicate, schedules, supplies, chain-of-command, the meaning of co-workers’ behavior, and on and on and on. As the day progresses you may find that some of your assumptions were correct, while others were not. Perhaps you assumed that you’d be welcome to walk into the boss’s office any time, since that’s what you did at your last job… But when you tried it you found that your new boss doesn’t welcome unplanned visits.

Sometimes our false assumptions are never corrected. Unlike the new boss who will probably let you know you’ve done something based on a faulty assumption, in many other situations inaccurate assumptions may never be surfaced or corrected. And that’s what can get us into trouble. While it may be a common human trait to fill in the gaps when we don’t have all the information we’d like, when our assumptions go unchecked, we make decisions or act based on “facts” which may be completely inaccurate. Think about the story of Romeo and Juliet.  How many false assumptions were made on the way to that play’s tragic ending?

many ways to connect the dotsI’m a little embarrassed to say that I once thought I was quite good at “connecting the dots”  when I had incomplete information, just by using logic and imagination. What I learned, though, when I started to test my assumptions for accuracy, was that the dots didn’t actually connect nearly as well as I’d thought. My assumptions were often flawed! And there are usually many different options for connecting the dots that I hadn’t even considered.

In a group setting, hidden assumptions can wreak havoc on the group’s ability to perform. They erode trust, inhibit effective communication, hinder problem-solving, and stifle creativity. What can you do to reverse this? Team development activities can help. By taking a group outside of its normal environment and engaging the members in purposeful team activities, hidden assumptions are surfaced so that they can be addressed. Check out Tom Wujec’s TED Talk on this topic for a great example.

Here’s an exercise you can do to start testing your assumptions right away. Select an activity that you’ll be participating in later today. It can be anything – an office meeting, an errand you need to run, a visit with a good friend. Between now and the start of the activity, see if you can come up with at least 10 unchecked assumptions you have about the location, the people involved, or the activity itself. Now think about how you might test those assumptions for accuracy. Are there questions you can ask for a better understanding? Different perspectives you might take to see things in a new light? What new insights do you get when you explore your assumptions further?

 

Five steps to meaningful teambuilding

posted in: All, Team Development | 2
Teambuilding.

What do you think of when you see or hear that word? In my experience, the idea of teambuilding generates mixed responses: some people dread it, some are elated, and others fall everywhere in-between these extremes. Why such varied responses? When I ask people about their experiences with teambuilding I find that while most have extremely positive experiences, some unfortunately do not. What makes the difference?

Here are five ways to make your next teambuilding event both memorable and meaningful:

Teambuilding goals

  1. Set goals. Be clear about what you are intending to achieve through teambuilding activities. Is this event just about getting to know each other and build camaraderie? Or do you want something more? Goals such as improved communication or decision-making can be effectively addressed with teambuilding activities using experiential learning methods.
  2. Sequence teambuilding activities appropriately for the group. A new team that is just beginning to work together will need a different sequence, and perhaps different activities altogether, than a cohesive team that has been working together for awhile.
  3. Challenge by choice. Growth and learning happen when we are outside of our comfort zones – up to a point! If participants are pushed too far out of their comfort zones they are likely to withdraw completely. Be clear that participants always have a choice in how they participate. Ensure that activities are designed to accommodate a wide range of comfort levels among participants.
  4. Don’t skip the debrief! Effective debriefing following an activity allows participants to make meaning from their experience. This is when they are most likely to make connections between the lessons learned during the activity and their real-world situations. Without this step, a teambuilding activity may be enjoyable and memorable, but lack meaning.Teambuilding reflection
  5. Incorporate individual reflection. Set aside time for quiet reflection and journaling. Add focus to reflection by posing a thoughtful question that encourages participants to think about their experiences at a deeper level.

 

In your own experience with teambuilding events, what has made them meaningful for you?

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!

 

 

 

 

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?

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