Time to go – those words rang through my head when I caught up with a work-friend I hadn’t seen in years, when she told me about her job.
It all came back to me, the dreadful soul-sucking heaviness when my old job became absolute drudgery.
Looking back, I knew in my heart it was time to go but I continued to persevere, pushing myself to do work that wasn’t ‘me’. I told myself that it was a good job with good pay so I’d be crazy to think about leaving …it even had a pension, and who leaves that at my age!
That is her situation too; she is suffering in a job that no longer serves her and she feels so stuck.
What About You?
It seemed so obvious to me as I saw my friend pushing herself to continue. I saw how weary she was that day, even though she just took a vacation.
Others can see it, even when you can’t. Your family, your friends – they know you are not OK and they worry, especially as we’ve all heard what stress can do.
The thing is, when you are doing unbearable work, a job that doesn’t make you feel valued or are working for a bad boss you shut down after awhile.
So let me be clear if this is happening to you….It. Is. Time. For. You. To. GO!!!
Plan to Get Out!
You may be thinking, easy for you to say Elaine, you don’t have three kids going through private school, one needing braces, a mortgage coming up for renewal [enter all of the other ‘what gets in the way of you making a change’].
I get it, timing will never seem right, but let me tell you something – you are no good to anyone else when you are miserable.
In fact, if you don’t make a change for the better, your body has this way of forcing you to slow down or taking time off, whether you like it or not –and yes it shows up as illnesses and injuries!
Pay close attention to the warning signs of stress to avoid becoming one of those heart attack statistics; this is no joking matter.
So, let’s look at what you can do right now to begin your exit strategy!
1. What If?
Remember when you were a kid; you were filled with limitless possibilities. Children naturally dream of all the things they CAN DO, it never occurs to them to squash those ideas and dreams! Yet as an adult we seem to shut down dreams so often that they just stop coming.
I tell my clients to set aside a few minutes every day where you allow yourself unfiltered imagination and take time just to dream. How you spend that time is up to you. It could be writing in a journal, sipping a perfect cappuccino or it might be walking on the treadmill – doesn’t matter how. This was a game changer for me – I took up painting and did a little each day and my mind exploded with possibilities!
What is important, is to allow your mind to be future-focused without filters. Ask yourself what if I did this, or that, and what else is possible? No bashing down any ideas, don’t try to justify them, just let them flow, no matter how elaborate or crazy they may seem. Just let your imagination of ‘what if’s’ open up again.
2. Give Me A Fricken Break, I’m Worth It!
When work became really stress filled for me, I knuckled down. I put my shoulder into it and pushed harder, believing that I could make it better by hard work. WRONG!
It may be how I was raised; you know...don’t give up! The old adage when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. Yah no, please don’t be like me! That is total BS.
Instead I want you to do the exact opposite! You see, you can’t consider options if you don’t allow yourself to take a break from the grind. Slow down, book coffees and lunches with people who ‘get you’ – by booking them, you will force yourself to make the time and build some support.
Talk to them candidly that you are taking some breaks because work is really getting to you. Remember, they likely already know, and chances are they will be happy to encourage you to take back some time for yourself.
3. What Are My Super Powers
I’ve mentioned this before. I received the greatest renewed perspective of myself, by asking people (some I had worked with long ago) ‘What did they remember most about working with me?’ I deliberately sought out people who I knew would be candid and truthful.
WOW! It was that very insightful feedback became a huge impetus to taking my next step!
What I learned, was that the impressions I left with others – like years ago - were actually consistent themes over many years. This wasn’t fluffy feedback! It was deep and meaningful context for how I made an impact and what I was known for (my brand…aka my super powers).
So reach out to people who will candidly share their recollections about YOU. The themes will emerge and you’ll discover the attributes that make you unique!
4. What Else Can I Be Good At?
If you’re like I was, then the job you are stuck in is not playing to your greatest strengths. In fact, it is likely much the opposite.
Take stock here, what would you rather be doing? I want you to think really practically here. This can be tough to do on your own, consider talking it out with a friend or confidante (or a coach).
What are you extraordinary at – what do you do better than many other people? What work/job or company uses or needs that very strength?
Hint: check for clues in the super power feedback.
5. Does My Resume Truly Reflect The Real Me?
Not everybody will be able to start their own business but everyone can use the same process I did for reimagining what the next gig should be.
Armed with the information you revealed through the steps above (1-4) I am confident the right options and/or roles, or even company for a better fit, will become clearer.
Now, consider what changes you need to make to your resume to ensure it reflects the capabilities you have for THAT right fit!
First, reflect on the most ideal job, then:
6. Who Can I Connect With In My Network?
So now you have inklings of the kind of work you really want. You’ve acknowledged that you are not the right place. You’ve begun taking breaks to release the stress. You’ve learned that you are pretty damn awesome BUT you definitely need to make a change that fits you better. You’ve also got a great start on a new resume and a renewed sense of direction.
The next step is to get out and start telling others what you are looking for!! Don’t narrow it to a job title, instead share a list of the kind of work you are great at and love to do.
When I say ‘network’, I mean everyone. It’s not to peddle your resume to, instead it is to connect personally, talk about the skills you want to use and ask others for ideas on jobs and companies they know you’d be a good fit for.
It still amazes me how connecting with people starts a cascade of serendipitous opportunities.
YOU Are Worth Making A Change!
You may find your next move doesn’t need to be drastic, it may be just a different position in the same company that will suit you better. It might be returning to something you did before!
Decide that you are worth making a change! Getting out of that work environment will lighten your life; improve not only your own quality of life but the lives of everyone who cares about you as well!
As I told my friend, the things you’ve been telling yourself about persevering and putting up with this job, is just fear of change. Fear is what holds us back to make a move.
It is times like this that a coach can be hugely valuable. Someone to be a sounding board, who can remain objective but also hold you accountable to be true to yourself!
Taking steps to re-imagine your future will unlock all sorts of opportunities. You just have to start. Drop me a note if you need a coach to get over the fear of change or need someone to guide you on the road to success!
Photo Credit - CC0 Pixabay
Hey did you hear? Prime Minister Trudeau admitted there was an ‘erosion of trust’ occurring in his office; he was unaware of it (based on what came out in the recent Canadian justice committee inquiry). Imagine his disappointment to find that people did not feel comfortable coming to him with concerns.
Well sadly, he is not alone, many leaders realize a little late that there are issues or an underground culture (where they are excluded) in their workplace. It may not come to light until exit interviews, employee surveys or worse, formal complaints.
There may be hints that you're being left out, despite having an 'open door policy' :
You already know that it is the leader's responsibility to create an atmosphere where people feel safe to be forthright and candid. But to maintain the openness, your team need to know:
The good news is there are things you can do to create more of a trusting environment where people will keep you in the loop!
7 Ways to Develop More Openness & Trust
1. Show You Are Open to Different Views
Encourage your team to bring forward a different perspective than yours, welcome it... often. Why not hold meetings where you deliberately poke holes in plans; promoting debate to differ and discuss deliberately. Hone in on healthy scepticism focused at making things better.
Caution: Your role would be to probe, ask for more information and demonstrate interest vs convince them of your way.
2. Really Listen
Practice active listening by reframing what you hear when people open up in meetings or within the office, illustrating that you understand their point. Resist inferring your own ideas or disagreement which may shut them down or cause them to do an 'end run' around you.
Caution: These are times for you to listen and encourage, not squash!
3. Be Interested in Them as People
Get to know each of your team members more personally. A great way to develop good relationship is understanding where people come from, what their family situation is like and what they do on the weekends. Show that you care about them by celebrating their work anniversary and/or birthdays (with permission).
Caution: You are not their best friend, be interested but not involved in their life!
4. Lose the Labels
Avoid putting a label on anyone. Some mistakenly tag people as a troublemaker, not a team player, or loud-mouth when they are a vocal team member. Speaking negatively about others creates a lack of safety to speak up. It also appears disrespectful and judgemental when overheard.
Caution: Careful not to name-call bosses, clients or your peers either
5. Participate in a 360 Feedback Assessment
Show your team that you are interested in what they think about you as a leader. Then openly and humbly share insights that you discover. Be sure to say thank you! If you've already had one, reflect on what you learned? How healthy is communication in your workplace?
Caution: Do not negate any feedback by assuming you know who it came from!
6. Be Available
I hear 'my boss is too busy to meet' all the time these days! Don't be that person. Show your people you make them a priority. Protect meeting times in your schedule without cutting them short. Put your phone down, leave the computer alone and don’t bring either along when meeting with them. When you say your door is open it means leave the door figuratively and literally open and that you will MAKE time for them!
Caution: Your actions speak louder than words!
7. Remain Professional at All Times
Remember, as a leader, you are being watched by your team. This means paying attention to how you act both inside and outside of work hours. Avoid sharing awkward personal information and negative opinions about the company – these can erode trust or repel working relationships.
Caution: If you go out for drinks with your team, careful you don’t drink too much!
Don't get caught off guard! To avoid hearing about issues after the fact, keep working on the kind of environment that is inclusive and open to differences. This is what builds a strong healthy team! The more you listen, learn and demonstrate your own trust, the more likely they’ll include you in their triumphs and their troubles.
Reach out to me if you struggle with a team that has cut you out. I offer a number of custom solutions to help teams to reconnect and open up!
Image by @raw_pixel CC0 Unsplash
These days, with all the tools we have available, we are far more connected and capable of staying in touch than ever before!
So don’t you find it a bit ironic that in today’s workplaces, lack of communication remains one of the biggest issues for employees? Regardless of the industry or size of company!
Here’s the thing - if your team doesn’t feel heard, they don’t understand the direction of the company, never get constructive feedback, or they don’t think you care about them as a person, then why would they give you their best work?
Every one of those ‘misses’ can be remedied simply by taking steps to form a better connection with your team.
It’s More Than Words
Communication, when it does occur, may be missing the mark altogether! Between abbreviated texts and messaging, overwhelming volume of email or the ever brief, on-the-fly meetings these days, communication and connection is deteriorating, especially at work.
To further complicate our ability to communicate is the fact that most of us hear (absorb) less than 10% of what is actually spoken!
According to the Mehrabian Theory we attribute more meaning of a message through body language, facial expression, tone and pace of the conversation than that of the actual words voiced – hence why texts, messages, email and even phone messages can be misconstrued!
So ask yourself - how likely is it that YOU are communicating most effectively for your message to be received the way you intend it?
Using the scenario below, I’ll demonstrate my 7-step method to build rapport so you can improve every interaction!
Scenario - Disconnected Team
Team members, who report to your managers, have told you they feel disconnected lately. They claim that most one-on-one meetings with their manager(s) are being cancelled, and when they do happen it’s a quick download of one-way directives of what to get done, versus real conversation.
As a result, they feel excluded in the overall success of the department and don’t see the opportunity to learn, grow or develop. You sense a few are looking to leave the group or worse, the company.
You believe manager’s (on your team) need to involve their teams in problem solving vs giving orders and begin having development-focused one-on-one’s with each person (at all levels), at least once a quarter to rebuild a positive workplace.
What Not to Do
Even though it may seem the quickest ways, please don’t just call a meeting of your direct reports to tell them to start having one on one meetings focusing on development.
Just like their team members, they too will tune out being given a directive and may even take it out on their teams for speaking up, further complicating the problem.
7 Step Method For Communicating To Connect
While these steps may seem lengthy, it actually takes only a couple of minutes to practice and tailor to your circumstance.
Here are the steps:
1. Prepare - consider your audience and check yourself. Think about what is important to you and why, and how might they view it?
2. Create a ‘safe’ environment – remember to praise in public, criticize in private
3. Lead with open-ended questions – question for clarity about their view of the situation and gather their input
4. Meet them ‘where they are at’, before diving in – use their viewpoint to build on. Putting yourself in their shoes shows you’ve heard them (it also demonstrates empathy)
5. Take time to establish a personal connection – consider the challenges they speak about and build rapport by showing you understand how they feel, validate their perspective (this is not a feedback sandwich)
6. When delivering candid feedback, be tough, not mean – show that you genuinely care about them as a person and expect a change to occur
7. Be clear, direct and provide specifics
Remember: Its All About Them
The same steps will work for any topic, particularly powerful for sensitive issues; the key is paying close attention, hearing their perspective, demonstrating you want their success and being clear about the outcomes that are needed.
Communication serves as the foundation for a positive employee experience for all of us. As a leader when you demonstrate support both through your words AND non-verbal interaction, your team will feel more valued and heard.
Taking time to get to know others and developing an understanding of their communication styles provides a platform to connect on a more personal level. This also creates stronger, more cohesive working relationships where difficult subjects can be discussed and dealt with efficiently.
Help Is Available
To gather insights on your team’s communication styles there are a variety of tools available (ie assessments, questioning techniques) feel free to reach out if you need help to find the right approach to connect and communicate in your workplace.
I will never forget the first time I received tough feedback. I was managing a government-funded employment centre at the time.
While working on a tight deadline to implement a new computer system, I was surprised when the Director called me to come to her office ASAP.
She told me my peer (Margaret, who I worked with every day) had raised a concern that needed to be addressed immediately. Margaret felt ‘intimidated’ by me and I made her uncomfortable. Instantly I became defensive – why didn’t she talk to me, what did I do, where was this coming from? Me… intimidating?
Margaret said I was impatient and judgmental, pushing her to explain how things were done. She felt I didn’t respect the work she and the team did and that I just wanted to ‘change everything’. It became obvious she didn’t know what I was doing; she was missing the context for why I needed information and how I was using it.
I felt bad that my actions were seen as overbearing but it was a pivotal moment. From then on I took more time to listen and explain before rushing ahead; I brought Margaret along as a partner. In the end, we formed a terrific working relationship and created a great new system!
Looking back, it was that tough feedback that helped me learn about my own direct style and how to flex my approach with others who were indirect.
While I can relate to what it feels like to receive tough feedback, I truly value the awareness you develop because of it. This is why I always recommend people become aware of their own style. You grow so much when you connect with people who are different than you.
Candour and Feedback Makes a Better Workplace
In today’s workplaces we often refrain from saying what needs to be said for a variety of reasons, we:
Feedback, the Breakfast of Champions
When someone cares enough to give honest, constructive feedback in a clear and helpful way it helps the individual grow and become more self-aware – just as I did. Yet according to Harvard Business Review, we actually all want the negative feedback you hate to give!
I’m not talking about the positive nice feedback here; I’m referring to candid and sometimes difficult to hear ‘real stuff’, often shielded from more senior leaders as you rise in an organization.
Cultivating a positive environment where it is safe to give and receive feedback openly begins with you, the leader. You set the tone by modelling trust and openness in every interaction, encouraging others to share their differing views.
Seek and Ye Shall Find
In each workshop I’ve done about feedback or candour it’s been surprising how few leaders ever received tough or candid feedback over their career! So it is no wonder they aren’t comfortable giving tough feedback to their team!
So how do you start to develop an environment for tougher feedback? You actually begin by asking!
How to Get to The Tough Stuff
Given the reluctance listed above, you may find it difficult to get open, candid feedback. Here are 5 things you can do to get people to open up:
It takes a little focus but based on my experience, candour is your best bet to creating the most highly engaged, super-charged high-performance teams!
Drop me a note when you’re looking for help to gather, receive or act on feedback! I conduct sessions with teams to uncover what issues are causing the most frustrations as well as coach leaders who want to stretch and improve.
photo by CC0 @cerpow on Unsplash
I get it! Difficult people on your team can zap your energy ‘getting on your nerves,’ making it a pain to work with them. Well guess what, I’m here to tell you that pretty much every difficult person you will ever lead, can be a great asset; you may even find them not so difficult after all!
This series has been dedicated to helping you figure out how to tap into hidden potential of difficult types and minimize the frustration:
- Part one when you’re challenged with a “The Know All” (TKA)
- Part two for the blow it up Revolutionary type (TNT) or
- Part three the Take No Prisoners (TNP) personality type
To wrap up the series, I’m going to help you with one seldom discussed, often misunderstood and a very draining style to work with… the Constant Critic (TCC)!
You know this type; they tend to be appear very negative. Just like Eeyore (from Winnie the Pooh) who constantly points out the negative in every move. They don’t cause big drama but they do seem reluctant to get onboard with anything new, usually based on some prior experience.
The Constant Critic profile:
Meet Pete – “Mr. Quiet Dissonance”
Pete (name changed) has an accounting background and works as a Director, Strategic Planning & Performance for a large Retailer. He's been an executive for 5 years but has been with the company for over 20. The 3 people who report to him quite enjoy working with him.
He reports to Marnie (not her real name), VP Business Performance who was recently promoted. Marnie and I have been working together on improving her direct team’s collaboration and she asked for help with Pete, in particular.
Pete is commonly referred to as the ‘company historian’ and has lived through a couple of mergers, several name changes as well as take over from a US-based company.
Marnie was forewarned that Pete seemed disengaged before she took on the team.
Pete is a great example of the Constant Critic personality type!
The good news is Pete responded positively to Marnie as soon as she began implementing strategies we spoke about.
Her action plan included:
At this point, her focus is on developing more of a trusted relationship, and that maybe all it takes.
Marnie's increased interest in his experience seems to have had a positive impact already; the team has noticed Pete becoming more participatory – no more crossed arms in meetings and some have even commented about him being more sociable.
The benefit of having a TCC on your team – great devils advocate, can help you develop persuasive arguments, often sees a different perspective and helps to reflect on pending plans. Often they have learned from past mistakes, can be a historian with very helpful information to draw upon.
The key to leading a TCC – remain positive, redirect negativity, stick to facts and data that support positive outcomes. Help them see the impact of their behaviour on others if it becomes a problem. Ask the TCC to reframe their initial reaction toward a more positive response.
Caution leading a TCC – do not get pulled into negativity. Limit how much time you give when they become negative.
For every difficult type of person, there is a way of changing YOUR perspective about what contribution they bring to your team. It may take a little effort, but drawing upon unique perspectives can be a competitive edge for your team.
If you are dealing with a difficult person on your team (or even your boss) and you’d like help to figure out how to communicate better with them, send me an email. There are just as many strategies as there are difficult personality types!
Can you see a bit of yourself in Pete? Have you been 'shutting down' at work, avoiding colleagues or find yourself to be increasingly contrary?
You may be a Constant Critic or are heading that way.
Time to reflect on how negative you may appear to others:
Photo CC0 @bkotynski Unsplash
Change can be a dirty word in many work environments today. Lets face it “Transformation” is the buzzword de jour! Almost everyone is feeling the affect of increased workload and the speed of change in their job.
It may be brought on from process improvement, new-fangled technologies to learn, added responsibility, regulatory scrutiny, or the most-feared-change of all…downsizing!
Constantly having to adapt, even for the best leaders, takes quite a toll. As a leader not only do you have to continually reframe and communicate the gist of the changes to your team, but you are also expected to be ‘on’ and supportive of whatever is thrown your way. This can be downright exhausting!
So how IS change affecting you? Are you coping? Or are you nearing burnout?
Take this simple assessment to find out:
Pump Your Brake Assessment © (Answer Y/N):
Here’s the thing, change is hard when it is imposed on you, yet, making your own change can be immensely exhilarating when it is something you want to do.
When you find yourself in a constant state of change, inflicted beyond your control, you will eventually shut down if you don’t find good coping strategies. Your health may be adversely affected, your family life may be impacted and for sure, your work performance will suffer when you burnout.
Fear not! You CAN find balance again. First step is recognizing the issue. Just like slowing a car down on a slippery road you can 'pump the brake' to prevent burnout.
The trick is finding ways to regain control over changes that affect YOU. Here are 5 action steps you can begin right now…today!
1. Book Yourself a Break – NOW!
I strongly believe in taking time back from work when you begin to feel frustrated and stressed. If you don’t make time for yourself, no one else will give it to you!
If you are a nose-to-the-grindstone type then taking time back may seem tough for you… initially. But taking back time for yourself is a game-changer to regaining balance.
Action Step: Start with small steps – book an hour into your calendar a few times through the week. RIGHT NOW – look at your calendar and book it…..yep, right now, it will only take a moment.
If you are already at the ‘burnout point’ then take a much bigger step - book a two-week break. Yes TWO! Detach completely – no phones/computer or email. You need the extra time to properly let go and become refreshed.
Why do this? Because pushing yourself harder and harder will not make you accomplish anything faster or better. In fact, it is when you pause, step back, reflect, giving yourself a break that you will become most effective, more able to make sense of the various changes and give yourself greater perspective to move forward.
2. Bust Your Paradigm
Paradigms are patterns you have adopted or think to be true. A paradigm can also be the way you approach your day. Often a paradigm is something we adopted based on what we think others expect of us.
Take crisis management at work for instance. If you are the Olivia Pope in your business that fixes every crisis, then you become the one everyone brings the crisis to.
Action Step: Hand off crisis tasks. In leadership roles it is true, the buck stops with you. But handing off crisis tasks to the right people on your team versus being the one who ‘does’ it provides big growth opportunity to others.
Delegation of important tasks takes leadership courage. It takes great trust. It means giving your team the confidence in handling very important work, with you as their safety net. You remain involved yet you set high expectations, selecting the right people for the right tasks. Watch how they rise to the challenge!
This is not an easy shift when you are known for being ‘the fixer’, yet once you master this hand-off, you will achieve far greater results with far less stress in the future.
Why do this? It’s a win-win! Giving others the accountability to fix big fat meaty issues stimulate their capabilities to grow as well as improve overall team engagement because they see you have faith in them.
As an individual takes on work that stretches their thinking, it pushes them out of their comfort zone; in turn they build new skills and develop. This then frees you up to act as a guide/mentor versus the doer. The results are far more gratifying for both you and the team.
3. Share - Give Work Away
Similarly most leaders, who are hit by wave after wave of change, take on more work than they give away. Often under the assumption it is easier to do it himself or herself rather than ask someone else to.
Action Step: At the end of each day write down two things that you did that someone else could have done for you. They might be administrative tasks, attending a meeting or simply to-do items that someone else could have accomplished just as easily. The next day, delegate those items and begin to make this a daily practice.
Why do this? You may think that you’re a master delegator and that you’re maximizing your productivity every day, but this simple habit will help you measure your delegating skills each and every day.
4. First Things First
In Stephen Covey’s well-known book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he points out how important it is to ‘Put First Things First’ as Habit #3.
During changing times you can get bogged down with task work that doesn’t actually move you forward. When you practice choosing what you spend your time on, you will get the highest return on your investment.
Action Step: Refer to Eisenhower's Urgent/Important Principle that Covey talks about. Begin to organize tasks using these key principles focusing on the most important priorities.
Why do this? Get the biggest payoff for your time at work! Spend most of your time in the upper green zones. Avoid or eliminate time-wasting activities and ensure you delegate distracting work that doesn’t provide payback. By practicing these tried and true methods you maximize your time and you become a better leader.
5. Let Go of Perfection
According to Dr. Brené Brown, world renowned researcher and author:
“Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment and blame.”
Every leader I know who suffers because of today’s pace of change, has some degree of perfectionistic qualities. They have very high standards; they surround themselves with over achievers (just like themselves), which is great, however they can be very hard on themselves and others too. They tend to put in long gruelling hours to complete everything to their satisfaction and they struggle with handing off and delegating.
Action Steps: Become aware of your tendency for perfectionism. Be kind to yourself, review your goals and validate when you are being too hard on yourself – is what you want attainable or realistic? If not, cut yourself some slack!! Involve your team, be more choosey on what you personally take on.
Self-worth is at the core of perfectionism, take stock of all the great work you do well to help change your emphasis and perspective on being perfect.
Use a Lifeline When You Need One
When work pace and change is getting to you it is OK to seek assistance from a professional. Many people need extra help to ‘pump their brake’ until they develop new habits.
Some of the benefits working with a professional include:
Drop me a line when you’re getting frustrated or fear burnout. I will help you find a path to take back control, refocus your time and energy into work that makes you want to get up and go in the morning again!
My hubby and I have this ongoing joke that I am a closet cape crusader. You see I stand up for good vs. evil and I even have recurring dreams where I leap out of my car to rescue someone from a car accident. Did you ever think of yourself as a super hero? Well I’m here to tell you, that just like every defender of the universe has unique powers, so do you!
All business leaders I’ve worked with have powerful influence over others as well as many other admirable traits. The fact is that each and every people leader brings special powers to the world; it just hasn’t been pointed out in that way!
What are Your Leadership Super Powers?
As a leader, I want you to take time to consider what super powers you possess. These will likely be leadership skills that you are best known for. As example, I am known for insight - I perceive things others don’t see in themselves. Through questioning, feedback and thought provoking conversation I help leaders grow, becoming aware of their own gifts.
Caution – Be Careful of Overuse
These unique skills make us great at what we do, but only when used in the right way. As leaders, it is important to look at your best skill and be aware of the trap to overuse it in a negative way. Some of the greatest learning comes from recognizing this nuance and avoiding the potential harm that can come from it.
Here are a few examples from some successful leaders I’ve coached, with the evil trap they had to steer clear of:
Decisiveness – The ability to quickly assess and evaluate pros and cons, then make a call. People with this power often are ‘go to’ people, called upon to provide advice and come up with solutions, particularly during tough times.
The Evil Side – the flip side of decisiveness is someone who can rush to judgement based on the wrong assumptions. If not careful they can damage trust with members of their team, as they may not take the time to seek input and detail from those who are closer to the information.
Tenacity – This power is the epitome of ‘when the going gets tough, the tough gets going’. You’re a leader who doesn’t give up; you hold yourself and others to high standards. Determined in the face of whatever challenges you encounter.
The Evil Side – the flip side of tenacity is someone who can be hard on their team, pushing them to succeed, not taking time to reflect and learn, missing out on reward and recognizing the team because you just want to keep going!
Dealing with Ambiguity – This is the power to be open and versatile, the ability to manage during times where you don’t have all the answers.
The Evil Side – the flip side of being good at ambiguity, can be a leader who is a bit wishy-washy or unclear. Your team will look to you to help them understand what is going on and why it is happening. You may be comfortable with the unknown but many people get frustrated without more concrete information.
Loves a Challenge –This is the power to take on difficult and meaty work, likely the one who is frequently asked to take on difficult assignments, complex tasks or projects.
The Evil Side – the flip side of loving a challenge can be taking on more work than is reasonable for your team to deliver. Often leaders who love a challenge will take on too much. The team can be quite worried and stressed as increased workload comes their way.
Thorough – This is the power of great detail orientation. You pride yourself on knowing the answers; can dive deep on a subject or know all the details on a project.
The Evil Side – The flip side to being thorough is micro management; I find high detail oriented leaders have difficulty delegating. They need to know every detail. Your team can lack a feeling of autonomy and trust.
Authenticity – This is the power to be real, you don’t hide behind a façade. You speak your truth, you are candid and open with everyone you meet.
The Evil Side – The flip side of being authentic is that you can share way too much about your life and personal business, making it very hard for you to make unpopular or difficult decisions, should you have to. Blurring the boundaries of leader/employee relationship can also lead to a lack of respect toward you.
Awareness is the Greatest Agent of Change
You can see from these examples that when a great leadership skill is overused it can result in damage to your relationship with your team and in some cases possibly hurt your career advancement. It’s important to reflect and consider when and under what circumstances you may be over doing it.
Becoming aware of how your behaviour impacts the people who report to you can be a real eye-opener. Consider having a proven 360 Assessment or confidential workplace survey done with your team to uncover feedback and help you grow.
Beam the Bat Signal
I may not be a Wonder Woman with a red cape and gold armbands to anyone other than my husband but my super powers are undisputable with anyone who I’ve worked with.
If you’re ready, I mean really ready to develop to your full leadership potential, I’d be honoured to be your coach! Drop me a line, or call me from your red phone I’ll be there. I’m already picking up telepathic messages!
Sitting together at a big oak table, in her spacious corner office on the 24th floor overlooking Bay and Wellington Streets in Toronto, my well-respected client asked me to help her map out the next steps in her career. She felt stuck; almost embarrassed that she was misaligned to her career after all it took to get there. Proof that even when you reach the coveted C-suite, you can still feel discontented or unfulfilled in your job.
Most people associate their sense of self and identity with the work they do and paycheque they make. You can see how difficult it would be to determine where to make the next move when you find yourself in this situation.
Where to Begin
I often suggest watching a TED Talk by Adam Leipzig, called How to Learn Your Life's Purpose in 5 Minutes. One of most popular TED Talks of all time, with more than 8.5 million views. In less than 10 minutes Adam provides 5 key questions to help identify your life’s purpose. It’s a great start to expanding your view on what you should do to give you fulfillment.
I use a variety of introspective tools as well as questioning techniques with my clients. If you feel stuck, or in a fog you’ll find a snippet of questions below that can begin to clear your view. This reflective exercise activates ideas, narrowing in on clues you can use to reimagine a more rewarding career or job.
Many of us are forced to make life-long choices selecting education specialties or career direction with minimal information about who we are and what we are best at. Seldom are we given tools to help identify what path to take.
Caught up in the tsunami of life and career, it sweeps you along without much time for reflection. In fact, sometimes it takes years of doing the wrong thing before it really dawns on you that you’re way off base!
Few can afford to leave their job to experiment and dabble in other fields to figure out where the right place is; instead you need a solid plan with a process to follow. What I’ve found best is to carve out time for self-reflection and introspection. Then seek feedback and dig into your strengths, doing this opens you up to connect with your calling.
YOUR CALLING = the intersection between doing what you love and the ability to make money doing it!
Who AM I Really?
The answer to the right place for most people is typically tied to who they are and have always been. There are trails of evidence that you can relate to when you go through this exercise. Similar to Adam’s Ted Talk these questions help you uncover what you’re meant to do.
Connect the Dots
While it seems a simple exercise, this reflection actually takes work to gather and time to contact and listen to as many people as you can.
It is vital that you remain open to hear feedback without judgement. Take notes, ask clarifying questions and avoid judging or defending. I always say feedback is a gift! So just accept whatever points people share and say thank you, graciously.
Armed with this information, you will find some obvious clues to connect the dots for what you are meant to be doing. The key to success in the future lies in leveraging your very best traits and skills while focusing on areas you’ve had the most enjoyment and impact to others. Impact to others is a crucial piece of data few ever collect. Service to others, or making a positive impact is a critical building block to most people’s work contentment.
From here brainstorm, look at what you can change in your current job to better align with your purpose. But also look for project work, roles, departments, or other industries and your network for potential opportunities to consider. The path isn’t always immediately obvious. Some people stay within their job working on the side with charities, volunteering or mentoring others or contributing to the greater good in other ways.
Craft an action plan to network further, identify potential jobs that leverage what you’ve done so far, look at independent work or other businesses where you can fully utilize all that makes you unique.
If you find yourself struggling in a job that leaves you feeling undervalued, and want assistance from a leadership coach to help guide you , provide feedback and gain clarity with accountability to follow through, please send me an email! Or if you’d like to delve deeper into who you are and what makes you tick, please reach out. It would be a privilege for me to help you find work you love!
Photo: Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license
If you’re like many of my clients, you have probably posted a job to fill, only to find yourself sifting through 200+ UNqualified applicants.
With the likes of Monster, Indeed and Career Builder simplifying the job hunting process, it has made it easy for serial job seekers to blast out applications to a mass number of postings without even reading the full job posting.
But this doesn’t help you—you need to find the ‘right’ person to without wasting your time! This means you need to be extra diligent in your quest to hire, in order to reduce the number of serial job seekers you encounter.
To help you find the right fit for your new role, follow these top 5 tips…
Know Your Team Fit
Before you even post a job, you have some thinking to do. Ask yourself how easy is it for you to describe what your team is all about and what type of person you need to join the team?
The best way, in my opinion, is to begin by assessing your current team as well as yourself:
These are just a few of the questions you should think through in order to be clear about the right fit you are looking for, prior to constructing the job posting.
Bonus Tip - If you struggle knowing the personalities of your current team, consider using a tool like Everything DiSC Workplace®. In my experience, it offers an objective way to assess the different styles of both you and your people. It will help you avoid hiring the wrong fit by learning more about the type of person who may rub you or the team the wrong way. Call or email me if you'd like to give Everything DiSC Workplace® a try.
Don’t just ‘Post and Pray’
Job postings are a passive method to source candidates; you simply ‘set it and forget it’. But unless you hire help to review all of the resumes that roll in, I don’t recommend posting to public job boards—this is where serial applicants hangout because it’s very easy for anyone to apply to everything!
Better than posting to a public board is sourcing people through places like LinkedIn or hiring someone else to do the sourcing for you.
Agencies, while expensive, usually offer a guarantee to replace a bad hire and consultants are particularly great at finding those who come highly recommended. Regardless of which option you choose, both will save you the headache of dealing with serial applicants.
In my experience, people who come highly recommended have an 80% higher rate to be a fit for a role because seldom will someone put their neck on the line to recommend somebody who is a dud.
It’s vitally important that you’re crystal clear about the job function to be performed. By having a really crisp posting, you can reduce the number of, “Oh, even I can do that job” applicants, which only add to your pile of unqualified resumes.
To do this, write the posting for your open role identifying the 6-8 key criteria the right person absolutely must have—it should NOT look like every other job posting in the market, nor should it be a full job description filled with internal lingo.
Make sure your criteria includes both the skills required to do the job, as well as the behaviours you’re looking for that fits your business and team we talked about above.
Feel free to look at other similar jobs to get a few ideas for how to write the description, but make absolutely certain that your job posting captures the unique details of what YOU and YOUR business needs.
The serial job seeker will respond to anything they think they can do – so the more explicit your job posting is, the higher the likelihood of good quality applicants and reduction of ‘lookie loo’s’ wasting your time.
Bonus Tip - To ensure you’ve covered all of the necessary bases, have a few people lend a critical eye to the posting to check that it conveys the right level and complexity of the position you’re looking to fill.
Use a Title With Kick
The first thing a serial applicant will look at is the title, followed by the position summary, yet so few use this space for impact. This is a great spot to help nix ‘quick clicker Louis’ from automatically applying.
Just because the job title in your company is Customer Service Representative doesn’t mean you can’t post Customer Service Representative – Articulate, Quick Thinking & Data Savvy. This unused space in the title field is a perfect spot to differentiate your role. Right off the bat the reader will ask themself if they meet your criteria and you’ll eliminate a bunch of unwanted hopefuls. Likewise the summary – don’t just regurgitate company fluff here. Use the key success profile of the position to summarize the criteria you’re looking for. Think of it like the lead to a very interesting news article – a few short words that make it interesting to ‘click here.’
By using both of these underused spots you’ll increase your chances of:
Talk to Your Network
I’m a huge fan of LinkedIn. It is a great tool for building your own professional network and it also serves as a powerful resource for viewing candidates before you meet them. Leveraging your network is a great strategy to avoid the serial job seeker.
If you have access to your own LinkedIn network, make sure you tap into it. Tell your peeps you are looking to hire and send them the posting to share or think about who they know who may know suitable candidates (hopefully they will tell two people who will tell two people… and so on). No matter if they’re friends, family or former colleagues and bosses, they’ll know people, and they may be able to connect you with your next right-fit candidate.
But LinkedIn isn’t the only way to connect with others. You can also try:
Help is But a Call Away
Hiring someone new to your team can be time consuming and, for some, even daunting especially with the number of serial applicants out there. The good news is you don’t have to go it alone.
If you have a position you need to fill and are tired of slogging through a sea of serial job seekers, I’m here to help. As your partner, I’ll save you time while finding the right person to join your team and organization by:
Get in touch with me and let’s talk about finding you the right person for the job—meeting and getting to know people is one of my most favourite things to do!
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked, “should I promote from within or hire externally?” And while I wish there was a quick way to answer this question, there simply isn’t.
When this conflicting decision arises, there are several factors I look at, and recommend my clients consider, to help decide and prepare accordingly.
For the most part, hiring from within is seen as a very positive practice. However, if you promote the wrong person, missing the right skills and attitude, you will have upheaval as a result.
Likewise, introducing an external hire into the team can bring forth new ideas, fresh thinking and objective perspective. But if the rationale for going external is not understood by the team, and people feel overlooked the person can be rejected pretty quickly–particularly in a tight knit group with an aversion to change.
Either way, hiring the wrong fit for the role or the team may lead to:
Taking time to consider the right type of people you need, who fit your environment, share the same values as the team and have the right skill set, is the key to determining whether to promote from within or hire externally.
To prevent bad feelings, it is very important to consider internal staff first in your selection process before going outside of the business.
To help you learn from other’s experience, I’ve highlighted some scenarios that underscore the pitfalls of in-house promotion vs. external hire.
Scenario #1 – Internal Hire
Meet Tony Saildude. Tony was a National Sales Director in an ever-changing, fast-paced company that was trying to acquire market share in a highly competitive industry. After his Sales Manager, Joyce Leadcraft left the company to stay at home with her 4 young children, Tony suddenly had an opening in their small business sales division.
Over several years, Joyce built the team from the ground up and was always there to ensure deals made it through in a timely manner. She continuously answered policy and process questions and effectively stickhandled internal conflict with both Marketing and Operations.
Acting quickly, Tony decided to select his best salesperson, Ron Sharp, for the role. Ron was well liked by the team and senior leadership, always upbeat, a great relationship builder and had been in his role for 4 years, frequently attaining the pinnacle of CEO Sales Club annually.
Ron was delighted with the promotion. He received a handsome increase, a parking spot and the coveted ‘inside office’. But shortly after he was promoted, the complaints began rolling up to Tony from the team.
Ron wasn’t available like Joyce had been and he didn’t take the time to solve internal issues. He usually took long lunches or breaks and frequently was seen socializing with people in Marketing. Ron was also bossy to the team, barking out deadlines and often raised his voice before closing himself in his office. And when they had internal issues with other groups, he would say things like “suck it up buttercup” leaving them frustrated and resentful.
Ron’s greatest strength had always been building rapport with customers, but in his new role, he was stuck in the office all day, forced to stick-handle a myriad of questions and expected to answer to Tony–it was not a good fit for Ron.
What Tony really needed was someone who could run interference internally, communicate clear direction, hold others accountable and also be readily available to resolve issues. These were skills and strengths Ron just did not have.
The Learning: Questions When Promoting Internally
Scenario #2 – External Hire
Meet Mary Newhere. Mary was the new Senior Vice President, Human Resources for a financial services company. The department was built on a foundation of promotions from within the company, so much so that many of the existing HR department did not have HR experience, which was why they hired Mary.
Seeing that the business was about to go through quite a bit of change, Mary wanted to hire a successor who could navigate the impending transformation, so she decided to hire externally. She hired Laura Right.
Laura had a 25+year HR career from different industries and was highly recommended through Mary’s network. Soon after she joined, Laura realized how tight the current team was and while they really liked her, she found that they rejected any new ideas or suggestions, even though Mary was always supportive.
Two months after Laura was hired, Mary was moved to another position and Laura’s new boss became Lester Oldschool–a financial services ‘lifer’ who navigated several departments over his 30 years and was a sceptic about new ideas that may impact the culture.
Laura’s peers adored Lester, complaining to him that Laura was hired too quickly and that none of them were even considered for the role. They weren’t happy that she wanted to make change to ‘tried and true’ practices.
It wasn’t long before Laura became discouraged and frustrated. She had no other sponsor or support once Mary left. Although her business clients thought she was refreshing, she was unable to affect change in HR and constantly faced a battle.
Laura left before her 2-year anniversary after being snapped up by another company.
The Learning: Questions When Hiring Externally
Trying to decide between promoting internally versus hiring externally can be a challenge. To avoid creating an unhappy environment, remember to consider your internal staff first, measuring them appropriately against the requirements of the role, before going outside of the business.
Hiring the right person and ensuring that they’re successful in their role requires careful consideration and planning. If you need assistance or guidance in this area, contact us to help you assess your environment and needs.
Dots Leadership Solutions also offer pre-screening or second interview support, custom recruitment frameworks and custom tool kits to assist leaders in making the right hiring decision.
Previously in this series, I covered the various phases of building a kick-ass team, including the ‘Start Up’ phase, ‘Building the Team Identity’ phase, ‘Bust Through the Barriers’ phase and ‘Kum Ba Yes’ phase. By now, if you’ve implemented all of my suggestions, you should be experiencing the ‘High Performance R Us’ phase – high five to you for graduating to a kick-ass leader!
What Does This Phase Look Like?
You’ll know the ‘High Performance R Us’ phase when you see your team consistently triumph and achieve goals together. For the most part, they get along, openly discuss ideas, problems and solutions, and most importantly, they share recommendations for improvement, actively solving issues together and demonstrating commitment to the group and company. Generally the climate is positive and activated for achievement. This kind of high performing team emits a positive vibe, and as such, they make the customer (internal or external) want to work with you.
So…now what? What do you do once you’ve successfully attained a high performing kick-ass team? Some say great teams eventually come to an end, but I like to think its more of a metamorphosis–just like a butterfly, your people undergo a change that gives each individual courage and esteem, which often means they will move along.
Kick Ass Leaders Shift Gears
At this point, some members of your team will either take on new roles within the team or move along, triggering a change to the whole dynamic. Similarly, this may also be a time when you prepare to make your own move, or you earn that well-deserved promotion!
Lets look at how you can either course correct to help your team through changes or how you can begin to wrap up so you are ready to make a move:
After the team dynamic changes or the team divides after having been together for a long time, you may notice a shift in peoples’ behaviours. Watch out for complacency, disengagement or repeated illnesses. Even the highest performing employees can become frustrated with changes–they are usually the first to exhibit fluctuations in behaviour.
Keep an eye on things like:
These are often symptoms of disengagement or complacency.
How to Respond
Wrapping Up With Your Team
If you’ve instead decided to make a move and depart from your now, high-functioning team, it’s imperative that you take right steps to leave them on great terms and in great shape. Parting ways can be difficult, but if you follow the wrap up checklist below, you’ll be sure to leave on a positive note.
Check In – take time to check in with the team to reflect–review the vision and mission you designed in Part 1 and 2 and have your team help you assess the progress. Record what worked and what could have been better, and identify how the team adapted to changing requirements over the duration. Determine what were the best parts of this team and which core competencies made the group most successful and why.
Check Off – take time to celebrate the journey of the team and reflect on the growth of each team member. Sit down with a coffee and make a list of how you’ve seen each of them grow as you look back over the time you spent together. Be sure to exchange written feedback so they can keep track of their progression and enjoy the fruits of their labour – this can be done using formal performance review tools, emails or, better yet, hand written notes. Thank everyone who helped the team succeed and encourage team members to write notes to support people from other areas in the business or to vendors/suppliers who were instrumental in the success. Send a summary to your boss or present the overview at a peer meeting to acknowledge progress of the team. And don’t forget to book a fun gathering too – coffee, ice cream, drinks or an outing together will allow you to clink glasses and leave on a high note.
Check On – if you haven’t done it already, be sure to communicate to your management and HR department who on your team has high potential and may be ready to take on leadership roles. Be sure to have a development plan laid out for those specific individuals, to ensure they work on acquiring the missing skills needed to make the leap to the next level. You can continue to be a mentor whether you continue to be their boss or not.
Check Out – one of the best things about having a high performing team is the ability to export some of your talented people to other areas of the organization. Reach out to various leaders you know in other areas of the business and connect them with team members who you feel would be valuable contributors. This is a great way to help your people shine and begin kicking off their own amazing team! You can bet they will come to you as they go through their own kick-ass team development.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey of kick-ass team building–no doubt, you’ve noticed some consistent themes. Becoming a Kick-Ass Leader takes a great deal of effort, a lot of communication, and the ability to know when to be tough, when to take the reigns or when to let your people soar. As always, I’m at your service if you’d like help in dealing with the various phases of building your team. Reach out any time.
Well you’ve made it to Part 4 of our series, Building a Kick-Ass Team From the Ground Up! So far we covered the foundational phases of building a kick-ass team, including the the ‘Start Up’ Phase , the ‘Building the Team Identity’ Phase and the ‘Bust Through the Barriers’ Phase. Now, your team is in ‘the flow’ and it’s time to make an important leadership shift!
As a people leader, once your team has reached this stage of maturity you’ll find yourself being needed in a different way. Let’s explore what you can do to ‘amp up’ your team’s success during what I like to call…the ‘Kum Ba Yes’ phase!
Kum Ba Yes! Phase
Did you ever go to summer camp, sit around the campfire and sing Kumbahyah? Maybe I’m dating myself. It symbolized the moment when a group of virtual strangers became friends as they were far away from home and surviving together. That is where the The 'Kum Ba Yes!' Phase gets its name. This phase is a time in your team’s development where people are getting along, they’re joined together, they know what their doing – they’ve become a real team!
You’ll know you’ve reached this phase when you begin seeing signs that your team is operating effectively:
For the most part, you should see your people getting along, helping one another to problem solve and working towards departmental goals – productivity should be on the rise!
So what should you do now that the team seems to need less of you? Well, your leadership challenge is to move from being “directive” (taking control) to “observational”. The idea here is to let up on the reins, trust and empower your team to operate with minimal intervention while guiding quietly from the sidelines. This will not only help strengthen individuals on your team, but it will also help to improve your overall team dynamic.
Let’s take a look at some actions you can take to help strengthen your emerging Kick-Ass team during the 'Kum Ba Yes!' Phase:
1. Set Up ‘What’s Your Jam?’ Discussions – this is a good time to encourage individuals to stretch themselves to build new skills and find development toward longer-term career goals. By demonstrating an interest in their future your peeps will see you are here to support them, not just to get the work done but to help them grow.
Meet with your people one-on-one to discuss their development plans. Yes, I’m talking even if you have a team of 30! Take a half hour to discuss their individual development – no not performance, their development (there is a difference). The focus should be on the individual and their career aspiration. What activities have been most interesting? What are their strengths? What are their career goals? Where do they see themselves in the future? And what steps are they currently taking? Then, determine a plan for how can you help them move forward. Don’t know what to ask at their ‘Jam Session’ - Check out this online guide.
2. Build It Up – book time quarterly with your whole team to depart from work and focus on building relationships! If you have budget, consider bringing in an external consultant to take you through a workshop on behavioural styles and communicating. If not, you can also incorporate easy and fun activities into other meetings such as when you have a project review or an all-hands update.
Any activities that encourage learning about each other, working on a non-work initiative or fun experiential activities will strengthen the community of the team.
3. Feedback Gift Giving – I always say feedback is a gift, not sure who I heard that from. You can either accept it or decide to put it on the shelf and disregard it. All of us want to receive feedback from our manager to know how we are doing, but feedback doesn’t only have to come from the boss!
If you as the leader create an environment where your people feel safe and they trust each other, you can encourage open candid dialogue. This allows each team member to provide insights, reactions and suggestions to one another, which creates a culture of seeking and giving feedback – it’s a powerful tool! Recognize and support your team members when they make a point of acknowledging or provide constructive feedback. As mentioned in Part 3 Bust Through the Barriers phase I suggest carving out time at routine meetings to seek 'shout outs' to build a supportive, 'safe' work environment.
Kick-Ass Team Tip - Pay Attention to Millennials
In Gallup’s report, How Millennials Want to Work and Live it outlines that in today’s workplaces, our latest working generation are not getting enough feedback even when they ask for it. In fact, less than 20% feel they receive routine feedback, yet they seek it more than any other generation! So if you have Millennials in your team, pay close attention to this step!
4. Get Constructive – develop the art of constructive criticism! And it is an art! So often we shy away from criticizing anyone – when we grew up, most of us were taught ‘if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all’. Well that probably means we didn’t receive much constructive advice!
So here’s my take on it. Good constructive criticism is no different than good ol’ sound advice! As the leader of a Kick-Ass team, part of developing your people means giving them candid advice, in a timely manner and particularly at this stage of team development – people do best when they are receiving regular feedback both positive and constructive!
Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
a) Thank you for preparing the report on demographics; it provided some good insights. I noticed you seemed frustrated when we discussed it with the client as they tried to ask questions. It is frustrating when someone cuts into your thoughts, but I think the client was trying to clarify what you were saying. Just be aware of your reaction and be prepared that clients will likely want to ask questions along the way.
b) Great effort on the report, I do see there are a couple of things which could be improved. The font is a bit small and it would be good to standardize the same font throughout the document.
c) You handled that meeting very well with the team – they were a rowdy group. Next time you may want to pause or put your hand up until they quiet down instead of talking over them.
Kick-Ass Team Tip – Help is here!
If you have particularly difficult feedback to give to someone, consider talking it out with someone before you approach the person. Have them check your tone and check how it comes across.
When you reach the 'Kum Ba Yes' Phase it means you’ve done a great job managing through some challenging times with your team. They are already in a good place, but they need a different kind of leader now. During this phase, you may find you need some help in conducting team building and communication workshops, so give Dots Leadership Solutions a call to create a custom session for you. We can also help you prepare for any difficult conversations that you are putting off or provide a framework for your team’s development planning!
We want to hear from you - comment below about your leadership journey in getting to Kum Ba Yes! How did you release control and move them along to full effectiveness?
Watch for the next instalment on Building a Kick-Ass Team From the Ground Up – Part 5 – High Performance R Us
Welcome to Part 3 of our series, Building a Kick-Ass Team From the Ground Up. So far we covered the initial two foundational phases of building a kick-ass team: The Start Up Phase and Building the Team Identity. Now, it’s time to talk about everyone’s favourite topic – conflict!
So you have a solid team that’s working together. They know what they need to do and they have a good sense of how to do it.
Perfect! Or is it?
This is the time where bumps in the road to success are most likely to appear.
Think of team building like first starting to ride a bike without training wheels. Once you’re up and first rolling along, you may begin to wobble. Careful you don't overcorrect in an attempt to save yourself or you’re going to fall flat on your face…
Here’s how to handle your team’s wobbly period the right way:
Right now is the single most important time for you as a leader to really be present! Since this is when your team is actually settling in, the dynamics of different people sets off a whole chain of events and awkward reactions. Make sure you’re easily accessible and frequently visible so you can address concerns immediately.
Kick-Ass Team Tip - MBWA:
Ever heard of MBWA? Management By Walking Around is a great success habit for any leader. An unstructured random walk around to check in with your team demonstrates interest; it’s a deliberate strategy to get to know your people and will give you a chance to redirect and course-correct as friction develops.
As different personalities emerge, conflict and power struggles will surely arise. This period is when you’ll hear the most resistance from your people and a lot of questioning about why and how you and/or the company are doing things.
In addition, polarization or splinter groups can occur as your people start to choose who they like and who they don’t. In worst-case scenarios, you may even encounter open and vocal power struggles, which can be very difficult to manage.
Manage through this challenging phase using these T.E.A.M. strategies…
1. Talk it Out
We always filter what we hear based on our own personal vantage point, coloured by previous experiences and jaded by our own distinct behavioural style. During this phase of your team building process you may notice your team divides as some disagree with approaches or just need to be heard before they ‘buy in’.
Before a team can really work well together, you may have to help them work through their differences, and the best way to do that is by talking it out.
Bring the team together to discuss issues that seem to cause confusion or frustration. You’ll need to actively listen, hear out the root issues vs. just the conflict then facilitate the solution. In some cases you may have to veto the dissent. If so, bring the team back to the norms discussed in Part Two. The more you can reinforce HOW the team should deal with issues together, the better.
2. Eat Together
This may seem like an odd strategy for building a team, but I assure you, the more often you eat together, the higher the camaraderie and engagement!
The concept of ‘breaking bread’ may have a spiritual connotation to some, but the truth is, when you eat with a group of people, it creates an environment of meaningful social interaction.
Eating together improves connectedness at a basic human level, and as such, people’s ego’s leave the room. Everyone opens up and gets to know each other on an even playing field.
Consider these inexpensive ideas for eating together as a team:
There isn’t a human alive who doesn’t want to be appreciated. Being valued helps us reinforce our own sense of personal self worth.
When someone has noticed you, or you’ve been acknowledged for your work, you’ll feel well respected and more important. AND, as a result, you’ll want stay part of such as kick ass team!
According to Gallup Research, “The best managers promote a recognition-rich environment, with praise coming from every direction and everyone aware of how others like to receive appreciation. This type of employee feedback should be frequent -- Gallup recommends every seven days -- and timely to ensure that the employee knows the significance of the recent achievement and to reinforce company values.”
Kick Ass Team Tip - Appreciation
During this somewhat stress-filled period, you’ll likely be pulled in many directions – you’re going to be a very popular person! In order to provide the comfort and assurance your team are looking for, it’s important to host regular check-in meetings.
There’s also another reason why regularly scheduled (and attended!) meetings will pay off. Believe it or not, it’s one of the key ingredients in developing THE single most important factor of a kick ass team – trust.
Your team wants to, and needs to, hear from you…often. Don’t assume they are fine to just get to work – right now is when your team needs your connection and oversight the most. Through this phase you’ll want to set more touch points than usual so you can manage expectations, head off issues and communicate progress or changes.
Kick Ass Team Tip - Meeting Etiquette:
Ideal Meetings for Kick Ass Teams (Yes all of these during team formation!)
The Bust Through Barriers phase of team formation can be a very draining time for you as a leader. You may be called upon to referee and manage conflict and be pulled in multiple directions. It is a vital time for your team and can be a make it or break it period in the dynamics of your team. Give Dots Leadership Solutions a call if you need help, we can do individual behavioural assessments, facilitate meetings or work through conflict and coach you through difficult conversations.
We want to hear from you - comment below about your own experience going through this conflict filled phase about how you busted through the barriers?
Lookout for the next chapter in the series - Building a Kick-Ass Team From the Ground Up – Part 4 – Kum Ba YES! This is the phase when team identity really comes through, everyone understands why they are on the team, there are established rules and processes and the team culture really begins to come to life. Now your role as the leader takes on a slightly different course of action.
Welcome back to our series ‘Building a Kick-Ass Team From the Ground Up’. In the first post Part One - The Start Up Phase we covered the initial phase of team formation. In this blog, we’re moving on to building the team’s identity, which is essential for establishing team norms so that everyone knows how the team operates.
In this phase you will be hands-on and sometimes directive. This is a time for obtaining your new team’s commitment, setting well-defined expectations and clear objectives. This is also a critical time for you, as the leader, to demonstrate your commitment and follow through. Lets look at the key steps to founding your team with an identity each member can embrace.
1. Crack the Ice
Right now you have a team of strangers together or they haven’t worked together with you, as yet. To get work done, they’ll first need a chance to connect on a different level; otherwise they’ll naturally be cautious and hesitant to get down to work. You COULD throw them straight into the day-to-day work, but we’re talking about building kick-ass teams here – and kick-ass teams begin with a kick-ass culture. A better way to begin would be with a little bit of fun – laughter is the one of best ways to help people break down their walls.
There are plenty of team-building icebreaker games you can do to help warm up your group. Just be mindful that the icebreaker should properly underpin your objectives and be appropriate for the work environment. For example, I don’t recommend a game that involves hand-holding (i.e. like the one called Electric Current in the link) with engineers in a corporate workspace – they surely would be uncomfortable and resistant.
One of my favourite icebreakers is storytelling. This involves getting everyone together in a room and having each participant share the following:
As the leader of this icebreaker, it’s important to listen carefully and point out similarities or connections between team members (i.e. like how many people are a middle child). It’s also important to watch how comfortable each participant is. If anyone seems uncomfortable, try giving him or her a different question when they get stuck. If it’s a big group you can also break the team into smaller groups then have each group provide an overview of the fun highlights they learned.
To wrap up the icebreaker, make a summary statement about your team’s diverse backgrounds, different skill sets, similarities or the great potluck lunches you expect to have in the future!
The most important note is that YOU go first! You set the tone for participation. Make the exercise fun and memorable and be open and transparent. Enjoy this time to connect before you all get down to business.
2. Set the Stage
Remember in Part One – The Start Up Phase when you did all that white boarding of your vision? Now’s the time to share it!
Even if you went over your plans with each person, as you were onboarding, it’s still important to review your vision and communicate your expectations to the whole team. If you’re in a formal work environment, you may wish to create a slide presentation to walk through, otherwise use this list below to help guide your team meeting:
Kick Ass Action Step - Share Your Top 5 Personal Values
Take time to let your new team know about what you personally value and expect – these help to lay a foundation for the behaviour of the team. You can refer to this Core Values list to contemplate your top five. By conveying what you’re all about, you’ll be helping your team know more about who you are and what you do or don’t tolerate.
3. Assign the Mission
Just like in the Mission Impossible movies, each team member needs to know what they personally need to accomplish, what they will be held accountable for and who to go for approval or solving problems. This is a perfect time to share the job specs you developed in phase one, if you haven’t already.
Provide members of the team with their own job description and have him or her review their role considering the context you shared when you set the stage. Discuss their individual objectives to help meet the overall goals and ask them to begin thinking of their own development plan. This is a good time to check in and see what help they may need to be successful, and to let them know how frequently you’ll be checking in with them moving forward.
4. Establish Team Norms
You’ve likely worked in different teams with an assortment of distinct norms. Perhaps you’ve encountered one where the people were backstabbing and constantly late to meetings, or another where the people were supportive and eager to help each other succeed. I can guarantee you that the difference you experienced wasn’t the company; it was very much indicative of the behaviour of the leadership.
Team norms are standards and operating principles that groups demonstrate and quickly become the internal culture of a team – the ‘how we do things around here’ you encounter. It is during the ‘building team identity’ step that you, as the leader, can set the tone for these norms, whether by design or by action. The way your team operates is a direct reflection of you.
Think about what your team can count on when working with you…
With your guidance and direction in these areas, you can influence the culture of your team in a way that will not only have an immediate effect, but also a long term one. If you’d like to chat about developing a team charter that everyone will ‘sign up to’, let me know – I work with businesses to set principles that shape team norms.
Kick-Ass Action Step: Take a moment to list the norms YOU will personally uphold and commit to – i.e. responding to emails in a timely manner, remaining open to differences, working efficiently, following through on commitments, being on time etc. Then make those your MO! Your actions will directly influence how the team culture is formed.
5. Be Consistent
I recently read a great post on LinkedIn called No Consistency, No Success by Grant Cardone. In it, he acknowledges that consistency builds discipline and disciplined actions done consistently create success – both personally and professionally.
The fact is, the best leaders follow through. This builds trust, creates credibility, sets the tone with a team and forms the basis of a team’s identity. Follow my simple Kick Ass rule below to become a more consistent leader:
Kick-Ass Tip – a simple rule:
If you’re setting up your team identity or are struggling if its gone awry and want to talk strategy or simply design a killer team building session, contact Dots Leadership Solutions. We design kick-ass strategies to help leaders launch their teams successfully!
Watch for the next instalment in the series, Building a Kick-Ass Team From the Ground Up – Bust Through the Barriers, where we’ll talk about the high conflict stage of a team formation – this is where you’ll learn how to earn major leadership stripes!
We welcome your comments – let us know of your challenges or successes in building a kick-ass team.
Building a kick-ass team is one of the most rewarding experiences for any leader. To see the team YOU established succeed and thrive creates a sense of pride and satisfaction like no other.
Do you remember how it felt to be a part of an awesome team? You were in sync, you had fun, and you were an unstoppable machine. Everyone was connected and continuously driving in the same direction to get stuff done.
This blog marks the beginning of a series of posts that will walk you through the full cycle of not only building a team, but also supercharging it! Today, we start from the beginning, which involves creating your vision, crafting roles and selecting the right members. Over the course of the next few months, I will address other topics such as the settling in period, navigating through difficult times, celebrating successes and preparing for transformative windups.
The “Kick-Ass Team Building From the Ground Up” series will also include tons of practical tips and tricks for boosting your own leadership capabilities, so please follow along for full access to an abundance of insight and advice.
Without further ado, welcome to part one of our series – The Start Up Phase!
There are countless reasons why you may be forming a new team right now. It may be the beginning of a new project or initiative, or there may be an important new business direction underway and you have to pull a group together. Regardless of the reason behind the new team formation, here are your steps to get started:
Let me preface by stressing one thing – do not skip this step! Even if you’ve been handed a group of pre-selected individuals to begin with, I encourage all of my clients to start with a blank slate. Before you go sticking boxes on an org chart, ensure you are crystal clear on your own vision. Grab a whiteboard and consider these key questions:
Having this information readily available will assist you in figuring out which roles are required on the team and what work you’ll be in charge of overall. It will also provide a basis to review the team’s progress once set up.
2. Suss Out The Work
When beginning to build a team, it’s common for leaders to immediately think about managers – how many they need, who they will be etc. But there is a major drawback to this approach. What tends to happen is teams end up with too many people trying to lead without clear and distinct accountabilities – and you know what they say about too many cooks in the kitchen!
Instead of beginning with management, do a bottom-up build. Consider the day-to-day work of your team and allow your structure to fall into place according to what actually needs to get done.
In order to ensure you stack your structure with the right number and level of roles, consider these questions first:
Your answers to the questions above should start to create a picture of how many people you really need to DO the day-to-day work? And in contrast, how many managers are required to manage the people doing the day-to-day.
If you can, quantify the output that will be delivered – you may have to make a few assumptions at this point – and think about the ROI (return on investment) of your resources. You tend to get bigger return with ‘doers’ than with ‘managers’.
Here are some common pitfalls that many leaders face during this step of a new team formation:
3. Map Your Structure
This is when you get to move the boxes around. When creating an organizational structure, I prefer using an accountability-based approach – that is establishing a hierarchy with clarity so everyone will know who is on the hook for what.
Clear accountability is a critical success factor for a smooth running team. Also vital, yet sadly overlooked, is ensuring that each Manager fully understands that their responsibility includes the development of their team members, not just direct reports. This includes formalized succession planning for managers to have replacement plans for their own roles – setting this up in the beginning will make your job a whole lot easier.
Now layout a future focused org structure identifying how each role reports. Every role on the org chart needs a unique and clearly defined accountability in order to reduce confusion and improve self-sufficiency. Notice we haven’t talked about the people yet? This is done on purpose.
Million Dollar Tip: Never design your structure around your people. Big mistake! (Send me a message if you want to know why)
Here is an example of how you might divide work initially in order to support your longer-term structure to ramp up staffing over time:
Org structures evolve due to many variables over time, but having a plan to begin with a ‘target’ operating model (future structure) will help as you begin the hiring/selection process. Look for talent who can grow and be developed over time into expanded roles.
4. Spec Your Jobs
I know this may seem tedious, but believe me, this is worth the investment! Not only will this step get you thinking about what work is needed to be done and the talent you will need, but also the document you create will serve multiple purposes over the life cycle of the team (e.g. sourcing people, evaluating compensation, performance management).
Each role needs its own spec - a profile. Consider all the elements similar to a job posting you would need, which details the skills necessary, the type of characteristics required to be successful and the education or knowledge you feel is a must or nice to have in each job.
If you’ve never done this before, you can cheat by ‘Googling’ similar jobs and reviewing postings for relevant content. They will give you a clue for the type of jobs in the market (no one I know ever got into trouble for using another job posting for inspiration). Just ensure your job spec thoroughly outlines the work duties, tasks, and responsibilities so that a potential employee has an idea of what they’ll be signing up for!
5. Pick Your Talent
Finally, it’s time to talk about people. I could write a whole blog on just this step – I love selecting talent – but I’ll save that for another time! For the sake of moving along, I’ll keep this section brief.
If you already have a pool of people to select from, resist the temptation to simply slot in people you know in the boxes. Do yourself a favour and review them against the job spec for ‘fit’, and ask yourself if they are the right people to do the job. If not, you may need to post the role.
This is the step where it really pays to have objective help in screening candidates and conducting interviews. Having someone to whittle the list of candidates down to a choice few will save you time – they can also be your point person to field follow up calls and emails.
I highly recommend involving several people that you trust in the interview stage to help you screen for ‘fit’. It’s important that anyone new joining the team or business matches both the style and organizational culture of the company. If you have management roles, start with those first and perhaps have them join you in future interviews as you build out the team.
Prepare a series of questions that will help you probe and qualify the candidates until you find the right people to fill your roles. I also recommend considering the use of a comprehensive assessment tool that can give yet another dimension about fit to the team and clues for how best to manage and communicate moving forward.
Dots Leadership Solutions can assist you with crafting your structure, developing job specs, preparing your selection strategy and even screening, assessing and interviewing candidates – it’s kind of our ‘thing’. Give us a call today and let’s chat about the next team you’re building.
Stay tuned for our next blog in the 'Building a Kick-Ass Team' series Part 2 – Team Identity
Elaine Adamson is a leadership consultant with Dots Leadership Solutions Inc. A natural dot connector. Passionate about coaching team effectiveness and leadership development she shares over 25+ years of real-life tips and tricks that really work!
Elaine believes you can discover and leverage strengths to forge a strong team dynamic despite business challenges or organizational change.