Tag Archive | "teamwork"

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Leadership Strategies to Address Today’s Most Common Team Building Problems

Posted on 12 May 2016 by cradmin

By Gayle Lantz

Despite best team building efforts, many organizations are still operating on low power when it comes to producing desired results. They’ve invested time and dollars in events that supposedly help team members bond and function coherently, yet results are short term at best.

So what’s the problem? Every situation is unique, but here are a few possibilities:

  • Some or all members don’t want to function as a team. They’ve become accustomed to operating independently and don’t see the value of operating as a whole.
  • Team building isn’t linked to business results. Instead, the team experienced artificial feel good exercises. Although the team has learned about each other’s behavioral styles, motivational profiles, individual strengths, etc., they have failed to connect their efforts to desired business outcomes.
  • There’s no follow-up beyond a one-time event. A successful team building process should be approached strategically, not as a one-time event hoping for the best. It should result in actionable ideas to help the team and organization achieve their goals. Continued learning, action and reinforcement are critical.

Of all of the potential issues that can negatively affect team building, here are some of the most common impediments to team success, in my experience, and ways to overcome them.

Team Building Impediment #1: Fuzzy focus

In this situation, the team doesn’t really know how to function. Either the team has lost focus on results or members have never been clear of their goals in the first place. Instead, they’ve become too internally fixated on other team members – judging what they’re doing, making assumptions, speculating, backstabbing, finger pointing, etc. Without a clear focus, team members frequently react to events in their immediate environment. They become distracted by other team members or simply respond to whatever issue lands in their lap. There’s no strategic team focus or energy to move forward.

Suggestion: As the leader, you must step in and clarify big picture goals and expectations. In order to complete this task effectively, you must communicate the goals in a number ways that appeal to a variety of team members. Some may need a visual representation (e.g., a roadmap); others may need to know the “why” behind the goals to buy in. Check for clarity. Ask the team to articulate their understanding of the overall goals in their own words. Then, clarify or correct as needed.

Team Building Impediment #2: Lack of leadership

Leadership is critical to help the team succeed. Without it, team members will resort to their own methods. Some will run as far and fast as they can to prove themselves, pushing boundaries and taking on too much risk. Others will sit idle for as long as they can, performing as little as possible, yet complaining about how much work needs to get done. Some leaders are too busy concentrating on their own political or career agenda. Other leaders just don’t understand their role or possess good leadership skills.

Suggestion: Conduct regular strategic focus sessions. Strong leaders will help the team focus on the goal (the what) and key strategies (the how). Hold consistent informal one-on-one development meetings with direct reports to gain feedback, uncover trouble spots and leverage opportunities. If you need to build leadership skills yourself, make that a priority. If you value your career, find a coach or mentor to help you. Remember, in order to develop others – you must first develop yourself.

Team Building Impediment #3: Stuck in sameness

The team is stuck in practices that may have been established years ago. They’ve gotten lazy or stopped trying new approaches. New team members may be frustrated by the apparent lack of openness to new ideas or ways of operating. Experienced team members defend the way things have always been done.

Suggestion: Identify one aspect of the team that you would be excited to see change. Talk with your team to make sure everyone agrees it would be worth it to affect change in that area. Determine what the best possible outcome could be if the team made the change, adopted a new procedure, tried a new approach or do whatever it is you’re suggesting. Then, call for ideas from the team on how to make it happen. Generating excitement about new possibilities makes it easier for the team to get unstuck.

The most effective teams can maintain best practices while adapting to new environments or organizational changes. They are not content with sameness or status quo. Their best practices include constantly seeking new and better ways to perform their jobs. They are not content with going through the motions or frivolous exercises that may help increase awareness but stop there.

Final Thoughts:

It doesn’t matter if Bob is a blue, green or yellow if he can’t connect his self-awareness to results. The same applies at the team level. Team members may find it interesting to learn more about team members, but be sure to help translate learning into results.

Great team leaders spend time clarifying goals, cultivating their own leadership skills and identifying new ways to achieve great results. Not to be confused with micromanaging, an effective leader will check in from time to time to make sure the organization’s goals and strategies remain clear. At the same time, they help build capability of individual team members versus taking on the work of the team themselves.

Simply opening productive and constructive communication to a greater degree will help leaders increase their effectiveness and their team’s functioning most effectively. Leaders often feel unnecessary pressure to tell everyone on the team what to do. Focus on influencing versus doing.

Team building is a means to an end and not an end in itself. What do you want your team to achieve?

About the Author

As an organizational development consultant, executive coach and founder of WorkMatters®, Gayle Lantz can help your team achieve substantial results. Clients include organizations such as NASA, Southern Company and Compass Bank.

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15 Rules for Effective Teams

Posted on 14 January 2016 by cradmin

By Eileen O. Brownell

“If you think it doesn’t pay to stick together, consider the banana.  As soon as it leaves the bunch it gets skinned!” – Savage: Life Lessons

The first railroad in America was created in 1829. It served as the number-one mode of mass transportation of people and goods for well over 100 years. Trains were efficient. They could move large quantities of materials and products faster and cheaper than wagons, horses or, ultimately, trucks. Many pioneers moved west via the train rather than chancing the hazardous wagons. Trains provided excitement for travelers with the ever-changing scenery and the possibility of bandits.

Railroads created jobs. Not only was there staff on the train, there were also switchmen, freight loaders, maintenance workers, stationmasters and clerical staff. All helped keep the trains running. Even though their jobs did not require them to ride on the trains, they supported the main function of the railroad.

Back in the 1800s, they never heard of teamwork. Staff came to work, did what they were ordered to do and worked long hours, usually six days a week. Decisions were made by supervisors, and nobody ever questioned the choices they made. To do so might mean instant dismissal.

Our work life will continue to speed forward into the future at a fast, never-ending pace. The creation of new technology has made some jobs easier by providing us with quicker ways to perform tasks, computerizing some jobs and providing us with more information than we ever conceived possible.

It is important that we take the time to examine effective teams and their characteristics. It will be through teams that we will continue to accomplish our major work tasks as people become more specialized and technology increases at a steady pace. We can no longer operate like the railroad companies once did, where everything was done manually.

The commonsense railroad rules that were solid and sound in the 1800s and early 1900s are worth reexamining in the context of how they affect teams today.

  1. Know your destination. There are numerous places for a train to head. Where the train will ultimately end its trip is established before the engine even revs up. Every successful team must establish its goals and objectives before they can begin to provide valuable services to the internal or external customer. An effective team has a clear purpose that includes a vision, a mission, goals and objectives. Everyone on the team is clear about where he or she is going.
  1. Turn a moving train slowly. Once a train has established its destination, it gathers momentum. To change directions abruptly without discussion and consensus can be disastrous. If it becomes necessary to alter your course after your team has already begun to create its vision, it is important that everyone be a part of the discussion process. Not everyone may agree with the final outcome. The turn, however, will be easier if everyone has the opportunity to be a part of the decision process.
  1. Successful trains stay on track. If the train jumps the track, a disaster will surely occur. Teams stay together by moving in the same direction. Once the goals and objectives are established, everyone goes about doing their individual tasks to help the train get to its ultimate destination. If it leaves the track, however, it will never arrive. If the train needs to make a detour, there are clear signs that indicate the changes that need to be made so no abrupt turns can force the train from its ultimate focus.
  1. When catching a moving train, get up to speed quickly. When you join a team already in existence, don’t stop, don’t slow down. You have a lot of catching up to do. You did not begin the trip with the team. They formed, established a destination, decided the best route to take, made assignments and established the time schedule. Your task is to get up to speed as quickly as you can without creating havoc and delaying the trip. The team can assist you in that process by providing you with a complete overview of the projects they are working on. Establish if you have the necessary experience to complete the task of the individual you are replacing. If not, then it must be determined how best to train you for the tasks ahead. Finally, they must make sure you are also involved in all future discussions.
  1. Stop when the wheels lock up. Everyone on the team must be encouraged to participate in the team process. When one or more people withhold information, refuse to be part of the discussion or fail to complete their assignments, it is a sure sign of trouble. Just as the locked wheel will hold the train back – if no one on the team is participating in the process, the team will be slow to complete its vision.
  1. Listen for a change in the rhythm. If you have ever ridden a train, you know the sound of the wheels riding the rails. There is a certain rhythm that occurs. You know instinctively when there is a change in the speed of the train or a problem. Members of a team use effective techniques to listen for the changes in the attitude of team members. To clarify someone’s input, it is important that members paraphrase, question and summarize to make sure they have received the message as intended.
  1. Keep everyone on board when the train is moving. Team members must feel free to express their opinions and feelings. They must not feel that if they provide input or make suggestions, they will be thrown from a moving train, a painful experience indeed. The effective team has no hidden agendas. Members feel comfortable communicating during and outside of meetings. Team members must not be afraid to voice their opinion for fear of retaliation.
  1. Work assignments and roles are clear. The conductor would not think of driving the train nor would the engineer come back to the passenger cars and take tickets. Work is distributed among team members fairly and according to job skills. There are specific expectations for each job assignment and team member. Everyone is willing to accept his or her part of the total team responsibility and complete the assignments on time.
  1. Everyone is a leader. There is a formal leader for every effective team. Leadership functions can shift, however, depending upon the circumstances, group needs and individuals skills of the team members. For example, I have watched the conductor jump in to help the dining car cashier when the crowds were backing up on a long-distance train ride. This was certainly not his normal task, but at the moment, his skills were needed to help keep the customers happy. Team members are not afraid to shift focus when assistance is needed.
  1. Be flexible. Trains don’t always arrive on schedule. The staff of the train kept us informed of the reason for the delays, however, and gave us regular updates of the anticipated arrival time. When tasks are not completed on the determined time schedule, the rest of the team must be informed and adjustments made. Frequently, the next step in a process cannot be started until another task is completed. An effective team member is flexible and continues to move forward on other responsibilities regardless of possible delays.
  1. Stop to refuel. Conduct regular maintenance. An effective team stops periodically to examine how well it is doing. Self-assessments are conducted regularly to establish what is interfering with progress of the team. If additional training is needed for individual members or the entire team, arrangements are made. A train cannot run without gas, and a team cannot run without nurturing, training and regular input.
  1. It takes more than the staff on the train to make it go. The engineer, conductor, brakeman and dining car staff are not the only individuals involved in making the train run. There are station managers, baggage handlers, track maintenance staff, ticket sellers, bulk freight loaders and others. The staff running the train is dependent on other individuals to help them complete their tasks. They must develop positive relationships and build credibility with important players in other parts of the railroad system.
  1. Nobody wins when there is an accident. If you have ever seen pictures of a train hitting a car or truck, you know even though the train may still be standing, nobody wins. Team members must be prepared to have disagreements, confront conflict and feel comfortable enough to resolve issues as they arise. Failure to resolve issues and compromise on challenges as they arise is a surefire way to create an accident further down the track.
  1. Celebrate when you arrive at your destination. Whenever a train arrives at its destination, there are always people waiting for the passengers. It is fun to watch people greet each other. Usually, there is much excitement and happiness. Effective teams take the time to celebrate the completion of their goals. They pause to recognize individual as well as team accomplishments before moving on to the next task.
  2. The tracks don’t end at your destination. A team extends its vision beyond the current task. An effective team knows it has an obligation to future passengers to provide a safe, well-maintained and clean train. Members realize their attention is not just on the tasks immediately at hand but also on the future success of the total railroad.

Although the railroad may not be as popular as it once was for rapid mass transit and the transportation of goods and products, it still provides us with a clear picture of how important teams are in the workplace.

About the Author

Eileen O. Brownell is president of Training Solutions, a firm based in Chico, Calif. For over 25 years, Eileen has been noted as a ‘high-energy’ speaker and trainer who captivates her audiences and makes learning a lasting experience. Her expertise is in the areas of customer service, conflict resolution, communication and team development. She is licensed to use the Carlson Learning Products that enhance the learning process. Cable television stations have shown Eileen’s educational programs. She can be found in Who’s Who in California, American Women, Professional Speaking and Outstanding Young American Women. “We cannot choose the challenges that confront us. Nevertheless, we can pick our attitude and how we react,” is her philosophy.

Copyright© 2015, Eileen O. Brownell. All rights reserved. For information, contact FrogPond at [email protected].

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Your Team Is Your Most Important Asset

Posted on 16 September 2014 by cradmin

by Ellen O. Brownell

“You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world … but it requires people to make the dream a reality.”

–Walt Disney

A friend recently required a half-million-dollar liability insurance policy before he could execute a contract for an important kitchen renovation job, and time was of the essence. Based on a recommendation, I contacted Joni Ginno of State Farm, and she instantly moved into overdrive.

Within an hour, she had located a policy that would fulfill his specific needs. Within what seemed like only moments, her staff had completed all the necessary paperwork and by days end, he had verification of the required coverage. Impressive? Yes! The staff was friendly, eager to respond to questions and genuinely concerned with his needs and issues. It was also apparent they worked well as a unified team. After the dust cleared, he had a long talk with Ginno over the phone about how she had developed her business and staff in order to provide such exceptional service.

Through the years, Ginno found that in order to succeed, she would need to create a positive team and customer service approach to business. She realized early that the quality of her organization’s customer service must match exactly her vision for the business. Ginno would only succeed at accomplishing her business vision and mission if all of her staff members were in the loop and working well together. To accomplish that, her staff became her number one priority.

When she discussed the various steps and techniques she used to develop her cohesive team, she shared the following:

Create an action plan together. Every business must have a mission, a vision for the future and an action plan to make it happen. It is important that everyone be involved in the development process. People want to know their opinion matters. When staff is involved in the decision making process, they buy-in to making it happen.

Modify your plan regularly. Action plans will not do a business any good unless they are constantly reviewed and updated. What may be applicable today, very well could be outdated six months from now. Be willing to make your action plan an ever-changing working draft that is reviewed by everyone each week.

Create a positive work environment. Let the staff provide input and make choices that directly affect them. It can be as simple as letting them select the radio station or music you listen to. Request their input when selecting office furniture, equipment for a job or a software system. They will probably be using it more often than you will, and it is important they feel comfortable in the environment they spend more waking time in than their home. Creativity and positive customer focus are all by products of a positive work environment.

Hold staff meetings off-site. Take a break. Meet for breakfast at a local coffee house. Go out to lunch together. Don’t allow staff meetings to become mundane. New surroundings stimulate creativity and out of the box thinking.

Communicate regularly. More often than not, organizations fail to complete their vision because communication between the owner or administration and the frontline staff is poor. As issues or items come up, address them. Don’t wait for staff meetings. Keep your door open and always be ready to listen.

Remind the staff how important they are and express your appreciation. A verbal pat on the back is always welcome and much appreciated. Reinforce your appreciation with a few extras now and then, such as pocket flashlights, donuts or pizza for lunch.

Create mutual trust and respect. If you expect the staff to have respect for your customers, then you must provide an environment that will help them develop this skill. Respect is created and developed when you are supportive, honest and accountable for your actions, decisions and mistakes.

Provide incentives. Establish monthly goals as a team. If team members complete and accomplish their goals, then give them something special. It can be a gift certificate, a round of golf or concert tickets. Make it something they want so they become excited about completing their monthly goals.

Support their professional growth and development. Staff development is just as important for the frontline as it is for management. An investment in your staff’s professional growth is an investment in your organization. Establish training needs with the staff on a regular basis. Make completion of training programs an important part of their annual evaluation.

Honor individual strengths. One staff member may be particularly skilled at dealing with irate customers while another has exceptional telephone skills or skills performing a difficult fabrication task. Realize that each employee has special natural abilities and strengths they bring to the job. Capitalize on those strengths by shifting leadership for projects or to handle specific client needs.

Solve problems together. For the most part, people want to be challenged. Employees want to be part of the solution process. By involving staff in the problem-solving process, you indicate you trust their judgment and respect their opinion.

Develop shared accountability. High-performance teams establish high standards and goals and hold themselves accountable. People are willing to set those standards if they feel everyone is working together and toward the same vision in a supportive environment. People are more willing to help each other when goals are shared and the environment is supportive.

Ask questions often. As a manager or business owner, it should be your objective to constantly ask questions in order to improve the working conditions and the chances of your team to accomplish your vision.  Some of the questions you need to ask include the following:

  • What can I do to make your work life better?
  • What if…?
  • Have we considered…?
  • What are your suggestions regarding…?
  • How can we change to better serve the customer?

Set an example. A team is only as good as its leader. An owner, executive or manager must constantly set the example of how business is to be conducted. How you treat your staff is how the staff will treat the customer. Be positive, upbeat and care about your staff. After all, they are your most valuable assets.

Have fun every day. People want to work in an environment that is not only challenging but fun as well. Add humor to situations when it is appropriate. Encourage the circulation of comic strips that emphasize a point. Be willing to laugh at yourself. It indicates to the staff you also make mistakes and establishes an environment that encourages staff to risk without fear.

Often, businesses and organizations fail to develop and invest in their most important asset, their employees. If you hire well and spend time developing your staff and creating an environment that encourages creativity, risk taking, trust and respect, then your customers will ultimately benefit. Your employees are your most valuable assets. Remember to respond to their needs just like you would a client in order to develop a climate that resonates with customer care.


About the Author

Eileen O. Brownell is president of Training Solutions, a Chico, Calif.-based firm. For more than 25 years, Brownell continues to be noted as the ‘high-energy’ speaker and trainer who captivates her audiences and makes learning a lasting experience. Her expertise is in the areas of customer service, conflict resolution, communication and team development. She is licensed to use the Carlson Learning Products that enhance the learning process. Cable television stations have shown Brownell’s educational programs. She can be found in Who’s Who in California, American Women, Professional Speaking and Outstanding Young American Women. “We cannot choose the challenges that confront us. Nevertheless, we can pick our attitude and how we react,” is her philosophy.

Copyright© 2002, Eileen O. Brownell. All right reserved. For information, contact FrogPond at email [email protected]

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Effective Leadership and Teamwork

Posted on 20 March 2014 by CRadmin2

When you are at your countertop business, do you get frustrated because things don’t seem to be happening the way they’re supposed to be? Maybe you see people milling around, but nothing getting accomplished. In the daily hustle and bustle, do you feel that your goals as as business owner or manager remain just that – goals? Then maybe it’s time to do something about it.

Two of the best ways to control your business is through effective leadership and teamwork. Most people are content to stand around listening to orders, and it isn’t unusual to adopt a follow-the-leader mentality. When you feel the desire to make things happen – to be the head, not the tail – leadership must be asserted, but as a matter of hierarchy and stability in teamwork.

Some people believe that great leaders are just born that way. It may be true that some people are born with a natural talent for leadership, but without practice, drive, enthusiasm and experience, there can be no true development. Good leaders are continually working and studying to improve their natural skills, and this takes a commitment to constantly improve your business.

To be a leader, one must be able to influence others to accomplish a goal or an objective. However, a leader contributes to the organization and the cohesion of the group through teamwork. Contrary to what most people who are not leaders believe, leadership is not about power. Nor is it about harassing people or intimidating them. It is about encouraging them towards the goal of the organization. It is putting everyone on the same page and helping them see the big picture of the organization.

People follow others when they see a clear sense of purpose. People will only follow you if they see that you know where you are going. Remember the bumper sticker that says, “Don’t follow me, I’m lost too?” The same holds true for leadership. If you don’t know where you’re headed, chances are that people won’t follow you. You must know the vision of your organization. Having a clear sense of hierarchy, knowing who the key staff are, who to talk to, your business’s goals and objectives and how the organization works is the only way to show others that you know what you’re doing.

Being a leader is about who you are, what you know and what you do. You are a reflection of what your subordinates must be. Studies have shown that one of the hallmarks of good leadership is the trust and confidence of your employees and subordinates. If they trust you, they will go through hell and high water for you and for the company.

Trust and confidence is built on good relationships and high ethics. The way you deal with your people and the relationships you build with them will lay the foundation for the strength of your group. The stronger your relationship, the stronger their trust and confidence is in your capabilities. Once you have their trust and confidence, it is much easier to communicate the goals and objectives you wish to undertake, and have that endeavor be a successful one.

Communication is a very important key to good leadership. Without this, you cannot be a good leader. The knowledge and technical expertise you have must be clearly imparted to other people. In addition, you cannot be a good leader unless you have good judgment. You must be able to assess situations, weigh the pros and cons of any decision and actively seek out a solution. It is this judgment that your staff will come to rely upon. Therefore, good decision-making is vital to the success of the business.

Leaders are not always do-it-all heroes. Effective leaders do not claim to know everything, and you should not rely upon your skills alone. You should recognize and take advantage of the skills and talents your staff has. Only when you come to this realization will you be able to work as one cohesive unit.

Being a leader takes a great deal of work and time. It is not skill most people learn overnight. It takes practice, the application of experience and wisdom and good business sense. In addition, leadership is not about just you. It is about you and the people around you.


Article Source: Articleology.com

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