The Voice for Insightful Leadership with Shelley Row, P.E.

Posts tagged "teamwork"

 

Teresa wanted to see the big picture strategy before discussing specifics. Tom wanted general ideas with time to think before deciding. Paul wanted to give orders that were followed to the “T”.

To be successful, each of these bosses blog 100919required a unique approach. The approach that worked for one wouldn’t stand a chance with another. You can save time and frustration by giving serious consideration to the approach, topics and personal agendas of your boss. Here are five areas to study about your boss so that you can be more effective in your job. Let’s face it, a happy boss makes for happier days at work!

Communication style. Save yourself time and headaches by studying your boss’s communication style in advance and adapting your approach.

Their communication styles couldn’t have been more different. Teresa expected me to lay out the big picture, have a clear strategy and logical recommendations for next steps. I learned to be thoughtful, prepared and develop my recommended action plan. And it worked…with her. When I changed jobs, I used this same approach with Tom. It was a miserable failure. After a few flops, I learned the hard way, that he was a tactician who looked no farther than the next move and he needed time to think about each step. He needed to come up with the answer – not me. I learned to present general ideas, brainstorm briefly and walk out the door. In a day or two, he’d come back with his own thoughts about the situation and we’d move forward.

What’s your boss’s communication style:

StrategicTactical
Big picture thinkerWants all the details
Visual learnerAuditory learner
Wants the storyWants the data
Gets down to businessChats first
Quick decision-makerNeeds to ponder
Goal-focusedRelationship-focused

Power position. Your boss’s power position will be a motivator in his behavior and decision-making.

Mariana was a hard-charging Gen Xer intent on making a name for herself. She took uncommon risks on projects that, if successful, would garner attention within the organization and industry. John saw a succession of managers get fired from the position he now held. Not wishing to follow their lead, he was super-duper conservative in his decision-making. He kept a low profile, backed no risky projects, and shied away from controversy. He opted to stay in the middle of the road and to not rock the boat (to mix land and sea metaphors).

What’s your boss’s power position?

RetiringAspiring
On the way upOn the way out
Well-connected internallyIsolated internally
Risk tolerantRisk averse
Promoting him/herselfPromoting the organization
Political aspirationsNo political aspirations
Well-connected externallyIsolated externally

Personal interests. Every boss has personal interests or pet projects. These are areas that hold special passion and where they want to make an impact. It’s helpful to know their area of interest and why it’s an area of interest. Their “why” can range from an intellectual interest to a personal passion based on a traumatic event in their life (such as the death of a friend due to drunk driving).

Patti cared about motorcycles in transportation policy and safety. Jose cared about cyclists. In both cases, we always had a project of some sort that included motorcycles and/or cyclists. Felicia wanted to leave a legacy of safety advancements.

What are your boss’s personal interest areas and why?

Intellectual interestPersonal interest
Mild interestAvid interest
Focused on leaving a legacy in this areaNice to make an impact if feasible
Interest area is central to your missionInterest area is tangential to the mission
Easy to accommodate their interestIt’s a stretch to accommodate their interest

Personalities and background. Your boss’s background can provide clues to working effectively with her.

Mike was a southerner who came from a military background. Consequently, he was the epitome of a southern gentleman who valued respect, protocol and manners. Always soft-spoken and polite, he expected a calm, courteous exchange with gracious acceptance of his final decision. Yvonne was young and proud of her accomplishments. She was successful because she was well-connected. She knew everyone who mattered. In briefings, she wanted to know who would “win” and who would “lose” because of her decision. She needed to understand the political connections within and outside the organization.

What do you know about your boss’s personal history and career background? What experiences will have colored her perspective and how?

Rural upbringingUrban upbringing
Raised in the United StatesRaised outside the United States
Large familyOnly child
Prestigious educational backgroundOther educational background
Work experience in the private sectorWork experience in the public sector
Work experience in associationsWork experience in academia
Extensive leadership experienceLimited leadership experience

Their Headaches and frustrations. What keeps your boss up at night? What are her daily headaches? What phone call does he dread and who is it from?

Bill was the executive director of a professional association. Effective and efficient, his day went downhill when his Board Chair called to discuss “an issue.” To support him, we had to consider the Board’s reception to each topic in advance so that Bill didn’t get “the call.”

Joanne just wanted to stay under the radar – nothing controversial, nothing high profile – just let her do her work quietly without fanfare. She dreaded a call from anyone “up the chain.” She cringed when she was asked a tough question in a senior staff meeting. The trick to working with Joanne was to ensure that all potentially sticky issues were resolved before she engaged. We went forward only with projects where the wrinkles had been ironed out in advance.

John wanted it his way and he didn’t like anyone who got in his way. He didn’t want someone telling him that he couldn’t move forward as planned. He didn’t want to hear about roadblocks or setbacks. Our job was to demolish the roadblocks and find ways to achieve his goals no matter what.

How dialed in are you to your boss’s worries and concerns?

Issues with problematic staffIssues with a tough boss
Problems with internal stakeholdersProblems with external stakeholders
Financial concernsProcess concerns
Lacks trust from othersFeels like an outsider
Struggling to change the cultureStruggling to fit into the culture
Customer complaintsStaff complaints
Dropping salesStaff attrition
Technology disruptionManaging change

Assess your boss using these five areas. See if you can walk away with a deeper understanding of what makes her tick. Now, use that information to adapt your briefing style, the way you approach them for decisions, and the type of interaction you have with them. The more you can work from their perspective, the more effective you are likely to be and with the least amount of stress and frustration. Try it and let me know how it goes!

You’ve been there: a dull presentation; a pointless meeting; a boring training program. And, maybe you’ve given a tedious presentation, presided over an unenthusiastic meeting or provided training when no one seemed engaged.  It doesn’t have to be that way and the fix is surprisingly easy. Here are four steps to creating engagement and retention in your audience.

  1. Purpose. In my experience, far too little time is spent clarifying purpose. For a meeting, what is the one action you want from the meeting or the participants?  For a presentation, what difference have you made for the audience one week or one month later?  For training, what difference have you made for the audience one year later? Maybe they leave with their perspective shifted in a meaningful way, or they behave differently, or they conduct their work in a new way. Whatever it is, the key to successful engagement is clarity on the outcome.
  2. Knowledge. Once you’re clear on the purpose, what knowledge does the participant need to achieve the purpose? They may require specific education, awareness of key facts or development of core skills. Identify the essential elements of learning they need to achieve the purpose.
  3. Application. Here’s the one big difference between what you did in the past and this new approach. For each element of knowledge from step 2, how can you help the participants (whether in a meeting, presentation or training) apply it in their work world? What questions can you ask to pique their interest? What discussion can you engage in that will cause them to think about application? When you present or run a meeting, it’s easy to think that you are the key person; however, the action is in the heads of the participants.  Your job is to get them to think. Learning happens in their heads when they apply the new idea to their world. Retention comes from application.
  4. Reflection. It seems counterintuitive but an excellent way to increase engagement and retention is to provide a few minutes of quiet time at the end of the presentation, meeting or training. Don’t misunderstand. This is not nap time or time to check emails. This is intentional time for the participant to think about their new understanding. Questions may include: What does this new knowledge mean to your work? What will you do differently? What new realization do you have about yourself or your world view? These questions make your content personal to them. When it’s personal to them, they care, and they remember.

The next time you have an important meeting, presentation or training, try these steps.  It is guaranteed to create engagement and retention because they do the thinking and that means they remember.

You drive along admiring the fall colors when suddenly the check engine light comes on in your car. What does that mean? For most of us, the check engine light indicates that something is wrong inside the car. We best find out what it is.

You have an internal check engine light. It’s the nagging feeling you get when something isn’t sitting right. Do you diagnose your nagging feeling just as you diagnose your car?

You tape over it. At a recent keynote address, I asked the audience what they do when their car’s check engine light comes on.  A woman on the front row said, “I tape over it!”  When your check engine light comes on, do you tape over it, ignore or discount it? As with your car, ignoring it is unlikely to be a sound solution. The source of the nagging feeling is still there.

Much in our culture reinforces the misguided notion that feelings lack validity or are not worthy of notice. We may be embarrassed by them or simply not have the skill to notice. The nagging feeling typically arises because the situation is incongruent with your brain’s expectation. Maybe the situation (or person) flies in the face of your value system. That always sets off the check engine light. Maybe the person has a communication or work style approach that radically differs from yours and it feels uncomfortable.  Maybe your experience leads you to see the situation differently from your colleagues.

Incongruence increases stress, causes you to over-react, make a poor decision or create an upset with a colleague.  You can prevent those unhealthy outcomes if, like in your car, you notice it.

Notice the check engine light. You notice the light in your car and you know that you need to do something … soon. Unfortunately, many of us power through the day without attending to the emotion that bubbles under the surface. We shove it aside.

It’s time that we relearn how to notice the nagging feeling in the gut. The feeling brings information and wisdom to your situation. The best way to notice the feeling is to practice naming it. “I feel annoyed by that discussion.” “My boss frustrates me!” “Something doesn’t feel right about this decision.”

Give voice to the gut feeling. It’s like acknowledging the check engine light and the need to attend to your car. You need to attend to your inner wisdom.

Understand the problem. The best action is to dive under the hood of the car (for real or with a mechanic) to find the source of the alert. Maybe it’s an indication of a big problem or maybe it’s an easy fix. It’s the same for you. The wisest of us notices the check engine light and dives under the hood to understand the nagging feeling.

What is incongruent for you? Does their behavior fly in the face of your values? Does the decision you face challenge your assumptions? Does the person conduct their work differently from you? These are examples of incongruence in the brain. Your experience doesn’t square up with your expectations. When that happens, the check engine light goes off. It’s your job to understand why and decide if the reason is valid.

Your car may break down if you ignore the check engine light. Your health, life and leadership depend on noticing and resolving the nagging feeling inside. What’s your check engine light telling you?

Photo: Bwylezich

 

WhiskeyScotland is known for fine woolens, shortbread, the heather-covered moors and single malt Scottish whisky.  I’m not a single malt whisky drinker but as a visitor to Scotland for ten days, I decided to try two per day. Here’s what I discovered about tasting my way through Scotland and why it’s relevant to your team.

  • Each whisky is the result of its environment. I tasted whisky from the islands (Skye, Jura, etc.), from the Highlands and from Speyside regions.  The flavors were as different as the topography and environment. For example, ingredients for whisky from Skye are heated with peat which gives the distinctive smoky flavor like drinking a camp fire.  The severe cold in the Highlands impacts the flavor intensity. Additionally, the flavor varied by age from the 10, 15, and 25-year-old varieties. And so it is with your team. Each team member is a product of his/her environment –strengths, skills, and stressors are colored and formed from individual history, experience and environment. How aware are you of team members’ background and experiences? Are you accounting for that natural behavior when pairing skills with tasks – just as one would choose whisky appropriate for the meal.

 

  • Small dilutions made a big difference. It was quickly evident that some whisky was smooth and soft to drink; others were like drinking a razorblade. Staff at the Dalwhinnie distillery explained that a single drop of water could make an otherwise edgy whisky into a smooth-drinking dram. A single drop of water? Sure enough…one or two drops swirled into the glass changed the nature of the whisky and calmed the edginess. It’s not so different with your team. Each of us brings our own uniqueness in the form of skills and behaviors. Those skills and behaviors bring their own type of edginess. Good teaming requires that each person recognize when their behavior gets in the way. We can develop the skill to dilute our behavior just a tad and make a big difference in teaming abilities. For example, someone with a strong personality who learns to rein in their outspoken approach just a wee bit becomes a more welcome team member.  A person inclined to extensive collaboration who delays decisions can benefit from diluting that behavior so that he/she pushes themselves to a decision sooner.

The next time you work with your team, pause a moment to consider Scottish whisky.  How are your team members unique?  Are you able to appreciate them by understanding the environment that has shaped them? How can you coach them so that they learn to dilute pronounced behavior a drop? Even the smallest change can make a big impact for your team.

For me, the interesting part of tasting Scottish whisky was appreciating the differences. It’s the same for your team.  Appreciate the differences and use them for a stronger team.

 

Photo Copyright: karandaev / 123RF Stock Photo

airplane

It started like any other flight. The memorized announcements, beverage service, and a few peanuts. With my head buried in my laptop, I became aware of a commotion two rows in front of me. A woman asked for help for her husband. The announcement over the speaker system was for doctors or nurses on board. Across the aisle from the husband needing help was a retired paramedic wearing an Orlando firefighter tee shirt. He was also an instructor for paramedics.

The problem unfolded quickly.  The man had a heart attack. Soon, he was lying in the aisle of the plane surrounded by a team: two doctors, two nurses and the paramedic who was organizing the work flow. For a half hour, they worked like a well-oiled team to save this man’s life, but they weren’t a well-oiled team. They didn’t even know each other’s’ names.  What caused them to function as a team so quickly and how can you use it?

 

Call to action. Any team needs a call to action. In this case, the call was clear and quick. A life needed saving. While your team may not be dealing with life and death situations, their call to action should be compelling enough to inspire interest and action.  If not, why bother?

Trust. This ad hoc team had no time for forming, storming and norming. They only had a one-word description of their credentials: nurse, doctor, paramedic. And that’s all they needed. They trusted each other’s skills. Yes, this was an emergency. Without creating an emergency, how do you create an atmosphere of trust?  Any good team must trust the others to uphold their role and be good at what they do.

Persistence. Rarely does anything go as planned. A good team continues their mission in spite of the challenges.  Teamwork is like water flowing around a rock in the middle of the stream. The effort flows around the challenge and keeps going.  Similarly, this team worked for 30 minutes to revive the man lying in the aisle. They never gave up and were administering an injection up until the moment we touched down in Las Vegas. They were committed to a positive outcome. Is your team just as committed?

Humility. Teams gel around the leader. In our case, the retired paramedic expertly called out instructions to coordinate the team. The doctor knelt next to my chair rummaging through the medical kit for anything they could use: syringes, tape, medication. The doctor and he worked hand-in-hand until the other paramedics met the plane at the gate. And then there was humility.  As the sick man was taken off the plane, the paramedic knelt in the aisle and crossed himself.  Then he crawled along the floor to pick up the debris and any sharp objects that may have been left behind. He literally crawled along the floor to do what needed to be done. Are you, as the leader this humble? Will you do – do you do – anything necessary to make the mission successful?

Appreciation. Once the heart attack patient was transported away, the plane erupted into applause. We had our very own heroes. As we clapped our appreciation, they didn’t seem to hear it.  They did what needed to be done.  Still, I believe they heard the gratitude. Are you expressing your appreciation for a job well done – even when it’s the job that needs to be done? Gratitude matters. Say thank you; applaud; dance a jig. Do whatever is needed to be appreciative.

I wish I could say that the heart attack victim survived but I fear that he didn’t. I suspect that we saw a life transition to the next one in the aisle of that plane. Personally, I’ve seen enough death over the last few months to last quite a while.  But this time, I had the privilege of observing a high-performing team in action. I’m grateful for their service and I’m grateful for the example they set for the rest of us.

paulprescott72 / 123RF Stock Photo

truck

It was hot…really, hot. In front of us was a large SUV with the back open, waiting expectantly.  Behind us were boxes, a chair (really, a chaise lounge), a table and an assortment of odds and ends anticipating the ride from Texas to Annapolis inside the SUV. Our challenge was to get all of it inside the truck so that the items would not shift and we would still be friends when it was all said and done.

It went smoothly and efficiently. Together we found a way to fit in all the stuff, and we were both amazed at how well our collaboration went. Here’s what I learned.

Discuss the objective in advance. Without realizing its importance, we stood in the garage next to the pile of stuff and talked about our objective. We clarified the key items to pack in case we ran out of space and any items that needed to be retrieved on the way. Only when we were clear were the first items shoved into the truck.

It’s that way with any collaborative project.  Clear understanding of the objective is essential. Yet, too often we zip past that step because we assume that everyone understands. We might as well believe in mindreading. But the others on the project don’t understand and can’t read minds. Clear communication is one of the most difficult parts of any collaborative effort. Take the time to discuss the project’s objectives and keep discussing them until everyone is clear. It will make the rest of the work go more smoothly.

Use and respect each other’s skills. As the packing proceeded, it became clear that the original plan wouldn’t work. The chair didn’t fit in the slot we’d left. We’d need another approach. He has years of experience with logistics around trucks, boats, road trips and business. I see items as volumes. Together we had the skills we needed if we could capitalize on them. It’s all about mutual respect and trust. I trusted his experience and he respected mine. It was our ability to use the diversity of skills that made the difference.

What skills are on your team?  Do you know?  Take the time to learn the skill sets of those with whom you collaborate. And, then, use them. Too often we don’t think of skills like organization, brainstorming, listening as skills but they are.  For example, who is the innovator in your group and are you using that skill?  Who is that logical person who can dissect a problem with no effort? Who is the person on the team that everyone wants to work with? Put all of the skills to work and that’s when collaboration is at its best.

Take advantage of common values. If you know that the team shares a common value system, take advantage of it.  In our case, we quickly realized that we both share a passion for efficiency (I know. It’s lame but it worked!).  That became our mantra.  If we load the truck this way, it will be more efficient to unload.  If we leave this space for luggage, it will be more efficient to get out the items we need while traveling. Without realizing it, we capitalized on a common value system and it aided in collaboration.

Are there team norms that provide a platform for collaboration?  Maybe your group also cares about efficiency.  Maybe having fun along the way is critical.  Perhaps mutual support makes people on the team feel good.  Whatever it is for you and your group, take advantage of it as you manage the project.  Reinforce efficiencies; plan for fun moments; ensure there are plenty of pats on the back as the project unfolds.  Whatever your common value system, find it and use it to enhance collaboration.

Discuss midcourse corrections along the way. The chair simply would not fit.  We turned it backward, frontwards, upside down and sideways. Ultimately, boxes had to be rearranged to make room. As our packing project unfolded, we would not have been successful without lots of discussion and willingness to try alternative approaches.  Throughout the trial and error phase, we talked and debated options. That dialog is what made the project work and achieve its objective.

How about your project? Sometimes we hold too tightly to our original plan and can’t see or discuss better options that emerge along the way. Yes, we need a plan and we must prepare to listen to others and adjust the plan.  Throughout your project, are you constantly evaluating direction and progress? Are you open to hearing new approaches even when underway?  Collaboration is a continual process that doesn’t stop when the plan is created.

The truck was packed and it arrived safely in Maryland. Our collaboration achieved the objective. What about yours?  Try these tips with your next project. Hopefully, it will be easier than packing a truck!

 

Copyright: anskuw / 123RF Stock Photo