Noël found herself mentally fatigued, burned out, and disengaged from her work. How did she end up here when she felt so energized by this new role just a short while ago? Even before the Pandemic, Noël started feeling discouraged and isolated from her colleagues. …
When Peter Drucker said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” he was, in essence, advocating a cure for mediocrity through better metrics. Unfortunately, he didn’t specify what should be measured. Devan was excited about her promotion from leading a single team in …
In my work with teams, I found that most people describe themselves as “almost always” or “always” inclusive. Yet, too often, I’ve seen those same people demonstrate subtle acts of exclusion and discriminatory mindsets that keep their co-workers off the dance floor. A few years …
Why we do what we do is one of the most interesting, and at times perplexing, questions for behavioral scientists, leaders, parents, and anyone else that deals with the mysteries of motivation. To start to understand motivation, we can visualize it as a continuum with motivations that are part of our nature (intrinsic motivators) on one end, and those that originate outside of ourselves (extrinsic motivators) at the other end. Along the continuum are varying degrees to which an external source of motivation, for example an idea, becomes more internalized as we begin to think of it as our own.
How do you continuously improve your sales team’s performance? The traditional answer was to put in place a tough, heroic sales leader who embraced an aggressive sales culture, high-pressure pay-for-performance, intensive training, and constant culling of weak performers – practices that emerged after WWII and were refined in the 1980’s corporate world. In today’s sales environment, those approaches can seem about as useful as the abdominizers and Walkman’s you might find at a garage sale. Sales leaders today face challenges far different from the 1980’s and early 1990’s.
The idea of a ‘purpose-led’ or ‘purpose-driven’ organization is on an upward trajectory, reminiscent of strengths-based leadership, employee engagement, and growth mindset and the idea of connecting organizational purpose to performance and profit is gaining traction. Like many of the ideas before it, there is considerable research that demonstrates the importance of a clear, compelling organizational purpose. The question for leaders is: how do you identify the actions that can move an idea like being ‘purpose-led’ from the next management fad to daily reality?
When Peter Drucker said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” he was advocating that organizations could improve their performance through better metrics. I would argue that Drucker got it right, but that he should have added “and what you measure matters the most.” Many teams fail to measure the most critical predictors of their effectiveness over time – the health of the relationships between team members and across teams. Unlike ‘rear-view mirror’ KPI’s such as unit sales or milestones achieved, or forward-looking indicators such as sales funnel size and shape, understanding the health and direction of key relationships predicts longer-term team effectiveness – it’s like having radar for your team.
Over the past twenty-plus years, I’ve had many conversations with team leaders in which I suggested they reach out to their team and peers for critical feedback – and every time the team leader cringes at the idea. Many of those team leaders choose to remain in the dark – not only failing to seek out critical feedback, but actively discouraging it. So why, even when they have ample evidence that shows its benefits, do leaders choose to avoid feedback?
Developed and used properly, employee surveys can provide a powerful tool for both predicting behaviors and creating rich, transformational coaching conversations. Unfortunately, most surveys fall short of providing the feedback that is most needed for modern team success.
If you’ve ever played the game of golf you quickly realized that there are countless ways to hit the ball wrong, and far fewer ways to achieve a consistently good result. Coaching conversations are much the same. There are many ways to create conversations that produce results that range from awkward to disastrous, while finding a consistently effective approach can be a challenge. The common question asked by many golfers and team leaders is: how do I improve my game?
The challenge for many organizations is that, unlike their prolific use of sophisticated customer relationship management (CRM) tools and data analysis to support customer interactions, the use of technology to support team effectiveness has not kept up with the need for better team performance. Team Relationship Management (TRM) is an approach to improving the effectiveness of an organization’s teams and the wellbeing of the people on those teams. It uses feedback and data analysis about key relationships: between team members and their team leader; among team mates; and with related, interdependent teams to understand and influence critical team processes and behaviors (Hurley, 2017).
Feedback: The Breakfast of Champions | While big data and predictive analytics are gaining popularity, in most organizations the employee survey remains HR’s favorite feedback tool. People from organizations that consistently sit at the top of the “most recommended places to work” – Google, Amazon, IDEO, Deloitte, and Facebook – have a very different narrative. For these organizations, feedback plays a leading role in developing and sustaining the cultures, norms, and values that drive team performance and employee well-being.
For team leaders, adopting a team development model, and developing a point of view on team leadership excellence, is the key to avoiding the creation of reality distortions or blaming external conditions that lead to accepting mediocrity. With a robust team development model and checklist, a leader has the external benchmarks for objectively comparing his or her team’s performance across the important fundamentals that make up the foundation of a highly-effective team.
There is an opportunity for organizations to turn team coaching at all levels into a more structured developmental process that inspires improvement and enhances individual and team effectiveness. This starts with helping team leaders develop a coaching strategy that is simple enough for overloaded managers to implement, yet powerful enough to make a real difference to their team’s performance and well-being. The challenge is ensuring that the good intentions associated with internal team coaching don’t result in the negative relationship experiences often reported by team members.
In his March 2018 HBR article, “To Reduce Burnout on Your Team, Give People a Sense of Control”, the author, Andrew Wittman, observes that team dynamics play a key role in workplace stress. The rush to an easy solution often results in an appealing, but overly simplistic prescription – a common ailment in a business world looking for quick fixes.
Complex global business environments, and the need for agility in both decision making and execution, is driving organizations towards ever greater collaboration and teamwork as the means of resolving challenges and creating competitive advantage. Most leaders agree that one key component in ensuring effective team functioning is the content and quality of communications to, and among, team members.
Many teams struggle with a fundamental conundrum: how do you get disciplined execution along with innovative, creative solutions? It often seems that any efforts to improve one-dimension causes losses on the other one. Disciplined execution stymies innovation; by its very nature, innovation and creativity are undisciplined. Agile development practices provide a way for cross-disciplinary teams to deliver new products incrementally and iteratively.
Many factors influence performance and well-being at work, including: professional and personal goals, job design and flexibility, skills and competencies, and perceptions of the fairness and trust across key relationships. For many organisations and teams, the simultaneous pursuit of performance and well-being can feel like chasing conflicting goals. And research supports this conclusion, showing that greater well-being affects individual and team performance through employee attitudes, motivation, and behavior. The challenge for organizational and team leaders is knowing how to maximize both well-being and performance.
For organizations in search of talent, people born between 1977 and 1994 matter because a) there are a lot of them; and b) by 2020, their generation will make up 50% of the global workforce. This generation’s career aspirations, attitudes about work, and comfort with technology will define the work culture of the 21st century.
Research on traditional, co-located teams has shown the positive impact that personality can have on team performance. However, it is not just the “power of personality” that determines team success, but the “mix of personalities” that foster (or hinder) an effective team.
The nature of team work has rapidly evolved over the last 25 years. The decline of organizational hierarchy, and the rise of global, cross-cultural work, have multiplied the challenges of building and leading teams. Conventional wisdom often prescribed hard work and long hours as the answer to improving team productivity and performance. Many of today’s team leaders who follow that formula quickly discover that long hours and tremendous effort isn’t the answer.
At the start of the new year, people who acknowledge the reality of their waistlines often start their list of New Year’s resolutions with a goal to exercise more. Similarly, many organizational leaders who acknowledge that the people in their organization are not as engaged as they would like, place increasing employee engagement at the top of their resolution list. Most of those disengaged people are not the worst performers, they simply lack energy, purpose, or passion. They put in their time, but not their best effort nor their best ideas. The challenge for organizational leaders is that, while they recognize the benefits of their resolution, they don’t always know how to foster the behaviors that change intentions to change into consistent habits that lead to increased energy and engagement.
The reshaping of organizations that began at the turn of the century continued this year at an accelerated pace. Digital technologies, the emergence of new global competition, and the expectations of the next generation of workers are but a few of the driving forces. How organizations respond and reshape themselves will determine whether they are on a trajectory to achieve greatness, or are relegated to mediocrity. For many companies, it is their teams and team leaders that sit at the epicenter of this dynamic landscape. They will, to a large extent, determine where their organizations land in the distribution from mediocre to great. A key challenge leaders face is understanding where to focus their change efforts.
“I recently conducted a workshop on building highly-effective teams with a group of service leaders and their team members. During a coffee break, one of the leaders and I were chatting about the challenges of team building, and he asked me a great question, “”How do I make sure that I’m hiring the right people for my team?””
It seems like that question should have a straightforward answer. In reality, most recruiting, interviewing, and hiring processes are focused on the individual, and are not designed for today’s flatter organizations that are highly dependent upon teams for their success. So how do you get the right people to fill the seats on your team bus?”
Building healthy relationships requires understanding expectations, striving to meet them, and developing the habit of consistently closing the inevitable gaps. Contrary to the attitude that “it’s just work”, decades of research (and common sense) show us that developing strong, trusting relationships leads to greater happiness at work. Moreover, that happiness matters not only in terms of team effectiveness and individual well-being, but it also impacts people’s families, friends, and broader communities.