Monthly Archives: May 2012

Setting the Tone

As managers we often have to help our teams deal with problems, obstacles and challenges.  How we go about doing that will set the tone for how the team deals with these things individually.  We can help create positivity by addressing these in a positive way or we can engender negativity.

To keep the team in a positive place, focus on the opportunities present even in the difficult situations.  Here are some quick tips for you:

  1. Avoid negativity.  Focus on solutions to move forward instead of the problems.  You must be the one who always looks to the positive and not the negative aspects of the situation.
  2. No wallowing.  Ban these words from your vocabulary – “woulda, coulda, shoulda” as they keep you wallowing in the negatives instead of looking for the positives.
  3. Manage the anger.  Looking back in anger and frustration keeps you stuck in the past in lieu of moving forward.  If you must vent do it outside of the workplace.
  4. Be excited.  Communicate the positive possibilities of the future to build excitement.  If you are excited about the future it will be contagious.
  5. Take the next step.  You must get out front and take the next step towards the future possibilities.  Show the team you are willing to move onward and upward.  They will follow if you lead the way.
  6. Be fearless.  Change is difficult and overcoming all the difficulties can be downright frightening.  This is the time to understand the risks and take action even in uncertain times.  Being willing to take calculated risks even when you may be wrong will help your team learn to take calculated chances as well.

It’s important to create momentum for your team and one part of that is to set the tone that inspires your team to move forward.  Being positive and showing your willingness to embrace the opportunities that are found even in the most difficult times will empower your team as well.

What have you done to help set a positive tone for your team?

photo from iStockPhoto.com

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under Leadership, Team Building

Nominated for One Lovely Blog Award!

I have to thank Thea at http://organizedlivingessentials.com/ for nominating me for this award.  I appreciate the recognition from someone whose blog I find so enlightening.  I’m new to this blogging world and am humbled by the recognition.  The rules of the award are:

  1. Reveal 7 things about yourself
  2. Identify blogs that have captured your interest

So here are seven things about me:

  1. Career – my career has been eclectic at best.  I started my professional life as a chemical engineer, went into purchasing, then switched into training and development, spent a couple of years in quality assurance and now am working as a consultant back in training and knowledge management.
  2. Accomplishment – one of the things I am most proud of is that my oldest son is graduating high school this year with honors.  This is after a rocky start to high school.  I am so glad he was able to learn how to focus his abilities to reach this point.
  3. Dream – my dream right now is to be able to retire in the next 10 years and be able to spend more time with my husband traveling the world.
  4. Hobby – I love photography and am looking forward to finding more opportunities to pursue this.  I am exploring how I can share some of my favorite photos with a wider audience (right now just my family).
  5. Secret Skill – unknown to most people I enjoy sewing, particularly items for around the house, such as curtains, pillows, comforters, etc.  Another thing I have not made time for in the last few years as I focused on family.
  6. Regret – I have very few regrets in my life, however I regret that my kids did not have a chance to know my parents since my father died when I was only 18 and my mother joined him when my oldest son was not quite 2.  My boys are amazing young men who would have been the apples of my parents’ eyes and would have enjoyed knowing their grandparents.
  7. Favorite Place – I have been fortunate enough to see 46 of the 50 states and have loved many places and yet I have really fallen for Zion National Park in southwestern Utah.  It is a beautiful, peaceful escape from the busy world.  Sadly I will be moving away from this area so I am looking forward to finding a new favorite escape the chaos called my daily life.

Here is a list of some of my favorite blogs.  I enjoy reading these and they have inspired me as I have started my blogging efforts.

http://organizedlivingessentials.com/,  Thea always has interesting ideas on how to make your life simpler and more organized.

http://theorganizedexecutiveblog.com/.  The posts here always get me thinking about management and leading others.

http://sellleadsucceed.com/  Tim Mushey’s insights into sales and motivation are enlightening for any part of business.

http://spilledcookies.com/.  I have appreciated Cherry’s look at life and the inspirational quotes she posts.

I am truly humbled by this nomination.

3 Comments

Filed under About

Handling Know-it-All’s

How many times have you run into a person who has all the answers?  They can tell you how to do and why their way is the only way to go.  These people can be real challenges when they are required to work in a team environment. 

First they kill the innovation of the people around them.  When they are always sharing what they think and how they would do things others have no reason to speak up.  This limits the number of new ideas that are generated so the team becomes less productive.

Secondly they can kill the morale of the team.  Being part of a team where being part of a team where your ideas are not welcomed causes people to disengage from the organization.  The know-it-all saps all the joy of being a valued team member from those around them which can lead to more clock watching and less innovation.

Lastly, by being vocal about their superior ideas and product they eventually generate enough annoyance that people in the organization see them as a negative factor.  They can become the person others avoid whenever possible.  As this negative impression grows it hurts the reputation of that individual and the team as a whole. 

So what can you do with a person like this?

  1. During team meetings thank them for their contribution and then solicit input and ideas from the rest of the team.  Show that you value their ideas and you value the ideas of those around them.
  2. Respecting the input of the other team members will help keep morale from being dragged down by the know-it-all.  When possible have others be in a lead role on a project so that everyone knows that as a manager you value everyone on the team.
  3. Counsel the know-it-all in a private setting to encourage new behaviors.  Make sure that the counseling is objective and focuses on professional improvement instead of telling them they are wrong.  Telling them what is wrong with their behavior will make them defensive and closed to improvement.  Done properly getting them to focus on how they can be better can help them change.
  4. The next step may be to move them into a role that requires less team involvement and gives them more professional independence.  It will be important to make sure they have regular contact with their manager to ensure behaviors are appropriate for their position.
  5. If they continue to be a drag on the organization, the last available option is termination.  There are times when no other option will work for the overall good of the organization.

So if you are dealing with a know-it-all on your team, reining them in is critical for the effectiveness of the team and organization.  This is a situation that is challenging to any manager, yet when managed well the reputation of the manager and team improves.  Help the person grow professionally as long as the organization does not suffer.

Photo from iStockPhoto.com

6 Comments

Filed under Leadership, Team Building

Creating Independent Thinkers

As a manager your staff becomes trained to act the way you expect them to act.  This is not something that happens just through conscious planning, how you handle each and every encounter creates a pattern of response.  The type of response you give determines whether or not your team becomes independent thinkers or followers. 

To create independent thinkers you must hold your team to a higher standard.  This requires them to learn to identify solutions and act when needed without waiting for instruction.  These are truly empowered employees.  By having a team that can go out and get things done without constant input from you will generate more productivity and if managed well improves quality.  Over the years I have seen managers who do this seemingly naturally, some who fight it every step of the way, ones who are obviously working towards it and others who do it purely accidentally.  My observation has been that who work at this have been promoted more often and their people are identified as high potential candidates.  This type of management style creates a dynamic, growing and innovative organization.  One that will see continued business success.

So how do you create independent thinkers?  Here are several key actions that can help:

  1. As people gain experience allow them to act without reporting to you every step of the way.  New employees need more guidance so provide it, however as they grow loosen the reins.
  2. When someone brings you a problem, ask them for their solutions before you provide one.  As your team learns that you want their opinions they will start to think about how to resolve their own issues.  As this happens the quality of ideas improves and you get fewer questions.
  3. Encourage new ideas and new ways to do the work of the team.  Actively soliciting ideas and implementing as many as will work will get the team invested in building a better organization.  They will then act more independently since they have a stake in it.
  4. Provide opportunities for each person to get outside of their comfort zone by giving them tougher assignments that require new skills or by giving them exposure to other parts of the organization.  People respond to your confidence in them with more self-confidence.
  5. When someone is given the opportunity to move on to another position – let them go gracefully.  People like working for managers who will allow them the chance to grow and progress in their career. 

When your team is full of followers then you have a lot more work to do.  It is on your shoulders to ensure every action is taken at the right time and in the right way.  This is in addition to the things you have to do as the manager, that only the manager can do.  Why create extra work for yourself?  Help your team learn to act independently and to do it wisely and you will have more time to pursue your personal growth.

Photo from iStockPhoto.com

7 Comments

Filed under Leadership

Interesting Articles for May

These are some of the articles that caught my attention over the last couple of weeks.  Hope you enjoy reading them as well. 

  • Mastering Your To Do List A Novel Approach.  Here is a case for having everything on your to-do-list and when to break that rule from The Organized Executive.
  • The Perils of Overplanning.  This is a great look, from Royale Scuderi on Stepcase Lifehack, at how spontaneous things can be more creative than planning creativity.  Finding the balance is the key to true productivity.
  • 6 Passages of Leadership and Management.  I liked how this article looked at the internal and external aspects of leadership and management.  This provides a model to handle yourself and then how to handle others.  From Great Leadership.
  • Strengths, Weaknesses, and Engagement.  In this article Steve Roesler of All Things Workplace looks at the impact of a manager’s focus on the employee.  Are we looking at the positive or the negative and how does that affect the employee.
  • The Second Question.  Dan Rockwell at Leadership Freak provides a great set of steps to help align the team goals with the interests of the team members.
  • How Employers Can Make Us Stop.  A compelling case for why we need to focus on the task at hand instead of multi-tasking.  I found this on Harvard Business Review Blog.
  • Be Opportunistic A Little Bit Every Day.  For those of us who have too much to do and need to help find a way to get it all done.  This post is from Sell, Lead, Succeed!  

How do you find inspiration in your busy day?

1 Comment

Filed under Leadership, Time Management

Nurturing Innovators

Often teams are formed to improve a business process which requires innovation.  So how do you create an environment conducive to new ideas being brought to the table?  Part of the solution is to get good ideas from the team and the other part of it is to nurture innovators. 

As a team leader it is critical for you to be on the lookout for the innovators on your team.  Some people have a natural tendency to look for new solutions; they will challenge the status quo in the quest for improvement.  Here are some things you can do to help keep these team members engaged and innovating:

  • Give them room to work.  Innovators often want to be given a direction and then have the boss get out of their way.  Let them go and see where it takes the team.  Regular checks can make sure resources are being used appropriately, but they need room to move.
  • Remove obstacles.  Often innovators get discouraged because there are so many roadblocks to change.  As the team leader your job is to help clear their path. 
  • Provide resources.  When your innovators have ideas or things to be tested or prototyped, provide them with the resources to prove out their ideas.  These resources have to be done within the limitations of the business, and yet it is critical to allow innovators to demonstrate their ideas.
  • Encourage new thinking.  As a team leader you are responsible for getting ideas from the team and being open to new ways and at times radical thinking is critical to nurturing innovation.

Businesses grow and prosper when they are innovating and finding new ways of doing business.  To keep that growth happening all organizations need innovators, those people who are willing to step up and say “What if?”   Encourage this behavior on your team and you will be nurturing the future of your company.

How do you nurture innovation within your organization?

Photo from iStockPhoto.com.

2 Comments

Filed under Leadership, Team Building

Momentum

Newton’s Cradle

“An object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion.”  – Newton’s 1st Law of Physics.

As a leader it is critical that you create movement towards the future.  It may be towards organizational goals, it may be to drive change in your team, or it may be fueling growth.  Whatever your goals are for your team it takes movement to get there.  If you are struggling to meet the goals then it’s possible that your team has settled into a comfortable rut that is stopping forward progress.  There are many things that can cause this to happen. 

  1. Lack of Direction: People know they need to move forward and yet they are not clear on what directions they should take.
  2. Resistance to Change:  Change is uncomfortable and as humans we like to be comfortable. 
  3. Lack of Resources:  At times it is impossible to perform new tasks because the tools are not available to those who need them.  This can also take the form of insufficient training.

As the leader your job is to get the ball moving.  Once the team starts to make progress towards the goal it’s easier to keep making progress.  Like Newton’s law of physics once the team is in motion it becomes easier to maintain that motion.  The challenge is creating momentum to get things moving. 

  • Give people a clear vision of the future.  Help them see where it is that they are going and help them find the road to take.
  • Make the idea of staying in the current place more uncomfortable than moving to a new situation.  This means creating a sense of urgency for the new action.  Make the new more attractive than the old.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate and then communicate some more.  Keep talking about the reasons to change, what will be the benefit of changing and how the team will get there. 
  • Make sure training and resources are available as you start the process of movement.  Giving people what they need will ease the transition and remove potential obstacles.

Work to build momentum and as you get things moving you will find it easier to keep moving towards the goal.  Keep the team focused on what they need to do and help them keep moving.  Great things will come from as you move forward.

Leave a comment

Filed under Change Management, Leadership, Team Building

Adaptability

So how do you handle that curve ball that comes at you and totally throws your schedule/ plan off track?  What do you do when opportunity knocks and changes the environment around you? 

This past weekend I put a plan together to address all the things I have coming up over the next couple of months, including relocating the family from the desert southwest to the upper Midwest.  All was on track to work out pretty well, some finer details would come as the dates got closer, but the overall plan was established.  Then a friend contacts me about doing some consulting work for her company until I move, could I come in to discuss it with the key people today.  On the surface this doesn’t seem like too big of a deal, however this project would preempt another project that was gearing up to start at the end of this month.  Now I have to look at everything and re-evaluate what I can tackle and what has to be dropped.

I could spend days looking at the pros and cons of the two work projects and how they affect the family, the move, and my long-term goals.  Reality is I have less than 24 hours to decide what to do.  If I choose the new project I will need to re-evaluate the plan for the next couple of months and possible shift around dates for the move.  It’s has quite the impact on the bigger plan.  It’s a good problem to have, so here’s how I’m tackling it.

  • Time Requirements:  First I looked at what the new opportunity would require of me in terms of time vs. the other project.  Which gives me the best schedule for me and my family?  How does each project fit into the overall plan for the next several months?
  • Alignment with Goals:  While both projects support my long-term goals which one would really help me get where I want to go quicker?  Does one have a higher impact than the other?
  • Side Effects:  Like most things there are side effects to taking the projects.  One requires significant travel while one is local but could impact my move date.  So which ones can I live with?
  • Financial Impact:  Lastly I looked at which would have the best contribution to my income.  I will be working as a contractor in both cases so cash flow is a real consideration for me; however it was the last of the items.  I am more interested in fit than the money.

As I went through this exercise I realized this is a good process to use to quickly evaluate new opportunities that drop in on you.  Over the years I have done this when considering job transfers, promotions, and relocations.  It helps put things in perspective as part of the bigger picture.  So when a curve ball comes your way, or even just a new opportunity, stop and follow these four steps to see what will work best for you.  Once you are clear on your direction you can adjust your schedule to meet the new demands.  Your priorities will help you align your tasks.

How have you handled the need to adapt to a changing world?

Photo from iStockPhoto.com

7 Comments

Filed under Time Management

Getting Great Ideas

Does your team generate great ideas?  Are you open to all ideas?  Do you encourage even seemingly off the wall thoughts?  Does each of your team members feel they will be heard?  Do they all come up with unique ideas or concepts?

If you can answer yes to all of these your team is rolling along well and is open to any and all input.  Great!  Unfortunately most teams aren’t operating in this well.  There are several reasons this may be the case.

  1. Lacking Diversity – If the team all has the same job functions/ background you may not get unique ideas.  When everyone does the same thing or has the same background they tend to see things the same way.

Solution – Bring in people who are outside of the area of expertise of the team.  Open it up to internal or external customers and suppliers, or people from other disciplines within the organization.  This will bring fresh eyes to the topic and can generate new and exciting solutions.

  1. Group Think – At times established and successful teams can get in a rut.  One person may have come up with the last great idea and everyone looks to them for the next one.  They can develop a habit that repeats what worked last time and close the door on new ideas.

Solution – Be intentional when it comes to brainstorming solutions.  Have a process that is set up to generate ideas and to dig deeper for even more.  Change up the actual method used to generate ideas to keep it fresh each time.  Doing something unexpected will get people thinking and open the door to new solutions.

  1. Leader Isn’t Listening – As a team leader it is important to listen to all ideas, particularly ones that are different than you own.  If you shutdown input by saying “that will never work” or “that’s impossible” you tell the team that their ideas aren’t important to you and very quickly their creativity will be put on hold.

Solution – As the leader be aware of how you respond to ideas.  Be open at all times.  If you think it’s crazy ask the person or team to explore it further, there may be a nugget of wisdom hiding in there that can create new and better solutions.  If your team leader is closed off to ideas work on finding ways to take their ideas and expand them in new directions that capture your thoughts.  Building from their ideas will help them think you are brilliant!

Open the door to creativity within your team by encouraging new ideas and solutions.  Look for the unexpected, person or idea, to spark the team’s innovative spirit.  The more creative the team is with generating ideas the more innovative the solutions will be.  Good luck!

How do you inspire the team to generate great ideas?

10 Comments

Filed under Leadership, Team Building

Do as I say – Not!

We all have heard the phrase “do as I say not as I do” from a parent or teacher or coach or boss.  This creates such a contradiction for the person hearing it, even a child.  In the office this may not be explicitly said, however it is often implied.  When the boss’s actions do not match corporate policy or even their own statements it tells the people observing that the boss is above the rules. 

I’ve seen this where the company had a policy against taking favors or gifts from suppliers and yet senior executives went on expensive golf trips or to extravagant dinners at was hard for the people in the rank in file of the organization to follow the policy when it was obvious that the top people were not following those rules themselves.  It created a culture of mistrust and selfishness because what was said and what was done were at odds with each other, so people tended to withdraw and look after themselves.  The integrity of the company became questioned at times as the integrity of the individuals became more situational.  The customers saw the shift in the culture of the company and started to step back.

As a leader it is important that the message your actions sends matches the message of the organization.  If there are policies against accepting gifts and favors then you must obey that rule.  Your team is watching you to determine what they should do.  If your actions are aligned with policy they will follow suit.  If your actions are in conflict with policy or you walk in the grey areas of the policy your team will as well. 

The problem with skirting the rules in one area is that people will see you doing it and they will pick their area to skirt the rules.  This can, and has, lead to disaster for organizations.  Look at some of the biggest scandals in recent corporate history and you will see people out of control, who felt that the rules did not apply to them.  Breaking the rules in anyway creates a slippery slope that can lead to bad decisions which cost the organization money and reputation.

You will be leading by example so make yours a great example.  Be the type of employee you want working for you.  Show your employees that you will do as you say and so will they.

2 Comments

Filed under Leadership