Monthly Archives: August 2012

Team Saboteur

Occasionally on a team will be a person whose priority is not success of their team but rather only themselves.  As a result of their focus they sabotage the team in several ways.  They can interfere with the reaching of team goals, they can damage reputations of others, or they can destroy the morale of the team members.  How does this happen?

A team saboteur can attack the success of the team in the following ways:

  1. Personal goals come first.  They are interested in reaching their personal goals ahead of the goals of the team.  Completing tasks for the team are second priority to doing the things that will advance themselves.
  2. Taking undue credit.  The team saboteur will take credit for the team’s, or others, work as if it were their own.  They will find opportunities to present information to key people as if it were their work and minimize the efforts of the rest of the team.
  3. Place blame.  These people will find ways to place the blame for problems or failures on others.  Often this will be done quietly, one-on-one with people outside the team.  They like the phrase “I was concerned about this but Joe pushed for it”.
  4. Complain and backstab.  During one-on-one meetings with the boss the saboteur will complain about the others on the team and backstab them.  They undermine the credibility of their teammates by airing complaints and criticisms.  This may even carry over to speaking badly of the boss to other leaders in the organization.

All of this negativity will add up and over time erode the effectiveness of the team.  As a team leader it is important to be on the watch for this type of behavior.  If you see someone who seems to be heading this direction you must head it off before lasting damage is done.  To stop this from taking over the team hold each member accountable for team goals, address personal issues between team members quickly and fairly, be neutral when someone is complaining about others, and model the behavior you want from the team members.  Leading by example and holding the team to high standards of collaboration and performance will go a long way towards stopping the team saboteur in their tracks.

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Quote for Aug 30th

My philosophy of leadership is to surround myself with good people who have ability, judgment and knowledge, but above all, a passion for service.
Sonny Perdue

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Get to Know Your Customer

As a leader in your organization it is critical that you know your customers.  This means the end-user of your company’s products / services as well as all the internal customers.  While this is not a new concept it may be time to stop and reflect on what people need from you and your team.  When we are busy keeping up with all our tasks we can easily lose sight of why we are doing the things we are doing.  To make sure we are on track and doing the right things we must understand our customers.

To ensure your efforts are in line with what your customers need start with your closest customers.  Who inside your organization does your team support?  What do they need from you?  Have you asked their manager how things are going; is there something more that would help them do their jobs easier?  Having a frank conversation with them might reveal that some of the things you are providing are nice to haves but really add no value to your customer.  Here’s something that you may be able to stop doing.  You may find out that if your team provides a bit more, or on a slightly different schedule it would make it possible for your customer to get their job done more efficiently.  This improves the company as a whole.  Focus on what the internal customers need and you will find ways to improve the business as a whole.

Next, focus on the end-user of your organization’s products or services.  You may see these people every day if you are in a customer facing position.  Often however, we are several steps removed from the ultimate customer.  Do you know who the target customer is?  Do you know what they value in your products?  What makes them pick your company over another?  If you can get clear on these issues you may be able to find opportunities within your team’s scope of work to make changes that improve the customer’s value and save you time and money.  Without a clear understanding of the end customer making changes can cause you to miss the mark on your improvements.

In the daily hustle and bustle it is easy to just do what you’ve always done.  However, the world is always evolving and needs shift over time.  Make sure you are staying on course by checking in with your customers to see that you and your team are providing the things that will add value to them.  Strive to improve the experience your customer has with each contact.  Looking ahead to what is valuable to your customers will give insight into what you need to do.  To do this, start by getting to know your customer.

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Quote for Aug 28th

A good objective of leadership is to help those who are doing poorly to do well and to help those who are doing well to do even better.
Jim Rohn

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To Reach Goals Leave Your Comfort Zone Behind

When you established your long term goals your long term goals you were reaching for something new and different than what you have today.  To get there you will be venturing out of your comfort zone.  Comfort zones are those cozy places where you live every day.   These comfort zones are physical as well as emotional areas where you feel the most at ease.  Reaching your goals means that you have to do new things, go new places and meet new people.  This means getting outside of those familiar places.

Getting out of your comfort zone is easier said than done at times.  It can be a grand adventure to do new things or go new places or it can be terrifying.  Reaching big long-term goals is often in that second category.  What happens if you fail?  What happens if you succeed? 

So what holds us back from stepping out of our comfort zone?  Several things are obstacles we encounter as we step into new things:

  1. Fear of failure.  As a society we have learned to value the people who are great successes and we tend to scorn those who fail at their endeavors.  This means that going for the brass ring, or attempting to reach our life goals, is scary unless all risk is removed.  Reality is that without risk is there really any value in the prize? 
  2. Inertia.  Staying where you are today is easy and moving into new areas is hard, it’s risky and you need to learn new things.  Getting the momentum up to take that first step, then the second is hard. 
  3. Inner critic.  Often we doubt our ability to reach our goals.  We question “what right do I have to dream so big”.  Along with that comes the fear of letting our family and friends down if we fail or asking them to sacrifice while we go after the goal. 

All of these obstacles can be overcome with determination and resolve.  The first step is to define what it is that you want to do, where is it you want to be; write down your goal.  Use the SMART goal format to establish your goal.  (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-based).

Now that you have your goal it’s time to tackle the obstacles.  To start this process first write down what happens if you fail and what happens if you succeed.  Also document what would happen if you do nothing.  You can now define the risks and identify ways to minimize them.  Next identify the steps you need to reach your goals.  Schedule these tasks; add them to your to-do list.  This will get you moving.  With your plan sit down with those who will be impacted by your goal, share with them what you are reaching for and why.  Get them to help you stay focused and get their support.  With their belief in what you are doing, you can give yourself permission to go for it.  Believe in yourself and your dreams, and then set yourself on the path to success.

With your plan in place it’s time to step out of your comfort zone.  Those first steps may be hard and the ground will seem shaky at times.  However, the longer you stay out there the more comfortable you will become and before you know you will find that your comfort zone has gotten bigger.  Another side effect of getting out of your comfort zone is that the more you do it, the easier it gets.  As you learn to see the adventurous side of life outside your comfort zone you will find that your zone gets more flexible.  More becomes possible.

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Trust in Teams

Today’s workplace is filled with teams and team work is critical to the success of businesses.  It allows people to accomplish more by working with others than they would individually.  As leaders we trust the team to get the job done.  For this to happen reliably the team has to trust in each other.  How does this trust get built?

The team has to develop trust that each person will do their part and support the team’s mission.  This trust is built one step at a time through delivering on commitments.  Daily contact and success in meeting the goals helps to build this rapport.  However this can be difficult when the team is not located in the same office or work the same shift.  More and more teams are spread out across geographic areas and crossing shifts.  Doing more with fewer people means more collaboration between the remaining crew.

To help set up the team for success it is imperative to help them build trust in each other and in you.  Here are a few ways that you can help set the stage for a high trust team.

  1. Clear goals.  Having clear goals where each individual’s performance is tied to the success of the team creates a sense of interdependence. 
  2. Accountability.  Stress the importance of being accountable for performance.  If each person knows that they must own their actions and will be held accountable for them they will follow through on commitments.
  3. Model integrity.  Along with accountability demonstrating integrity in each aspect of the work day will show that you are trustworthy.  Set the standard high on integrity, as seen in your actions, and your team will rise to the same level of trustworthiness.
  4. Create interaction.  Trust is only built through interaction that shows commitments will be honored.  The team needs to get to know each other and learn each other’s strengths.  This will help build an understanding of how each person performs over a variety of situations.
  5. Celebrate success.  When milestones have been reached successfully, recognize the team’s efforts.  Celebrate the wins and reinforce the value of teamwork.

Trust starts with one person having faith that someone else will deliver on their commitments.  It gets stronger over time through continual successful fulfillment of expectations.  The more trust the team has in each other and in their leader the higher their performance will be.  They will continue to rise to the challenges that are facing them because they know someone has their back. 

Trust is the foundation of solid teamwork.  It’s built each day through the actions and interactions of each member of the team.  Trust in them and they will trust in you.  Take the time to help make that foundation strong and solid and you will be rewarded with a high performing team.

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Quote for Aug 23rd

When we are debating an issue, loyalty means giving me your honest opinion, whether you think I’ll like it or not.  Disagreement, at this stage, stimulates me.  But once a decision has been made, the debate ends.  From that point on, loyalty means executing the decision as if it were your own.

Colin Powell

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Leadership Articles for August

Below are some of the interesting articles on leadership that I’ve read recently.  Hope you enjoy them as well.

Please share what has inspired you to be a better leader.

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Quote for Aug 21st

Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.
John D. Rockefeller

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Productivity Quicksand Traps

All of us want to be more productive, even those who others hold up as their efficiency idols.  This is true because no one is 100% productive 100% of the time.  There are ebbs and flows to everyone’s life, the good days and the bad days.  The thing that really differentiates the most efficient people from the average is how they handle the bad days.

What do you do when you find yourself dragging or procrastinating on the things you know need to be done?  Are you someone who grinds it out until you get back on track or do you stage a personal intervention?  At times it may be necessary to slug away at the task to get it done.  Other times it may be much more effective to step away for a short period of time, this will allow you to refocus and come back refreshed.

I’ve struggled with this regularly, particularly on the ugly items that are necessary and just are not really my cup of tea.  When I plug away at these even when I’m not really tuned into what needs to be done, they become an even bigger chore and the next time it comes around I dread it even more.  It becomes a vicious cycle that I have to break quickly.  I’ve found the following things can help me get past the drag of these items:

  1. Take 15 minutes.  If I take 15 minutes to do something totally unrelated, something I enjoy doing then I’m in a better frame of mind.  Now I’m feeling positive and the task seems less daunting. 
  2. Set a time limit.  When I tell myself I’ll spend the next 30 minutes working on the ugly task I know it will end soon.  This keeps it from becoming something that I will “have” to do for the rest of the day. 
  3. Create a positive atmosphere.  I like to have music I like on while I’m doing routine tasks that I dread.  It creates an upbeat background to what I’m doing.  This isn’t always possible in an office, so I’ve had small pictures of scenes I love within easy sight lines.  A visual cue of a happy place.
  4. Reward yourself.  When you spend the time you allot on the dreaded task reward yourself.  Get up and take a couple of minutes to reflect on getting it done.  Get a cup of coffee, a drink of water anything to break away from the task and breathe.  Stretch to relieve the tension in your muscles.  Enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that task is DONE!

These four things provide me with the productivity intervention I need to get back on track.  Even though it takes time away from the work up front to stage the intervention I end up getting more done and it’s all done better so the return is there. 

What do you do to pull yourself out of a productivity quicksand trap?

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