Tag Archives: Collaboration

Give Directions not Directives

Man's hand pointing on street mapWhen working with your team do you give them direction or directives?  There is a marked difference between these two that will show up in the results of your team.  Understanding that difference and knowing how to move towards direction will help you be more successful as a leader.

If you are giving directives you have taken on the role of dictator.  This is where you tell people what they need to do to accomplish the team goals and objectives.  Dictators take away creativity and initiative from their followers.  People learn to blindly go where they are told to go.  They will do just what they are told and nothing more.  Engagement will drop to all-time lows, the team stagnates, and creativity stops.  This is a path to obsolescence.

When you give directions to your team you are enabling them to find the best way forward.  This creates an environment that fosters creativity, confidence and high engagement.  People are excited to work for a boss who believes they can reach the goals without being micro-managed.  In team meetings more and better ideas will be brought to the table resulting in new and more innovative solutions.  The team will be more collaborative and will work together to get things done because they all know where they are going.

A benefit of setting direction for the team and letting them achieve the goals independently is that you will have more time to get your own work done.  When you dictate every step each person takes, you are doing their job along with yours.  There will not be enough hours in the day to get it all done.  Free up your time by letting others solve their own problems.

To make this work you must:

  • Set clear goals:  Let people know what they need to accomplish and where the team is headed.  Show how their goals align with the department and organization goals.  Make sure everyone is clear on what is needed.
  • Invite ideas:  Be open to the ideas and solutions your team bring to the table.  Ask people what they would do to solve a problem or get around an obstacle. 
  • Trust your team:  As the team shows you that they can come up with solutions to problems let them act on their own ideas.  Give them the freedom to make things happen without you when appropriate.  Show them you trust their abilities.
  • Be a sounding board:  Make sure you are available to your team to work out their ideas and find the best solutions.  They will still need a sounding board to make sure they cover all the bases.  As they gain experience they will need less guidance.
  • Have their backs:  Your team needs you to be a safety net for them.  Help them make good decisions and then have their backs if something goes wrong.  That demonstrates your trust in them more than anything else.

Moving towards a leadership style that focuses on setting direction for the team as opposed to dictating actions will create an environment of creativity and growth.  Your team will be more productive, more effective and they will grow beyond their current roles.  There may be some who never manage to act independently so they may need a different role or they may need to move elsewhere. As a leader part of your job is to nurture new leaders.  This is a great way to start identifying the future leaders.


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Quote for Sept 25th

Business Team

I enjoy being given a certain amount of freedom in order to interpret or to come up with stuff, but I do enjoy collaboration. I seek and thrive on projects where I am going to learn from the people I’m working with.
William Kempe

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Is Good Enough Enough for You?

Good EnoughDo you give it your all when you tackle a task?  Is ‘good enough’ your typical effort level?  Or are you one of those folks who does just a little bit more or something unexpected?  Anyone can do just enough, not everyone will bother with giving their best.  People who go that extra mile will stand out.  Leaders look for ways to go above and beyond – that’s how you get to new opportunities.

I’m collaborating on a project with a great group of professionals who love leadership and exemplify it in everything they do.  Working with them causes me to step up my game.  I like to do something a little different than what was asked.  I often will find a new and different way to present the information we are pulling together.  This is for a several reasons:

  1. I want to make sure I add value to them each time we talk
  2. Finding new ways to share information is important to me in my work so I bring it to the group as well
  3. All of them give 100+%  to what we are doing and I won’t do less than they do
  4. I get to explore new methods in a very safe environment

Rarely does it take me much longer to provide this extra stuff and yet the team is always amazed and surprised by what I’ve done.  I think they believe I’m spending lots of extra time on it which really isn’t the case at all.  Often it’s a function of things I do well and like to share with others.

The interesting thing about this stepping up in this area is that I find I’m doing it more and more elsewhere.  When I am working on something, anything really, I am looking for ways to do just a little bit more, to make it the best I possibly can.  Does this mean extra work for me, sure but it also gives me huge satisfaction to be able to look at what I’ve done and know it’s my best work.

People will notice when you do a little bit more, go that extra step and exceed expectations.  It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture each time.  Just a little extra is unusual and much appreciated.  How do you want to be known?  As someone who does just enough or someone who does just a bit more?  You get to decide which way you are seen so choose wisely.

The group I am working with has dubbed me Wonder Woman for my efforts.  I admire each of them so much for what they do that it is very humbling for me to be seen as a superhero – to me they are all superheroes.  If you are curious about these folks – check out LeadWithGiants as they all can be found there.  http://www.leadwithgiants.com/


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Is Your Team Committed?

Cricket Team Holding HandsIs your team committed to the same goals and objectives?  When a decision is made are they all on the same page about what will be done?  If your answer to these two questions is yes, then your team is aligned well and is likely a high performing team.  Unfortunately this in not the case for most teams and even great teams have moments where everyone is not equally committed.

What makes up commitment in a team?  Patrick Lencioni in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team talks about the dysfunction that arises from a lack of commitment.  This comes from a lack of clarity and buy-in.  Everyone must be totally clear on what has been decided and what they have to do to implement the decision.  As well, they must agree that this is the best decision and agree to do their part to making it happen.

True commitment does not mean that there is a unanimous decision.  It means that everyone has participated in discussing the idea, the options, raised objections and worked out a solution that everyone is willing to support.  Odds are the solution is not 100% what any one person wanted.  Rather it is a result of collaboration and striving for a workable solution.  This requires a strong leader who will get everyone’s ideas out on the table and then drive resolution and select a solution.

Once a decision has been reached it is critical to clarify exactly what will be done.  Wrap up the discussion with a review of the decision – in writing and in front of everyone.  Test for understanding of the decision.  Never assume that everyone “gets it.”  People will interpret things they hear and this may dilute the message and the effectiveness of implementing a decision.  Probe for understanding, ask questions and push for confirmation of agreement to back the chosen solution.

Next the leader must gain agreement that each person will communicate the decision as needed.  If the decisions are made at the executive level then everyone must share it throughout their portion of the organization.  In a work team environment, the team members must be willing to tell others what they decided and use that decision as their work direction.  No team works in a complete vacuum so communicating what was decided is part of each member’s commitment to the team and decision.

One of the best methods for gaining commitment is to have a high level goal or objective that everyone supports.  This is the definition of the purpose of the team.  When the team is aligned with this goal it is easier to back decisions that support the higher goal even when it’s not their first choice.  The high level goal puts everything else in perspective and provides a framework for making decisions and taking action.  As solutions are explored and evaluated make sure they support the higher goal and that this is clarified for everyone.  Gaining commitment will be easier when the decision is seen as aligned.

Gaining team commitment to decisions, solutions and daily activities will happen when everyone trusts each other and is comfortable with sharing differing opinions.  Positive conflict, the conflict that allows people to be heard, will aid the development of team commitment.  Everyone has had their say so they will be more willing to get on board with the team’s decision.

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Quote for Jan 3, 2013

Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them.
Paul Hawken


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Compassion and Leadership

ConsolationAs a leader are you “in touch” with your team?  Leaders who stay tuned in to what is going on with their team have better success in achieving the organizations goals.  Does this mean that you have to be a pushover who listens to every sob story of each person on the team?  No, it means that you are aware of the overall state of your team and you address issues with kindness and caring.  Compassion has strength behind it; otherwise helping others can drain you.

Here are three key components to acting with compassion:

  1. Notice non-verbal cues.  Observing how the team is working and how they are acting will speak volumes about how things are going.  You may see that one person has withdrawn or is being avoided.  This is a problem spot.
  2. Listen carefully.  People will tell you a lot of information without telling you what is the real problem.  By listening carefully you can hear what is not being said and ask meaningful questions to get to the cause of the issue.
  3. Speak less.  Asking open ended questions and allowing time for the person to answer will help you find out what is going on and will show that you are interested in what they have to say.  People want to be heard and by asking and then listening you will demonstrate you are aware of their need to be heard.

When you take the time to demonstrate you are paying attention to the people who work for you they will respond better to the goals and objectives that are given to them.  Focusing only on results and performance without paying attention to the person doing the work gets you compliance not collaboration.  When teams collaborate the results are more than the sum of the parts.  More is achieved in less time when people work together.  Having a compassionate leader who is genuinely concerned about the individuals as well as the results will help to create a collaborative environment.

To read more on this topic see  6 Exercises to Strengthen Compassionate Leadership from Fast Company.

What do you do to show your compassion for your team?

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Quote for Dec 18th

Assistance (with clipping path)We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.
Ronald Reagan

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Teamwork Video

 Tom Wujec Build a Tower

Above is a video from TED Talks where Tom Wujec talks about how you can see the impact of collaboration on teams.  He explains the types of teams that are most effective and the teams that are least effective.  The teams are assigned the task of building a tower in 18 minutes.  The results of types of teams is quite enlightening.

The key to making it work is the willingness to collaborate, test ideas, and then adjust and refine based on the outcomes.  Spending all your time planning to get it perfect is less effective then deciding to act and making changes as you go.

Hope you enjoy the video!


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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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The Mousetrap and Teamwork

It’s very easy to put our head down or look away when we see someone who is struggling with a problem at work.  We have so much to do ourselves, how can we afford the time to help them out?  Besides it’s not really our issue is it?

Below is a parable of the mouse and the mousetrap which shows the importance of getting involved when one of the team is facing a challenge.

A mouse looked through the crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife open a package.

“What food might this contain?” The mouse wondered – he was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap.

Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning. “There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!”

The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, “Mr. Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it.”

The mouse turned to the pig and told him, “There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!”

The pig sympathized, but said, “I am so very sorry, Mr. Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured you are in my prayers.”

The mouse turned to the cow and said “There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!”

The cow said, “Wow, Mr. Mouse. I’m sorry for you, but it’s no skin off my nose.”

So, the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the farmer’s mousetrap alone.

That very night a sound was heard throughout the house — like the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey.

The farmer’s wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught.

The snake bit the farmer’s wife. The farmer rushed her to the hospital, and she returned home with a fever. Everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup’s main ingredient.

But his wife’s sickness continued, so friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig.

The farmer’s wife did not get well; she died. So many people came for her funeral; the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat for all of them.

The mouse looked upon it all from his crack in the wall with great sadness.

So, the next time you hear someone is facing a problem and think it doesn’t concern you, remember — when one of us is threatened, we are all at risk.

Author unknown

Next time you see one of the team struggling with an issue or a problem step up and see if you can help.  It likely will help the entire team reach their goals more easily.  If nothing else, you will have a supporter when you need a helping hand.


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