Archive for the ‘Communication’ category

Use Assessments To Build Team Trust

February 2, 2018

In his book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” Patrick Lencioni suggests trust is the basic foundation for a high performing team.  Teams cannot engage in healthy conflict, commit to each other, hold each other accountable, or achieve sustainable results with an absence of trust.

So how does a team build trust?  According to Lencioni, “Some of the most effective and lasting tools for building trust on a team are profiles of team members’ behavioral preferences and personality styles.  These help break down barriers by allowing people to better understand and empathize with one another.”

The psychometric instrument the team uses is not as important as going through the exercise.  Whether you use Myers-Briggs, PI, DISC, or another assessment tool, the value to the team is in having each team member share their results, discuss their strengths and weaknesses, and learn to leverage each team member’s strengths.  The shared vulnerability exhibited in the exercise creates a team bond and an inherent level of trust.

Empowered teams take an assessment then share and discuss each other’s results to experience high performing success.

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Consistency Is The Key To Successful One-On-Ones

January 28, 2018

When our kids were growing up, we took them out to breakfast every Friday morning before school.  We rarely missed these routine times together.  During each breakfast we would ask, “How’s school going?” and almost every time the answer was “good, okay.”  The important point is almost every time.  One time the answer was a mumbled “fine” followed by a shoulder shrug.  Not the usual “good, okay.” After further questioning, we found out there was an issue in science class.  If it were not for the regular breakfast meetings and the consistent questioning, science class would have been a big problem.

Leaders need to be consistent with their direct report’s one-on-ones. Holding them at the same time each week and asking the same check-in questions.  When the leader’s direct report has challenges, knowing they’ll have their attention regularly gives them a built-in forum for dealing with the problem.

Asking the same check-in questions during each session will yield the same responses most of the time.  That gives the leader a basis for measuring unusual answers that may indicate underlying issues.

One-on-ones are one of the most empowering leadership tools in the leader’s toolkit.  Exercising consistency will make them even more successful.

Consider The Two Pizza Rule When Putting Teams Together

November 17, 2017

The two pizza rule states that the number of people working together should not exceed the number of people that can be fed by two pizzas.  The rule was popularized by Jeff Bezos at Amazon who believes two pizza teams create a decentralized and innovative workplace.

The idea behind two pizza teams is that the fewer the people working together, the more effective the communication becomes.  The number of communication links in a two person team is 1, a five person team 10, a ten person team 45, and a 20 person team has a whopping 190 communication links.  The U.S. Navy Seals have learned that four is the optimal size for a combat team.  Larger teams need more communication whereas smaller teams can have better communication.

When assembling a high-function team, a leader may be tempted to include team members from several areas just to make sure everyone is represented. That rarely works – look no further than our government to see what happens with large teams. Ideally, leaders should choose at most six or seven non-ravenous people if they want a highly functional team.

Empowered team leaders build teams using the two pizza rule and have more successful teams.

Take A Bullet For Direct Reports

September 22, 2017

Baseball fans have probably seen times when a player begins to argue with an umpire and is about to be ejected from the game.  Suddenly, their manager leaps out of the dugout and interrupts the argument, engaging the umpire while deflecting attention from their player.  The manager kicks dirt, throws objects, and screams inches from the umpire all in an attempt to rescue the player.  After the game, when tempers are back to normal and in the privacy of the clubhouse, the manager will offer feedback to the player, coaching them on what to do when experiencing similar situations in the future.

Empowering leaders challenge their direct reports by putting them in difficult situations. Inevitably, direct reports will struggle as they learn from the experiences.  Good leaders know when to jump in and use their influence to prevent their direct report from too detrimental an experience. After the incident, in calmer circumstances, the leader provides course correction coaching and helps the direct report grow from the situation.

Not only will the leader benefit from their direct report’s development, the direct report will move mountains for the leader in the future.

Leaders who empower their direct reports to pursue challenging tasks, but will also jump in and save them when necessary will experience more success.

Be Honest With Direct Reports

September 15, 2017

Anyone who has ever experienced flight delays while traveling knows how frustrating it is when the airline withholds or sugarcoats bad news.  We’d all like to know our flight is delayed or cancelled when the airline knows about it.  But airlines, concerned they might disappoint their customers, often conceal or soften the bad news.  Travelers, even though it’s unpleasant, much prefer to know what’s happening and want the airline to be honest with them.

This is how direct reports feel when leaders aren’t completely forthright with them.  Leaders need to be completely honest when delivering feedback and conducting performance reviews.  Like airline customers, employees want to know when there are issues impacting the company sooner rather than later.  Though it may feel uncomfortable, employees have much more respect for the leader who is forthright and direct.

Leaders should empower themselves to be honest and prompt when delivering tough messages, and everyone will be more successful.

The Most Effective Leadership Practice

September 8, 2017

When it comes to leading others within an organization, the most effective leadership practice is weekly one-on-one meetings between a leader and their direct reports.

It accelerates performance because the one-on-one is all about the direct report and their needs.  Specifically, the leader should ask:

  • What is going on at work and in life that might impact performance or effectiveness this week;
  • What activities are the direct report focused on this week;
  • What obstacles have they run into;
  • What resources are needed?

When the direct report believes this simple 30 minutes each week is completely dedicated by the leader to focus on their success, the engagement and passion for results is unbelievable.

Additionally, these meetings create trust between the direct report and the leader.  When a direct report knows their leader will share information, trust soars.

This is not the time for the leader to micromanage; the focus of the one-on-one is on the direct report and their needs – the leader is the resource, not the solution.

Leaders who empower themselves and their direct reports to hold weekly one-on-one meetings experience much more success.

In The Absence Of Information People Will Make It Up

August 18, 2017

In the absence of information, we make stuff up.  Our brain won’t live with a void, so it fills in the blanks.  When we do this, we believe what we made up to be true.  Because we are wired for survival, most of what we make up is negative.

We see this in the workplace all the time: the closed door meetings, the popular co-worker who was terminated, the new policy change, and the unannounced job posting are all common situations where uninformed employees make up information to fill in the blanks.  Though all of these situations have perfectly reasonable explanations, employees left without clarification will behave skeptically and unproductively.

Most leaders are oblivious to the ramifications of these seemingly routine actions, and when asked about them will openly explain the circumstances.  Unfortunately, leaders have no idea of the disruption caused by these perceived clandestine actions.  Leaders can do the following to minimize these impacts:

  • Be aware of the actions that can be misinterpreted;
  • Encourage direct reports to ask for clarifications to the mysteries (easily done through the weekly one-on-one meetings);
  • Remember the “average” person needs to hear something 7 times to remember it  (imagine the below average person), so determine what message needs to be heard and clearly state that often.

Empowered leaders appreciate how lack of information can disrupt their team, take measures to lessen the impact, and experience more success.