Archive for the ‘Communication’ category

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.

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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.

Opinions Are Not Feedback

July 28, 2017

When asked what they would like more of their supervisor, most workers want additional feedback.  Leaders are generally pretty good at giving positive or affirming feedback (though most leaders could give it more often).  However, many leaders make a mistake when giving course correction feedback by offering opinions instead of describing observed behaviors.  When giving negative feedback, recount the behaviors actually observed.  Five common behaviors for feedback are:

  1. The Words They Said – “Tim, I appreciate your candor but calling Steve a ‘jerk’ makes you appear unprofessional to others.”
  2. How They Said Them – “Sally, I’m concerned that when you yell ‘WELL, GET MOVING THEN’ at Mike, he and others hear that as an aggressive, condescending comment.”
  3. Their Facial Expression – “Lisa, you have gained so much admiration through your work efforts but rolling your eyes when Kay gives her report chips away at all the professionalism you’ve worked so hard to personify.”
  4. Their Body Language – “Carl, I’m grateful for your passion but slamming the door when Diane leaves is an improper behavior.”
  5. Their Work Product – “Barbara, I’m happy you completed the report on time but the spelling errors reduce your credibility.”

Leaders who empower their direct reports by giving productive, actionable course correction feedback based on observed behaviors and not opinions are more successful.

Effective Leaders Are Challenged By Their Team

June 15, 2017

We are naturally attracted to people who agree with us and confirm what we already believe. It makes us feel better and less stressed.  However, disagreement, not consensus, leads to better decisions. Unfortunately, few leaders are comfortable seeking out differing opinions.

People with different behavior styles approach problems and offer solutions from different perspectives.  The forceful, aggressive team members will give strong, no-nonsense answers.  The fun loving, high-energy team members will offer optimistic, conflict free approaches.  Easy going, steady team members like logical and empathetic solutions.  And the rigid, compliant types prefer analytical, data driven options.

Leaders should first take time to evaluate how their team typically solves problems and use some psychometric assessments for additional insight.  Once they understand everyone’s strengths and approaches, they should encourage the team to challenge them from those different perspectives.  Once given permission and inspiration to contribute using new solutions in this way, the team will naturally make better decisions.

Leaders who empower their team to challenge their positions by using their strengths experience more success.