Category Archives: Teamwork

uncommon teamwork

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”
― Andrew Carnegie

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Uncommon.  It’s uncommon to honor real teamwork.  It is common to select individuals from a team and point out their achievements.   This week something uncommon will happen.   The UConn women’s basketball team may achieve a remarkable feat – 100 consecutive wins.   It hasn’t happened before.  It’s uncommon.

In an age that celebrates individual accomplishments, the “I” it is uncommon to see how a real team can perform and accomplish something really uncommon.

What does it take?  It takes leadership to get there.  It takes commitment from each team member to work for the benefit of the team.

Now, because it is a women’s team that is achieving this remarkable goal it will not likely be a major news story.  If it were a men’s team it would be written about how great the coach is and how great the team is and how great each team member is.   Why is that?  Excellence is excellence no matter if it is a male team or a female team that is achieving extraordinary results.

Teams win … individuals contribute and it takes great leadership to create the conditions and culture for teamwork to thrive.  This year the UConn women’s basketball team has the chance to realize 100 wins an amazing feat.

When you look at what you do, are you focused on team wins or individual performance?  Who are the people working as teams?   Who are the individual high performers?  What would you like to see more of teamwork or individual performance?

Remember teams win … is it uncommon?

4 Skills that really matter

“Once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That’s it. And what’s more, the people at the very top don’t work just harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.”
― Malcolm Gladwell

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In his book The Global Achievement Gap, Tony Wagner, co-director of the Change Leadership Group, Harvard School of Education,described seven key skills for getting a new job.  Among those seven areas are four skills that might be something that everyone whether a new job seeker or a veteran can bring to the table of employment.

In the new world of work, workers need to have in their tool box of experience and knowledge the following:

1. Agility and adaptability

2. Collaboration and leadership

3. Critical thinking and problem solving – to ask the right questions

4. Initiative and an entrepreneurial spirit

What does it mean to be adaptable and agile?    We know that the speed of change is creating more and more tension in the workforce and those who have difficulty modifying their work habits will be less and less satisfied in their work environment.   Being agile means moving quickly and not getting stuck in the past.

The collaborator, the team worker is going to be better equipped in a fast paced world.  Learning critical leadership skills, as in how to motivate from within, will be essential as more and more work is done globally.    Leading with the heart, from a perspective of empathy, understanding and humility will be part of the foundation of powerful leadership.

Having the ability to solve complex problems though rapid iteration and learning from failure (something most people are adverse to trying) is a critical asset to have.   Learning and achievement come from our ability to be resilient when we fail.  We learn more through failure than we do from success, if we take the lessons we learned and apply them in our new attempts.

Taking initiative and action are essential to increasing overall momentum.  Applying energy each and every day towards the generation of new outcomes is a valuable skill to have.  It is a skill that can be developed.  The entrepreneurial mindset is about creating new opportunities or grasping opportunity quickly and testing the value of that idea now.

We live in a world that “waiting” is no longer acceptable.  We live in the “instant” and holding back instead of acting will have a greater price than taking action and learning.   Learn quickly to grow exponentially.

Mastering today’s world will take adaptability, agility, collaboration,leadership, critical thinking, problem solving and taking initiative.    Start developing your skills in these areas and become the person that people want to hire.
Learn more about Tony Wagner’s desire to reshape our education system.

stuck in a career with no place to go …

Are you stuck where you are?

“Organizations often spend too much time watching the scoreboard and not enough time watching the ball. Blanchard® research shows that 50% of organizations focus on dashboards and metrics when they should be focusing on creating and improving employee passion. A focus on numbers and productivity without a comparable focus on—and understanding of—what motivates each individual can undermine an organization’s efforts to boost employee productivity and employee work passion.

There are both distinct and subtle clues to understanding organizational productivity. Metrics such as sick days, decreased revenue, and defect rates are easily measured, but the subtleties of productivity can be harder to read. In organizations where employee work passion is high, people willingly exert discretionary effort. They talk positively about the organization to friends and family. They support their colleagues without it being a required part of their job. They are loyal. And they intend to stay with the organization, perform well, and inspire others.”    (from the Ken Blanchard Organization)

It is no wonder that so many people feel like the work they do doesn’t matter.  The effort and focus is on measuring things and leaving out the most important thing, people.   Of course there are organizational results that truly matter to the success of the business and those things shouldn’t be left to chance, but how often are those measures obscuring what really needs to be understood, how engaged are the employees in the work that they are doing?   Measuring productivity and orders and profits are  important, and so is the heartfelt engagement of each person.   Companies that want to improve bottom line results just need to care for their employees.   Now, some would say, “we do care”, we have benefits, they get a paycheck, they get a vacation, employees get all these things from us and what do they do, they don’t do their best.

There are many companies where manager’s are managing as if were 1920 and Frederick Taylor was designing the work day.   Extrinsic motivation which was the popular mode of squeezing more out of an employee is an outmoded form of management.  Not that it isn’t needed at all, it is just that it is needed far less than what it was.   The new leadership model includes intrinsic motivation and the prime method of encouraging employees.  Companies could benefit greatly, improve their bottom line, improve their competitiveness, and improve results by improving employee engagement.

What kind of company do you work for?  Is it encouraging you, empowering you, allowing you the autonomy you need to produce your best results?    When 84% of people surveyed believe they need to be doing something different then most people are not feeling empowered to make the difference they could make.

If your company is filled with people who are working at less than their potential then “coaching” is one tool that can improve the bottom line.  See if your company’s management would be open to improving their bottom line.

“…feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.”  Pema Chödrön

the new leader

“If your actions inspire others to dream more,
learn more, do more and become more,
you are a leader.”    John Quincy Adams

What is a leader?   What is your definition of a leader?  

It seems that there is no one definition that defines what a leader really is that used by everyone.   There are thousands of definitions of a leader.   Some people say a leader is a person of “integrity”.   What does that really mean to you?

A leader has a number of characteristics that define a leader yet within the spectrum of leadership qualities is no one definition that accurately and consistently defines a leader.   Jim Collins the author of “Good to Great” has a definition of a leader and spells out those qualities in his book “Built to Last” lists a number of qualities that make a great leader.  

John Maxwell, America’s authority on leadership speaks of leadership as being “Influence”.   And is influence the hallmark of a great leader?


In this chart are a number of qualities that could be used to define a leader.   If you were to rate a leader on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 = Low need and 10 = high need, how would you rate a great leader?   How would you rate yourself?   What characteristics are critical for a leader to really have?

Most leaders would see themself as being strong in a few elements or even most of the elements.   Is there  a specific combination, or score that makes the leader great?

Even if someone were to score all 10’s on every attribute, that score is a reflection of the scorer’s values not necessarily the score of the leader being evaluated.   A leadership score is a relative score, but relative to what?   That is part of the problem.   Leadership is not defined by some standard that people are measured against, but rather the opinion of others.   It is the person’s own personal definitions of honesty, integrity, compassion or leadership that define a leader.

What makes a great leader in your mind?   How would you score the leader you most admire?  What score would they get?

Joanne Ciulla proposes this definition, “It is a complex moral relationship between people, based on trust, obligation, commitment, emotion, and a shared vision of the good.”

 

teams to teamwork

“The aim of an argument or discussion should not be victory, but progress.”
– Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French Philosopher

 When two or more people engage in a similar activity to achieve a common goal, teamwork will produce a higher quality result.   The ideal team size is between 4-6 six people; this is where the combined IQ of the team reaches its peak and where the greatest synergy can be obtained.  Teams are powerful combinations of people committed to achieving uncommon results.

Teams,  when they are working correctly can work through difficult issues and solve complex problems.   While teams can produce outstanding results in many cases they don’t.   People who work in teams have to let part of their ego and judgment go.  People engaged in teamwork have to yield to the higher good and often they let their ego stand in the way of team results.

What then makes a good team?

  1. Communication
  2. Trust
  3. Being able to discuss tough issues without attacking individuals
  4. Being able to let go of judgment
  5. Being willing to neutralize the ego

For some people items 2-5 are difficult to do.   The first item, communications is something everyone thinks they do well with.   For some people talking is good communications, if they are speaking that is, for them that is what good communications is all about.   Communications is more than actively emitting sound waves.   Communications is more powerful when it is done from a non-judgmental point of view and when it is done with the intent of understanding.   The most powerful aspect of communications is listening to understand and speaking to clarify.  Powerful communications is done when it is without the participation of the ego.  The ego lives just to go for the ride.   The ego is the backseat driver that is in the mode of adding critical commentary that is usually not beneficial. 

When the ego is involved in listening it means that judgment is occurring during the narrative that someone else is providing and that distorts or silences the intent of the message.  If there is a reply sitting, or if there is a reply taking shape when someone else is speaking there is no listening being done.   The brain is a single channel device it is either receiving or sending information.   Two thoughts can’t reside in the mind simultaneously while listening.

 What would happen if people could listen with the intent to understand and to suspend judgment?   If people could suspend judgment they would more forward towards greater contribution and generate higher group energy which would allow for the generation new ideas.   New ideas become the soup for the genesis of solutions to problems; teams after all are solving some type of problem.  Teams are in the process of creating something new, whether it is a problem or the act of discovery, something new will be generated.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The first and most difficult task of dialogue involves parking the ego and listening with an open spirit. From this receptivity can come questions which lead to understanding.

“What is it you see that I don’t?”
“How do you see this differently and why?”
“Please help me understand from your perspective.”

To ask these questions requires that one no longer need to have the best or last answer. Expanding one’s understanding becomes more important than being right or getting one’s point across.”
—Dr. Ann McGee-Cooper
from the article Dialogue: The Power of Understanding

Teams need to communicate effectively in order to thrive.  Effective communication, honest, open, vulnerable communication begins when there is a high level of trust.   When one person on the team holds the cards the trust in that team is going to be lower.  There will be reserved participation or there will be the kind of participation that is done for the benefit of the person who is not holding the conversation in trust.  

In organizations where hierarchy and rule of position is still the method of operation unless there is an authentic and genuine regard for all forms of communication the ability for those who are in subordinate positions to express their ideas that are controversial will be muted.  

Looking at the teams you work with, what kind of communication takes place?  Is it authentic, open, genuine, honest, and generative?   What do the conversations look like?   What new ideas are being generated?   What does the energy in the team look like?   What is the sound of the conversation?   How do you feel when you are engaged in real teamwork?