Five Steps to Building the Most Effective Team Ever by Shannon Cassidy

Five Steps to Building the Most Effective Team Ever

As any good leader knows, from the manager of the local big box store to the President of the United States, a good leader is only as good as his or her team.

 

Whether you are leading a group of scientists in new discovery or a staff of twenty in the first grueling days of a start-up, the importance of your team operating as a well-oiled machine cannot be understated. One broken cog can throw the whole wheel off-balance and the downstream effects on projects or plans can be devastating.

 

Ultimately, the responsibility for the success or failure of a team is entirely yours, as its leader.

 

Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish. ~Sam Walton (Source)

 

Build Respect

 

Open communication is fundamental to any good team and that can only exist in a respectful environment. Leaders have to respect the people working for them and vice versa; team members need to respect each other. Respect includes an element of trust. A team can tackle any situation that arises if they trust and respect one another. If they don’t, they’ll work at cross purposes or in individual silos, which can only result in goals and targets being missed.

 

How do you build respect?

  • Make sure that team members have a chance to get to know each other, even if they are not working from the same location.
  • Put together team values and goals that everyone understands and buys into.
  • Foster a respectful environment by ensuring that each member’s ideas are treated as being valid and valuable.
  • Be aware of how your team is working together and areas where improvements in communication might be made.
  • Make sure that team members feel free to share information with one another and encourage active listening.

 

Build Processes

 

Part of working cohesively as a team is knowing the rules of the game. That’s where processes come in. As the leader, it’s up to you to be clear on directives: how the team is to work, communicate, make decisions. These processes have to be communicated clearly so no one is unsure of how to operate.

 

How do you build processes?

  • Ideally, by consensus. People buy into the ground rules if they had a hand in making them.
  • As a leader, you can lay out some fundamental goals and then allow the team to establish how they will go about achieving them, with input and direction from yourself.

 

Delegate

 

Related to processes, above, once you have a clear idea on deliverables on a project, make sure that your team does too and then delegate the ability to make consensus decisions amongst themselves. They need a stake in the goals to take them on fully. Remember however that delegating does not mean telling your team to do something and then walking away. It means letting them get the work done with minimal interference on your part; however, the team needs to know that you are still present, participating and willing to step in if discussions go off the rails.

 

How do you delegate?

  • A huge part of delegating is trust on your part, as the leader. You have to trust the people on your team to get it done.
  • Be specific on what you are delegating. Tasks versus entire projects are easier to manage and follow, at least in the short term, until the team has a solid working relationship with one another. Eventually, you should be able to get to the point where you can outline the entire project and let the team proceed.
  • Your job as a leader isn’t to tell them how to do the work, but to support them by giving them what they need to get it done and removing any stumbling blocks from their path.
  • Make sure there is a framework in place to deal with situations where consensus is not being achieved or where team members are not fully participating / being bullied by others. A solid team should not have this issue but people change over time. They have their own issues and agendas and that can change the team dynamic.

 

Hire Smart

 

As I said before, one broken cog can send the wheel flying so ensuring that your team members are amenable to working together is best achieved by involving existing team members in new hires.

 

How do you hire smart?

  • Involve existing team members in the hiring process. A person can look good on paper with the right skills and experience, but the key to ongoing communication and good teamwork is whether that person fits with the rest of the group, in terms of personality and softer skills, like social interactions. A bad fit can be as damaging to a team as a lack of skills.

 

Be a Reliable Leader

 

For a team to trust you, they need to know that you have their back. So while you have to delegate and give them the freedom to pursue the goals you have set out, you also need to continue to be involved, to monitor their progress and act on their behalf with any obstacles in their way. Being reliable becomes something that your team members will admire in you and perhaps even choose to emulate.

 

How do you become a reliable leader?

  • Be involved. Be true to your word: if you say you are going to do something, do it.
  • Show that you are monitoring the projects by creating a method by which the team can share status updates and any concerns that they have. A team that feels that they’ve been abandoned might flounder: stay with them!
  • Celebrate the successes, big and small.
  • Make sure that every team member knows that they can speak with you if they need anything. An open door policy is communication at its best.

 

The idea of building a good team is not just an abstract: these are real people, real projects and real goals.

 

You know, as most entrepreneurs do, that a company is only as good as its people. The hard part is actually building the team that will embody your company’s culture and propel you forward.

~ Kathryn Minshew (Source)

 

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develop leaders, not more followers Shannon Cassidy

Develop Leaders, Not More Followers

 

Besides the celebration, what happens if you get a promotion? What if you need to leave your company for some reason or you find yourself called to a different path in life? If any of these occur, what happens to your team? A great leader is always on the lookout for people they can teach and mentor. They search not for more followers but for potential leaders who can replace them. They develop leaders, not more followers.

So how do you develop another you? Another great leader? Begin with these four methods.

Give them experiences tailored to leadership.

As a manager or leader, you have certain tasks that are not required of anyone but you. Find ways that your potential leaders can gain experience in those areas. If you make a presentation once a month, allow your mentee to try her hand at it. As you develop their leadership skills, watch for unique talents they can apply to managing. Look for skills that you didn’t use because you didn’t have that talent. Allow them to see behind the curtain and try their hand at the parts of your position that are invisible to most.

Teach them to network.

Networking events can be painful and awkward, but great leaders jump in and do the work no matter how they feel. Teach your candidates how to network by having them follow you and watch how you initiate conversations. After they’ve witnessed your techniques for a while, they will be equipped to network independently. Networking is extremely valuable no matter the job. Giving your mentee the chance to cultivate abilities and confidence in networking is vital to the future of your company. As they progress into leadership roles, they’ll already have contacts and people skills.

Allow them to fail.

E.M Forster said, “Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon.”

It is highly beneficial for your leaders-in-training to fail, so you need to give them that chance. Push them to figure out problems on their own and then allow them to act on the wrong solution. Micromanaging will not teach your candidates how to stand on their own when they move into the leadership role. Of course, this doesn’t mean allowing their failures to affect the company while you just watch. But little by little, allow your leaders-in-training more responsibility.

Trust them to lead.

Just as it is difficult to watch your child leave your nest, it is a hard decision to allow your leader-in-training to leave your watchful eyes to lead independently. In order to complete the development of a leader, you must take your hands off the result. Think about it: If you teach your leader-in-training how to make smart, informed decisions, but still require that they run every idea by you before they’re allowed to make a move, how empowered will they feel?

Begin now to look around and select employees that you see have potential for leadership. If you do leave your company or your current position, you will have a succession plan in place for continued growth without you.

Leaders develop more leaders.

 

Sources:

http://guides.wsj.com/management/managing-your-people/how-to-develop-future-leaders/

http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/stories/2010-02-16/how-companies-develop-great-leadersbusinessweek-business-news-stock-market-and-financial-advice

http://www.forbes.com/sites/dailymuse/2013/06/25/5-strategies-that-will-turn-your-employees-into-leaders/

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5 Benefits of Solitude photo Shannon Cassidy

5 Benefits of Solitude

As active participants of life, as doers and shakers, as people who want to make a difference, we are busy.  But like anything in our world that gets out of balance, working without rest can lead to consequences that negate the positive results of our work.

Bob Kull, author of SOLITUDE: Seeking Wisdom in Extremes, wrote,

We tend to value activity above everything else, but all beings need to rest and recuperate. The widespread occurrence of depression in our culture may be linked to our refusal to allow ourselves quiet time. Feeling the need to be constantly busy can prevent us from turning inward. When we are out of balance, our activity doesn’t arise from a place of stillness and wisdom. 

Solitude, especially in our society today, is not a luxury or an activity we pencil in on calendars. It is a need.

The benefits of solitude should propel it to a list topper of our priorities.

5 Benefits to Solitude

  1. Rebooting the brain. Being “on” or even working diligently doesn’t allow your mind a chance to turn off and rest. Even when you are watching a movie, your brain is working to listen actively and follow the story. But when you are alone and without any distractions, your brain can recharge.
  2. Working through problems. When you sit with a friend and talk, your mind is engaging in your friend’s world as well as yours. It may be an effective way to process your problems and emotions, but to find a solution and come to peace with it requires solitude.
  3. Finding your voice. When you are with people, it is easy to blend your voice with theirs and come to group thoughts and decisions. The influence of others is inevitable. But when you are in solitude, the noises are gone and you are able to hear what you truly want to say and believe.
  4. Improving your relationships. In spending time alone and seeking to understand yourself better, you become a better wife, friend, boss. You will also find yourself appreciating your loved ones more after some quiet time in reflection.
  5. Satisfying your own needs. It is extremely easy to become dependent on others for every emotional or physical need we may have. Our society encourages “togetherness” much more than solitude. But it is in the stillness of being alone that we learn that each of us is indeed, enough. We discover ways to become more confident in who we are. Gratitude and happiness can then take root.

Ester Buchholz, Ph.D. in The Call of Solitude wrote,

Being alone gives us the power to regulate and adjust our lives. It can teach us fortitude and the ability to satisfy our own needs. A restorer of energy, the stillness of alone experiences provides us with much-needed rest. It brings forth our longing to explore, our curiosity about the unknown, our will to be an individual, our hopes for freedom. Alone time is fuel for life.

Solitude is important. And it’s important to note that solitude is not isolation. Isolation is running from something. Solitude is resting in the beauty of being alone.

 

Sources:

http://www.newworldlibrary.com/ArticleDetails/tabid/230/ArticleID/152/Default.aspx#.VrJEBLIrLIU

https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199802/the-call-solitude

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/high-octane-women/201201/6-reasons-you-should-spend-more-time-alone

 

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managing your energy photo Shannon Cassidy

Managing Your Energy

When you think of energy management, you might think of this standard definition: “Energy management is planning and operation of energy production and energy consumption units.”

But what about energy management in people?

A human’s capacity for energy is finite; a fact that many of us ignore. We work for long hours, telling ourselves that as long as we have caffeine or motivation, our energy will go on and on.

It won’t.

To achieve maximum productivity, you must manage your energy. That’s the message of Allison Green Schoop, associate strategy director at global design firm frog.

So how do you manage your energy? Look at it as sprints and recovery. We all know we are going to have big sprints — that’s what makes pursuing a project or business so exciting. The balance between sprints and recovery is key in being your most productive.

To Manage the Sprints:

Monitor your energy levels. We all have different internal rhythms: Some of us are night owls, while others’ brains shut down after 10 p.m. To find out what time of day your energy levels are at their peak, try setting your smartphone to beep every hour and note what you’re doing, how your energy is and what might have affected it, such as whether you just ate a huge, carb-heavy lunch. At the end of a week, assess your notes and look for patterns.

Don’t force it. Once you know your natural energy rhythms, try to honor them. If you experience a 3 p.m. slump every day, for example, trying to power through it will do more harm than good. You won’t be working efficiently, your results will be poor, and you’ll drain even more energy from your mind and body. Instead, during a slump time, try taking a quick walk or doing stretches in your office.

Adjust accordingly. You don’t have to be a slave to your energy levels, of course. Test different ways of energizing yourself, such as exercising, eating different foods, getting lots of water or sleeping more to find out what works best for you. One of my friends finally motivated herself to work out every morning when she realized that doing so eliminated the 3 p.m. slump that had plagued her for years.

To Make Room for Recovery:

Schedule it. No matter whether or not you think you need a break, schedule fun or relaxation activities in advance and stick to them.

Double the break you think you need. You might say, “Sure, I’ll take a break this evening— I’ll give myself a whole hour off!” Not good enough. Whatever the break you think you need, double it. You are most likely underestimating the toll that all of your hard work is taking on your body and mind — even if you’re having fun.

Enlist family and friends. If you schedule a weekend get-away with family or friends, you’ll have no excuse but to unplug. Family and friends can be great accountability buddies for taking the breaks you need.

Break down your biggest goals into achievable, measurable chunks and reward yourself often! For every day that you make a massive to-do list, add a “reward” item at the end that brings you joy.

Sources:

http://www.inc.com/leigh-buchanan/maximize-productivity-manage-energy.html

https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/openforum/articles/7-ways-to-manage-your-energy-for-optimum-productivity/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/yec/2011/05/30/5-tips-for-managing-your-energy-not-your-time/#27e509816c4a

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Tips for Making Sure Your Performance Reviews Are Productive

Tips for Making Sure Your Performance Reviews Are Productive

Performance reviews are a staple of many company’s management strategies, but they aren’t always helpful. If not properly done, they can become homogenous and their insights insignificant. If you’re in human resources or management, here are five tips that will help make sure your performance reviews are useful for both your company and its employees.

Make Time for Performance Reviews

Performance reviews are often neglected because there’s not time to complete them. They’re another task that managers must complete, but time is rarely devoted specifically to them. Managers are forced to fit performance reviews into already hectic schedules. What should be meaningful conversations become five-minute meetings that take place between (or even during) other tasks.

A year, or even six months, of work can’t adequately be assessed in five minutes. If performance reviews are to provide individualized insights into employees’ performance, there must be time specifically set aside for them. Consider giving managers a half hour to an hour that’s solely to meet with an employee and discuss how they’re doing. If managers will still be tempted to shortchange the time, give them funds to go out for lunch with each employee. Conducting a review during a meal will ensure that there’s adequate time.

Speak About Specific Situations

Just as you want to hear about specific instances from interviewees, managers should speak of specific situations when conducting performance reviews. Every item on a review should be supported by a specific example. What employees do well should be precisely detailed, along with the exact things they can do to improve.

Keep Ongoing Notes to Reference

Performance reviews are meant to cover a specified amount of time, often either six months or a year. Many times, however, only the weeks immediately preceding a review are assessed. It’s too difficult to remember everything an employee did over several months or a year, especially when managing multiple employees.

In order to accurately assess an employee over the entire duration of a review, managers should keep ongoing notes on all of the employees they oversee. While employees in your company may already be written up for serious errors, managers should also keep notes on the good things that employees do. These notes will help form the foundation of a comprehensive review, and they can provide specific examples for the review.

Suggest Ways to Improve

Performance reviews shouldn’t just be about what the employee has done in the past. They should also give the employee ways to improve in the future. When critiquing, don’t just be critical. Be constructive. Help employees identify ways they can improve, and offer to help them as they strive for those goals.  Although there may be some negative items on a review, offering constructive ways to improve will give employees hope that they can get a better review in the future.

Have Two-Way Conversations

Performance reviews are much more productive when employees are actively engaged. To encourage employees to take part, turn reviews into two-way conversations rather than one-way monologues. Even if you don’t want to debate an employee’s review with them, they should at least have an opportunity to ask questions and explain their personal goals.

Don’t let your company’s performance reviews become a mere formality that managers squeeze in. Instead, make sure they’re a valuable part of your company’s management strategy by making time for them, speaking about specifics, referencing notes, being constructive and having a conversation. These five actions are simple, but they’ll have a profound effect on how beneficial your company’s performance reviews are.

 

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