The Key to Good Teamwork is Kindness

The Key to Good Teamwork Is…

Drumroll please…

While many factors come into play in creating and maintaining a solid and healthy working team, the bottom line comes down to such a simple thing: kindness.

Yes, it’s true, according to the mother of all team creators, Google.

Wanting to find out what makes the quintessential team, a … well, a team was formed at Google and given a project name: Project Aristotle.

The project compiled data from hundreds of interviews with Google employees to attempt to pinpoint the perfect combination that would lead to a solid team: was it team members? Was it skill sets? Google was bound and determined to find the perfect algorithm: the one that defined a top team.

As it turned out, the right algorithm wasn’t about the WHO but about the HOW. The members of the team—their skills, abilities, experience—was found to be less important than how the team members interacted with one another. In other words, HOW they worked together as a team was more important than WHO they were as individual team members.

This probably isn’t ‘breaking news’ to anyone who has experience leading teams but it’s significant in that it puts into specific relief that which many leaders—including people like Steven Covey—have suspected all along: psychological safety is the key to an effective team.

Covey said in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “Members of productive teams take the effort to understand each other, find a way to relate to each other, and then try to make themselves understood.”

Put another way, kindness drives a good team. Specifically, the project discovered five keys to a successful team:

  1. Psychological safety—taking risks within the team and in front of one another without feeling as if there will be negative repercussions.
  2. Dependability—knowing that each member will do their best work, on time.
  3. Structure and clarity—having each member be absolutely clear on their role, the processes for the project / team and the ultimate goal they are trying to achieve together.
  4. Meaning of work—each team member feels personally invested in the work being accomplished.
  5. Impact of work—each team member feels that the work matters, in the overall scheme of the organization and the world at large.

Identifying solidly with all five keys is the hallmark of an effective team. A leader who feels that this isn’t happening with his or her team can take heart if the first of the five is underway in his or her group. Why? Because ‘psychological safety’ is at the heart of all the keys and without it, the rest doesn’t hang together. It’s primary and most important.

A team can’t be effective if its members, including the leader, don’t feel safe sharing or putting out their ideas, in effect creating vulnerability vis-a-vis their team members. Work on that and you’ve got a team that’s working.

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What to Do (or Not Do) on a Team

What to Do (or Not Do) on a Team

That old chestnut that there is no ‘I’ in ‘team’ is tired but true and those team members who forget it are likely to struggle.

Working in a team isn’t necessarily easy. It takes effort and requires contributions from every member in order to be effective. There are, however, some specific things you can do as a member of a team to ensure that you are acting as effectively as possible and inspiring others to do the same.

Speak up… and listen

Communication is key. If you aren’t talking, sharing, being honest and open, you probably aren’t communicating effectively and if you don’t, the other members of your team won’t know what you’re thinking. A team can operate cohesively but that doesn’t mean that other members are mind readers!

In addition to speaking and sharing, a good team member will also listen. And not just passive listening, where they take in what is being said around them and don’t react to it in any way, but active listening, where they feedback what they think they have heard, to ensure that there are no misunderstandings. Further, other team members will feel that their contributions are valuable if you demonstrate an interest in what they are saying. If you are playing on your smartphone while others are speaking, you aren’t communicating effectively.

Don’t play the blame game

When something goes wrong during a project, proactive problem solving is the best result a team can strive for. It’s important not to waste a lot of time and energy blaming individuals for an error; it’s more valuable to own the problem as a team, assess the damage and figure out a way to move forward.

That said, a team’s spirit can be undermined if there is a need to hold someone or several persons accountable for their actions and that accountability is not exercised; but that’s different from laying blame.

Accountability to the team is important: if everyone is participating and ‘pulling their weight’, so to speak, there should be no issue that can’t be handled as a team. It’s when there are individuals who do not have the motivation, interest or ability to participate that issues of blame begin to crop up.

Be supportive and an active player

To follow on the notion of accountability, all team members need to be active participants, supportive of their teammates. Cooperation, reliability and flexibility are the order of the day and a desire to achieve working ability through consensus makes for the strongest teams.

If everyone pitches in and does their share, contributes with their strengths and supports others as they contribute with theirs, each team member will have done the best they can to achieve the goals of the team as a whole.

You can’t control how others behave, but you can control your own behavior and it behooves us all to put our best foot forward, in every circumstance.

Take credit as a team

Goals are achieved as a team and therefore accolades need to be given to the team as a whole. While there may be one person or a sub-group that stand out as being particularly important in the achievement, the reality is that most great achievement does not happen in a vacuum. There are a lot of people who contribute to it and those contributions should be acknowledged.

Some things not to do, as a team member?

  1. Not contributing and giving out signs of apathy—if you don’t want to be on the team, or you don’t subscribe to the goals as set out for the project, it will show. Your lack of contribution—sitting on the sidelines, as it were—will eventually be resented by the other members of the group, which in and of itself can damage the group’s dynamics.
  2. Not communicating, at best; being rude, at worst—the importance of communication cannot be overstated. If you are in over your head, say so. If you need something from someone else in order to do your part of a project, say so. If someone is trying to tell you that they disagree with something you have done or said, listen to them. Ignoring others or arguing with them disparagingly will be damaging to any project.
  3. Not trustworthy, poor timekeeper, won’t get it done—reliability is essential in being an effective team member. If everyone else is doing their share and working to the best of their abilities and you can’t be bothered to show up to most meetings and don’t complete the tasks that are on your to-do list, you’re letting the whole team down.
  4. Only interested in personal gain—doing things as a team means achieving (or failing) as a team. If you are engaging in activities for your own personal gain and with no regard for your teammates, you’re there for the wrong reasons.
  5. Blames others when falls short—a good team will take the hits together. Blaming other team members instead of constructively trying to alter the methods used going forward is a weak approach and one that ultimately will not benefit the team.
  6. Negative attitude / not buying into team goals—we all have disagreements or times when we don’t necessarily agree with everything that is being done on a project. But rather than sitting in a corner passive-aggressively ranting about it, or worse, complaining to anyone who will listen, do something about it. This all comes back to communication and contributing, for an effective team.

 

So much of what I’ve said here is common sense but it’s all worth repeating and reminding ourselves about what works and what doesn’t, in a team environment.

 

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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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3 Ways Gratitude Enhances Leadership by Shannon Cassidy

3 Ways Gratitude Enhances Leadership

The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more you will have to express gratitude for.—Bill Gates

As we enter the fall season, we begin to think of fall holidays, like Thanksgiving. But gratitude is not relegated to once a year on the 4th Thursday. Gratitude enhances leadership when practiced regularly and results in a more successful enterprise.

How? Here are three ways a simple attitude of thankfulness can change your business:

  1. Being grateful for your employees cultivates loyalty.

A typical day for any leader contains moments where you rely on your team’s expertise and work ethic. In those moments, the simple words “thank you” are vital. Everyone wants to be appreciated for their skill set and when they receive that pat on the back, loyalty to their leader is created. According to an article in Business News Daily, a recent survey revealed that 93% of respondents believed bosses were more likely to be successful if they were grateful.

Simple and sincere appreciation is the most effective form of positive reinforcement, and it’s free. The loyalty of a good employee is an effective tool for any company.

  1. Being grateful for your position as a leader cultivates humility.

Young Benjamin Franklin was said to be cocky and ego-centric.  But he was also smart enough to realize that he was becoming morally bankrupt. He set out to find character traits in which he needed to improve.  He came up with a list of twelve traits. Confident and proud of himself, he showed the list to a trusted friend probably with the idea of boasting of his efforts to improve. His friend then gave him a jolt that led to adding a 13th trait – humility. Leaders who cultivate humility inspire their employees. Egotism in a boss often fuels resentment, but humility creates a cheerful environment where employees want to succeed for the boss and the company.

Freibergs.com made the powerful observation:

When you are in awe of what you have, the immediate response is a deep sense of appreciation: “Whom do I repay?” “What does it mean to give back in life?” “How can I be a better steward of what I have?” These questions leave little room for envy, entitlement, or complaint. It’s hard to complain when we are truly thankful, but it’s hard to be thankful when we think we are entitled and take so much for granted.

Simply being grateful for your position as a leader can improve your company and your team.

  1. Being grateful cultivates mental strength.

For years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma.  A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War Veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Gratitude fosters mental strength. There’s an old saying that if you’ve forgotten the language of gratitude, you’ll never be on speaking terms with happiness. This isn’t just a fluffy idea. Several studies have shown depression to be inversely correlated to gratitude. It seems that the more grateful a person is, the less depressed they are. Philip Watkins, a clinical psychologist at Eastern Washington University, found that clinically depressed individuals showed significantly lower gratitude (nearly 50 percent less) than non-depressed controls.

What leader would not want loyalty, humility and mental strength? These qualities can be characteristics of your company when you and other leaders in your company cultivate gratitude. Want a more successful company? Practice gratitude all year long.

Want to cultivate gratitude? Order your own gratitude journal here.

Sources:

http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/7157-power-perspective-leadership.html

http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/7157-power-perspective-leadership.html

http://linked2leadership.com/2013/11/26/humble-and-grateful-the-truly-effective-leader/

http://www.freibergs.com/resources/articles/leadership/lead-with-gratitude/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ocean-robbins/having-gratitude-_b_1073105.html

http://www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2014/11/23/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-of-gratitude-that-will-motivate-you-to-give-thanks-year-round/

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Can Change Management Help My Company by Shannon Cassidy

Can Change Management Help My Company?

You’ve heard the buzz word before. Change management. According to Prosci Solutions, change management is defined as “the discipline that guides how we prepare, equip and support individuals to successfully adopt change in order to drive organizational success and outcomes.”

For the past few decades, individuals have researched this relatively new skill set. Associations have formed to provide support and training.

The first State of the Change Management Industry report was published in the Consultants News in February 1995.

In 2013, The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) also included Change Management as a core competence in their Standards..

The Association of Change Management Professionals (ACMP) was created in 2011 and announced that in 2016 that, to enhance the profession, a new certification will be introduced: Certified Change Management Professional.

So how can change management help your company or career?

According to Prosci Solutions:

“Realizing the benefits of your strategy depends on people changing how they do their work. Change management is a structured approach to drive these individual transitions.”

If a company adapts change management, it will:

  1. Increase the likelihood projects will succeed. Projects where changing practices, techniques or attitudes are important need extra attention. Left to just “adapt” to new requirements, employees often become frustrated or discouraged. Change management gives these individuals the leadership and training they need to feel confident.
  2. Manage employee resistance to change. We are all resistant to change. Humans get comfortable in their set patterns. To upset that comfort is to experience pain. Peter Benge, an American systems scientist said, “People don’t resist change. They resist being changed.” Change management gives an employee a safe way to experience change without feeling they are “being” changed.
  3. Build change competency in the organization. In using change management, a company acquires experience in helping individuals and groups change. By first identifying those who will need to change and defining what ways they will need to change, the process is broken down into manageable tasks that build competency in change management. After using this process the first time, the “change” techniques become easier and easier.

Your company’s individuals will embrace change more quickly and effectively when they are equipped to handle change. You team will more easily embrace new strategic initiatives and they will adopt new technology quicker.

Change management is more than a buzz word. It is a tool that every company can adopt to help employees navigate the ever-changing business environment.

Sources:

http://www.prosci.com/change-management/what-is-change-management

http://www.acmpglobal.org/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Change_management

https://www.prosci.com/

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