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.

Read More

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.

 

Read More

Four Reasons Knowing Your Worth is Vital for a Leader

Four Reasons Knowing Your Worth is Vital for a Leader

If you consider the employers you have worked for in your past, you could probably divide them into two groups: those who knew their worth and those who didn’t. If you think about it in those terms, it will become obvious that the better managers knew their worth.

This intrinsic knowledge is a vital asset to any leader. Why?

Leaders who know their worth delegate with confidence.

We all have strengths. Know what yours are. Be clear on this. When you know your strengths, you can feel confident delegating and leading. When the next project rolls around for your company, knowing your worth will be vital in planning out each undertaking. If you tend to waffle when discussing your talents, you will vacillate when assigning tasks. Any leader who is insecure in launching a project will set a tone of insecurity, and the team members will follow suit. Insecurity breeds indecision and eventually resentment. Know how valuable your skills are.

Leaders who know their worth don’t allow disrespect of anyone on the team.

Too often low self-esteem enters the workplace by way of disrespectful comments. People lash out in disrespect because they feel badly about themselves. As a leader who knows your worth, you can stop this behavior by establishing an environment of respect. This begins with you having high self-esteem and knowing your own worth. You can stop disrespect in your office by displaying respect for yourself and others.

Leaders who know their worth have relaxed followers.

Stressful team members are a problem with any project. They bring their worry to the project, and it naturally spreads to those around them. It is difficult to deal with this kind of stress unless you are a confident leader. Just like stress can spread, confidence is infectious. Anyone on a team performs better when their leader is confident. The tone a manager sets can combat that stress that sneaks in. So as a leader, it is up to you to develop and maintain that confidence. Knowing your worth is the key to confidence.

Leaders who know their worth face any crisis with poise.

When your company has a bad quarter, disappointment is a natural response. When a key person on your team quits, panic can arise. When conflict rears its head at the office, avoidance and denial can be a temptation. However, if you know your worth, that knowledge can lead you away from disappointment, panic and denial.  Instead of dealing with the overwhelming thought of “What in the world should I do now?” your response can be, “We can handle this. What is our first step?”

Jim Rohn said, “You don’t get paid for the hour. You get paid for the value you bring to the hour.” That value begins with valuing yourself and what you bring to the table. To be the best leader you can be, spend time in understanding and knowing your worth. You will benefit from this and so will the people on your team.

Source:

http://elitedaily.com/life/motivation/your-self-worth-is-everything/

 

Read More

Physical Fitness is Vital to Leadership by Shannon Cassidy

Physical Fitness is Vital to Leadership

Does physical fitness have any bearing on leadership abilities?

The phrase “fit to lead” dates back to the early 1800’s. A leader needed to be spiritually, mentally and physically fit enough to lead a community.

The same could be said today especially physically. Leadership is a taxing position that requires a certain amount of endurance, confidence and decisiveness, all of which have a direct link to the physical state of the body. True to the adage mens sana in corpora sano (“healthy mind in a healthy body”), it is essential to maintain a high level of fitness to keep motivated and disciplined.

It is important as leaders to be actively tuned into the rhythms of our body and the fluctuations of energy we might have throughout each day. Too many leaders put so much energy into leading and achieving that they forget about how important it is to maintain fitness. Why?

 5 reasons physical fitness is vital to leadership

  1. The law of mimicry. Studies have shown that regular team members unconsciously mimic the behavior patterns of their leader. If a leader is undisciplined or not punctual, their subordinates tend to follow suit. In the same way, a leader who does not make caring for her body and health a priority will have team members who will mirror this as well.
  2. Mental wellness. Exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress because it boosts your brain’s “feel-good” neurotransmitters called endorphins. Also, by solely focusing on your body’s motions for a period of time, you focus less on the day’s stresses, at least for a while. According to an article by the Mayo Clinic, exercise also reduces symptoms associated with anxiety and depression while improving sleeping patterns.
  3. Creativity. Being physically fit gives a leader the ability and brain space to use creative thinking to its utmost. Studies suggest that even moderate levels of exercise increase cognitive abilities and will help you make better decisions and design creative business strategies.
  4. Productivity. Just like a car that is top condition and filled with gas can go on long trips without incident, so a body that is physically fit can produce all that it is required to produce.
  5.  Confidence. Self-confidence is the fundamental basis from which leadership grows. Regular exercise boosts self-confidence through endorphins.

A great leader pays attention to health. John F. Kennedy said, “Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.”

 

Sources:

http://aboutleaders.com/fitness-and-leadership/#gs.Nax4hU0

http://therussells.crossfit.com/2014/11/03/ties-between-fitness-and-leadership-by-dr-carol-himelhoch/

http://weeklyleader.net/2010/leadership-and-physical-fitness/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/brentgleeson/2012/10/22/5-reasons-why-good-fitness-makes-for-better-entrepreneurial-leadership/#34cf11c167b5

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/exercise-and-stress/art-20044469

Read More

6 Reasons Leaders Must Develop Patience by Shannon Cassidy

6 Reasons Leaders Must Develop Patience

“I wanted it yesterday.”

This is a fair statement if the deadline has actually passed. But demanding constant speed when there is no real urgency can wear down an employee. Great leaders know that having excellent skills in patience will create the best kind of team.

Why?

Patience Shows Respect

Focused listening to an employee communicates respect and therefore encourages productivity. Impatience while listening communicates that you don’t value your team members’ opinions.

Patience Increases Productivity

If you are constantly telling your team members to hurry up, it will foster either frustration or fear and you want neither on your team. To get the best results, use patience and deliberate instructions. Productivity will be twice what it was compared to when you are rushing.

Patience Allows Freedom

When you are presenting the idea of change, employees will process that at different paces. If you are impatient with their progression, you will be subtly communicating to them that they are “less than.” That is simply not true and will possibly drive your team members to quit. If they know they have freedom to accept the change at their own speeds, they will be better workers.

Patience Inspires Positivity

Patience inspires your team to have a positive attitude during difficult times. Your leadership when displaying patience will be noticed by your employees and will infect them with positivity. “If the boss seems calm and patient, I can be, too.”

Patience Exercises Good Timing

Timing is everything. If you are a leader of a team that must act on the stock market or forge ahead when the timing is right, patience is an extreme virtue. CNN’s news and the alerts that come up on our cell phones encourage us to go, go, go. But wisdom says to use patience. Slow down. Wait. And it is a thrill when the waiting pays off, especially in areas like real estate and Wall Street stocks.

Patience Grows Companies

Building a company takes time. Wise leaders know this and use patience appropriately. Some don’t and their attempts fail. In an article about patience in leadership on Inc.com Eric Holtzclawe wrote, “But as you move through your entrepreneurial journey, pay close attention to the pressure you are applying. Is it consistent, purposeful pressure like that needed to create a diamond? Or are you using the brute force of a sledgehammer?”

 

Gandhi used incredible patience in leading India to its independence.

Look at the Red Sox – from 1918 to 2004 they waited patiently through the “curse of the Bambino” and then took the World Series at last.

The Cubs fans are still using their patience!

If you want to be the best leader you can be, begin fostering the characteristic of patience. Slow down and be deliberate. Most leaders, ironically, are not patient people. The tendency is get it done and get it done now. But great leaders are patient and it reflects in their team members and productivity.

 

Sources:

http://artpetty.com/2012/12/27/leadership-caffeine-6-reasons-why-patience-is-a-leaders-best-friend/

http://nationalmortgageprofessional.com/blog/importance-patience-leadership

http://www.inc.com/eric-v-holtzclaw/leadership-power-of-patience.html

 

 

Read More