Risk Taking | BridgeBetween.com

Risk Taking: How to Encourage Growth on Your Team

Whether you call it risk taking or innovation, growth comes from moving forward, not standing still!

Taking risks in business is hard enough; allowing your team to do it with only minimal intervention on your part? That is harder still! But it’s risk taking and creative innovation that encourages team growth, not stagnation., so one of your roles as a leader is to push your team to take a little risk.

So, one of your roles as a leader is to push your team to take a little risk.

Risk doesn’t have to be reckless

If you want to encourage your team to grow and innovate, you have to give them clear parameters within which they are allowed to do so.

Whether that involves defining how much money can be spent in the pursuit of a new business track or creates boundaries on decision making and the point they need to involve you or a process of review, smart risk taking isn’t without limits.

Just be sure that your limits aren’t in fact so constraining that innovation isn’t ever going to be a part of the picture. A little discomfort and out of the box thinking is what propels people, and companies, forward.

Create a safe place for your team to take calculated risks

People will take risks if they know that they aren’t putting their necks — and their jobs — on the line. Fear is probably the greatest barrier to innovation.

Instead, you have to create a safe environment where your team clearly understands that despite everything done to mitigate problems, innovation comes with …well, risk!

Learning from mistakes or failure is essential. Whatever your team is attempting could all go very wrong. Or, it could all go very right. Either way, your ability to create a culture that includes accepting failure is the only way to encourage team members who fail to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and strive for more.

Either way, your ability to create a culture that includes accepting failure is the only way to encourage team members who fail to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and strive for more.

Model the behavior you expect to see

You can’t create a culture that encourages risk if you don’t engage in the behavior yourself. Leadership is all about walking the walk, not just talking the talk, so while you might fall flat on your face in attempting a little risk taking, playing it safe won’t motivate anyone.

As a member of the team yourself, you need to involve others in your decisions and demonstrate how you intend to take on and mitigate risks for the best possible outcome. Clear communication is fundamental to creating the right environment for growth.

Don’t just reward success

While there’s no question of giving everyone a ribbon ‘just for coming out’, it is important to reward successes AND failures. Not just any failure, of course, but ones that come from a strong attempt and smart risk taking.

If failure is not only tolerated but even praised for the goals that a team member was trying to achieve, others are more likely to take a step towards a little risk themselves. A team member need only understand that their career growth won’t be stunted by a failure.

And, in fact, might be improved by one, to decide that it is something they’re willing to engage in.

You can take it as far as celebrating the mistakes or failures, literally! Putting it out in the open and having the whole team own a failure creates some of that safety that individuals will be looking for.

Remember, not every failure is a categorical mistake. There is always something that can be learned and always some positive side effect that can be leveraged, if only that your team feels free to try again.

Hope for the best, plan for the worst

Part of mitigating risk is figuring out the worst case scenario in any given plan. If your team learns to look at all the possible consequences and assign relative value over risk to them, they will quickly be able to judge what is a smart risk or innovation and what isn’t.

That’s part of their growth as a team, and the company as a whole, which will help propel everyone forward, as time goes by.

However you inspire your team towards innovation, remember that nobody wins the game by playing it safe all the time. There are times for risk and there are times for safety: your job as a leader is to have a clear vision for both so that you can encourage your team in the right direction.

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Be True to Value Statements | BridgeBetween.com

The Importance of Being True to Value Statements

Leaders are, and should be, held to a higher standard.

It’s business fashionable to throw around words like ‘value statements’ and ‘mission’ but, in many cases, they are just empty words.

Why? Because often leaders in a company don’t actually give those terms any weight, so they become hot air instead of standard operating procedure. How does a leader give them weight?

By living them.

Case in point: Dropbox’s CEO ‘A-HA’ moment

Drew Houston, CEO at Dropbox, had his moment of understanding the importance of walking the walk when he set up an all-company meeting to address the issue of lateness. A meeting to which he was … wait for it … late.

In his mind, being two minutes late was no big deal, but that’s not how others perceived it. A fellow team member shared with him that it was, in fact, hypocritical to behave as if the rules didn’t apply to him.

Houston came to the realization that all the value statements in the world won’t make a hill of beans difference in team morale and attitude if the leadership isn’t living them, rather than just repeating them.

Show rather than tell

The best way for a leader to breathe life into value statements about the company is to live them. Like a novelist who wants to bring the reader into a new and interesting world, he has to show them the way, rather than tell them how to get there:

“To illustrate, let’s say someone stops you on the street to ask for directions. You could give the person a step-by-step route to follow, or you might draw a map, complete with street names and landmarks.

But you could also say:

“That’s not too far out of my way. Just follow me, and I’ll take you there.”

Which method do you think is the most effective?” (Source)

Communicate intentions clearly

While mission statements and value propositions might be written in the employee handbook or even on the wall at the office, the real power of these words comes from direct statements and actions of leaders.

It’s all very well and good to SAY that you value the mental health of your team members, but you have to show it too. A recent example that went viral online was an employee at Michigan tech company who sent her team an email saying that she was taking a couple of days off. The reason: for her mental health.

You might expect that the CEO of that company would be unhappy to see an email from a team member that so openly admitted to taking time off for this reason — mental health not being accepted in every organization as being a legitimate concern for employees. In this case, you would be wrong.

This was his response:

“I just wanted to personally thank you for emails like this. Every time you do, I use it as a reminder of the importance of using sick days for mental health—I can’t believe this is not standard practice at all organizations. You are an example to us all, and help cut through the stigma so we can all bring our whole selves to work.”

Now, that’s leadership. The employee, Madelyn, tweeted his response (with permission) and the result was overwhelming, even to the CEO, Ben Congleton. As he stated in a subsequent post at Medium.com “It’s 2017. I cannot believe that it is still controversial to speak about mental health in the workplace when 1 in 6 americans are medicated for mental health.”

Don’t create value statements you don’t believe in

That’s the bottom line. Hollow value statements are pointless and, in fact, can hurt a team’s morale when they discover how little those statements mean to the leadership of the company.

Sit down and really think about what your company is about and how you can use mission and value statements to show your team where the path to success is, rather than just pointing the way and then going in the opposite direction.

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How to Get Your Team to Speak Up | BridgeBetween.com

How to Get Your Team to Speak Up

We’ve all seen it: that shy employee who has a tremendous amount of knowledge and ability but can’t seem to bring themselves to speak up in groups, meetings or in front of an audience.

It’s a loss for the team as a whole when one member doesn’t feel comfortable talking and contributing. Remember that old saying about a team being as strong as its weakest link?

Being shy — or worried about appearances, lacking in self-confidence, or being the ‘keep your head down’ kind of employee — doesn’t make a team member bad at their job, but it does make it more difficult to coordinate efforts and get the most out of everyone’s abilities.

There are a couple of tools in the toolbox that will help get everyone on the team to participate!

Model the behavior you want to see

Like most any situation where you are dealing with human behavior, if you want a certain action from your team, you need to model it.

In other words, if you expect them to speak up and risk looking ‘wrong’ or ‘silly’, you have to be willing to do it, too. Address the elephant in the room, whatever that may be. Take a risk in your speaking. If they see you willing to do it, they will be more willing to do it too. Make it clear that meetings are interactive, not one-sided speeches.

Request feedback and thank them

In order to get people to speak up, you may have to invite questions. This isn’t about singling out the shy person, like a teacher picking on the kid who never raises his hand. This is about making sure that people have a chance to have a voice. Invite questions, feedback, and comments and keep control of any judgment.

If there are people in the group who are prone to shutting down comments from others that they don’t agree with, you need to deal with those people because they just became your weakest link. Give credit where credit is due, when someone has the gumption to put something ‘out there’.

Engage with other options

A good way to get a reluctant participant to open up is to leverage a medium that they can get behind first. Example? Ask them to provide a written memo or report on what they are working on and to circulate it in advance to the rest of the team.

This gives other team members a chance to approach the writer one on one or in a smaller setting and ask questions, rather than having the shy person approach everyone else directly for feedback.

Figure out why there is silence

If the silence isn’t limited to one or two people, there is something else going on. Has there been judgment in the past by members of the group? Are suggestions given routinely ignored, despite being requested?

Find out why people are holding back by asking them in a more conducive setting, one to one, with the clear statement that they will not be ‘punished’ in any way for honesty. You need to get past any major blocks like this, as they are really not conducive to a team effort and can signal other issues within the group.

Give advance notice of meetings/informational requirements

If people feel prepared for a meeting, they’re more likely to participate. That might seem basic but expecting people to have the information you’re looking for at the drop of a hat might not be realistic and, in fact, might be detrimental to getting people to fight the very natural tendency to keep what they know closer to their chest, rather than sharing it with the group.

Speaking up and sharing information is at the basis of any good team, but the lack of ability to do so shouldn’t disqualify someone from their role. The ability to speak up can be taught, as long as the environment is one that welcomes it. That has to come from the leadership level, so make it a priority!

With that in mind, executive coaching might be just what you need to take your communications, and your leadership, to the next level. Contact us today for more information.

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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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Humor Is Good for Teams and Business

LOL: Why Humor Is Good for Teams and Business

There’s no contradicting the fact that a little laughter can lighten any situation.

We’ve all been in one of those situations: a tense disagreement between team members or a stressful day with a deadline looming. How these times get handled is very important to the overall well-being of a team. One way to handle them is to try and inject a little humor, a little levity, into the situation; to bring everyone back to reality.

There are a couple of advantages to using humor to break tension or build up an effective team:

  • It builds trust and group bonding through a shared experience, something they can all look back on later and laugh about again. Just putting people together on a team doesn’t mean that they will bond. The shared experience of humor can go a long way to helping individuals build that feeling of being a part of a meaningful whole.
  • It breaks the tension by taking people out of their usual comfort zones but doing so in a fun way that doesn’t threaten anybody’s position and creates open communication, improves morale and lowers stress.
  • Humor or a humoristic situation puts all team members, including the leader, on an even playing field. If managers or team leaders are viewed as ‘regular people’, the rest of the team will be able to relate to them more effectively.

Why does laughter and humor matter?

Sophie Scott gets into the science of laughter in her TED talk: “Why we Laugh”. Laughter is, she points out, an important social cue: “ And when we laugh with people, we’re hardly ever actually laughing at jokes. You are laughing to show people that you understand them, that you agree with them, that you’re part of the same group as them. You’re laughing to show that you like them. You might even love them. You’re doing all that at the same time as talking to them, and the laughter is doing a lot of that emotional work for you. “

When you’re building or working within a team, humor and laughter can help individual team members to socialize to the group, creating a different level of connection than a ‘strictly business’ attitude would ever attain. Laughter also relaxes people physically, which can be very useful in a tense or stressful work environment.

“Everybody underestimates how often they laugh, and you’re doing something, when you laugh with people, that’s actually letting you access a really ancient evolutionary system that mammals have evolved to make and maintain social bonds, and clearly to regulate emotions, to make ourselves feel better.”

In other words, laughter is good for us, both individually and as a team.

How to engage humor to team build?

I think I’ll start with what not to do: don’t build up contrived, silly games that some of your staff find demeaning and only participate in because they feel they have to. Know your people: if you’ve got classic introverts in your group, forcing them to play a game every week, to get everyone’s laugh muscles working, is not going to be helpful.

Instead, look for the more real opportunities to engage in humor. It can be as simple as stocking up on some clever jokes that you saw online or sharing a meme from Facebook that will speak to the team members, or at least speak to their funny bones!

If you’re a team leader, self-deprecating humor can work wonders to encourage your team to see you as one of them. Make yourself the butt of the joke once in awhile, and you’ll see the other members responding.

While team-building retreats—out of the office and away from the day to day—can be great for getting a new group to understand one another and their individual strengths, it should not be at the expense of allowing a little bit of humor into the every day. Many organizations send their teams on these retreats, where they are expected to ‘let their hair down’ a little, but then it’s business as usual the minute the come back into the office. This defeats the purpose entirely. It’s a retreat, not Vegas: allow some of what happened at the retreat to filter back into the everyday, particularly anything that was humorous.

Do you use humor in team building? What works for you?

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