Leadership Trevolution Blog
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Published on: Nov 21, 2012
Published on: Nov 05, 2012
I have never enjoyed putting jigsaw puzzles together, but when I have participated in completing one the picture on the box is indispensable. Without it, I find it difficult to know where to start or understand what pieces go in which part of the final product. I can’t imagine being expected to create pieces for a puzzle not knowing what the whole picture is supposed to look like.
That is the dynamic managers can create when they assign work without considering input from employees. Employees are delegated work with the expectation that they can create the parts without understanding or contributing to the design of the whole product. It is no wonder that in the end the pieces of the puzzle, whether a product, project, or service, don’t fit.
At times, collaboration may be perceived as more time consuming than top down direction, but is it really. It may seem faster to tell people what to do, but you have to consider reworks, work arounds, conflicts, and competing ideas in your assessment of the time that the top down approach requires.
There are three reasons that collaboration is faster than top down directing.
1. Seeing and developing the whole picture
In a collaborative process, employees engage in defining the picture. Every resource every team member brings is available to determine the best outcome and the most efficient way to get there. When each person sees the whole picture and contributes to it, most of the problems in the top down approach disappear.
2. Positive interaction develops better working
In the collaborative process, a skilled leader who knows how to use process and human interaction to discover the best solution manages the interactions. This develops quality relationships that engender communication and mutual support. As a result, when a team member is unsure of his or her impact on another they can work together to find a solution before problems escalate.
3. Complementary work
When a team that both developed and created the picture of the whole creates a product, project, or service the pieces tend to fit when the puzzle is put together. The individual work is complementary benefitting the whole.
In a fast pace, high change environment practicing collaboration to achieve a better result faster may appear counterintuitive. It also requires a leader skilled in both process and interaction that results in collaboration. If you are interested in learning more about these skills you should participate in our upcoming, complimentary webinar, Leading Your Team to Collaborate, on Friday, November 16 at 1 PM Central. For more information or to learn more click here.
Published on: Oct 22, 2012
It is common in business (and other areas as well) for trends to develop when new, fashionable words or phrases emerge. A look at recent management history will provide several examples of new language representing new concepts, or at times, new language representing the same dated concepts that have been practiced for years. In either case, we who want to be current and cutting edge tend to adopt the new trendy language.
The real challenge is not changing our language, but changing our practices. The behavioral patterns that develop over time, and become as comfortable as they are thoughtless in practice, prove difficult to change.
It is that difficulty which results in skepticism when leaders talk about the “new” and continue the exact practices that followers are so accustomed to experiencing.
For this reason, definitions matter when new and trendy words come along. Correct definitions result in correct understanding that can result in changed practices. You know your definition by your practices.
For instance, leaders have described two practices to me as reaching consensus. Of these examples, neither represents the definition or practice of consensus. They are:
- Make everyone happy – Defining consensus as everyone being happy ensures a leader will experience significant frustration. This definition may be based in the belief that the manager is responsible to ensure employees are happy. A manager who strives to keep everyone in his or her work group happy has accepted a difficult assignment. A few days of this approach to managing or leading will prove wearying. I would not practice consensus if it meant I had to keep everyone involved happy. I do not want that job. (Some days, I can’t make myself happy!)
- Everyone agrees with the leader – I have observed leaders who announce a decision and ask if everyone agrees with it. Of course, they agreed! I have seen this occur after the leader listened to input from the work group then announced, and when the announcement was made unilaterally. Some leaders have described this scenario to me and called it teamwork resulting in consensus.
It is risky to assume, based on this scenario, that everyone agrees with the leader. People in this situation may not speak up if they disagree, and will not do so for various reasons. Some will agree in external expression while planning how to undermine the action. Even if everyone agrees, it still does not represent a consensus result.
The correct definition of consensus will make a significant change in leadership practice. The term, while not new or trendy, holds much potential when it occurs as the result of a collaborative process in a team.
Consensus is agreement that the group has determined the best outcome based on the full contribution to the solution by everyone involved in the decision making process.
Based on the definition there are three characteristics of a consensus:
- Consensus develops out of collaborative process
- The group discovers solutions through the synthesis of individual contributions. The outcome represents a solution that was not previously recognized by any individual.
- The group agrees that the best outcome has been determined.
The skills required to practice both collaboration and consensus are different than those many managers have been taught. That may be why it is easier to redefine the concepts than change leadership practices. If you want to learn more about leading your team to collaborate, plan to participate in our next webinar.
Title: Leading Your Team to Collaborate
Description: Many organizations are beginning to make decision affecting next year. Next year’s performance directly relates to the quality of those decisions. Team and individual ownership in those decisions increases everyone’s potential.
Collaboration provides the best outcome with the highest ownership levels. The leadership skills that move a group from internal conflict and competition to collaboration create both higher performance and a positive work environment. At times, managers’ skills to address competition and conflict develop unintentionally through trial by fire. Collaboration and teamwork sound good, but seem more like buzzwords than reality.
This webinar will clarify collaboration as it defines collaborative behavior and the primary reasons many groups cannot practice it. Participants will gain insight into how groups become teams that collaborate, as well as practices that will support collaboration.
Published on: Oct 15, 2012
Collaboration can revolutionize both the experience and outcome people share when they work together. A revolutionary experience can result in both new freedom and a stronger team. For many work groups, this is an elusive reality to create even when it is both valued and desired.
Leadership is the key to revolutionary collaboration. The leader determines whether a team works collaboratively or not. My experience has been leaders who desire to develop collaboration in teams lack the concepts, knowledge, and skills to get there. This is not an indictment of their leadership, but an observation of how current management practices fail leaders.
We can begin with a definition of collaborative behavior as it relates to the workplace.
Collaborative behavior is the practice of considering how my decisions and actions affect my team members, and making the choice or taking the action that benefits everyone affected.
Beyond that, if I do not know how my decisions and actions affect team members, I find out before deciding or acting.
Practicing collaboration requires developing this discipline in both leader and group members. This practice will revolutionize the way you work together. Some affects you can anticipate include:
Increased and relevant communication – Team members must both seek and share information to act collaboratively.
Mutual support – Collaborative action is supportive action as choices are made that benefit everyone involved.
Openness – When one team member asks another how he or she can approach a decision or action in a manner that both or all benefit, there is an inherent openness to hear the answer.
Less conflict – When one person in a work group makes decisions or takes actions that undermine others conflict is created and grows. Collaborative behavior diminishes this dynamic lessening conflict on your team.
Better outcomes – When team members take actions that connect their shared responsibility to a shared outcome you will see an improved product. This includes less time spent on workarounds, reworks, or compatibility problems.
Can you see how collaborative behavior will revolutionize your team? Would you like to know more about revolutionary collaboration? Our next webinar Leading Your Team to Collaborate will provide more insight into developing collaboration in your team, in your leaders, and in your organization.It is scheduled for Friday, November 16, and you can sign up here.
Published on: Oct 08, 2012
A team, by definition, consists of people who work together. I have discovered a range of definitions for “work together” in organizations. At times it means people are connected to the same manager, others might say it means we tolerate one another, and still others might develop friendships enjoyed at work. These definitions do not clearly delineate how people work together, nor do they ensure realization of the true benefits of teamwork.
When many work groups do actually attempt to work together to make a decision, address a problem, or define a goal it becomes competitive. Competition influences the group members’ participation in those processes.
- One person may become more assertive, or even aggressive, to ensure he or she influences the outcome based on his or her perspective.
- Expertise can be positioned as an advantage to ensure one is heard and respected so his or her input is utilized.
- A group member can withhold his or her ideas, passively avoiding the interchange to avoid an escalation of tension while hoping someone else decides the results.
- The leader can depend compromise, knowing everyone received something important to him or her while accepting everyone also had to give up on part of his or her ideas.
When collaboration characterizes “work together” there are different influences resulting in different group member experiences.
- Everyone knows his or her contribution is valued and will be considered as he or she values and considers others’ contributions.
- It is a safe environment for everyone to contribute ideas and provide feedback to one another.
- Experts are open to questions, learning, and options as they contribute to a shared solution.
- The leader ensures that the group focuses on discovering the best outcome or solution.
At some level, collaboration and teamwork are synonymous. Competition in a work group counteracts most of the benefits that we gain when we truly work together. For this reason, collaboration is better than competition in teamwork.
There are three reasons that collaboration beats competition in a team.
Competition focuses on winning. Those who are competitive strive to see their input chosen as the answer. The non-competitive withhold the contribution that may make the difference, but is not known to the group.
Collaboration focuses on the best solution or outcome. The focus is on every person in the team contributing all that is available to achieve that common result. The competition is against the problem, best decision, or goal and not one another.
The interactions in a competitive environment usually do not promote healthy relationships. Communication can be ineffective with more talking than listening and ignoring those who do not compete.
Collaboration, which should be energized in lively debate, requires listening to understand and making sure one is understood. Interactions are respectful and it is safe to contribute as well as question the ideas of others.
Competition results in a one sided outcome, or a compromise of what everyone can live with. It leaves group members with questionable commitment to the outcome that they may or may not agree with fully.
Collaboration results in the outcome everyone agrees is best, knowing each one has contributed something to discovering it. There is ownership in the decision and clarity that engages everyone in contributing.
Teams will benefit from collaboration. Without leaders who possess both the skill and capacity to develop collaborative teamwork, they will not experience it. Our next webinar will provide foundational leadership skills for leaders who desire to develop a collaborative team. More information is available here.
Published on: Sep 17, 2012
Someone recently said to me, “This is my perspective.” While I appreciated that person informing me, it was not necessary. When we speak, we usually do so from our perspective. I did appreciate that he recognized it though. Some of us do not think much about how our perspective influences our communication, decisions, and actions. This can have serious consequences when providing a team member feedback or holding him or her accountable.
When you are looking in one direction it is easy to be aware of what is creating your perspective, but it is important to realize that there are always points of view that you are not taking.
Try this, look straight ahead and consider everything you see. Now, turn around and consider how much you could not see from your original perspective, but is just as present in your current circumstance.
Many times leaders fail to consider all that they can see, much less what they may not see from their point of view. Have you ever said or thought, “I wish I had known that?”
That is usually my thought after it is too late to do anything about it!
Before you give a team member feedback there are three steps you can take. I am discussing the first one here. We will consider this further in our upcoming complimentary webinar.
- Look Around to Gain Perspective
Make sure that you have seen everything in your view, and then look around for additional interpretations of what you see.
A manager had a team member who did not contribute in meetings. He interpreted that lack of participation as disinterest and apathy: his perspective.
We broadened the manager’s perspective by looking at all of the information that was available, but ignored. The team member was engaged outside of meetings and his performance was above expectations.
This additional information influenced the manager’s perspective and made him more open to alternative explanations. Ultimately, he discovered that the person did not feel it was safe to speak in meetings.
In addition, he needed time to think about his contribution, and that time was not built into the decision making process for the team. He was not able to contribute as a result.
If the manager had acted on the original interpretation of the situation, he would have had a negative impact on a person who contributed in every way outside of meetings. He might have lost a valuable team member.
When the manager discussed the problem with the team member with a broader perspective, they were able to achieve a win-win solution that increased the team member’s contribution. Beyond that, the team benefitted as everyone’s opportunity to participate grew.
What difference will taking time to broaden your perspective before giving feedback have on your team?
We will consider this and more in our complimentary webinar, Creating Employee Ownership through the Five Levels of Accountability. This is our second and last time to offer it this year so don’t miss out. It will held be on Friday, September 28 at 1 p.m. Sign up here.
Published on: Apr 23, 2012
Your favorite part of team leadership is resolving conflict, right? While I have worked with many managers and leaders who enjoy their role, I have not talked with very many who enjoy dealing with conflict. I have yet to find one who has never experienced conflict in his or her work group. Disagreement, misunderstanding, blaming, and competition are a few of the reasons we, as leaders, deal with conflict between people.
A conflict occurs when one perceives that a person or group will take action that threatens needs, interests, values, or well-being. Conflict is experienced when one reacts to the perception of threat, whether the perception is real or not.
What is your preferred approach to settling conflicts? You may avoid conflict. That is, you don’t do conflict. Perhaps you are the person that always loses. You may state your case, but in the end, you never prevail. Alternatively, you may do whatever it takes to win every conflict you decide to engage. There are those who take the middle ground of compromise and work with everyone to find a solution. In this scenario, you win some and lose some in a process of giving and taking.
While each of these approaches has their place depending on the circumstance, in terms of building a team, collaboration is the most beneficial. Collaboration focuses everyone on what is creating the conflict and how to fix the problem. It is better than compromise because there is a commitment to the best solution and not the one everyone can live with.
It is impossible to build a team with shared responsibility, ownership, and accountability without working through conflict. People have to work through differences to come together. It is the leader’s responsibility to make sure this is done well.
There are three reasons you should value conflict:
- Conflict is Normal – It is normal to disagree, misunderstand another person, compete for your idea, believe your experience is the best, avoid blame, and the list goes on. Is it unrealistic to think that people can attempt to work together in a productive manner and not bump into one another’s differences? A leader does himself a favor when he accepts the reality that conflict is normal and teaches his team the same truth.
- Conflict is Healthy – When conflict is resolved in a healthy productive process, it is healthy for both individuals and the group. Working collaboratively to agree on the best outcome in a conflict requires people to communicate well, be open, seek to understand, and desire to be understood. This training and experience connects people into a strong team.
- Conflict brings New Opportunities – Collaboration results in outcomes that can only be discovered when people interact. Ideas reveal themselves as the process of working through conflict to a solution elevates them to consciousness. Collective creativity and innovation reside in these interactive moments. As the team matures in its ability to disagree without experiencing threat, they have moved beyond the turbulence conflict creates.
When a leader learns an effective process for resolving conflict, he or she is equipped to benefit from the conflict that occurs in a team. This transforms what most managers dread into a powerful leadership tool.
Published on: Apr 02, 2012
To build a team, a leader must initially be directive. Many whom I have introduced to team leadership initially push back because they interpret empowerment as everyone doing as each person desires. They define collaboration and consensus as the requirement to make every team member happy, therefore impossible to practice.
Based on this understanding of empowerment, a team becomes a chaotic activity committee where every individual does what they want and the group can’t get anything done. Some who attempt to build a team based on this understanding see the chaos and become more controlling than they were before the experiment.
This common failure to understand that team leadership is initially directive results in managers abandoning fundamental truths about teamwork. Much of this confusion may lie in the definition of directive leadership. Directing is not dominating.
- Dominating leadership is common practice by many managers and can best be described as top down.
- This person leads from position. “I am the boss and you have to do what I say.” Because of the basic need to control the outcome, the dominating leader tells people what to do.
- This manager is sure that others do not know the right way to do the work (his way, of course). This grows from observation of failures that validate the belief (and ignoring anything that invalidates it). People have not met his standards in the past, so it is not probable that a person will do so in the future. He may have a low opinion of people evidenced by his low level of confidence in them to complete a job well.
- Because of his low trust in others, this leader dominates from position. He fears being blamed, so he blames others, perhaps even when they do what he said. This transactional leader focuses on self-needs rather than the team.
While this description sounds harsh, it is at some level the practice of many managers today.
- Teams initially need directing leaders. These leaders ensure the group of people tasked to work together becomes a high performance team.
- While a directing leader has position, she relies on developing positive influence with the team as she builds trust. She has asked and answered the question, “What kind of leader do people want to follow?”
- This leader understands that bottom up means the person or persons responsible for execution of a decision should make it. Being fully aware that she does not know everything, she engages team members in discovering the best solutions by directing the quality of their interactions. A team leader is more concerned with the quality of the decision making process than predetermining a decision’s outcome.
- Based in the belief that people can achieve and will do so when given the opportunity, she intentionally includes them. Little concern for, or fear of, blame results from this focus on problem solving.
This transformational leader takes a group of individuals and positions them for empowerment that grows out of relationships and commitment that result in collaboration for consensus. They, by definition, become a team.
Published on: Feb 13, 2012
If you kick a ball, you expect your action to produce a result, changing its position. If you observe the same ball but do not kick it you expect no result or no change in its position. You may have similar expectations as a leader of a group of people. You choose actions that you expect to produce a result. There are times when you choose not to take action expecting that everything will stay the same or you may believe inaction will allow a situation to work itself out.
While most of us think about the results of our actions, we may not consider the results of our inaction. For instance, you may have ignored a conflict between people, hoping your inaction would result in the conflict dissipating. There may be an employee whose behavior is unacceptable, but you choose not to provide feedback thinking he will recognize his negative influence in the team. As you have observed, this approach seldom has a positive ending. The risk of inaction can be understood from a systems perspective. In a system, both action and inaction have consequences. A team is a social system. There are three dynamics that you have experienced in working with people that are evidence of this reality.
· Inaction produces a result.
· The same action does not always produce the same result.
· Different actions can produce the same result.
As you become aware of these dynamics in your team you might give up on some common assumptions I have heard from managers and observed in groups.
· If I/we ignore it, it will take care of itself.
· Since this worked the last time I/we faced the problem it will work this time.
· A new approach will ensure a different result.
The assumption of inaction usually results in a crisis that is far more significant than the original ignored problem. There are times that inaction is the right choice, but not when it is because you hope a problem will resolve itself. When you consider the second assumption, the fact that you are using the same solution is evidence that it did not work last time. It might have provided a temporary fix, but you continue to solve the same problem repeatedly. Is that really resolution of the issue? I am aware of an organization that has reorganized four times in the last ten years only to end up in the same situation each time. Every time they reorganized, it was to rollout a new strategy. Each time they reorganized the result was the same. They assumed a change of structure would change their competitive position. They were obviously a victim of the second assumption, but beyond that, their new strategies did not produce a different result. The new approach produced the same outcome. In this instance Alphonse Karr was right, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
Published on: Dec 20, 2011
We made the annual trip with our grandson to see Santa this week. He is three and a half years old and really fascinated with Santa from a distance. There was much debate about the outcome of the endeavor. Last year was more of a wrestling match with mom near Santa than sitting in his lap and talking with him about desired Christmas gifts. As we waited for Santa Claus to arrive there was much anticipation and when he walked up our grandson was obviously very taken with him – from a distance. This year he was much more aware of the need to talk with Santa to ensure receipt of the desired bounty on Christmas morning, but as we stood in line he was adamant saying “I don’t want to talk to him.” He was a little scared of Santa. He also wanted Santa to know what he wanted for Christmas.
Leadership begins with self. We all experience times when there is something we need or want but there is risk in pursuing it. It can be either an opportunity or a responsibility with clear potential benefits. Being an adult does not remove the human desire to avoid that which we anticipate will be unpleasant, or beyond that risky. It is true that levels of risk and the unpleasant are different for each of us, but at some point we all face both. It can be in professional or personal life, but it will occur. When those times arise we have to make a choice. Will we remain in perceived safety and ignore either the opportunity or the responsibility because we will not face the avoidance that is within us, or will we lead our self through the internal challenges?
The greatest leadership challenge is leading me well. As 2011 ends, we consider all the potential 2012 holds. The expression I hear to describe its potential is uncertainty. Uncertainty does not engender confidence in decision making for most of us, but decisions will be made. At some level most decisions begin with determining what we as individuals will or will not do. Where will our decisions take us if fear and avoidance are their primary drivers? Our grandson did sit on Santa’s lap much to our surprise. He seemed pleased with himself after he had. That may not seem like a big deal to us as adults, but I watched him lead himself through the internal resistance he faced with the support of those around him and enjoy the result. It was a great reminder of the joy found in accomplishment. What results will you enjoy because you lead yourself well in 2012?
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