Employee Engagement

Employee Engagement

FireFly Facilitation Blog

By Kimberly Douglas 20 Jun, 2016

Vision without execution is hallucination.”     Thomas Edison

Did you know that one of the reasons the population of fireflies appears to be diminishing is because of ambient light or “light pollution”? There are too many distractions. All these other bright lights keep fireflies from performing at their best. How similar and true for the people on our own teams, if we don’t have a common vision of success to focus our time, attention, and resources.

Scarcity of resources—both human and financial—demands that we focus our efforts. If you’re scheduling an annual planning meeting in the coming weeks, you’re probably aware that the value of strategic planning is not only deciding what you   will   do, but also deciding what you will   not   do. When done well, strategic   focusing   can be one of the most exciting and effective team development tools available to a leader.

There is a well-known saying: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”     I have found that the most effective teams are exceptionally clear on two things—where they are going and how they must work together to get there. In taking hundreds of teams through the strategic focusing process, I have found this metaphor to resonate with people:

 

The road we are on is our   mission .     If this organization ceased to exist, what would the world lose?  

  • The mountain in the distance is our   vision for success . Three years into the future, how will we know if we have been successful in living up to our mission?

Mile markers are the   key milestones . How will we measure our progress against the vision and course-correct if needed?

  • The guard rails are our   guiding principles . How will we commit to work with each other to reach that mountain?

Next post...the top 5 ways my approach to strategic planning has changed over the last 10 years.

By Kimberly Douglas 15 Apr, 2016

In prior posts, we’ve been discussing accountability, and how it can greatly improve a team’s overall effectiveness. Now we’ll talk more about how to make fixing problems the responsibility of the entire team. We’ll also offer some questions to help you determine your team’s level of accountability.

In addition to holding themselves accountable for improving decisions and their execution, teams should also hold themselves accountable for improving their overall meeting effectiveness. This can be as simple as conducting a five minute plus/delta evaluation—what worked well in this meeting versus what can be improved upon for the next one. Pick a few of the most critical items to work on for the next meeting; these will be the ones for which people feel a little bit of improvement will have the greatest impact. You can conduct a more formal assessment in which to track changes over a period of time (if your team is really into data). Doing this in real time gives everyone a chance to offer suggestions for how to improve the next time; therefore it is not just the team leader’s responsibility to fix it, it is everyone’s.

So, how would you describe the accountability level for your team? How successful are your team members at upholding their commitments? Do individuals realize and own up to how they may be contributing to the problem? I recommend that as the leader, you share with the team the significance of holding oneself and each other accountable.

Assure them that you.ve established a safe environment in which everyone can comfortably share their honest opinions on this subject, and be sure to stay true to your word. Then, conduct this accountability assessment: ask team members to write down where they would rank their team on accountability—Above Average, Average, or Below Average— and why.

Go around the table and ask each person to share what they wrote down. Be sure to reveal your own thoughts last, so as not to influence others’ responses. If you.re not sure if people will be truly candid, then give them a three-by-five card and a black pen and ask them to submit their evaluation and comments that way.

Once you’ve had a chance to analyze their responses, try to pinpoint some common themes for why the team received the rating it did. If it was low, explore the barriers and challenges— both personally and organizationally— which keep us from being models of personal responsibility and hinder our ability to hold our team accountable for our actions.

Use the information you’ve gleaned to decide on the top three areas where you want to make improvements, and conduct a brainstorming session for how to improve in each area. Reach consensus on what you will actually do, and specifically assign tasks for each team member to carry out over the next 30 days to improve accountability. And while you.re at it, determine how the team will hold itself accountable for actually completing these chosen assignments and course correct as needed.

So there you have it: a framework and process for driving accountability at all levels—personal, leader, and team. What do you think are the positive outcomes of greater accountability in all of these areas? Perhaps the most rewarding is a sense of direction and empowerment—no more victim mentality or feeling that we are controlled by the external circumstances and actions of the outside world. Everyone is called to step up to the plate and perform at a higher level. There is a renewed sense of collaboration and commitment to keeping your word to your teammates, and the leader reinforces this behavior at every opportunity. The team’s standards are high, and everyone knows what it takes to be a true contributor to the team’s success. The words you say are not nearly as important as the actions you take. Your team becomes a role model for what a high standard of accountability looks like, and takes advantage of the tremendously powerful impact this can have on business relationships… and results.

In the meantime, let’s talk! Reach me by email or phone: 770-989-7030.

By Kimberly Douglas 15 Apr, 2016

We’ve been discussing   Impact   versus   Effort , and in our last post, we talked about how well it works when all of the ideas that need to be evaluated are already written on sticky notes. Now we’ll talk about how to use the notes to organize the ideas you’ve generated. It’s a good idea to ask a neutral party to conduct the discussion and posting of each idea in whichever quadrant the team feels is most reflective of that ideas impact and effort to execute. The next best option is to mix up all of the ideas and divide them equally among the participants, with each person leading the discussion and placement on the flip chart for the notes they are holding.

What you don’t want to have is someone with an agenda leading the discussion and forcing consensus on what they feel is the right box for each idea. That’s almost as bad as having each person lead the discussion for their own ideas they just worked so hard to create. Who wants to put your own baby in that dreaded fourth box? The easiest approach is to use sticky notes. This allows everyone greater flexibility to move ideas as people begin to get more consistent, and sometimes harsher or more lenient, in their assessment of impact and effort.

A less attractive approach is to write and number all of the ideas on a flip chart, and then write the numbers in the agreed-upon box after discussion. Unless you happen to have some whiteout handy, this can begin to look pretty messy as the team refines their opinions about what warrants placing an idea in each box. It can also be difficult to remember what each number stands for, thereby forcing people to keep going back and forth between the list of ideas flip chart and the impact/effort flip chart and lose their flow of thought.

Two other words of caution: First, some people will be tempted to start combining ideas, saying, “Well, they’re pretty much the same thing.” They may like order, fewer choices, and less work. Any collapsing of ideas needs to be done very carefully. Again, this works best with sticky notes (if everyone agrees) by placing the notes for two ideas that are truly the same directly on top of each other. This creates a great visual effect as well; you can really start to see some of the more frequently mentioned ideas much more easily.

It is perfectly acceptable to tailor the criteria that you are using to your own needs or situation. You could replace impact/effort with important/urgent, cost/value, or two other measures of your own choosing. It is very important to spend a few minutes up front, before any idea placement decisions are made, making sure that everyone has a clear idea about what these standards mean.

For example, impact refers to what achieving this goal or solving this problem would mean to the team, department, or overall organization. When determining the effort required to successfully implement an idea, the problem-solving team should consider everything from dollars spent on new technology to dollars spent on allocation of people resources, from changes in individual human behaviors to changes in the entire culture of the organization. Agreeing upon the criteria’s meaning early, before the discussions even begin, will enable you to avoid a lot of needless, unproductive debate later on.

The Impact versus Effort chart works well because of its simplicity, but sometimes you need a process that works with more complicated issues. In that case, you may need more rigorous and standardized measures. That’s when the DecisionMatrix comes into play. In our next post, we’ll discuss the DecisionMatrix, and how to make it work for your team.

Want to chat before next week’s post? Reach me by email or phone: 770-989-7030.

By Kimberly Douglas 18 Mar, 2016
In our last post, we talked about changes recommended to a team that was having trouble with accountability. I’d suggested that a team member, Kathryn, give me a call to talk about how the system I proposed had worked. In this post, we’ll talk about her findings, and then we’ll discuss how these results can help other teams.

The feedback that I received from hwoman making caller, after only two weeks using this new action planning approach, was wonderful to hear. Kathryn told me that her team leader, Bob, had expressed some discomfort when she informed him that he would now be addressing the action items from the previous meeting. (I personally think this was because he hadn’t clearly assigned accountability to specific team members, so holding them responsible would be equally difficult.) She encouraged him, though, by saying that the first time would likely be very difficult and uncomfortable for everyone in the room, but that it would only take one time before people would get the message that he meant it.

And she was right! They had captured the assignments real time during the meeting, and then Bob made his way through the list and asked directly for explanations on why things had not been completed. Although this was uneasy for everyone, the message was unmistakable: People were expected to fulfill their commitments, and lame excuses would not be allowed anymore. The accountability level for the whole team, including the leader, had been taken up several levels. Kathryn also told me that several of the team members had instituted a similar procedure for their own staff meetings, since it had worked so well with the initial group.

One other area of accountability to discuss is the need to take responsibility for team decisions. When you complete a discussion, is there a clear outcome or next step that is understood by all? When two or more members take a conversation off-line, how will the team know if the issue is ever resolved, or learn the results and rationale for any decisions made? Those members need to discuss in detail the decision’s impact, and how they can support its execution, with the rest of team.

There must also be a mechanism in place for tracking the effectiveness of the decisions that have been made.

  • What can we learn from those situations when a decision wasn’t implemented with excellence?
  • Was it the wrong decision?
  • Did the team make faulty assumptions?
  • Did we not have true commitment?
  • Were there unforeseen circumstances?
Only by taking the time to conduct this after-action review will the team be able to improve its hit rate and truly raise the bar on its level of effectiveness, and become comfortable revisiting and revising decisions based on new information. In our next post, we’ll talk more about this accountability, and how to make fixing problems the responsibility of everyone on the team. Then we’ll offer some questions to help you determine your team’s accountability level.

Want to chat before next week’s post? Reach me by email or phone: 770-989-7030.
By Kimberly Douglas 15 Mar, 2016

In our last post, we talked about changes recommended to a team that was having trouble with accountability. I’d suggested that a team member, Kathryn, give me a call to talk about how the system I proposed had worked. In this post, we’ll talk about her findings, and then we’ll discuss how these results can help other teams.

The feedback that I received from her, after only two weeks using this new action planning approach, was wonderful to hear. Kathryn told me that her team leader, Bob, had expressed some discomfort when she informed him that he would now be addressing the action items from the previous meeting. (I personally think this was because he hadn’t clearly assigned accountability to specific team members, so holding them responsible would be equally difficult.) She encouraged him, though, by saying that the first time would likely be very difficult and uncomfortable for everyone in the room, but that it would only take one time before people would get the message that he meant it.

And she was right! They had captured the assignments real time during the meeting, and then Bob made his way through the list and asked directly for explanations on why things had not been completed. Although this was uneasy for everyone, the message was unmistakable: People were expected to fulfill their commitments, and lame excuses would not be allowed anymore. The accountability level for the whole team, including the leader, had been taken up several levels. Kathryn also told me that several of the team members had instituted a similar procedure for their own staff meetings, since it had worked so well with the initial group.

One other area of accountability to discuss is the need to take responsibility for team decisions. When you complete a discussion, is there a clear outcome or next step that is understood by all? When two or more members take a conversation off-line, how will the team know if the issue is ever resolved, or learn the results and rationale for any decisions made? Those members need to discuss in detail the decision’s impact, and how they can support its execution, with the rest of team.

There must also be a mechanism in place for tracking the effectiveness of the decisions that have been made.

  • What can we learn from those situations when a decision wasn’t implemented with excellence?
  • Was it the wrong decision?
  • Did the team make faulty assumptions?
  • Did we not have true commitment?
  • Were there unforeseen circumstances?

Only by taking the time to conduct this after-action review will the team be able to improve its hit rate and truly raise the bar on its level of effectiveness, and become comfortable revisiting and revising decisions based on new information. In our next post, we’ll talk more about this accountability, and how to make fixing problems the responsibility of everyone on the team. Then we’ll offer some questions to help you determine your team’s accountability level.

Want to chat before next week’s post? Reach me by email or phone: 770-989-7030.

By Kimberly Douglas 19 Feb, 2016
What do staff meetings have to do with accountability? If the leader is committed to keeping the team focused, the times that the team is together can be used to really let the team’s commitment to accountability shine. Staff meetings can become can’t miss events if people believe that challenges and problems will be discussed and resolved, that decisions and commitments will be made, and that they will be upheld. To illustrate this, let’s look at the experience of a team I once helped.

Bob was a team leader whom I encountered with an accountability problem. His people were not taking action on the tasks to which they had committed during their weekly staff meetings. Bob asked me to come observe their meeting and see if I could give them some advice on how to improve the team’s functioning. The gathering began with a team member named Kathryn briefly reading through the action items from the prior meeting, and getting status updates from people as she reached their name on the list. There seemed to be a lot of hemming and hawing for most of the items. I could see what Bob meant when he said that people weren’t sticking to their commitments, and I had a good idea why. More on that later; now, on to new business.

There was actually very lively debate on several pressing issues. The team was floating around a lot of ideas for solutions to problems; however, it was hard for me to tell when anyone had actually decided anything, or assigned a corresponding obligation. There were some vague comments like, “Sue, that would be a good thing for you to think about following up on with the marketing department.” The meeting ended, and I shared my perspectives with Kathryn (at Bob’s request). I realized she had been taking notes on the ideas that were batted around, and she thought she was clear on who had been asked to do what. I told her it wasn’t so clear to me, and I was in the room, too. I even wondered whether the leader was absolutely clear on when something had been assigned, and to whom it had been allocated.

I recommended some changes for the next staff meeting. First, team leader Bob–not Kathryn–should be getting the status update from each person, since he is the one to whom the team members report. They should be eyeballing him and trying to fluff their way through the answer, since Kathryn couldn’t hold their feet to the fire like he could. I also suggested that she keep a running list of action items that arose from the discussions in a way that was visible for all to see. Either on a flip chart, or, since they had an LCD projector mounted in the ceiling, as a Word document to be updated and reviewed at the end of each discussion item (or at least at the end of the meeting). As stated before, there is something about seeing your name up there in bright lights with an action step and a due date beside it to make it really real.

People seem to take a lot more interest in what is actually written up there when their name is listed beside it. I asked Kathryn to give me a call after the next meeting to tell me how things went. In our next post, we’ll find out how the new system worked, and talk about how our findings apply to other teams.

In the meantime, let’s talk! Reach me by email or phone: 770-989-7030.
By Kimberly Douglas 12 Feb, 2016
In our recent posts, we’ve been discussing accountability. Now it’s time to talk about how leaders can foster accountability for the team. One of the most important things that a leader can do is keep the team focused on the real competition; those who exist outside the walls of the organization, trying to win their customers over every day.

Team members can unleash their creative juices on solving the real problems of the team and the broader business. Making this the focus keeps people from clashing within the group. When this focus is lost, infighting and bickering among the team members thrives. It’s no longer us against them; it is us against us. We have met the enemy, and they are sitting in the same room as we are.

Once, the leader at the mortgage division of a large regional bank wanted to break down the functional silos that had cropped up on the team. As the external marketplace was becoming tougher, the internal finger-pointing and blame was steadily increasing. The leader wanted to put a stop to it. When individual, confidential interviews were conducted to gather information about the current team dynamics, in order to effectively design and facilitate the upcoming team development session, something interesting was discovered.

Each member of the team knew that the leader wanted to create a one team mind-set. The new business realities required them to work together and support each other in a way they never had before. The leader was under tremendous pressure from corporate officials to hit the numbers. The employees got it. Rather than causing them to band together to achieve these goals, the manager was actually driving a wedge between them. He was so used to driving their individual accountability that he didn.t realize that his actions were now out of sync with the team mind-set he really wanted. During staff meetings, he would single out individuals who had not achieved their targets, and become very accusatory as to why this happened. How did the others react? While they felt for their teammates, they wanted to stay out of the line of fire. If they came to the victim’s aid, then they too might be singled out for blame for the challenges in their own areas. They could see very clearly the interdependencies that existed, and how they needed to work together to fix the problems; but the support from the team leader was not there to make this cross collaboration happen.

When the team leader was apprised of this information, he was not surprised. He knew it was going to be tough to change his behavior. He was committed to making it happen, however, because he had no other choice; not if he and his team were going to continue to be successful in an increasingly unfavorable marketplace. It was time to create some conflict norms, for which everyone on the team promised to hold themselves and each other accountable.

The leader clearly undertakes a critical role by establishing a firm foundation for personal and team accountability to take hold. In our next post, we’ll turn our attention to those times when the team is together, and the potential that meetings have for being a place where the team’s commitment to accountability can truly shine. As you’ll learn, the leader can play an incredibly valuable part in keeping the team focused on crucial business issues.

Before our next post, reach me by email or phone: 770-989-7030.
By Kimberly Douglas 05 Feb, 2016
We’ve been talking about accountability, and in our last post we addressed the topic of employee appreciation. In this post, we’ll look at an example of a team that took the issue of employee appreciation to heart, making a plan to reward the right kind of behavior in an effective way. The leaders of this team learned that using positive reinforcement is a great way to strengthen personal accountability.

This particular IT team had been notorious for not recognizing team members for a job well done, something that was obvious in their low employee engagement scores. They realized, in fact, that they were rewarding and holding people accountable for the wrong things. They called their culture a hero worshipping one; for example, you were a hero if you worked all night or all weekend to fix a problem. Even if you were the very one who caused the error in the first place, you were the one held up as exceptional. They knew they were operating in a fire-drill mentality, and that this pace was not sustainable.

They needed to force themselves to engage in the longer-term advance thinking that would allow them to find more holistic solutions, and prevent any further emergencies. Yes, they needed to deal with the fire, but they had to work hard as a team afterward in order to keep the flames from igniting in the future. They needed to look at the bigger picture to discover the problem patterns and then brainstorm solutions, instead of staying stuck in an action-oriented mode. They needed to send a new message.

Now, this leadership team did not have strong interpersonal interest and skills, but they started writing thank-you notes for those individuals who had truly demonstrated the right behaviors – the kind they actually wanted to reinforce, such as working collaboratively across departments to resolve issues before they became full-blown forest fires, and taking more time to do the necessary up-front planning. Each senior leader brought their handwritten note to the staff meeting, and spent the first five minutes sharing these success stories, and passing the cards around for all of the leaders to sign. When the leaders saw these individuals after the meeting, they would reinforce the positive message and its impact by specifically thanking them for what they had done.

Well, the word spread, and not just about the thank-you notes and long-awaited recognition that they symbolized, but also about what was being recognized. You could literally see change happen among the leaders as they really thought about what they should be rewarding and among the employees as they received the recognition they had been missing.

Hopefully, you’ve realized by now the importance of personal accountability, and how leaders can reinforce it in one-on-one situations that will lead them to reward and recognize success. In our next post, we’ll turn our attention to the leader’s role in reinforcing responsibility at the team level.

Want to chat before next week’s post? Reach me by email or phone: 770-989-7030.
By Kimberly Douglas 29 Jan, 2016
We’ve been talking about accountability, whether personal, team, or leadership. In our last post, we discussed the ways leaders can promote accountability, and touched on progress-tracking. Now let’s turn our attention to what might happen during these tracking sessions.

One of the most frequent and negative ways for someone to lose the trust of their leader and fellow team members is through the element of surprise. Negative surprises like, “I’m not going to hit that target date tomorrow” or “Surprise, this project is going way over budget,” can put you as the team leader in a difficult position. Your first priority is to deal with the situation at hand; the second priority must be to have a candid discussion with the individual. Try not to jump to conclusions about this person’s intent or motives, because sometimes, “We give ourselves credit for our intentions; but hold others accountable for their results.” In other words, we are always aware of our own reasons for doing, whereas we only see the effects of others’ actions.

Your main goal should be to understand what caused the delay, and why there was not more advance notice about the problem. Try to explain the ramifications of the employee’s actions–for you personally, for the task or project, and for others on or outside the team. The better you comprehend what occurred, the more you can help them to learn from the situation; so try to keep your conversation positive and future-focused. On the other hand, if this is a recurring problem, you might need to take further action. Leaving these issues unaddressed and unresolved will likely mean this will happen again in the future.

However, what about the opposite situation, when you need to commend your employees for a job well done? Let’s say you’ve reached the end of the project, and it is a success. How are you going to reward and recognize this accomplishment? Many books on the market describe a multitude of ways to show your appreciation to employees, but bear this in mind: appreciating differences in others means discovering how individuals like to be rewarded and recognized for their contributions. This is really just an extension of treating each person like a unique individual.

Do you know how your employees like to be recognized? It may be different than you think. Know how to find out? Ask them. You might fear that each of them will say they want money, but it might surprise you to find out that there are other ways to express your appreciation-a day off to spend with their family, a gift card to a movie or local restaurant. It might even be something as simple as a personal, handwritten thank-you note. If you saved at least one note of thanks that you received over the years, then you are like many other people who have been asked this question in team effectiveness sessions.

In our next post, we’ll look at an example of a team that took the issue of employee appreciation to heart. We’ll see how the leaders of this team turned their team around, by making a point to reward the right kind of behavior, in an effective way. Through this example you’ll learn more about the leaders’ role in using positive reinforcement to strengthen personal accountability.

Let’s talk! Reach me by email or phone: 770-989-7030.
By Kimberly Douglas 25 Jan, 2016

Are you ready to learn how to facilitate conflict resolution? When teams are having trouble communicating with each other, it can lead to conflict and reduced productivity. Fortunately, there’s an effective communication technique based on the Whole Brain® model and HBDI®, that can help people present information in a way that will result in the intended message and impact. Here’s how it works:

  • Ask the “why” questions.   Why are we here? Why is this important? Give them brief overview of the information you will be presenting. Wherever possible, connect this work to an overarching goal, a long-term strategy, or a broader positive impact on the organization.
  • Next, explain the “what.” Give them the relevant facts, the current status, how you will measure success, or trends analysis data.
  • Tell the team “who.” Now that you have engaged their heads, move to connect with their hearts. Open the floor for questions. If you know what the impact on them personally or other key stakeholders will be, tell them.
  • Ask “how.” Only after you have engaged their heads and their hearts can you engage their feet. This is where you make it very clear what you need the listener to do when they leave here.

Now here is the real kicker. Even though you present this information in the order outlined above, you create your message in the reverse order. You begin with getting very clear in your own mind about what you want them to know, think, feel, and do differently after your presentation. Then you back up and ask yourself, “What would they need to know in order to accomplish that? “ If you can’t answer that question based on what you know about the audience, then this is the time to reach out to others who might know them better. Finally, ask yourself, “How does this link into something bigger and more important that they would care about?”

Sometimes people jump into informing the listeners of the facts, then moving straight to action planning - what the presenter wants them to do about the facts - without making a strong case for why the listener should care. Other people don’t offer the big picture-how the project will help the organization to achieve some larger strategy or goal. Some only share the facts of the current status of the project, assuming that everyone could see what needed to be done about it and who needed to do it. And many people neglect to address how their project impacts the listener personally, what support is needed from them, what questions they had. It’s important to notice how your communication reflects your own thinking and communication style versus reflecting what your listeners need to hear.

One good leadership trait is the ability to be multi-dominant, viewing each topic through multiple lenses. Yet, without a leader like this pushing us, most of us — if left to our own devices —would much prefer to run our presentations by someone who is just like us, thinking and communication style-wise! And so, you get what you’d expect...”It’s beautiful. I wouldn’t change a thing!”

Occasionally people ask me the question, “If I know that I am presenting to a bunch of people who think like I do, do I really need to go through all four quadrants? “ My answer is an unqualified   Yes , for several reasons. First, you can’t assume, based solely on a job title or department name, that you won’t have a whole brain present. Believe me, in over 10 years of debriefing team HBDI profiles, you would be amazed at how much they aren’t like what you think they might be. Second, although you might want to change up the amount of time you spend in each quadrant, the flow still makes sense as it is. Finally, it stretches your thinking to see the situation from all angles, and just might help you to truly have the greater influence you seek.

So, there you have it. How to make the sparks that fly when two departments with different goals, who might be competing for scarce resources, use that creative abrasion to light a fire that ignites an improved environment not only for these two departments, but also for others to follow in their footsteps. Isn’t that the real calling of leadership

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FireFly Facilitation Blog

By Kimberly Douglas 31 Aug, 2016

The Grammy-award winning Orpheus Chamber Orchestra wows crowds around the world with virtuoso performances of Stravinsky, Mendelssohn, and Mozart. Garnering prestigious awards (a Grammy in 2001) and accolades (Musical America’s “Ensemble of the Year” in 1998), the New York based orchestra fills the world’s finest concert halls with adoring audiences and the some of the sweetest sounds on earth.

Astonishingly, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra has no conductor! Its 28 members alternate roles and share responsibilities. From guiding rehearsals to interpreting selections, leadership of the group rotates among its musicians.

Thinking about the unusual structure of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra sparked ideas in my mind about the nature of leading teams.

1) Being a leader doesn’t mean that we always have to pick the tune, set the pace, and assign the parts.

In a conductor-less organization, in which leadership and authority are dispersed throughout, creativity abounds. Each member has the freedom to contribute his or her unique talents for the benefit of all. On the contrary, the combined creativity of an organization is blocked when a single leader hoards authority.

2) In the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, no one has a back to the crowd.

Absent of the human barrier, the audience is invited into the midst of the orchestra and can share a more intimate connection with its music. Conversely, an organization with power concentrated too heavily at the top can easily lose sight of its customers. Generally, the most senior leaders have the least frontline interaction with customers. If we, as leaders, don’t make room for the instincts and input of people throughout our teams, then we’ll gradually blind ourselves to the needs of the clients we’re trying to serve.

By Kimberly Douglas 27 Jul, 2016

It’s been said, “Variety is the spice of life,” but for many managers the spiciness of diversity causes heartburn. Leading a team would be much easier if one size fit all. However, the reality for managers involves cleverly tailoring roles, reward structures, and recognition. In doing so, leaders have to balance unique treatment of dissimilar personalities with a uniform application of fairness.

Diversity in the workplace goes much deeper than race, gender, job title, or even daily responsibilities. Leaders have to discover how team members think, what drives them, where their strengths shine, and so on. Leaders light the way by making this kind of inquiry a priority, and by creating the tools and processes that allow people to see one another in a new light.

Here’s a practical application to illuminate diversity on your team and reap benefits from it.

At the close of a week, gather your team together. Give each person ten minutes to make two lists:

 

List #1 - Three work activities from the past week that felt draining or tedious.

 

List #2 - Three job activities from the past week that felt enjoyable and invigorating.

Do not discuss the lists as a group; simply collect them after the ten minutes are over. Repeat the exercise each week for a month.

 

At the month’s close, convene a team meeting. During the meeting, assign each person to share one recurring activity they enjoy and do well. Also, have them talk about one regular activity they dislike and find draining.

This simple exercise will bring awareness of the various strengths and weaknesses on your team. Over the course of the meeting you may want to reshuffle a few tasks or open avenues for team members to volunteer their strengths in new ways.

By Kimberly Douglas 13 Jul, 2016

When archers draw a bow, they’re far more accurate when they zero in on the bull’s-eye than when they broadly aim to hit the target.

 The same applies in golf. When players concentrate on landing the ball at a specific spot near the pin, their shots are more precise than when they target the green in general.

What’s true for archery and golf translates to strategic planning as well. The sharper your focus is, then the smaller your margin for error will be when you execute. Put simply, “Aim small; miss small.”

What can you do practically to shrink the scope of your goals so that you’re laser focused?

If everything is important…then nothing is. Identify the three strategic priorities for you team. Don’t get bogged down on specific verbiage, but make sure everyone agrees with and can articulate your strategic priorities.

Knowing what not to do   can be just as important as knowing where you’re going. What distractions will tempt you to veer from your strategic priorities? Dialog about them, and list them. Instill in your team that these activities are taboo.

Decide upon metrics. What is unmeasured goes undone. Set your criteria for success. Don’t feel constrained by numbers—qualitative goals have every bit as much merit as quantitative ones. However, make sure your metrics are simple and concrete.

Track performance together. Evaluating results as a team provides instant accountability—no one wants to look bad in front of peers. Also, talking through results helps you to decipher problems or opportunities buried beneath the facts and figures.

By Kimberly Douglas 04 Jul, 2016

Everyone has the ability to be creative—if you broaden your concept of what creativity means, and if you know how to tap into it. My experience with hundreds of groups leads me to be able to say, with confidence, that at their core, great teams are comprised of creative, committed individuals who are using their best efforts to reach a common goal.

In fact, teams that solve problems and tackle challenges together have a special bond that’s not often found in other groups. And they don’t see these challenges as drudgery or something outside the scope of their work; they view it as the excitement and fun of being a part of a team.

 Think of the members of the team of which you are currently a member or a leader. Would   creative   and   committed   be the words you would use to describe each one of them?

By Kimberly Douglas 20 Jun, 2016

Vision without execution is hallucination.”     Thomas Edison

Did you know that one of the reasons the population of fireflies appears to be diminishing is because of ambient light or “light pollution”? There are too many distractions. All these other bright lights keep fireflies from performing at their best. How similar and true for the people on our own teams, if we don’t have a common vision of success to focus our time, attention, and resources.

Scarcity of resources—both human and financial—demands that we focus our efforts. If you’re scheduling an annual planning meeting in the coming weeks, you’re probably aware that the value of strategic planning is not only deciding what you   will   do, but also deciding what you will   not   do. When done well, strategic   focusing   can be one of the most exciting and effective team development tools available to a leader.

There is a well-known saying: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”     I have found that the most effective teams are exceptionally clear on two things—where they are going and how they must work together to get there. In taking hundreds of teams through the strategic focusing process, I have found this metaphor to resonate with people:

 

The road we are on is our   mission .     If this organization ceased to exist, what would the world lose?  

  • The mountain in the distance is our   vision for success . Three years into the future, how will we know if we have been successful in living up to our mission?

Mile markers are the   key milestones . How will we measure our progress against the vision and course-correct if needed?

  • The guard rails are our   guiding principles . How will we commit to work with each other to reach that mountain?

Next post...the top 5 ways my approach to strategic planning has changed over the last 10 years.

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