Tuesday, March 01, 2016
Friday, January 15, 2016
What Your Team Really Wants for the Holidays
Your Team Wants Autonomy
Following someone else's set of rules is hardly ever fun. Unfortunately, companies often build a set of comprehensive rules, often for the sake of equality and organization. Great goals, but the end result could be unhappy employees who just wish they had a little more control over their own work.
When people have more choices, they enjoy their work more, and are better at it. The choices don't have to be monumental ones: simply being able to arrange their desk and workspace, choose when to take their lunch breaks, and choose their own favorite tools can make a huge difference.
Your Team Wants Opportunities
Your people are smart and talented, and they want you to recognize their potential. You probably do that already, with praise and rewards, and that's a great start. But the next step is to start making more and better opportunities available for your team members.
Open up some of the doors. Let your employees take on leadership, handle projects, deal with clients, and make calls that you've always made. If you've been a good leader, they'll know what to do. If they're not quite ready, and they make a mistake, you'll all learn from the experience and move forward more equipped for the future.
Your Team Wants Respect
While no one is going to be angry about a bonus or a salary raise, employees are looking for more than money. They want a workplace that respects individuals and treats people fairly. In fact, a recent survey shows that employees rank "respectful treatment of all employees at all levels” over compensation.
Respect is one of the most basic ways you can show your team that you value them and what they bring to the business. From the way you address each individual to how you respond to their ideas, you're communicating whether you respect them or not. Communicate respect and treat all your team members as you'd like to be treated, and you'll build a stronger, happier team.
Your Team Wants Flexibility
Life continually changes, and it's difficult to deal for people to deal with the changing circumstances of life when they have no flexibility from their employer. You can give your team more control and more choices: from standard work time, telecommuting options, flex time, work methods, travel arrangements, to project management and communication methods. They'll be happier, more engaged employees when they have more flexibility.
Ask yourself, "Why not?" Trust your people to make good decisions with their freedom and use their flexibility to be more productive, not to slack off. Most people want to contribute and do meaningful work; they're just struggling to do it under predefined rules that don't fit their lifestyle or priorities anymore. So help your people love their jobs and do better work . Flexibility allows them to fit their lives and jobs into one cohesive, enjoyable, and ultimately more productive and fulfilling experience.
If you can give your employees a holiday gift this season, make it one or more of these. Sure, those windbreakers in company colors are neat; but your employees want, and deserve, more from you. Let them know you're interested in their long-term growth and success, not just in holiday trinkets that get lost a month later. You can still hand out the coffee mugs; just hand out some flexibility, autonomy, and plenty of respect while you're at it.
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Sunday, September 20, 2015
Smart Hiring 101
1. If a person has good leadership skills, does it mean that he or she will be automatically effective working with remote teams, or is 'virtual leadership' is an entirely different set of skills?
SD: The leadership skills needed for thriving in a virtual workplace are different – and changing. The emerging managerial skill set I see is being able to manage “in space” – meaning the ability to work in an extremely unstructured environment with little to no support.
In this new future of work, managers must really excel at several key skills. First, they must be outstanding at reading people. They must be able to interview and hire people with the understanding that once they’re on-boarded, they’ll be loose in the system and working without daily face-to-face coaching. Mistakes can be costly because they won’t always be noticed quickly. You need to be able to identify and hire fully formed adults who can operate on their own. There’s a bit of trust here, but it needs to start with hiring great people. Next, they must be extremely efficient and clear communicators. When the majority of your interaction with your individual team members is on the phone, you need to achieve alignment quickly. There’s no room for misunderstandings. Lastly, these managers need to be willing and able to identify when things aren’t going well – either with something as small as a project or as large as a hire. They need to be willing to fire those who can’t perform quickly. This means they need feedback loops, clear metrics for understanding individual performance and the unwavering understanding that their job is on the line, too.
It’s not easy managing virtual teams! But the upside is enormous. In 2015 (and beyond), it’s not good enough to limit your talent pool to your immediate local geography. Everyone already has a computer and a phone where they are. That puts the burden on you – the manager.
2. What common mistakes do managers and business owners make when working with virtual teams?
SD: The biggest mistake is “out of sight – out of mind.” Virtual team members can literally be forgotten – forgotten in terms of compensation, promotion and input. Social bonds are built in the white spaces between the functional work. When people aren’t physically present, these relationships have a harder time growing. Many business leaders uncomfortable with the idea of virtual teams find they can’t trust them because they can’t monitor them during the work day. This is limiting, for obvious reasons.
3. Which modern technologies do you think will have the most effect in remote collaboration?
SD: Fortunately, we’re living in the golden age of collaboration technologies. We have Unified Communication platforms like Microsoft’s Skype for Business, Cisco’s Jabber and Webex, plus a host of other communication platforms that allow colleagues to use presence, chat, call and video all fr om their desktops. Even the consumer version of Skype allows for these features, along with others like desktop sharing. Combine these with cloud-based services like Bitrix24, Dropbox and Basecamp and you’re able to not only keep business going but also begin to forge the personal bonds that create a real team. When everyone has a smart phone in their pocket, a connected laptop on their desk, and a headset on their head, they can be as productive on the road as they would be sitting next to you.
4. One of the challenges with virtual teams is that there is very little personal contact. How does one align individual goals with the team’s objectives and instill the 'corporate spirit'?
SD: It’s easy to treat each member as a separate entity and not forge the intra-team bonds that create the culture you’re looking to build when everyone’s somewh ere else. There’s several ways to address this, outside of the mindset (answered above). Communication needs to be thorough and systematic – to the point of being almost over-done. You need to find excuses to bring people together to build the relationships that they’d otherwise miss. That’s what “headquarters” is for. Building culture in a virtual team takes effort – it’s hard – and it’s easy to forget this.
5. What resources or tools can you recommend for our readers to help them lead their virtual teams?
SD: I’ll point you to two resources that you might find helpful. The first is Jabra’s blog, which focuses on the “new ways of working.” This is penned by my friend Holger Reisinger, who runs product management at this very interesting Danish headset brand. Another is an interview I did with Mark Dixon, CEO and founder of Regus, on the rise of his business and the future of work – you can find that in a e-book I produced in 2013 called, “The Killing Giants Framework: 3 Areas of Excellence That Define How Davids Topple Goliaths.” It’s 99 cents, but I hope you’ll give it a look anyway. As a leader in the world of office space on demand, Mark is in a unique position to guide the rest of us on creating a sense of culture and inclusion when your team is spread out over different countries and continents.
Thank you for the interview.
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Wednesday, July 15, 2015
A lot of teams nowadays are distributed. People are telecommuting, working fr om home and relying on other forms of non-traditional employment ranging fr om (freelancing, temp work, short term contacts). How do you build a strong team when people don’t see each other every day in an office environment?
JL: Three things come to mind:
Clarity of work and outcomes. When people are working in non-traditional environments, it’s easy to get so focused on your own work and forget how it connects to what others are doing. As a manager of leader of virtual teams, it’s critical to keep everyone focused on the “big picture” and what each member is doing to contribute to the outcomes.
Maintain “face time.” Part of what makes a strong team is positive emotional energy. Interacting with others through some type of video conferencing on a consistent basis is important. If at all possible, physically meet from time to time as well.
Keep everyone informed. As the leader or manager of the virtual team, keep other team members abreast of what others are doing. It prevents team members from thinking, “I wonder what _______ is doing?” which can lessen the trust they have that the other person is fully contributing to the desired outcomes.
A lot of times team building activities provide a short term motivational boost that quickly fizzles out. What can managers do in order to make sure that there really is a long term transformational effect after that weekend retreat?
JL: I think it starts BEFORE the weekend retreat starts. Getting input from the team members about their expectations and needs from the retreat is essential. It helps them take more ownership in the event and more fully participate. When someone contacts me about conducting such a retreat and says the goal is “teambuilding,” I know I have a lot of work to do to get to the real needs of the team before the event.
The other key is completing something akin to a 30/60/90 day plan before leaving the retreat. Connect the actions to goals and outcomes. Make it as “granular” as possible.
What are the most common team building mistakes that companies make in your experience?
JL: Thinking that team members know each other. You may know wh ere they have worked and some “surface” stuff, but do you know the types of projects and assignments they have completed? Team members so often have experience and insights that are never leveraged because we don’t take the time to learn from them. We don’t know what drives their behaviors or gives them a sense of meaning about their work.
Not everyone is an outgoing extravert type. How do you deal with ‘loners’ and ‘lone wolf’ employees?
JL: Communication, Communication, Communication. In my opinion this is wh ere the manager or leader can have a huge impact on the success of the team. Take the time to better understand how each member of your team prefers to get work done. Consistently communicate to that “lone wolf” about staying in contact with other team members. Regularly scheduled brief meetings via video chat or phone can help keep them connected to the team.
You wrote three books. What was your motivation behind ‘Juggling Elephants’, 'Getting to It' and 'Getting the Blue Ribbon'?
JL: For Juggling Elephants, the primary motivation was for Todd Musig (other co-author) and I to find a better way to manage the struggle of “too much to do.”
Getting to It was a natural follow up to Juggling Elephants. We wanted to create a sort of “field guide” to personal productivity. The idea of “It” is fun because people always say, “I just can’t seem to get to it.” We wrote the book to help people identify what “it” really is, how to get it done.
Getting the Blue Ribbon grew out of my own struggle for professional and personal improvement. I was looking for a model that was easy to understand and apply. It’s been fun to see organizations take the gardening analogy and move their people and their teams forward.
What resources, books, blogs, podcasts do you recommend to our readers who want to build a productive team and need to learn how?
JL: There are just so many resources available today, and it’s hard to begin listing them. My advice for those who want a “quick start” on building a more productive team is to look to social media. For example, spend a few minutes on Twitter seeking out subject matter experts on teams and leadership. Create a list of 10-12 of them. Set aside 10 minutes each day to review the posts from the list and explore content that connects with your needs. It’s amazing how many nuggets you can gain in a short time that you can immediately apply to your situation. Look to Linked In in a similar way, following those who focus on developing your team.
I’m a huge fan of Patrick Lencioni’s work in the development of teams. I think his book, 5 Dysfunctions Of A Team, is still one of the most eye-opening books about building a stronger team. You won’t go wrong with any of his content.
Thank you for the interview.
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Thursday, April 02, 2015
Humor in the workplace
Harry Paul is a speaker and co-author of six books that have sold over 8 million copies including the internationally bestselling business book FISH! A Proven Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results. He helps organizations increase productivity by engaging and energizing employees to be and do their best while helping the company reach its goals. He shows employees how to enjoy what they are doing and get excited about coming to work and working hard.
How about we start by you sharing your favorite work place joke?
This is fr om a design firm in California. One of the engineers went on vacation, while he was away his fellow engineers decided to play a practical joke on him. They went to his office and removed the door and door jamb. They brought in drywall and drywalled the doorway in and then painted it. His office didn’t exist when he returned.A great joke for sure that became folklore at the firm. But there is an important lesson here—know your audience—or make sure there are boundaries in place for play.
It’s not about joking, it’s about playing at work. My book FISH! showcases the World Famous Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, Washington. They are very effective at creating fun ways of doing their work, such as throwing fish and shouting out the orders. It is a most efficient way for them to do their work and build unique customer experiences. Fun at work also increases the level energy, passion and enthusiasm for what you are doing.
Should a company have specific policy regarding humor in the work place beyond the common sense? And what should be in the policy, if there's need for one.
Common sense is the best judge for playing at work. There is no need for policy, in fact in can have a negative effect—but boundaries are necessary. If people are playing inside the boundaries, great. If not, bring them back inside the boundaries or expand the boundaries.
a) Play must be part of the work process—not instead of. Remember, work made fun gets done.
b) People should and must take their work seriously, just take themselves a little less seriously. c) Include everyone’s idea of fun, what is fun to you may not be fun for me. It also keeps it fresh. Remember, you can’t mandate fun through company policy—it must be organic and made up by the all the people in the organization.
Walk us through 'Office prank that went wrong 101'. First three things to do.
If a practical joke goes wrong the first thing you should do is apologize to anyone that may have been offended, Second, look at why it offended some to avoid these situations in the future, and third, set up guidelines for practical jokes. I am a proponent of fun being part of work, but practical jokes sometimes can bring a sense of community to the workplace, more energy and become folklore that helps define your culture as one wh ere it is okay to come to work and enjoy what you are doing, no matter what it is you are doing.
Should joking and humor be generally encouraged in the work place?
If you are joking around and being funny for the sake of being funny you are detracting from the work process and productivity suffers. Fun and play at work must serve a purpose.
Many people who thing they have a sense of humor actually don't. How can one let a co-worker know that they are getting tired of jokes without hurting someone's feelings?
I firmly believe that everyone has a sense of humor—it’s just different than ours. And in order for play at work to be effective and add to productivity and profitability, as I said above, you must honor everyone’s idea of fun. And always respect others feeling. Know who you can have with and how.
Thank you for the interview.
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Tuesday, March 03, 2015
Know When to Grow with These 5 Signs Its Time to Expand
Your business is running well, profits are growing, and you feel the urge. You want to push to the next level. How do you know it’s the right time? Check out these five signs it’s time to expand.
Your Finances Are Organized
Your financial records are filed. Your accounting system is set up completely and you know how to use it and you do use it. You know where your money is and you keep track of where it’s going. You make sure your bills get paid on time. You pay invoices before they come due. You negotiate with vendors for the best rates.
You’re either a whiz at accounting yourself, or you’ve hired a company accountant, or you have a great accountant on retainer. You know the numbers, and you watch (and can easily track) your bottom line.
Your Teams Are Strong
No matter how great your product is, and how stellar your customer services is, without a unified and strong team, you don’t have a business ready for growth.
Do team members communicate well? Team meetings run for a purpose, not for socializing. Team members play together nice. Telecommuters check in regularly. In-house people get along. The teams are meshing, and the managers are managing (but not micromanaging).
If you have the right people in the right positions, you have a solid business. If you’re seeing one people problem, it’s this: everyone’s workload is growing, but everyone is working at maximum output level.
Your Profits Are Steady
You have a good profit margin. A track record of profits. Growing profits. And from all financial forecasting and sales figures, you expect to see continued growing profits.
This is the biggest, best, and boldest sign but if the other signs don’t accompany it, don’t lean on profits alone to make your company fit for growth. Profits matter, certainly, but without a strong team or a functioning financial system, profits are not enough.
A diminishing or leveling profit margin doesn’t always mean you are doing something wrong; it could mean, in fact, that growth is necessary. Without growth, your business might not able to meet increasing demand. As a result output will level off, meaning profits will either steady out or, perhaps, slow down as you cease pushing and marketing with the same zeal.
Your Cash Flow Is Positive
Your incoming cash exceeds your outgoing cash, even on the lean days and weeks. You understand your sales cycle, and you have a streamlined payment process. You’re not depending on a haphazard “hope the payments come through before the bills come due” methodology. Instead, you are proactive.
You know how to in get cash in before cash goes out. You see the cycles, the ebbs and flows, that are a natural part of running a business. You’ve learned how to work with those ebbs and flows, not overextend your finances, and not assume a cash-confidence you shouldn’t have.
You keep the whole financial picture in mind, and that allows you to make good decisions and keep your cash flow positive.
Your Funding Is Ready
You know you want to expand, and you have the capital in place (or a sound plan for getting it) to fund that expansion.
Expanding a small business to the next level can often feel like a leap in the dark for small business owners. And it is, if you don’t have adequate funds to finance it. If you’re ready to expand, you will have a phased-out plan for how that expansion should happen. You will have accurate figures for how much each phase will cost. You might even have a timeline in mind for how long each phase should take to complete.
Expanding without funding is like jumping without a parachute. It might be exciting at first, but it’s going to end in disaster.
If you’re looking at your healthy business and seeing these signs, congratulations. You’ve done a stellar job of growing a small business that can move onward and upward. If you’re not quite there yet, now you know what to tackle. See you on the next level.
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Wednesday, February 04, 2015
5 Essential Changes to Make for a More Productive 2015
The beginning of a new year is a great time for resolutions. Better than resolutions, however, are simple but specific changes you can make right now that will help you make this a more productive year.
1. Think small, not big.
We like to talk about big goals and big dreams. That's not a bad thing, but when we only look at the big picture, we can miss out on the small actions that we need to take on a daily basis.
You can work up your energy and motivation, and make a few great big leaps forward. However, it's far more effective to cultivate the habit of small but consistent progress.
Think of making regular bits of progress rather than huge surges toward your goal. You can't maintain the focus and energy required for those all-out effort. You can, however, maintain a tiny, daily habit or a weekly step forward. Break big goals into smaller goals, and then into tiny actions that you build into your daily routine.
2. Limit your to-do list.
An overgrown to-do list requires you to spend your valuable time sorting, prioritizing, and shuffling tasks instead of getting important work done.
It's okay to admit your limits. The sooner you do, the sooner you can start completing tasks instead of simply moving and managing tasks.
Limit your daily list to one to three important tasks that you must complete. You will gain immediate clarity. You know what you're supposed to do, and you can focus on it and let other things fade out. There will always be unplanned tasks and questions that come up in your day. You will have to handle those, but then you can go right back to the important tasks on your list without any hesitation.
3. Use your calendar, planner, and/or task management system daily.
Your system can only help you if you use it regularly. All those task lists, scheduled events, meetings, ongoing team projects, work communications and updates should stay in your system, not in your head.
Multiple daily check-ins allow you to see, review, and upd ate what you need to without giving yourself those mental burdens. Make it a ritual for morning, noon, and night. Let your system do to remembering, organizing and reminding, and free your brain to do the work.
4. Set up a system for your recurring tasks.
Whether it's planning out work schedules or assigning project responsibilities or creating content, every time you complete a recurring task you go through the same steps, and usually in the same order.
A simple system enables you to get through the task faster and ensures that you don't miss any important steps. Your system might be as simple as a checklist, or it might be more complex and involve supplies, a schedule, or written steps that remind you what to do and how to do it.
Bonus: once you systematize a task or event, you can easily train someone else to take it on.
5. Choose your interruptions.
We think of interruptions as things we can't control: invasive people, important phone calls, unavoidable requests. It's the daily deluge of the urgent, and most of us just handle it as best we can and try to get our work done at the same time.
Change that, this year, by spending 15 minutes thinking about which interruptions are valid and worthwhile. An important phone call from your boss or client might be a priority no matter what else you have going on; but a schedule change, a product review, or a client email might not. You have to decide, and once you do, put those valid interruptions on a list and keep it in plain sight.
When the interruptions come, and they will, check them with the list. If an interruption is not on the list, remember that you have opted out of it; all that is left is to convey that message, kindly but clearly, to the source of the interruption. That may mean closing your door, turning off notifications, moving to a quiet space away from other people, excusing yourself from a conversation, or asking to schedule a phone call for a later time.
When you take control of your interruptions, you also take control of your productivity. Make the simple changes now that will allow you to be at your most productive this year.
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Thursday, November 06, 2014
What to Do When Your Team Isn't Working Together
Overseeing a team can be tough work at any time, because it involves moving multiple people toward a common goal. Personality clashes, work styles, varying ideas, and everyday stress can make forward movement difficult.
What do you do when your people can't mesh and make progress toward the goal?
A Healthy Team Has Conflict
Conflicts happen when you have a difference of opinion, but they're not a bad sign. It's simply a sign that a lot of opinions and ideas are being discussed, which is exactly what you want in a team.
If you have zero conflicts happening, it's probably because one dominating personality is squashing everyone else's ideas before they can even grow to the point of conflict.
The key to having a good team is helping your team members to understand how to handle conflict when it does arise. Outlaw personal insults, emotional tirades, and manipulation. Guide discussions. Make sure every team member gets a chance to speak.
Determine the Underlying Cause
If you're dealing with a team which is having continual issues, then there's something at the bottom of it. There are three main causes for ongoing team conflict:
- current project or goal
What's going on with your team?
Interpersonal conflicts often arise when you have two or more dominant personalities on the team. Or perhaps your team members simply have very different work styles and are feeling the tensions when those styles don't mesh. Interpersonal conflicts can also arise when communication isn't clear on who is in charge of what.
Conflicts over current projects or goals are common. Don't assume the team all knows or agrees on the main goals. Have a meeting and make sure everybody knows why the team exists and what the priorities for the team are.
Demanding projects or clients can also cause stress that bubbles over into team conflict. Disagreement over which approach or methodology to use in reaching a goal can lead to stalemates between team members.
These disagreements can be dealt with and don't mean something is wrong with the team, just that they need help working through the conflicts.
Situational conflicts can be the most deceiving, because the situation causing the conflict may not seem directly related to the team or the team's current project. But a situation that involves change or stress, even in a general sense, can trickle down into heightened tensions which become unresolved team clashes.
A change in leadership or location, a limitation on resources, a particularly demanding client, or ongoing questions about the future of the company can all cause situational stress that doesn't go away easily.
Get It Out in the Open
The worst thing to do is to pretend everything is okay.
It isn't, and the sooner you start having honest discussions about the issues, the sooner you can resolve them.
Call a team meeting; moderate it actively. This is not a venting session, and you should make that clear at the beginning.
Nor is it necessary, or even wise, for your team to attempt to solve all the problems that they face in working together. The only goal for this preliminary meeting should be to identify the main issues and agree to work on them together.
Be careful not to let any one person or inner group dominate the discussion. Ask people to wait, take turns talking, and call out the quiet ones. They often have plenty of insight but don't like getting into the fray, so ask for their input and require the talkers to take a break.
Follow Up with One-on-One Meetings
For issues which need to be addressed at a deeper level, it's usually wise to do so with private, individual meetings. These meetings allow you to get honest feedback from individuals, without group talk or peer pressure influencing or hiding what might need to be said.
One-on-one meetings aren't always necessary, but if they are, it's best to have one with each member of the team. Leaving one or a few people out of these may create resentment.
Create an Action Plan
Meetings, meetings, more meetings.
Enough of that.
Time for action.
Whatever you've identified as an issue is a problem that can be solved. To solve it, you need to take action and make changes.
Present the problem(s) to your team and work together to create a plan of action to solve it. In all cases, the primary objective is team unity.
Team unity is worth the time it takes to achieve. With a cohesive team, creativity and conflict can happen, but they will move the team forward toward their common goals.
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