Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘results

There are Only Three Reasons to Form a Team

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A group does not become a team until it can hold itself accountable as a team. This requires discipline that brings the team together with a common purpose, approach and responsibility. This discipline is critical to the success of all teams. Yet, effective teams also have a focus within the organization.

Trust and commitment are the results of individuals working toward a common objective. Consequently, teams enjoy a strong common purpose and approach that holds them responsible both as individuals and as a team for their performance. This sense of mutual accountability produces the rich reward of equal achievement that is shared by all team members.

This topic is of critical importance to leaders because teams are becoming the primary unit of performance management in many organizations. This does not mean that teams will crowd out individual opportunities in a formal hierarchy: teams will enhance existing structures without replacing them. Team opportunities exist anywhere hierarchy and organizational boundaries inhibit the skills and perspective needed for optimal results. Teams have a unique potential to deliver results to the organization in these situations.

Organizations must create the kind of environment that enables performance by teams, individuals and the organization.

Groups established as teams with the primary purposes of job enhancement, communication, organizational effectiveness or excellence rarely become effective. Only when appropriate performance goals are set can the process of discussing objectives and approaches give team members clear alternatives. At that point they can disagree with the goal and the path that the team selects; in effect, they can opt out, or they can pitch in and become accountable with and to their team members.

Most effective teams are classified in one of three ways.

Teams That Recommend

These teams include task forces, project groups, audit groups, quality groups and safety groups that are asked to study and resolve particular problems. Teams formed to render recommendations almost always have predetermined completion dates. Two critical issues unique to such teams are getting off to a fast, constructive start and dealing with the ultimate handoff required to get their recommendations implemented.

The key to the issue of a fast start lies with the clarity of the team’s charter and the composition of its membership. In addition to wanting to know why and how their efforts are important, task forces need a clear direction as to time commitment and the people senior management expects to participate. Management can assist these groups by ensuring the inclusion of individuals with the skills and influence necessary for crafting practical recommendations that will carry weight throughout the organization.

The ultimate handoff is almost always a difficulty for such teams. To avoid this, teams should transfer the responsibility for recommendations to those who must implement them. The more that senior management assumes recommendations will just “happen,” the less likely this will be the case. The more involvement team members have in executing their recommendations, the more likely they will get implemented.

Teams That Make or Do

These teams include people at or near the front lines who are well acquainted with the value-added activities of the organization and responsible for basic manufacturing, development operations, marketing, sales or service. With some notable exceptions, such as new product development or process design teams, these teams tend to have no set completion dates, as their activities are ongoing and continuous.

These teams have the greatest impact on their organization when they focus on the company’s critical delivery points. These are the places where the cost and value of products and services are most directly determined. Performance at these points depends upon combining multiple skills, perspectives and judgments in real time. Here the team option is considered the smartest direction for organizations to proceed.

Teams that make or do must have a relentless focus on performance. Senior management must make clear, compelling demands on these teams and pay constant attention to their progress with respect to both team basics and performance results.

Teams That Run Things

Despite the fact that many leaders refer to the group reporting to them as a team, few groups accept this label. Groups that become real teams seldom think of themselves as a team due to the high degree to which they are focused on performance results.

The main issue these teams face is the determination of whether a real team approach is appropriate to the situation. As many entities can be more effective as working groups than teams, the key is to decide whether individual performances will suffice or substantial and incremental performance through real team products is required.

Working groups present fewer risks in that they need little time to shape their purpose since the leader usually establishes it, meetings are run regardless of prior ties to agendas, and group decisions are implemented in relation to specific individual assignments and accountabilities.

In practical terms, most teams that run things tend to be smaller, usually two to four people.

Excerpt: A Team’s Purpose, Function & Use: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Related:

How Personal Agendas Can Destroy a Team

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

When Performance Lags, Look to the Team Culture

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

December 10, 2013 at 11:21 am

Five Critical Factors of Team Success

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Critical team success factors consist of specific elements that are particularly valued for obtaining the best results possible. These tend to reflect five major key areas that include team leadership, shared vision, attitudes and commitment, mutual trust, and team collaboration.

If team critical success factors are not addressed or implemented correctly it will result in a failed team project. They are considered required and necessary for successful team project execution and improved team communication, focus and energy.

If applied and monitored consistently and judiciously, the critical factors of success will allow any team to achieve a high level of capability. Each has an impact on the major processes of: innovation, problem solving, decision-making, and implementation. These processes are the way the team applies its capabilities to get product results.

The First Critical Factor of Success: Leadership

Every team needs a leader who is able to focus its members on a project’s mission, purpose and goals. This individual must be committed to the team’s results and must be willing to be held accountable by the team’s sponsor and other stakeholders for leading the team through processes that ensure its goals are attained. The job of the team leader is to get team members to successfully evolve through each successive phase of a project life cycle. This implies that a keen awareness of the state of the team must be monitored and maintained. In addition, the milestones and long-term goals must be consistently reviewed with the team as a whole. A good leader makes sure that progress becomes the “property” of the group.

Effective team leadership is one of the most important factors for team success and positive results. This is because it tends to have the strongest impact on all aspects of team performance. Team leaders are responsible for engaging each team member in the processes of the team and building a platform of mutual trust that leads to: open debate, collaboration, individual commitment, and personal accountability.

Team leaders set the tone of the team and create the environment within which team members interact and do their work. In addition, they also support and influence key success factors that shape the team’s internal environment and structure. This in turn determines the team’s capability or capacity.

Some key success factors may be beyond the control of the team or the team leader. Such as, higher authority may select the team leader. Or, senior management may determine: team size, arrangement, and perhaps technology and resource support. However, most of the success factors fall under the team’s control and can be developed by it.

The Second Critical Factor of Success: Shared Vision

A shared vision is held together by a sense of passionate interest and value. At the same time it needs to focus on practical aspects such as:

  • Everyday problems
  • New tools
  • Ideas
  • Developments in the field
  • Things that work and other things that don’t

The first step in establishing a shared vision is to identify a related goal that makes a strong impact for and on change. This goal must be more complex than a simple definition and contain:

  • A challenge;
  • An appeal to personal pride;
  • A sense of needed comradery;
  • A call to action that provides an opportunity for the team to make a real difference, and know it.

Only if this can be done effectively will the goal become a powerful vision.

The Third Critical Factor of Success: Attitudes and Commitment

Attitudes and commitment are what make a significant difference in the eventual success of an assigned team project. It is the collective membership of a team that literally decides to succeed. This takes a positive attitude and a strong sense of commitment on the part of all team participants. However, once this mindset is attained it becomes a self-directed impetus for forward movement and goal attainment.

A genuine desire on the part of the team to be successful comes through the evolution of a shared attitude and commitment among the team members that the project will succeed no matter what. This attitude is both powerful and sustaining. An example of this belief comes from Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, who stresses: “If you think you can, you can. And if you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Teams that think they can are able to sustain their levels of commitment and positive attitudes by actually visualizing the project at its successful state of completion. In essence, team members are able to create the frame of mind necessary to get them through the inevitable obstacles that can be expected to emerge during every complex development stage and effort. Conversely, teams that lack positive attitudes and commitment effort will be stopped dead by seemingly impenetrable obstacles. It all comes down to the difference between doing difficult, creative thinking when it is necessary, or to simply accept defeat because the solution tends to require too much effort.

In some cases, a team literally decides to fail as in the book Peopleware, where Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister coined the term “teamacide.” This is where team participants plainly make a conscience decision, without openly addressing it, to cause the project to fail. This may be the result of personal conflicts, technical or departmental frustrations, or a lack of support.
Whatever the reason, the team undertakes a major negative shift in attitude, which becomes devastating to the team process as well as to the project itself.

Oftentimes even if only one individual develops a negative attitude, other team members become exposed and follow along. Before long, everyone on the team “catches” varying degrees of negativity and a loss of enthusiasm and commitment. The only truly effective remedy to overcome this is the attitude of the team leader, who must remain disciplined enough to guide the team through its various drops in morale.

The Fourth Critical Factor of Success: Mutual Trust

Mutual trust is considered to be the most important element of successful teamwork. As part of a team’s self direction, it is trust that enables the team to engage in open debate and decision making that leads to “a commitment of action” on the part of individual members of the team.

At times it is easier to instill and establish trust than it is to sustain it. Building high levels of trust requires an openness that allows team members to know and understand the beliefs and behaviors of all members of the team, so that team actions can be structured to take advantage of each member’s uniqueness and talents. As part of the process it is important for team participants to develop an understanding of how individual members of the team view themselves and how each responds to others within the team.

Teams thrive on trust. One of the main dynamics of a self-directed team is that part of its structure, practice and principles require that members ask for and offer help to one another to initiate and maintain mutual caring and sharing. Having open, frank and supportive discussions generates a strong bond and a sense of connection and trust among members.

Sometimes elements of trust become formalized within team guidelines and standards, which helps to sustain it. But often these elements simply remain “what everyone knows” about good and positive team practice. In the course of helping each other and sharing ideas, and collectively solving problems, “everybody” tends to become a trusted group of equal peers.

The Fifth Critical Factor of Success: Team Collaboration

An effective team consists of team members who are actively involved and engaged in the work and focus of the team. This requires all team members emotionally commit to actively and openly participating in the team’s processes and in the pursuit of the team’s goals. Each separate team member must willingly commit to carry out action plans that are necessary for the team to reach its defined goals. Each must also be dependable and willing to carry the full weight of personal responsibility to complete his or her individual commitments according to deadline.

An actively engaged team member tends to enthusiastically support others, which adds greater value to the team itself. When enthusiasm becomes combined into a high level of synergy, it is much easier to prepare and implement team processes. Because of the team’s ability to engage everyone in a positive manner, it also becomes part of the team’s self-directed focus to find solutions to issues and challenges both from an individual and team standpoint. All members will constantly seek to improve themselves for the benefit of the team and will refuse to quit or give up until the goal is attained.

The power of teamwork dynamics is engaged when team members come together to focus collectively on goals, issues, challenges, and problems. Team leaders must carefully manage the processes of team meetings in order to maximize the power of the collective knowledge and skills of the team members. As part of the collaboration process, more effective teams tend to follow a meeting methodology that both focuses on dealing with issues requiring the team’s attention and maximizes the power of collective knowledge and the skills of the team members.

Collaboration works to help establish personal accountability. Team goals will usually not be realized until individual commitments are completed and team members embrace a discipline to complete their commitments as scheduled. Through personal collaboration team members must agree to hold each other personally accountable for completing the commitments each person has made to the team.

Barriers to team and individual progress will occur in every team effort. However, collaboration works to effectively remove barriers and hurdles to ensure progress toward team goals and keep the team running smoothly and proactively. A highly collaborative team will make certain that each team member continuously reports the status of their open commitments to the team, so that barriers to completion can be identified early on. This allows the team leader and other team members the opportunity to deal with certain issues before overall milestones, timelines and deadlines are impacted.

Excerpt: Developing & Planning for Team Results: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

Related:

How Personal Agendas Can Destroy a Team

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

When Performance Lags, Look to the Team Culture

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

October 25, 2013 at 10:22 am

The Four Building Blocks of Intelligent Decision-Making

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Decision-making is a cognitive process leading to the selection of a course of action among alternatives. Whether an action or opinion, every decision making process produces a final choice.

The decision making process begins when an action needs to be taken, but one doesn’t know exactly what to do or where to begin. The reasoning process can be rational or irrational, with most decisions based on explicit or implied assumptions.

Building Block One: Applying The Principles of Decision Making

Judiciously applying specific decision making principles will more often than not make the difference between taking effective or ineffective action. These principles help ensure that all involved stay focused on their specific work-related duties as well as the overall objective the company is pursuing.

When it comes to effective decision making, paying close attention to the organizational universe is not optional, but critical. The attributes contributing to good decisions can translate directly into tangible benefits when applied to the broader framework of business-related operations. Each decision made should serve as a learning experience, whether or not it proves wise.

How is an effective decision made? Maintaining an understanding of the basic role of one’s organization can support thoughtful planning and processes for decision making objectives, which tend to justify the future course of the company.

There are 10 basic steps to follow when a decision has to be made. These include:

  1. Identify the purpose of the decision. What exactly is the problem to be addressed and why does it need to be solved?
  2. Gather information. What factors does the problem involve?
  3. Identify principles with which to judge the alternatives. What standards and judgment criteria should the solution meet?
  4. Brainstorm and list a wide variety of possible choices.
  5. Generate as many likely solutions as possible.
  6. Evaluate each choice in terms of its consequences, using predetermined standards and judgment criteria to determine the pros and cons of each alternative.
  7. Settle upon the best alternative. This becomes much easier once the above steps have been undertaken.
  8. Translate the decision into a specific action or plan of action steps.
  9. Carefully execute the plan.
  10. Evaluate the outcome of the decision and subsequent action steps. Within this process it is important to identify the lessons learned. This is an important step for further development of more effective decision making skills and judgment.

Building Block Two: Creating an Objectives Hierarchy

The first step in the process is to identify the purpose of the decision making effort: What is the problem and why does it need to be solved?

In order to achieve this end it is important to generate, record and display an objectives hierarchy by creating a list in outline format. (Software applications are also available that allow individuals or groups to create organizational charts that work well in generating visually appealing objectives hierarchies.)

In establishing an objectives hierarchy it is essential to gather as much information as possible to identify the factors involved in the problem. Objectives should flow from “Why?” at higher levels to “How?” at lower levels. Higher-level objectives tend to be broad, inclusive, and even ambiguous, lower-level objectives more specific, which are mapped to real or actual organizational and workplace attributes or characteristics.

The objectives hierarchy should be inclusive, representing a mix of stakeholder views, and not make value judgments in respect to one objective over another.

Building Block Three: Designing Alternatives

For each objective or group of objectives within the hierarchy, it is important to identify the types of actions that would yield the optimal effect.

When designing alternatives, various objectives should have been detailed and considered within the hierarchy. With enough specificity, some may be flagged for specific action or categorized as activity-driven.

Designing alternatives tends to occur in two phases: identifying the principles by which to judge the alternatives—i.e. the standards solutions should meet—and brainstorming, or listing actual potential solutions.

Nine Steps for Identifying Alternatives:

  1. For each objective or group of objectives in the hierarchy, individuals identify the types of actions that would have the desired effect.
  2. Causal pathways among identified variables are reviewed. How might favorable interventions occur in any of these pathways?
  3. Two or more options for addressing each objective are defined. These may be different types of activities, different levels, strategies, or approaches for the same activity type, or modifications to ongoing related activities. If there is already a proposed action, the activities that comprise it are detailed in terms of how they align with the measured criteria in the objectives.
  4. Specific actions are grouped into alternatives. If there are competing objectives (perhaps reflecting different stakeholder values), alternatives can be developed that favor different groupings of objectives. In other words, different balances are sought among objectives in each alternative.
  5. Conversely, the same balance of objectives by different groupings of actions can be striven for.
  6. If based on the effects analysis a revision of alternatives is needed, it is wise to look for simple adjustments first. If major revisions are needed, the objectives hierarchy and decision making model should be revisited to determine whether erroneous or inconsistent logic led to problems.
  7. An open mind should be maintained, with preconceptions about what is the “best choice” not allowed to limit any or all solution options.
  8. For each alternative, specifics as to how, where, what, and when actions will occur should be outlined. Here it is important to make detailed assumptions about each modeled action early and explicitly in order to minimize confusion when placing this information into a structured decision making model.
  9. Results are recorded and activities plotted on a decision making map where appropriate.

Building Block Four: Evaluating Each Choice

For each alternative, it is best to be as specific as possible in terms of how, where, what, and when actions will occur. An analysis of effects may suggest modification of one or more alternatives or the creation of additional alternatives. If the latter is the case it will be prudent to return to the first stage of the process.

It is important to apply standards and judgment criteria (a set of indicators) to determine the pros and cons of each alternative. When the best alternative is identified, a process overview of the selected option is conducted.

During this decision making and planning arena, it is important to make certain that an action or set of actions is specifically geared toward achieving the objectives identified.

Within the evaluation or overview stage, further details can come to light that can either be added to particular action steps or grouped into a different set of alternatives.

Excerpt: Intelligent Decision Making: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Related:

How Personal Agendas Can Destroy a Team

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

Overcoming and Preventing Groupthink

Seven Negative Roles & Behaviors Which Undermine Team Performance

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

A Team’s Purpose, Function & Use: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Building Strong Teams: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Building Team Roles & Direction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Developing a Team Approach: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Developing & Planning for Team Results: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

//

Decision-Making Begins When an Action Needs to Be Taken

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smallgroup6

Decision-making is a cognitive process leading to the selection of a course of action among alternatives. Whether an action or opinion, every decision making process produces a final choice.

The decision making process begins when an action needs to be taken, but one doesn’t know exactly what to do or where to begin. The reasoning process can be rational or irrational, with most decisions based on explicit or implied assumptions.

Building Block One: Applying The Principles of Decision Making

Judiciously applying specific decision making principles will more often than not make the difference between taking effective or ineffective action. These principles help ensure that all involved stay focused on their specific work-related duties as well as the overall objective the company is pursuing.

When it comes to effective decision making, paying close attention to the organizational universe is not optional, but critical. The attributes contributing to good decisions can translate directly into tangible benefits when applied to the broader framework of business-related operations. Each decision made should serve as a learning experience, whether or not it proves wise.

How is an effective decision made? Maintaining an understanding of the basic role of one’s organization can support thoughtful planning and processes for decision making objectives, which tend to justify the future course of the company.

There are 10 basic steps to follow when a decision has to be made. These include:

  1. Identify principles with which to judge the alternatives. What standards and judgment criteria should the solution meet?
  2. Gather information. What factors does the problem involve?
  3. Identify the purpose of the decision. What exactly is the problem to be addressed and why does it need to be solved?
  4. Brainstorm and list a wide variety of possible choices.
  5. Generate as many likely solutions as possible.
  6. Evaluate each choice in terms of its consequences, using predetermined standards and judgment criteria to determine the pros and cons of each alternative.
  7. Settle upon the best alternative. This becomes much easier once the above steps have been undertaken.
  8. Translate the decision into a specific action or plan of action steps.
  9. Carefully execute the plan.
  10. Evaluate the outcome of the decision and subsequent action steps. Within this process it is important to identify the lessons learned. This is an important step for further development of more effective decision making skills and judgment.

Building Block Two: Creating an Objectives Hierarchy

The first step in the process is to identify the purpose of the decision making effort: What is the problem and why does it need to be solved?

In order to achieve this end it is important to generate, record and display an objectives hierarchy by creating a list in outline format. (Software applications are also available that allow individuals or groups to create organizational charts that work well in generating visually appealing objectives hierarchies.)

In establishing an objectives hierarchy it is essential to gather as much information as possible to identify the factors involved in the problem.

Objectives should flow from “Why?” at higher levels to “How?” at lower levels. Higher-level objectives tend to be broad, inclusive, and even ambiguous, lower-level objectives more specific, which are mapped to real or actual organizational and workplace attributes or characteristics.

The objectives hierarchy should be inclusive, representing a mix of stakeholder views, and not make value judgments in respect to one objective over another.

Building Block Three: Designing Alternatives

For each objective or group of objectives within the hierarchy, it is important to identify the types of actions that would yield the optimal effect.

When designing alternatives, various objectives should have been detailed and considered within the hierarchy. With enough specificity, some may be flagged for specific action or categorized as activity-driven.

Designing alternatives tends to occur in two phases: identifying the principles by which to judge the alternatives—i.e. the standards solutions should meet—and brainstorming, or listing actual potential solutions.

Nine Steps for Identifying Alternatives:

  1. For each objective or group of objectives in the hierarchy, individuals identify the types of actions that would have the desired effect.
  2. Causal pathways among identified variables are reviewed. How might favorable interventions occur in any of these pathways?
  3. Two or more options for addressing each objective are defined. These may be different types of activities, different levels, strategies, or approaches for the same activity type, or modifications to ongoing related activities. If there is already a proposed action, the activities that comprise it are detailed in terms of how they align with the measured criteria in the objectives.
  4. Specific actions are grouped into alternatives. If there are competing objectives (perhaps reflecting different stakeholder values), alternatives can be developed that favor different groupings of objectives. In other words, different balances are sought among objectives in each alternative.
  5. Conversely, the same balance of objectives by different groupings of actions can be striven for.
  6. If based on the effects analysis a revision of alternatives is needed, it is wise to look for simple adjustments first. If major revisions are needed, the objectives hierarchy and decision making model should be revisited to determine whether erroneous or inconsistent logic led to problems.
  7. An open mind should be maintained, with preconceptions about what is the “best choice” not allowed to limit any or all solution options.
  8. For each alternative, specifics as to how, where, what, and when actions will occur should be outlined. Here it is important to make detailed assumptions about each modeled action early and explicitly in order to minimize confusion when placing this information into a structured decision making model.
  9. Results are recorded and activities plotted on a decision making map where appropriate.

Building Block Four: Evaluating Each Choice

For each alternative, it is best to be as specific as possible in terms of how, where, what, and when actions will occur.

An analysis of effects may suggest modification of one or more alternatives or the creation of additional alternatives. If the latter is the case it will be prudent to return to the first stage of the process.

It is important to apply standards and judgment criteria (a set of indicators) to determine the pros and cons of each alternative. When the best alternative is identified, a process overview of the selected option is conducted.

During this decision making and planning arena, it is important to make certain that an action or set of actions is specifically geared toward achieving the objectives identified.

Within the evaluation or overview stage, further details can come to light that can either be added to particular action steps or grouped into a different set of alternatives.

Excerpt: Intelligent Decision Making: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Related:

Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

Seven Components of Critical Thinking

Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving Problems

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

How Personal Agendas Can Destroy a Team

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smallgroup10

Effective teams worry about obtaining positive results. This is why they typically succeed in the projects they are assigned, and in implementing the positive solutions they generate.

Teams are unlike work groups. They are an assembly of people who are committed to balanced participation, equal contribution and regular deliberation. The ideas and abilities of individual team members need to be used for the overall good of the project or its purpose. Such a collaborative dynamic does not occur automatically. It takes a great deal of energy and purposeful activity and is easily destroyed by the lack of focus, agendas and motivation of participating team members.

Successful teams consciously focus on how to generate better results. To get them, a team needs to be able to organize its talent, assigned roles, tasks and processes so members remain interested and absorbed in what the team is charted to do and accomplish.

When a team does not worry about generating positive results, it will never function as effectively as it can. One reason is because members will resort to performing roles and taking stances that tend to suit and advance their own purposes and desires, but act against the best interests of the team.

These actions are quite destructive. They can easily undermine team success in terms of efficiently and effectively addressing and accomplishing the task it was assigned. These destructive forces must be guarded against if a team is to be a highly productive and functional decision making entity.

When a team fails to be results oriented, it tends to allow five major destructive forces to take root. This is the result of looking the other way and allowing members who have a tendency for continually “turning off,” “labeling,” “playing devil’s advocate,” “controlling” and “yes-butting” to take over team processes and group dynamic standards and structure.

To obtain better team results and sustain a high focus on generating them, with the least amount of disruptive interference, the team alone must become responsible for:

  • Minimizing actions that result in negative attitudes toward addressing and advancing the team project
  • Maximizing actions that make team participants enjoy the process of collaborative problem solving and experimentation
  • Modeling and reinforcing effective performance techniques that have a problem-centered focus
  • Getting team members excited about the project’s associated opportunities and challenges
  • Making the team as a whole eager to function effectively and cooperatively while moving it continually forward
  • Reducing frustrations to prevent members from becoming unmotivated and giving up
  • Overcoming and preventing these major destructive forces is absolutely necessary.

Turning off Others and Project Excitement

There are seven specific actions that work to turn others off as well as decrease levels of personal and team enthusiasm toward an assigned project:

  • Personal interruptions when someone is trying to explain something
  • Taking discussions off track
  • Ignoring what a speaker is saying
  • Ignoring and/or downplaying others and their responses
  • Using nonverbal negative communication tactics
  • Being singularly focused and totally closed-minded
  • Using derisive humor

Any of these actions indicate that a team member simply doesn’t want to take responsibility to help the team perform and function well, or take an active interest in what it is trying to accomplish and tend to generate a lot of conflict within a team.

This is because individuals who attempt to shut down the sharing of explanations, insights and opinions will impede team progress and problem solving efforts, which makes it difficult and frustrating for others who want to move forward.

It is easy to predict that the majority of team members will likely tend to isolate offending individuals rather than openly and conscientiously deal with their inappropriate actions in an attempt to alter or change their behavior. As a result the team loses a valuable member simply because it failed to adhere to and reinforce the standards of communication it had set for itself.

Labeling

When a team fails to maintain a results-oriented focus, it often allows labeling to go unchecked. When someone inside a team places a label on another member’s behavior or attempts to describe another’s attitudes or motives, this individual becomes a detrimental force to reckon with.

Major breakdowns in team process and progress are often due to intentional or unintentional labeling practices. Labeling occurs when team members: talk forcibly to someone, intentionally confront another person in an intimidating manner, suggest that another person has a particular attitude or unworthy motive, or react sharply by challenging what another person is saying or implying.

Whatever tactic is used, predictably speaking, a team can be certain that the person being attacked will immediately resort to a defensive position, and conflict and resentment will follow. This tends to disrupt and halt any discussion or conversation. In teams this is extremely detrimental and unproductive.

Not only do labels affect the whole team in a social way, but also seriously affect the individuals being labeled from a psychological standpoint. Members who are labeled negatively by their team counterparts or peers tend to: be more depressed, have a lower self-esteem, portray defensive characteristics, and dominate others as a personal protective measure.

Self-concept may play a large role in the everyday happenings of labeling behaviors. When a team member assigns a label to another team member, it may actually reflect how this particular person perceives and views him or herself.

Research further suggests that a person’s flexible self-concept influences the process by which people form impressions of others. In other words, self-concept impacts the labels one tends to apply to others.

No matter what, labeling practices are fairly predictable. Silence and non-participation will become more apparent within the team, and resentment toward others will cloud and hinder open communication.

Playing Devil’s Advocate

Playing the role of devil’s advocate is typically exhibited through the use of the word “no,” which oftentimes is referred to as “nay-saying.” Predictably, this type of occurrence generates not only conflict and chaos, but also frustration and stress within the team setting.

A devil’s advocate makes certain that whatever is ineffective or bad in regard to another’s idea, opinion or suggestion is openly and emphatically expressed. They emphasize so powerfully what is wrong with something, that what is right tends to get buried or ignored before it is even explored.

It is important to counter this type of team-subverting behavior, which can be done individually by interjecting something like:

  • “I heard what you had to say but I would also like to hear another’s point of view on this.”
  • “I am really not interested so much in why (name) takes this position as I am in (name’s) reasoning behind it, and this is what I wish to know more about.”
  • “I totally agree that there may be reasons why this won’t work, but I am intrigued by the possibility that it may work. Let’s address why and how it could possibly work
  • effectively.”

Controlling

Without maintaining a focus on how to get the best results possible, it becomes easy to predict that a team will allow one or more of its members to control its: progress, issues, structure, methods of problem solving, and overall situations. This becomes a major reason why a team ends up functioning far less effectively and obtaining lower-level results.

It is important to understand what control looks like so the team can proactively watch for and effectively handle these types of situations. Individuals who always attempt to take control tend to have personalities that are fear or pride driven, even though they may have no idea that these two factors continually influence them.

The team needs to take a step back and ask, “Why does this person feel the need to dictate or to control this issue or situation?” Most controlling individuals tend to fear that if they do not control the situation, they will lose control of their surroundings and influence.

Often control is related to one’s feelings of self-importance or pride as an individual feels the need to be in control to feel special or be the center of attention. Unfortunately, “pride” in a team setting often manifests itself as an unwillingness to back down or to surrender power or authority. Ultimately it is to accept that someone else might be right and that the other might be wrong.

The team and its members must realize that control is the opposite of trust. If a member feels the need to constantly be in control of what the team focuses on, how something is done or what it does, this individual is demonstrating that he or she does not trust the team to make appropriate or effective decisions on its own.

Predictably, this lack of trust is detrimental, especially within a team setting, since trust is a vital part of the team relationship process, which enables each person within it to feel important and trustworthy.

Many controlling personalities don’t ever think about what they are doing. Most don’t realize that they are controlling individuals until they are told. Control can be broken. It is not a permanent condition that cannot be changed. Most people who are controlling in their actions and behaviors want to change, they just don’t know how.

Several action steps members can take to help overcome control issues within the team environment include:

  • The first step requires the team to acknowledge that an individual is projecting a dominating or controlling personality.
  • The second step requires openly addressing it. For those with pride-based control, this is a difficult exercise, but a very important one that is crucial to change.
  • The third step requires the offending individual to accept needed, constructive criticism, which can be part of the set standards for the team.
  • This step will demonstrate a true desire on the person’s part to be a better team player. It also will begin to reestablish elements of personal as well as team trust.
  • The fourth step requires changing the team’s reaction to control-based situations. These circumstances will occasionally happen, but as a team it is important how its members react, address and respond to them.
  • The fifth step requires creating a more solid, positive team atmosphere, which includes keeping positive words flowing, never talking in a derogatory way about others, either in front of or away from them.

“Yes-Buts”

One of the most common occurrences within a team discussion is demonstrating the “yes-but” syndrome. This is typically done in response to someone’s ideas, suggestions or way to approach something.

Predicting the effects created by this is fairly reliable: unclear, ambiguous messages are sent and interpreted. Responses appear to say one thing but actually convey another leading to team communication breakdowns and miscommunication.

This is one of the hardest practices to detect within a team setting because it is often used so subtly and skillfully. Yes-buts:

  • Imply, “I heard what you said but you are wrong.”
  • Tend to be a personal discounting of what another person says or believes.
  • Tell the speaker, “As a listener I think you may have a good or useful idea or suggestion, but it isn’t worth much in this situation.”

The “yes-but” technique is often used to soften the blow of disagreement. This approach tends to occur most when members on the team attempt to personally sell an idea to others or want to take control of a situation.

Either way, “yes-butting” should be put to rest quickly. Allowing team members to apply this technique will predictably hinder progress while forcing likely effective solutions out of the problem solving picture.

Related:

Five Critical Factors of Team Success

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

When Performance Lags, Look to the Team Culture

Excerpt: Developing & Planning for Team Results (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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The Bonding Power of Shared Sacrifice

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There is a strong bond created between leaders and employees, shareholders and constituencies who share sacrifices for the good of the organization.

To make my point, I need to set the stage. I would like to quote from an article by George L. Marshall, Jr., The Rise and Fall
of the Newburgh Conspiracy: How General Washington and his Spectacles Saved the Republic

“By early 1783, active hostilities of the American Revolutionary War had been over for nearly two years and commissioners Franklin, Jay, and Adams were still negotiating in Paris to establish a final treaty with Great Britain. With a formal peace almost secured and with no fighting to do, the Continental army had grown bored and restless, but Congress had decided to retain it as long as the British remained in New York to ensure that the gains of seven years of fighting would not be lost.

Disillusionment and doubt had been building among many officers of the army, then headquartered at Newburgh, New York. Born out of this growing loss of morale and confidence was a conspiracy to undertake a coup d’etat and establish a military dictatorship for the young United States, a plot to be styled later as the Newburgh Conspiracy. At the last minute, General George Washington, commander in chief of the army, and his reading spectacles intervened and prevented this drastic step from occurring…

By late morning of March 15, a rectangular building 40 feet wide by 70 feet long with a small dais at one end, known as the Public Building or New Building , was jammed with officers. Gen. Gates, acting as chairman in Washington’s absence, opened the meeting. Suddenly, a small door off the stage swung open and in strode Gen. Washington. He asked to speak to the assembled officers, and the stunned Gates had no recourse but to comply with the request. As Washington surveyed the sea of faces before him, he no longer saw respect or deference as in times past, but suspicion, irritation, and even unconcealed anger. To such a hostile crowd, Washington was about to present the most crucial speech of his career.

Following his address Washington studied the faces of his audience. He could see that they were still confused, uncertain, not quite appreciating or comprehending what he had tried to impart in his speech. With a sigh, he removed from his pocket a letter and announced it was from a member of Congress, and that he now wished to read it to them. He produced the letter, gazed upon it, manipulated it without speaking. What was wrong, some of the men wondered. Why did he delay? Washington now reached into a pocket and brought out a pair of new reading glasses. Only those nearest to him knew he lately required them, and he had never worn them in public. Then he spoke:

“Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country.”

This simple act and statement by their venerated commander, coupled with remembrances of battles and privations shared together with him, and their sense of shame at their present approach to the threshold of treason, was more effective than the most eloquent oratory. As he read the letter to their unlistening ears, many were in tears from the recollections and emotions which flooded their memories. As Maj. Samuel Shaw, who was present, put it in his journal, ” There was something so natural, so unaffected in this appeal as rendered it superior to the most studied oratory. It forced its way to the heart, and you might see sensibility moisten every eye.”

Finishing, Washington carefully and deliberately folded the letter, took off his glasses, and exited briskly from the hall. Immediately, Knox and others faithful to Washington offered resolutions affirming their appreciation for their commander in chief, and pledging their patriotism and loyalty to the Congress, deploring and regretting those threats and actions which had been uttered and suggested. What support Gates and his group may have enjoyed at the outset of the meeting now completely disintegrated, and the Newburgh conspiracy collapsed.”

George Washington is the premier role model in the history of American leadership for many reasons. There are many legend and myths associated with him. The example of his leadership during the Newbury Conspiracy demonstrates how the bond of shared sacrifice and personal humility literally changed the course of American History. It’s unclear whether Washington intentionally tapped into this power or whether it was unintentional. Regardless he was able to tap into a strong emotional bond forged through sacred sacrifice and adversity.

One might say that was then and this is now. How does Washington apply to me? Leadership goes beyond the bottom line. Leaders recognize the value of the people, especially the right people that they are tasked to lead. Whether fighting a war, building a business or overcoming economic adversity, emotional bonds are formed. Leaders are tested and often experience one or more defining moments. Emerging on the other side of adversity, leaders and their organizations are stronger for it. When future obstacles occur, both are better prepared to handle them. This was one of Washington’s defining moment and his officers were prepared to follow him.

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Apprehend, Think, Learn and Innovate – The Building Blocks of Knowledge-Based Work

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The knowledge revolution has rendered many conventional management methods obsolete. Unprecedented and rapid advancements in information technology, telecommunications and artificial intelligence are transforming both the content and context of work.

Those on the leading edge of these changes have created virtual organizations that have obliterated what has been considered the raw materials of the traditional bureaucracy—the office and files. These traditional elements have been replaced by intranets, electronic databases and groupware as well as web and teleconferencing.

Organizations are increasingly devoting their resources to apprehend, think, learn and innovate—the building blocks of knowledge-based work.

The changes organizations are experiencing are causing them to employ more individuals who use and apply their thinking skills rather than simply follow directions.

Under conditions of uncertainty, bureaucratic organizations do not possess the requisite learning and information processing capacity to cope with the accelerating rate of both technological and social change.

It is important for leaders to understand that they are working within a dynamic and changing environment. As such, their individual actions are not conducted in a void, but in this environment. Likewise, teams are structured and developed in the same atmosphere, where they must relate and work together to accomplish organizational goals.

Many organizations have experimented with the use of teams in the development of various management fads, such as re-engineering and TQM, with mixed or poor results. As teams are structured, leaders must explore the self-directing team structure as one that is capable of producing more desirable and satisfactory results.

The key feature of self-directing teams is the underlying structure that places the responsibility for control and coordination where the work is actually performed. These teams are also held responsible for managing their work process and are held accountable for the results.

Once considered a radical shift in management thinking, many organizations have discovered that self-directed teams are dynamic in nature, and the dynamism of these teams closely lines up with the changes in the business. This shift gives organizations the ability to create continuous self-renewing learning functions that are manifested in the following team structural features:

  • Employees have the knowledge, information and skills to make all of the decisions that concern them.
  • The authority and responsibility for control and coordination are located as closely as possible to the individuals actually involved in the work process and those who deal with customers.
  • Authority is not based upon hierarchical position or status, but upon competence and expertise.
  • Management and leadership are shared functions widely distributed across levels and departments.
  • Access to information and feedback is both transparent and instantaneous.
  • All organizational support systems are congruent and synergistic with the requirements of a self-directed work structure.
  • The overall role of management is redesigned to focus on the creation of value for key organizational stakeholders including shareholders, customers and employees.

It should be obvious that self-directing teams are structured to more efficiently organize work. They display the properties of complex adaptive systems. The elements of such a system are capable of a high degree of cooperative behavior, where the group is capable of producing more complex results than any single individual could.

Additionally, self-directing teams have a superior competitive advantage because they create a redundancy by extending the skills and functions of individual members and by relocating the responsibility for the control and coordination of work to the specific level that work is performed at. Self-directing teams absorb the function of management since they have the direct responsibility for achieving and measuring results.

Overall, the structure of self-directed teams provides organizations with the flexibility to quickly adapt to meet the challenges facing them, all the while possessing a strong sense of confidence in their success.

Related:

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

Five Critical Factors of Team Success

Seven Negative Roles & Behaviors Which Undermine Team Performance

Excerpt: Developing a Team Approach: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

 

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