From the Coach’s Corner: Information Hoarders vs. Radical Transparency

Building trust on teams is critical. Egos, turf guarding, dysfunction and game playing are too often the norm in organizations. Some professionals are absolute information hoarders failing to keep their peers informed or updated by information that could help them succeed.

In his new book “Team of Teams” retired four star General Stan McChrystal (he led army forces against Al Qaeda in Iraq) promotes “radical transparency” for teams. McChrystal said to meet the challenges in Iraq he needed his disciplined military network to adapt and pass information quickly.  This is also required of most organizations to thrive in a complex ever changing business environment.

Another McChrystal concept I applaud is his “shared consciousness” for teams with decentralized management where people are empowered to execute with their own “good judgment.” I’m reminded of my favorite example of an employee handbook: Nordstrom’s sums theirs up in one sentence, “Use your best judgment in all situations.”  But getting teams to the point where they think and act like a team isn’t easy.  Many are bogged down with dysfunctional behavior–sometimes unconsciously emanating from the leader.

I firmly believe that if you have hired the right person and they are committed to do a good job–arm them with the resources, support they need to be successful and let them do their jobs. Part of that support from leaders is arming them with the information and the contextual understanding they need to succeed.  Another is taking the “dysfunction” out of their teams which is often the most difficult perplexing and frustrating part of any leaders role.

I am here to help leaders with their people issues – I take the “dysfunction” out of teams!

This is the season for retreats – I can help facilitate your sessions for increased engagements and less game playing!

Maureen Moriarty
www.pathtochange.com
425 736 5691

Employee Engagement

Figuring out how to motivate employees is no easy challenge. Business has typically equated motivation with money (the carrot and stick approach), and it seems this formula is wrong!

Take a look at Dan Pink’s popular 18 minute internet video from the TED conference in Oxford. His science of motivation makes a case for how business has it all wrong when it comes to incentives. I found it fascinating, intuitive and congruent with what I have experienced for many years as an executive coach. What really motivates talented, smart workers are factors including autonomy, mastery, and purpose (not more money). Pink cites over four decades of scientific studies enlightening us that the carrot and stick approach can actually significantly reduce the ability of workers to produce creative solutions to problems. His formula for work satisfaction and motivation is to connect our human need to direct our lives, to learn and create and to improve our world and ourselves.

What motivates us (once our basic survival needs are met) is the ability to grow and realize our fullest potential. Wise leaders create workplace environments and cultures that support autonomy, creativity and bringing the best of their human talent to meet company goals. Google reports that 50% of their successful products originate from employee’s 20% “innovation time”—Google employees devote 20% of their work time (one day), creatively innovating on projects of their choosing.

Additionally, Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi helps us comprehend motivation with his human state of “flow” theory. Flow is a human state of high engagement and satisfaction that occurs when we bring the best of ourselves forward to meet a challenging task or goal. If an employee has a high degree of skill and ability to do something with low challenge, they are typically apathetic or bored. Conversely, if an employee is given a highly challenging task or role with little skill, ability or talent to succeed-they will likely be in a state of anxiety, worry or stress. Neither is conducive to performance.

Flow is what happens when we have a high degree of challenge (with a clear goal) while we also have a high capability of skills, experience and talent to succeed with that goal. Akin to an athlete being in the “zone”, being in flow requires three conditions: 1) an activity with a clear set of goals, 2) the confidence that one is capable of doing the task at hand and 3) clear and immediate feedback.

Given all this theory, here are my coaching tips for how to motivate your employees:

  • Provide your people clear goals and expectations. Identify what success looks like. Make sure that before assigning tasks and roles that you are reasonably confident the individual has both the competence and the commitment to succeed. Then keep providing ongoing clear feedback. Feedback should be specific to behavior not the person or their intentions.
  • Identify your employee’s natural gifts and talents. For the price of a book, you can utilize the Strength finder 2.0 assessment. This easy to use and inexpensive internet based tool can help participants identify their top 5 strengths. Also, ask your employees how they think they can bring their best potential to the needs of the business?
  • Give people a sense of purpose. Identify and communicate how their job matters to larger organizational or business goals. People want to be a part of something that is bigger than they are. Help them identify their sense of “purpose” with the work they do.
  • Delegate more and give competent committed workers autonomy. People want to have control over their work. I have never met a client who enjoyed being micromanaged! When I hear talent looking for an exit strategy, its often due to their feeling they have no autonomy in the job or their talents and strengths are being underutilized
  • Offer employees continuing educational training opportunities. Mastery motivates! People want to get better at what they do. And the good news is once they do, they will perform at a higher level for your business. It’s a win win.
  • Praise and promote. Say thank you, recognize good work and catch people doing something well. Promote from within. Its sound strategy. Dedicated employees who have already proved their value deserve more autonomy and having a culture of promoting from within motivates other employees.

Facilitation Helps Teams

One of the greatest challenges facing most leaders today is how to maximize the creativity, quality, productivity and performance of their team. In my experience as an executive and team facilitation coach, not all leaders have an innate ability to bring the best of their people forward and even fewer know how to deal with a team mired in conflict.

A workplace team stuck in conflict, silence or frustration often lacks effective leadership. Effective leaders know how to facilitate a team in conflict towards healthy safe debate and new solutions that allow a team move forward. Without these skills, teams often waste their valuable human talent and potential. Team members become disengaged and morale plummets. In the worse cases, organizations lose talented performers. Many HR exit interviews reveal the real reason for a talented employee leaving is their frustration with a boss’s lack of leadership and team building ability.

The good news — help is available. There are professional team coaches and meeting facilitators that can bring in skills and tools to help people work together more creatively and productively.

A facilitator’s role is to improve the way the team identifies challenges, solves complex problems and moves forward with a successful action plan. The best facilitators can help meetings run more effectively so teams can accomplish more with less work hours. They develop customized exercises to increase safety and team skills to make dialogue and honest candid feedback possible.

Diversity of opinions, perspectives and experiences combine to make a team powerful. Complex team workplace problems are often best resolved with more than one head in the game. Good facilitators help team’s tackle difficult conversations in a way that increases trust and performance. They engage everyone so that all team members have an opportunity to have their input considered. Team meetings that are facilitated by professionals are rarely boring or frustrating.

Professional facilitator’s or team coaches can help your team:

  • End meetings with actionable items and clear decisions
  • Increase participation, dialogue, engagement and accountability
  • Work through conflict effectively
  • Surface any “elephants in the room”
  • Test assumptions
  • Drive to solutions vs. getting stuck with whining and blaming
  • Clarify roles, task expectations and goals/objectives

Outside facilitators (meaning they are hired from outside the organization) can be effective because they are impartial and neutral without internal political agendas that are often perceived when using someone on the “inside”. Outside facilitators have no decision-making power or authority over the team. They do not control or dominate but provide opportunities as a “servant” to the team. Their goal is often to empower and help unleash a team’s collective energy and talent.

Good facilitators must remain grounded and have enough personal authority to stay centered in the heat of conflict. To be effective, they also require education and tools in group dynamics and have the skills necessary to foster healthy dialogue and help a team move from destructive patterns to healthy ones. Yes, these are skills are worth investing in!

What do facilitators do?

  • Bring in structure for effective team process — activities and tools to enhance participation, engagement and high performance.
  • Know how to intervene to help a team develop new ways of communication so people can listen and understand each other’s viewpoints and participate in healthy debate
  • Help teams develop their own ground rules to address accountability, attendance, how they handle conflict etc.
  • Help keep meetings and teams on track, dealing with “disruptive” behaviors.
  • They have tools to guide teams through solid planning, decision- making, and problem solving, idea generation and actions.
  • Bring safety to a team where emotions are running high

Like most leadership skills, facilitation skills are learned through education, training, practice, feedback, observation and best practice coaching. They are invaluable to any leader seeking to inspire and influence their workplace teams.  Alternatively, facilitation experts like me are available to help you design and facilitate more effective meetings for engagement, creativity, decision making and buy in.  Call me to arrange:  360 5807!

Executive Coach to Increase Dialogue & Engagement

Getting people to speak their truth in workplaces isn’t easy. Most people have been conditioned to guard themselves carefully. They are cautious and often reluctant to bring tough issues to the table or to give a boss or co-workers candid feedback about problematic behaviors. Reasons range from an intimidating boss, hostile work environment, hidden or political agendas to our natural self-protection (and/or self interest) as humans.

We pay a high price in business when tough subjects are avoided. Fearful employees walking around on eggshells are typically disengaged, unmotivated, and dissatisfied. Games of masquerade and pretending all is well prevail. Because tough issues are avoided– collaboration, improved communication, relationships and team productivity go by the wayside. Frankly, in my career coaching experience, most talented or high performing individuals will soon seek greener pastures in this environment.

As a team coach and facilitator, I try to help foster “dialogue” to transform this unhealthy dynamic. Simply put, dialogue is a conversational style that can dissolve barriers and fosters collaboration, trust, accountability and partnership. Dialogue is possible when there is trust, mutual respect and a commitment to inquiry and understanding. Dialogue can be a critical tool in workplaces to promote team learning and finding “shared meaning” even in conflict and disagreement.

Bringing in a skilled “outside” third party objective coach and/or facilitator can help foster dialogue and bring safety and skills to your workplace. They can help:

  • To create safety for participants to surface the “elephants in the room”. Skilled facilitators can create conditions where people feel safe to speak truth. Whenever there are issues/topics that team’s avoid I find blocked creativity, collaboration and learning. Avoidance isn’t a strategy. In my experience avoidance only makes things worse. The issues don’t go away they just bubble up in unhealthy ways like water cooler backbiting, rumors, and pent up frustration that eventually “blows” and good people leaving.
  • Teach your team healthy interpersonal skills like active listening. Teams can get mired in conflict without listening. Real listening with an intention to understand one another vs. debate or out argue one another is rare. Listening doesn’t just happen magically. Most people need to be taught listening skills due to the human tendency of justifying and defending vs. truly trying to understand the other’s perspective. Listening is critical for a healthy workplace and to be able to get real with one another.
  • To promote inquiry through asking the right questions and promoting a climate of curiosity. Skilled coaches and facilitators know the right questions to ask (often the “unasked” questions) to promote balanced participation and reveal the thinking behind positions or ideas. Facilitators can help surface and make assumptions visible for all while challenging participants to suspend judgment while they explore the issue. Learning can then happen through inquiry, reflection and dialogue leaving a team stronger and better able to tackle future tough subjects.
  • Develop team norms to continue fostering learning, dialogue and shared meaning when tacking difficult issues and challenges. Few workplace teams spend enough time figuring out how to work together more creatively and collaboratively. They get sucked into the myth that workplace meetings should be “task” focused. High performing teams spend as much time on task as they do fostering effective communication and teamwork.

An outside expert facilitator can help your team develop better group process and meeting ground rules to foster accountability and healthy productive meetings. Another benefit—meetings with skilled facilitators are rarely boring as usually there is healthy debate and open exchange of ideas and feedback! It’s not uncommon for me to hear participants describe well-facilitated meetings as “the best we ever had”.  Call me at 360 682 5807  — I can help you make your next executive retreat the best yet!

Coaching as a Leadership Style

Many organizations today have identified “coaching” as a preferred leadership style for their management workforce. Coaching is a powerful organizational and leadership strategy to systemically improve business performance. One survey from the Institute of Personnel and Development confirms that 9 out of ten U.S. companies expect their managers and supervisors to deliver coaching to their direct reports and teams. Employee surveys support the need for managers to develop coaching skills as “best bosses” are those identified as having a coaching style.

So what is coaching? Coaching is a collaborative partnership centered on achieving goals. The primary objective of coaching is to develop the person being coached. In a nutshell, it is a way of leading that supports, champions, guides and challenges an individual to maximize their potential and performance. Coaching can be applied to a wide variety of management situations—identifying strengths and challenges, motivating, delegating, relationship/team building, providing feedback, resolving every day workplace challenges, helping employees become more self aware and change problematic behaviors or seize opportunities to grow and improve.

There are key differences between the old style autocratic or “boss” way of managing people and coaching. Whereas the old school boss tended to get things done by lecturing, directing and telling, today’s boss who acts as a “coach” asks powerful questions, makes effective requests, listens/observes well, is perceptive and offers constructive effective feedback to help someone learn and develop.

The best leaders in workplaces have learned how to empower and motivate their people vs. try to control them. One reason– today’s younger workforce (comprised of Gen Y/Millenials) is quite different than past generations (vets and baby boomers). They have different expectations of their leaders and workplaces. Generally, to motivate today’s younger worker requires more personal attention, recognition and tolerance on the part of management.

The great challenge for many organizations is how to train their managers to utilize coaching skills. People aren’t born with innate coaching skills and frankly few business schools are focused on teaching the skills required to be an effective coach.

Coaching techniques and competencies are very different than those required of more “old style” management and supervision. As a result, many of today’s older managers are challenged having to “unlearn” past lessons and techniques that are no longer effective in today’s workplace.

Simply asking your managers to “coach” employees won’t equate to success. Learning how to coach is akin to learning a new language. There is an art to coaching. To develop someone’s ability to coach requires an investment in training/coaching to master new behaviors. Developing expertise (as with most skills) will almost always require ongoing feedback and modeling by someone with more advanced skills. One of the best ways to develop coaches is to have the up-and-coming coach be coached by a professional coach with exemplary coaching skills.

Coaching is a relationship centered on helping the “coachee” realize their aspirations and goals. Trust, respect and rapport are critical foundations to a solid coaching relationship. Frankly, some managers have great challenges in the interpersonal and emotional intelligence arena. Though it is possible to learn behaviors that lead to increased trust—this endeavor isn’t easy (the best results typically come when a professional coach who specializes in this arena is brought in).

When leaders are trusted and respected, employees under them will respond to their feedback more effectively. The best coaches are patient, perceptive, self aware, reflective, open, supportive, keen observers and good listeners. They are adept at giving valuable feedback that doesn’t generate defensiveness and are interpersonally effective. They help their employees by uncovering their blind spots and challenging limiting beliefs. Most of effective coaching this takes place through observation, assessment, dialogue, inquiry and conversations.

Tips to develop a coaching style:

  • Listen and observe well. Note how someone learns best (see previous column on learning styles) and what their strengths are.
  • Delegate more and direct less (once you have assessed the employee has the skills required to do the task and has the necessary commitment). Always make clear what the parameters are when delegating (i.e. time, budget and other resources).
  • Use errors as learning opportunities.
  • Help your people learn to solve problems themselves vs. doing it for them.

Lastly, bring in coaching training for your employees.  My own coach training modules is one of my most popular trainings.  Invest in your managers today by calling me:  360 682 5807.