Leaders- Caution! Choose Change Chits Wisely

If you are a workplace leader or manager, change is part of the job.  How you manage change with your staff matters to the leadership success equation.

What do staff expect from their leaders?  Research claims primarily – order, direction and protection.  Staff wants leaders to maintain fair and consistent norms. Yet effective leadership often means changing norms and even mandating change to meet objectives.  This can be a paradox and clearly a challenge for leaders.

I regularly coach leaders with their day to day “people” challenges – helping them manage change is a part of my daily coaching conversations.

Tips from the Coach:

  • Too much change is bad.  People do not have an infinite capacity to absorb change.  Choose your change chits wisely, strategically and frugally.  We mere humans have a finite amount of energy chits each day.  What do you want staff to spend their precious time and energy on?  If you are going to create a policy or process change—make sure its relevant and worthy of the challenges creating it may cause.
  • Don’t hold onto the past or deny inevitable change.  If the company change train has left the station without you on it—you keeping staff stuck.  Staff watches the boss to see how the boss responds or “reacts” to change.
  • Deal with problems!  Complaints regarding the boss avoiding problems and not dealing with them effectively–is the #1 complaint I hear from staff.  Staff count on the boss to resolve conflict and take care of obstacles to success.
  • Don’t put your direct report in the uncomfortable position of having to fend for themselves when it comes to answering unreasonable demands from your peers or theirs.  It’s a boss’s role to deal with problematic obstacles and challenges that impede staff success.
  • Don’t add to the drama factor.  Regulate your emotional reactivity to bad news.  If the boss gets upset, so does staff.  No one can spread the negative emotional “flu” virus like a boss!

Help is available for the people challenges of leadership—invest in yourself this year with leadership development.  Contact me:  360 682 5807 or info@pathtochange.com

 

 

 

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!

Team Development

Simply throwing people together and asking them to operate as a team doesn’t guarantee success. There is a difference between a group of people who work together and those who work effectively as a team. A big difference. High-performing teams, though rare, are a tremendous competitive advantage. Developing them is frequently cited as the No. 1 challenge of leaders.

As an organizational consultant, I am often asked to help teams that are “stuck” or not meeting their potential. I identify team challenges and opportunities and help them increase collaboration and performance. While there are many factors that affect team performance, these are some that guide my work with teams:

  • Trust. This is critical to all great teams (and organizations). Team synergy, innovation, risk-taking and constructive challenge can’t happen without trust. It allows highly driven individuals to embrace difference and conflict and to challenge the status quo in a positive, powerful way. Without trust, teams get bogged down trying to deal with dysfunctional behaviors, including low team “EQ,” or emotional intelligence, “misrepresentations” and personal egos, insecurities and agendas. People who don’t feel safe will naturally hold back questions, opinions and ideas — any of which could be vital to the team’s success.
  • Clarity in purpose, goals/objectives, roles, responsibilities and expectations. Members of high-performing teams are clear about their target — what they are working together to achieve and their individual responsibilities to help the team get there. Without clarity and purpose people are reluctant to genuinely engage, and become complacent. Most professionals are energized by compelling and challenging goals. If your team has no sense of urgency, odds are it isn’t functioning at a high level.

Frustrated teams often include those who “don’t see the point” or can’t agree “who is on first and who is on second,” which often leads to ugly turf wars. This is usually the result of unclear task and role responsibility. Team leaders need to make sure everyone is clear about their responsibility in achieving the goal and why their contribution is important.

  • The necessary skills/ resources/protection to meet objectives. Teams that face large skill gaps or resource requirements relative to their objectives are doomed to fail. Wise team leaders selectively fit members into appropriate roles based on the individual’s skills, experience, motivation and talent.

To be successful, most workplace teams require a combination of leadership, technical, interpersonal, problem-solving, decisionmaking and teamwork skills. Team leaders need to support the resource needs of the team, leveraging individual skills and providing the protection needed for team success.

  • Healthy conflict. Conflict can result in creativity, learning and better solutions to today’s complex and ever-changing workplace problems. High-performing teams foster an environment that supports open, healthy debate around ideas and different perspectives. In these teams, disagreements are not suppressed, reasons are carefully examined, members feel safe to speak their truth and give each other constructive feedback.

In contrast, dysfunctional teams are hindered by indirect, disguised and guarded discussions. In these teams, conflict is either avoided (usually due to fear of retaliation or hurting others feelings) or dealt with destructively (hostility, passive aggression, finger pointing, shooting the messenger or scapegoating). No one enjoys being a part of this game.

  • Clear decision-making. High-performing teams are clear about how and when decisions will be made and who has the authority to make them. In these teams, members believe their opinion is valued — and that it has the potential to affect the decision under consideration. In contrast, members of dysfunctional teams often leave team meetings without anyone considering their ideas or unclear if a decision was made.
  • Accountability. In high-performing teams, members hold each other accountable and share the rewards of victory and pain of defeat. Individual expectations and commitments to support team objectives are clear and realistic. These teams focus on and measure performance and establish feedback mechanisms that clearly identify achievements and shortfalls.

In dysfunctional teams, mediocrity or nonperformance is tolerated and ultimately establishes itself as the norm. Different “rules” apply to different members. This lack of accountability frustrates performers and creates a team environment of inequity and disappointment. Sadly, many workplace teams place a value on harmony over truth, accountability and what is best for the business — and expend great effort and resources to avoid difficult challenges.

  • Finding ways to work better together. The best teams regularly examine their working process. They evaluate and renegotiate what needs to improve. They “debrief” after projects to identify what went well and what could be improved.

Reward and recognize. Great teams take time to celebrate and share in their achievements and successes.  I offer coaching (anywhere in the world) and team facilitation help:  mmoriarty@pathtochange.com or 360 682 5807.