team building

July 26, 2010

Simply About Buns

The simplest behaviors can make a manager. Sometimes those behaviors don’t even need to be regular; they are allowed to be inconsistently regular in fact.

Take the experience of buns. Once in a while, even the most senior – or junior – of managers, can do something that to them seems so ordinary, yet to their people it signifies in a small, yet profound way, an extraordinary respect that it is hugely important in how they lead their team.

The unexpectedness of something can show how much a manager cares for their people.

In was a quiet afternoon in the business when he brought the buns. They weren’t expensive, but they were unexpected. Not that he’d never done it before, he had. Yet it was almost as if today was a great ‘nothing much happening’ sort of day that he recognized the opportunity to do a little more.

Now whilst some managers might have had their people screaming down the phones for more business; or wanted to chivvy their people along on a flat day catching up with the boring stuff that so often got left, this guy was different.

Reflecting on the successes of a good couple of weeks (bun reward has to have a context; be for a reason), he took a time-out to share a few minutes to thank the team with the buns. Buns that cost a couple of pounds.

He also took time to accept the offered cup of tea and to chew the fat about well, anything. It was being what he was good at. Taking the time to listen to his people be passionate and share their lives a little bit, for a few minutes on a flat day.

A small thing? Sure. And it’s the sum of small actions that create a relationship that employees value.

Just a few buns and a few minutes.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Management Basics, Management Development Tips, Managing Me by Martin

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March 4, 2010

Team Building – Finding The Hidden Gold

Managing teams in your organization is a challenging experience.

Finding the right people for the roles you have can be a tricky proposition, yet when you take the time to get to know your people, you might be surprised what you find.

We all want the best people in our team. The demands placed on us to deliver results from our role as managers are unremitting as must our search for the best people.

Surprisingly, there are individuals around who might offer more than you think. Employees that you already have in place can often carry talents that are hidden away, for a variety of reasons, so there are tactics a manager can adopt to ensure that all potential is realized.

Here are a few to get you started…

1. Keep your ears and eyes open – and engage in conversations that are curious about people.

Whatever happens, even if there are few gold nuggets out there, the worst thing is that people see you are interested in them.

There’s a zillion managers out there who aren’t at all interested in their people much at all, so you will immediately get brownie points at the very least!

2. Know that there’s talent out there – that you can bring out.

People have all sorts of skills, experiences and histories that might be of value, if only you knew about it.

You can’t find that out unless you get amongst them and find out!

3. Your people will hide their aspirations
– because they think you aren’t that interested in them.

Sad but true, work experience isn’t the best place for people to see the generous nature of managers.

Far from it. In fact their experience will tell them that a manager may well not even care to know their name.

4. You can make it happen for them
– when you know about it.

When you do find out about what they are looking for, it’s a real big help to you, for them and you and your business.

Your role can be enabling for them, by kick-starting new careers that their capabilities could support.

5. Management is often about joining the dots
– that you’ve discovered.

See where this is going?

As a manager, your prime role is to lead and facilitate the people in your team, not to do everything yourself.

When you are that link, with what you find out, then there’s a whole new bunch of opportunities out there.

Listening to your people, letting them spill their hidden talents as well as their hopes for the future, can be a true win-win.

6. Management is about people – not doing stuff, however attractive that might be.

No-one minds a manager giving a hand now and then, it’s a choice, not to be depended on. But the role is about people, managing them is the headline, yet it’s so much more.

Great managers are there to make the best business decisions and these can easily be the best people decisions too.

In fact, when there is a coming together of business needs matched with individual’s possibilities, there can be no better way forward.

Your people are chock-full of potential. Releasing it will help you, help them, to make your team much more successful.

Filed under Blog, Building the Future, Developing Your People by Martin

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March 1, 2010

Managers Playing Ignorant – Developing Employees

Sometimes, it’s easy to show that we are the boss, by always having the answers that our people need.

Yet the smartest managers don’t always share the answers they have.

Because any manager wants to be the resource their people need. In fact, being able to solve problems your way is a great way to remind your people that’s the reason you are their manager, because you know the way to fix things.

Sometimes though, it will be valuable to be less than the cleverest person in the team, because letting them find out will help them in bigger ways as they develop and grow their skills.

The biggest challenge you will find in using this activity will be you. Your people will love it as they are utilized to share their ideas and solutions.

So, are you big enough to try this and not be the resource every time for the problems your people bring you, showing your ‘manager prowess’ off to fuel your own self-belief, important though that is in itself?

Many managers feel that by letting go of being ‘solution-finder’ they will lose respect, yet, quite simply, the truth is the opposite. Because no-one likes a know-it-all, so they stop respecting and start mocking any manager who seems to be perfect.

In fact any manager who decides to be Mr/Mrs Fix-It to all and sundry every time, will really struggle under the pressure and do a far worse job, because their people will start to dump problems that they certainly could resolve themselves on that smart manager’s desk.

Letting go of the ‘Fix-Everything’ persona is much more than how you perceive your people will see you in the world.

You see, you WANT to be the big cheese who solves everything. It’s an ego thing. And it’s only going to stand up for a while.

If you are big enough to make this small transition, your people will respect you much more when you are their development guide and show you value them by asking them for their own ideas and solutions.

Stretching, challenging and guiding them gently in much more appropriate and value-creating for your people over time.

Saying ‘I don’t know’ sometimes, is perfect for that and will raise you up in their eyes as long as you use this tool wisely and not every time you have something presented to you.

This is about disciplining yourself, in the moment, and expanding your React/Respond gap.

When you play with that, use delaying tactics and decide if ‘I don’t know’ will work this time, you will have a vital option that will make a much bigger difference to the performance of your people and team, than might have ever been possible before.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Managing Me by Martin

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February 23, 2010

How Workplace Relationship Building Solves Problems Best

Problems are a part of any manager’s day. They come at us thick and fast, providing challenges on many levels. With your team, many of these can be fixed.

With the full involvement and collaboration of your team – even better – many can be solved for good…

They say ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’, because two minds working together will be able to create a better solution – one that is generally much more effective.

One of the purposes of creating active relationships with our people, is to ensure that we have every opportunity to make the most of thinking together.

Partnerships will generate more and better ideas that can be instrumental in delivering successes much more effectively.

Where – as managers – we spend the time with our people, both one-on-one as well as with our teams, we create the environment that is effectively a safe place to become much more creative.

As we listen carefully to our people – making the effort to hold back with our own ideas to let them come forward with their own – they begin to show their strengths. Often hidden from us, as their confidence develops, we see them demonstrate their full capabilities.

By developing a level of trust and respect that lets them open up willingly, our people take up the challenges we set before them, creating a sense of purpose that will drive them on – with their colleagues – to much more effective solutions.

As managers we are able to spend our days fire-fighting and coming up with sticking-plaster solutions that work for us in the short-term. This makes problems go away for a while, but these are intrepid critters and have a habit of keeping coming back.

When we create strong relationships with our people, they get involved too, sharing their own wisdom which you have nurtured when you are with them. And this enables far better, deep-reaching solutions – not fixes – that make problems go away for good.

We use the relationships we encourage, to make the differences we need, to make our management both much more effective, as well as easier for the best solutions we seek.

The time we invest in our people creates the returns that we seek, above and beyond like-for-like. Using the leverage of many minds on the problems we together face, we maximize the value we create.

Relationship building is two-way, with your people enjoying value from it as well. The returns you appreciate by making this effort are unlimited, because you just don’t know what abilities your people will come up with.

Finding purpose to building relationships is not hard and what can be delivered using you and your interpersonal skills probably cannot be overestimated – after all, you have amazing people around you.

Your job is to get their potential out in the open and exposed, helping you provide lasting solutions to the problems and issues that you have before you.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Focus on Results, Management Basics by Martin

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February 20, 2010

Using Relationship Building to Uncover Hidden Employee Talents

You have great people around you in your team. However you view them, you will be surprised at the capabilities they have inside.

If only you could find a key to unlock that door…

We all have potential. Like Tony Robbins says, we have ‘Unlimited Potential’ within each of us.

As a manager of a team of people, it’s going to be a whole lot easier if you are able to make more of the assets that you have, than try to find better out there. Leveraging those you have around you, requires a real application of your own skill – and that is the unlimited potential within you!

The biggest challenge for any manage, is just how to go about unlocking the abilities that their people hide away. They keep their own hopes and possibilities tucked away, because they have had experiences in their lives that put them off sharing themselves openly to others.

They lack trust, because it has sometimes come back to bite them in the past – and like any of us, they don’t want that experience again!

One of the vitally important purposes of creating constructive relationships with your people is all about bringing back that trust they have lost. Because when they trust you more, you will start to glimpse more of what they are about.

By making the time to get to know them well – and they you – slowly and surely every one of your people will trust you better, opening them up to your support, encouragement and yes, providing the challenges they can respond to.

This will take time and particular effort on your part.

Every one of your people will respond differently, because their life experiences will have set defenses at different levels. We defend ourselves against the pain we suffer from the unpleasant experiences we have had and whatever the cause, we put barriers up to avoid that pain again.

Whether it was a parent who criticized us as we grew; a teacher who had no skills to deal with different pupils. Whether is was a mentor who was so self-centered that they failed to appreciate your differing needs or simply a bully-boss who was plain ignorant. People lose trust – and that’s what holds them back.

The purpose of relationships that work is to build trust by listening without judgment; supporting any circumstance (however frustrating that can be!); encouraging even the most despondent.

As we progress our interactions with our people, we will see progress – sometimes slowly – in most of our employees. Gradually taking steps to open the doors to the potential that lies beneath, we see the possibilities and gradually, the self-imposed reins that hold them back start to ease.

The purpose of the relationships we have is to grow our people, leading to success for ourselves through the potential we release; leading to success for those people whose have been hiding their talents.

It’s as simple as that.

Filed under Blog, Building the Future, Developing Your People, Management Basics by Martin

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February 6, 2010

Using Team Operating Charters To Create Effective Teams

Effective teams are the most effective and even the only way to make organizations work. Managers cannot deliver the whole job – it’s just not possible.

That said, teams need to have some ground rules to be effective too.

Team building is a vital component of anything you need to do in business, unless you are a one-man band cobbler or something, with no-one else working with you.

The team is vital to make what you want to happen, happen effectively and efficiently, all the time.

For most managers, there will be a bunch of people upon whom you depend to get the job done, because, as we’ve come across before, you cannot do it all yourself. Leveraging their own particular skills is the way to create successful outcomes for all you want.

So, you need a bunch of people who are going to gel; work well together; synergize and deliver outstanding results – right? A group of like-minded people who will contribute for the greater good of all, to outcomes that contribute to the needs of the team at organizational level.

They need to ensure that they support each other whilst using their own individual skills to use for the length of the business need or project. Benefiting from their own peculiar talents, a team will generate more successfully because of the debate and collaboration through their individualities.

What better way to build your team than on the job?

There is a space for going building rafts and bonding socially. Truth is, the real work is where your team pull together in achieving the goals you need to work on together.

To start up, it’s always worth creating some ground rules about the ways that you will work together. This will mean that you all agree on the boundaries you set between you all, so that what you do work on will be collaborative, and not fall foul of dispute, frustration and competition.

A great way to do this is to create a specific exercise for all what an operating charter is drawn up, with everyone contributing and, once agreed, signed up to. By setting aside time in the early phases of working together, you will be making an investment that will be well worth while for the team as a whole, as well as the results you achieve too.

By creating a way of working together, clearly stating goals and objectives as well as how you are going to go about it, you will stand a far greater chance of collaborative success for everyone, apportion activities and then be able to apply timelines that everyone signs up to.

Not to mention that there will be a team spirit and bonding engendered by the exercise too.

Filed under Blog, Building the Future, Developing Your People, Managing Me by Martin

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January 22, 2010

The Top Ten Benefits of Teams

Teams are fundamental to business and organizational success.

So what exactly are the benefits that a well-organized and productive team brings?

There are many values and benefits successful teams bring to their organizations. pulled together not only by effective leaders, but also by a will on the part of their members to provide outcomes that are the best possible.

Team working can be incredibly effective and much more so than individulas working alone.

Here are 10 reasons why:-

1.    Capacity

Managers can’t do it alone. The outcomes they need are too big for them to do all the work themselves, so they need others to help them. Great managers have teams they fully engage with, to maximize the volume of activity they cover.

2.    Variety

With a range of individuals, they all are different. Different skills, talents and above all in business, behaviors that will engage each other as they communicate with each other. These ‘differences’ are what makes a team so powerful and are a real positive.

3.    Skills

Bringing expertise in the key areas managers need to get the job done, enables every activity that forms part of the team performance, to be delivered to achieve the goals.

4.    Energy

When individuals get together, they generate energy. Teams utilize this energy by accessing the adrenaline that kicks in when people interact, with different ideas and opinions that are strongly felt, defended and proposed.

5.    Collaboration

With a range of skills, ideas and experiences, team members pull together to come up with options that come from the discussions and debate that ensues.

Collaboration is about adding together individual positions to a point where outcomes are much more valuable.
6.    Challenge Up

Great teams work with team leaders as part of the team ethic, yet they don’t just follow along innocently. With the wisdom and confidence their togetherness generates, they ask questions upwards, to help the overall outcome.

7.    Synergy

Individuals in teams bring particular skills and talents into the mix. These have great value, especially when they blend and merge with each other. In teams, as we saw in the foreword, the sum of the parts is greater than just adding together the components.

8.    Individual Drive

The individuals in teams have personal aspirations to drive their careers through the way they do their own work. In these areas, working in a team can be tricky as its output must be ‘for the team’, yet it is a powerful asset to have in the team, when directed by the team leader accordingly.

9.    Experiences

As well as skill, team members have experiences that can be shared, to benefit the team as a whole, to make results much more effective.

10.    Spirit, Celebration and Togetherness

By celebrating, as successes are achieved, bonds become stronger and performance is maximized. The best team leaders take part in the celebrations too – after all, they are part of the team success too!

That’s effective teamwork, much more than the sum of the parts!

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Management Basics by Martin

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January 9, 2010

Asking The Right Sort of Questions

To create great conversations, we need to engage fully with those we want to talk with. There are tactics that anyone can use to draw out the information that is so valuable, as well as showing an interest in the individual on the other side.

It’s not that difficult…

There are several sorts of questions that you need to be aware of. You may already understand these and naturally have a talent for using them in the right places, as some people do.

Some of the questions are simply no-go areas, as they will serve you little purpose. As a hint, listen to radio interviewers as they are often really good examples of how not to do it!

The key is to create conversations that will engage and enthuse your people, building confidence in their own abilities as well as encouraging a healthy, strong and close relationship with you as their line manager.

This is not as tricky as it might sound and simply requires an understanding of the ways you can leverage the unique opportunities you have, with people around you that you can develop your working style with.

One of the best ways to create a conversation is to as what are described as ‘Open’ questions.

Typically these start with the ‘W’ letter, Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? (well, it has a ‘w’ in it!) and are the keys that unlock a conversation.

These are undoubtedly the questions that encourage discovery of information. That’s why they are sometimes called ‘discovery questions’.

When you are coaching (which, as a manager, is much of your time, right?), these will form up towards 80% of the questions you ask – and more.

Interestingly, other tactics can be described as ‘open’ in this context. For example, other favorites are:-

‘You mentioned the delay on the project, tell me more about that…’

You could vary this a little as you get used to it, by saying something like:-

‘Say more about the solutions you found…’

Over time, you will get easier with your own favorites that work well for you, in the context of the conversation you are having with the person you are coaching.

The beauty of ‘open’ questions are that they show an interest in the other person, who, most often, will be only too delighted to talk more about themselves.

Then, using your excellent listening skills you ‘hear’ and get the ongoing contextual clues that will lead you – and them – forward along the self-discovery path, through the next question – and so on.

Remember, as a coaching manager, you are helping them find out about what they can contribute – not what you can fix for them.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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January 3, 2010

Understanding the Critical Value of Key Roles in Your Team

Every business has its Key Roles.

Each organization has pivotal positions that are critical to get right. Managers who understand that these roles and positions are often critical to success are usually the ones who are ahead of the game.

All teams have those really vital roles, where without people knowing what they are doing, the going would get very tough indeed. Those critical positions in the team that simply have to be right or things would become very difficult.

Because initially it isn’t practical to use succession planning for absolutely everyone in your business, these roles are the ones where a good manager initially focuses on, just to ensure continuity if the worst comes to the worst.

So it’s important to focus, at least to start with, on those roles where you would struggle when someone left or was unable to work for a while. The cataclysmic positions without which would be a serious threat to ongoing continuity.

Such roles are mostly pretty obvious, yet there will be some that even the most aware manager might not appreciate, so it’s worth considering how to analyze the whole team to see just who would be missed if they didn’t show up one day!

To help identify the ‘Key Roles’, they are filled by employees who would:-

•    Have very specific skills
•    Have a particular level of experience
•    Be carrying out a role alone
•    Lead a team
•    Be critical in some other way to the business

Some examples of these would be those with:-

•    Management or Supervisory skills
•    Technical skills
•    Accounting skills
•    Sales skills
•    Particular responsibilities
•    Extreme duties (e.g. key holders, very early or late hours)

There are, no doubt, many more – especially in your own unique situation – and it will be worth taking some time to ask the following question:-

“What would we do if he/she left tomorrow?”

…for every single employee in your team (and even, where your team intersects with others, perhaps those in other teams too).

This is can be a challenging exercise the first time through – and with a little practice, it does get easier as awareness builds and your support managers – where you have them – become more aware of the consequences of someone important going missing unexpectedly.

Far better for it to be a demanding challenge today when you are ahead of the game and able to prepare for the worst, than tomorrow or next month when one of your key people isn’t around anymore and you have no plan at all!

Great managers are able to size up where they are in solving the problem of losing those in key roles and manage it effectively, providing opportunities to learn and develop for those who might be able to stand up to short-term chances, to show what they can do when emergencies happen.

Filed under Blog, Building the Future, Developing Your People, Management Basics by Martin

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March 10, 2009

Quick Thinking Required!

I’m fascinated by productivity. Making things actually happen, instead of pondering endlkessly is a huge step forward for any manager.

When I was in Australia recently, I met up with Dr Ken Hudson, from The Speed Thinking Zone. Ken’s premise is that things take way too long and there is a better way.

Hudson’s Law of Meetings

February 27, 2009

In 1955, Cyril Northcote Parkinson suggested, in a tongue in cheek way, what has since become known as Parkinsons Law. It states:

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

I would like to suggest that this be updated for meetings in what i have called Hudson’s Law of Meetings:

Meetings expand to the time set for the meeting.

Think about it. Have you ever been at a meeting when someone says, well we have the meeting room booked for the next hour why don’t we stay till then. Why should you? If the meeting is over the meeting is over.

Why do most of us feel guilty about having a shorter meeting or one that finishes early? In a recent workshop we covered all we had to do and i suggested that we finish early. One person started to complain about this.

Why I asked?

Why don’t you use the extra time to go to the gym or see your kids or go to a movie?

If Hudson’s rule is valid then we should think seriously about the amount of time we spend in meetings. Why are all our meetings at least one hour? Why aren’t these half an hour?

Imagine how much time you could free up and how more productive and enjoyable your life could be.

Ken Hudson

Ken’s thinking is fast paced, as you might expect. I like his stuff and I want to know more, despite Australia being quite a hike from where I am.

I think you might like to check it out too, right here at The Speed Thinking Zone

Filed under Blog by Martin

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