I don't know about you, but some days I wake up and think, is this it? Am I doing this thing called life right? And, if I am how come I feel so stressed and tired all the time? Why do things feel so hard? When did it all get so complicated and why is it so hard to find the right work life balance? I am always running from project to project, yet I feel like I never have what I need to show for it.
I was in the grocery store the other day to pick up some peanut butter (with two teenage boys at home, we go through a lot of the stuff), and I thought when did this happen? There are now well over 40 different peanut butters: extra crunchy, crunchy, smooth, whipped, organic, sugar-free, salt-free, extra protein, old-fashioned, honey enriched and so on from an assortment of brands I knew and some I had never heard of. Gone were the days of Skippy, Jif and Peter Pan dominating the category and battling it out. I must have stood there for ten minutes pondering my options. Settling on a private brand, organic version of sugar free, smooth peanut butter took time, but had I really accomplished anything? Would my teenagers really thank me for choosing organic over conventional or even appreciate the deliberation it took?
I went home from the store and sat down to read the New York Times article on "Why You Hate Work", that highlights what we've been hearing the past few years about employee engagement levels and it hit me. Our lack of engagement at work has a lot in common with picking out a jar of peanut butter:
- It's all gotten way too complicated: roles aren't clear, workloads are heavier than ever, and technology hasn't made it easier but harder
- Decisions take a long time to make as a result of a high level of data and once we make them, we second guess them (i.e. Should I have gone with the low sugar versus the no sugar from the private brand or from Jif?)
- We no longer feel any connection to the mission, vision or values of the company because we really don't understand how that lines up with who we are
So in my response to the malaise and apathy I have been feeling as of late, I decided to crack the book my boys and my husband gave me for Mother's Day. Arianna Huffington's book "Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder.
" Before you begin to think, I am into mindfulness, yoga and a host of other propensities espoused to the writer, let me assure you, that has not been the case. But, this book is so much more than that, it has offered me (and thousands of others- the book is ranked #109 on Amazon) a way to put into perspective what I am feeling about my life and my work.
Things are too complicated:
- We are too sleep deprived, too dependent on technology, too stressed, too anxious
- We are working too long, too hard and without an answer to the reason why
- We are in need of a movement to help us slow down, re-engage, find meaning, and time to play
- We have lost our way as it relates to the need to make more, do more, keep up, stay current, compete and it is truly costing us
It is high time, we took the time to re-commit ourselves to having a life that matters; one with meaning and purpose where we do not feel the need to be anything but our best selves capable of bringing out the best and brightest in others.
I just hope the next time I go to buy peanut butter, I keep these lessons top of mind!
“Making money and doing good in the world are not mutually exclusive.” -Arianna Huffington
We had a blast celebrating with friends, colleagues, and clients the publication of our new book, "Tough Talk: Ten Tips for Disarming Difficult Conversations". It was gratifying to us to see that our passion to help organizations maintain creative focus by confronting potential derailers early is embraced by so many thoughtful, smart and savvy leaders. Enjoy this one minute salute to the evening and creative solutions!
“We need never be hopeless because we can never be irreparably broken.” –John Green
Just last week, I reconnected with a past client who had recently left a top post. Brought to a new company with much fanfare and anticipated success, he left amid rumblings of his incompetence and struggling business results. This high flyer, who had enjoyed a serious track record of past success, met up with a culture that claimed to be innovative and dynamic, but showed itself to be much more risk averse and skeptical of outsiders.
Having breakfast together some four months after the departure, I marveled at just how fabulous this leader looked. He laughed and joked and spoke about his health and happiness in a way I hadn't heard from him in the last year. He looked better, sounded better, and had dropped weight. He wasn't even looking for a job (thanks to a nice severance package). He shared with me that the whole experience had left him with a new perspective. He swore his next job would be scrutinized with a more thorough examination of the culture, the people and the mission. He told me he would never work again in a hopeless environment devoid of respect and meaning—even if that meant taking a lesser role or changing course.
The fact is this story is not an isolated one. We have the pleasure of working with senior executives in mid-size to large organizations and lately we've noticed a pattern of behavior that we find troubling: hopeless resignation. This trend bears out when we read about employee engagement scores registering a mere 30% of workers being actively engaged. And, a Pricewaterhouse Coopers Saratoga practice study just recently reported that top talent is now voluntarily leaving at the highest rate seen in the last 10 years, up to 6% in 2013 versus 5% in 2012.
So what's happening here? Some might argue that the economic downturn has recovered enough for high performers to feel like they can take some risks. Or, one could point towards the continuing war for great talent being a driver of voluntary turnover. As to the employee engagement scores, while the numbers are bad, they are not that different than they have been the last few years. Yet, something feels different. We hear a lot of leaders lamenting about:
The feeling that some things will never change
The feeling that some people will never change
The fact that people are working harder than ever and with fewer resources
The fact that talented leaders were passed over for a promotion
The latest change initiative failure
The poor results with the new product
The company culture
The stifling power struggles
The fact and feeling that the leaders at the top have no clue what is happening with the employees at the bottom, closest to the customer
The fact that bad behavior—from bullying to lying and scheming—is rewarded as long as the leader produces results
Against the backdrop of this dialog, we look to Amazon's top 5 business books and discover that positioning hope, leveraging strengths and overcoming obstacles are best sellers. "Strength Finders" by Tom Rath, a book about the power in leveraging the best things about ourselves continues its position of dominance at #1.
The book makes the point over and over again, that most managers and organizations will go out of their way to have a leader work on their "opportunities" or weaknesses. And, while Rath certainly believes we all need to work on what isn't working, he brilliantly points out that overcoming our shortcomings is often done best by leveraging our strengths. Furthermore, he makes the point, we aren't all supposed to be great at everything. So embrace that you are more analytical, while your peer may be more strategic, that will help both of you successfully contribute to the work.
New to the best seller list, weighing at #4 is Ryan Holiday's recently published "The Obstacles in the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph." This book makes the case through endless examples of past leaders who have turned difficult times into opportunities to grow and thrive. And, finally #5 "Profit from the Positive" by Margaret Greenberg offers up a new slant on how positive psychology tools can impact the work environment for the better and drive bottom line profits.
Perhaps it's in the times of struggle when we feel most hopeless that we truly learn to tap into hope. We find out what's most important to us and we learn what's most valued. In this way, we uncover the truth about our circumstances, learning that choosing hope-- by selecting the right cultural fit, or the values we hold most dear or the books we read-- is a valid uplifting and defining strategy.
“They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.” -- Tom Bodett
I can still remember the moment when I realized two male peers were making 20% more than I was despite our roles, responsibilities and time in our jobs being almost identical. The company had just handed out our expected United Way contributions and the HR director made the mistake of saying the number on our forms was based on 5% of our annual salaries. Since my male peers were sitting beside me, it was not hard to see that my contribution was lower than theirs. I quickly did the math in my head. Now what? Sure, I had suspected they might be making more but now I knew.
I didn’t necessarily handle the issue as I would have liked. I remember talking with my boss about it and letting my emotions get the best of me as he tried to explain the reasoning.
Indeed research from Stanford Business School and Margaret Neale, confirms that women can leave as much as $1-$1.5 million of salary on the table simply because they do not like to negotiate for themselves. The same research reveals women are good negotiators, ironically, when they negotiate for others! But women aren’t the only ones who may hate to negotiate. Many of us are afraid to ask for what we want because we fear it will lead to loss of job, disappointment from our boss, conflict or more work! Those who are more conflict averse may shy away from the whole unpleasantness of asking for something more—even when they deserve it.
Our passion for helping leaders grapple with this issue is why we wrote the book, Tough Talk: Ten Tips for Disarming Difficult Conversations. Our work inside numerous organizations with thousands of leaders at all levels shows there are 3 keys to getting what you want in negotiations:
- Prepare for the conversation- the single most important thing to do before you sit down to have the conversation. Download our easy to use prep sheet. Taking time to look at the facts from all angles helps you assess the right way to approach the conversation calmly and in control.
- Know what you are worth- understanding how your role contributes to the bottom line of an organization is vitally important. And, understanding what the marketplace is willing to pay is just as crucial. A website like www.Salary.com is a great place to start.
- Make things happen, deliver results- and find a way to claim your accomplishments. Set up quarterly meetings with your boss to review your results and opportunities. We see too many people still hoping their boss will notice how strong their performance is and give them the raise or the new promotion.
Eventually, I did get the salary adjustment I asked my boss for and the experience really helped me negotiate a new promotion the following year. While it was shocking to get the proof of what I was being paid relative to my peers, it really did help me to know my worth.
Do you find it difficult to know what you are worth at work? We would love to hear you share your most successful negotiation story with us.
You could have heard a pin drop. Someone finally told John he wasn't pulling his weight that he had missed the deadline again causing the whole team to suffer. Mary was clearly disturbed, so much so that she blurted out, "do your job, so the rest of us can do ours." John was shocked, but stammered how "sorry he was". The team leader, Bill, took the opportunity to sit down and talk about roles and responsibilities and while things were painfully stilted for a few minutes, it got the whole team talking.
This team had been through the fire together and they valued forthrightness and honesty. As a matter of fact, people had been dreading saying something to John because they all liked him so much. Mary had the courage to act on her frustration for her own sake and the good of the team. She was practicing the art of "peer to peer" accountability.
How safe is it for you to speak up at work? Amy C. Edmonson introduced the concept team psychological safety back in 1999 as a way to measure the safety level that exists on the team as a unit. What she found was fascinating, the more comfortable people are at speaking up is in direct relationship to how this behavior is treated on the team. If people tend to get their hands slapped for voicing differing opinions or calling out something they believe is wrong, over time the whole team will feel this way--even if it never happened to them specifically.
We know these conversations can be difficult. We just wish there was a way to support more Marys out there.
Be inspired to conduct your own tough talk. Learn more about the different types of difficult conversations in the workplace with tips and strategies for preparing for them in the new book, Tough Talk, or download a free chapter. See additional resources to help you prepare for your tough talk in the workplace.
"We complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses."- Abraham Lincoln
Last November, we had the pleasure of delivering a keynote and panel discussion at the WAVE annual event for trailblazing women in corporate America. WAVE stands for Women Adding Value & Excellence. This three-year-old volunteer organization is the brainchild of Susan Baxley of Teradata and Christine Tombelesi of GE. The title for the event: The Conversation - From Thorns to Roses: How People Deal with Critical Conversations was a regular request from leaders in the organization. The event was held at the UPS headquarters, with the keynote immediately followed by a lively panel discussion with four spectacular women representing UPS, W.W. Grainger, GE Capital, and Google.
These four leaders shared personal stories and insights the audience found both practical and revealing. One of them confessed that, in fact, early in her career, she was terrible at this skill but gained confidence in tackling the most difficult of conversations through practice and preparation.
After the event, we shared our Difficult Conversation prep sheet and were surprised by the number of people who downloaded the form and wrote us notes or emails thanking us for the tool.
Realizing we were onto to something, we began to ask about the most common conversations people struggle with at work. After collecting the data from the poll and having several subsequent interviews with clients around their angst with difficult conversations, we sat down to craft a practical book that offered solutions to both individuals and organizations struggling to disarm difficult conversations at work.
We are off to a terrific start with our first book, with several companies and organizations asking us to keynote or deliver a workshop on difficult conversations in the workplace. We are delighted we listened to the wisdom of our clients. There are too many difficult conversations in today's work environments and we are hoping to do our part to change that for the better.
It is no secret that well over 90% of all Fortune 500 companies use a 360° survey or multi-rater assessment to determine the effectiveness of their key leaders. The key objective usually focuses on the hope that the executive has improved his/her rankings. However, not all companies recognize how easy it is to take the 360 degree feedback process and turn it into a highly effective streamlined leadership development program. So, why should your company have a 360 degree feedback program to develop talent?
#1: All leaders can develop
The #1 reason to have a 360 Degree Feedback Program in your organization is this: Everyone throughout your company can and should continue to develop at a higher level, even senior leaders. For example, we were called in to a large organization about a failed 360 feedback program. Our first question to the VP of HR was, “Are your senior leaders modeling the behaviors you want to see in leaders who have had 360 feedback given to them?” Her response told us all we needed to know about why the program had failed. She replied, “Oh, our senior leaders aren’t going through this program because they aren’t the ones who need to change.” Senior leaders should set high expectations for their team members and the organization and then lead by example.
#2: A culture of leaders who give and receive feedback fosters trust
Instilling the notion in your talent that they should ask for feedback and be comfortable giving feedback builds resilience in your leaders. One CEO we have had the pleasure of working with for several years models this by asking after every major company event or milestone, “What did we learn today?” and “How will this make our company better?” His organization doesn’t fear feedback. Instead, they relish the opportunity to share their opinions in order to build an even better organization.
#3: Blind spots can trip up key talent and derail their careers
All leaders have strengths that, when overused or in new stressful situations, may become distorted, overused and turn into weaknesses. When disruptive change occurs such as a new boss, new direction, or poor results that need to be turned around, leaders can become stressed and overly dependent on past success. For example, we worked with a VP of Operations who struggled with new ideas his boss gave him regarding process improvements. The VP would openly resist the new changes in team meetings. His intensity and desire to protect his past success blinded him to the knowledge that he was a bully to many people in the team meetings. His 360 feedback report offered him the opportunity to learn his team members' perspectives and combined with our Executive Coaching for Derailing Leaders, it allowed him the opportunity to improve his blind spots and change his direction as a leader.
All leaders, whether senior executives, managers or high potential talent, can benefit from a comprehensive 360 feedback program which includes the assessment, feedback, training, and coaching. It will increase employee engagement, improve team success, and create a supportive culture for everyone.
Does your company use a 360 process to develop leaders?
The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic. - Peter Drucker
Some of today’s seasoned executives have managed through difficult times. Change, it would seem, has never been more dynamic or present. Engagement scores are dismally disappointing. Organizations are struggling to create cultures where leaders can thrive and change can be mastered. As we partner with HR leaders inside organizations, we see how resiliency has become an important leadership skill to develop. Do your leaders have the resiliency necessary to weather the unpredictable, changing landscape we face today and lead your company to higher ground?
What does it mean to be resilient? Think of bridges and office buildings that have gaps built in to the architecture so they sway in a strong wind. Think of the interplay between rigid cell walls and pliable centers that allow a stem to fully bend in flood waters and fully spring back upright the next day after the waters recede. Resilience is a balance of heavy duty architecture and pliability.
Resiliency is a key part of one's leadership skills management. This important skill can be developed and leaders who exhibit resiliency help prepare your organization respond to a rapidly changing and unpredictable business environment.
Through our work with top executives, Clearwater Consulting has identified five key qualities of resilient leaders.
1. Comfortable with unresolved ambiguities as they navigate change
When presenting their plan for transition, resilient leaders are open about the fact that not everything has worked out as intended and then they discuss changes to the plan. Leaders who do not communicate the strategic plan during difficult times, leaves their team and employees wondering what is going on and how the company is going to get through it. Leaders need to accept that changes are necessary, be open to new ideas and then be able to pivot in another direction if something doesn't work as planned.
2. Inspire and lead through good and bad times
While Emotional intelligence is considered valuable, top producers are often given some leeway in an organization to behave badly. However, star power is less effective in a stressful down cycle when a leader also needs better relationships and a greater ability to inspire his or her team to move through it.
Resilient leaders demonstrate flexibility, durability, an attitude of optimism and a mindset that is open to learning, according to the Center for Creative Leadership. Cynicism, defensiveness, or burnout signal a lack of resilience.
When organizations tolerate derailing behavior in their executives until it becomes intolerable, they risk losing key talent and a major institutional investment over issues that are readily resolved with early recognition and intervention. For example, a high potential executive at an international food and beverage manufacturer had abrasive and ambitious style issues that were impacting his career. We coached him to better understand how his leadership style impacted others while also developing an action plan of acknowledgment, repair and accountability over the course of a year. With a focus on results through immediate action, this high achiever soon became comfortable with taking responsibility for his behaviors when he noticed his peers, subordinates, boss and HR stakeholders were perceiving him differently and reacting better to him. As a result, he was promoted to VP in a key marketing position and continued to produce top line business results for the company. Recent studies repeatedly bear out the value of emotional and relational skills to bottom line performance.
3. Understand diverse leadership styles
A new style of leadership is needed today. It is not as edgy. It utilizes highly developed influencing and collaborating skills. Effective, resilient leaders today understand that there are varying, yet equally, effective leadership styles and often they complement one another to create a productive synergy where 1 + 1 is more than 2.
During a recent engagement at a large energy company, a new team leader needed to quickly learn how to lead and collaborate with a group comprised of silo’d individuals & mindsets. We focused with them on the fundamentals of a team assessment: who am I, who are you, and who can we be as a team, overtly recognizing the diverse styles and approaches to work and communication in the group. The results? Immediate and positive feedback was received from the team to the team leader. Coordination of projects became immediately smoother and results returned faster.
High functioning teams are motivated by a clear purpose and clear communications. The Clearwater Consulting process for teams begins with helping team members make that mental shift from “me” to “we”. Without that perspective, commitment to shared purpose and goals is fraught with challenges. Essential to moving forward is clearly defining purpose with a two-pronged strategy based on corporate mandate and appreciative inquiry which asks – what does the team do effectively and how can we build on that? Once teams have clearly identified their purpose, then goals are established, accountabilities defined and the team is on track to achieve results. Results reinforce, motivate and build resiliency.
4. Communicate transparently
One challenge we faced at a technology company was to help the culture become adept at giving and receiving feedback. Their brand new CEO felt leaders exchanging ideas and challenging one another would stimulate better solutions faster for adapting to the changing realities of the market. A combination of assessments, listening to top managers’ requests, cross-team courses and discussions as well as individual and group coaching helped them retain top talent and begin the realignment of their business with the market even in the face of unparalleled economic stress. By being as transparent as possible with both employees and stockholders, the CEO was able to gain trust, retain top talent and has seen a remarkable rise in share prices.
Over time, we have discovered that assessing and addressing current challenges in the individual, teams and the culture allows team members to develop more openness to change, and focus on building skills and resiliency to respond to the next challenge that arises.
If you don’t tell people what is going on, they will make it up, often imagining the worst, says Peter Cappelli, the George W. Taylor Professor of Management at the Wharton School and director of its Center for Human Resources. But remember that communicating the change is different from selling it, and top performers prefer to make up their own minds, says Pat Zigarmi, vice president of business development for the Ken Blanchard Companies in Escondido, Calif. You want to give them enough data about the organization as it is and as it needs to be so that they can come to the same conclusions you have. You must make a compelling business case for the change.
5. Anticipate the next wave of change
Research shows that executives close their minds to new ideas when they are under stress. They tend to reach for the same levers they have pulled in the past, even if those levers don't work in the new conditions. - Harvard Business Review
Excellent leadership is sometimes counterintuitive – where management may be inclined to hunker down in a crisis and become less communicative thinking to leave themselves more flexibility, the resilient leader devises a courageous plan of action balanced between current realities and a vision of the future, and communicates that plan realistically. There is no question that in turbulent times, effective executives are key for the company to survive and thrive.
The natural tendency is to become myopic and withdraw the organization to perceived safety —a posture that stifles the very things that cause the organization to thrive. The savvy executive champions future success, connects people to the future and engenders confidence that the organization is in capable hands and that the best decisions are being made. While leaders can never provide a message of unequivocal safety, in times of great uncertainty they must reassure staff, customers and suppliers or risk losing precious, hard-fought-for ground.
The ability to bounce back from adversity—and to navigate during hard times—is not innate. It has a lot to do with how you think about the challenges you face, and it is a set of skills that can be developed, say Mary Lynn Pulley and Michael Wakefield, authors of Building Resiliency: How to Thrive in Times of Change.
Resilient leaders accept change as constant and inevitable, become comfortable with change and are open to learning, they say. This doesn't necessarily mean going back to school or retraining. But it is about trying new approaches, being open to new skills, and adapting their behavior. Many managers resist learning new ways, even when it's obvious that the old ways don't work anymore, say Pulley and Wakefield. Resilient leaders are constantly improving.
What are you doing to distinguish yourself as a resilient, adaptable leader?
Leadership Coaching Positively Impacts the Individual, the Team and the Culture
In the relatively short span of time since leadership coaching hit the business world ten to fifteen years ago, the field has exploded. But exactly what is leadership coaching?
In a business setting, leadership coaching focuses on helping the individual achieve business objectives by better understanding themselves and their environment and exploring options available to accelerate movement toward both professional and organizational goals.
The leadership coach, unlike a consultant with specific methods and agendas, engages with the participant to explore what is and what could be. The coach helps map a strategy to get there and helps hold the individual accountable for the outcomes. Leadership coaches have excellent listening skills and use powerful questions to help the client.
Coaching is a skill set, a perspective and a process; it's collaborative in nature. It differs from mentoring in which the individual has walked this path before and can provide expert advice and insight. Leadership coaching skills include:
- Active listening
- Nonjudgmental reflection
- Processes that engage the client in new perspectives
- Action plan development and accountability
A managerial role is traditionally hierarchical and directive. The role coaching plays is supportive and developmental. While coaching for potential derailers (when a manager is in trouble) is a component of the mix, organizations are finding important ways to apply coaching even more positively and strategically. The initiatives we see are those focused on leadership development, especially for high potentials (rising stars) or the executive team, developing high functioning teams, and career development for talent throughout the organization. This represents a huge mindset shift, from fixing what is wrong, to supporting, encouraging and rewarding professional development. Studies clearly show the positive impact of talent development on acquisition, retention, employee and customer satisfaction and ultimately the bottom line.
So, how is your company effectively using leadership coaching? Consider the following checklist: How many of these applications are present at your company and which ones are missing?
We provide executive coaching for the CEO and high level executives to enhance their leadership skills
We offer leadership coaching to a targeted group of high potentials to develop their managerial and leadership skills
We include coaching at the back end of a training program, adding time one-on-one with a leadership coach to anchor in the content and practice the information
We teach coaching skills to our managers
We build high functioning teams through coaching and a thorough assessment process of our teams' strengths and weaknesses
We measure our results and recognize the positive and sustainable impact leadership coaching has on the organization
Integrating leadership coaching programs into your organization may be easier than you believe. With the help of expert leadership coaches, any business can begin to improve their individuals, teams and culture through the following key areas.
Leadership coaching to develop high functioning teams artfully establishes a powerful framework for exploring the team as its own entity, a system unto itself which benefits from a coach who treats the team as greater than the sum of its individual parts. “Effective team coaching focuses on the whole as a system and the interrelationships among the team members.”
Case in Point:
An experienced business coach in Canada, facilitated the merger of two executive teams as their respective non-profit associations merged into one organization. Using a team assessment for productivity and positivity, she coached them as a team to explore the dynamics they were grappling with: bringing together people with varying skills, struggling with inconsistent communication, an inefficient reporting structure and variable management practices. While helping the individuals identify their personal strengths and talents, emphasis was placed on creating awareness among the group as a team, with its own values, its own profile and dynamics and its purpose. Through the team coaching program, the participants designed a new alliance, embraced a shared vision and created processes to support that vision.
Integrating Coaching Into Strategic Programs
In addition to very targeted programs such as one-on-one executive coaching of the C-suite or executive leader to strengthen performance or work on specific kills, we find pioneering companies incorporating leadership coaching as a key component of broader business solution strategies. These programs target managers and high potentials in addition to the executive team and include leadership development, succession planning, career development, and talent retention.
Case In Point:
A technology client introduced coaching in its executive ranks several years ago resulting in powerful success – a more focused leadership and more effective executive team interactions. When a new leadership training program for high potentials was designed by the HR department, leadership coaching was added as a component. Following each workshop, the participants were given several one-hour sessions with a specially trained internal coach. These sessions were designed to help the high potential employee target specific skills for development, skills identified in a benchmark assessment. This customized coaching model – helping each high potential participant target and focus on specific skills he or she wants to develop - resulted in an increase of promotions from within, positive increases in 360 assessments of participants, and significantly less turnover.
Accelerated Learning and Sustainable Inspiration
Companies spend millions of dollars on training. The question has always been, to what effect? Leadership coaching is increasingly perceived as an essential bridge from the classroom to the office, from concept to practice, and a potent way to customize learnings that creates a meaningful and sustainable impact. Using a leadership coach to work with a program/class participant after the class (or during) helps anchor information from workshops or training, sustain the learnings with specific plans of action, and increases likelihood of application by holding the individual accountable through a coaching relationship. Ken Blanchard, management guru and visionary, incorporates coaching in his Executive MBA program, acknowledging its potency for anchoring new information otherwise lost once the class is complete.
Case in Point:
A colleague teaches a well known coaches training program, which gets high marks for content from participants. However, the majority were not completing requirements for certification. By coaching participants for two months after the classes end, our firm helped them establish an action plan for completing their certification. We coached them before and after their practice sessions with their own clients, we held them accountable for their commitments and helped them develop their own style of coaching. In less than a year, completion of the certification program rose from 50% to 90%.
The Next Frontier: Creating a Coaching Culture
Leadership coaching can thrive in all types of business environments. However, when we talk about creating a coaching culture, we are pointing to behaviors and perspectives that infiltrate the organization in which we see the fundamentals of leadership coaching – great respect for the individual and the team, excellent listening, artful feedback – cascading through the system and producing business results. Not only is this behavior present and rewarded, but there is a structured programmatic approach which deploys coaching best practices in an integrated manner.
Several markers identify an organization’s embrace of leadership coaching such that it becomes part of the cultural norm. Here are just a few indications the organization is moving in that direction:
- When coaching skills become a competency on the 360 assessment of managers,
- When training programs include coaching skills workshops for managers (powerful questions, radical listening, nonjudgmental reflection, talent development plans, etc)
- When the application of coaching is included in more than one strategic initiative, and applied to more than one set of individuals, for depth and breadth across the company,
- When the leadership team starts to refer to themselves as coaches and, more important, when they are described by their employees as leadership coaches.
So, where are you and where is your company in its application of leadership coaching as a business solution?
Teams share the burden, and divide the grief." - Doug Smith
The corporate world’s answer to the growing challenges of business seems to be a whole room full of partners -- that’s a Team. Although there have always been workplace teams, since the 1980’s their role in corporations has vastly increased. And although they can be highly effective, teams are not the panacea for inefficient organizations. Frustrated members and managers abound, because by all logic their teams should work, but they often don’t. The good news is that the solutions for effective, high-functioning teams are within your reach.
What is a Team?
Katzenbach & Smith in Wisdom of Teams gave this definition of a high functioning team:
“A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals and working approach for which they hold themselves accountable”
Work groups that are a collection of individuals, are not a team. Even a group attempting to collaborate on a joint project, Katzenback and Smith would call a “potential” team. A real team has a common purpose, goals and approach. When the team becomes committed to each others’ personal growth, then it can evolve to a true high performance team.
The norm in the workplace is the antithesis of the team: usually each individual must look out for their own interests, which makes team-building difficult.
Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of Teams, points out another hurdle typical in corporations. Managers and leaders often leave team issues untreated, hoping they will work themselves out without any heavy lifting, and now you’ve got a recipe for dysfunction.
Whether you are the manager charged with forming and supervising a team, or a member of the group, you can increase the performance of your team and your own job satisfaction by adhering to these five steps.
The 5 Dysfunctions of Teams: What gets in the way of accountability and results
In this popular corporate fable, Patrick Lencioni identified why teams don’t work, how to recognize dysfunction and what to do about it. Teams work, he said, when they have: effective transparency, open conversation, and collaboration. Teams fail when there is:
- an absence of trust
- fear of conflict
- lack of commitment
- avoidance of accountability
- inattention to results
One good indicator of team dysfunction, for example, is a boring team meeting, said Lencioni. When people don’t challenge one another in discussions about the business, and when people go to meetings unmotivated, you can be pretty confident that they’re not collectively engaged.
In a high-functioning team, people enjoy their work; obstacles become challenges that are fun to take on, rather than annoyances to be endured during the work day.
Do people reserve their complaints for hallway conversations instead of voicing them during meetings? If so, that’s a sign of both a lack of trust and absence healthy conflict.
And what about individuals who are not following through? Lencioni’s first piece of advice to a manager is: tell the team member he is under performing. So many times people are not aware of their situation because managers shy away from giving them direct feedback, especially if it’s negative.
The Role of Team Leader is vital, according to Wisdom of Teams. The leader’s job is to:
- Keep the team’s purpose, goals and approach meaningful.
- Build commitment and confidence among the group.
- Strengthen the mix and level of skills by assessing and choosing members carefully, then bringing in balancing talents when they are needed.
- Manage external relationships and remove obstacles so the team can quickly create successes.
- Create opportunities for others on the team to develop and grow their expertise and influence.
- Do real work. Teamwork is quickly destroyed when work that is creative and well-conceived vaporizes in the black hole of corporate inaction. The effect is to erect a high hurdle of distrust and cynicism for future team participation.
Celebration and Recognition Matter
Recognition doesn’t have to be expensive. Genuine praise from a peer or a manager can be very gratifying to an individual who is trying on new ideas or behaviors. The organization needs to develop the habit of recognizing the team rather than the team leader. Performance standards have to reward team performance more than individual performance.
Success does not result from motivation, we are told by Shinichi Suzuki, the famed inventor of the worldwide phenomenon of Suzuki music training, motivation is the result of success. You can transform your team through:
- Defining a purpose and goals through careful inquiry into what is working
- Demanding accountability that requires high performance involvement by all the members
- Doing real work that achieves results
- Recognizing and celebrating success when it is achieved
While it takes commitment, patience and insight to get there, high performance teams become self-motivating because receiving the support of peers to perform at your best is so satisfying that it makes work highly desirable.
What have you done to help your team perform at a higher level?