BLOG: Extraordinary Leadership and High Functioning Teams

3 Key Questions to Assess Company Commitment to Coaching

Posted by Andrea Hopke on Wed, Sep 30, 2015

cc_coaching_skills_07Two thirds of responders to our recent survey complain that people need to step up. That they need and want them to take more responsibility. One way to instill that in the culture is through  a commitment to coaching. But very few companies are actually committing resources—time, money, strategic thought and execution—to providing managers with coaching skills that ensure the development of talent and the encouragement of individuals taking more responsibility. 

There is massive confusion in organizations, according to our responders (and our professional observations echo this), which blurs the distinction between giving direction and coaching. At its core, coaching shifts the responsibility for ideas, solutions and actions to the individual. Read more about coaching skills here.

The 3 key questions to ask yourself are:

1. How many hours of coaching skills training (per year) do your managers receive?

  • 10 or more hours (good for you - great start)
  • 1-9 hours (better than nothing)
  • 0 hours (unfortunately this is the norm - isn't it time to do something about this?)
  • Do not know

2. Do your executive leaders understand the difference between coaching and directing?

  • Yes - they understand that the coachee is responsible for the ideas and actions; the coach is responsible for asking great questions and helping the coachee find answers
  • No - they blur everything together into "advice"

3. Do your senior leaders complain that people need to step up?

  • Yes
  • No

And a bonus 4th question:  Now, what are youan insightful, engaged, motivated leadergoing to do about it?


If you answered (a) to all 3 questions: your company is primed to embrace coaching as a talent development and growth solution, and you are fearlessly leading them! If you answered a combination of (a) and (b), you have a great opportunity ahead of you. Call us at (404) 634-4332. We can help design the steps and implement the solutions. If you answered (b) or (c): we applaud that you are an eternal optimist and we can share programs to support the transformation you are eager to see. 

Take our survey or contact us at (404) 634-4332 to learn more.about developing a coaching culture at your company

Tags: corporate culture, Coaching Skills, leadership coaching

3 Reasons Leaders Avoid Being Candid with Peers

Posted by Rebecca Dannenfelser on Wed, Sep 23, 2015

cc_2014_team_004-resized-600In most organizations, there exists an Executive Team, the C-suite executives who set the strategy and the direction of the company at a high level. These leaders are leading out in front and they have most of their debate and candor with their highly experienced board members. While these conversations take stock of the current business and execution of the plan, they are designed to be futuristic in nature and are highly influenced by the end game—to secure a new round of funding, to execute the IPO, to maintain or increase stock price with shareholders/the street.

The executive team has a leadership team as well, a group of SVP’s and VP’s whose sole function is to deliver the strategy, maximize the opportunities, solve problems together, push back when the top-down direction lacks clarity or marketplace relevance. In today’s time strapped cultures of do more with less—this is where we see the real squeeze play. Because the Leadership Team is simply being asked to do more with less, while solving very complex problems with more people than ever contributing to the decision making process. They not only lack the skills, they avoid the conversations.

Where do peers struggle the most with conflict? Where are they having the conversations that need candor? And, where are they not? The single biggest issues we see among Leadership Teams (VP’s) are:

Scarcity of resources and the dilemma around functional protection versus business need (hiring freeze, that doesn’t affect me I’m sales, marketing, etc)

Poor follow-through by a peer, letting someone down and not apologizing or owning

Difference of opinion on how something should be done, agree passively in the meeting, go execute something different afterwards (lack of alignment)

Lack of consideration for impact around consistency with policy (a leader who lets their team have half day Fridays during the summer without checking with others)

Taking credit for good ideas

Throwing someone under the bus (blame)

Passing judgment on people who do not think and act like you

The Conference Board’s research with over 22,000 people illustrates the business imperative for why organizations need to develop leaders who can collaborate, engage in candid conversations that resolve conflict and solve problems and the growing need to truly comprehend the amount of people involved and impacted by collective decision making.


Recently, we worked with a client grappling with the potential explosive growth of the company and a leader told me last week, “Look I’d rather just solve the problem myself, it saves time and it avoids the messiness of trying to work together. Half the time, the way I look at something is completely different and the conflict is something I would just rather avoid. When I don’t, it’s like world war 3 around here.”

Candor, disagreement, conflict. Many people would rather go out of their way to avoid it, than be forced to deal with a difficult peer or be forced to spend the time finding the best solution. But avoidance of conflict prevents peers from truly collaborating and moving an issue forward to shared resolution. Based on the research above from Conference Board with over 22,000 leaders across the globe, more people than ever are affected by the decisions a leader makes, yet the desire to bring passion and candor to a discussion is still as elusive as its ever been.

So why do we struggle to collaborate with peers and make important decisions that involve conflict?

We believe conflict is bad. We have learned to avoid it. We have seen it done wrong—where it has been personal and mean spirited or we have been on the receiving end of a poor exchange.

We believe it takes too much time or we only see resolution if its win-win. If we lose we may work hard to sabotage the solution and prove we were right

We believe we are right and intend to do it our way no matter what

So how does an organization start to push to develop skills around how to develop real candor that solves real organizational problems?

Build trust that is real and authentic. Allow a way for leaders to truly get to know each other in a meaningful way, so that candor is safe.

Re-position conflict as nothing more than the pursuit of the best idea for the problem to be solved

Build time for the leadership team to focus on the biggest issues that all areas in the company need to resolve so that there is a collective desire to put aside turf and silo.

For many companies with Executive Teams that hand down strategy to be implemented by the Leadership Team, the lack of candor among the leaders may just be the real obstacle to your next audacious goal of an IPO, or increased stock value.

Question for companies, how many leadership team members do you have involved in the decision making process? And, on a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being the highest) how skilled are you in having the candid conversations that solve problems?

prepare for a difficult conversation

Tags: leadership development, building trust, team building and accountability, leadership secrets

Conflict at Work: The Role of the Manager

Posted by Rebecca Dannenfelser on Thu, Sep 10, 2015

Conflict. Infighting. Disagreements. Arguments. Rivalry. Lack of accountability. These are all issues that people, and especially managers, at work encounter on a regular basis. A struggle with a performance issue, a difficult personality, rude behavior, or peers fighting. We all dread conflict or tough conversations at work even though they are inevitable.



So how do we learn to deal with conflict at work? 

Often times, we look to the leader of our team in the hopes that he/she can model the best way to handle these crucial conversations. After 10 years of training thousands of leaders, we know first hand that dealing with conflict is very difficult for most managers and research bears out this notion. So why do managers struggle with conflict? They either lack the skill, or have developed bad habits. Some of the things we see managers do:

They avoid the conflict, making it clear they are afraid to deal with it
They minimize the conflict, stepping over the elephant the room
They take sides without getting both parties involved
They ignore it hoping it will go away

If you or your manager struggles with conflict, click on this link to see the 3 key questions you need answers to in order to create a coaching culture and eliminate conflict at work.

Tags: corporate culture, improve workplace relationships, team building and accountability

Building Effective Teams by Confronting Conflict

Posted by Kristin Dressel on Thu, Aug 20, 2015

Here's an interesting statistic to learn:


Source: DeChurch, Mesmer-Magnus, and Doty, Mega-analysis of 45 different studies with over 3000 teams.

All organizations have to deal with teams in conflict sooner or later. Successfully moving from a dysfunctional team to a highly functional one, begins with facing HOW you deal with conflict within the team. Is it a free-for-all where everybody talks over everyone else and nobody is listening? Or is it a constructive debate about various ideas and points of views where everyone is respectful of each other even when they disagree?

At your next team meeting, implement “critique & cooperate”. Ask each team member to offer one critique of what the team can do better (i.e. meetings should start on time and everyone should be respectful of the start time and not show up late – no finger pointing or naming names). Then have each person offer how he or she will cooperate with each suggested improvement. Oftentimes it’s too easy for team members to think someone else is the problem or solution. But when everyone has to contribute ideas and everyone has to offer solutions, then people move from blaming to sharing responsibility.

prepare for a difficult conversation in the workplace


Tags: difficult conversations, high functioning teams, high performing teams

Highly Effective Teams are Vital to Organizations

Posted by Kristin Dressel on Tue, Aug 18, 2015

Research last year from the Human Capital Institute on “Designing Effective Teams” showed the following:


How many employees in your organization would rate their workplace teams as “very effective”? Unfortunately it’s probably much fewer than you want to believe. Here’s an idea: take the time today to go around to your team members/department/staff and ask each person privately to rate how effective the team is at performing and accomplishing team goals. Encourage each person to be completely honest and then ask for their feedback on ways the team can improve to become more effective. This isn’t about pointing fingers at people to blame them; it’s about gathering different people’s perspectives on the team’s weaknesses and different strategies for changing them for the better.

Increasing a team’s effectiveness could be as simple as holding more team building activities, taking them out to lunch to reward them for their hard work, or holding a team meeting with a coach to have an impartial third party review ways to improve team effectiveness. But you’ll never know how your team members really feel about how well (or poorly) they’re performing if you don’t ask for their input.

team leaders develop trust on your team in the workplace

Tags: improve workplace relationships, high functioning teams, high performing teams

3 Ways to Move From Stuck-where-we-are to Exploring-what’s-next

Posted by Andrea Hopke on Tue, Aug 11, 2015

CC_leadership_005-resized-600In our leadership development work, whether providing executive coaching to support an individual moving into a more senior position or training leaders across functions within an organization, there is one speed bump we run into nearly every time which needs to be addressed before significant progress can be made. It is the belief that the leader must be The Expert and he/she must have all the answers. The Expert should be directing others, telling them what to do, and solving the problems. Often, this tends to be a cultural issue, organizationally embedded, where hierarchy and silos are more the norm than is risk taking, vulnerability or unbridled creativity.  

So, what’s so challenging about this belief in expertise? Because if we don’t question this mindset, we may get stuck in one mode, the way we’ve always done it, the way I was taught, the way my boss did it. We don’t develop our own capabilities, and, worse, we may not be developing the talent around us in a positive, productive way.   

There are certain predictable behaviors that we find underpinning this limiting belief: the tendency to tell versus ask for input or help, the need to be right, and the inability to delegate effectively. 

1. Telling Versus Asking 

Take stock: in your organization, what’s the reward for having all the answers? Or does your organization encourage seekers and those who are curious, who ask - hey, what do you think?  

Somewhere along the way, as we grew up, went to school, and started our first jobs, we adopted the notion that we must present to the world the image of a person who is expert in some area or function. That we have the answers. We know what to do. And certainly that has to be true in many situations—you were hired because you know how to run a distribution center, or you have expertise building new business, or you are really great at designing new products. That’s why your company and your teammates count on you, right?  

But balanced against that role and responsibility is the dynamic of humility which reasonably suggests you don’t actually have all the answers, and, more, that you may not be seeing everything as clearly as you thought. The excuse we hear most of the time is exactly that—time. “I don’t have time to ask questions; the pace here is brutal and we just have to keep moving.” So we go back to barking orders and heads down productivity…but, guess what? That new process that went live last month is not streamlining work production; it’s actually slowing down communication, causing confusion and costing twice as much. If we don’t stop to ask, "what’s working here?” we miss the signs until poor engagement scores and excessive turnover slap us in the face. 

How well do your leaders coach their team members? On the graph below, where do you and your organization fall in terms of encouraging an environment of asking questions, the kind of questions that not only get at information and truth, but questions that open us all up to other possibilities, that encourage participation at all levels within the organization?


2. The Need to be Right - Closed Versus Open

When we think or feel we must always have the answers, there is little room for behaviors that invite others into a potentially creative discussion that could lead to even better answers. We get stuck in a sense of our own right-ness and having to prove it every day. Where did that come from?

I was walking behind two parents and a child of about 5 last week in a park and started to notice a pattern in their discussion. The child would make a comment, "Mommy, look at the loud bicycle", and the parent would correct her: "That’s actually a motorcycle, not a bike."  Child, spying an ice cream vendor, "Oh, ice cream!!" Parent, "It’s too early in the day for that."

So what’s wrong with being right? (And who says not having ice cream at 10AM is wrong?) When being right becomes the mantle we hold onto in all situations, we are constantly in the position of proving our points or persuading others (think, politics). We shut down others’ natural curiosity and suggestions. We limit the view we can take on a situation and therefore the possibility for a new resolution.

So, again, on the above graph, where do you and your organization fall in terms of allowing everyone to share in expertise, to offer ideas and suggestions, even when not formally trained in a particular lane? Is your company more likely to support the hierarchy of title, the power of "the boss", or more inclined to invite a variety of input from many sources?

3. Inability to Delegate Effectively

Consider the difference between providing direction—the vision of where we collectively want to steer the team, department, organization—and literally telling someone what to do to get there. One of the complaints we often hear voiced by senior executives about their direct reports is, “I wish they would just step up more.” Why don’t they? For starters, lack of clarity about the overarching direction. And against that backdrop, poor delegation skills. What limits effective delegation? In part, we see it as a control issue, particularly for new managers and leaders raised in The Expert tradition. Fear of letting go of control, allowing others to participate in a decision, allowing someone else to be right. There is certainly an art to providing enough direction so that the desired outcome is clear and enough empowerment so that the individual takes the reigns.

Face it, if you are stuck in the lower right hand quadrant of the above graph, you must be absolutely exhausted - always needing to be right, telling everyone what to do, solving all problems. What would it take to shift above the line, to start asking questions that expand the thinking and exploration toward new processes, products or business growth?

Here’s your fieldwork - try these three next time you’re in a conversation. Ask:

1) What do you think?

2) Who else can we talk to about this for ideas and input?

3) What needs to happen next in order for that (desired outcome) to occur and who can handle it?

Examine Your Coaching Ability

Tags: corporate culture, leadership secrets, Coaching Skills

Survey Results: The Top 3 Challenges Facing Organizations

Posted by Kristin Dressel on Tue, Jul 28, 2015

Recently we posted a survey asking managers and leaders to answer the following question: “What are your organization’s biggest challenges in 2015 regarding talent?” Respondents were able to pick their top 3 concerns and without question they are:

  • Building trust on teams
  • Engaging and retaining employees
  • Improving bottom line results

cc_survey_results_July_2015Are you facing these concerns at your organization? Each one presents a challenging situation to any business and all three are inextricably linked together. You can’t get an improved bottom line without engaging and retaining your employees. And leaders understand that their team needs to trust one another in order to increase productivity and improve results. How stressed out are your employees trying to manage all of this?

In today’s chaotic and fast-paced business environments it seems like everyone from the executive level down to the line staff is under pressure to constantly improve results. But it’s not enough just to demand higher results; the company has to provide the support, training and resources necessary to achieve it. Has your company offered team development workshops to improve the trust and communication on workplace teams? If not, how can any organization expect a team to increase their performance levels if they don’t understand each other and know how to work together better?

Likewise, your company wants to engage and retain employees, especially the high performing ones. Have you rewarded or recognized their efforts lately? When was the last time you selected them for leadership training so they can be better prepared for the next career level at your organization?

If your company is having difficulty retaining key employees ask them what you can do to keep them. A higher salary is always nice, but many people will stay if they feel appreciated and if they know of a clear career path within the organization. The companies that provide training and development for their employees will be able to retain their employees better than companies who don’t.

Coaching and developing employees is necessary in today’s business climate in order to retain employees and remain competitive. It’s simply not enough to offer a company picnic once a year and expect your employees to stay content. By taking the time now to invest in your employees and teams by training and developing them will pay dividends over the long haul.

team leaders develop trust on your team in the workplace

Tags: building trust, employee engagement, Building a Leadership Bench

Coaching and Developing Employees to Success

Posted by Kristin Dressel on Wed, Jul 22, 2015

cc_coaching_skills_03As my daughter swam in the state long course swim championships this past weekend, I thought about how her swim coach needs to train and develop her swimming talent just like a manager who needs to train and develop the talent on his team. After each race during the competition, he talked to her about what she did well and what to focus on for the next race. He makes training fun sometimes and more challenging at other times to push her to higher goals; and listens to her when she reaches a plateau and is frustrated from her lack of progress.

How good are you at coaching and developing employees? An excellent coach in any arena (business, sport, etc.) needs to be able to do the following:

  •          Listen
  •          Ask questions to uncover roadblocks/solutions
  •          Believe people can get better
  •          Encourage them
  •          Hold people accountable
  •          Celebrate accomplishments
  •          Motivate higher levels of performance
  •          Know your people

If the talent on your team isn’t accomplishing what you believe them to be capable, have you determined what you need to do as their coach/boss to help them get there? Can you honestly look at the list above and say you consistently perform all of those behaviors for each team member?

As the leader, you need to be many things to many different personalities and what works for one person may not work for someone else. Maybe one person needs you to recognize them when they meet small goals. Perhaps another person just wants you to listen to them while they try to process the problem and discover the solution.cc_disc_workshop_002

Learning the workstyle of yourself and your team through a DiSC workshop will help illuminate better ways to communicate with each one, learn what is more important to them and identify each person’s strengths and weaknesses. Greater understanding leads to higher performance. So take the time to learn about your team and each person’s workstyle and preferences. You’ll be developing talent and improving your ability to coach your team while increasing your team’s performance levels. Now, if only my daughter would listen to her swim coach so she could improve her performance!

Learn How DiSC Can Transform Your Team

Tags: DiSC assessments, Coaching Skills, leadership coaching

Does Your Organization Have the Summertime Blues?

Posted by Kristin Dressel on Tue, Jun 30, 2015

clearwater_nature_006The summer is when people take their vacation, lie on the beach and contemplate their life thinking about what makes them happy, the many stresses they put up with at work, and where they want to go next in their career. Often it’s during this time of the year that your employees are deciding if they’re going to start looking for another job.

There is an abundance of research and a common phrase that suggests employees don’t quit their jobs, they quit their boss, manager or company. Are your employees going to come back from vacation ready to look for a new job? If so, then think about what’s truly causing the blues at your company.

Consider the following questions carefully and answer them honestly, then determine ways your organization can improve the culture.

Do your employees lack commitment?

If your employees lack commitment, then start showing and telling them why you value them. When was the last time the leaders in your company showed their gratitude or recognized excellent work among their employees? Recognition needs to be consistent, clearly communicated (or shown), and completed on a regular basis. It’s not enough to recognize a star performer all the time. Be sure to acknowledge the efforts of everyone. Just by simply thanking someone for a job well done can be a big boost to his or her level of commitment to the company.

Are dysfunctional teams running amok?

Be honest, does your company really know how to develop high-functioning teams? If a team is performing well, it might be dumb luck or a team leader who’s had excellent leadership training. Most people don’t know how to lead a team and, likewise, most team members don’t know how to effectively collaborate together. These are skills that can be learned by everyone. Make a commitment to implement a policy in your company to develop high-functioning teams by training teams on better communication and collaboration skills through a better understanding of each team members’ workstyle. Whether they are newly formed teams, departmental teams, special project teams, or another type of team, every team will benefit from team development training.

Is the culture too competitive?cc_collaborative_leadership_002

An organization is considered too competitive when leaders position - pit - employees against one another to get ahead and employees are encouraged to have an “every man for himself” attitude. Too much competition breeds secrecy, lies, fear, cutthroat behavior, negativity, fat egos, distrust and a complete lack of collaboration. How can anything get accomplished if employees wonder about the ulterior motives of others?

A competitive culture can also develop when the company structure is chaotic and hard to figure out. Does your organization have a clear path of development for employees? Are they supported and encouraged by their leaders to advance to the next level? Or is everyone left to figure it out for themselves and the last one standing wins? Communicate your company’s values and mission clearly and speak out against tolerating destructive behaviors that harm not only the employees, but the organization as a whole. Then, develop and train your employees to become your organization’s future leaders who are passionate about the company’s values, not feeding their own ego.

These are just a few of the questions smart companies should ask themselves about their current state of affairs. The first step to making any changes begins with acknowledging there is a problem. If your company is experiencing the summertime “blues”, then don’t wait to start now implementing new practices that can have positive impact now, or it might be too late.

team leaders develop trust on your team in the workplace

Tags: corporate culture, organizational change, improve workplace relationships

The Top Organizational Challenges

Posted by Kristin Dressel on Thu, Jun 25, 2015

CC_leadership_diversity_002-resized-600What are your organization’s biggest challenges this year regarding talent? This and two other short questions are part of our new survey and we need your input! We are asking our readers to provide their opinion on topics of interest and challenges. Now that the year is half over, it’s the perfect time to identify what situations you are facing.

Click here to take survey

Take 2 minutes to let us know what talent challenges you are facing at your company and what leadership topics interest you most. We will publish the results of the survey in a couple of weeks! We value your input and appreciate you taking the time to share your opinion.


Tags: corporate culture, Building a Leadership Bench, Feedback