Posts Tagged ‘team building’

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Brainstorming for Results

September 7, 2010

Have you ever had a really good guided tour of the weeds, often called a “brainstorming session”?

As the ideas churn forward, each one less practical than the last, participants are rewarded and encouraged to dream large and often improbable solutions to real-world problems. How can these sessions be managed into an effective process, one that allows for the necessary freedom of thought but also the guidance that delivers real and tangible results?

Brainstorming About Acorns? Consult an Expert

Separating real accomplishment from group therapy requires a facilitator who is willing to set up clear communication on what is expected. (I will assume that “Six Thinking Hats” and other resources are already in play for the group leader). Often what is missing is a clear objective for the session, and necessary details about the business challenge at hand.

In a brainstorming session, CONTEXT trumps CONTENT.

In other words, participants need to know a clear objective and framework for what is about to be discussed. We CAN think of lots of things, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we should. The best ideas will be the ones that fit the context most appropriately. It is a delicate balance to create an environment of trust and openness within a framework of objectives and results. However, that is part of the clear communication that is required before anyone goes deep into the potential abyss of “brainstorming”.

Setting the ground rules is key for an effective session, and all participants (operative word: “ALL”) need to understand that they will be expected to offer ideas. Effective brainstorming takes courage, and that requires en_couragement from the facilitator. Oftentimes, the starting point is a version of “there are no bad ideas”…(ooh, I’ve had a few. There was the football bat, and the unicorn feeder…still convinced that all ideas are good ideas?) The key thing to remember is: Don’t get married to your ideas, but put them out there just the same. A good facilitator creates that environment and gets everyone to play in the sandbox.

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If every idea is good, then none of them are. That’s why Edward de Bono’s book is so effective, because it breaks brainstorming into steps and facilitates cream rising to the top. For me, the first step is a clear and established context for ideas – only then can those ideas be shaped into results.

Judgments and comparisons must come after the brainstorming session, to separate the wheat from the chaff. The stack ranking of ideas and collation of valuable material must be handled with respect – but handled nonetheless. Brainstorming takes courage, a true willingness to bring your best ideas, and an ego-less attachment to the outcomes.

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Motivating High Performance

August 2, 2010

From a recent question on linkedin, regarding the “Pygmalion Effect”. Do high expectations and motivation create high performance?

We all know what makes for good performance. What makes for good motivation?

Motivation is a mystery; it’s one of those words like “stress”, or “jubilation” that fall into a category called “nominalizations”. These are words that we use to describe something that is intangible, and only exists for those who experience it. You can’t put my motivation in a bucket, or in a chair; it’s real, but virtually impossible for me to share with you. Expectations, on the other hand, can be described, quantified, and measured.  But, if my expectations are high, does your motivation improve in some way?

What Henry Higgins did in Pygmalion was not so much about motivation as it was education. I’m not sure what motivates anybody, and sometimes my own motivations are a mystery (even to myself). But, I can say with certainty that if I know how to do something, and I know why I should do something, that I’m a lot closer to taking action and …DOING SOMETHING. Action is the evidence of motivation, wouldn’t you agree?

Action creates performance. Motivation? Mysterious, no matter how high your expectations! If we seek high performance, what we need is action – action that comes from a base of knowledge and understanding “why?”. If you have a team that you want to perform, concentrate on those areas and you will create this elusive concept of “motivation”, with recognizable results.

What Higgins did was provide Eliza with the kind of education that helped her to see a new world for herself. (His motivation? It was a wager, and one that he came to regret!) She learned, she took action. The result was a complete transformation for Eliza; and Higgins was not the “hero” of the story.

If you want to create great performance, don’t focus on motivation. Give people the power to excel through teaching and communication, clear expectations, and an understanding of “why?”. Is money is a “motivator”, or a result of action? (Pick choice #2 – and that’s a subject for another post).  Great performance comes through knowledge. Do you and your team know how to win? That’s where great performance starts.

Hopefully, this post has provided you with some excellent motivation….whatever the heck that is. 😉

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Thoughts on Building High-Performance Teams

May 25, 2010
"Chart of Team Dynamics"

Context for Hiring Effective Teams

Building and leading a high-performance team requires an understanding, first and foremost, of your own personal leadership style.  The best leaders are aware of their strengths and weaknesses, and can identify exactly what the team needs (and what skills they need to hire) to succeed.  That’s where the talent of the team comes into play.

Each team member brings unique skills as a solutions provider to the team.  While some skills can be outsourced, depending on a company’s business model, competencies, and budget, an internal team is built around the talents of the members.  Within a context of the leader’s style and abilities, employees must present their talents for consideration within the following context:

  1. Relationships: both interpersonal (within the team) and professional (connection to the organization and to leaderhship personnel).  Does a particular candidate have a prior relationship with your company, your customers or (watch out) your supervisor?
  2. Personality/Fit: ability to connect with the boss is key, especially at executive levels.  Personality also goes to the foundation of good team dynamics:  key characteristics include integrity, honesty, work ethic, coach-ability and willingness to take on responsibility/ownership
  3. Quantifiable results: For hiring managers, “soft” skills like integrity and work ethic are hard to measure.  Even past performance is no guarantee of future results.  Testing tools help to stack rank employee capabilities, and provide insight into personality traits.   Balancing relationships, personality fit, and measurable characteristics are key to wise hiring decisions.  Rely on testing to confirm or deny your instincts on candidates and team compatability.  Then, tracking performance with scheduled feedback will help confirm your choices, as a hiring manager…or help you to understand when it’s time to make a change.

Finally, all teams exist within a cultural framework.  Creating a culture of open communication, integrity and honesty is the job of the leader.  If team members know that they are supported (as well as measured!) with clear objectives and straightforward feedback, the team – and the company – is much more likely to succeed.