Posts Tagged ‘team dynamics’

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The Ten Commandments of Email

February 22, 2011

Here are some brief guidelines on how to make sure you are using email appropriately (and effectively):

  1. Thou Shalt Not Reply All.
    Resist temptation and it will flee from you. Please enjoy the Bridgestone commercial, until the beverage cart arrives.
  2. Thou Shalt Keep it Clean. No porn, no pictures, no sharp language. Why? Look at this button, it says: “Forward”. Always use a subject line, appropriate greeting and a smart signature ~ no need for fourteen lines about your academic and professional accomplishments, if we work together every day. And, please: NO unprofessional content, language or pictures.
  3. Thou Shalt Not Rant. Freedom of speech is a right, but exercising that right means using it the right way. If you disagree with the recent policy announcement, going off in an email is probably not the best way to convey your displeasure. How will that get any meaningful results? Sure, you may feel better…until your boss comes in to discuss your attitude. Or, worse yet, an even stronger conversation about your employment! Seeking real change is about putting your emotions and passions into action, not into words …and then sending them to Jesus, Moses, and the 12 apostles. See commandment #1.
  4. Thou Shalt not SHOUT AT PEOPLE. Laziness, plain and simple. Surprising, but people still do it. Why?

    Email, after eTrade?

  5. Plan that time-sensitive info will FAIL, via email. Planning is not a good use of email. “Who can make the meeting on Thursday?” is an email topic that will create endless spin and rescheduling – assuming everyone sees the message before Thursday. What works best in email: Information, Instruction (or confirmation) and Documentation. Let people know that the meeting has been scheduled, and send out the meeting request. Verify key players via telephone or face-to-face. Email can’t do it all!
  6. Beware the “BCC” and use it wisely. When used with the “Reply All” button, you can get some surprises that no one wants and you didn’t intend. Caution!
  7. Do not covet the ability to cc: 3 or more people. It’s not always off limits, but it’s a yellow flag if you are cc:ing a multitude. Especially if you are cc:ing your boss’s boss, or otherwise going up the chain. Ranting or other violations, when combined with copying every singer in the choir, can be a real CLM (career-limiting move).
  8. Remember that email is never the first/last/only communication tool. Are you the gal who pontificates via email? Are you the dude who issues edicts, not emails? It’s easy to hide behind the keyboard and assume a different persona. Step out of the Matrix from time to time and don’t let email be your only connection to your team, your co-workers, or others.
  9. Thou shalt not choke your co-workers inbox with enormous attachments. Just put that file on the server, or use Dropbox or some other service. Be smart about large file transfer. ‘Nuff said.
  10. Send commands via email wisely. Because even if (or especially if) you’re the boss, how you ask for something is even more important than what you need.

Before you hit “send”, ask yourself if you are being lazy, or being effective, with email. Set an email policy, or open up a discussion within your department, so that others know where you stand. Email protocol is a bit of an unwritten law – there’s no ‘manual’. But, there are expectations. What are yours?

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Chris Westfall is a professional development coach for top-tier MBA programs, including Texas Christian University, and an award-winning instructor at Southern Methodist University’s Business Leadership Center. He was recently recognized as the grand prize winner of the ‘118’, the elevator pitch competition sponsored by celebrity CMO and author, Jeffrey Hayzlett. He works with companies and individuals on branding, leadership and sales strategies.

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Practice to Win, or You Never Will

February 9, 2011

Your biggest competition in business is “don’t know”.

If the customer doesn’t know what your product or service can do, they’ll never buy. And, if your competition is telling your story for you, then the customer will never know how you can make a difference. (And, by the way, it’s “the” customer, not “your” customer, because of what they don’t know).  The same concept applies to the management of sales teams, where “don’t know” can mean the difference between a lost sale and a major victory. The way to defeat “don’t know” from a management perspective is to create an environment for sales practice.

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Professional sports teams and performers practice much more than they actually play – but in business, it’s just the opposite. How do you get better at sales, if you never practice?

If you are really in the advanced class for weekly sales meetings, then you have the skills to explain exactly what to watch out for, and what to do in particular situations. Ask for volunteers to answer the tough questions! In a “What would you do if…” situation, you play the customer, or the client. Call somebody up to the front of the room and let them shadowbox a little on the competition, or pricing, or other key objections. Let the best come forward and show their stuff. It takes guts, but if you do this right you will teach volumes to your team!

Look, I know that sales management isn’t acting class, but if you want a great performance from your people you better show ’em how it’s done. Practice makes perfect, but you can’t expect perfection if you don’t demonstrate it first.

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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.

Click Image to See on Amazon.com

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.