The Secret of Teams (Book Review)

The Secret of Teams: What Great Teams Know and Do by Mark Miller

the-secret-of-teamsI recently finished reading the secret of teams, and my head is reeling. Every one of us work on a number of teams, and the concepts in this book can help us to achieve greater success within each of those team environments.

What I liked

Normally I throw in a bunch of text here, but today I thought I would drop in a video review. Enjoy! Continue reading

The Orange Revolution (Book Review)

The Orange Revolution by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

I reviewed a book previously by these authors (All In), and I might start a fan club. They’re darn good at what they do. I purchased The Orange Revolution a few months ago because I had a grand vision. When I read the subtitle (how one great team can transform an entire organization), I instantly started thinking about the team I was working in. Our Operations team touched on all areas of the corporate infrastructure. The Director of Operations was known to say that she would put our team up against any other due to the strong commitment and varied talents of our team. My challenge was filtering that down from the Operations group to the rest of the organization. So in true geek form, I bought a book. the orange revolution book review gostick elton

What I liked

  • Breakthrough teams have members who: demonstrate personal competency, expand their competency with leadership traits of goal setting, communication, trust, accountability, and recognition, clearly visualize the cause, follow the rule of 3 (wow others, no surprises, and cheer for others) Continue reading

Team Building Session? Try This Exercise

How to rock your next team building session

team building sessionRecently I learned of a unique team building session idea that I have been itching to try out. I was able to wrangle a friend into testing it out at her office, and it had very positive results. Today we’ll be looking at what I’ve come to call the Twenty Minute Challenge. (I heard someone at HRevolution mention this a few weeks back, but I can’t remember who! If someone knows, please tell me so the person can get the credit for this.)

The purpose of the Twenty Minute Challenge

More so now than ever, we need people on our teams who can think quickly, respond coherently during high pressure situations, and present complex information effectively. This team building session is focused on helping your people do all three of those things well. Continue reading

Benefits of Team Building

team building benefitsWhat are the benefits of team building? How can you use team building strategies to grow and develop a team that is agile, talented, and cohesive? Do you have to actively work to develop your team, or is hiring the right people enough?

Great Teams Don’t Just Happen

I reached out to my friend Stephanie (find her on Twitter @TheWitchingHR) to share a few ideas on how she develops strong bonds with, and among, her team. Here’s her story. Continue reading

Human Resource Management Planning-The Micro Level

hr management planShortly into my lunch meeting, I realized it was a human resource management planning exercise in disguise. And it was so much fun.

I talk often about what it’s like working for Pinnacle. A sizable portion of what makes it a great working environment is having a manager who truly spends their time looking for ways to make your life and career a priority.

I highly encourage you to have a similar meeting if you’re managing someone. They want that attention and expertise that only you can give, even if you feel like you don’t have anything to offer.

Topics to cover

Not sure where to start? Try to touch on these areas and pick at least one to hone in on:

  • The employee’s career goals (no limits!)
  • Have an honest discussion of where you have enhanced their career (and in some cases, where you might have limited its growth)
  • How the employee fits into the organizational plan in the 1-5 years to come

Yes, it’s a short list, because what follows is dependent on the responses. For instance, if the employee wants to eventually become a benefits specialist, but your company doesn’t have any openings for that area, you can help them start preparing by giving them more responsibility in that area. If your employee wants to manage people, start shaping them to be the best manager they can be.

If, in the scope of the discussion, you find out that some of your actions have been interpreted as limiting career growth for the employee, then work with them to come to a resolution.

Finally, in the “big picture,” talk about what the company’s future looks like (as best you can describe it, anyway). Discuss what that means for your department and the person’s position in particular. Be honest. You’d want someone to be honest with you!

A few more details

If you’d like your miniature human resource management planning session to be successful, here are a few more tips:

  • Get away from the office for 1-2 hours (a long lunch works well for this)
  • Spend some time talking non-work stuff, because that’s what matters to the employee most (and could uncover some idea of future hopes/ideas)
  • Be sure to get their input on what they see going on with regard to the team/department level; they’re usually closer to the action than you are

Make it so

While HR management planning is a large-scale activity in most cases, for our purposes today we’re looking at how it affects a team, one person at a time. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen organizations be damaged by the actions of one reckless, irresponsible person.

What about the other side? How much positive change and influence could one open, honest person create? Anyone at Pinnacle could tell you that my manager does it on a daily basis, one small action at a time. I only hope I can be that inspirational and supportive when I have my own employees reporting to me. Let’s just say I’m taking good notes!

Do you ever have meetings like this with your staff? What do you discuss? 

Fitting the job to the person

I’ve been talking a lot about Pinnacle lately, but there are so many neat things we can do as a smaller company that I’ve never even considered in the past. A great example of that is the tendency to fit the job to the person on our Operations Team. Instead of rigidly defining what the position requires and recruiting for an exact fit, we define the minimum education/experience level, find a great culture fit, and find out how to customize the job to fit them.

It takes a great manager

The Operations Manager at Pinnacle holds a philosophy similar to Marcus Buckingham, which basically means giving people work they are really good at and letting others do the other tasks that they are uniquely suited for. The Ops Manager works hard to define what each team member likes and does well and strives to give them more of that kind of work. They’ll do it better than someone else, and it makes them happy. Tough to beat that kind of attitude when it comes to teamwork!

Our accounting team is a great example. We have two part time accountants working a job-share situation. They both do different pieces of the work, but they are a great fit for each other and for the type of work they do. Some companies would have turned them away because they wanted to work fluid, ever-changing part time schedules, but we found a synergy there that vastly outpaces what a single accountant could accomplish.

But you’re small!

I know, I know. We are a small company so we can bend the rules. However, if you have noticed, I used the example of one team/department, not the whole organization. And it’s certainly possible for one subset of employees to follow this model if their manager is willing to spend the time on it. I keep hammering culture fit and attitude. If you have two similarly qualified individuals, but one has enthusiasm and passion for the position, then harness that to make your team, department, and company better.

Have you ever managed a team and tried to fit the jobs to the people? Does your manager do it for you? 

Communicating with difficult team members

How do you communicate with team members with a chip on their shoulder? What do you do or say when they are stubborn, constantly interrupting, unapproachable, or unwilling to accept feedback? Well, for starters, you are not alone. Every workplace I’ve ever been has at least one of these people working there. Let’s look at a few ways to deal with the madness.

While there are multiple dynamics for this question (dealing with subordinates, peers, and managers), I’m going to stick solely with dealing with team members. 

A personal story

I had an, um, interesting experience at a previous employer with a coworker, and it was the closest I’ve ever come to quitting a job. Here’s my story:

The computers and network at this company were terrible. The internet connection, which I needed to complete my work, was unstable and usually worked about 25% of the time between the hours of 8:00am and 5:00pm. In order to get my work accomplished, I started showing up at work at 7:00am to get some stuff done before the network slowed to a crawl. Well, one morning I received an email about some training that I had been considering, so I opened up the links to the training website, leaving it running in the background so I could read it over my lunch hour.

During lunch, I was sitting there with my door closed when my coworker walked in and announced that she needed to use my computer because hers wasn’t working. I put my lunch down and asked if the internet connection was her issue, because mine wasn’t working either. She walked around behind my desk and pointed accusingly at me because the website was pulled up. Despite my attempt to explain that it was done hours earlier, she walked out and slammed the door.

I put it behind me. The woman had that reputation for being abrasive, and I didn’t need any further stress thanks to our shoddy technical resources.

The next day in our department meeting, our manager asked if anyone had anything to discuss. My coworker looked at her and said, “I think Ben’s not a team player. He was using his computer during lunch yesterday and wouldn’t let me get my work done.”

Of course I did my best, but I couldn’t keep from laughing. I explained the issue and how I had loaded the pages five hours before she came into my office demanding my computer, but I could tell it was a lost cause. The coworker had been working there for several years, and I knew my manager would believe her over me. I refused to give in, but when we left the meeting I felt humiliated by the accusations and betrayed by my manager. One thing was for sure, I was going to start looking for another job right away.

I wanted to tell my personal story as a warning. Everyone in the situation, the manager, coworker, and even me, could have handled the issue better. We all deserve some of the blame for it getting out of hand. Since that time I’ve done everything I can to be more aware of these situations and I try to follow the ideas I’ve listed below. It’s my own personal formula for communicating with difficult team members, so use at your own risk. :-)

How to deal with the issue

First, I would give them a chance to open up. Sit down and talk with them for a few minutes. The easiest advice to follow is that of the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. Here are a few high points (more listed here):

  • Don’t criticize, condemn or complain-Starting with any of those three statements will instantly close the person off to further discussion and could hamper future communication efforts.
  • Give honest and sincere appreciation-Tell them something they did well, and make it sincere. People can tell when you’re setting them up with false appreciation, so make it truthful and heartfelt.
  •  Smile-It might be hard, but it can make or break your discussion.
  • Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language-This is a sales technique, and it works. People enjoy hearing their own name and you can use it to keep them focused on the conversation and what you have to say.
  •  Talk in terms of the other person’s interests-This is one I’ve used to great success. Instead of asking them to make your work easier, show them how making a change will actually help them in the long run. Make it about them, not you.
  • The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it-If an argument begins, drop it. There will be another time and place to continue the discussion, but arguments have a way of getting us to say things that we can’t recover from.
  • Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, “You’re wrong.” Even if they have the dumbest idea and are completely incorrect, you need to be tactful in the handling of the issue. If not, they will (again) close off and become defensive instead of focusing on the problem and how it can be solved.
  • If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically-This can help teach others that it not only is okay to admit mistakes, it is preferred to the long, drawn-out battle of the wills over who is right and wrong.

So, once you’ve had the talk with the person and followed (as closely as you can) the suggestions above, you should hopefully be in a much better place to communicate with them in the future. Use these principles as a guide for future conversations and interactions and it’s hard to go wrong.

However, sometimes that just isn’t enough. There’s a continual clash between the two parties or even an irreconcilable difference that can’t be overlooked. What else can you do?

  • You can go to your manager for help. They might be able to offer insight or alternatives that aren’t immediately obvious to you.
  • You can do your best to continue your work without interacting with the person. This is less attractive because it can impact how decisions are made, and it’s not a 100% permanent solution.

And that’s about it, really. I’m a fan of handling the issue between you and the other team member if at all possible. However, sometimes there just isn’t a way to get the other person on board. That leaves you with the two options above as the end-of-the-line alternatives for resolution.

Thanks to Kathy Duffy for sending in this great question! Anyone else have an idea they’d like to share for communicating with difficult team members?