This is a reprint of the monthly publication called trU Tips – Strategic People Reminders for the busy executive. To subscribe to receive a monthly trU Tips, click here.
What I’m hearing
Forming teams is not a new concept. It can be, however, a new experience for many entrepreneurial organizations entering their next phase of growth, and for industries such as financial services. Teams can help raise revenue, keep relationships connected with service, and reduce the risk of having one person dictate the success of the organization. While the process of team building is simple, doing it effectively is a bigger challenge when the people being asked to join a team are successful largely because of their individual drives.
What it means
“There is no ‘I’ in team.” Great slogan, but it’s wrong. When bringing people together who have been successful largely because of their personal drives to succeed, there has to be room for “I” somewhere, or the team won’t work. It’s unrealistic to ask someone — a top sales person, a driving entrepreneur, a teacher — who has basically worked independently for the first decade of his or her career to change overnight and become a great team member. Bringing independent-minded people together requires an open and honest conversation focused on defining both individual needs and team goals, then deciding if a balance can be achieved.
Building trust is the basic component of performance. In my experience, trust comes before the other three pieces in a four-step process I call trUPerformance™: build trust, build focus, build confidence and build rhythm. While the last three parts are essential for a great, high-functioning team, trust is the key. Allowing people to process through their individual needs, as well as those of the team as a whole, will promote an understanding of how the team can meet its overall goals while allowing its members to have their own needs met. In the end, individuals might decide that being part of a team won’t work for them. Sharing truth allows for good choices to be made.
What you should do
The key in all of this is having a series of conversations with potential team members to identify:
- A list of what they bring to the team, including strengths and weaknesses
- A list of things they want or need from the team
- A list of personal reasons for joining the team, including what they see as the group’s goals or potential
Process these pieces by sharing openly, identifying common themes in both individual needs and team goals. Challenge people to identify needs that are purely “Me” goals (e.g., keeping one’s top 20 clients) and those that are “We” goals that benefit the entire team (e.g., offering a more complete service solution to customers). By systematically going through these conversations, it will become evident whether or not potential team members are compatible, and whether joining the team is the right move for an individual.
Need a partner in effectively forming a team that will have a huge impact on your business? Contact me. Scott@thetrugroup.com
TrustBUSTER™ #3 – Slow to extend trust to others
I was facilitating a team building conversation with a group of twelve people. Half of them knew each other well and the other half were new team members who were working in regional offices. For the trust part of the session I asked each person to answer three questions and we went around the room to share answers. The three questions were:
- Trust – do you give it automatically or do people have to earn it?
- If you give it – how do they lose it? OR If people have to earn it – how do they earn it?
- Bonus question: What are “forgiveness factors for you” – ie. If these factors are in place you will forgive trustBUSTING behavior.
There were two A-HA moments. The first was when someone shared her surprise that everyone did not share her answer to the first question. She thought everyone required people to earn trust. The second moment was from my perspective at the front of the room. I saw many of the new people taking note of what their new peers said about trust. For them, the information being shared was helping them understand how to establish solid relationships in a new organization.
So what is the impact of being slow to trust others? I like to focus on transitions(leadership and job) because this behavior will be most evident in the building of a new relationships.
For a new leader, people will sense your lack of trust because of the questions you ask and actions like taking work away from them or micromanaging. If they do not know why you are staying so close their likely response will be to lower their trust in you. This begins the slippery slope of eroding morale and engagement. It can be fixed, but it will take lots of effort on your part.
A good move for a leader is just to be open about it. It could be as simple and direct as saying “I need to see the work your capable of so that I understand what skills you have and what you need from me in terms of support and development.” By putting it on the table your motives become known and might even provide a way for your new people to manage you by keeping you in the loop on things. Remember, your people will judge you based on your actions NOT your intentions.
For a new employee, your peers need to get to know you and being slow to extend trust will slow the building of new relationships. You will need to trust somebody. When I hired people with low trust (we assessed this as part of the interviewing process) I made specific moves during the selection and onboarding process to earn their trust. Things like never missing a committed deadline, over communicating, and being transparent about what was happening. If there is not a onboarding process in place to support your need to build trust quickly, find a way to fulfill your own needs to build those relationships.
For anyone, transparency is the best policy to counteract this behavior. If you are open it can be handled. A good onboarding program greatly lessens the effect of this because trust is being built from the beginning and this should cease to be an issue.
TrustBUSTER #2 – Unwilling to admit mistakes or apologize
There was an article in our local paper yesterday and it was about a 17-year-old swimmer who got caught drinking and had to miss part of her senior season because of her mistake. She is a defending state champion and her team lost twice during her absence. Why I think it is a significant story is that she openly talked about it in the paper and shared how she let her team down because of her choices. I am sure she told them how sorry she was for letting them down.
This behavior is so important that Patrick Lencioni devotes two questions (out of 15) to it in the assessment he provides as part of his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. The questions are:
- Team members quickly and genuinely apologize to one another when they say or do something inappropriate or possibly damaging to the team.
- Team members openly admit their weaknesses and mistakes.
There are two aspects to this: personal character and company culture. Character is simply about having the strength to recognize what you did was wrong and fix it. There is lots of learning in and around mistakes. Being able to see them, apologize, and get on with a different solution results in everyone getting smarter and more trusting in our character.
If there is one thing a leader needs to remember it is this: Culture will trump character. If the culture punishes mistakes, then most will hide them. A paycheck is a very powerful thing and preserving it will be a priority for many. The return for an organization that makes it safe to own a mistake is that things get fixed faster and people are more likely to take risks that will be good for your business. To test this yourself, write down 10 mistakes made people on your team in the last three months. Then ask yourself: What was the impact on the company? What was the impact on the person? How was it discovered and by who? How was it resolved?
When you look at the answers ask yourself – At my company does culture trump character or is character the culture?
TrustBUSTER™ 1: Talks negatively about teammates behind their backs
Every leader has he said/she said stories where someone says something out of the earshot of another that is perceived as negative. It is no wonder that Patrick Lencioni’s first two dysfunctions in his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team are the absence of trust and inability to manage conflict. So how can you prevent this in your team?
Susan Scott makes the point in her book Fierce Conversations that “As a leader, you get what you tolerate.” Complaining requires a talker and a listener. If you listen and let it go you are tolerating it. The best way to stop it is to have zero tolerance for it. When you hear it, encourage the person to address their concerns directly with the person or drop it. If it continues then it needs to be dealt with as a performance issue.
In addition, recognize that most teams and individuals are not skilled at directly giving or receiving negative feedback, which forces disagreements to be internalized or appear as complaints that are passed around people and not directly to them. Make attainment of this skill a priority for your team. Even just reading and discussing the book Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott will go a long way towards helping people learn the skills that will help bring complaints into the open.
Trust is something that is foundational to healthy leaders, healthy companies, and healthy relationships. But it is hard, especially in times where managers change yearly, communication is sporadic, and a self-preservation mindset still exists from the recent economic slump. In my experience dealing with companies that are growing or working with limited resources, I see lots of people working quickly and reacting more than thinking things through. When we are in that mode, our behaviors often erodes trust because we are defaulting to our most natural mode of behavior. Under stress, we have a diminished ability to flex our work style to best fit the situation or person. It is rarely intentional, but our actions send a negative message. In his book The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey makes the observation that “We judge ourselves based on our intentions, but we judge others on their actions”.
I call these actions TrustBUSTERS. What if we knew the Top 3 TrustBUSTERS for everyone we worked with and we were aware of the three things we did most often? How would that impact the trust on our team? Here is the list of TrustBUSTERS :
- Talks negatively about teammates behind their backs
- Unwilling to admit mistakes and apologize
- Slow to extend trust to others
- Does not communicate and explain changes/decisions well
- Tells a lot, listens very little
- Criticizes decisions AFTER the team has discussed them and the decision has been made
- Values individual success over team goals
- Shows little/if any concern about me as a person
- Does not consistently follow through on commitments
- Asks team to make sacrifices ($ / time), but does not make same sacrifices
Have any to add?
He entered my office with a look on his face that was both quizzical and bothered. He was wondering why he was here. In front of me was an email with no four letter words, no inappropriate nouns or adjectives, but lots of capital letters. He was 24 years old, a hard-driving and successful sales person, and he saw capital letters as a way of conveying how passionate he felt about what he was saying. Of course, the person who had received this and everyone on his team viewed this as yelling. He made it through that conversation, but only lasted about three more months in the organization.
In a recent post by Jason Diamond Arnold (see post: http://ht.ly/35a5N) he chronicles the process of using restraint and time to pull the emotion out of an email so that it does not result in damage to a relationship. It is a good message and a reminder of how to know when you have crossed the line and show some restraint by NOT hitting the send button.
Let me go one step further – NEVER send an email where the message contains anger, frustration, disappointment, disillusionment, or has the sole purpose of holding someone accountable for actions. Write it, read it, think about it (I recommend 24 hours), and in the end if the feeling is still there get on the phone or walk over and deal with it. I have a file full of email arguments that are great material for Dilbert, but would make you shake your head because they all involve executive level leaders.
If you are a leader and find yourself wanting to write one of these emails to your company/department – here is an alternative.
- Write the email
- Share it personally with your leadership team – what you see, why it frustrates you, and what you want to see.
- Ask for their input – Are your observations accurate? What might you be missing? What will it take to correct this?
- Listen (this is an important step so I thought I would bring it up twice)
- Thank them for their input – and make a decision on next steps – If moving forward with a message to the organization is important, enlist the help of someone else to craft a message and agree (as a team) what the follow-up will be from everyone in the group.
Correcting mistakes or redirecting the actions of many is important to the success of your organization. But there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. Emotionally charged emails are the wrong way. stop it! (see – no caps, and you still get the message)
An enlightened leader just told me a great story. After experiencing 2 years of difficult times, a recent quarterly employee meeting was dedicated to looking to the future and celebrate furtunes starting to turn for the organization. There were four parts to the presentation: Vision/Strategy, Financials, Quality, and an HR update. While the first three received polite attention, the last piece received thunderous applause. Why? Because the announcement was made that the holiday tradition of giving each employee a frozen turkey was back after a two-year absence.
The learning? Never underestimate the value of the little things.
The action? Don’t go and add a turkey giveaway to your organizational traditions. Do continue to focus on communicating to all levels of your organization. But never underestimate the appreciation people have for the little things. A personal thank you, an early quit to spend time with family, flowers to show concern or appreciation, or just a few extra minutes to learn some facts about someone beyond their name.
For a leader, casting vision, communicating priorities, updating people on where the company is financially, and sharing news from different parts of the business is important. But also remember to hand out a few turkeys between powerpoint slides and annual reports.
I live in Michigan, and if you have read anything about the economy you know we are close to last when states are ranked in terms of economic health. We have a long journey in front of us. As we wait for a new governor to start and demand for new/old products to grow I cannot help but think that I am tired of waiting. Really, what am I waiting for? We often look to leaders to fix things or make things better, waiting for the right rallying cry or piece of legislation. In waiting, we make a choice to let someone else figure things out.
Sometimes it is important to recognize what we have many things to be thankful for, and then make the choice to make it better. I believe this is one of those times. Here are a few illustrations of what I mean.
- A sunny day is a gift. Going outside to enjoy it is a choice.
- Children are a gift. Putting your paper down to listen to them is a choice.
- Having a job is a gift. Getting enjoyment and fulfillment from that job is a choice.
- Having people around you to help you find a job is a gift. Preparing for the interview and being confident in who you are is a choice.
- Having a great boss is a gift. Trusting and supporting that boss is a choice.
- Being asked your opinion by the CEO is a gift. Giving a truthful answer is a choice.
- Your talents are a gift. Choosing a path/role/project to share those talents is a choice.
- A paycheck is a gift. Choosing to smile when you open it is a choice.
The election is over, but we should not wait for new leaders to improve our outlook and get things moving. As followers, we have a choice. The ironic thing about becoming a great follower – if we do it really well we end up being leaders.
Starting up a business is a crazy time, and a key part of this time is bringing people around you that will help you hit your goals. Officially your goal might be a revenue number, but unofficially startup is also about getting lots of things done without hurting yourself or those around you. It is hard, which is why so many new businesses fail to survive. One researcher concluded that after three years 46% of startups are gone. (see numbers)
The good news is there are people around all of us that are willing to get involved. As you identify your team it is crucial to define what you will need from them as you start your business. Here are four needs I have found to be critical, and each one should have a name(s) next to them for you.
1. Help managing the fear: Don Rainey, a venture capitalist in Washington DC named getting used to constant fear as the #1 way starting a business will change you (read blog posting). Find advisers and partners that understand fear and that you trust enough to be open with. They should also be people who will push you to get unstuck when fear is holding you back from moving forward. Managing fear is ultimately your job, but ongoing support from others is critical.
2. The knowledge/experience to help win: Every business needs a little bit of luck, but don’t depend on it. If there is knowledge you need and don’t have – find it. If you are a single person company, find the network or get the experience before you start. If you are going to market with an idea or product you created, get sales and marketing help. If you really understand your own strengths and weaknesses this part is easy because your business plan tells you the work you have to get done, you just have to get the help to fill in the key gaps. Move your ego over and get help.
3. Brave problem solvers: I like the word brave because it creates the picture of a hero who overcomes fear to get into action mode and wins. Looking back at any startup, there are an abundance of stories where bumps were encountered and unforeseen problems had to be solved. A great question for entrepreneurs is “Share a problem/challenge you encountered and what you did to overcome it?” When hiring people in the beginning you will need to hire problem solvers – not problem identifiers or problem creators. Whether it is through their commitment to learning, sheer will to win, or passion to fix things, they need to see problems as an opportunity to do something special.
4. Someone to celebrate with: There will be victories. In those victories are opportunities to high-five, eat some good food, or share a smile. Having people close enough to your business to know the lows and recognize the work that went into the highs is important. It might be an employee that likes to cook or a friend who likes to throw a party. Jim Collins called this momentum gained by reaching and recognizing goals the flywheel effect. Celebrating successes will allow you to feel the momentum.
So what kind of leadership do they need from you? See the above list and ask yourself “What can I do as a leader to make sure that need is met?” It is probably worth some future blog space to explore this question a little bit more. If you have any ideas to add to what I have shared feel free to comment.