What I have Learned about Teams

For over 30 years, I have been privileged to lead great teams in various organizations. Together, we have pushed ourselves to continually become better. We have held each other accountable even if it became uncomfortable. We worked to have a one-mind approach to our success.

Over the years, I have learned some things about leading teams.

Care

I connected better with my teams when I got to know them better personally. I truly care about the people I serve. I have listened as they shared about their children. I have seen them worry before certain tests were going to happen that would determine long-term care for a child.

I have attended weddings, visited them in the hospital, delivered meals to their homes, and attended their funerals. Caring makes leaders vulnerable, but it is such an authentic way to connect with teams.

Coach

Team members want to be coached. They want to improve when they know they are valued. Coaching can pinpoint areas needing improvement as well as celebrating with them when they overcome an obstacle. Coaching means asking great, probing questions to get to the core of issues.

Communication

Team members do not like uncertainty. I’ve learned to be available via email, Skype, phone, or personal meetings. The team has not taken advantage of this. But they know I’m open to invest time with them in order to keep our communication lines open. I’ve learned so much from my teams by encouraging open communication.

And I have learned to model open communication.

Celebrate

My teams have accomplished great things over the years. They banded together to make what seemed to be impossible possible. They have reached out to those in need in the community in order to make someone else’s children have a dream Christmas. They’ve shattered expectations in sales and service initiatives.

And in my coaching sessions, team meetings, and on performance reviews I celebrate them. They love the retelling of their story of success.

I have been a promoter of the organizations I have served. I have liked working there. But I have loved my teams. Watching them grow and develop, advance in their careers, and triumph in personal trials has been a privilege for me.

What have you learned about teams from your experience?

Your Mindset Change Can Improve Company Culture

This morning, I started reading a new book, Soundtracks by Jon Acuff. I have been studying how the brain works and how we act/react according to how we think. This book will be providing more insights into that area.

One quote caught my eye today.

“I imagine that everyone I work with is a business partner that I’m trying to help grow. I have 350 partners.”

Every day whether in person or working remotely, we interact with coworkers. Most of the time, these interactions go smoothly. Other times…not so much.

Acuff is pointing out in his book that our brains work off of existing “recordings”, thoughts that we believe (whether they are true or not) and then we act on them. Soundtracks is about replacing old “recordings” with new ones. Doing this brings meaning back to our encounters. It inspires us to move forward looking at life with a fresh perspective.

So today, as you log on in your home office or as you enter your office building (maybe for the first time in a year!), imagine that everyone you work with is a business partner that you are trying to help grow. If you get asked the same question multiple times a day, there is an opportunity to help your business partners grow. If you get caught up in an email string that takes a harsh turn, don’t respond with another email. Pick up the phone. Send out a Skype/Zoom invite. Walk to their desk if you are both onsite. And talk. Listen. Ask questions. Find ways to help them (and you) grow.

Break out of old patterns. Change the “recordings” of old soundtracks and replace them with better ones. You can do this. You can rewire your thinking. It is possible.

The End of Stress: Four Steps to Rewire Your Brain | Emotional intelligence  quotes, Stress, End of year quotes

Asking Great Questions

Have you found yourself in a situation where you needed to get below the conversational surface with a team member but you end up floundering? How about a difficult conversation with your boss? Or a talk you’ve been dreading with a challenging team member?

I highly recommend John Maxwell’s book Good Leaders Ask Great Questions.

I have found this to be more of an ongoing resource than simply another book. I review it often. I use it often. It has helped me in many difficult conversations. It frames a positive environment for me and the other person to have a fruitful discussion. This resource helps move us forward.

John Maxwell is a master at giving us the right words to say at the right time. If you often feel stuck in coaching sessions, this book will free you. It will help you add value to the other person and create a more professional, positive working environment.

Your Team – Emotions, Energy, Empowerment

I am looking forward to a new year. While I don’t have grand hopes that 2021 will be better than 2020, I am hopeful that we will apply what we have learned in the past 9 months to make the new year better.

What is your team experiencing right now? If they primarily work from home, they are experiencing a sense of isolation even if they are surrounded by kids doing school from home. They are isolated from teammates that probably have been a good influence on them. They are isolated from a routine that is healthy for them. They are isolated from stimulation from a job they enjoy and find meaning in.

And when people feel isolated, other feelings enter through that gateway.

  • FEAR – Fear of the virus. Fear of their significant other (or themselves) losing their job. Fear for their family’s wellbeing. Fear of the unknown.
  • WORRY – Worry about staying healthy. Worry about following health mandates. Worry about their future.
  • ANXIETY – Change can easily usher in anxiety. The work environment has changed. The world has changed. The political environment has changed. School has changed. Family activities have changed.
  • STRESS – The recipe for stress is all of the above. People’s emotions can be on edge. Patience becomes shorter. The news is hardly ever positive. Domestic violence, abuse, and suicide are on the rise.

So this is the world we are in right now. And this includes your team. You work hard to be connected via Zoom, Skype, etc. Your team meetings are as good as they can be. People say the right things. They seem engaged.

But how do you go beyond the surface to connect to your team’s emotions, energy, and engagement?

In coaching sessions, ask better questions. And listen. You do not need to become a personal counselor to your team members – in fact, don’t be. If you discover that a team member is struggling, refer them to your employee assistance program (EAP) if your organization offers one. Encourage them to seek help. It is healthy to seek help from a trained professional.

Give your team member something specific to focus on. For some folks, when they become stressed out, everything seems to rise to the surface screaming for attention. Help them find some clarity by helping them identify the truly important from what seems to be urgent. Again, ask questions to help them self-identify what personal projects, initiatives, tasks will make the most difference. Once they accomplish those, walk them through the clarifying process again. Celebrate their wins. Encourage them in their journey.

Pay attention to their energy. Working from home can, for some, be a time of burnout since they are “on” all of the time. Encourage healthy habits – walking 20 minutes a couple of times each day, drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep, etc. Share inspiring articles, videos, or blog posts with your team.

Team members want to know that you are there for them. They are seeking validation in their work. They want to make a difference in the lives of the coworkers and customers. They want to know they can make a positive impact.

Identify with your team’s emotions. Help them sustain the energy necessary to do their work. Encourage engagement by asking great questions that make them think and then act in new, more effective ways.

Here’s to a better new year.

Confidence Can Be Learned

Below is a portion of an article was published in 2014 by Melissa Stephenson on Fulfillment Daily

What happens if a team member is not confident in their job?

  • Work is produced at a slower pace
  • Quality of work could suffer
  • Results could be lacking the detail needed
  • Your team member’s growth & development could stall out
  • and more…

Read Melissa’s post below to learn how to build confidence. Use this in an upcoming coaching session. Wait…what?…you are lacking confidence? This article will then help you! And be sure to click on the link at the end to read the entire article. There’s more insights from Melissa there.

Research on brain plasticity shows that our brains physically change in response to new experiences, thought patterns, and behaviors. This means that we can train ourselves to think differently about challenging situations—and, in turn, respond more confidently to them.

 

We can cultivate confidence by practicing thoughts and behaviors that increase our own self-belief. Try these:

1. Seek opportunities to practice success

Research shows that successfully mastering a challenging task strengthens our belief that we can achieve the same success in the future. A common example of this is public speaking: Although many people shy away from it, those who practice public speaking regularly get better at it, become more comfortable with it, and become more confident in it, too. Accumulating examples of success increases our confidence in a given area

2. Watch and learn from successful examples

Witnessing others succeed increases our belief that we, too, have the ability to succeed in a similar way. For example, the more we watch our friends run marathons, the more we begin to believe that we could also accomplish such a feat someday.

3. Build a positive support network

Social persuasion is a powerful tool for combating self-doubt. Encouragement from people we trust helps convince us that we have what it takes to succeed. So, when you’re facing a challenge, surround yourself with people who believe in you—their belief will help build your own awareness in your skills and abilities.

4. Recognize and redirect your unconfident feelings

How we perceive the way we feel about a challenging situation greatly influences how we feel about the challenge itself. For example, when we feel “butterflies in the stomach” before a presentation or performance, do we interpret the feeling as excitement or nervousness? This interpretation has a profound effect on how confident we feel in performing.

With these strategies to enhance self-belief, we can increase our power to confidently achieve our goals and overcome our challenges.”

Follow Melissa’s blog at: https://fourwellness.co/about

From Depression to Stronger Together

In Shawn Achor’s book, Big Potential, he shares this sobering data:

“The average age of being diagnosed with depression in 1978 was twenty-nine.  In 2009, the average age was fourteen and a half.  Over the past decade, depression rates for adults have doubled, as have hospitalizations for attempted suicide for children as young as eight years old.  What could possibly have changed so much to account for this?”

Achor points to rise of technology and social media.  For kids, there is a never-ending need to announce accomplishments and the whirlpool of competition (from boyfriends to athletic prowess to stupid tricks to selfies) keeps spinning faster and faster dragging more and more people in.  And then there is the pressure that continues to ramp up in schools and on the athletic fields and arts platforms.   Better grades.  Higher batting average.  Flawless performances.  Pressure! Pressure!  Pressure!

For adults, it is not much different.  Promotions, projects, and performance all set the stage for continual pressure points.

Achor’s challenge and call is for us to understand that our potential is “interconnected with others.”  “We need to stop trying to be faster alone, and start working to become stronger together.”

Good words for today, right?

We are about to enter a time when we need each other more than ever.  When the economy opens back up, we face choices.  Everyone for themselves or everyone helping each other to recover.  People want and need to get back on their feet.  Each of us can help someone succeed.  How?

  • Be an encourager.
  • Help someone find work.
  • Listen to a hurting friend.
  • Support a local business and encourage others to do the same.
  • Celebrate someone else’s win.

“Because when we work to help others achieve success, we not only raise the performance of the group, we exponentially increase our own potential…making others better takes your success to the next level.”

happiness Achor

Staying Connected – We’re Better Together

I produced a video yesterday for our local leadership networking forum, First Fridays Fort Wayne.  I wanted to share the text of what I said on video.  This is all about how we can stay connected during this quarantine environment that we are all hoping ends soon.

child zoon

…We’ve moved meetings and events to Zoom and Skype platforms.  We’ve been entertained by the sound of barking dogs, children asking a parent for something to eat, and squealing brakes of a garbage truck in front of our house while these meetings go on.  We’ve hoped and prayed our internet speed holds up.  We’ve been bombarded with emails, instant messages, and more meetings.

And we do all of this in relative isolation from each other.

We are suffering from what someone in our area has called technology fatigue.

Don’t get me wrong.  Technology is great!  But is cannot ultimately replace the face-to-face interactions that so many of us are missing.

So how can you stay connected professionally during this quarantine?

  1. Talk with another leader outside of your company. Pick up the phone, Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, etc. Literally, talk with someone you were connected with prior to the quarantine.  It does not have to be about work or your career.  Just make a person-to-person contact.  A friend called me the other day to ask some questions.  It was SO GOOD to hear his voice.  We need this kind of interaction.  Just like the old telephone commercial says, “Reach out and touch someone.”  (just don’t physically touch them…we’re not supposed to do that!)  You get the jist…

Contact me

  1. LinkedIn connections. So many of you are on LinkedIn today.  This is a great tool to stay connected.  When you read someone’s post, comment on it.  Send them a message.

 

  1. Write a note and mail it. Let me say that again – write someone a note and mail it.  That still works!  Encourage someone.  Tell them you are thinking of them.  Ask them to pass this idea along and to send someone they know a similar note.

 

  1. Email someone. About once a month, I send a few people an email thanking them for their contribution to our community.  I thank them for how their company is positively impacting us all.  It makes a difference in that person’s life.  Try it.

book                                                          podcast

  1. Recommend a book to read or a podcast to listen to. Do this through your socially media channels.  There are many of us out here who are looking for the next book to read or a podcast that will help us grow.  You can be a resource for someone’s personal, professional growth.

 

  1. Even in the midst of a quarantine, you can network. Attend a First Fridays online event.  As I shared earlier, we have some great online events coming in May. Greater Fort Wayne (our local chamber of commerce) is offering a variety of sessions with flexible times/days to connect with others.  Take advantage of these great opportunities.  Make technology work for you to network!

 

  1. Give back. We all know how devastating this quarantine has been.  So many businesses are at risk of closing never to open again. I’ve driven by small businesses in town seeing their site closed with For Sale signs out front.   Support local businesses in any way you can.  Order carry out from local restaurants.  Buy a t-shirt from them.  Buy other products that they offer.  Recently I order a t-shirt and hand sanitizer from Three Rivers Distillery Company here in Fort Wayne.  It was a simple way to support a local company who has pivoted their business to serve the needs of our community.  It was an investment of $24 from me to do this.

three rivers distillery

 

hand santizer

 

I hope that this quarantine comes to an end very soon.  We need to get our economies going and growing again.  But in the meantime, do what you can to connect with local leaders.

Let’s keep our community’s foundation strong.  Encourage one another.  Help one another.

As my new t-shirt says, “We’re better together.” 

Change the Way You See Situations

As I stated in my last post, I have been reading Change the Way You See Everything.  In fact, I just finished it during my lunch break today.  This is probably the fourth time reading through this incredible book.

In the closing pages I read today, authors Cramer & Wasiak challenged me to change the way I see situations.  What is the current situation right now on April 27, 2020?  The ongoing quarantine due to the corona virus.  The economy of the world is crippled.  Millions in the US are unemployed – and this happened in a mere matter of weeks.  Small businesses are closing never to reopen.  There is a lot of depression, fear, and despair.

If we’re honest, most of us focus on that last paragraph.  The 24/7 news channels feed viewers a never-ending diet of gloom and doom.  It seems as if everything is focused on what has gone wrong.

But what if we could see this differently?  

Think back to September 11, 2001.  When that day happened, I’m sure many thought New York would be forever devastated.  But Mayor Rudy Giuliani provided this vision:

“Tomorrow New York is going to be here…and we’re going to rebuild, and we’re going to be stronger than we were before…I want the people of New York to be an example to the rest of the country, and the rest of the world, that terrorism can’t stop us.”

And New York did rebuild.  One year ago, I stood at the World Trade Center Memorial.  I walked the streets of the city.  It has rebuilt.  Our nation became stronger and more vigilant.

How did that all happen?  How will we climb out of the hole we were thrown into these past few months?  Can we?  Yes, we can!

foucsCramer & Wasiak challenge us to apply the 80-20 rule…in reverse.  “Instead of focusing 80% of your attention on problems and 20% on opportunities, concentrate 80% on opportunities and 20% correcting what’s wrong.”

 

So what are your opportunities?

  • Devoting time to invest in your personal growth and development.
  • Investing time to discover a better/more efficient way to get work done (hey, you already changed where you work – focus on how you work!)
  • Ask, “How are my customers interacting with me now?  What is working with this?  What small tweaks can I make that would make it even easier for my customers to do business with me?”
  • Ask, “How can I become more financially fit during this situation so I can better be prepared for the future?  Who can I turn to for help with this?”  (locally, here).
  • Ask: “Who can I help right now?  Who needs encouragement, support, or a friend?”

“…what if you could reach into the depth of that problem and extract a treasure – a wealth of information that could propel the situation forward in a way that benefits everyone involved, exponentially!”

Cramer & Wasiak offer solid advice:

  • Get a new vision of your world today.
  • “Turn yourself on by sharpening your vision” of what could be.
  • “Link your passion, vision, and skill set with the strengths and capabilities of those you have attracted into your circle of influence.”  
  • Change how you think about problems and set-backs.

This is not an impossible situation we are all in.  But those that will rise to the next level and challenge will be those who focus on the 80% of the opportunities this time is presenting to us.

“How can this be the best problem we’ve ever had?”