So There’s a Problem on Your Team…by Jim Johnson

No manager/leader will ever have a career where everything goes according to the plan.  Something is wrong on the team you lead. The wheels get wobbly on the wagon.  Sometimes they fall off.  Sometimes you have folks in the wagon that you wish were on someone else’s wagon.  Stuff happens.

There are times where a turn-a-round is a pretty simple fix.  Then, again, you’ll be faced with a team that is out of sorts – with each other, with you, or both.  Those times can be tough.

As the leader of your team, it is your responsibility to keep everyone on the same page, right?  Your boss will expect this of you.  Your company’s culture, I’m sure, demands it.  Teams that don’t function appropriately quickly stand out.  Managers who lead these teams also stand out.  So if you’re “stuck” in this situation, how do you handle it?

First, own it.  Whatever is happening…whatever has been said…what ever is the complaint…own what you can of it.  Take responsibility.  There is truth in difficult situations.  Find it and act upon it.  Yes, there will be drama, lies, and innuendos.  Stay clear of those.  Acknowledge the truth and act.

Second, understand your role and your team’s role.  As the leader, you will be setting the tone and leading the charge towards change.  Your team will be watching you.  That’s good.  Model the appropriate attitude and behaviors.  And know that it’s not all on you.  Each member of your team needs to be committed to helping the team out of its hole.  Personal opinions and biases get in the way.  Leaders can fall into the trap of blaming the team.  The team will talk about the leader behind his/her back.  Everyone is looking for a personal win.  But in business, “the house wins”.  You and your team needs to realize that the success of the business is paramount.  The best scenario is to bring alignment from both the leader and the team to what will be the “win” for the company.

Third, communicate.  If things aren’t going as you wish they were, don’t stop communicating.  You are still the manager.  Tell your team where they are succeeding.  Share with them where they are not.  Communicate change clearly.  If you don’t, your team will fill the “holes” with what they assume is happening in the change.  

Fourth, coach.  Spend significant time moving your individual team members forward.  A difficult team environment is not an excuse to stop developing your team.  They need you more than ever.  Keep the conversation on personal growth and your team’s/company’s metrics.  Don’t get caught up in the drama of one employee talking poorly of another employee.  Keep the conversation on what that team member can control and encourage them to meet/exceed their goals.  Give them the resources to do it.  Be there for them.  

Fifth, listen.  If you don’t, someone else will (i.e. HR, CEO).  Practice active listening.  Ask questions and then listen.  Take notes.  Follow up and follow through on what you hear.  Your team has a voice – listen to it.  

If you’re in a rough team environment, take heart.  You have what it takes to lead them out of it.  Keep short accounts with your team.  Don’t ignore bad behavior.  And by all means, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT your interactions with your team.  You’ll be glad you did.  

You are a team leader.  If your team is off track, lead them back on it.  It won’t be easy.  But it’s your job, right?  You can do it.  

 

“Nothing will work unless you do.”  Maya Angelou

 

 

10 Reasons Why Exercise Makes You Better at Your Job by Reine Farhat

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Sports have always been a big part of life, beginning when I was a kid. My father’s way of teaching me how to swim was by throwing me in the water and telling me to fight and try every possible way to get to the surface. This approach has actually helped me overcome any potential fears I may have had, and ever since, I have used sports to get through long study nights and long working hours.

For entrepreneurs who are working hard to build startups, and their employees, exercise is crucial for keeping you in good health. According to many studies, it also improves your mood and reduces depression. The road to building a company is rocky enough; an even mood will help.

Here are 10 reasons why exercising will make you a better performer at work:

It makes you determined. If you play a sport on a regular basis, then you probably have a coach who is always pushing you and shouting at you to help you get the best out of yourself. If you don’t have one, then you probably have your own ways to keep yourself motivated. Athletes always strive to push their limits; any obstacle in front of them is just another challenge. The same thing applies at work. If you stumble upon a difficulty and have too much work to do at the office, if you can’t get any investment or if your startup idea needs some adaptation, you will learn not to give up. You will work it out, because, it’s just another challenge for you.

It reduces stress. Stress is an undesired companion, especially if you are an entrepreneur. “I do exercise in the gym before work, then I do some cardio, like taking a long walk or jogging after work,” says Lebanese entrepreneur Mark Malkoun, the co-founder of ReachFast, an application that helps iPhone users call and message their recent contacts more easily. “Entrepreneurs endure a lot of stress due to the nature of their work, and exercising can help a lot to reduce this stress and offset the harm that it’s causing to our bodies and minds.”

It makes you a better team player. Whether in the gym, in the pool or outdoors, workout buddies always encourage each other to perform better. If you’re involved in a team sport, like basketball or football, this increases your team work ethic. Team players are also a great addition to any startup. By team players, I mean those co-workers who help each other and collaborate to get a specific task done efficiently, and who work hand in hand to take their startups to a whole new level.

It makes you more accepting of failure. Team sports not only make you a better team player, but also help you accept failure. When playing against another team, one of the two teams will fail. Acknowledging that you failed is good, as it helps you reconcile with yourself. In the workplace, accepting that you failed when accomplishing a task or when launching an idea or making an important decision, will first, help you understand the mistake you made and learn from it, and second, work even harder to avoid it in the future.

It makes you more responsible. George Washington Carver who once said, “Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses.” In team sports, just as at work, admitting that you broke the rules lets your colleagues, your teammates and your boss realize that you are a straightforward person who takes mistakes seriously and doesn’t cover them up. This will make them trust you more and maybe rely on you more often.

It gets your creative juices flowing. A study has shown that aerobics are more likely to boost your creativity. Exercising doesn’t train your muscles only, but also your brain. That is why sometimes when you are out of ideas and go out for a jog, you feel much better afterwards and the ideas start coming.

It replaces your morning coffee. Have you tried working out super early before coming to work? If not, try it. It fuels your body with energy and jump starts your metabolism, to get you ready for a long day at work. And if you’re bootstrapping, it’ll be a good way to cut down on your coffee expenses.

It makes you a good listener and teaches you self-discipline. Hind Hobeika, a competitive swimmer and the brain behind Instabeat, acknowledges that swimming has taught her self-discipline, “which is SUPER important as an entrepreneur”, she wrote in an email. It has also made her a good listener. “Swimming has taught me to listen to a coach and train with a team, which is the similar to listening to mentors and working with a team,” she says.

It gives you time to reflect. I personally enjoy swimming a lot, and I try to do it four times a week. During that time, I’m able to stop thinking about the outside world and focus on my technique, endurance and pace. It’s also a good time to collect my thoughts and reflect. Hobeika agrees: “Swimming is my alone time, the only time I’m not connected to anything but myself, so I’m obliged to listen to my thoughts and do a lot of reflection.”

It lets you meet potential partners or customers. Last but not least, exercising is a social activity. It allows you to meet new people or to get to know your colleagues, employees or co-founders better. “Sports give employees an opportunity to meet both colleagues and friends through a healthy medium,” said Derv Rao, co-founder of Duplays, a Dubai-based platform that connects players to sports in their local city. “Relationships are built above and beyond those formed by conducting business together.” (Disclosure: Wamda Capital has invested in Duplays).

Companies should offer sports to their employees, he says, because these companies “have demonstrated a direct impact on the bottom line through lower sick days, better employee performance at work and a healthier social life, leading to increased employee happiness and retention.”
Sometimes it is good to just throw your laptop away, get out there and enjoy a well-deserved workout. Not only will it make you feel better, it might help you come up with the next best idea. And just like kids fight their way in the pool to reach the top, entrepreneurs and employees should do the same too, but not only in the pool.

http://www.wamda.com/2013/07/10-reasons-why-exercise-makes-you-better-at-your-job

Reine is the Arabic Editor at Wamda. You can reach her at Reine[at]wamda.com, on Twitter @farhatreine or connect with her on LinkedIn.

One Thing I’ve Learned About…Simplicity

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by Jim Johnson

Over the past few months, I’ve developed and introduced a new initiative to my team. I lead a great team who is responsible for: a call center, eServices (online/phone lending), fraud, card admin, deposit operations, online account opening, etc.). We are calling this initiative the “Challenge to Change”.

What I wanted to do was to show the team how they can impact our bottom line (we call that our Measures that Matter) by adding something to their daily habits/routines. I didn’t want them to stop doing what they should be doing. No, I wanted them to add a simple step – a simple addition that could have significance in hitting our corporate goals.

Our call center, for instance, handles hundreds of calls every day. This team is effective in handling a wide variety of issues. They have been asked to view the customer’s financial profile and determine if this person has a full relationship with us (we are a credit union). Once they look at the profile, they are to ask themselves: “what’s missing?” Even if they see that more than one thing is missing, we have kept it simple. PICK ONE. Then talk about it.

We have created a list of “conversation starters” that assist the call center rep to begin a conversation that will lead to a deeper relationship with us. We are using current technology tools to log this interaction. Our technology can be viewed by anyone in the company and will keep the conversation momentum moving as the customer is in the deciding stage (we don’t assume that the sale will be made on the first attempt – it will take multiple interactions).

Here’s what I’ve learned while developing this initiative:

1. Know what my team is already doing. I spent significant time with team members asking them to show me what they look at when beginning an interaction with a customer. I had them explain (when necessary) what they could see/know from the data available on our core system. I gained valuable information with this step.

2. Understand their routine. Everyone approaches the same job in different ways. I had to discover how my team works. Some take short cuts. Others don’t. Some know their technology tools well. Others? Not so much. But I had to spend time with the team to know what they know and do.

3. Keep it simple. I knew that if I wanted to introduce a new habit, I couldn’t turn their work world upside down. Knowing my team and understanding their routine helped me know when and where to introduce change. It helped me to keep this process simple.

The new process only adds one step in their routine. One step. That’s it.

4. Communicate. I met with my call center 3-4 people at a time. I’m a word-picture guy. I drew charts, pictures, and graphs to lay-out what they do and where the change was going to happen. I asked a lot of questions and listened. I asked for feedback and got it. I made changes to the process based on the feedback. It was critical that we were all on the same page.

We are planning to launch this initiative this month. We have some testing to do with our current technology. We believe it will work and be a great “leading indicator” of our monthly corporate goals. It will drive more business to our branches. It will keep the relationship conversation going.

We didn’t build a complex machine to do this. We’re keeping it simple. We’ll be inspecting what we expect and encourage development and growth as we launch.

Change isn’t always easy. But keeping things simple, understanding the team’s work and process helps change happen.

Lessons Learned from Little League

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My son’s little league team, the Pond Champs, plays again at noon today. They are 5-3 so far this spring. As I’ve been watching the games and practices, something hit me.

Developing others at work is a lot like little league.

Patience

As a manager and leader of people, I have to have a ton a patience. I work in an open-environment office – no doors on anyone’s office (including the CEO’s). While there are many advantages to this, there are disadvantages. If I want to really get some brain time focused on a project or presentation, I never get more than 15 minutes of quiet time before someone is at my desk asking a question, seeking advice, or just wanting to talk. Patience is required.

When I want to see a team member get to the next level, I need patience. Their speed to learn may be different than my perceived ideas. When someone assumes the worse about me or my team or a project I’m on, I need patience. A lot of patience (and grace).

Consistency

My son’s coaches consistently teach the boys – with encouragement, being specific, with patience. The boys, in turn, have come to trust them.

How consistent am I? Am I changing the goals (moving targets frustrate teams!)? Am I moody? Am I approachable one day and the next, I’m a closed book?

Fundamentals

Is your team performing at their best? Have poor behaviors crept in? Are they getting lazy?

My son started off the season batting well. Then, the last couple of games, his batting stance changed. He dropped his back elbow. He was under-swinging and striking out more.

The head coach refocused his batting stance. He got back to fundamentals. The same thing happened last night with fielding grounders. They worked on fundamentals for 45 minutes. It helped!

There are fundamentals that our work teams need to execute every day. Are they? Are they asking for the business? Are they providing superior service at every customer interaction? Are they cooperating and collaborating with others on other teams? Do they know and understand their goals? Are they arriving to work on time?

If not, you are the coach – get back to the fundamentals.

Teamwork

Is your team working together towards a common goal – winning? If not, model what a team is. My son’s coaches are constantly talking about how the team encourages each other. Cheers for each other. Helps each other. Acts as a back up for each other.

I’m loving this baseball season. So is my son. I love watching him grow and develop and conquer fears. His confidence is growing every time he plays and practices. He is making new friends and learning a ton of great lessons. Do you know why?

He has great coaches who are enabling this to happen.

Are you a great coach? Learn a lesson from the little league.

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The Cost of Toxic Employees

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by Bryan Miles

Mean people suck, especially when you are forced to work with them.

Mean people (aka Toxic) come in various forms … passive-aggressive, jealous, forceful, rude, loud, selfish, hateful, & so on.

Think organization morale is the only problem you have with a toxic employee? Guess again. What about loss wages in productivity? Added wages in “dealing” with the problem person. Why are you keeping people like that on your team? Whatever reasons you have … you’ve likely never considered the other side of their toxicity on your other employees.

Look at this research … here’s how employees respond to toxic co-workers:

:: 80 percent lost work time worrying about the offending employees’ rudeness
:: 78 percent said their commitment to the organization declined
:: 66 percent said their performance declined
:: 63 percent lost time avoiding the offender
:: 48 percent decreased their work effort

Worse yet, when you keep people like this on your team, that need to go … you demonstrate to your team that you are sanctioning incompetence. And, the impact of that … (people perceiving you as scared and an inadequate leader who won’t act) … will cost you even more.

If you have someone like this on your staff … FIRE THEM immediately. Take action, save your team, regain your cred, and protect your bottom line (yes, this includes churches too).

http://bryanmiles.me/toxic-employees-cost-you-more-than-you-think/

What is the Secret of Team Building?

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by Deepak Chopra, MD
February 20, 2013

What creates the best teams? I teach a course at the Kellogg School of Management Northwestern University for executives. It’s called “The Soul of Leadership,” and over and over again the question has come up, “What creates the best teams?”

So here are the three ingredients of best teams:

1. They have a shared vision, which they feel deeply
2. They are emotionally bonded.
3. Every member of the team compliments the strengths of every other member in the team. That’s it.

The best examples of these of course are sports teams. When you have two teams with basically equal competencies, the team that wins is the one that has those characteristics (the one’s listed above).

So once again these are: a shared vision deeply felt, emotionally bonded, and third where every member compliments the strengths of the other. There’s a lot more that goes into team building. Shared vision is the first thing, but emotional bonds means you are free of emotional resentments, grievances, jealousies of the other members of the team. You understand their emotions and they understand your emotions. You communicate in a way that displays or is authentically an expression of affection, attention, and appreciation.

And finally beyond emotional freedom and emotional bonding there is also emotional resilience. You know how to get over the ups and downs of life. So there you are–and you compliment each other’s strengths. So you know in soccer, the forward and the goalie and the quarterback all have strengths and they compliment each other, but that’s true of anything in business as well.

So where my strengths, for example, are: futuristic, adaptable, strategic, and maximizing my energy–and also thinking in a way where I can connect everybody else. My weaknesses sometimes lie in execution so I compliment that weakness with people that know how to execute. Okay. That in a nutshell is what creates a great team.

https://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130220203702-75054000-what-is-the-secret-of-team-building-ask-deepak?_mSplash=1&sessionid=rIyX-gvye_e1ql83AwGJ

Just because your strategy makes sense to you, doesn’t mean it does to your employees

by David Grossman

You might have the most compelling vision for your organization, but if you can’t get it out of your head and get others to see it and believe in it, it might as well not even exist.

Just because the strategy makes sense to you doesn’t mean it will take only an instant for others to see it like you do. We often think that others think as we do, that others see the world as we do, but it’s more likely that there’s a lot of ground to cover between their perspective and yours. Employees come to their jobs with their own context, and it’s the leader’s job to help them understand the collective context, including how you see the marketplace today, and how that led to your strategy.

According to our research, a majority of employees globally don’t understand their company’s strategy and, as a consequence, how they fit in. Consider the possibility if even 10 or 20 percent more employees understood their jobs better. What might the impact be on productivity, innovation, or revenue?

It’s up to you to engage others so they have the same clear picture you do of your strategy and where the business is going. The reality is that some may have small windows into your view of the strategy, but very few have the whole picture like you do. Lift the perspective out of your head and get it into others’ so they can own it and help you achieve it.

– Put the strategy on a single piece of paper. Let it serve as a strategic framework that drives all work inside the organization.
– Share the strategic framework and ensure your leaders are aligned. Don’t stand for bobble-heads. – Give leaders the context behind the strategy so they understand how you got there and ask them to make the strategy relevant for their teams.
– Provide leaders training on how to use the tools. See them in action so you can coach them on how to communicate big-picture messages, along with that all-important personalization. Can your leaders make the strategy relevant to their teams?
– Use the strategic framework consistently in your communications with employees so it becomes familiar to them and they see what’s happening and how it ties to the strategy (they know what’s important when they see and hear it from multiple sources).
– As your thinking evolves about the strategy (quarterly, annually, etc.), update your framework and communicate regularly so employees are in the loop and understand the reasons behind decisions.
– Celebrate “wins,” always connecting back to and reinforcing the core elements of the strategy.

How can you better help employees understand your strategy so they can help you get there ahead of schedule?

http://www.yourthoughtpartner.com/blog/bid/57357/Leaders-Just-because-your-strategy-makes-sense-to-you-doesn-t-mean-it-does-to-your-employees

Moving the Needle

You’ve seen it at ball games and on TV shows. The noise meter. Someone’s trying to get the crowd going to cheer on the home team or to select a contestant. So the noise meter is rolled out. The louder and more enthusiast the crowd gets, the more the needle moves towards the “frenzy” side of the meter. It’s fun. It’s loud. It’s designed to motivate the team to do more, score another run, to get everyone on the same page.

I think this concept is missing in many (most) companies. No, I’m not advocating screaming employees whipped up into a chaotic volume riot. I’m talking about enthusiasm about a shared vision and goals.

A lot of strategic planning can be, well, boring for most employees. Mostly because they are never told the “why” behind the decisions. The senior executives make a plan, may or may not communicate the plan to everyone, and then the staff is left to figure out what is happening and what they should be doing to execute the plan.

How different would it be if the senior executives spent intentional time in finding ways to really get the staff behind their vision? I’m not talking about shallow meetings meant to gin up the employees. I’m talking about meetings where the staff is given an honest assessment of where the company is and where it can go. A meeting where the vision will not be realized without the innovation, creativity, energy, hard work of the staff. But it doesn’t stop there.

As a manager, you have the responsibility to keep the vision alive in your staff. It is your job to keep momentum rolling. How?

* Keep the goals in front of your staff all the time. Keep their eyes on the target.
* Share the numbers. There is a story behind the numbers and make sure your team knows that story and how they can and will impact them in a positive way.
* Stretch them. Don’t be afraid to look into the future and challenge your team to do more than they may (at the time) believe they can achieve.
* Encourage them all along the way. Praise in public. Counsel in private.

Personal note: about 15 months ago, I collaborated with a colleague where we put a plan in place to capture more lending opportunities coming in via our website. We started up an eServices division in my department with 2 carefully chosen team players. We trained them and asked them to not only to do the work, but to analyze their work to help us continually find ways to improve this delivery channel. Their manager and I committed ourselves to encourage their progress along the way. The results?

* Loans outstanding (what is on our books) grew from just over $2 million to $12.6 (ending August).
* We’ve grown $6.9 million just since January.
* We are seeing around $1.4 million/month in loan production.
* Our loan quality is outstanding. Our loan servicing department reports that we rarely have any unresolved issues.

The other day, I challenged this team to stretch to a new goal – $1 million/month for EACH of them. I believe they can do it! I told them I believe they could do it. Guess what? They also believe they can do it. We talked about what it would take to get there. I committed to them what I would do to help get them there. They committed to me that they would do what they needed to do to get there. We don’t know when this will happen, but there WILL be a day when they each hit that $1 million mark in 1 month. It will be the happy dance day!

Enthusiasm fueling a clear vision that is clearly defined makes work fun, exciting, a bit scary, and meaningful. As a manager, you can keep moving that needle as you help keep your team focused and enthused about growing and developing and achieving.

Move that needle!