Creating a Coaching Culture

“45% of organisations plan to utilise Coaching to drive organisational performance in the next two years”

Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development

Coaching Culture

The prevalence of coaching in the workplace and the value that organisations place on it are both continuing to rise month by month and year on year.  The research from the CIPD and other institutes shows this growth as does our own experience at TwentyOne Leadership.  Over the last few months we’ve been asked numerous times how we go about helping to create and sustain a high performance, coaching culture.

There are lots of elements to consider, but here are our 6 top tips.

1.  Make Great Coffee

You may walk into a beautifully designed coffee shop that has great service, lots of space and lovely places to sit, but if the coffee sucks then it’s unlikely that you’ll ever go back. Building a coaching culture is no different. At its heart lays the ability of your people to be great coaches and this has to be the starting point. This foundation must be solid or anything else that you do will have little impact and is unlikely to last.

 

2.  Get Clear on Your Measures

This is about getting clear on the measures that already exist. It’s ultimately about getting clear on the higher purpose that you are working towards and using coaching to support. When your coaches operate from a position of clarity and understanding of the bigger picture they are able to focus their coaching on what matters most. This enables those being coached, the coaches and the organisation to see the impact it is having.

 

3.  Do It and Shout About It

The Law of Diffusion of Innovation is key – you don’t need to convince everybody in the organisation of the value and benefit of coaching. By developing an initial group of fantastic coaches (your Innovators and Early Adopters) they are able to go out into the business and do great work coaching. When this is done well and you shout about the success you reach the critical tipping point where you have engaged the “Early Majority”. And then you’re off – you have the foundations of a Coaching Culture.

 

4.  Waterfalls not Trickles

Building a Coaching Culture requires momentum and a plan for building that momentum. Whilst the Law of Diffusion of Innovation will help you, you can’t rely on it alone to transform the business. Once you’ve developed your initial group of coaches it’s time to grow the pool – this may be managers or it may be volunteer coaches from all levels and parts of the organisation. Whatever approach you take – speed is of the essence.

 

5.  The Before and After

Coaching and training your coaches is about more than just what happens in the session or on the training courses. What happens before (Set-Up) and what happens after (Set-Down) is critical. Great coaches understand that they can be of even more service to those they are working with if they give just a little thought to what they do before and after each session.

The same is true of how coaches are trained, developed and supported in the long run. Ongoing training, coaching supervision and networks help build momentum, expertise and credibility.

 

6.  Don’t Let It Be An Island

Don’t let coaching be another new initiative that sits separate to everything else in the business like an island in the ocean. For a Coaching Culture to really take root it must be entwined and linked to everything else that’s happening in the organisation (Click to Tweet). It needs to be aligned to the measures that matter. The language that is used needs to be consistent with that used elsewhere and coaching needs to be smoothly integrated with your performance management systems. If coaching is seen as just ‘another new initiative’ it won’t stick.

 

And finally…

If you’re a manager who really believes in developing your team members and coaching them to unlock their full potential then my new book “Don’t Just Manage – Coach!” is for you.  To read more about it, get a feel for the books content and hear me introduce it then click here now.

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Posted in Coaching

Leaders aren’t Aloof

aloof

I recently caught up with a colleague in a hotel he was staying at and he shared a story that inspired me to write this brief post.

He recounted his experience of having breakfast in the hotel.  The restaurant was really busy, full of guests having their breakfast whilst many queued at the entrance waiting to be seated.  As far as he could tell, there was just one young girl working in the restaurant who was doing her absolute best to look after all of the hungry diners.  Despite her very best efforts, she simply couldn’t cope on her own and some guests stood waiting at the entrance for 15 minutes whilst my colleagues coffee failed to arrive.

Whilst she was struggling and clearly getting stressed, my colleague also noticed two ‘managers’ repeatedly coming in and out of the restaurant.  They strolled around, looking somewhat aloof but never once stepped into to help her or their guests.  Fail.

Now, I wasn’t there and I didn’t speak to these particular managers.  That said, I’ve seen similar things on numerous occasions before which means that I can share what I suspect was going on.

It seems as though these ‘managers’ have entirely missed the point about what its means to be a manager or a leader. Management and leadership are not about a position or a title.  Getting promoted to a management position does not mean that you no longer have to muck-in and get your hands dirty which I suspect is what these two individuals thought.

A leaders role is to support and serve those that they lead.  Their role is to position themselves and use their time in whatever way best supports their teams and their organisations.

At times this will mean stepping back, taking the ‘helicopter view’, or planning – which is a critical role for leaders and managers.  But equally, when things are going wrong, when teams are short-staffed and there is work that needs to be done, it is time to get stuck in and get your hands dirty.

Leaders and managers aren’t exempt from getting in the trenches.

Leaders and managers should never walk around with a sense of being aloof.  Because they are not. (Click to Tweet)

Leaders and managers should never think that they are better than those they lead.  Because they are not.

Leaders and managers should never think – “I don’t need to do that anymore because I’m a manager now”.  Because that is wrong.

Now, my colleague didn’t ask the young girl what she thought of those two managers.  But, if their performance on that day is indicative of how they lead and manage on most days, I suspect she would not rate them particularly highly.

“People don’t leave bad organisations.  They leave bad managers.” (Click to Tweet)

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Posted in lead by example, leader, leaders, leadership, Leading by example, management

The Future of Leadership

The saying “What got you here, won’t get you where you are going” has been running through my head a lot lately, particularly in relation to how leaders operate.

In the last six years we have seen some significant changes in the business environment that have rocked some organisations to their core. Some of these were able to react quickly, surviving the change whilst others even managed to prosper in the face of adversity. Whilst there have been winners, there have also been losers and some great companies are no longer present on our high streets and business parks.

As the landscape changed, leaders at all levels of organisations have had to adapt what they do and how they do it. Some did this well and did it quickly. Some on the other hand have been slow to react and little has really changed.

Beyond hearing a lot about 20/20 leadership, the new qualities required of leaders such as collaboration, empathy and innovation not much has changed. Yes we’ve heard discussions about leaders needing to embrace social media and be aware of managing ‘millennials’, but that’s largely just talk.

But here’s the thing. I think the changes that we’ve seen are just the tip of the iceberg. I believe that in the next 5-10 years leaders are going to have an entirely new, and more complex, set of factors at play affecting how they lead. Here are some of the changes that I predict will impact upon how we lead teams and organisations.

 

Teams will be fundamentally different

Our concept of a team will fundamentally shift. We are all ready seeing more and more remote teams and the likely hood of having your entire team sitting around you is getting smaller. I believe this trend will continue and accelerate.

A leaders role will shift from managing a team to repeatedly forming, developing and disbanding teams on a project by project basis. Inherently linked to this new paradigm for teams will be Management Matrix Structures – it will not be the case that those in your team only report to you, they will have another boss elsewhere in the company, maybe even in another company.

 

Managing multiple generations

Up until now we have had three or four generations in the workplace but it will not be long before we have five. The challenge with this goes way beyond simply managing millennial’s and their different motivations.

Having five generations in the workplace will mean that it is more important than ever for leaders to have a strong degree of emotional intelligence, to get to know their ‘team’ members and understand how to get the best from them (bearing in mind you will not have long to do it as you rapidly form and disband teams).

Flexible working will not be just a request of Generation Y’ers to accommodate their child care needs. There are now many grandparents in the work place who are ‘virtual parents’ for a second time picking up a large chunk of child care duties for their grandchildren – what about their need for flexibility?

At the other end of the spectrum, there will be an increasing need for children to support their elderly parents and with this comes yet more demands for flexible working.

There is also another interesting scenario that will emerge. We have a significantly ageing workforce and we, as leaders, have a degree of responsibility to look after the health and well-being of our people. Are we equipped to support the health and wellbeing needs of an ageing workforce?  Could we spot the signs of the early stages of dementia for example?

 

Communication and always being a leader

I  remember my early training as an Army Officer and frequently being told that we were always leaders, not just when we were in uniform. Fortunately for me that was pre-Social Media and it only ever got as bad as being caught by the Commanding Officer washing my car in the ‘Devil’s Cloth” (denim jeans!) at the weekend.

We all know that Social Media isn’t a fad. It’s here to stay, it’s growing and who knows what other new technology will emerge in the next ten years. Many are arguing that leaders must be connected in this way to stay current and to be seen as competent. But with that comes a challenge. We need to be even more congruent, we need to be even more honest and we need to be even more aware of what we say.

The lines between our work and personal lives are becoming even more blurred – it’s never been truer that we are always leaders (Click to tweet). Our reputation and trust will come to count for even more but there will be more scope for us lose them both.

 

Developing future leaders

I believe that much of the Succession Planning and Talent Management activity that HR currently owns will need to shift. Part of that shift needs to come from leaders taking a much more active role in this process and not letting it be the sole domain of HR.

The leadership capability of any organisation shapes it’s culture, how innovative it’s products or services are and is perhaps the last remaining competitive advantage in business today. Something this important cannot be the sole domain of one business function.

The other shift that we need to see is in developing people for future roles, not just the current next role up. As it stands today, most talent management consists of year-long (or longer) development programmes to enable individuals to step into the next role up – as it is today. I believe that needs to change. We need to ask different questions such as “What will the next role up look like in 18-24 months” and then develop people into that position – at least partly.

 

Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous

VUCA is here to stay, it’s the new normal. The ideas I’ve shared above will give you an insight into some of the changes that we can predict but then there are the ones that we won’t see coming. If you’re burying you head in the sand and waiting for the ‘good times’ to return or for things to get back to ‘normal’ then you’re preparing to fail.

 

I think there is real power and benefit to be gained from just opening our minds and thinking differently. I appreciate that it’s hard to find the time to reflect and that not everyone has the sphere of influence to change their entire organisation.

But I do believe that everyone can have some influence that collectively will make significant changes.

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Modelling the Way in Teams

This weeks post is provided by Richard Nugent, my very first guest poster.  Richard works with talented people in the fields of business and sport – and has done for almost a decade. Those who he has worked with all say the same thing: they have achieved more than they thought was possible because of his support and insight. He has helped leaders in international brands such as Lego, Merlin Entertainments and Tesco to realise their potential while his work with professional footballers, managers and cricketers has led to trophy winning performances and multimillion pound transfers. Richard has recently published his second book The Secrets of Confident People.

Modelling the Way in Teams

How many teams are you part of? I would predict at least two; your peer group team and your direct reports team. Do you model great leadership behaviour in every team you are part of?

I am well aware that team development is the domain of my colleague Ben Morton. Indeed when working with a team of senior leaders on a talent development programme recently I asked him to come and lead a masterclass on creating high performing teams. One point in particularly struck a chord with the group and myself.

It is likely that you a member of various teams. At a minimum you highly likely to be part of a peer group team and the team that consists of your direct reports and you. If you have read even this far into the article you have an interest in ensuring that the team that you lead is well functioning and that the members that make up that team perform and behave in a positive and appropriate way.

Now pause for a moment and reflect on the behaviour that you demonstrate as a team member. When you return to your desk from your peer group meetings do you stride purposefully back sharing valuable snippets from the time you have spent with them? Or do you slouch at your desk with a sigh and moan about the time wasted. When (if) you update your team do you share moments that highlight how that team models the way for how a team should be or do you use the opportunity to highlight the deficiencies of your colleagues.

I think it is a there is power in assuming that the performance of your team is a reflection of the performance of your peer group team. While I appreciate that your sphere of influence my not reach to being able to revolutionise the culture of your peer group team however I am certain that many readers can make a difference to it.

What if:

  • You made it a secret mission to be the perfect role model even if your peer colleagues aren’t?
  • You added an extra objective to influence the culture of your peer group and invite others to do the same?
  • You shared this article with your colleagues and asked for and agenda item at your next meeting or team event?
  • You spoke to your line-manager and asked them to help you to improve the performance of your team by focusing on the performance of his team?
  • You invited one of the most powerful team development speakers around to speak at your next team event (of course I mean Ben not me)

You don’t have to do all of these but just one two of them will make a difference that lasts. Remember that leadership requires you to model the way in every team that you are in. Falling short in any of these teams gives other people permission to do the same.

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Stop, Reflect, Trust, Connect

Teams

This week I was fortunate to spend some time working with the Executive Team of the UK division or a major international brand. I’d spent a little time with them previously focusing on how they can operate more effectively as a team so the vague brief I had of “Can you do more of the same” didn’t daunt me too much.

Whilst the brief I received may have been a little vague, the insights I left with were crystal clear.

I came away from the session with even more clarity and conviction around just how important trust is within teams. But I also came away with the knowledge that real trust isn’t present amongst that many teams.

Regular readers of my blog will know that I consider myself fortunate to have spent many years working in teams, leading teams and studying what makes some work and others fall apart. I have a belief that deep levels of trust are the foundation to effective team-work and this belief is getting stronger and stronger.

When I talk about trust in teams, I am talking about an environment that allows really open, honest and frank conversations to take place. I’m talking about a level of trust that allows people to share some of their vulnerabilities and be their true self amongst their colleagues.

With this particular team I did a number of exercises focused on moving them a few steps closer to achieving these levels of trust. The results were remarkable, as were some of the insights it allowed to come through.

Like many teams, early on in the session they told me quite clearly that they were very close as a team, that they were all very honest with each other and that they were good a talking candidly.

This contrasted significantly with what showed up when I helped them to slow their thinking and to reflect more deeply on how they operate as a team. When I helped them to really connect and start to trust each other some very different things showed up.

I heard similar words, thoughts and feelings from most of the team. Essentially they all said:

 

  • “I don’t always feel confident”
  • “I don’t always feel able to say what needs to be said”
  • “I don’t always feel able to share my ideas or to share my experience.”

 

I’ve now heard similar thoughts from several teams and I believe that the impact of this lack of trust is huge.

If this is how teams exist then there is no way that they can be operating at their full potential. If team members don’t feel able to share all of their thoughts, ideas and experiences then it is simply not possible that teams will be making the best decisions for their businesses.  And that’s a huge amount of wasted potential.

As always, if you’d like to continue the conversation then I’d love to hear from you.  ben@twentyoneleadership.com

Finally, if you want to develop your team through coaching check out the “Little Book of Coaching Success

MyBook

 

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Breaking Free

This short post was inspired by two people I’ve recently ‘met’ on Social Media.  Last week Sukhvinder Pabial (@sukhpabial) tweeted the message below:

“Today we’ll be using the Marshmallow exercise as part of an assessment centre for graduates. Looking forward to it!”

Sukhvinder was referring to Tom Wujec’s TED Talk, which you can watch here.

Then, on the same day I read Gemma Reucroft’s blog ‘Do what you’ve always done” which really resonated with me.  The premise of her piece was that we generally know the issues with all of the ‘HR stuff” that we do but instead of actually making change, we just do what we have always done and get what we have always got.

These two thoughts, from two HR tweeters and bloggers whom I really respect, really got me thinking.  Why is that we repeatedly do what we’ve always done?  And thinking about my own passion for developing leaders, why is that many of our assessment tools are so poor, yet we keep using them?

Now don’t get me wrong,  I love Tom Wujec’s TED Talk and I think that it’s a good exercise for drawing out lessons and insights about collaboration with certain groups.  But, I’m far from convinced that it has much value as an exercise for assessing future leaders.  Similarly, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen big, respectable organisations using an ‘In-Tray Exercise” to assess individuals readiness to join a senior leadership development programme.  I mean seriously – if somebody has got to the stage where we’re even considering them for a senior leaders development programme is this exercise not both pointless and insulting?

My point is that we need to stop putting the cart before the horse.  When designing Assessment Centre’s (if we even need them at all) we should start by understanding what it is we are looking for in an individual and then design a realistic activity to assess that quality.  But the reality is that so often we see an exercise or activity and then shoe-horn the competency to fit it.

I once worked with a division of a very large organisation who had invested a huge amount of time and energy in developing a new set of leadership competencies.  When the the divisional L&D Manager asked if there were any new exercises to assess the new competencies they were told to ‘just make the old ones fit”.  The scary thing for me is that I don’t think this is an un-common approach.

Now, building a free-standing structure from Spaghetti and sticky tape is probably a brilliant assessment exercise if:

  1. You’re recruiting graduate engineers
  2. You’re building a team who is going for spaghetti/marshmallow tower-building record
  3. You work for a company that builds spaghetti structures

Beyond that, I’d challenge you to ask if it’s really relevant.

All that said, I do believe that there is a time and a place for these types of leadership assessment exercises.  Back in the early 90’s I completed my Army Officer Selection in Westbury which consisted, amongst a number of other ‘real’ activities, a large number of these sorts of tasks.  In this situation, for that career, I believe that they were fairly realistic.  This is however where the Blue Ocean Strategy kicks in and fails, or succeeds depending on where you’re sitting. So often we try to replicate elements of best practice or the new ideas from the ‘sexy’ companies of the day.  But we don’t replicate their full thinking because we don’t have the full understanding.

My point is aligned with Gemma’s.  Instead of knowing the problems and failing to do anything about them, let’s start leading and making changes.

  • It’s time to get real.
  • It’s time to break away from ‘best practice’ (according to who?).
  • It’s time to break away from the norms.
  • It’s time to stop doing what we’ve always done.
  • It’s time to accept that we may be ridiculed for doing things differently.
  • It’s time to accept that we may fail, but we may also succeed in a spectacular style.
  • It’s time to lead.
  • It’s time to be more child like and ask “Why” more often.
And as Gemma said….
“It’s time to put on your big boy or big girl pants and lead.”
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Decision Making and Commitment – Part Two

In Part One of this blog series I discussed the importance of having a Decision-Making Process in place within any team. When talking about team development and the factors that are essential to create a High Performing Team it’s always a fairly safe bet to go with communication.

But what do we mean by communication and what elements of communication really make the difference?

Two of the critical components are how teams approach conflict and how they approach decision-making. Whilst they are not always obvious at first, there are many different decision making strategies that a team can use.  In this post I have shared  five of the most common and effective strategies that High Performing Teams utilize.

 

Authoritative

In this model the leader controls the information and the decision – in this respect it’s an autocratic decision. It’s appropriate when the leader alone has the knowledge required to make the decision, when time is critical or the team is likely to support and implement the decision regardless of whether or not they had any input. For example – the leader cancelling a meeting because key participants cannot attend.

The concerns with this approach however are that it is not participative, others may not support the decision and there is a lack of group responsibility.

Method: The leader controls the decision without any input, suggestions or contribution from others and in doing so takes responsibility for the decision.

Authoatitive

 Consultative

In this model the leader consults with team members or other stakeholders who have information relating to the decision. The final decision however rests with the leader. It’s appropriate when the leader must make a decision but needs input or expert advice from others. Whilst the discussions may lead to a richer decision, the team itself does not come to an agreement about the decision.

The concerns are that whilst the leader receives input from team members, they may still disagree with the decision whilst being the ones that need to implement the plan. There is also a lack of group responsibility.

Method: The leader makes a decision after receiving input, information and suggestions form team members.

Consultative

Majority Vote

The information and authority reside with the team leader and all team members – in this respect it is a fully democratic decision. This method is appropriate when all team members have knowledge about the decision and formality is required.

The concerns with this approach are that those who disagree with the decision may undermine efforts to implement it and feel as though their point has not been fully considered.

Method: The leader shares control of the decision by allowing the group to vote. The outcome is decided by majority vote with the leader or designated expert deciding in the case of equal votes.

Vote

Consensus

Consensus is often thought to mean either unanimous agreement or is confused with majority vote. It is neither. Consensus decisions require input and acceptance from all team members and are achievable when high levels of trust exist. When this level of trust is present, open and honest conversations are able to take place with all team members feeling that they can fully articulate their opinions.

This approach is appropriate when participation is important from all group members and the decision will impact the team as a whole. The concerns are that it can be a very slow method with the potential to hold the group hostage if group members fail to agree.

Method: Everyone on the group needs to agree and make a decision. In high trust groups, the method involves everyone being able to have their opinion heard so that ultimately they feel able to ‘disagree and commit’.

Consensus

Consensus with Fallback

This method is a variation of ‘Consensus’ and is perhaps one of the most effective methods. It is appropriate when group support to the decision is important, the decision is complex and the group has struggled to reach consensus within the time available.

Method: A pre-set, fallback decision making method is determined before attempting to reach a consensus decision. If after a pre-determined length of time (which will vary depending on the complexity if the decision) a decision has not been made then fall back kicks in. The fall back may be that the team leader takes everybody’s input and then makes a decision.

 

Summary

Each of these five decision-making processes will be appropriate a team at different times and there is certainly no right method to use. The right approach will always be dependent on the time available, the decisions degree of importance or complexity and level of performance of the team to name but a few.

The most critical element of this for teams is that they have a decision making process in place and that it is identified before they attempt to make the decision.

If when you read this the thought enters your head that this is all a little difficult, complicated and that you don’t have the time to implement this – then here are a few further thoughts to consider.

  1. Are all of your current meetings hugely effective and highly efficient?  If the answer is no, then surely it’s worth trying something different?
  1. If you want to be in the top 5% of the most effective and high performing teams then you need to be prepared to do what only 5% of teams do. (Click to Tweet)

When talking about communication within the context of building High Performing Teams, groups approach to decision-making is one of the differences that makes the difference.

As always, if you’d like to continue the conversation then I’d love to hear from you.  ben@twentyoneleadership.com

Finally, if you want to develop your team through coaching check out the “Little Book of Coaching Success

MyBook

References:

The Skilled Facilitator Fieldbook – Schwarz, Davidson, Carlson and McKinney

MIT Human Resources – Learning and Development

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Posted in High Performing Teams, Team buidling, Team Development, Teamwork, Uncategorized

Decision Making and Commitment – Part One

Look at any model for developing teams and it’s highly likely that you’ll find some mention of communications skills. It seems plainly obvious that high performing teams need to communicate effectively.

But when and how teams communicate effectively is perhaps a little less obvious as is exactly what we mean by effective communication. Highly effective teams approach conflict and decision-making in very different ways to that of average teams. I have blogged about conflict within teams previously, so in this post I will turn my attention to decision making.

Thinking about the team that you currently lead or are a member of, pause for a moment and reflect upon these two questions.

“Do you have a decision making process?”

“What are the teams decision making processes?”

I have asked a significant number of teams these two questions and the answers I get are generally the same. I initially get a strong positive response to the first question followed by a real difficulty to provide an answer to the second. The reason being that most teams use exactly the same decision making process to decide where the next £100k of investment will be spent as they do to decide where the Christmas party will be held. That process tends to go something like this.

  • The team sits in a meeting and discusses the options
  • The discussion often breaks down into a series of monologues with each individual trying to ‘win’ the discussion
  • Little progress is made and an air of frustration descends on the team
  • The agenda is full so the meeting chair suggests that the decision is revisited later
  • Some further discussions take place ‘off-line’
  • Little progress is made so the leader makes a unilateral decision in the next meeting
  • Team members leave the room. Some are happy, some are frustrated
  • Muttered conversations take place in the corridors. People say, “that’ll never work’ or ‘that’s not the right decision”

Sound familiar?

This process can often lead to some individuals feeling frustrated, not listened too or disengaged. At worst, it results in a situation where some team members are not fully committed to the decision and who will avoid accountability for the part they need to play in delivering the results.

Now, if the decision is about the Christmas party venue than it may not matter all that much. If the decision is about the next £100k of investment or strategy on the other hand – then it will matter a great deal.

The key point here is that most teams use exactly the same decision making process in both scenarios.

The smart teams, the truly high performing teams have a number of different decision making processes and understand that they need to use different ones at different times (Click to Tweet). They use a decision making process that generates the level of support needed from the team. They also make it clear from the start what the decision making process is.

In my next post I’ll explore a number of different decision making processes that I have seem highly effective teams use to great effect. To receive a notification when this post is published simply click on ‘Follow Unlocking Team Potential”  to the right.

As always, if you’d like to continue the conversation then I’d love to hear from you.  ben@twentyoneleadership.com

Finally, if you want to develop your team through coaching check out the “Little Book of Coaching Success

MyBook

 

Posted in High Performance Teams, High Performing Teams, highly effective teams, Team Building, Team Development, Uncategorized

Honouring our D-Day Veterans

Regular readers of my blog will be aware of my background in the Armed Forces and  my passion for developing teams.

The 6th June 2014, marks the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings which is, without question, one of the greatest examples of teamwork the world has ever seen.  The military can, has and will, continue to teach us all about the power of teamwork.

At the highest levels, the D-Day landings showed how different organisations can work together, collaborate, break down silo’s, put aside historic rivalries to achieve incredible things.

But let’s not just celebrate the strategic thinking, intellect and leadership of those at the top. That would be to do a disservice to our brave men and women who made huge sacrifices so that we could enjoy the freedom we have today.

Let us remember and honour those who gave their lives on the beaches of Normandy.

Let us give credit to the extraordinary levels of teamwork at the lowest levels on D-Day.  The teamwork that existed between individual comrades.  The teamwork that existed between 4 man teams, between sections, between platoons and between companies. The teamwork that got our brave veterans through D-Day and off of the beaches.

I’ve been fortunate to talk to and hear from a number of World War 2 veterans during my own time in the Army.  What I learned from them as I studied leadership in the early part of my career  was this. It wasn’t bravery that drove them to do what they did.  It was trust and love.

Every man did what they did because they trusted that the man to their left and to their right would do the same for them.

Every man did what they did because they cared about the man to their left and right.

They did what they did because they loved their comrades as a brother.

Today, as we mark the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, I will be pausing to think of those who were injured and those of paid the ultimate sacrifice.

I will be pausing to pay my respect.

I will be pausing to give thanks.

Lest we forget.

 

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Leading Virtual Teams

Taking time to connect is critical for Virtual Teams.

There is no doubt that the business world is getting smaller.  One consequence of this is that the teams we lead and work within are no longer always sitting around us.  The chances are that at some stage many of us will either lead or be a member of a remote team.  Whilst these virtual or remote teams certainly have strengths and allow businesses to extend their reach – they also present some challenges.

There are a number of quite practical challenges that exist with remote teams ranging from sharing of up-to-date information, effective collaboration and running productive meetings to name but a few.  Fortunately, modern technology provides us with the tools to combat many of these.

But the most significant challenge is a much more human one. In fact, it is a challenge that goes to the very heart of what it means to be human.

As humans, we are fundamentally social beings with a need to form bonds with others and to connect with them.  In order to survive and evolve as a species we needed to work together as a team.  In order to stay safe we needed to trust each other.  This is a need that goes all the way back to Palaeolithic Age and exists because of biology. It’s about biology because the feeling of belonging comes from the human chemical called oxytocin.

Whilst the threats we faced and our need to feel safe are historic, the same needs exist today.  The only difference between then and now is where the threats come from. The reality is that  the modern day workplace often triggers the same human responses.

One of the ways to that we ‘get‘ oxytocin is through physical contact; by shaking hands, by hugging, by a hand on the shoulder or a pat on the back.  All of which is impossible to get frequently when you’re part of a remote team.  This is why the times when virtual teams come together are so important and this is why when you meet your virtual colleagues you get such a warm and genuine handshake or hug.  The physical contact experienced in this moment gives us a shot of oxytocin that makes us feel like we belong.  So, if you really want to build a strong and effective virtual team do not think that you can rely solely on technology and virtual meetings.  The times when you physically meet are not a nice to have and they are never an expense.  They are an investment and they are critical for building effective virtual teams.

The other way that we build genuine connections with people is by getting to know them.  When we get to know our colleagues on a deeper level we see them more as human beings and friends.  This is why the term ‘team-mate’ exists; it suggest a deeper bond or connection.  When this exists we begin to trust them more and trust that they’ll ‘watch our back’.  We start to feel safe.

Much of this connection comes from the small talk that takes place by the water cooler, in the coffee queue, at lunch or waiting for a meeting to start.  And here’s the thing – virtual teams typically get none of this.

Because we put such a premium on time and have been programmed to be super efficient we tend to get straight down to business in virtual meetings.  But that’s wrong.  For virtual teams, connecting is part of your business.  Spending the time ‘checking-in’, making some small talk and connecting with each other will always be time well spent.   To consider this a waste of time is to fundamentally miss the essence of what it takes to create an effective, high performing remote team.

If you want to improve the effectiveness of your virtual team and virtual meetings all you need to do is add two simple words to the top of your meeting agendas.  “Check-in”

“Taking time to connect on a personal level will often determine whether virtual teams succeed or fail.” (Click to Tweet)

When you hold a virtual meeting or are part of a virtual team it’s easy to lose sight of these points for two simple reasons.  You don’t have the physical contact with your colleagues and you often can’t see them either.  When this happens, it’s easy to forget they’re human and it’s easy to get straight on with the ‘task at hand’.  When this happens there’s no oxytocin, there’s no connection and there’s no sense of trust.

Without these the team will never perform and never reach its potential.

As always, if you’d like to continue the conversation then I’d love to hear from you.  ben@twentyoneleadership.com

Finally, if you want to develop your team through coaching check out the “Little Book of Coaching Success

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Posted in leadership, Team, Team buidling, Team Development, Teamwork, trust, Uncategorized

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