“Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.”
~Peter F. Drucker~
Being a business leader in today’s climate means more than managing the day to day operations of your unit or enterprise, it means understanding how to get the most out your human capital while acknowledging your limited resources. This means taking on the responsibility of looking out for your team and owning up to them when you need their help. Doing this is harder than it may seem, as people do not automatically trust and respect their leaders, but instead need to build a trust and rapport that allows them to understand why you may be turning to them on an issue. The more you do it, though, the better the results.
Many managers (but few leaders) believe that making quick binding decisions is the essence of being a successful leader. This is of course not true. It is imperative for the leader to be able to assess situations quickly, know whether they have adequate information, and make a decision. The key of course in that statement is knowing whether they have enough information.
Team Decision Making
The key considerations in decision making are assessing the time available to make the decision, reviewing the information that has been provided and determining if you are the best person to make a decision. In considering the last point many managers want to push the decision up to their executive team but few consider looking back to the expertise of their own staff.
There are many benefits to taking decisions back to your team. Some of the key benefits include increased engagement of staff, consensus decisions that when implemented already have buy-in from the staff that do the work, and finally and most importantly: better decisions.
If your work unit has been tasked with developing a new marketing strategy, you can ask staff to provide you with all the reports and data and you can make a decision about what you think is the best way to market the business or product. On the other hand you can gather everyone together that provided the information and make a decision together. Often leaders find that while a data set may show information that would lead you to make one decision, a conversation among staff about the decision may provide new insight that will move you in a different direction.
Using the marketing strategy for a product as an example, sales data may show that there is increasing demand for the type of product you are selling. However, you may have a separate staff person that has looked at demographics and they may show positive growth in the age range of the target market but notice that the geographic target of the marketing campaign may be directed at an area that does not match the demographics.
This is not a universal solution for all decisions and a good leader can assess which decisions can be done by consensus, which require a group discussion with the leader making the final decision, and which must be made by the leader alone. A further thought on this is that as stated the leader must take the timelines of a decision into consideration. Consensus decision-making may make better decisions some of the time but they take longer as people must be informed on the issue and then come together to discuss it.
Team Dynamics and Engagement
A leader that is new to a work unit or team cannot start making consensus decisions immediately. The cement that lets it work is trust. The leader has to trust that their team is capable of working together to create a better decision than the leader would have on their own. Conversely the team needs to trust the leader and their workmates enough that they feel that they can express their opinion without retribution or condescension.
The situation that this presents is a little bit like the chicken and the egg but the new leader can foster the environment and inform themselves of issues as they begin to work in this way. Start out with easy decisions that have smaller impact and move up from there. Reward people that speak their mind (so long as they have evidence to back it up) and discourage those that try and close down a conversation if they disagree. A good tactic here is when someone disagrees, ask them to lay out their key concerns and tell why they are relevant to the discussions. This brings them into the discussion and makes those that want to express themselves feel supported by the leader.
Generally, the end result of continuous use of this form of decision making is increased engagement in work and increased trust both within the unit and more importantly between staff and the leader. As most leaders know, with an engaged workforce that trusts their leadership, productivity will increase and staff turnover will decrease. Not bad outcomes for just making room for a little conversation.
Author: Georgina Stamp works in the interim management industry for Marble Hill Partners. Georgina understands that business leaders have important decisions to make and harnessing the knowledge of your team is part of the role.
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~ Stephen R. Covey ~
Client Rebecca Asks: I’m fairly new here and my company seems to rank pretty low on the trust scale. I want to create a more open, trusting environment where my people feel free to share and grow. How can I use your executive coaching tools to work around my corporate culture without making waves?
Coach Joel Answers: Executive coaching and the work we do together can give you the tools you need create the environment you want, regardless of your company’s philosophy or operating style. So let’s talk about what trust actually looks like and the tools you can use to build it within your own team. Here are four key trust factors that I’d recommend putting at the top of your list:
- Be consistent
- Show respect
- Create transparency
- Have their back
1. Be consistent. Why is consistency important? Sometimes people associate consistency with someone who’s a plodder, boring or lacking initiative. I see it differently in the corporate environment. When you’re trying to build trust, it’s letting people know where you’re coming from, reassuring them that you’re not going to change your mind about key issues and assignments without warning. Your people will produce their best work when they know you’re giving them guidance without restricting their initiative or creativity. .
2. Show respect. A lot of managers, especially those who are relatively new on the job, are anxious to get the respect of their team. But you have to give before you get. There are many small ways you can show respect for your people. Ask their opinion about projects and work assignments. Show respect for their time. Start and end meetings on time. Keep appointments and don’t cancel at the last minute unless it’s an emergency. Respond promptly to their emails and phone calls.
3. Create transparency. In a lot of companies where the overall trust level is low, people feel left out of the process. You can start to reverse this trend by being open and honest about decisions. Open communication is a powerful tool. Don’t just tell people when a decision has been made; show them what’s behind it. Share the big picture so people know about company as well as departmental goals and objectives. Unless facts and figures are confidential, share them with your people on a regular basis. Above all, avoid having a hidden agenda.
4. Have their back. People need to know that you have their best interests at heart. Make a list of your key people and, at least once a week, ask them how things are going. Then really listen to their answers and engage in a dialog. Speak up for your people in meetings. Be their advocate. Give public credit for good ideas within your department and promote their ideas to company leaders whenever you can.
An environment without trust is an environment with poor motivation, low productivity, and high turnover. By using these four coaching tools, you can build a strong team and create a workplace where your people feel valued and challenged to do their best.
Is your workplace missing the all-important trust factor? To jump-start your own action plan, begin creating these 4 steps immediately. If you have any questions, please email Joel at email@example.com.
Talkback: What have you done to build trust in your work group? What advice would you give someone whose company environment was low on the trust scale? Share your ideas here.
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“In motivating people, you’ve got to engage their minds and their hearts. I motivate people, I hope, by example—and perhaps by excitement, by having productive ideas to make others feel involved.”
~ Rupert Murdoch ~
Client Jennifer asks: My employees are spending a lot of time worrying about cutbacks in staff, salaries, benefits, even working hours. I’m afraid we’re losing our edge. How can I keep my employees motivated in a bad economy?
Coach Joel answers: This may seem challenging when you are facing negative circumstances that are beyond your control. However, it can also be an opportunity for some serious team building, a chance to take your team to the next level. Here are three steps you could take right now.
- Clear the air
- Start something new
- Build on success
1. Clear the air.
Whenever a whole group starts to lose its edge, you first need to acknowledge the reality. Have an all-hands talk session and encourage people to share their concerns. Make this meeting informal, and not a part of a staff meeting or other department function. The sole purpose is to let people say what’s on their minds.
If people have lost friends and co-workers due to cutbacks and layoffs, one of two things is happening: either your employees are living in fear that the next pink slip will be theirs; or they have survivor’s guilt because they still have a job. Combine this with the fact that you as a manager are being asked to do more with less, and you have a real challenge.
Listen to what your people have to say. Acknowledge that you are all under pressure. Guide the discussion, however, and don’t let it degenerate into a gripe session.
2. Start something new.
Once everyone has had a chance to air their feelings, take on a new project. This can be as simple as cleaning out the storage room, or as complex as creating a new ad campaign. Ask for suggestions from the group about some idea or project that’s been languishing on the back burner.
Rather than assigning roles, let people do what they do best. Ask for volunteers and suggestions from the group. As one of the country’s leading modern motivational speakers, I talk to managers every day who struggle to stay in control—of their departments, their projects, and their people. The secret is to let them take back some control. When the external environment is out of control, people need to feel that they still have some power over their own lives. This is your chance to give it to them.
3. Build on success.
There’s no such thing as too much acknowledgement. Chart the team’s progress and give plenty of public and private praise. Make sure the project has a timeline and a target completion date. When it’s finished, celebrate and provide a tangible reward, even if it’s as simple as a pizza party or movie tickets. Let everyone enjoy the feeling of success, and then build on that success by repeating the process we’ve outlined here whenever it’s appropriate.
When times are tough, someone who understands team building and intrapersonal relationships may be able to give your team a jump start. A good coach can help you design a program that meets your specific needs. Contact Joel for more information.
Talkback: Is your team pulling together right now? Have you tried some motivational tactics that worked for you? Leave your comments here, or ask Joel a question for a future Q & A with Joel.
Jim Friedberg managed a team of five and was in charge of a new upcoming product launch for his company. One of his team members came up with a creative, out of the box idea for marketing the product, a new concept that was bordering on the side of risky. Jim was skeptical. A high-risk initiative he had led in the past had failed and cost the organization thousands of dollars.
Jim, however, had built relationships with senior management and they trusted his abilities and asked him to lead the team to market the new product the company was banking on. Although experience and intuition told Jim that the idea had massive potential, Jim questioned the new concept and was fearful that an unsuccessful product launch would not only take the company down the road for another disaster at his hands but could also cost him his reputation and his job.
Undecided about how to proceed, Jim consulted with a trusted senior colleague who simply told him to follow his gut and trust himself. Following in-depth brainstorming sessions with his team, Jim decided to go through with the innovative idea even though it carried a high degree of risk.
Jim trusted the capabilities of his team to follow through and run with the idea. He empowered them to take initiative, encouraged open communication, and motivated employees to get the job done. The marketing campaign led by Jim and his team ran viral on all the major social media networks and went on to generate half a million dollars in sales. Jim received considerable praise from senior executives—not to mention a sizable bonus. He also recommended high-performing members of his team who went on to receive promotions.
Jim now heads the marketing department for his company and writes a weekly column for an up-and-coming marketing magazine.
What can you learn from Jim’s story?
- Don’t be afraid to take risks: Risk-taking employees have massive impact on a company’s bottom line. They are the movers and shakers who drive change and take the company in new directions of growth. For this reason, progressive top management leaders are willing to give high potential risk-taking employees a chance to prove their worth, even if it means failing along the way.
- Trust your team: Even with a failure in the past, Jim trusted his new team and gave them the motivation they needed to succeed. He didn’t let his own apprehensions undermine the team or come in the way of the team’s success. Managers will shine if they empower employees to take initiative and trust in their abilities.
- Trust yourself: Having confidence and believing in yourself first is crucial before you can trust others. Top management trusted their decision to give Jim a second chance. Jim trusted his insight and had faith in his team. Trust, at all levels of the organization, is critical to success.
Jim’s story is a perfect example of how managers will shine when employees are doing great. A manager’s success truly lies in the success of their team.
If you’re ready to move up to the next level in your career, consider an executive coaching program to help you learn how to empower your star employees and let them shine.
Talkback: Do you trust your team and give them the creative freedom to run with an idea? Or are you curbing your team’s growth by being afraid to step out of your comfort zone? Share your stories below.
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Strong team players are the backbone of any team. When others fail, these are the people who venture on with strong resolve and persistence, committed to getting the job done. Most people can list the qualities of bad team members without struggling too hard, but do you know what qualities great team players share?
Here are five qualities that make a good team player great:
- Always reliable. A great team player is constantly reliable day in and day out, not just some of the time. You can count on them to get the job done, meet deadlines, keep their word and provide consistent quality work. With excellent performance, organization and follow-through on tasks they develop positive relationships with team members and keep the team on track.
- Communicates with confidence. A good team player might silently get the work done but may shy away from speaking up and speaking often. Great team players communicate their ideas honestly and clearly and respect the views and opinions of others on the team. Clear, effective communication done constructively and respectfully is the key to getting heard.
- Does more than asked. While getting the work done and doing your fair share is expected of good team players, great team players know that taking risks, stepping outside their comfort zones, and coming up with creative ideas is what it’ll take to get ahead. Taking on more responsibilities and extra initiative sets them apart from others on the team.
- Adapts quickly and easily. Great team players don’t passively sit on the sideline and see change happen; they adapt to changing situations and often drive positive change themselves. They don’t get stressed or complain but are flexible in finding their feet in whatever is thrown their way.
- Displays genuine commitment. Good team players are happy to work 9-5 and receive their paycheck at the end of the month. Great team players take the time to make positive relationships with other team members a priority and display a genuine passion and commitment toward their team. They come to work with the commitment of giving it 110% and expect others on the team to do the same.
To be a great team player, you don’t have to be extroverted or indulge in self-promotion. In fact, great team players sport all kinds of personalities. You just need to be an active participant and do more than your job title states. Put the team’s objectives above yours and take the initiative to get things done without waiting to be asked. In return you will build positive perception, gain more visibility, and develop influential connections to get ahead in your career.
Want to learn more ways to build positive relationships with members of your team? Click here to read more articles on teamwork.