Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Opposites Don’t Attract … But They Do Positively Drive Team Success

Guest Blogger: Adrian Wood - Co-Founder, Shadowmatch USA

My thanks to April for allowing us at Shadowmatch to write a guest blog this week! I thought I might comment on how the difference in team behaviors can have a dramatic impact on success.

The different working behaviors of teams are like the different poles on a magnet except that different behaviors actually tend to repel (drive conflict) in teams vs. attract. It’s the single biggest reason that teams fail: when they are split between “north and south” in the way that they approach work.

However, if you can get your team to understand their polarity and see how they are different, then something wonderful happens: they start to leverage each other in ways that drive productivity and efficiency across the team. In other words, they stop acting as individuals and start to work as a cohesive group.

At Shadowmatch, we saw this in real life at a Fortune 500 sales team. The team consisted of pairs of account execs focused on large corporate prospects. What was it about the pairs that determined success?

·         Pairs with different working behaviors successfully divided work between relationship and tasks, detail and high level, aggressive and thoughtful tactics. They were always able to adapt to their prospects.

·         Pairs with similar working behaviors competed for activities and often “got in the way of each other” trying to accomplish the same goals in the same way. They also had “blind spots” that prevented them from connecting with different types of prospects.

In your teams, you may not think you want behaviors that potentially drive conflict, but if you look past the short-term hurdle, you’ll see the long-term success that’s possible by embracing the opposing poles.

Adrian Wood
Co-Founder, Shadowmatch USA

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Right Answer, Wrong Approach

As a tenured leader in your organization, it comes as no surprise that you have all the right answers.  And if you were promoted into management from within, chances are you're known for your ability to solve problems for your team.  They bring you the issue, you tell them how to fix it, all is right with the world.


Your team isn't developing.

Think of the child who needs his shoe laces tied.  When he's a toddler, an adult does if for him.  But at some point before he starts school, they begins to encourage him to try it himself, coaching him on different approaches, until one magical day, it all comes together and he's doing it "All by myself!".

If your employees line up at your door each day with the latest challenges, it's probably because that's what you've taught them to do.  Because it's the fastest way to solution.  Because you have the experience and they don't.  Because that way you stay informed of what problems they're facing.  Because they need you.

We all need leaders, coaches and mentors.  But if your approach to leadership is telling and solving, your organization is missing out on all that your team has to offer.

Try the coach approach.  Ask for their ideas, talk about the possible results, allow them to try, keep an open mind, and eventually you can shift the responsibility of problem solving to your employees.

Be known as the leader whose whole team has the right answers, because their leader uses the right approach.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Co-Creating Your Team's Formula for Success

Looking for ideas to get your team engaged? Try some formula work.

Word formulas combine concepts to create a definition for success. Co-creating that definition as a team is a unifying experience.

Here are a few examples:

Awareness + Shift = Clarity
     Experience + Awareness = Understanding
          Efficiency + Effectiveness = Productivity
               Focus + Action = Results
                    Result + Growth = Accomplishment
                         Discipline + Structure = Sustainability

Formulas need not be kept to just two or three components, but in general, the simpler the better. 

Reasons to use formulas:
  • To clarify the pathway form one point to another. 
  • To provide an easily remembered equation for success. 
  • To help the team visualize the steps involved to solve a problem. 
  • To provide a simple focusing tool to guide a conversation. 
  • To get the team on the same page.
So whether you're interested in the definition of success for Service, Innovation, or even Teamwork itself, co-creating a word formula with your team is a great starting point. And like so many things, the magic might be less about the final destination than it is about the journey you took to get there.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Use Vacation to Fuel Innovation

Looking for more innovation from your team? Upcoming summer vacations can help.

Or more specifically, the days immediately following vacation. Brain research indicates that we're more capable of having an "aha moment" after a period of mental rest, like time spent away from the office.

What's on your work calendar when you get back from a break? Lots of catch-up time is the most common answer. Checking in on what you missed while you were away, taking the baton from whoever was covering during your absence, and hitting the ground running. This is no different for your team.  Their first priority is getting back up to speed to re-enter the fray.

David Rock, co-founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute, says this is a waste of a clear mind.

In his book, "Your Brain at Work", he shares research by Stellan Ohisson that explores how we need to stop thinking about a problem one way before a new solution can emerge. "When facing a new problem, people apply strategies that worked in prior experiences." "But as long as your prior approach has the highest level of activation, you will get more refined variations of the same approach but nothing genuinely new comes to the fore."

Genuinely New = Innovation

Your brain is hot wired for innovation after a break. 

What if the first day back from vacation wasn't used to get back up to speed. What if day one was devoted instead to innovation. We're back at work, but not the work of our day-to-day tasks and short term projects. Instead, we're at work creating the future, thinking big, finding new solutions. With the right planning and teamwork, the emails can wait until day two, even day three.

You're the leader, you could make this a part of your team's norm. Talk about it, plan it, schedule it, try it, measure it, and talk about it some more. But get moving - vacations are right around the corner.

Here's to your team's Summer of Innovation.  

You can read more about David's recommendations about using a fresh mind to tackle big challenges in his  blog post "Back From A Vacation? Don't Waste Your Clear Mind."on Psychology Today.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Day The Chicken Crossed the Road...And Knocked On Our Front Door

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Apparently to get helping finding her way home.

My first post on this blog was about our red front door.  Our neighbor's chicken is the first to take us up on its traditional meaning - "a safe place to stay for a weary traveler".

Lucky The Chicken lives, literally, right across the road from us.  A few weeks ago, she flew the coop.  Her owners told us later that they looked and looked for her to no avail, and so she spent a few cold nights outside (we still had snow on the ground).

Until she came knocking at our front door.  She had walked through the snow to our front porch and was flitting around, bumping up against the window and the door.  Our two cats found this to be fabulously entertaining and were perched on the window sills watching when I went to the door to see what all the ruckus was all about.

When I opened the door, Lucky looked up at me expectantly as if to say, "So, are we just going to stand here or are you going to invite me in?".

She was clearly happy to be inside and out of the cold, settling right in as we carried her around (up and away from the curious cats).  We left a message for our neighbors, and they came over later to collect her.  Lucky departed clucking quietly and safely tucked away under the arm of her owner.  She's welcome to visit again any time.

When we painted the door red, we would never have predicted that the traveler in need would be a fine feathered friend.  It's a good lesson in being open minded about who needs your help.  Any chance someone in your office you'd never expect could use your assistance?  If you create a "red door" culture, you could be pleasantly surprised about who takes you up on it.

And as to another age old question, which came first the chicken or the egg?  The chicken came first, the eggs were delivered later as a thank you gift from the neighbors.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Asking the Right Question

"But what do I say?"  This from my daughter, a middle school student who is rarely at a loss for words.  She had just discovered her grades were lower than she thought in one of her classes, and had agreed to go talk with her teacher about it.

One of the core development programs offered for business leaders teaches us to "move to the other person's box".  In other words, get out of your own space.  Try to understand where the other person is coming from, what matters to them, what situation they're in.

I shifted my perspective from parent to teacher.  What should she say?

Here's the plan we developed together:

  • Do your homework first.  She claimed to have studied, but was still getting answers wrong on her quizzes.  Before going to her teacher, she should compare her notes to the quizzes.  If the answers weren't there, she either wasn't taking good notes or she wasn't studying some other resource that she needed to know about. 
  • Don't triangulate.  Mom and Dad were going to stay out of it and let her attempt to resolve it on her own.  If that was not successful, we could always get involved directly later.  
  • Timing matters.  Ask for a separate meeting, not the last 3 minutes of class when the teacher has a line of students at their desk and is trying to get organized for the next period.  
  • Show your work.  Begin the conversation with her concern and the research she'd already put into it.  This would demonstrate ownership as well as speed along the conversation.   
  • Make the request.  And, as happens so many times, the wording of this request was critical.  We went back and forth on it, and decided that what she really needed to ask was:  "What can I do differently in the future to improve my performance?".  It was proactive and once again showed ownership, of both the problem and the solution.

It was a successful meeting.  Turns out she was taking all the notes, but not organizing them properly, and thus not associating the information correctly.  She's feeling very optimistic about being able to make the changes and seeing better scores on her next quiz.

And as it turns out, her approach impressed the teacher.  He told her he had never had a student come to him and ask what they could do differently going forward.  The typical question was "How do I fix this?", which is really a request to reinvent history, to get around the system somehow with an exception.

Even when people come to us with the wrong question or the wrong approach, if we're open to it, it can be a teaching moment.  And when they do get it right, say so and show your appreciation.

Feeling appreciative today for a teacher who told my daughter that she asked the right question to get the best answer.  


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Daniel Pink on the Skill of Influence

Influence is a hot topic in leadership development.  For C level executive, it's the ability to get support from the board, business partners, and investors.   For mid to senior level leaders, it's frequently referred to as being able to "lead across the organization".     

When brought to an executive coach it might sound like:  "I need help with influence where I don't have authority."  or "I want to be more successful getting buy-in from my peers." or even "People don't respect me/respond to me/follow me.".  

In Daniel H. Pink's new book, "To Sell Is Human", he calls it the ability to move people.  The title of the book will attract those working in sales, marketing, and consulting.  However, the thought leadership he shares in regard to the skill of influence should make it a must-read for any leader looking to improve his/her abilities in this key area.  

The basic premise of this book is that we all spend our days trying to move others, and thus we are all in sales.  This holds true whether we are leaders pitching colleagues, parents and teachers cajoling kids, not-for profit volunteers doing fundraising, or salespeople closing the deal.  Moving others means trying to persuade others to part with resources - money, time, attention, efforts, ideas/opinions - to exchange something they value for what we are offering.    

The book is an easy read, and combines new research with existing studies from well known and respected experts (many of whom I've recommended in previous blog posts).  My favorite aspect of the book are the sample cases.  They offer quick exercises to build skills in the areas of Attunement, Buoyancy, Clarity (his proposed new ABC's of selling), Pitch, Improvise, and Serve - all of which improve our ability to move/influence others.

You can hear Dan talk about the research that went into his new book in this RSA podcast from February 26, 2013 in London, England.  He has the most viewed RSA Animate video of all time (Drive).  Keeping my  fingers crossed they strike gold again with an animation of his latest work.  In the meantime, the book is worth adding to your management library.