Help us find out what makes a great leadership team in Australian workplaces.
Help us find out what makes a great leadership team in Australian workplaces.
You may have heard us eagerly discussing the diagnosis, design and development of better organisational culture.
What we really relish is not just the talk but helping to map the current state and plan what needs to be done to reach a desired future culture.
Susan had the pleasure of working with the CHOICE team on their journey. Check out what they did, as told by Jessica Hill, Director, People & Culture at CHOICE:
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” a phrase attributed to management guru Peter Drucker.
Organisational culture is so very important, it’s one of the main reasons that people leave an organisation and why they’re drawn to a new one. Culture is often hard to describe, although when it’s not quite right it becomes clear very quickly.
At CHOICE we’ve spent a number of years focusing on employee engagement. This has been a comprehensive approach with feedback loops and dedicated action that’s led to a highly engaged workforce. But engagement isn’t all-encompassing. There are aspects within an organisation’s culture that don’t typically surface when looking solely at employee engagement. It was this realisation that led us to focus on our culture in 2016.
How do you define culture?
Initially we loosely defined culture as the “way we do things around here”, recognising that this takes into account the values and beliefs that shape our organisation. There are some other good definitions:
“Organisational culture is defined as the shared values, norms and expectations that govern the way people approach their work and interact with each other. In other words it’s “what am I expected to do in order to fit in and get ahead here.” Mike Gourlay, Director, Human Synergistics
“Culture does not change because we desire to change it. Culture changes when the organization is transformed; the culture reflects the realities of people working together every day.” Frances Hesselbein
To identify and map our culture we found a simple and effective tool in Dave Gray’s culture map.
This map allowed us to take stock of the behaviours we were seeing and the enablers and blockers that were influencing those behaviours. It also highlighted the outcomes that they all contributed to.
Mapping culture while balancing rigour
The CHOICE culture is built on rigour, so these culture workshops with post-it notes did seem a little vague to some of our teams. We looked to validate some of the behaviours that we collectively agreed were present in our culture. We then asked leaders to complete a Harrison Assessment facilitated and debriefed by Susan Rochester from Balance at Work . We analysed the group’s collective Harrison data and compared it with what we identified in the workshops. This gave us a mark-in-time view of our current culture.
Mapping our aspirational or future culture
With a new strategy underway, we wanted to understand what our future or aspirational culture looked like. This is the culture that would allow us to deliver our strategy. We again used a collaborative approach to define our future culture using Dave Gray’s culture map. We came away with an agreed future state, with three key aspirations:
1. A collective understanding of the strategic direction
2. A learning organisation
3. An improving organisation
What does the future hold for culture at CHOICE?
Culture is constantly moving while we’ve mapped our current and future culture, they’ll be forever evolving.
What did this achieve?
We’ve also worked with fantastic coaches Susan Rochester and Dr Sean Richardson to help us shift to where we need to be. We’ve started with organisational communication and looked at ‘possibility’ conversations. While we have a united organisational purpose, this focus has shown us that individual team purposes haven’t yet been clearly articulated.
Where to next?
We’re moving into another strategic planning process. As part of this process, we’ve embedded a focus on culture as a key determinant in the success of the new strategy.
CEB/Gartner research from 2017 found organisations with strong cultures do two things really well:
Have you thought about mapping or measuring your culture?
For most people, giving negative feedback is the last thing they want to do – but if you do it badly it causes pain on both sides.
The point of giving negative feedback is to create a change in behaviour to improve performance. If you fail to deliver the feedback effectively, you will fail to meet this objective.
There are five common ways managers and supervisors fail at giving negative feedback.
Know what they are and what to do to avoid them, and you can avoid the consequences of feedback failure.
A lot of people just want to get the act of giving negative feedback over with as quickly as possible.
This means that you may go into the conversation unprepared, and there won’t be enough time for adequate conversation.
If you rush, the person on the receiving end may just wonder ‘what just happened?’.
If they can’t ask questions or explain the situation from their perspective, it’s far less likely they will be able to act on your feedback.
One of the guaranteed ways to diminish the impact of feedback is by waiting too long to express it.
If you hold onto criticism for too long it has a way of festering, and by the time you get around to giving it the party on the other end of it may end up bewildered or shocked by the magnitude of it.
Remember, they may be completely oblivious to the fact that they’ve done anything wrong.
Rather than providing your team member with guidance, you are more likely to create a defensive reaction.
What to do instead:
By doing this, you will have the comfort of getting it off your mind, and the other person gets feedback at a time when they can reasonably do something about the issue.
Feedback given in the heat of the moment is more than likely to fail in its objective.
You may also find you get an emotional reaction from the other person, resulting in an escalation.
Feedback given in these conditions won’t help anyone. Nor will it improve employee motivation, engagement or performance.
What to do instead:
Sometimes it’s tempting to give negative feedback to a person for a reason that’s not relevant to the situation at hand.
It might be because you’re not getting what you want from one person but rather than addressing the issue with them, you take it up with someone else.
Or it may be that you’ve chosen to focus your attention on what appears to be an easy problem rather than one that will be tougher to solve.
In both cases, the stress you’re under could cause you to stop thinking clearly, causing you to choose the wrong target for your feedback.
What to do instead:
Of all possible feedback you can give, the most useless will be feedback that doesn’t lead to the changes you’re seeking.
For feedback to be useful, it has to be within the power of the person receiving the feedback to act on it.
Can you imagine how it would make someone feel if you give them negative feedback and they can’t do anything to change the situation?
What to do instead:
For feedback to be successful, it must be timely, prepared and rational.
Take your time and do your research. Most of all, be prepared to be open to other interpretations of the problem.
Then you’ll have the best chance of your feedback achieving your objectives instead of failing to be heard.
This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.
Changing your business culture is one of the hardest things to do – and buying into myths about the process can make it so much tougher.
As a concept, ‘culture’ can be held up as the foundation of progressive thinking and innovation within a business – or cop the rap when things go wrong. It’s not easy to nail exactly what culture is, which makes it difficult to measure.
Culture change seems to be the flavour of the day in management, and everybody has their own spin on how to manage it.
But before deciding to launch into a period of change in your business, make sure you’re not buying into any hype.
So what are the myths about culture change?
There are other causes of poor performance and discontent.
While not denying the huge impact culture can have, don’t assume that it’s at the heart of every problem.
Instead, consider alternatives and do your research before launching into culture change.
What if the cause has less to do with your culture and more to do with your processes? Here are just a few examples:
TIP: Analyse the problem before blaming ‘culture’
So let’s say that after analysing the problems in your business, you’ve come to the conclusion that you do need to change the culture.
Never assume that you and your employees are on the same page about this.
Even a culture that outsiders would describe as toxic can be invisible to employees who have adapted to it over time.
Don’t assume that because you see the signs that culture needs to change that your team has seen them too. You may need to persuade them of the need to change.
TIP: Collect evidence.
Some people love change. Others hate it. They may also hold well-founded fears about the unknown future.
Those who resist change, especially if they’re influential in the business, could derail your efforts to change culture before you even begin.
If you don’t take steps to make them feel safe, they will never support the change.
TIP: Address fear.
There’s nothing easy about changing the culture of a business.
Think of it as a journey from one place to another with many different options for routes, directions, start and end points, and modes of transport – all while conducting business as usual.
The culture you have in your business evolved gradually.
It won’t be changing overnight just because you’ve decided it needs to.
TIP: Plan for the long haul.
By falling for any of these myths, you can start destroying a culture you intended to improve.
It’s counter-productive to point the finger at your team’s performance without addressing the underlying problems of processes, resources or skills.
Until you have clear, convincing evidence that the culture in your business needs to improve it will be hard to engage others in the change project.
Even then, success is only likely if you understand the potential challenges and have plans to address them.
Always keep your eyes open and proceed with extreme caution down the culture-change road. Seek expert advice before you start to avoid the predictable detours and delays that lie ahead.
This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.
Once upon a time I believed to be successful in business, I needed to look, act and think in a corporate way. That was a mistake.
It didn’t come naturally but I tried to live up to it anyway.
On more than one occasion the disconnect between who I thought I was expected to be and who I was led to disastrous consequences for the business.
I didn’t deliver my best work, and I wasn’t invited back. A hard lesson learnt.
Over the years my beliefs and behaviour have changed. Here are some reasons why.
My company, Balance at Work, exists to help people find more joy in their work. That includes joy for me and my team too.
Business for us is always ‘human to human’.
It’s not B2B or B2C.
If we were more corporate, we’d be attracting people who value a corporate attitude and approach more than we value those things.
Working with them might benefit us financially, but how could it bring us more joy?
Organisations and individuals looking for the services we provide face a vast array of pre-packaged options, but we want to be more than just another standard option.
But we’re not different just for the sake of difference.
We’ll tell clients what we really think. We’ll also tell them if we don’t think we’re a good fit for them.
Recently, I was planning a leadership development project with the MD of a long-standing, successful organisation in financial services.
When he told me they pride themselves on being ‘non-corporate’, I knew I was in the right place.
We stand out because of who we are and what we do, not because of who we think you want us to be.
Being corporate goes against our purpose, our ‘why’.
There are business suits in my wardrobe, but I rarely wear them. I also don’t wear heels because I don’t like them. Or make-up. Or dye my hair.
Not one of these things gives me joy, and I’m fortunate to have choices.
Could you make choices that better reflect who you are? Here are some suggestions.
The biggest benefit will be that you’ll get to spend more of your time working with people whose company you actually enjoy.
Trying to be something you’re not creates an artificial barrier that pushes people away.
Your discomfort feeds their discomfort, and you don’t get the chance to know them. Build generous connections instead.
You can learn to love rejection. Really!
Be grateful if you lose a client because you’re not corporate enough for them. If you’re anything like me, that relationship wasn’t going to work anyway.
Appreciate the learning and move on.What has being less corporate meant for our business?
Remember: You don’t have to be ‘corporate’ to be professional, and by being true to yourself you’ll find more joy in your work.
This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.
You’ve probably seen all sorts of things about the benefits of building an agile culture – but wanting one and building one are two very different things.
An organisation with an agile culture would be a place where:
If culture is ‘the way we do things around here’ then changing what we do – becoming more agile – will usually mean changing the culture.
Whether that happens by accident or design is up to leadership.
Whenever there’s a mismatch between new initiatives and the existing culture, the culture usually wins.
What needs to change will depend on both your organisation’s interpretations of agile and on your existing culture.
The more clarity you have on these concepts, the better chance you have of succeeding.
It’s about clearly articulating what agile is and how it will benefit the organisation.
To ignore this communication will create friction and misunderstanding that takes the focus off the customer outcomes you hoped to achieve through introducing agile.
Just undertaking ‘agile’ activities such as stand-up meetings, sprints and retrospectives won’t magically turn your culture into an agile one.
Those are simply tools which are symptoms of an agile culture rather than the cause of an agile culture.
As such, there’s no set roadmap to agile culture. It’s about building a culture and a mindset which results in behaviours — the tools and processes will follow.
To start your organisation’s agile journey, ask the following questions:
While agile works within looser structures, there should still be structure in the way you approach culture implementation.
The perfectly agile culture – like perfection – probably doesn’t exist.
Instead, aim for a culture where the right thing happens most of the time and for the right reasons.
Be prepared to experiment.
If something you try doesn’t work, admit it and move on.
It’s up to leadership to set the tone and direction. In doing so, be careful with the language you use. Your goal is to create a shared understanding, not to confuse.
When we work with clients to define and design culture, we use the culture map process.
This tool helps organisations identify the behaviours and levers (enablers and blockers) that influence the outcomes they get.
To design your new agile culture, look first at the outcomes you want, then the behaviours that will support them.
Once this context is defined, the challenge is to acknowledge and deal with the blockers that currently exist, be they values, attitudes or processes.
If you were to use the 12 agile principles as the basis for building an agile culture, you would
Applying the agile principles to culture change results in an iterative process of continuous improvement and learning.
This approach requires transparency and accountability. It also relies on a willingness to admit when something isn’t working and move on.
Culture is a mysterious and constantly evolving creature.
You can analyse, poke and prod it but ultimately – as with everything else in business and life – your success comes down to the people involved.
Culture change is not easy.
If being more agile is your aim, then as a leader it’s up to you to make choices about what needs to be done, then to clearly communicate why.
All professionals depend on the trust of their clients, and unfortunately when clients lose trust it takes a long time to get it back. So how do you avoid losing the faith of your clients in the first place?
Trust is the thing which makes a client want your advice, pay for it and follow it.
It’s a fundamental bedrock of a business relationship, but much like termites eating a structure from within you may not know you’re losing trust with your clients until it’s too late.
Many of the things we do to lose trust with clients, we do unwittingly. We’re only human, after all.
But there are things you can do to recognise and, more importantly, rectify faltering trust before it’s too late.
Here are some warning signs to look for in your business if you want to avoid losing clients or gaining a bad reputation.
You’re probably familiar with the expression ‘the plumber with a leaky tap’. It’s up to you to make sure it doesn’t apply to your business – even if you aren’t a plumber.
Is there anything your clients pay you to do for them that you don’t get right in your own business?
If you’re an accountant, are the invoices and statements you send your clients 100 percent accurate?
If you’re a graphic designer, is your branding constantly updated and appealing? If you’re an HR consultant are your internal staff management processes best practice?
None of us is perfect, and mistakes happen, but your attitude to your core business activities will reflect the quality your clients expect in the work you do for them.
Would you be happy to put your accounts in the hands of the accountant who sends you inaccurate bills?
A recent survey found the following occupations were rated as ‘very high’ or ‘high’ for ethics and honesty by just 25 percent or less of the Australian population: Car Sales; Advertising; Real Estate; Insurance Broking; Stockbroking; Politics; Journalism; Financial Planning.
They’re all seen as jobs that can be lacking in substance – where style and profile is put ahead of providing value to clients.
Are you someone who puts a lot of effort into presentation, branding and profile?
On their own, there’s nothing wrong with putting effort into those areas – but if it’s not matched by a commitment to deliver value for clients then you risk eroding the trust of your clients.
How you present yourself and your business will have less impact than how you behave when it comes to clients’ trust levels.
Without clients, your business doesn’t exist.
There’s no value in what you sell – products or services – unless you have a paying customer.
That’s why the customer is always the most important part of your business.
You may believe this, but do you and all your team act according to your belief?
Look at your business from a client’s perspective.
If you were a client of your business, would you know you were more important than anyone else? Or, would you feel the business has other priorities more important than your own?
Some banks, telcos and retailers are notorious for ignoring the importance of customers and putting their own interests first. You can no doubt think of your own examples.
How far would you trust them to look after you? Be careful you’re not going down the same path.
Is it time to do a ‘trust audit’ of your business?
Killing the business you love involves mistakes, misdemeanours and stunning failure brought about by business owners who didn’t know their limitations – so how do you avoid similar pitfalls?
Often it’s the step from entrepreneur to a public listing and becoming accountable to a board and shareholders that brings people undone.
Often SMEs fail to thrive or just fail completely because their founder fails to recognise that what got them to where they are is not what will get them to where they want to be.
As owners and CEOs they can be slowly, without realising it, kill a thing they love: their business
Each stage of the business life cycle requires a different type of leadership.
Innovators who have a vision or have spotted an opportunity are the reason a business exists and the best leaders for the earliest stages of business.
They have passion and perseverance, and because the team is usually small, their contagious enthusiasm will power the business.
Sales are the most important driver once the business is launched successfully, so the leader at this stage has to be committed to growing market share and revenue.
Sometimes the initial enthusiasm that created the product or service is enough to do this – but a business can get into complications because the business owner is more committed to the product than growing the business.
At this point, it’s essential to build an effective management team and generate scale based on the success of the previous stage.
Leaders at this stage need the skills not just to grow the business but build the structure, systems and processes required to deliver on the promise of even greater growth.
It’s at this stage that many entrepreneurs lose interest, confirming the importance of having a good management team in place.
A business that has successfully grown its market share is now ready to strategically expand into new products, services, markets or niches.
The leaders now have the dual role of looking outward to explore new opportunities, while simultaneously ensuring internal governance stays on track.
This stage requires a high level of tolerance for complexity along with strategic acumen.
Business at this stage is all about protecting an asset.
A leader will do best to focus on consolidation and cost containment. While some refining of the operations and offer will continue, this is not the time for drastic innovation and ongoing change.
While it’s important not to slip into stagnation, leaders at this stage are required to provide stability and confidence.
It’s tempting to think we can lead our business through each of these growth stages.
Crises often mark the transition between growth stages, and they’re a great way of alerting us to the need to change or make changes.
An effective leader knows how to deal with the challenges that arise.
In any business, not just startups, it’s often when a technically competent manager assumes responsibility for running a team that we notice them struggling.
The challenge of motivating a team to love your business as much as you do can be hard. A leader can learn to manage and motivate people.
It’s often only the recognition that they need to learn that stands in the way.
The bigger the business, the higher the responsibility for the people in charge to know what’s happening with the finances.
As a business grows, it’s no longer sufficient for one individual to keep track of the bank balance.
Knowing what your numbers mean, accessing adequate funding, having competent staff and a great accountant make all the difference.
For a business to thrive, it needs reliable, scalable, flexible systems and processes, including financial systems.
It’s the leadership’s responsibility to ensure systems are understood and used. The goal is to build an organisation where others complete the bulk of decisions and tasks without your input.
That way, the business will be able to meet demand as it grows, but taking your hands off the wheel can be a challenge.
My experiences as a business coach and mentor have shown me that for most entrepreneurs this is the most difficult step.
Are you willing to make the changes you need to make to lead your business not just to survive but thrive?
Management trends can come and go, and a few can even re-emerge after lying in wait. One idea to re-emerge in recent times is accountability. The buck needs to stop somewhere.
Slowly, organisations have started to re-invent the concept of accountability.
The result was a more consultative style of leadership, combined with an expectation that all team members will be intrinsically motivated by the goals of the organisation and their own work ethic.
However, while those are worthy ideas I’ve seen the pendulum swing too far from the ‘command and control’ style of management to the consultative, where everybody gets a say.
Now it’s starting to edge its way back to a happy medium, where organisations have started to realise they still need their managers to lead people effectively to reach their strategic objectives.
You can’t just fill employees with a central purpose and let them go.
Instead, knowing what’s expected of employees by their manager and getting regular feedback on progress is driving employee engagement.
Invariably, that means accountability.
Research by Gallup shows that employees want to know what’s expected of them – so how do you keep people accountable without micromanaging them?
Note the use of ‘decide’, not ‘consult’ or ‘agree’.
There is a place for collaboration on goal formation because it increases engagement, but at some point a manager needs to make decisions and provide direction.
This, after all, is why you’re the boss.
Whether you work to OKRs, KPIs, KRAs, SMART goals or another acronym, is irrelevant.
Your team needs to know the outcome they’re meant to produce and it needs to make sense to them.
Your role as manager is to clearly articulate the desired outcomes and inspire your team to achieve them.
Confusion and anxiety can be paralysing.
If your team doesn’t have some general guidelines about how they are expected to operate, you can waste a lot of time getting to your destination.
Guardrails may prevent your staff veering onto a path that won’t lead to the outcome you want, swerving into a ditch of overwhelm or ploughing unwelcome into other people’s special projects.
Where are the guardrails?
Look to your company values, policies and strategic direction and make sure they are clearly understood.
You can decide how wide or narrow you set the guardrails, but don’t forget about them. Crashing into something because you’ve ignored its existence will still hurt.
Imagine a business as a highway.
A manager may assume that a team may travel on the best route available if they know the destination they’re trying to reach – but of course it rarely works that way.
Instead of assuming smooth motoring all the way, I suggest using an early-warning system of trouble ahead.
The best way to do this is to hold regular one to one meetings with everyone on your team.
The meetings can be quick and simple, or you may choose to use a program like 15Five to make them even more efficient.
Your meetings need only to consist of your own version of the following questions:
The last question is your opportunity to coach your team member in the moment on whatever issue arises.
Don’t feel tempted to take over a task that’s challenging them. Instead, ask questions to help them find their own solution.
The checkpoints exist to help you build trusting relationships, not just to check for obstacles on the route to your destination.
When fear of being a micromanager causes a leader to take their hands off the wheel, they can leave their teams bewildered and lost.
Activity will still happen, but it may not always produce the results the organisation needs.
Holding people accountable in a modern workplace is not about putting them on tram tracks where they must stick to a set way of doing things and depend on signals from you for their every move.
Instead, with a combination of clear direction, guardrails and checkpoints, you will reach your destination sooner with engaged and productive staff.
Many businesses set goals, but don’t know how to measure their progress against them – and that’s a problem.
Goal setting is generally important, but in too many instances business goals are made vague – such as ‘I want to improve my revenue’.
If you improve your revenue by $1, does that mean your goal is hit?
Instead, I’ve advised clients to use SMART goals.
These are goals that are:
Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Resourced and Time-framed.
Take this SMART goal from US President John F Kennedy:
“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”
I should note that this speech was a plea to Congress to fund the project, so while it didn’t qualify as ‘resourced’ the goal was ultimately achieved with the moon landing in July 1969.
Such is the power of a SMART goal.
Our business goals may not be as ambitious as JFK’s goal above, but they have an equal chance of achievement if we know how to convert them to action.
What needs to be done to move you closer to this goal? Here are some of the possible options:
Then break each option you choose into tasks you and your team can start to work on right away.
For example, to “make more sales” you may:
Following the process above, you will have a list of tasks under multiple headings that may seem overwhelming.
As you look at your list, natural links between tasks will become obvious.
For example, it seems reasonable that making more sales calls and having more meetings would be ongoing tasks and can be started right away.
Developing new products, changing your marketing strategy or outsourcing may take longer.
Anyone who has been in business for a while will know that these types of tasks are never-ending and always evolving as you grow your business.
Having a SMART goal to keep you on track is what ensures the tasks are all leading to something and not happening for their own sake.
Once you’ve decided what needs to be done, then it’s time to answer the ‘by whom’ part of the equation.
Focus on your goal and what needs to happen to get you there; don’t cherry-pick tasks in isolation because they are easy.
If you miss the step of allocation for every single task on your list, I guarantee if you do achieve your goal it will be more through good luck than good management.
A natural progression will, hopefully, have become obvious for most of the tasks, where you can see that for B to happen, A has to be complete and you can schedule them accordingly.
Other tasks will be daily, weekly or monthly.
Consider a desire to increase revenue by 25 percent in the next financial year.
This is a project which can made of up several sub-projects. Underneath that is a series of tasks, each with a due date.
We keep track of our tasks and projects with Asana, one of the many simple online tools available.
For client-based sales tasks, we keep track in OnePageCRM, again one of many options available now.
If you’re not sure where to start, try imagining that you’ve already reach the end.
Imagine what the last action you could have taken before you got there, and then write that down.
Don’t overthink or even believe that these steps are possible — you are simply working your way back to where you are today.
It’s worth trying a new way of thinking when you feel stuck because while you’re stuck, you’re not taking action.
Losing an employee is the most obvious indicator of engagement in your organisation – so how do you know one is on the way out before it happens?
A recent figure from Gallup show that only 34 percent of workers in the US are actively engaged in their jobs. Other studies put the figure even lower.
Historically, the figures for Australia and New Zealand have been around five points lower than the US.
In the decade or so that I’ve been writing and speaking about employee engagement, the proportions of engaged, disengaged and actively disengaged employees have remained remarkably steady at around 30 percent, 40 percent and 30 percent respectively.
What does this mean for you?
It means there’s a good chance you have in your business right now people who are getting ready to move on.
They may be already looking for another role (actively disengaged), or they may be waiting for a reason to leave (disengaged).
In both cases, it helps if you can read the signals they’re putting out and take appropriate action.
Here are the most obvious signs that you might be about to lose someone.
Poor attendance or work errors from an otherwise dedicated and attentive employee are two big warning signs!
Sometimes these changes are temporary, and you can adjust for a short time. When it reaches the stage where you’re wondering why, don’t be afraid to ask.
In any workplace, there will always be people who are less likely to speak up in meetings and share their ideas.
It may be that your leadership and culture encourage working this way and it suits your organisation.
What you need to notice here is someone who is now quiet and withdrawn when they previously contributed to discussions and were enthusiastic about the goals of the organisation.
If you do notice this, have a quiet chat with them as soon as possible to check in on what is going on for them.
One of our clients recently had a team member who showed both of the signs above for quite a while before their unreasonable demands rang the alarm bells with management.
If you have someone asking for extra leave, more money or other conditions above and beyond their entitlements and your standards, it’s a pretty clear sign that they’re not happy and they’re testing what it’s worth for you to have them stay.
Never ignore them in the hope they will go away!
Instead, it’s time for you to decide what to do next.
Your action plan will depend on where the team member sits on the spectrum from ‘star performer’ to ‘better off without’.
Considering the cost to the organisation of losing a star performer, now is the time to have an honest discussion with this person.
If they’re definitely on their way out, you’re then in a good position to plan the transition.
Unless you have reliable and detailed evidence of the pay and conditions in their new role, don’t be tempted to make a counter-offer. Even if you do decide that’s the best action for you to take, be aware that most staff departures are rarely just for the money.
Experience shows they will still move on. You may have delayed them leaving and bought some breathing space.
If you can buy them back with a higher offer, the next offer that comes along and tops yours will be even more attractive to them.
While you probably hope anyone who’s thinking of leaving will be honest with you about their intentions, sometimes it will be hard for them to tell you.
Sometimes they may not know themselves.
What they do know is that they don’t care that much anymore about the work or the organisation. By being able to read the early warning signs you have an opportunity to find out why and to avoid a potentially damaging situation.
One common complaint we hear from managers about their staff is that there’s a lack of teamwork – but it can be taught.
It’s almost as if they think teamwork is some secret, magical quality their staff are lacking.
Perhaps they think there’s a wand we can wave and teamwork will miraculously appear.
I like to take a more practical approach.
There are certainly personality traits that enable people to play well together, like having a preference for collaboration.
Being productive requires more than a will to collaborate, however.
Before you form a new team or hire a new team member, take the time to consider how they’ll contribute as well as how they’ll fit in.
For example, you might have the brightest mind in your field on the team, but if they’re intimidated by others and don’t speak up, they may as well not be there.
Can you name many sporting teams that have succeeded with a poor captain?
As the leader, you set the tone for the team both regarding how they behave towards each other and the wider world.
You also give them direction, so they know what they need to achieve. They’ll also look to you to model how they can be productive.
If setting the context and giving the team a vision of what winning will look like feels too hard, it could be because you have the wrong team. Or it could be time to work on your skills.
There’s no better way to develop skills than by using them, as long as you are open to feedback and learning.
Isn’t sharing your learning a great opportunity to model appropriate behaviour for your team?
To function well, have healthy interactions and be as productive as possible, your team needs to feel safe and supported.
They also need to be held accountable.
This TEDx talk by Amy Edmonson provides insights into the importance of providing both psychological safety and accountability for your team.
This is when the magic happens. But it won’t happen if you try to micromanage the process or control the outcomes.
As a manager, you now need to step back and let the team get on with the work you’ve selected and guided them to do.
Some managers make the mistake of assuming they can go straight to this step.
If you think that way, I can tell you that back-tracking to fill in the gaps you’ve missed by not choosing wisely or showing leadership can be arduous and painful.
It’s the bread and butter of our consulting practice, so you can believe me when I say it’ll cost you a lot more time and money than you saved by assuming all would be well without your input in the early stages.
I’m sure most of us have had the experience of sitting in a team meeting thinking there are so many better ways we could be using our time.
Either our talents are not being utilised or we don’t know what we’re supposed to achieve — or both.
That sense of futility is a sign that the secrets above have not been applied.
Sometimes the elusive ‘teamwork’ just happens like magic. More often, it takes work to have a great team.