Tag Archives: team

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Seven key questions to ask about your team

 

Do you have your ‘dream team’ working happily and productively in your business or your department?  Perhaps you feel there’s still room for improvement.  Below are seven questions to help you identify the gaps in your team’s effectiveness, with ‘best practice tips’ for your consideration.

1.       Do we know what we’re trying to achieve?

Does everyone on your team understand the strategic plan and how the team’s successes (and failures) impact the achievement of the organisation’s goals?  How involved were they in setting the goals of your team?  Could they explain the goals to others?

Include the team in planning and clearly communicate how the team’s performance will contribute to the organisational goals.

2.       Is every team member committed to our joint goals?

You will know the answer to this question through observation and questioning.  Having a common goal is not enough in itself to ensure success, commitment is also required.  Sometimes lack of commitment can be due to a clash between the goal and the individual’s expectations.

Check in with your team members that the goals are consistent with their personal values and aspirations.

3.       How likely are we to achieve our goals?

Do you have the best combination of competencies for what you’re trying to achieve?  If not, how will you add these resources – through training, outsourcing or hiring?  Have you set clear expectations for both work performance and behaviour within the team?

Build teams for future as well as current needs.

4.       Do we understand and value our individual strengths?

Do you know in detail the experience, skills and talents of each team member? Are they respected for their specialist knowledge? Do they get an opportunity to use their strengths?

Delegate tasks and responsibilities to individuals in their field of expertise to give them a chance to shine.

5.       Do we communicate well?

Does the team leader effectively and appropriately share relevant information in a timely manner.  Does every team member get to express their opinion in an environment of respect and openness?

Introduce practices, such as meeting agendas, that allow all members of the team to contribute without feeling threatened.

6.       Are we all willing to lend a helping hand?

Is there a spirit of cooperation, with team members going out of their way (and outside their designated roles) to get the work done to achieve your team objectives?  Are team members happy to collaborate and share information and resources?

As with communication, a good team leader will model the behaviour that is expected from the rest of the team.

7.       Are we having fun?

Work is work and it can’t always be a party, but if people genuinely enjoy the work they do and the company of their team, you will achieve a lot more.

Celebrate your successes and when things go wrong, avoid blaming others.

What do you think?

Reflecting on these questions may have prompted some thoughts about how to improve your team.  Don’t let them be lost! 

Your next step is to decide on what actions you can take and plan how you will implement those actions.  Write it down, share your ideas and ask for help from both inside and outside your team.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Two surprising reasons for poor performance

Sometimes a person or team just isn’t achieving, even though their skills, knowledge and experience indicate they should be doing well.

What’s going on?

Often, the answer is deceptively simple. By taking time to diagnose the reason, you will be in a better position to fix poor performance – fast!

1. Don’t know

– what’s expected, what’s important, where to start, how to start…

Some possible reasons and solutions:

  • Too short a time in the job – address the ‘don’t know’ factors
  • Too long in the job – consider other options

2. Don’t care

– they know what’s expected, but they’re not motivated to do it…  (this one is harder to fix)

Some possible reasons and solutions:

  • Purpose not articulated – do it now
  • Purpose articulated, but doesn’t excite (the ‘so what’ factor) – move on, recruit more carefully in the future

How do you fix performance problems?  Please let us know below.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Three management mistakes you don’t even know you’re making

In our work with business owners, we have observed three beliefs that can hold them back from managing better, often without them being aware of their impact. 

Next time you are feeling frustrated with your staff, it might be time to check your thinking for any of the following…

1. Assuming your team should care as much about your business as you do

Have they taken the risk to build the business, invested their personal funds, time, energy and emotion?  Why would they care like you do?

Their money will be in the bank next pay day, regardless of whether they buy into your dreams.

2. Believing you can change people

We’re all only capable of change if we have the will to change. Why would you expect your staff to change their behaviour through the power of your will?

You can inspire and encourage change in others’ behaviour, but you can’t control it.

3. Thinking you are ‘in command’

You can enlist others’ cooperation and collaboration, but there are not many people in civilian life who like to be ordered around.

Business owners tell us consistently that they want staff who are self-starters and take initiative.  Isn’t it a bit unrealistic to then expect the people you’ve recruited – because they have these traits – to suddenly want to follow a directive without question?

Have you noticed how your beliefs affect your management style?  Please share your thoughts below.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Not everyone wants to learn, you know…

Have you ever tried training someone and felt like you were getting nowhere?

This was one of my early HR lessons: We can’t assume everyone wants to learn and develop their skills.

In some workplaces and some roles, you will find people who just want to get on with the job they were employed to do. They may even see training as an added imposition from the employer, rather than an opportunity to grow their skill set.

Sometimes, they will be learning in another area of life, perhaps a hobby, that is more fulfilling to them. Work is just the means to earn the money to fund what really matters. For them, work is not a way to grow. Work provides for their basic needs so they can grow in other areas.

If you value life-long learning it can be a challenge to see this perspective. Even more challenging if you are the manager of someone with this attitude – especially if you’ve hired a person for their cultural fit, confident that through training they will acquire the skills they need.

How does it happen?

Part of the difficulty is that this lack of motivation to learn is not always apparent or articulated. Imagine the salesperson who is not meeting budget but continues to believe they are doing all they can to bring in the business. When their manager suggests making changes, the salesperson pushes back, blaming the market, lack of support and other causes rather than reflecting on what they could learn that would improve their performance.

The salesperson above is likely to be quite self-accepting, feeling good about themselves. This is how we want a salesperson to be. On the other hand, the self-acceptance needs to be balanced with a recognition that they can still improve but developing further. If the desire to become better at what they do is absent, the result is a tendency to respond defensively to constructive feedback.

Have you tried to manage someone like this? 

Would it be useful for you to know why they act in this way?

We can help you find out – even before you hire someone – and prevent the frustration you feel. Contact us for more information.

 

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

If I knew then what I know now…

Wouldn’t you love to go back to being 16 – when you knew it all?

Teenagers are a great reminder that we don’t – and can’t – know everything.  The best we can do is limit the extent and the risks of our ignorance.

One very rewarding aspect of our work is giving people information about themselves and those around them that allows them to manage risk.

Here are some cases where we are providing this knowledge and changing businesses:

1. A business owner developing a succession plan with prospective equity partners

What they now know:

  • Values, strengths and challenges of each person;
  • Similarities and differences in what motivates them; and
  • Potential areas of conflict.

2. A management team planning a restructure

What they now know:

  • Who is in the right job;
  • Who has the potential to fill a new role; and
  • Who should probably be moved on.

3. A practice manager developing to take on more of the business responsibilities

What he now knows:

  • His strengths that may be perceived as challenges by others;
  • How to manage time better; and
  • How to express himself in ways that will motivate others while feeling authentic.

4. A manager developing her team

What she now knows:

  • Effective ways to communicate with and inspire her team;
  • The balance and range of strengths on her team; and
  • Individual team members’ expectations.

5. A business owner who is ready to hire more staff

What he now knows:

  • The characteristics people need to be successful in the role(s);
  • What he definitely doesn’t want; and
  • How to objectively measure performance potential.

Every one of the situations above are very expensive if you get them wrong.  Doesn’t it make sense to find out as much as you can before you make that investment?

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Hazard reduction, backburning or putting out spot fires?

As we experience our first bushfires of the season in the Blue Mountains, I think there’s a good analogy between the practices above and how managers behave.

Hazard reduction is the practice of burning, clearing and other practices done in advance of the fire season with the aim of reducing the impact of any future fires.  Back burning is when a fire is lit deliberately in the path of a bushfire with the aim of reducing the fuel load and slowing or stopping the progress of the fire.  Spot fires happen when a fire is underway and embers get carried into unburnt areas.

“I’m always putting out fires!” is a common complaint from managers.  I’m sure you’ve heard it before.

What if we use the bushfire analogy to avoid those management ‘fires’?

1.  Hazard reduction

  • skilled staff with the right attitude doing work they enjoy
  • adequate infrastructure, training and resources are available to do a job well
  • appropriate remuneration and benefits
  • clear and consistent policies and procedures
  • performance management systems in place
  • adequate insurance

2.  Backburning

  • disciplinary procedures
  • defined exit process
  • many team/morale building exercises, because there’s already a ‘fire’ when they’re implemented

3.  Putting out spot fires

  • immediate, on the spot decision making to avoid, contain or reduce damage
  • dealing with unplanned absences
  • summary dismissal
  • resolving client issues

Of course, just as with bushfires there are no guarantees but perhaps it’s time to ask:

What would you rather be doing?

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Critical skill shortage 4: People management

This is the fifth article in a series based on data about skills shortages in the banking and finance sector, collected in the Kelly Skills at Work 2010 study.  See our blog for previous articles in this series.

The ability to lead, motivate and inspire others is another skill that was identified as being critical to success, yet in short supply among local mid to senior level managers.

In the previous article, we looked at the importance and definition of strategic thinking.  A related basic people management skill is to ensure your staff have the right skills and personal attitudes to deliver on your business strategy.

To be successful as a leader, managers need to be willing to explore and use different ways to:

  • Identify and hire top performers,
  • Inspire and motivate people in the business, and
  • Support others to develop and extend their skills.

Plenty of information exists on how to manage people by applying active listening, coaching and delegation techniques, as you will find if you do an internet search on any of these terms.

What is harder to find out is how to negotiate the more  subtle aspects of keeping people engaged and committed.

This is not ‘book learning’ but instead comes down to being self-aware and sensitive to the preferences and needs of others.  The real skill is in knowing when you need to get help and learn more, both about yourself and about others.

‘Employee loyalty, motivation and trust in the organisation all suffer if leaders and managers are careless about the way they treat people.’

Where do you think you stand?  Could the way you treat people be affecting your bottom line?

Hint:  The answer is always  ‘Yes’ – but the impact may be positive or negative in your organisation!

We provide our clients with specialised tools and coaching for both the practical aspects of people management and f0r developing the self-awareness required to be able to manage people well.

Which part of people management could you use some help with right now?

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

What makes a good manager?

What makes ‘a good manager’?

Leadership Management Australasia (LMA) released a summary of the key findings of the Leadership, Employment and Direction (LEAD) Survey in December 2010.

This list of ’22 Characteristics of Good Managers’ makes interesting reading.

How many can you check off for yourself or your managers?

  1. Is trustworthy and open in approach
  2. Clearly communicates where we are going
  3. Gives me the “space” to do my work, but supports me
  4. Listens to and respects my input into decisions
  5. Gives regular and honest feedback on how I am going
  6. Is fair and even handed/makes reasonable demands
  7. Provides the resources I need to do my job
  8. Recognises me for extra efforts/results
  9. Coaches and develops me
  10. Trusts me with challenging work
  11. Supports me in the decisions I make
  12. Takes responsibility for their actions
  13. Helps me with my career development
  14. Has a sense of humour
  15. Provides guidance on how to meet expectations
  16. Sets a good example of work/family/life balance
  17. Respects what is personally important to me
  18. Sees their own job as different but not more important
  19. Involves me in determining my performance measures
  20. Takes my talents into account when assigning work
  21. Openly helps me to resolve workplace conflicts
  22. Helps me prioritise my work

If you missed anything, we can probably help you.

Contact us to find out how.

Thank you to all those who participated in our survey that closed on Friday.

We really appreciated your input. We’ll be reporting on the results in the next post.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Is ignorance really bliss?

“When ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.” – Thomas Gray, 1742.

We often hear this quote, but would living by it be a useful strategy?

In business and at work, as in other areas of life, we may experience:

1. Blissful ignorance – not knowing you don’t know.  Often comes before a crisis!

2. Ignorance by choice – you know that you don’t know, but you like it that way!  Examples:  Someone who chooses not to listen to or watch news reports, a manager who doesn’t ask for staff feedback, businesses  who don’t survey their clients.

3. Wilful ignorance – you actually know the facts (unlike 1 and 2 above) but you choose to act as if you don’t know.  Examples:  Drivers who ignore road rules, businesses that survey staff and/or clients then don’t act on the feedback.

Ignorance can be risky, threatening the viability of business and your own peace of mind. Ignorance can cost you opportunities, money and relationships.

What are you ignoring right now?

Here are some examples of how clients have used Balance at Work’s  services to identify their bline spots:

  • Pre-employment assessments and interviewing of candidates
  • Staff feedback interviews and online surveys
  • Team analysis and coaching
  • Professional development
  • Strategic planning days
  • Executive coaching
  • Career counselling
  • Exit interviews

Can we help you?

PS.  Last week, we asked for your feedback on our weekly articles.  This is your chance to tell us what you think, let us know what we could improve and make suggestions for future topics.  A big ‘thank you’ to all those readers who have already given us two minutes to complete our online survey.  We are very grateful to you for sharing your thoughts!

Take the survey now – it will close on Friday 4 February 2011.

We look forward to your feedback!

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Communication failure

If I had to pick one issue that is the most prevalent in my work with teams, it is – without doubt – communication. Experience with our Team Health Check shows that this is the hardest thing for many team leaders to get right, despite their best intentions.

Here are some of the reasons why communication often misses the mark:

1. Lack of awareness about the impact of our communication style.  Unless you ask them, you are not likely to know how your style affects your team’s motivation and effectiveness.  

Solution:  Consider asking your team for feedback.  An effective way to do this quickly and confidentially is by using the Team Health Check.  Our clients are finding they get some surprising responses when their team ranks statements such as these: 

  •  Everyone’s input is listened to and appreciated by the rest of the team.
  •  We openly and constructively resolve differences and conflicts.
  •  Interactions within the team are respectful, open and honest.

(There are 20 questions in total, covering the full range of teamwork criteria.)

2. We communicate with our team the way we like to be communicated to.  For example, if you appreciate frank and straightforward information from others, you are likely to be direct in the way you talk to your team.  

Solution: Recognise that what works for you will not work for everybody.

3. Not understanding team members’ communication preferences. Closely related to the previous point, there is great value in having an insight into the different communication styles on your team. 

Solution:  Use a tool to diagnose the individual preferences. The Harrison Assessment system measures the following communication traits:  Frank, Diplomatic, Blunt, Evasive, Avoids Communication, Wants Frankness and Tolerates Bluntness..

4. Lacking a sufficient range of communication styles to be able to meet the needs of  team.  When you know what’s missing, it’s easy to fill the gaps with knowledge and practice.

Solution:  Coaching is available to help you use your communication strengths to develop more effective ways to communicate with the full range of people you will encounter in business.  For more information on our coaching systems, please contact us.

The final – and perhaps the most important – point is this: 

Just because you don’t think you have a problem, doesn’t mean there’s not an issue there.  Your business can only benefit if you take the time to find out.

To read more about the Team Health Check, click here.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Looking for some workplace magic?

On my way back from Melbourne last week, I sat near a girl who was reading a book called ‘Workplace Magick’.  This started me thinking about a lot of things, mostly about how bad things must be at work for someone to hope a book like that might help.  
 
 Have you ever felt that desperate?  I know I have!  And I’m also fairly sure no magic was going to fix it!
 
The Gallup organisation recently studied work satisfaction. They found that feeling that you have friends at work was one of the top predictors of job satisfaction.  You can achieve a friendly and productive workplace by creating a positive work environment that motivates people.  

 

How can you bring back the magic for your team? 

1.  Think of yourself as a facilitator and supporter of greatness, for both your team and individual members.  When you know their strengths, you can help them harness and contribute their best efforts.
 
2.  Be willling to share the credit when things go well and avoid playing the blame game when they go wrong. 
 
3.  Be aware of how you talk to – and about – members of your team.  How you communicate, verbally and nonverbally, is being constantly monitored and judged by those around you.
 
4.  Listen to and respect the opinions of team members.  Show them that their suggestions are valued by being prepared to try something new when they offer solutions to problems they’ve identified.
 
5.  Keep your commitments.  If you promised the team that something would happen, it’s up to you to make sure it happens, or have a reasonable explanation when it doesn’t.

Would you like to know what your team’s thinking?

Click here to find out the easy way!

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Wondering what your team’s thinking?

Those who attended our webinar ‘How to Make Your Good Team Great’ last week already know about our ‘Team Health Check’.  (And with our special offer to webinar participants, their requests are coming in fast!)   The Team Health Check has been designed to give you a snapshot of how things are in your team.   This is just the beginning of a process that will take your team to greater effectiveness.  You will get: 

  • An anonymous online survey for all your team (click here for a preview);
  • A written analysis of the survey results;
  • One hour debrief with me that will result in
  • An action plan for your team development.

 

 If your team could be more productive, this service is for you!   

Running a small business, communication within the team is just as important as it is within a business of hundreds of staff.  

Whilst we have many mechanisms for communicating on a regular basis, I felt it important to allow some anonymous feedback within the team, even for me. I asked Susan Rochester to co-ordinate the process to ensure that we had an impartial and confidential collation of the results.   

Susan responded quickly with a summary that allowed me to provide meaningful feedback to all of the team. Our Practice Manager was able to provide feedback for the whole team and also further understand the personalities within the team.

 This made the management process easier for myself and the whole team. Each member of the team gained insights into their own behaviours and effectiveness within the team.  The result has been a greater understanding of each other within the team.

I am looking forward to doing it again soon and expect to do so at least once per year. I recommend using Susan to assist you in your business in this way.    

Bernard FehonCFP™ | Principal Financial Planner | Tactical Solutions   

Please call Susan today to set up your survey.