Tag Archives: team

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Why is it so hard to get lasting results from team-building activities?

Often when we think a team isn’t as productive as it could be, our first reaction is to spend some money on team-building exercises, often off-site. In my experience, your typical team-buildling challenge or social activity is great for getting out of the office and having some fun together…

What they’re not great for is creating lasting change and this is why:

  • Team building has to happen every day – in the reality of your work environment.
  • Team ‘issues’ are rarely about the team. To resolve them, you have to consider the individuals.
  • Generic team activities are unlikely to address the specific needs of your team.
  • Creating behavioural change requires insight, understanding and time.

 

What will work?

If you’re looking for a way to get your team to work more productively together, look for solutions that:

  • Start with an analysis of your team members’ perceptions of the team;
  • Are based on the realities of your workplace; and
  • Provide suggestions you can implement now for immediate – and lasting – impact.

 

What do you think?

Do you have ideas for effective and lasting team-building?  Please share your insights by adding a comment below.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

When does a ‘group’ become a ‘team’?

This question came to mind last weekend, when I had the good fortune to attend ‘Wintersong 2010’ an annual choral workshop held in the Blue Mountains. The weekend revolved around learning and performing diverse works arranged for choir – with 90 other singers from all over the country.  

Composer and musician, Paul Jarman led us in an amazing workshop.  In around an hour, we composed and performed a choral work in 7 parts.  My first response when this was suggested was ‘this will never work’.  To my amazement, it worked brilliantly!

I think we were working as a team at that point.  (And arguably for the rest of the weekend, in producing some incredible sounds.)  

For this project we were a team and not just a group because we had:

1.  A leader who was very skilled and experienced;

2.  An intention to create something of quality;

3.  Goodwill and a desire to cooperate;

4.  Diverse ideas and abilities; and

5.  A specific goal, with a defined timeframe.

What do you think?

Do these things make a team?  Or am I getting carried away with the analogy?

Please post your comments below.

Have you booked in for our webinar ‘How to Make Your Good Team Great’ on 7 July at 12 noon AEST?  Click to register.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Team lessons from the last week in politics

In Australia, we have had a recent change of Prime Minister.  Since then, I’ve been reflecting on what we can learn from these events in terms of having effective teams. 

1. People want to be included in decisions that will affect them.  The mining industry is just one example.  The new PM, Julia Gillard, has recognised this, saying “I seek to work inclusively. I seek to bounce ideas around. I seek to get peoples’ views.”

2. It’s important to have a strong leader but risky to invest too heavily in believing their success will be the same as the team’s success.

3. Individual communication skills, behavioural traits and personal style are always going to be important for the collective success of the team because they will influence outsiders’ perception of the team.

4. When it’s time to make a change, acting quickly and decisively will allow you to get on with the task at hand without the distraction of uncertainty and rumours.

Perhaps you have some examples of your own?  Please share your insights by adding a comment below.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Could your team use a tune-up?

My car currently has a small niggling problem that’s not serious, but I know I should do something about it.  Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience, with a car, computer or other technology?

Have you ever had the same sort of nagging thoughts about your team at work?  Things are running smoothly, but you know they could probably be even better if you took the time to look under the bonnet and do some team maintenance.

You could be avoiding taking any action for one of the following reasons:

  • Time  “Sure, we’d like to do something, but we are always so busy.”
  • Uncertainty  “I really don’t know where to start.”
  • Fear “We are doing pretty well.  I don’t want to risk opening a can of worms.”
  • Scepticism  “We tried team building activities before.  It was fun but it didn’t really transfer back to the workplace.”

Sound familiar?  So why should you take time out to work on your team?

Teams that have been selected, trained and coached according to the strengths of the individual team members will always out-perform any teams composed and managed simply along functional lines. 

Teams outshine their competition when they –

  • Have shared goals and a focus on outcomes
  • Value cohesion, communication and collaboration
  • Recognise and share work according to their indiviual strengths

Any team building activity that contributes to better teamwork will focus on how these high performance team characteristics are applied in the workplace.  For example, read the case study of one team development process.

TIP:  Know how to get the best performance from your team with practical and meaningful team development.  Register for our webinar on 7 July at 12 noon (AEST).

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Case Study: Team Tuning

Many businesses are blessed with highly motivated and engaged staff who are industriously working toward their strategic goals.  Working as a team comes naturally to these employees and they are keen to find ways to work better together.  I was fortunate enough to work with one such team recently to fine-tune their team performance.

Process

All five members of the team completed the online assessment of their behavioural and work preferences.  On the day before the team coaching session, they received their individual Harrison Assessments reports.

A team paradox report, displaying all team members’ scores for each trait on one graph formed the basis of our team meeting.  Because we had only two hours for discussion, the agenda focused attention on four facets of the team report:  Motivation, Communication, Innovation and Organisation.

For each of these areas, we analysed and discussed the relative strengths of the team members to determine what was important to the team, how the strengths have helped them to date and what difficulties were present now.

Brainstorming of actions that would help the team capitalise on individual strengths and achieve the organisation’s goals resulted in a list of individual SMART actions. (SMART = Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-framed.)

Results

Several factors that could be used to bring the team to peak performance were uncovered via assessment and the team discussion.  Here are a few examples:

  • One team member is highly organised and this strength will be put to good use in developing systems and processes in the business.
  • There is a team member who is not always comfortable putting forward their opinions or giving feedback.  Once the rest of the team were aware of this, they were able to explore ways to make it easier for that person to communicate with them in productive ways.
  • Some team members require more structure to their work, while others find structure frustrating.  Awareness of individual needs made it easy for others to suggest ways to accommodate those needs.

Benefits

On completion of the team meeting, the team had:

  • A better understanding of each others’ strengths, values and needs,
  • New, more effective, ways to work together,
  • Individual and collective accountability, with each member of the team responsible for specific actions that would make the team more effective and
  • Renewed commitment to their common goals.

Could this work help your team? Call us on 1300 785 150.

 

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Are you getting the full picture?

Sometimes we make employment decisions without access to all the facts.

When our daughter asked to start piano lessons recently, I didn’t ask to see the teacher’s qualifications before agreeing for her to learn from him.

Qualifications are important!  So why didn’t I even think to ask?  Probably because I’ve had the opportunity to observe not only his musical prowess, but also how he interacts with other students and teachers.  This gave me confidence in his ability as a teacher.

At work, you may know a person’s qualifications but you rarely have the chance for long-term observation before making staffing decisions.  Or do you?

Here are 3 ways you could get more of this important information, by tapping in to what others have observed:

1. Always reference check when hiring and make sure the check is meaningful.  You can do this by having prepared questions, probing when you sense there’s more information and asking a candidate for more referees if you’re not getting the answers you need to make your decision.  If you work in financial services, Standards Australia’s handbook ‘Reference Checking in the Financial Services Industry’ provides an essential guide.

2. If you’re looking for a new staff member, consider people you already know from your business or social networks who might be able to fill the role.  If there’s no-one suitable, ask them if they can recommend anyone.  Remember the last time you hired a painter or plumber?  Did you pick a name from the phone book or ask your friends first?

3. When reviewing staff performance, seek feedback from the employee’s colleagues, team, clients and suppliers.  They will be able to provide you with insights from a different perspective.

You’re unlikely to have the full picture yourself so why not ask for the opinions of people you trust?

With Money Management reporting today that jobs in the Australian financial services sector have jumped by more than 5 per cent since last month, we are likely to see many more staff choosing to make a move.

Under these labour market conditions, it’s critical that you have the right people in the right roles if you want them to stay.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

What do you want?

Last week, our single question survey asked readers “What is the one people management issue that is causing you the most pain right now?”

The response was fantastic!  Thanks for all your contributions.

Didn’t see it?  It’s not too late to give us your answer and have it added to our list of topics for future webinars and articles. 

The first webinar is scheduled for 12 noon on Wednesday, 7 July 2010.  Topic and registration details will be posted in the next couple of weeks.

Here is a summary of the suggestions so far:

Team

  • establishing teamwork – working together on to meet organisational goals
  • culture
  • understanding what each person does and how roles work together

Motivation

  • rewards –  ideas on non-monetary rewards
  • getting staff to work in new ways in an industry that has been more reactive than proactive in the past

Delegation

  • effectively communicating what needs to be done
  • having tasks completed to your requirements
  • ensuring staff are productive when you’re not there

Training

  • developing teams to meet future needs
  • helping staff indentify skill gaps
  • making time for training

Recruitment

  • attracting the people with the right attitude
  • matching the right people to the role
  • having the right people in the right seats

Performance

  • meaningful annual reviews
  • addressing weaknesses without causing offence
  • managing underperformance

Why not take a minute to add your own or support one of these suggestions?

Click here to have your say or leave a comment below.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Why I Dropped Kathy and Picked Up Dan*

This article was prompted by questions from readers…

Many people within financial services are familiar with the Kolbe system of measuring ‘Action Modes’.  An individual’s Kolbe profile is a good tool for coaching and team development and I’ve used it in these ways, before I started using Harrison Assessments (HA).

There are similarities between the two approaches (online, accessible to any sized organisation, multiple uses) and I won’t explore the theory behind them in this article.  There are three differences that prompted my decision:

1. Level of detail

If I tell you my Kolbe is 8652 (Strategic Planner), experienced Kolbe users will know quite a lot about me.  It will be a generalisation, of course, as each number is a score out of 10 for each of the four different modes (Fact Find, Follow Through, Quick Start and Implementor).

I admit I can’t give you a quick summary, in numbers or words, of my HA profile, although you’ll find some of the details on our website.  This is because HA measures 156 different traits on a 1-10 scale, resulting in reports that are unique to the individual, rather than classifying them as an ‘Innovator’ or ‘Mediator’ for example.  The 156 traits are made up of personality, task preferences, interests, work environment preferences and motivations.

The reports themselves provide detailed interpretation for the end user.  For example, for a job candidate who has a low score on ‘Analyses Pitfalls’:  “Joe usually does not enjoy analysing the potential difficulties of plans or strategies and may sometimes neglect to do so.  Therefore, it would be best if he were to receive other input before making important strategic decisions.  Joe’s lack of enjoyment of analysing potential problems will probably have a somewhat negative impact on job satisfaction and/or performance.”  How good would it be to know this information before you appoint a new manager?

This is focussed, practical information you can use right away, either in a second interview or to coach the new employee.

2. Data utilisation

One set of data from one 20-30 minute online questionnaire is used to produce all the reports below, listed by application: 

  • Candidate Screening – Job Success Analysis, Group Screening Report
  • Candidate Interviewing and Selection – Interview Guide, How to Attract this Candidate, Paradox Graph and Narrative, Traits and Definitions Report, Summary and Keywords Report
  • Retention and Development – How to Manage, Develop and Retain, Development for Position, Development by Trait, Paradox Graph and Narrative
  • Team Development – Team Paradox Graph, Trait Export
  • Career Guidance and Development – Career Options, Career Development, Career Comparison

To see samples of these reports, please visit our website.

3. Customisability

Because HA is based on work performance research, there is the facility to compare employees and/or candidates to job templates for a specific role.  There are over 200 generic templates in the system and each one can be customised to the requirements of the job and the employer.  We’ve even adjusted templates to check for a good match with the manager.

For our clients in financial services, we have developed a set of templates which we then modify to their specific business requirements.  For example, it they’re hiring a paraplannner and want them to have significant client contact, we would ensure traits such as ‘Outgoing’ and ‘Diplomatic’ are included in the template.

This flexibility can also be applied to staff and team development.  If, for example, a broker is just not brining in the new business they were hire to achieve, we could assess their scores on a range of relevant traits, including traits such as ‘Persistent’ and ‘Optimistic’ and coach them to better performance by building on their areas of strength.  Of course – ideally – you would have known these scores before you hired them!

The detailed reports, as you can imagine, are invaluable for both team and individual coaching.  For teams, we are also able to plot all team members on the same chart, to give an easy to read overview of the team’s strengths and challenges.

The reason I chose to train and gain certification with Harrison Assessments:  So I can provide my clients with the best available information for people management decisions and coaching.

*Kathy Kolbe and Dan Harrison

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Networking gets personal

Have you noticed how personal business has become recently? 

In this post-GFC era of distrust of corporations, we are relying more and more on the individual relationships we build to grow our businesses.  This is more important than ever before for financial services.

Yesterday I spoke with Dr Jim Taggart of Taggart Group about his recent doctoral thesis.  Jim chose to research the role of business networks and in particular the importance of trust, commitment and reciprocity to effective networking. 

This started me thinking about how you would select, or coach, employees who have a role that includes the important task of networking to bring in new business. 

Here are just five of the 155 traits measured by Harrison Assessments that I believe would enhance your team’s networking success:

  1. Outgoing – the tendency to be socially extroverted and enjoy meeting new people
  2. Warmth/empathy – the tendency to express positive feelings and affinity toward others
  3. Helpful – the tendency to respond to others’ needs and assist or support others to achieve their goals
  4. Optimistic – the tendency to believe the future will be positive
  5. Persistent – the tendency to be tenacious despite encountering significant obstacles

Other traits that could have a positive impact on networking include self-motivation, assertiveness, diplomacy, influencing, flexibility and tolerance of bluntness.  On the other hand, care should be taken to avoid employing someone to this type of role if their profile shows they are blunt, dogmatic or self-sacrificing.

Every one of these traits can be measured as part of our online assessment that takes less than half an hour.  You can try it for yourself here.

It is possible to assess these traits in your selection process.  Employees can also improve their performance through coaching, once you know their strengths.

Imagine how your business could benefit from knowing your employees better.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Excuse me, your bias is showing

Do you think you’re good at judging people?  You are, but probably not in the way you think…

We all live complicated lives and nature has given us neurological shortcuts so we don’t have to relearn everything as we go.  For example, when we encounter a closed door, we don’t need to consciously think:  What is this?  What is it for?  Why is it here?  or How does it work? Instead, we grab the handle and walk through (perhaps with a little push/pull confusion on the way!)

Similar shortcuts are in operations when we interact with other people.  We are able to quickly assess a person based on our past experiences and conditioning.  This usually goes on beyond our awareness.  Efficient but not always accurate!

For more than a decade Project Implicit, based at Harvard University, has been tracking a whole range of our hidden prejudicial associations.  Curious about my own, I decided to try one of their Implicit Association Tests (IATs).  Being a feminist, mother of two girls, business woman and teacher, I thought I’d be pretty safe trying a test called ‘Gender-Career’.  Imagine my surprise (horror!) when I found my results showed that I strongly associated men with careers and women with family life.

Implicit biases are shown in the majority of the population.  At least I’m not alone.  And most of us don’t even know we are biased against certain groups.

How is this significant in business?

Our hidden prejudices predict how we respond to others.  They may impact on:

  • deciding on the best applicant for a role
  • evaluating others’ work performance
  • how friendly and inclusive we are towards team members

Tip:  Job interviews are a notoriously inaccurate way to predict workplace behaviour, even when conducted by experts.  Project Implicit shows that without using objective measures of job fit, we are often relying on judgements we aren’t aware of and can’t control.

Curious about your own biases?  You can visit Project Implicit online and take a test of your choice.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG