Posts Tagged ‘teams’

Leader’s First Response To Decline

August 19, 2016

You’ve been appointed to head an organization. Could be a business, church, nonprofit. Wherever you are in life.

The organization is thriving. All indicators were up. People affiliated with the organization are enthused. Good things are happening all over. Leadership teams are planning expansions.

Then a change happens. Imperceptibly at first. Few, if anyone, notice. But growth stopped. No real decline, yet. But a couple of staff leaders left, leaving behind some leadership gaps. You, the overall leader didn’t move quickly to fill the gaps. They just slid by.

Eventually the decline is in progress. At first only key people in the organization notice. Then more people notice. A key top staff person notices and brings to your attention. Conflict erupts. Now there is another key gap in the leadership team.

This is a situation I’ve seen several times in my career. I did try to salvage a couple. In one I was actually “president” for a short time while my partners tried to raise money for a takeover. They didn’t, we failed, now I’m writing here.

But back to our fearless leader. The one who seems oblivious to the by now obvious to everyone decline. If you were in that position, would you

  1. Call an emergency staff meeting of the perhaps dozen top leaders to address the problem; or
  2. Gather together a larger group–say greater than 25–and begin a month’s long vision planning exercise, or
  3. Do nothing and either ignore the situation or hope it reverses?

I have never been in the situation (and I can think of at least four I’ve been in) where the leader chose number 1.

Mostly I have seen the non-choice choice of number 3. Either the leader is totally out of their league and just flounders, or their narcissism makes them ignore the situation. Perhaps even degenerating into blame.

Then, I’ve actually seen number 2. All attention is diverted from important and immediate tasks while the entire leadership team squanders its attention on dreaming of what might be.

What should you do? I’d suggest steps such as:

Gather the top leadership team and get them to acknowledge the problem

Gather facts and stories about the situation

Perform root cause analyses (5 why’s, as we say)

Tackle one main problem as quickly as it is identified

If one of the issues that pops up is that “no one understands what we stand for”, then the messaging both internal and external has become muddled. In that case, it is time to go back to the vision statement of the organization and sharpen it. Then make sure that all messaging is consistent.

Maybe the customer experience is not good. Then a team can tackle that problem.

Notice that by doing this, the leader focuses the leadership team and infuses new energy. The new energy should spread throughout the organization as teams form and more people are involved.

Leadership-How Does Your Team Communicate

July 29, 2016

Email is bad for you and your team because we get too many messages every day and the important internal emails get mixed up with other correspondence with people from the outside world.–Michael Sliwinski, Founder and CEO of Nozbe

Has your team ever been caught up in long chains of emails? Someone proposes an idea or someone else attacks something. Then another person “replies all”, and another, and another. Soon you’re reading down through a horrendous chain with blood pressure rising by the second.

It’s happened to me many times. I’ve also gotten caught in the problem where the important message dropped to the bottom of the list buried by the unimportant minutiae.

A few years ago I walked away from a couple of jobs that paid very well. My earnings are a little smaller, but expenses are down. And my email load? Cut by 80%. Some days I almost feel lonely.

Sliwinski says about his company, “To solve this problem we designed a new way to communicate: we use email for the outside world and something else for ‘internal communication.’ We use two apps for that: Slack and Nozbe.”

There’s a new book “Under New Management” by David Burkus that I heartily recommend. It includes some unconventional management practices, and one of them is apparently banning email. Sliwinski says it’s something he did in his company three years ago. “Something I didn’t think was new but now I see it really is. Whenever I talk about ‘No Office,’ people ask me about my email policy and they’re surprised that we banned email in our company. They give me this ‘Can you do that?’ face. Of course you can. You actually should if you want to have a productive environment for your team. Only allow email to the “outside world” and ban email within your team.”

It is worth the effort to evaluate how your team communicates. Then find the best tool. And, by the way, don’t check email every 30 seconds! Sometimes I get caught in an endless loop of answering messages. It’s asynchronous. You can choose when to answer. Choose wisely.

Collaboration-It’s a Good Thing

July 8, 2016

They were sitting on the couch intent on their iPads. Chatting away about the project. My grandkids, that is, ages 9 and 7. They were building something in Minecraft, together, connected through iCloud. But also connected by voice.

Collaboration, it’s a good thing. Sometimes technology enables us to collaborate to build better things.

In my other profession, the one that pays the bills, I research companies and industries involved in a building and using a variety of technologies. But it always gets down to people. And how people interact.

Many companies foster silos. People exist only within their department or division or within their product group. They seldom share information or ideas. Many may not even know people in another division.

I’ve seen other companies where there is an attempt to bring people from a variety of functions together, but collaboration is hampered by what we call politics. The trust level in the company is not high. A person may be reluctant to say something out of fear that the comment may be taken out of context, spread to higher management ranks, and they may suffer career repercussions.

Once upon a time I led a department that designed machines to solve specific customer problems. We needed lots of ideas. White boards were a new thing. I bought a bunch. Put them in every cubical, office, and conference room. I told the engineers, sketch the problem on your white board. As you wander through the room to get coffee or whatever, look at the whiteboards. Talk to the other engineer. Maybe new ideas spring up.

We designed some pretty cool machines.

What are you building? Technology? Relationships? An organization?

Sensitize yourself to the atmosphere of the office or organization if you’re geographically spread. Are people sharing ideas? Are people receptive to ideas from others? What can be done to encourage collaboration?

One of my favorite quotes from the cartoon character Bugs Bunny was when somebody wanted to tell him something. “I’m all ears.”

Ah, the beginning of collaboration.

What Behavior Does Your Leadership Encourage

July 1, 2016

James and John went to Jesus privately at the urging of their mother. They wanted to ask for the two top positions in the kingdom Jesus was going to start. Jesus wasn’t impressed. He stopped that sort of political backstabbing at the beginning.

My wife taught third grade for many years. Believe it or not, she did not like it when kids would come running up to her, “Mrs. Mintchell, did you know what [fill in kid’s name] did?”

Why did the kids do that? Same reason as the big guys. They were trying to make themselves look good often at the expense of others of their colleagues.

Two or three times in my career people have spread “stuff” around on me. One boss came to me once and asked, “Did you know that [x] has been going to the president complaining that you don’t have enough work to do?”

It bothered me, but taking the longer view, I knew both companies were tanking. It just gave me incentive to hit the job market before everyone else.

But what if there had been a new president who came in to turn things around? Part of her plan would be to form teams where people collaborated on projects. Just how much collaboration will we do when we’ve been in a culture of “tattling” and other such back-stabbing activities?

We know today that companies and organizations that thrive are those that build an environment where people are comfortable with each other and are free to collaborate and share.

  • Do we stop people who wish to manipulate us with out-of-bounds requests?
  • Do we weed out those who strive to make others look bad
  • Do we react to such gossip?
  • Do we let things go, afraid to act on it?

If we start to sense a lack of trust and collaboration in the organization, maybe it’s a signal to start evaluating our own leadership.

Leadership Through Mentoring

January 22, 2016

We think of a leader as someone who has many people reporting to them. Maybe 10 or maybe hundreds. We picture them out front of the infantry leading the charge.

Surprisingly, often a leader is someone without an official position, yet they exert influence and direction through their ideas, conversations, persistence, relationships, and character.

But we are still thinking about influencing many.

Great leaders often are also great mentors. They find someone coming along with potential and begin to nurture them. Think perhaps of Mr. Miyagi in the “Karate Kid.”

Think back in your life. People came into my life, often briefly, who guided me often without my even knowing it at the time. There was my first supervisor at Airstream, John, who put me in positions to learn. Then Jack came along. He did things for me to get me promoted into increasingly important roles, but I never realized it at the time. Awakening came later, but not too late.

Lately there has been someone where we share from our varied experiences.

When you mentor someone, it should be intentional on your part. But with full knowledge that you are not a teacher just taking knowledge from your brain and trying to enlighten the mentee. Rather, mentorship grows with a relationship. As you work together or have conversations, often it’s just a question you ask or a point you think that they should think about that works. You have to let them grow at their pace. Force does not work.

The quality of character counts for much. Paul, the apostle, described both in 1 Timothy and in Titus a good leader.

  • Not violent
  • Blameless
  • Not accused of debauchery
  • Not rebellious
  • Not arrogant
  • Not quick-tempered
  • Not greedy for gain
  • A firm grasp on the Word
  • Trustworthy

I get a picture of a strong, yet gentle, person. Quiet in demeanor. Observant of others. Passionate with being overly emotional. Intelligent and wise. Concerned for the welfare of the other before even his own.

Gosh, I’m describing myself—-I wish. Perhaps I’m describing you. If so and you do not have a younger person you’re mentoring, find one. Pray intentionally. God will provide someone.


Leadership Tip-Team Building

July 31, 2015

What made Phil Jackson such a great coach in the National Basketball Association. Arguably it was his ability to take a group of super-talented individuals and convince them that their role in the team was important but that all of them working together blending their roles would bring championships.

Building teams is the best way to move an organization or even committee forward.

Here are some elements of team building for leaders:

  • Define why you are building a team (winning NBA championship, leading a new building campaign, selling a product, leading a church)
  • Define the roles you need to be successful (not just filling spots, but recruiting talented people to fill roles)
  • Carefully recruiting people who can fill a role or be trained for that role
  • Continually work with each person and the group to build trust and communication
  • Leaders must constantly hold out the vision and purpose to the team to avoid splintering into factions going different ways

If you are leading a team of leaders, it’s the same thing. But each team member will go off to lead their teams. It is important that the team building be passed down the organization. A good team at the top builds teams all the way throughout the organization.

The enemy of teams–silos. When leaders appear to communicate together, but the conversations are superficial, that is a warning sign of silos. When each leader goes off and does their own thing without regard to the work of other teams, then the organization grows dysfunctional. That reflects lack of top leadership. It also reflects lack of vision.

When Jesus said people would know his followers by their love, he didn’t exactly mean that they were always sitting in a circle holding hands and singing Cum Ba Yah. Love demands respect.

A team-building leader respects people as a first priority. And respect for people filters througout the entire organization.

A great team consists of people who fulfill their roles in pursuit of the common visions where everyone has respect for the others.