If any of you have not seen this video on You Tube, check it out! In leadership and team coaching, we often use the “trust fall” exercise to demonstrate trust on a team. Yet, this is a bit of a different take:
Unless you have been living under a rock, you probably know that we are no longer living in the Industrial Age. You remember that era…a time where machines and things were the drivers of our economy and people were there to simply “run and churn” those machines. Machines, things and people were replaceable. It did not take a brain surgeon to run machines. It just took an able body who acted like a robot to turn on a machine, run the machine or work an assembly line.
Well, here we are today…the year 2011, and while some companies have truly “gotten” that we are now in the era of the knowledge worker, many modern day companies are still trying to lead based on the rules of the Industrial Revolution.
Those rules included:
- Start at the bottom, working on the assembly line or in the mail room and hope you work your way up to the top (a hierarchical form of leadership was the norm).
- Pay your dues for 20 years and then ask for a promotion. You may get it or you may not.
- Don’t rock the boat! We have about five people who are making decisions, and you will do as we say, and you ARE replaceable.
- No feedback meant all was okay, and then suddenly, a worker was called in and handed a pink slip for “not supporting the way we do things…we are a hierarchy, and you are trying to fight that!”
- People were treated like commodities…disposable commodities, so trust was not par for the course.
- Command and control styles were encouraged.
- Just be quiet about what you have seen and know, and do your job, and you will be just fine.
- Passion, purpose and voice were “too touchy/feely” so they were never discussed.
- The worth of a person was measured by the number of hours they put in and how quickly and effectively they could run a machine or assemble a product
- The more hours your worked, the more loyal you were, the more valuable you were to the company.
I could go on and on about the rules of the Industrial Age. My point to you is that the above set of rules is outdated and not in sync with today’s knowledge worker. Information, creativity and brain power are now our most valuable assets, yet companies are not leading based on this idea. The following will spell out the 7 most common mistakes I see leaders make with today’s knowledge worker and how you can not only avoid them but shift your strategies so that you get the most out of your knowledge workers.
1. Discouraging knowledge workers to find and then use their own voice. The new employee wants to know that they can be truly authentic in your organization and be able to bring their own unique voice to your company. Giving your knowledge workers permission to speak up and to use their own voice will inspire them to actually contribute new ideas and strategies to help your company thrive.
2. Not offering current, up to date training. Today’s knowledge worker was raised on a diet of knowledge, and they actually crave more knowledge. Because of the internet, the knowledge worker knows that at any hour of the day, they can go online and find more new information. Offering training in a second language, leadership or managerial skills or marketing and sales skills and delivering this training using digital media and shadowing will hold the attention of the knowledge worker and will actually help the knowledge worker build out their skill set for a stronger career down the road.
3. Training the knowledge worker using old classroom-style training methodologies. The Industrial Revolution brought the world a lecture/chalkboard/classroom format, and it worked. But times have changed. We now have the internet, social media sites, cell phones with texting and internet capability and digital mechanisms to enhance learning. It is critical to understand that the knowledge worker of today often comes to the workforce with an environment induced form of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). This is not to suggest that the new knowledge worker has ADD, but the majority of young men and women between the ages of 22-32 will admit that because of their use of social media, cell phones and instant messaging (and using them all at the same time), their brains have been trained to focus for a short period of time and then flip to a new thought or activity and that this occurs hundreds of times each day. By using new media, shadowing and experiential training, you will be able to grab and hold the attention of the knowledge worker much better and for longer periods of time than in using the classroom/lecture/power point method of training.
4. Excluding the knowledge worker from team decisions. This is one area that is a constant concern with the knowledge worker. They feel that their opinions, ideas and contributions are not valued, so they are deliberately excluded from strategic meetings which could be enhanced by their contributions. The new knowledge worker wants to know that they are helping the companies they serve be better, “make a difference”, be more profitable or help to conjure up the next big idea that will put your company on the map. At the end of the day, the new knowledge worker needs to be invited to sit at the table senior leaders, and it is critical that you take their ideas, suggestions and contributions seriously. These men and women will be your future leaders, and it is imperative that you show them that their minds and ideas do count and you want them in on your most critical discussions.
5. Treating the knowledge worker like a disposable commodity. If you are a leader, and you are seeing your knowledge worker as a commodity to use for a short period of time and then send them out the door, you are not only doing a disservice to your employees, you are building a brand that says you value things more than people. This attitude simply won’t fly in today’s world. Consumers are watching companies more and more to see if they can spot that you have a high level of emotional intelligence, and your knowledge workers will be the first to know if you are “using” them just to drain their brains and then send them packing. The knowledge worker wants to be treated as a valued member of your team…a human being and not a machine or a thing.
6. Trying to inspire the knowledge worker by offering more money. This is probably one of the biggest mistakes you can make as a leader or manager of the knowledge worker. Young hires between the ages of 22-32 truly have a different set of values than those of their parents. While they all agree that they do need enough money to be able to live, they truly value time over money, friends over big titles and promotions and opportunities for ongoing learning over getting paid overtime. When trying to inspire the knowledge worker, offering them two hours off on Friday to spend time with friends, to contribute back to the community or to take an extra course at a nearby location will be much more valuable than offering them a few extra bucks to work harder and longer hours. This demographic of workers have watched their parents work their fingers to the bone just to keep up with the Joneses, and then watched as their parents were downsized, laid off or fired. To work longer hours just to please the boss and make overtime pay is not the carrot you will want to dangle under the nose of the knowledge worker, but time off or extra learning will have the knowledge worker’s mouth watering.
7. Discouraging dreams and passions. In my experiences, I have been quite saddened to see leaders throw water on a burning passion of the new knowledge worker. The new worker of today will come to your organization with big ideas, dreams and passions, and these should be encouraged, cultivated and woven into the decision making for your company. If the knowledge worker feels that her dreams are being supported, she will stick around your company much longer than if she is told to “be realistic” and just put that dream on hold.
At the end of the day, a leadership process where senior leaders are communicating the worth, potential and possibilities to their new knowledge workers, the future for your company can be bright and limitless.
Jeannette Paladino was kind enough to ask me to write this blog post today for Write Speak Sell.
The excerpt is below, and you can read the full post here.
At the end of the day, your company will either sink or swim based on how well you communicate.
I am sure you have heard this 1,000 times…”Great communication is necessary for great leadership” or “We must communicate better if we want to be successful” , womp, womp, womp. The topic of communication has been beaten to death, so we have become numb to its importance. We go about our day not returning phone calls to customers, sending out curt, hurtful e-mails, turning a deaf ear to our employees and just basically shutting people out or cutting them off at the knees.
In this day and age, I have a prediction…and I am not a futurist. I believe that those companies who will succeed in the future will be those companies who learn to not only communicate better with their customers but who take the time to actually learn how to communicate across generational and cultural barriers. I believe those companies and businesses who choose to ignore this important aspect of communication will perish. In order to be successful with this process, you do have to take the time to learn about each generation in our workforce… their values, key motivating factors and how they best like to communicate so that you can begin to knock down the walls which are so strongly holding up the divide.
So, here is a run down of the six generations who are alive and well in our world and interacting with our businesses as consumers, investors and advocates.
Tardiness. Bickering. Indecisiveness. Blaming. Irresponsibility.
Does this sound familiar? If so, your team (or family) may be suffering from a clear lack of accountability. While I realize the “A” word is used and overused, I am going to continue talking about it, because I believe a clear accountability process is critical for companies, both large and small, to be able to thrive in the future.
Here is what I experience with many leaders I coach. One of the first questions I ask is this “Tell me about your accountability and decision making process. How does it work?” Approximately 93% of the time, the response is “Uhm, well…er…we don’t really have one.” As I begin to talk more with the leader about how an accountability process might work and how it can…
1) Save time
2) Stop team conflict
3) Improve decision making
4) Make more money
5) Reduce a stalemate
and so forth, their eyes light up. They get so excited. I then say “So…tell me about how you feel about being the role model for an accountability process by giving your team permission to start calling you on your stuff?” Guess what happens? About 93% of the time, the leader decides against implementing an accountability system or process, because at the end of the day, they say they just don’t know that they can go through this. They really aren’t ready to hear feedback from their team members and feel as if this approach would weaken her authority and diminish her credibility.
The opposite is actually true. When a leader steps up and says “I am going to start being more efficient, more punctual, more open to your suggestions and am going to start being a better listener, and I need you to call me on the carpet when I’m out of line”, your team will be shocked, amazed and your credibility as a leader will dramatically increase. Once the leader sets the stage for being held accountable, your team will “get it”, and then you and your team can sit down and hammer out a true accountability system which meets the needs of your company. At the end of the day, with a solid accountability process…one that works…your team will feel much more secure about their role on the team and about you as a leader.
One idea on the topic of accountability is to start by identifying one tiny problem that keeps popping up on your team. This could be tardiness to staff meetings, lack of follow through, not returning phone calls, clutter, dropping the ball, finger pointing or any type of team breakdown that gets in the way of your efficiency. Start with one problem, and look at all of the reasons (at the root) which are contributing to the problem. Acknowledge that the problem exists, discuss it with your team and then design an accountability system for that one problem, and give your team 3 months to get it worked out. As much as I would love to give you a true formula for this (example…a 3 strike rule…3 strikes and you are out), I cannot…your team has to be the group to sit down and come up with a creative way to get people to correct a deficiency or problem, because trust me…one system does not fit all. There are multiple approaches which include both consequences for falling short and rewards for success. Sit down and come up with as many solutions as possible and then write out what your process will be and then follow it to the nth degree.
If you start today by addressing the accountability challenges in your company, your team will stand a much better chance of success in the future…trust me…I’ve worked with teams on this issue multiple times, and accountability processes do work, but only if you are willing to be the first to take the hit..
(This interview is great! Tom offers several insights into teambuilding for the future!)
Teamwork Facilitators this is for you! It’s the ultimate resource for anyone with a passion for creating high performing teams. It’s all here: a dynamic world-wide community of Teamwork Facilitators, monthly leadership training calls with top experts (like Bea Fields) in team and leadership development, hours of recorded training calls and class notes and resources archived and available 24/7, online archive of teambuilding games with video clips and downloadable directions, and much more! This is all found at the International Association of Teamwork Facilitators (www.IATFconnect.com) and when you join during the month of June you’ll receive a free ticket to the 10-week Leader As Coach Fast Track Program ($800 value) plus you’ll receive a free membership to give away to a colleague..
I talk with leaders every day who say “I just want my team to be better…I want them to act like a team!”
What the heck does that mean? “I just want them to act like a team!”
I suppose it means that everyone is getting along, getting results, finishing projects on time and helping your company to become better, stronger and quicker at everything you do.
The reality is that most organizations don’t take the time to sit down and actually “design” the team based on 5 core principles. So…today, I am going to leave you with 5 questions to answer. If you can say “YES!…Absolutely” to each one of these questions, then your team stands a great chance of success. These questions apply to both large organizations and small businesses.
Question 1: Is your team small enough to be effective?
Many leaders choose teams based on “the more, the merrier” philosophy. The truth is that too many cooks in the kitchen can destroy even the best recipes for success. When you have 10, 12 or 14 people on your team, everybody has an opinion, conflicts start to build and the next thing you know, your project has come to a screeching halt. Limit your team size to no more than seven people. If you feel you must have ten people on your team, split them into two teams of five each, and assign each team an objective which will help you reach your big vision. You will accomplish much more with fewer people to stir the pot.
Question 2: Does your team know where you are going, and are they inspired by that direction?
I interview quite a few teams each year, and this one question usually stumps most team members. They usually say “Well…I work for the company, and I do what the boss says to do.” Argh! One of the biggest favors you can do for your team is to sit down and tell them where you are going, why this is important and how you need them to get on board. This is your chance to get really, really creative. Ask for input on the direction, describe what the project is going to look like, and get commitment from your team. While I am not a “rah rah” person, it is a good idea to have a 5-minute pep rally with your team each morning…reminding them of where you are going. Will you veer off on occasion? Absolutely! But…at the end of the day, if your team is buying into your direction, you stand a much greater chance of finishing projects on time and under budget.
Question 3: Is your TEAM being coached?
In the coaching work that I offer my clients, there are two types of coaching: Individual Leadership Coaching and Team Coaching. They are very, very different. It is not uncommon for an organization to call me, and ask me to work with a “problem team member.” I then learn during the one on one coaching that a team dynamic is usually at play that is causing frustration, slackness or insubordination from this one “problem team member”. With team coaching, everyone is involved, and the coaching starts with the team leader…usually the CEO or the Project Manager. Over a period of six months, the entire team is being coached both individually and with the full team in the room, and it works! Stop relying on coaching one person, hoping things turn around for the entire team. Just as in families, teams come with dynamics…quirks, agendas and biases, and team coaching can turn your team around on a dime.
Question 4: Does your team have structure?
Teams need structure. They need a project plan and accountability. If your team is not structured or seems disorganized, it’s time to sit down and map out a solid plan of action. Post this plan of action and structured tasks on a large whiteboard or on a large board that displays what everyone needs to be doing each day. With structure, you will have less questions and less confusion.
Question 5: Is your team allowed to openly debate your challenges and opportunities?
When I work with leaders, and I bring up the subject of “open debate”, the leader usually freezes and says…”Oh…I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Come on…they’re debating anyway. They are either gossiping or snipping at each other when things are going wrong, or they are smearing their leader’s reputation behind his/her back. With open debate, you give your team the psychological safety needed to speak their minds in a supportive environment. Open debate is not just a venting session. It is an opportunity for your team to get what’s really on their minds on the table, and in the end, you all agree on steps you will take to ACT on a solution. If your team is not allowed to openly debate issues in front of the team, they are probably afraid of their leader, so look closely at your own leadership and how you can grow so that open debate becomes an opportunity for strenghtening your organization.
Over the last year, I have coached multiple teams. I have also watched a number of teams from the board perspective and have observed a few athletic teams. It always amazes me to see a talented group of people…who are supposed to be a team…fall apart at the seams. It’s just sad to watch.
So, today, I want to leave you with five things you can do…not tomorrow…not next week…but today to rebuild momentum so that your team (corporate, business, athletic, volunteer or family team) can become energized and get back to winning…at whatever game you are playing!
1) Provide structure and accountability.
Leaders often think that their teams need to just “do their own thing and get the job done.” I have never seen this work. Teams need structure…they need a dependable process to follow, and they need to be held accountable to that process. Hmm…I wonder if Coach Roy Williams of the UNC Tarheels basketball team just let his team “do their own thing” this year. I wonder if he said “Hey guys…just go play some basketball, and I’m headin’ over to Dairy Queen to get a soft serve cone…let me know how you did when I get back!” I would bet $1,000.00 that this was not the case…I bet this team had a structure, a system and a process to get the job done. This team went on a mission this year to win the NCAA championship, and I have heard through the grapevine that this team has structure, discipline and a strong accountability system. They commit, and they follow through…and here they are…national champs of 2009.
2) If you are the leader, take 100% responsibility for your team falling apart, and start changing your leadership behaviors NOW!
I hear this everyday “Well…Susan is not doing her job. Or…gosh…we really don’t have much leadership on our team.” This is just plain ridiculous and lame. If you are the leader, and your team is not doing their job, and you are lacking leadership, look in the mirror…right now! Go stand in front of the mirror and ask yourself “What am I doing or not doing that is causing this team to fall apart?” As I have said multiple times, s— does not flow upstream. It flows downstream. If your team is falling apart, they are probably following your lead as a leader. Your team is probably feeling like you are the one not stepping up and that you have basically given up on your team. It’s time to step up and change your life…change your leadership…start taking command, and get in there and fight for your team.
3) Sit down with each person on your team immediately and map out a plan for the next 6-12 months.
This one step is almost never done. Each person on your team has a role to play…and it’s time to sit down and map out a plan for development for each person…an individual developmental map of what the next 6-12 months is going to look like and what you expect. What skills does this person need? What does she need to improve? What managerial skills are missing? What are both the hard and soft skills needed so that your team can win? Sit down, and write out a 6 month plan…a plan which focuses on strengths and how to use those strengths to pull up the shortcomings.
4) Be a MAN or a WOMAN…TAKE COMMAND!
There has to be a leader in command (not sitting by in idle mode) when your team is falling apart. The old saying “If it’s to be, it’s up to me” is such a worn out cliche, but it is so true in this situation. When you take command, you have to be willing to take full responsibility for making the change, take tough stands and keep your cool. You have to be energized by tough challenges and not give up. You have to get in there, roll up your sleeves, and tell your team “We are going in this direction…either get on the bus or off the bus!” You have to know your cutting line, and you may have to go head to head with another person on your team to get the group moving in the right direction. If you are sitting and waiting for the wind to take you where you need to go, you are not a leader…you are a follower. If this is your approach, and if you can’t come up with big ideas, new strategies and to convincingly voice your opinions, then get out of the way, and get a new leader on board. It may be time when you look into the mirror to just say “I can’t lead this team. I’m just not the right person for now!”
5) Include some fun along the way.
I don’t believe that the fun should be 75% of this equation. I am totally into fun, but let me tell you…the teams that “win” are working hard will tell you that it is not all fun and goofing off.. However, they will tell you they are having the time of their lives, because they are winning. They work, they perspire, they get in there with grit and get the job done, and at the end of the day, they celebrate. Sit down with your team and brainstorm on how to get stronger by using creativity and how to make it fun. Companies like TheGreatEscapeRoom.com exist today specifically to create fun team-building events for corporate environments. Most leaders never sit down and talk about how they are going to get better and have fun doing it. When the fun stops, teams fall apart. They lose their spirit. So, get in there, and work hard…and play hard!
I am convinced that the quality of our living is directly proportional to the quality of our relationships, and it is not uncommon for our relationships to suffer when we are fearful or we feel threated by another person or group of people.
As I am traveling around the country, I am hearing questions and comments from Baby Boomers which are somewhat on the critical side…criticizing Generation Y for their high expectations, for being able to get the job done quickly and then wanting to kick off early or for Generation Y’s casual attitudes about dress and formal communication.
So…as a coach, when I hear a complaint, I am usually looking a lot deeper, because when there is a complaint, it usually stems from a fear or from a value being charged or violated.
As I have been digging deeper, I have found that there are 5 very common fears that are keeping senior leaders from enjoying their Generation Y colleagues, and they are:
1) Fear of technology. As we all know, Generation Y is the most tech savvy generation alive today. They may be trumped by Gen Z (or the next generation.) But, for now, they are certainly dominating the technology know-how arena while many Baby Boomers are still trying to figure out how to send e-mail or a text message. If you are a senior leader, and if you are afraid of technology, then it’s up to you to get trained up. There are scores of courses being offered around the country on every tech skill under the sun, so if this applies to you, get going on your own continuing education.
2) Fear of job loss. As our Gen Y professionals become more knowledgeable and skillful, there will come a time when people who can no longer perform will be asked to retire early. That is just the way the world works, but it is really not an excuse for calling Gen Y names or feeling threatened about their skill set. It’s time to embrace this generation and get in their as senior leaders and share our wisdom with them.
3) Fear of looking dumb. This is a fear that everyone experiences at some point in their lives, yet there is nothing more unnerving to some senior leaders to be “shown up” in front of their peers by someone who is half their age. And guess what…Gen Y is not out there trying to show up their senior leaders. It just happens. If you are a leader, then it’s up to you to admit when you don’t know something and to be excited that you have a Gen Y on your team who can answer that question. Leaders are only as strong as the people they surround themselves with, and I believe it’s time to start surrounding ourselves with both Gen Y and Gen Z young men and women. They are our future, and they know a lot, but you won’t know this if you keep them at bay.
4) Fear of optimism. Yeah…I know this sounds bizarre, but many senior leaders are just downright pessimistic and to hear the optimism of Gen Y just scares them silly. Many remind me of Eyeore from Winnie the Pooh…”It’s a beautiful day, and I’m going to get sunburned!” I know that times are tough, and I know we are heading into a recession, but we need Gen Y’s optimism right now. We need their creativity, networks and bright spots to pull us through these times.
5) Fear of change. Fear of change is something all humans experience, but the older we get, the more we have a tendency to dig our heels in and stay put. This world is changing, and the Millennials are bringing us new ideas, a new world view, a positive view of diversity, innovation and a way forward that just might not look like what it did 20 years ago…and that’s okay! We are here to evolve and grow, and Generation Y is going to take us in that direction. If you are living with a fear of change, I encourage you to reach out and work with a coach on this one issue. It could be the one thing that is stopping you from building a great relationship with the Millennials in your life.
Today, if you are someone who is living with any of these fears, I recommend that you take out a piece of paper and write out your thoughts around these fears and how they may be getting in the way of your relationships with Generation Y. They are our future, and it’s time to start working with them…not resisting their efforts.
“When is John going to get me that report?”
“What is going on with the marketing report? When are they going to finish that thing?”
“I can’t believe Mary is so late in making those phone calls.”
“Okay…who dropped the ball this time?”
“Hey…that’s not MY job.”
Does this sound familiar? If so, your team may be faced with a big challenge with accountability, which results in finger pointing, frustration and broken trust…both with your employees and your customers. Personal responsibility and accountability can put an end to the blame game, saving your business thousands if not millions of dollars by increasing productivity and overall job satisfaction, which results in very satisfied customers. These five basic approaches can support you in increasing accountability, which are simple, yet they require actually building a culture of accountability for your business.
Communicate the big picture- Accountability stands a better chance of succeeding if everyone in your business embraces a larger responsibility for the success of the entire company. Spend time talking individually with team members about how his or her project affects the vision and mission of the business. With this communication, people can make wiser decisions from the context of the “big picture” rather than from the perspective of what may seem to be a detailed and boring task.
State clear expectations- If one person on your team does not meet your expectations, the entire team can fail. It is important from the very beginning of any new project to state the expectations clearly and repeat them over and over again until your team really “gets it.” These expectations need to be crystal clear, including dates, who is responsible for what, the details of the task and how you want the finished product delivered. If your expectations are fuzzy or confusing in any way, your team can break down, and the fine and very important details can fall through the cracks.
Accountability work groups-One of the best ways to achieve accountability is to develop shared accountability among team members. Accountability within the team can be accomplished by what Morris R. Shechtman calls “accountability groups,” groups which give team members the permission to speak and listen in a way which is frank and open. This accountability group can include 2-5 people and can then serve as a small unit of people working together to confide in with struggles, weaknesses and insecurities. They can then find creative strategies to work together in the direction of the growth the team intends to achieve.
Move to action-In order for accountability to work, people have to know that failure of completion will come with certain consequences, including written warnings, loss of a bonus or extra hours served on a week-end to complete the project on the table. Without consequences, your employees won’t take you seriously. They will think that they can use blame, justification and rationalization as a way to deviate from being responsible, because you have not followed through on what you said you will do if the tasks are not achieved.
Reward and recognition program-Employees need to know in a tangible way their efforts are indeed driving the company forward, and it is important for them to share in the fruits of their hard work. The offer of increased pay and benefits (vacations, time off and other perks) can keep accountability and morale high and can motivate employees to continue to strive for high levels of performance..