Time to listen

How often do you make time to listen? Like really stop and listen?

How good does it feel when you’re listened to?

When you’re given 100% undivided attention?

That’s why falling in love 😍 feels so good!

Post lockdown – process and doing

Here in the UK we’re beginning a return to work after the Coronavirus Pandemic Lockdown.

As we’re returning, our attention is understandably on process, compliance, health and safety. On the ‘doing’ of things.

Is time to listen on your radar?

To each other?
To your team?

Like really properly listening, even if it’s something you don’t want to hear?

Massively powerful

This is where understanding is developed.

It’s how people feel recognised and valued.

It creates a sense of belonging.

And it’s hard to do when it means getting off the hamster 🐹 wheel.

But it gives so many longer term benefits.

Making time to listen is one of the most powerful tools you can employ as a leader.

So why don’t we do it?

So why don’t we do it? As well as we could? As often as we should?

Do these reasons sound familiar?

  • You’re mentally too busy to stop and REALLY listen
  • You won’t like what you suspect you’re about to hear and you don’t want to open a can of worms
  • You will want to defend your position, choice and decision and you don’t want to get stuck in a conflict (more here on how to avoid this)
  • You want to be ‘right’, because you’re a competent, experienced leader, so you feel you ‘should’ know the answer and your ‘rightness’ is being questioned, which means you feel your competency is in question.
  • You don’t know how you will make it better – even if you do listen, so what’s the point?
  • You don’t want to get into a spiral of negativity (More here on dealing with negative team members).

Stop!

My profession requires listening carefully and I still forget to do it, when I’m busy, stressed, fed up of hearing the same thing.

BUT – I’ve learned to notice when I’m avoiding stopping to listen.

I take a metaphorical swivel in my chair.

I face the person in front of me.

And I give them my 100% undivided attention.

I make a conscious effort to make time to listen.

It’s a short term investment for a long term gain

I guarantee when you do make time to listen – and I mean with 100% curiosity and exquisite attention (isn’t that a lovely phrase?!) you will see so many benefits.

  • People are much more likely to find the resources to solve the problem themselves if they feel truly heard and they build long term resources to do it again – without you!
  • Team members have the opportunity to reach the same conclusion about a business decision or change if you give them the air space to think it through and then they’re fully bought in.
  • They may have a point and can show you how to do it better.

And so much more….

  • People who are listened to feel understood
  • People who feel understood feel valued – they actually release positive hormones and endorphins!
  • People who feel valued are less stressed, happier, more productive employees and team players

And all this means a better bottom line and a generally nicer place to be!

Make it part of your teams way of working.

Now, making time to listen is more important (and challenging) than ever.

Here’s a wonderful example from Lynne Humphries, a Nurse Manager at Burnham and Berrow Medical Centre about how her team recognised the need to make time to listen.

“As a clinician, the main focus was the clinical aspect of this pandemic. With a team that was up to the challenges to whatever this pandemic threw at us in making both staff and patients safe we were like Lions defending their cubs.

When I reflect on those challenges/pressures we faced as a practice team I personally feel proud.

Joint effort with both clinical & clerical staff created a safe environment implementing all guidelines.

However, their was one link which we missed. ‘Fear’

Over time as we settled into this new life of COVID, it became apparent that certain myths, frustrations, niggles were surfacing from the clerical team.

This was creating a divide between clerical & clinical staff, (which we have never experienced), as fear overrode logic and evidence.

Clinical staff were avoided like the plague creating tensions and upset.

(This is where listening came in) We stopped, made time and asked how our team were doing.

We listened to the fears, opinions.

The fears around their loved ones and fear of COVID.

What developed from listening was a daily update via email, addressing all those questions, myths etc.

Fear has subsided, working relationships are back to normal we are one team.”

A fantastic example of leaders being aware that there was something behind the behaviours they observed and they chose to make time to listen, so they could understand. And what I really like is that they then responded by implementing a new day to day practice, ensuring they continued that support.

The hamster wheel

So, as we step back onto the hamster wheel of day to day life and work.

MAKE TIME TO LISTEN

It’s so valuable, in so many important ways.

And consider:

HOW YOU CAN BUILD TIME TO LISTEN INTO DAY TO DAY WORKING PRACTICES

I help teams to find ways to listen to one another constructively and regularly. Building practices into day to day working which feel natural, whilst building resilience, capability and accountability. Contact me if you would like to take a fresh approach to listening within your team.

3 common mistakes in dealing with negative team members

Despite best intentions and efforts as leaders we often find ourselves dealing with moans, negativity and blame within teams. Find out how to avoid 3 common mistakes in dealing with negative team members.

Especially important at this time of lockdown, as we deal with the stress of people who have continued to work from home. Or the possibility of re-engaging with people who have been furloughed.

It’s possible there will be some fallout and avoiding these 3 common mistakes in dealing with negative team members, will mean they are less likely to become negative in the first place!

1. Emailing written information is not communication

If you hear yourself saying “I sent them the information so they should know what’s going on”, then you’re ticking a box, but you’re not engaging.

Providing written information is just one element of conveying a message, especially if it involves change.

For people to develop an understanding they may need to explore with discussion and questions.

To feel valued and understood, they need to feel they have been listened to.

Written information is OK, but follow it up with a phone or Zoom call (if you’re unable to meet face to face). Either one to one, or as a team.

Provide team members with a window to air their concerns and frustrations. This enables you to set out your future vision and expectations and engage them with where you’re heading, rather than where you are now. More on team engagement through communicating vision, values and organisational objectives here

2. Always focusing upon what needs to be done

Because we’re busy leaders and we’re sensitive to others being busy, we may feel it’s necessary to get to the point and ‘get on with it’. And of course there is some merit in this, too much naval gazing is unproductive.

However, do you make specific time to check in on the person?

Are you asking – particularly during these times of lockdown, how this person is experiencing working for home/not working/homeschooling/being completely alone etc. etc.

Even if your team members are furloughed, you can check in on their well-being. This will go a long, long way to encouraging positivity about the future.

Are you interested in their working relationships and helping individuals to develop strategies to resolve difficulties?

Do you recognise when someone may need help in talking through how they are going to approach a task, or conversation?

As a leader you can support your team development and avoid negativity through fear of failing, or lack of confidence, by giving them a sounding board to solve problems for themselves. Asking questions to encourage them to think it through and consider options.

When we neglect these elements, we open up the opportunity for resentment to fester and this is a common mistake in dealing with negative team members.

3. Defending yourself against their negativity

When someone is moaning, disheartened, negative and pushing the blame onto others (and this might be you), it’s helpful to get underneath what that’s about.

They may be in a position of feeling unappreciated and possibly victimised and will be saying either “why me, this is not fair,” or “if only you would listen to me and do what I say this could all be so much better.”

They will be taking up a position on the Drama Triangle of either ‘Victim’ or ‘Persecutor’ and are looking to be rescued. See more on the Drama Triangle here

You will need to shift your position. A common mistake in dealing with negative team members is to become defensive yourself, avoid this (difficult I know!) as this will reinforce your position of ‘Persecutor’ in their eyes.

Also avoid telling them it will ‘all be alright’ if that’s a promise you can’t keep – you’re being tempted into being a ‘Rescuer’.

Instead ask questions like:

  • What options do you have?
  • What actions would you like to take?
  • What is your most important objective/need and how can I help you to realise it?
  • What change are you asking for and what 2 things would create the most value and benefit for you?

Note that the above questions put the emphasis on the individual making change and taking action. You can support this, but you’re encouraging them to take ownership for the change.

And/or be clear on your expectations:

  • These are my expectations, can you meet them?
  • What support do you need to meet my expectations?
  • What actions can I support you to take to meet my expectations?

The approach of a fair leader

The truth is, there will be occasions when some people are just not ready to be where you need them to be. The fair thing to do as a leader is –

  • Provide every opportunity for those people to engage.
  • Be really clear and kind about your expectations.
  • Support them in taking the steps toward change.

In doing as much as you can to avoid these common mistakes, you will either help them to make a shift and possibly become one of your most highly engaged team members. Or, at least you will have done everything you can before they decide that perhaps working with you isn’t the place they want to be and you can part ways as amicably as possible.

Lyn Paxman, EvolveYou specialises in working with business and team leaders, developing leadership approaches which are in line with their culture and customer ethos. Lyn coaches and mentors leaders one to one as well as working with teams to increase their engagement and accountability.

How to escape the drama triangle & have better relationships

I realised that constantly trying to ‘rescue’ my 20 year old son meant I was perpetuating a bad situation. I was trapped in a Drama Triangle of my own making. In this blog I explain how to escape the drama triangle and what I did to influence a change in everyone involved in mine.

The conflict between my son and husband – his stepdad was fairly long standing.  Nothing dramatic (despite the continuous triangle of drama!), just the usual mundane stuff that wears us down and causes bursts of outrage.

Leaving stuff on top of the dishwasher, not in it (I love Michael McIntyres sketch about this here, skip to 1:07).

Putting stuff in the bin, instead of recycling.

Leaving crumbs on the kitchen worktop. 

And the continuous loop of conversation was; Husband; “why don’t you just listen and do what I ask you to do?”  Son; “I didn’t mean it, I’m not that bad, I usually do it.” 

And me?  I stood on the sidelines watching the exchange and wishing they would find a way to resolve it. 

Later I would talk to my son and husband separately to try and smooth things over.  To my son – “couldn’t you just try harder?  You are cared about, you just need to adapt.”  To my husband – “My son is trying, he just doesn’t realise how annoying he is.  He feels as though you don’t care, can’t you try harder?”

And the result was never what I’d hoped for.  They were both pushed further into their defensive corners.

So, what was going on?

We all had our positions on the (Karpman) Drama Triangle. 

There are 3 positions, but the triangle can apply to any situation with 2 or more people.  

Stuck in our positions

I was the Rescuer

My Son the Victim

And my Husband the Persecutor

So, by attempting to rescue I was reinforcing the other 2 positions! 

As my son or husband became defensive, I would shift into Persecutor myself. And I attempted to appeal to them both to ‘just do as I was asking and it would all be alright.’ 

So the vicious circle (or triangle) continued, I wondered how to escape the drama triangle and I felt stuck.

When well intentioned rescuing back fires

To every well-intentioned do gooder out there, be mindful of the unintended negative impact your rescue intervention could have!

And I see this play out a lot in teams, especially with managers, who want to be helpful to their teams.  They step in and ‘solve it’, and will be frustrated when their teams don’t take responsibility and accountability. From completing a task, to stepping in to iron things out with another team member.

Inevitably this is disempowering for the person who is unintentionally placed into the ‘Victim’ position. 

Granted, the intention was positive and the outcome achieved more quickly. But the opportunity for others to develop those skills and resilience is limited.  The resolution is usually a short-term fix, with the problem resurfacing again later.

Escaping the Drama

So, the first step for me in how to escape the drama triangle was recognising the positions we were all taking.

And the next was to take ownership of my part in the triangle and consider how I could shift.

Because each position has a positive place to shift to.

After another tense interaction happened between my son and husband during the Coronavirus Lockdown, I talked to my son separately.

I moved into Coach by asking what he would like to see change and what action he could take.  He continued to be stuck in the Victim position saying – ‘he (my husband) needs to change’ and ‘I feel as though I don’t belong in the family’ (you can imagine how heart-breaking that was to hear!

I shifted to Challenger and I made my expectations clear. (Also really important when as a leader you are creating accountability).

I suggested to my son that he had the power to change his ‘story’.  He could choose to see himself as responsible and belonging in the family. Only he could make that shift.  I made it clear that it was his choice and that no-one else could make it for him. I painted a picture – a vision of what it would be like if he made a shift.

And then I stepped away and held my breath!

I had no idea whether my son would choose to behave differently.

I’m really pleased to report that he did and during lockdown I am really happy with the way their relationship has improved.

How does this apply to a team?

I’ve recounted a very personal example as it demonstrates really well the patterns we become stuck in, and how ultimately they can change.

The Drama Triangle is everywhere when you look for it!  Including in the workplace and with teams.

I know I have played every position in the Drama Triangle in many different work situations.

The first step in how to escape the drama triangle is recognising the position you are putting yourself in.

This will enable you to observe what’s going on from a slightly detached perspective.

Then you can adjust your approach and readjust if your first attempt doesn’t work. Remember I tried ‘Coach’ and shifted to ‘Challenger’.

The benefits within a team will be:

  • Accountability is encouraged
  • Resilience is developed
  • People are engaged with a future vision, more on this here
  • Influencing skills are supported

Plus – less drama!

If you would like help with how to escape the drama triangle whether at work or home, I provide one to one coaching via Zoom, where we will talk through your situation and work out an action plan.  A one hour session is £70.  I also work with teams, raising their awareness of the games we play in the workplace, so together the team will build alternative strategies and ways of working productively

Team engagement – 4 tips for when they need to ‘grow up’

Does your team need to ‘grow up’? It’s a conversation I regularly have with business leaders – this isn’t about average age, or maturity, it’s about teams loving what they do, but being reluctant to formalise, standardise and implement procedures, which are often needed as organisations grow and sustain. This blog shares tips on team engagement through keeping hold of the ‘good stuff’ – innovation, spontaneity, a feeling of belonging, whilst increasing accountability and ability to execute strategy.

Creating the organisation or team up to this point has been an adventure of discovery – together, and as the conversation turns to standards, processes and procedures team engagement may decrease.

My approach to increasing team engagement is to explore the question; “how can we keep the good stuff and implement what we need for growth/change?”

  • Creating mini-visions to deliver the overall vision
  • Keeping the focus on culture
  • Develop working practices around how values become actions
  • Translate organisational objectives into chunked down meaning

Creating mini-visions to deliver the overall vision

As an organisation evolves teams can become further removed from the creators of organisational vision – usually the founder or leadership team.

Team engagement, belief, motivation & emotion come from debate, questioning, interpreting & considering ‘what does this mean for me?’

Asking teams to create their team or departmental vision for the future means they start to actually imagine and buy into that future. It gives them the opportunity to ‘chunk down’ the big vision into something meaningful for them.

Asking them to consider what they will see, hear and feel in that future engages all senses and puts them into a ‘when’ it happens mindset, rather than ‘if’ it happens.  The mini-vision then becomes compelling because they begin to understand their part in delivering it and they have already started to believe that it will happen. (A team pause is a good place to start)

Keeping the focus on culture

It’s too easy to get drawn into focussing upon what can be measured and ticked off – the ‘what’ of delivering the future vision. This means the ‘how’ we do it gets less attention. 

Peter Drucker said:

‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’ and he was spot on.

Change and growth plans often focus upon the ‘what’ and forget about defining ‘who we are when we’re delivering the strategy’. Minimise the gap between ‘what we say we will do’ and ‘what we actually do’, through facilitated discussions, as well as providing opportunities for feedback – in groups or person to person, to give every individual the opportunity to build their reflection muscles, which in turn develops understanding, which leads to engagement.  (The Creating Wow! team alignment programme develops the skills of team sharing and feedback).

Develop working practices around how values become actions

Values are often articulated as the shorthand of culture – ‘this is how we will behave’. However, unless they’re explored, they become just a poster on the wall, or words on the website. Consider:

  • How are the values reflected in day to day actions?
  • What processes and procedures contradict values and which support?
  • Do our customer journeys enable us to keep our promises?

Through exploration values are distilled into a description of behaviours. And most importantly, working practices need to evolve which support keeping organisational culture on track, for example; how we share information and make decisions, how we share learning and how we overcome challenges together.

Team engagement is in the day to day interactions and working practices.

Translate organisational objectives into chunked down meaning

Just like vision, strategy is often communicated at the ‘big picture’ level and it can be difficult for people to translate into what this means for their day to day work.

Objective setting ensures departments play their part in delivering the strategy, but often this is lost in translation. 

Objectives become a set of initiatives to deliver, rather than describing a meaningful outcome. The OKR method, described in John Doerres book, ‘Measure What Matters’, tackles this issue and it’s a method effectively used by the likes of Google. It ensures the number of departmental objectives are limited, that they are specifically aligned with strategy and avoid cross departmental conflicts.

Everyone should be clear how their objectives contribute to organisational objectives – they should be able to trace the line back up to a key organisational deliverable.

Team engagement follows because everyone understands their purpose in achieving the organisational purpose.

Growing pains minimised, disengagement reduced

When organisational teams are guided through the ‘growing up’ process it means the growing pains are minimised and disengagement is reduced. Culture is co-created by the people within a system (organisation) and by paying attention to the process of co-creation a positive result can be achieved – the good stuff is retained and more good stuff added. Teams are able to interpret chunked up info into day to day meaning, becoming empowered and most importantly accountable – taking responsibility for their actions and delivering outstanding results, enabling them to bring the ‘grown up’ to work.

Lyn specialises in helping teams to translate vision, strategy and values into day to day behaviours, working practices and objectives, meaning that what gets delivered in in line with organisational purpose. She facilitates workshops which engage teams through discussion and exploration, using a variety of methods which keep it interesting and interactive. Contact her at lyn@evolveyou.co.uk or 07950 914328. www.evolveyou.co.uk

6 Reasons Why Millennials Can’t be Managed

Millennials come in for some stick and scrutiny and I believe that one of the factors that challenges us the most is that we have to change the way we lead in order to fully engage the potential of millennials. 

For most of us in leadership positions this means that we are the ones who need to change and change feels uncomfortable.

Millennials have a different set of expectations, shaped by the world in which they have grown up. Here are 6 reasons why you can’t manage a millennial and ways we need to motivate and lead them differently.

  1. They demand greater purpose in the work they do.

Recession has impacted upon their progress through life and has driven a need for greater self-reliance, the re-forming of future hopes and dreams, the re-assessment of what they expect materialistically and the demand for more personal purpose.

This drives a need to align their personal values with the values of the organisation they work for. They will see through the ‘poster on the wall’ values that many organisations pay lip service to. They know what values mean and they expect to be living them personally and professionally.

Or to seek this elsewhere through self-employment, start-ups and more flexible, fulfilling ways of working.

2. They see the bigger picture and the impact of their small actions

The millennials world is more widely connected than any baby boomers and generations Xers could ever have anticipated. How can they not be aware of the bigger picture?

They understand that their actions as employees and consumers will make a difference once linked to the actions of other employees and consumers in their global community, and they are more mindful of the impact they may have as a small part of a collective.

They are cautious of shareholders and suspicious of investors – they’re the ones who stitch up the public and help the rich get richer right? So, what is their incentive for achieving their KPIs, when ultimately the benefit of their successful delivery will be for shareholders and investors?

This means Millennials are demanding and expecting greater integrity and authenticity from the organisations and leaders they will commit to.

3. They understand that they are the change they most want to see in the world

They see a world which is in economic, social and environmental turmoil. 

In his book ‘Fast Future’ David Burstein describes Millennials approach; “They have a deep desire to make the world a better place and they understand that doing so means working within the existing system, whilst trying to challenge and change it” (paraphrased).

They see a world which needs to make a change and they understand that they are responsible for the change they most want to see in the world.

They seek people who inspire them to make these changes.

They have the ability to network with like-minded people and the desire to collaborate.

They demand leaders who understand this too.

4. They demand a compelling vision for the long term

Millennials are part of an environment where change is happening exponentially – one change leading to another and then to another.

How can you identify the steps for a plan, when you cannot anticipate what will happen next because you need to learn something new first? This means Millennials are more comfortable with ambiguity, but what drives them forward in the absence of structure is a compelling vision.

Organisations and leaders need to communicate and re-iterate a compelling vision to continually engage millennials. This vision must be purposeful and authentic.

5. They need to evolve the ability to find answers for themselves

Millennials want to be inspired and given the opportunity to contribute the best of themselves to the world (as we all do).

Exponential change and innovation means that answers and solutions are often evolving, rather than known. It’s essential that all team members evolve the ability to solve for themselves, because if they wait for leaders to provide solutions progress will be slowed.

Teams require leaders, but not the hierarchical ‘I’ve got all the answers’ kind, leaders who enable and facilitate. Leaders who provide the space and environment for Millennials to solve problems themselves. Where trust and authenticity is encouraged and they are challenged to stretch, grow and evolve, rather than being challenged to deliver and meet measures driven by shareholders and investors for their benefit alone.

6. They want feedback, not appraisal

Millennials are used to a world of immediacy. Google, Apps, on-line games – they ask a question and they have their answer within seconds. They play a game and see their result straight away.

Exams are part of their on-going assessment as schools test more frequently to feedback and address learning gaps throughout the school year.

Millennials need and demand more frequent, specific feedback, enabling them to immediately reflect, learn and adapt. Not annual appraisal against KPIs or out of date comments on past outcomes.

If we want to fully release and utilise the talent and commitment of our future workforce is it time for us to re-think the purpose of organisations? The influences on culture, such as structure and measurement and ultimately our leadership approach?

Inspiration taken from research by Howe and Strauss and Yu & Miller about workplace attitudes of millennials.

If you would like to develop your leadership team and your approach to linking purpose and vision with your objective setting and review process contact Lyn to discuss what you’re currently observing and where you would like to be: 07950 914328, Lyn@evolveyou.co.uk

Want high performance? Support peoples personal purpose – here’s how.

The trend for people to find personal purpose means more are leaving the world of employment to forge their own path. Where does this leave organisations? Are we missing out on talent, because people believe they need to seek their purpose elsewhere?

What can organisations and it’s leaders be doing to retain talent and enable individuals to feel fulfilled and ‘on purpose’? It’s about authentic leadership, self management and agile practices.

Change the System, Change the Result

We know that the culture – the system within which people work impacts upon well-being and performance. It also impacts upon our ability to ‘be’ ourselves and bring our full package to the workplace, meaning we feel more purposeful.

The old systems and ways of leading, managing and controlling prevent this:

  • Controlling via top down cascaded objectives: The people at the ‘top’ decide what’s important and cascade to everyone else in a waterfall manner. Objectives are set, often in departmental silos and the people who deliver are the ones rewarded and recognised. This results in a culture where people develop a professional ‘performing’ mask, according to Frederic Laloux in his book Re-inventing Organisations. They feel they must look the part, value rationality above emotions and appear competent, busy & successful at all times. Feelings are hidden and unexpressed, under the pressure to perform to requirements, in order to be rewarded.
  • Company values which are no more than ‘lip service’: The intention behind organisational values is to create a sense of belonging and empowerment. We know this is important to accelerated performance. However, far too many organisational values become a poster on the wall & website, nothing more than a marketing tool. Values must be kept alive and fully integrated into ‘the way we do things’ to really have meaning, otherwise they create cynicism and disappointment.

What are the alternatives?

Co-operation, Self-management and Emerging Strategies

Truly evolved organisations according to Laloux (Re-inventing Organisations ), fully embrace what it means to enable people to bring their whole selves to the workplace. They implement a system where self-managed teams enable co-operative peer relationships, without the need for hierarchy.

We live in a fast paced, constantly changing world and strategies and plans often emerge as our understanding develops, because we’re learning as we go along.

  • Flexible communication enables greater responsiveness to change as it happens.
  • Lack of rigidity means people have less to ‘hold onto’, whether status or responsibility – they are more likely to move with what’s needed.
  • Values are upheld from within the team, rather than ‘communicated’ by the organisation, meaning people feel more purposeful and involved.

Lessons From the Agile Manifesto

The way software was developed changed from the waterfall method of project management to an approach termed as ‘Agile’. Work is structured in short stints, with regular review periods built in and a manifesto which encourages relevant behaviours. There are lessons to be learned from the success of the Agile approach, which can be applied to any type of business.

From the Agile Manifesto:

We have come to value………

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software (replace with product/service/relationship) over comprehensive documentation.
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

The agile approach begins with the team creating a vision, based upon customer needs and shorter term objectives are defined – as a team. Steps are mapped out iteratively and frequent reviews in-built, which enable learning to be understood and applied to the next few steps. The plan begins to emerge, rather than being set out in predicted steps and complicated GANTT charts.

Objectives always stay current and realistic. The whole team is behind achievement, avoiding silo thinking and dominant performances. The plan adapts to what is known at a given moment, allowing creativity and flexibility.

“When one holds onto a plan so tightly, one must keep reality at bay, or at least ‘solve for it’”. Lyssa Adkins, Coaching Agile Teams

Leader as Coach and Facilitator, Rather Than Decision Maker and Problem Solver

As a team experiences greater empowerment and agility is facilitated, the leader becomes a coach and facilitator, rather than decision maker and solver of problems. An observer of team dynamics and facilitator of team relationships.

Goals need to be at multiple levels ‘What’s in it for me? What’s in it for us as a team? What’s in it for my company? What’s in it for the world?’ A shared vision encompassing these varied and rich dimensions will survive the shifting winds of conflict and change, which are sure to blow as the team works together.” Lyssa Adkins, Coaching Agile Teams

When an issue emerges leaders ‘take it to the team’ in the belief that they are closer to the problem and will therefore develop a better answer. Understanding that when the team solves a problem this presents an opportunity for further learning and development and evolution of the team, creating greater agility. “Truly agile teams are the unending quest to be better than we are today.” (Lyssa Adkins)

“Problems represent a chance for the team to overcome, grow and become stronger together.” Theodore Rubin, psychiatrist and author.

Team Members Understand Where They Can Utilise Their Particular Strengths

At the core of self managed teams is living real values and empowerment.

There is a tipping point when an individuals self interest shifts to alignment with the behaviours that support team achievement.” Ellen Braun, accomplished agile manager (Coaching Agile Teams).

At the core of the agile approach is iterative planning, which enables continuous learning and improvement.

Both require leaders who are coaches and facilitators.

Team members are more likely to understand where they can add value and utilise their particular strengths. Enabling them to ‘be’ themselves – to be ‘on purpose’.

Strategy and culture become part of the DNA of every single employee, rather than ‘owned’ by the organisation. Better decisions are made, greater accountability is experienced, increased purpose is embedded. Talent is retained, because people want to stay when they are this fulfilled.

“People are not motivated by the company’s bottom line – they want to feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves”. (Joey Reiman in the Story of Purpose).

To create a culture which enables individuals to bring the best of themselves and want to stay within your organisation contact Lyn: 07950 914328, Lyn@evolveyou.co.uk

A version of this article was published in the Lean Management Journal 30 March 2017: https://the-lmj.com/2017/03/is-agile-the-best-way-to-achieve-personal-purpose/

Vulcan mind melds and ‘burstiness’ – the key to innovative thinking

‘Cognitive intimacy’ leads to collaboration, according to Lyssa Adkins in ‘Coaching Agile Teams’.  Team communication is so in flow, it’s almost Vulcan mind meld quality.   There is trust, the willingness to be vulnerable and put forward stupid ideas, which can be built upon to become great ideas.  Risks are taken, feedback is given, people say it how it is, and mutual accommodation and respect is encouraged.

In his fabulous podcast ‘WorkLife’ Adam Grant talks about how the Newsnight team and Trevor Noah are so relaxed in the company of each other that they engender ‘burstiness’. Generating ideas for new jokes and story lines creates laughter, with an acceptance of seemingly stupid ideas, along with those which appear clever and inspiring.  They are willing to be vulnerable, knowing that sometimes it’s the silliest idea that inspires the best thoughts.

Achieving burstiness and cognitive intimacy:

  • Are your team objectives driving the behaviours of collaboration, which are essential to innovation?
  • How do you encourage the sharing of ideas and learning within your team?

It’s important to ensure that individual objectives don’t sabotage team success. 

For example, objectives which encourage an individual to ‘take something and make it your own with evidence of you driving results’, will encourage work grabbing, limelight hogging and credit taking, rather than giving away ideas which enable team improvement or acknowledging the skill of others so the best result can be delivered.

Reviewing and appraising performance together will enable open discussion and the sharing of ideas and challenges. 

It will build trust and understanding and make sure that individual and team objectives are aligned.

Spending time away from the pressures of the everyday can give this way of working a tremendous boost.  A yearly team review and appraisal brings together and acknowledges the contribution and learning of everyone.   You can explore questions like these:

  • What value have we delivered this year?
  • How do we know we have made a difference?
  • Where could we have made more impact?
  • We know we have grown because……..?

Review the past years activities together as a team – milestones, challenges, failures, learning, achievements. This begins to build a shared understanding – a perspective where the sum of its parts come together, so everyone can see the bigger picture.

The opportunity to explore ‘do differently’s is opened up – identifying improvements and team objectives for the year ahead. 

Affirming the growth of the team as a whole, encouraging support as everyone works toward the same aligned purpose.  Mis-alignments in objectives are highlighted, where if one person ‘wins’ this could be at the expense of another.

Some reflective conversations may get intense (in a good way), so take some time to have fun together too – reinforcing trust and positive relationships to take back into the workplace.

Setting the boundaries around open and honest review is very important to productive conversations.  Lyn Paxman has over 20 years experience of facilitation, working with corporate leaders and teams. Her mission is to help teams to work in an environment where they thrive not strive. If you have a specific objective she will design a bespoke day with you, facilitate a specific meeting, or use her proven process for a ‘Team Pause’ day, where teams reflect and understand, before considering their future shared vision. Here is her Linked-in profile or contact her on 07950 914328, lyn@evolveyou.co.uk

5 Ways to Keep Your Team Laser Focused (even through growth and change)

At the beginning regular conversations and ad-hoc discussions shape the future vision.  Everyone has absolute clarity, they know what the future will look like, feel like and sound like.

The team got down to the hard work of translating the vision into processes, standards and values. And above all, meeting customer needs and outshining the competition.

Then the organisation grows, or moves into becoming sustainable rather than a start-up and change happens. Committed people become burnt out, or disengaged. They lose their mojo.

The Founder isn’t quite so hands on. There’s a need for more structure to enable growth. Work becomes ‘business as usual’, there seems to be confusion about where priorities lie and accountability is weak.

Here are 5 ways you can keep the team laser focused and on track:

1. Do they understand ‘why’ they do what they do? 

Remember those constant conversations, those late nights working it all out, the excitement of feeling you were crafting something unique? 

The vision becomes diluted as time passes.

When was the last time the existing team was involved in exploring and understanding the future vision?

Have they imagined what it looks like, feels like and sounds like?

Change may mean your vision or the means to get there becomes foggy.

Unless everyone fully understands and can articulate the ‘why’ of your organisation, they won’t really feel part of the overall picture.

They will just do their job, rather than consider how their role contributes to the purpose of the company. 

2. Do they have crystal clear clarity on what needs to be delivered and by when? 

Does the team understand what’s really important in terms of the organisational aims and objectives and how this filters into their specific objectives?

Good objectives are not a list of initiatives and things that need to get done.

They are a clear description of what is to be achieved which will enable the strategy to be delivered.

Initiatives enable the achievement of objectives.

John Doerrs book, Measure What Matters provides some great examples of strategically led objective setting. It’s adopted by the likes of Google and they call them OKR’s (Objectives and Key Results).

Objectives should be transparent and shared across roles and departments, so there are no conflicts of interest, which drive silo thinking and working.

3. Can they take small steps toward achieving their objectives every day? 

Setting objectives is often the reserve of the annual appraisal, which is quickly becoming as unfashionable as it is useless. 

In fact things often change so quickly that within a few months the objectives set at the annual appraisal are out of date or irrelevant. 

Agree a timescale that enables individuals to keep their objectives in mind and take small steps toward them each day.  Scope out broader long-term objectives and then break down into monthly, or quarterly objectives to be achieved sooner.

Review progress frequently – ideally monthly or quarterly. Use the review to check whether the objectives are still relevant:

  • Has information emerged that wasn’t available earlier?
  • Has something been learned which sheds new light on what is needed?
  • Has a change happened within the company, economy, or customer needs?

Redefine the objectives as information emerges, this means actions remain agile and the real priorities are addressed.

It also means people feel motivated, because they review and evidence progress.

4. Do they know what standard is expected? 

Standards are what is expected of individuals in their day to day tasks.  Whether you need to discuss this may depend upon the level of experience of the person being managed, it may also be necessary where a new role, or work task is added.

A standard is a very specific expected outcome and can be described in terms of quantity and quality.  “Produce X number of widgets, within Y number of minutes, which are all perfectly round and smooth”.  “Welcome all customers with a genuine smile as soon as they enter the restaurant and show them to their table.”  “Produce this report in the X format, by Y time every Tuesday.”

5. Do they have weekly support and check-ins?

This might seem excessive, but this isn’t about checking-up, or micro-managing.

It’s about providing a sounding board, being a coach and mentor, rather than a decision maker and director.

It means you support your team to solve issues, before they become issues. You are aware of team conflicts and challenges, coaching individuals to find the resources to handle, rather than having to step in to solve it for them.

Frequent check-ins and support will develop your teams resilience, focus and motivation.

Communication ‘with’ rather than ‘to’ your people

During times of change or growth, communication is seen as essential – but it’s often done ‘to’ people, rather than ‘with’.

By doing the 5 things suggested and consistently discussing strategy, aims and vision. Constantly revisiting how this translates to objectives, standards and things to do, you will have a team who deeply understand what is needed. They will be more capable of accountability and decision making, freeing you to focus upon evolving your organisation further.

Lyn has over 20 years of developing leaders and facilitating conversations to help teams to become clearer on what strategy means to them day to day. To discuss how she can support you and your organisation contact her: lyn@evolveyou.co.uk, 07950 914328.

Ping Pong Tables and Funky Furniture

Ping pong tables, funky furniture and advanced ways to share work and communicate, may be seen as indicators of an innovative workplace and a high-performance culture.  However, the ‘window dressing’ often doesn’t deliver the desired results.

Perks and environment don’t drive performance – they support it.  It is delivered through behaviours and relationships.  People who are crystal clear on what they need to deliver for their organisation and how they deliver it to their customers.  People who understand how to continuously improve – together.

Business leaders often focus upon structure, process, environment, sexy marketing.  New systems are implemented, processes redefined. A ‘ra ra’ launch for the new product or branding to get people excited – and they are – in that moment.

When the shiny newness wears off people fall back into the status quo – where it feels comfortable and familiar.  Back into their ‘to do’ lists and work silos – particularly if there is a heavy workload.  There isn’t time to consider the bigger picture, to worry about whether their outputs are aligned with those of their colleagues.  With the best of intentions, they believe that as long as they do a good job, the customer will be happy.

Business leaders become frustrated, because despite their investment, the front-line people who can make a difference are not delivering their highest performance levels.  Continuous improvement is seen as a project, not a day to day norm.

The counter-intuitive solution to continually engaging people with the organisational strategy, with continually finding ways to be better, to look outside of the ‘to do’ list and day to day tasks is to STOP!

  • To facilitate conversations which create openness, constructive review, understanding of others challenges
  • To build and endorse collaborative behaviours
  • To create solutions together, which everyone buys into
  • To remind of the bigger picture the silo of their work hangs upon
  • To make the links between their list of tasks and the purpose of why they are doing it.

This is not internal comms, an update, or a team build.

It’s about considering simple, key questions on a regular basis, which will facilitate the above, such as:

  • What’s going well, what’s not going so well and what could we be doing differently?
  • Are we keeping our promises to our customers?
  • Where are we dropping the ball and why?
  • Do our ‘sales pitch’ promises match what we deliver further into the relationship?
  • What projects, what specific tasks, would require collaboration to deliver the best results?  (Carlos Valdes-Dapena used this question when improving collaborative working at Mars)

Culture is something that needs to become part of the material of a team – the invisible ingredients that everyone consumes without realising, but getting there and keeping it alive needs focus, attention, time and space.  Time to STOP!

An experienced facilitator can be extremely beneficial in enabling constructive conversations, honest dialogue and the building of trust and collaboration.

Lyn Paxman has over 20 years experience of facilitation, working with corporate leaders and teams. She helps teams to have better conversations, which lead to better decisions and better results.

Her facilitated Customer Journey Review is a powerful way of exploring whether promises to your customers are being kept further down the line. Contact Lyn on 07950 914328, lyn@evolveyou.co.uk 

Want better results from your team? Be more tortoise!

rabbit and  turtle  on a white background

Want Better Results from your Team?  – Be more tortoise.

The hamster wheel of corporate life. So much to do, deadlines to meet, meetings to attend, projects to deliver. The hare thought speed was the secret to his success, but he lost the race.

Instead, be more tortoise. Follow your hare like sprints with time out for reflection – this is what gets the best results.

On the hamster wheel you will keep on doing what you’ve always done, eventually leading to poor, stagnant results.

Taking time out to reflect develops understanding – of what’s working, what’s not and what we could do differently. It builds our resources to innovate, create, collaborate and continuously improve.

The actions you then take are more considered, focused, specific – your sprints speed up. Less firefighting – more problem solving.

In a competitive world it’s essential that teams are agile in the face of change. This stems from their ability to learn. Learning happens in both the doing and the understanding. To understand, you must reflect. John Dewey (psychologist) said, “We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.”

Reflection isn’t just about understanding what went wrong and how you could do better, it’s about understanding what went well, so you can do more of what works. It’s honestly and non-judgmentally examining our contributions.

When you’re contained within your work environment and the pressures it presents you’re not always in the right frame of mind to pause, step back and examine with an open mind.

The work environment demands (sometimes covertly) that we demonstrate our competence, our ability to be in control and deliver. This is what is recognised and rewarded, however, this doesn’t facilitate openness.

The most effective reflection happens in a safe environment.  It’s important to set the conditions for judgement and criticism to be suspended, so it’s possible to examine a situation openly and honestly. James Zull (author, the Art of Changing the Brain) said, “Even if we experience something that has happened to us before, it is hard to make meaning of it unless it engages our emotions.” He also points out that reflection is a search for connections and suggests that we have to seriously consider the role of emotion if we want to foster deep learning. Environment is an important factor in creating the conditions for connecting to emotion.

Setting the boundaries around open and honest review is essential to productive conversations – a facilitator can help to hold a space for this to happen. Some reflective conversations may get intense (in a good way), so take time to have fun together too – reinforcing trust and positive relationships to take back into the workplace.

Most importantly time for review and reflection should be built into the fabric of a teams culture, to be something which happens with regularity. This enforces the habit and builds the skill of review, so improvement becomes – continuous.

Sprints of hare like activity will get things done, but balancing this with regularly slowing down to reflect and review will ensure that the next sprint is well aligned and delivering the best result possible.

Lyn Paxman has over 20 years experience of facilitation, working with corporate leaders and teams. Her mission is to help teams to work in an environment where they thrive not strive. The ‘Team Pause’ day is an experiential and fun process, where teams reflect and understand, before considering their future shared vision. Insights are developed and experienced facilitation creates better conversations, which leads to better decisions and better results.
Contact on 07950 914328, lyn@evolveyou.co.uk