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.

Post lockdown life and business redesign

I’ve spoken to so many people who have told me that lockdown has led them to consider a life and business redesign.

When a crisis happens it can bring into focus what’s really important to us.

Loss, whether a threat or a reality, brings into sharp relief what we really want from life.

This might lead to appreciating with renewed gratitude what you already have and galvanising your determination to keep hold of it.

Or, it might lead to you considering what you want to change. To find the courage to take that risk you wouldn’t have before, with the realisation that ‘life is too short’.

The key to any of this is avoiding a knee jerk reaction. Which can be difficult, when we’re faced with limitations, it’s very tempting to take action – any action!

Following the tips below will ensure that whatever future you want to create will be grounded in what really matters. Which means you will feel more compelled to get there and it will happen with ease.

This blog is written from the perspective of an individual, but this is just as relevant is you are a business leader. Now, is a fantastic time to reevaluate what’s important about the way the people within your business behave with each other and engage with your customers. Organisational vision and values are a tool to articulate what’s expected – maybe this has changed? Maybe this is a great opportunity to refresh and engage? With small tweaks the process below can be applied to a team – more info at the end of this blog.

Start with your feelings

In considering your life and business redesign, you really need to start with your values. Most people don’t know what they are. Or they begin with vanilla words such as ‘family’ or ‘security’. These are certainly things to be of value, but they don’t describe why you value them – the feeling that you experience when you are secure, or focusing upon your family for example.

Instead, begin by considering:

‘How do I feel when I’m absolutely at my best?’ You might say things like, energised, vital, unstoppable, tranquil, calm, in the zone, proud, on fire, smart, creative, organised, focussed.

Who do I admire and what qualities in them do I admire?’ I admire, sassy, wise, unapologetic women like the feminist Germaine Greer, or a fabulous tartan suit wearing, ultra marathon running 70 year old woman I met the other day.

‘How do I feel when work is meeting all my needs?’ For me the descriptive words I would use here are connected, flexible, varied.

‘How do I feel when my personal relationships are on top form?’ Maybe you would describe feeling supported, admired, valued.

‘How do I want to feel about my life?’ I would say ‘adventurous’, my sister would say ‘feeling comfort and warmth’.

‘What would I like to hear others saying about me?’ Examples could be kind, caring, intelligent, sexy, knowledgeable, ethical. Don’t be shy now – this list is for you, this is not the time to be modest.

Scribble down the feelings and words to describe as they come to you.

Distill your list into a Top 5

Start by clustering words which are from a similar theme.

For example; sexy, sassy, vital, glowing, energetic could be clustered and knowledgeable, important, credible, skilled could be another cluster.

Observe what kind of themes are coming out.

Get a thesaurus and start looking up the words, what other descriptors are there? Is there a word which really resonates which sums up a cluster? Or does one word from a cluster, resonate more than the others?

Hone down your list until you settle upon 5 words. These are the foundations of your life and business redesign.

Make them visible.

Write down each word on a separate piece of paper, or post it note.

Stick them on your wall, mirror, or fridge, anywhere they will be visible to you everyday.

Ruminate upon the list.

Do all these words resonate?

Adjust if necessary – this is your list, tweak it all you like.

It will begin to guide your thoughts on your life and business redesign.

Allow your future vision to emerge

Once you have settled upon your feeling descriptors you will have a good handle upon what you value in life.

The next step is to consider what conditions enable you to experience those feelings/values consistently.

Don’t force this stage, let the ideas develop. When you leave things a little more open, you leave room for alternatives to emerge, that you might not have considered otherwise.

Think of your vision for the future developing like an old Polaroid picture, rather than an instant Smartphone snapshot.

For instance, after I separated from my ex-husband and decided to move house, I considered 2 of my values – adventure and flexibility. I wanted the kids to have an outdoor space, to play and have small, safe adventures, but I didn’t want the commitment of having to look after a large garden. I thought I wanted a traditional Victorian terrace and excluded new builds. But then the purchase of a house I was buying fell through and I needed to find somewhere to live, quickly. I went to look at some new builds and they fitted my values and vision perfectly. I had a tiny, postage stamp garden, but the front door opened onto a large green, with a road looping around the outside. The outdoor space was large and safe and I didn’t need to maintain it!

Time travel to create clarity

Take yourself to the future – as if you have stepped into a Tardis and you have stepped out in 3/5/10 years time – whatever works for you. In this future you have already re-designed your life and business!

  • Experience your life in that future – as if you are actually there.
  • What do you see? Make it colour and make it a moving vision.
  • What do you feel? Sensations, emotions, how is your body moving?
  • What are you hearing? Maybe you hear people saying something, what is it? Make it clear and easily audible.
  • You may even consider what you will smell and taste.

You can get into your Tardis and travel here as often as you like, adding details as they emerge.

What steps did you take?

Now, look back to the here and now (remember, you are standing in the future):

  • How did you get here?
  • What actions did you take?
  • What mindset have you developed?
  • What were the key milestones along the way?

This is a very powerful technique and here is a lovely example here of how Benjamin Zander, who is Musical Director of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra uses it.

Small Steps, Review, Celebrate, Move Again

Come back to the present time.

Identify and write down the first small steps you will take to achieve your vision for your life and business resdesign.

Give yourself and timescale for having achieved those small steps.

Remember, these are small actions – not milestones.

When you have taken those small steps. Acknowledge it! Celebrate with a little ‘whoop’ inside! Recognise that you have made progress.

One of the most frustrating things about creating change is our impatience. Once we have decided where we’re going, we often want to be there right now!

But you know it’s about the journey right?

By taking small steps and stopping to review and understand what you have done, it also gives you the opportunity to adjust course. Like with my example about moving house. Circumstances forced the course adjustment, but nevertheless, I remained open to alternative options and delivered a better result.

Building in review is essential to any kind of success, because this is how we learn and evolve.

Bon Voyage!

I wish you health (even more important than ever at these times) and happiness and most of all to enjoy your journey in articulating your values and developing your vision for your life and business redesign.

Applying to businesses and teams

Organisational values are often perceived as a marketing tool – something we put on our website, or tell our customers. The true purpose of values is to engage with your team and ensure everyone understands what’s important about the way they interact with each other, how they behave with customers and how this all leads to a consistent and powerful experience. Engaging your people is paramount to engaging your customer so they will come back time and time again and recommend you to everyone they know.

Developing a vision is often seen as the responsibility of the business/department leader. How much more powerful when the whole team contributes? The ownership of a co-created vision is 10 times that of one which has been cascaded. Which means enhanced accountability and exponential results.

A business/team engagement workshop includes elements of the team pause, with the addition of exploring and articulating values.

If you’re considering what your business and team will look like post Covid19 then talk to me about team engagement and redefining your future together.

If you’re an individual, who would like some help considering and redefining your future, then get in touch and we can arrange some one to one coaching sessions over Zoom/Skype.

Lyn Paxman, EvolveYou: lyn@evolveyou.co.uk 07950 914328

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

You gotta have faith – delivering vision and values

As leaders we constantly have to create and have faith in the future we are creating. It’s about risking failure and about knowing that you are enough. I have recently discovered my own relationship with faith in the future.

I wrote this blog as part of an Advent Series for Gary Cookson at EpicHR. 

Do you believe in Father Christmas?

When I was a child, I didn’t believe in Father Christmas.  My mum thought that telling my sister and I he was real was lying.  She had her reasons for feeling this way, based in the best of intentions.

I hadn’t really thought about this until I was talking with my therapist.  We were exploring the idea that I have faith that the best outcome will happen for the people and teams I coach, my kids, family and friends. 

I believe they have the resources they need, that the journey to an outcome will teach them valuable insights and build resilience. 

Even if they fail to reach the hoped for ending, they are and will be OK. 

Believing in myself?

I realised I found it harder to have this kind of faith in myself in the context of my relationship with others. 

Making promises I wasn’t sure I could deliver upon, or commitments I may not be able to keep felt like lying. 

Because circumstances out of my control could change and as these circumstances were unknown, how could I make a commitment without knowing the whole truth?  A

nd I had been taught to believe only in reality, the known, as to do otherwise would be lying.

Trusting instead

Maybe having faith is about committing to a future vision and trusting that it will happen, even when you don’t know how you’re going to get there? 

The Oxford dictionary definition of faith is: “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.”

The means, not the end

A vision is a destination, but the path is unknown. 

Goals and outcomes help to set the path for achievement of the vision and are more specific, measurable and tangible. 

The danger is, we’re always reaching for the destination, instead of celebrating the achievement of goals along the way. 

I know I do this – I generate a sense of urgency for myself, which creates its’ own pressure.

Because when I am myself invested in the end – the outcome, I find it harder to trust and surrender to what will happen, I want to control it.

This need to control leads to a fear of having faith – because what if I dream too big, hope for something that isn’t delivered and I become disappointed, having to face failure? 

Better to be realistic and have control of the end, rather than place my faith in the present.

An outcome obsessed world

In an outcome obsessed world, we carefully map and plan our current steps to manipulate the future.  But doesn’t this sometimes remove the enjoyment?

Ten years ago, when I moved to Somerset, I decided to go back to art college and fulfil a teenage ambition.  I learned about mark making, creating patterns, experimenting with colour – all with the purpose of learning, improving, building skill and experience.  Not about producing a product to ‘hang on the wall’. 

Later I attended an art therapy course.  Art as an expression of innermost feelings and thoughts, without images, or words, just marks, colours, shapes.  Expressing the inexpressible.

And most recently I have completed a Foundation in Transactional Analysis and experienced therapy, as opposed to outcome-based coaching, which has been my previous experience.  At one point I said to my therapist “I don’t really understand what we’re doing here, where are we going, what is the purpose?”  She explained that she was getting to know me, and that what we needed to address would unfold.  It was about having faith, that the purpose – the end would evolve.  And it is.  A process of unfurling and discovery.  The absolute security of being listened to, understood and supported.  Which in turn enables me to reach for deeper honesty and reflection, because an outcome, an end isn’t expected.  This means conclusions happen naturally.

This process is enabling me to build faith in myself.  To understand my motivations and patterns.  Offering me the opportunity to make different choices – because I want to, not because I’m urgently striving for a specific outcome.

Choosing faith over control

And yes, I still have doubts.  I believe doubt is a partner of faith.  We hold onto it, despite doubt.

And so, I realise, having faith in the person I can be in the future isn’t lying.  It’s having doubts about the possible outcomes and endings and choosing to go in that direction anyway.

It’s not about having control.

It’s about risking failure and knowing that is enough.

It’s about having faith that I am enough.

The light always returns

And Father Christmas?  He’s a symbol integral to the winter season.  Christmas celebrations represent our faith that the light will return after the dark, at the Winter Solstice.  A celebration of abundance, rebirth and renewal – the opportunity to start again, as Winter begins to end, and we move toward Spring.

And yes – my kids, who are now 16 and above all believed in Father Christmas!

Lyn helps leaders to engage their teams with a compelling vision and to articulate the values and behaviours important to them in delivering it.  This means that strategy and culture are aligned, people feel purposeful and are more accountable.

If you’re feeling your team are ‘just not getting it’, or the organisation is evolving or growing and vision and values needs to be completely clear and overt, then contact Lyn to explore how she can facilitate engagement and change  lyn@evolveyou.co.uk or 07950 914328.

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.

Time management – don’t work harder, stop instead

We’re all under pressure to not only deliver more, but to develop ourselves and our business, keep up to date with technology, consumer demands and legislation and motivate others to do the same.

Stopping may seem counter-intuitive, but perpetuating the hamster wheel of ‘do, do, do’ reduces creative thinking. It affects team relationships and morale and leads to a feeling of ‘we’re not getting anywhere’. At it’s worst it can lead to overwhelm and low productivity, despite the desire to get things done. 

Weekly Personal Review

Put time aside for a weekly personal review and you will find it hugely beneficial.  Do this for yourself and encourage your team to adopt this practice too.

Review frequently and you will meet the need for recognition and structure. We all have 3 needs to be met – recognition, structure and belonging (TA Today, Ian Stewart and Vann Joines).

Recognition develops from acknowledging what happened in the past week.   Although self-generated, it’s equally as valuable as external recognition. It will make you and your team more resilient and motivated.

Structure is achieved through developing the habit of reflection, which creates clarity and focus. Instead of constantly running on half empty, structure provides the opportunity to top up your resources.

Great performance is more than just tasks completed

Using a visual key, helps to categorise review, recognising more than just the ‘to do’s’

An ideal review celebrates not only what has been ticked off the ‘to do’ list, it includes achievements, learning and the ‘warmer’ stuff.  For example, this week I included the enjoyment of spending an evening with my son who has recently left home for Uni.  To me, that’s part of having a healthy, balanced life.

A visual review ‘key’ will encourage the inclusion of more than tasks ticked off.  The key can be adapted to each individual. An effective, rounded performance isn’t about outcome alone, it also focuses upon how it was achieved. Learning, achievement and the ‘warm’ stuff contributes to the ‘how’. This is what evolves you as an individual and is as important to acknowledge.

Refer to diaries etc. to remind yourself what happened, it’s surprisingly easy to forget – even the little things are important.  Make a note as things happen. For instance, a great, productive conversation with a prospective client, or a colleague.

Priorities for the coming week come into focus

As you review, priorities for the following week will come into focus. As well as what will be carried forward – items to make note of which aren’t an immediate priority.

In this example, priorities are broken into themes:

  • Tasks,
  • Research & Learning,
  • Marketing/Social Media,
  • Business Development & Relationships,
  • Accounts,
  • Other.  

Adapt these to suit the work you do.

Headings break priorities into themes. Review uses a key. Future considerations are carried forward. Can be typed, hand-written, or completed on suitable app.

Make it a habit

Make it a habit to carry out the review, at the end or beginning of each week and meet that need for beneficial structure.

  • Review using visual key.
  • Priorities for the following week are naturally flagged. 
  • Note these as they occur, using the ‘Priorities’ headings. 
  • Move backwards and forwards between Review and Priorities until everything is captured. 
  • Hand-write, type, or note in a suitable app, whichever method works for you.
  • Make notes throughout the week as tasks are completed.
  • Note follow up actions for the next week and achievements, learning and ‘warm’ stuff as it happens.

What has been achieved is acknowledged and what needs to be done is captured, ready to be focused upon again on Monday (or whichever day you consider to be the start of your week).

An additional column for noting completion, or further actions is helpful, it’s a place to note priorities and items for review for the following week.

Are you focusing upon what’s really important?

Do your priorities link back clearly to your objectives?

Ideally objectives are developed in line with strategy. By checking that your priorities are delivering your objectives, you’re checking your work is in line with strategy, or business aims.

If priorities are skewed away from objectives, either you need to re-focus your tasks, or review your objectives.  Environment, economy, competition, people and consumer demands change so quickly, good practice is therefore to review objectives quarterly.   Have you learned, or has something new emerged since agreeing the original objectives, if this is the case an adjustment is needed to re-align.

Regular review will evolve you, your team and your business

In a busy world which demands outcomes and achievements, it can seem counter-intuitive to take time out to stop and review.  However, it’s an essential factor in evolving yourself and your business – it’s how we learn and apply our learning. 

Consider allocating a slice of time each week to review and prioritise.  I guarantee it will make you more efficient.

Lyn is an experienced facilitator and leadership skills trainer, with over 20 years experience. She helps teams to celebrate their successes and create clarity around their future vision with the Team Pause. Contact her to find out how this will benefit your team: lyn@evolveyou.co.uk or 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