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Managing Staff

Team Building Without Time Wasting

As major organisations have to learn to deal with increasingly rapid change, teams are becoming more and more important.

Marshall Goldsmith

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Many of today’s leaders face a dilemma: As the need to build effective teams is increasing, the time available to build these teams is often decreasing.

A common challenge faced by today’s leaders is the necessity of building teams in an environment of rapid change with limited resources.

The process of re-engineering and streamlining, when coupled with increased demand for services, has led to a situation in which most leaders have more work to do and fewer staff members to help them do it.

Increasing leadership effectiveness

Research involving thousands of participants has shown how focused feedback and follow-up can increase leadership effectiveness – as judged by direct reports and co-workers.

A parallel approach to team-building has been shown to help leaders build teamwork without wasting time. While the approach described sounds simple, it will not be easy.

It will require that each team member has the courage to regularly ask for – and learn from – ongoing suggestions from fellow team members.

To successfully implement the following team-building process, the leader (or external consultant) will need to assume the role of coach or facilitator and fight the urge to be the ‘boss’ or ‘instructor’.

Greater improvement in teamwork tends to occur when team members develop their own behavioural change strategies rather than just executing a change strategy that has been imposed upon them by the ‘boss’.

Read Next: Why You Should Be Using the Coach Approach

Steps in the process

1. Begin by asking all members of the team to confidentially record their individual answers to two questions:

  1. ‘On a 1 to 10 scale (with 10 being ideal), how well are we doing in terms of working together as a team?’ and
  2. ‘On a 1 to 10 scale, how well do we need to be doing in terms of working together as a team?’

Before beginning a team-building process, it’s important to determine whether the team feels that team-building is both important and needed.

Some people may report to the same manager, but legitimately have little reason to work interactively as a team. Other groups may believe that teamwork is important, but feel that the team is already functioning smoothly and that a team-building activity would be a waste of time.

2. Have a team member calculate the results.

Discuss the results with the team. If the team members believe that the gap between current effectiveness and needed effectiveness indicates the need for team-building, proceed to the next step in the process.

The research reveals that in the vast majority of cases, team members believe that improved teamwork is both important and needed. Interviews involving members from several hundred teams (in multinational corporations) show that the ‘average’ team member believes that his or her team is functioning at a 5,8 level of effectiveness but needs to be at an 8,7 level.

3. Ask the team members,

‘If every team member could change two key behaviours that would help us close the gap between where we are and where we want to be, which two behaviours should we all try to change?’ Have each team member record his or her selected behaviours on flip charts.

4. Help team members:

Help team members prioritise all the behaviours on the charts (many will be the same or similar) and (using consensus) determine the most important behaviour to change (for all team members).

5. Have each team member hold a one-on-one dialogue with all other team members.

During the dialogues each member will request that his or her colleague suggest two areas for personal behavioural change (other than the one already agreed on above) that will help the team close the gap between where we are and where we want to be.

These dialogues occur simultaneously and take about five minutes each. For example, if there are seven team members, each team member will participate in six brief one-on-one dialogues.

6. Review time:

Let each team member review his or her list of suggested behavioural changes and choose the one that seems to be the most important. Have all team members then announce their one key behaviour for personal change to the team.

7. Brief:

Encourage all team members to ask for brief (five-minute), monthly three question ‘suggestions for the future’ from all other team members to help increase their effectiveness in demonstrating

  1. The one key behaviour common to all team members,
  2. The one key personal behaviour generated from team member input, and
  3. Overall effective behaviour as a team member.

8. Conduct a mini-survey, follow-up process in approximately six months.

From the mini-survey each team member will receive confidential feedback from all other team members on his or her perceived change in effectiveness.

This survey will include the one common behavioural item, the one personal behavioural item, and the overall team member item. A final question can gauge the level of follow-up – so that team members can see the connection between their level of follow-up and their increased effectiveness.

This four question survey can either be electronically distributed or ‘put on a postcard’ and might look like the sample below.

9. Results for the individual:

Calculate the results for each individual (on all items) and calculate the summary results for all team members (on the common team items). Each team member can then receive a confidential summary report indicating the degree to which colleagues see his or her increased effectiveness in demonstrating the desired behaviours.

Each member can also receive a summary report on the team’s progress on the items selected for all team members.

‘Before and after’ studies have clearly shown that if team members have regularly followed up with their colleagues they will almost invariably be seen as increasing their effectiveness in their selected individual ‘areas for improvement’.

The group summary will also tend to show that (overall) team members will have increased in effectiveness on the common team items and overall team member behaviour.

The mini-survey summary report will give team members a chance to receive positive reinforcement for improvement (and to learn what has not improved) after a reasonably short period of time. The mini-survey will also help to validate the importance of ‘sticking with it’ and ‘following up’.

10. Team meeting:

In a team meeting have each team member discuss key learnings from their mini-survey results, and ask for further suggestions in a brief one-on-one dialogue with each other team member.

11. Review the summary results with the team.

Facilitate a discussion on how the team (as a whole) is doing in terms of increasing its effectiveness in the key behaviour that was selected for all team members.

Provide the team with positive recognition for increased effectiveness in teamwork. Encourage team members to keep focused on demonstrating the behaviours that they are trying to improve.

12. Progress reports:

Have every team member continue to conduct brief, monthly, ‘progress report’ sessions with all other team members. Re-administer the mini-survey eight months after the beginning of the process and again after one year.

13. Conduct a summary session with the team one year after the process has started.

Review the results of the final mini-survey, and ask the team members to rate the team’s effectiveness on where we are versus where we need to be in terms of working together as a team.

Compare these ratings with the original ratings that were calculated one year earlier. (If team members followed the process in a reasonably disciplined fashion, the team will almost always see a dramatic improvement in teamwork.)

Give the team positive recognition for improvement in teamwork, and have each team member (in a brief one-on-one dialogue) recognise each of his or her colleagues for improvements in behaviour that have occurred over the past twelve months.

14. Going forward:

Ask the team members if they believe that more work on team-building will be needed in the upcoming year. If the team believes that more work would be beneficial, continue the process. If the team believes that more work is not needed, declare victory and work on something else!

Read Next: Motivate Employees in Five-Minutes or Less

Marshall Goldsmith is an executive educator, coach and million-selling author of numerous books, including the New York times bestsellers, MOJO and What Got You Here Won't Get You There.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Rebecca

    Dec 2, 2015 at 02:47

    As you’ve directly lifted this content from Marshall Goldsmith, you should probably at least mention him as the source. I know he’s very generous about sharing his stuff, but at least a nod to the guru would be nice!

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Managing Staff

5 Things To Do When An Employee’s Performance Deteriorates

It can be confusing and frustrating when a successful employee’s performance takes a nosedive. Intervene effectively using these five steps.

Liz Kislik

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For all kinds of reasons, even longstanding, highly productive employees can experience a performance slump at some point. The Towers Watson Global Workforce study showed that up to 26 percent of workers surveyed said they felt disengaged, and another 17 percent felt detached.

As a founder, you may not always find an obvious way to get someone back on track, but the investment of energy you would need to turn this situation around is still so much less than what would be needed replace and train a new employee.

So, the upshot is that it only makes sense to figure out what’s going on and take action. Ready? These five approaches may help.

1. Ask explicitly if the employee is okay

And find out if there’s anything that you should know about instead of assuming you understand this individual’s current circumstances and reactions. Of course, it will help if you’re already aware of his or her personal situation.

Perhaps the employee is dealing with a new and challenging circumstance that’s distracting. In that case, it can help to share your evidence: “James, I was wondering if everything’s okay. I noticed that you stopped/started doing X, and I figured I’d better check in with you about it.”

At one of my clients’ companies, when a leader touched base with a staffer who had fallen below expectations, the woman explained that her dog had died, and she was grieving. Knowing her boss cared about her helped her refocus on her work.

2. Look for signs of stress and burnout

stress-and-burnout

Burnout costs U.S. businesses as much as $300 billion each year, whether the reason is employees having had to absorb too many changes or the fact that they’ve just been plain old working too hard for too long.

A longtime administrator I knew was being criticised for her negativity, her self-pacing and  her avoidance of anything new. After some analysis, however, it became clear that there was more work than her team could handle. Once her team was staffed up and the new team members were reasonably up to speed, she started to recover her resilience and became more even-keeled.

Related: Why I Stopped Doing Annual Employee Reviews

3. Probe for changes in the employee’s job

Perhaps there are new problems with equipment, resources or information flows; maybe a major customer is giving the employee a hard time, or a manager is behaving differently in some way.

A CEO I work with was concerned about a downturn in an executive’s previously outstanding performance. We discussed how the employee had recently been assigned to lead a new initiative for which he did not have previous experience, although he was the best internal candidate. The CEO agreed that as soon as the new initiative could afford to pay for an experienced executive, the reassigned employee should return to the assignment where his performance had been consistently superior.

4. Describe your expectations for the employee’s performance

employee-performance

And talk about how the business, team or customers are affected when it’s lacking. Although up to 87 percent of employees in one survey reported by Strategy + Business said they wanted opportunities for development, only one-third reported actually receiving feedback to help them improve.

So, make sure you’re concrete and specific about both expectations and impacts. Ask what employees need from you or from others in the organisation to help them get back on track.

I had to give one senior leader excruciatingly detailed feedback, in areas from interpersonal dynamics to personal hygiene. It wasn’t pleasant for either of us, but until he was made aware of exactly what was disturbing to customers, there was no hope for improvement.

Related: How Diversity Drives Board Performance

5. Provide meaningful recognition

Employees in  a survey by the Cicero Group were three times more likely to choose recognition as the single factor most likely to motivate superior performance– over inspiration, autonomy and even pay.

Recognition doesn’t have to be expensive or even time-consuming. One leader I knew started using the daily standup meeting not just to review the progress of the work, but also to mention superior contributions and excellent performances. Not only did preparation for the daily meetings improve, but team members were eager to make contributions that could be noted.

In sum, even excellent performers can lose momentum or be stalled by circumstances from time to time. How to respond as the employer? Intervening early will help you feel optimistic about a positive outcome and give the employee involved the benefit of the doubt so you can demonstrate to staff the confidence you have in them and your willingness to provide support during a tough time.

Just don’t wait to do this: If you wait till you’re fed up with either the person or whatever’s going wrong, you’ll find it much harder to turn the situation around.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Managing Staff

Managing Multicultural Teams

In this article we answer some key questions around managing multicultural teams.

Dr Sorayah Nair

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Companies that have greater gender and cultural diversity, particularly at senior management level, have consistently reported higher than industry profitability – as shown in McKinsey’s latest Delivering through Diversity’ report. The statistics gleaned from the report show that companies in the top 25th percentile for gender diversity on their executive teams are 21% more likely to yield above-average profits.  Furthermore, executive teams that are more culturally and ethnically diverse are 43% more likely to report more favourable bottom line figures.

Whilst the findings do not directly confirm the correlation, that increased diversity results in increased profitability, it is hard to ignore the consistency comparing outperforming industry rivals. The benefits of diversity are strongly suggestive, however, managing the challenges of diversity in the workplace can be challenging. It requires leaders with high emotional intelligence (EQ) that focuses on open communication and building an inclusive culture.

In this article we answer some key questions around managing multicultural teams, including:

  • What are some of the challenges of workplace diversity?
  • 5 essentials to managing multicultural teams
  • What is the future of cross-cultural training? 

1. What are some of the challenges of workplace diversity?

For a start there is not enough diversity in the workplace. Statistics suggest that we do not have enough representation of women and, in particular, people of colour in senior management positions and even less at board level. The dearth of women and cultural diversity is a global problem and not just a South African one.

To address diversity organisations need to:

  • Make a compelling case for diversity.
  • Invest more in employee training.
  • Expose all staff to diversity and inclusion workshops.
  • Ensure that hiring, promotions, and reviews are fair.
  • Give employees the flexibility to fit work into their lives.
  • Focus on accountability and results. (McKinsey report, 2017)

Related: 5 Tips To Make Managing Employees Less Stressful For Everyone

2. Five essential to manage multicultural teams:

It is important to understand that culture is fluid. It is also common to find people identifying with more than one culture. This means that we need to be careful about making the error of cultural stereotyping. There are as much differences within cultural groups as there are between groups.

So the way to manage multicultural teams, I believe, should be no different to managing any team. If we want great teams then managers need to have the following attributes;

  • High EQ
    • Awareness of self (ability to self-regulate)
    • Awareness of others (Skilled at relationship management)
    • Motivated
    • Empathic
  • Be skilled communicator
  • Be inspirational
  • Be courageous
  • Understand diversity (in all its forms) 

Here are five ways to get the most out of a multicultural team:

Clearly communicate the “Why” (Simon Sinek)

It is important for leaders to clearly communicate the organisation’s vision and to ensure that the message cascades throughout the organisation. Organisations where staff are clear about their purpose and know what is expected of them, show less entropy (time spent on non-revenue generating activities). Staff also report higher job satisfaction when their purpose is clear.

Create an inclusive culture

Leaders need to create a space that allow everyone a seat at the proverbial table. Staff need to feel they have a voice and that their opinions matter.

Create a psychologically safe workplace

Employees need to feel safe to express their opinion without fear or favour. It is the manager’s responsibility to ensure that the right culture (the way things are done daily) is in place and that candid conversations are encouraged.

Allow employees to bring their ‘whole-selves’ to work

It is important for managers to get to know their employees. Managers need to make time to enquire about their lives outside of the workplace.

Create a culture of accountability

All employees need to understand the role they play in the long-term sustainability of the organisation. Employees who need support should be encouraged to ask for help timeously as their contribution impacts the whole organisation. This understanding of the individual contribution to the collective outcome should also encourage staff to support each other and discourage the creation of silos in the workplace.

Related: Your Employees Are Your Greatest Asset – Manage Them Well

3. What is the future of cross-cultural training?

The global trend is towards the need for greater cross-cultural awareness. In South Africa particularly, we are becoming increasingly aware of the legacies of our political history that continues to negatively impact the world of work.

Cross-cultural training or diversity and inclusion needs to intensify – for that we need our industry leaders to be courageous and know that increasing diversity not only makes good business sense, but that it’s the right thing to do.

For more information on online courses that help with managing multicultural teams, visit USB-ED.com.

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Managing Staff

From Employee Engagement To Empowerment

Engaged employees will go the extra mile to resolve a client’s problem or close a sale, they contribute to a culture that consistently delivers great service and they drive company growth. Here’s why.

Sandra Burmeister

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“Engaged employees are more innovative and take the success of the company personally.”

Employee engagement is defined as an active state related to productivity and innovation. Engaged employees can be described as being fully immersed in and enthusiastic about their work. This emotional attachment means that employees will go above and beyond the call of duty. Employee engagement differs from employee satisfaction. Satisfaction can be described as being happy at work. Engagement takes employees to another level.

Engaged employees will go the extra mile to resolve a client’s problem or close a sale, they contribute to a culture that consistently delivers great service. Engaged employees take ownership, deliver on their commitments in and outside the organisation and are passionate about satisfying the customer because they own the result of their work.

Simply put, engaged employees are a prerequisite for building high performance teams within an organisation.

Unleash potential

A recent Gallup survey on the State of the Global Workplace shows that a way to significantly increase productivity is to unleash employees’ potential by allowing individuals to identify, develop and use their natural talents so they become strengths. Employees who use their strengths on the job are more likely to be intrinsically motivated, and teams who know each other’s strengths relate more effectively to each other, boosting group cohesion.

Related: How To Build Better Employee Engagement

The survey also shows that making better use of employees’ strengths requires businesses to grant workers greater autonomy to use their strengths, which requires a profound management shift in which more personalised relationships and positioning team members for maximum impact occurs.

The resulting sense of empowerment, however, benefits both the employees and the organisation. Higher levels of autonomy also promote the development and implementation of new ideas, as employees feel empowered to pursue entrepreneurial goals that benefit the organisation — that is, to be ‘intrapreneurs’.

In addition, talented managers are critical players in implementing a performance- orientated, engagement-based and strength-focused culture and aligning the leadership and employee values. This individualised approach helps great managers account for generational differences in employee expectations, in particular Millennial employees that prefer a higher level of flexibility.

Amongst the top performing companies, in any survey, 60% to 70% of employees are engaged at work. This is a clear financial incentive for leaders to take employee engagement and empowerment seriously. Engaged employees are more innovative and take the success of the company personally.

Focusing on engagement

There are a number of additional activities to help leaders succeed in employee engagement. These include: Strong visible values in the organisation, understanding and addressing employee expectations, career pathing with tailored development programmes to help employees achieve their goals, great communication tools and internal social collaboration for peer-to-peer learning and collaboration, knowledge transfer and helping the company expand the use of best practices, along with a great reward and recognition programme.

The African continent, in particular, offers companies and employees more opportunities to be involved in community improvement projects and company-wide CSI programmes, which also increases the feel-good factor in the organisation and ultimately contributes towards an increase in employee engagement.

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