Team Dynamics

I recently moderated a panel discussion on interview skills for college students. The panelists were from top companies in financial services, technology, consulting, and fashion retail. One of the trends that emerged from the discussion was the expectation that entry level employees have strong skills to be part of a team.

The evolution towards team focus parlays to managers: You need to hone what is important in leading successful teams in addition to managing individual efforts. This begins with the ability to assess the strengths and weaknesses of team members.

Skill assessment: You already know the core skills of each of your employees. In more of a team environment, competencies such as interpersonal and collaborative skills become more important. Use a skills assessment to objectively evaluate these and other job-based skills.

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Do You Hear What You Say?

Last time I wrote about the impact of tone of voice. This week is about content.

Are you aware of what you say when you speak to your staff (co-workers, family, friends…you get the picture)? Most breakdowns in the workplace can trace back to ineffective – or just plain old BAD – communication.

I’ve recalled several examples shared by clients during the past few weeks.

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Do You Like What You Hear?

I have a friend who is a litigator by profession, and true to her calling, she sounds like a litigator in all aspects of her life. She is smart, interesting, and fun to be around….that is, when it doesn’t seem like she’s badgering people. Her tone is often contentious and argumentative, even if we’re talking about something as mundane as what to order in a restaurant.

The sad part is that she doesn’t realize what she sounds like.

As a friend, I overlook this. Once I had an “organic opportunity” to bring it up, and she denied that she sounded the way that I described. Friends can be forgiving. Colleagues may not be.

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Pause to Acknowledge the Accomplishments

Last week’s column recommended turning your attention to your remaining 2016 goals. I hope you came up with some concrete ideas that will move you forward to complete them by year end.

Although it’s important to tune into what you haven’t yet accomplished, it’s equally important to take time to acknowledge what you have achieved and commemorate those triumphs.

Leaders who are achievers are always pushing to the next goal…the far-off target…the “blue moon” project. I see this in most of my clients: they complete something awesome, and then plunge right into the next aspiration without pausing to acknowledge the great work they’ve done.

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Transitioning to Fall

The autumn equinox arrived today at 2:20 pm UTC (10:19 am EDT). For those of us in the northern hemisphere, it is marked by shorter daylight hours and cooler weather. It’s still summer-like in New York, so the only real indicator of change is that it gets light later in the morning and gets dark earlier in the evening. But that will change soon.

Different cultures commemorate the equinox with various customs. So does the workplace, although it’s more subtle and much less obvious. I always notice a shift at this time of the year when the looser environment of summer transitions into a more settled and focused environment. It’s “back to school” in the workplace.

It’s a time when back-burned projects come to the forefront and leaders become more keenly aware that only about 100 days are left before the end of the calendar year. This becomes particularly sobering when you realize that you have limited time to complete your 2016 goals.

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Whose Work Are You Doing?

One of the traps that some managers fall into is when they step in and bail out lower performing employees. When certain staff members aren’t doing their jobs satisfactorily, a knee-jerk reaction is to jump in and do it yourself.

This isn’t a good idea. Not only do people not want to be micromanaged, snatching work from them (because you’ll meet the deadline or think you can do it better) is demoralizing. Over time, they will think, “Why bother? The work will never be good enough for my boss and she’ll just do it anyway.”

Your employees don’t learn from this and over time they lose motivation to do their jobs at the level you expect.

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Orchestrated Teamwork

The windows in my apartment were replaced recently. This is a huge project in my community as the contractor is replacing windows in some 550 apartments.

I had some prep to do leading up to “the big day”, which included emptying and packing up two bookcases and a china cabinet to allow smoother access to certain windows. Additionally, I was responsible for a neighbor’s apartment, which was done on the same day.

Let’s just say that doing this during typical August weather in New York had a level of stress attached to it….

I was completely surprised by what actually occurred, that is, it was an amazingly positive experience.

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The Labor of Leadership

Labor Day in the U.S. occurs on Monday, so it seemed timely to ruminate on the subject of work, in particular, in your role as leaders. Undoubtedly, your work extends way beyond the official office hours, so it’s important to take the time to hit the pause button and ponder.

Do work and play coincide for you? Do you feel energized by your work or does it drag you down? Do you enjoy what you do so much that you’d do it for free?

Your leadership role has an impact on how you view your work based on the challenges you face regularly. You may have loved your work while you advanced as a “doer” of the work, but as a leader, your perspective may have changed.

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On Being Dependable

Are your employees dependable? These are people who fulfill their commitments accurately, on time, and with no excuses. They come to work on time and work as long as it takes to complete an assignment.

Think about your staff and honestly evaluate their dependability. During the past couple of weeks, I’ve heard all kinds of stories that demonstrate a lack of dependability. Here is a sampling:

– A senior staff member attended a meeting with her partners and not only was completely unprepared but didn’t “get it” as to why this was a problem.

– A former employee approached his previous employer to return, was rehired, and resigned with no notice by text two weeks later.


Consensus or Collaboration

Leaders often talk about achieving consensus. If you look at its definition, it is “a general agreement about something: an idea or opinion that is shared by all the people in a group”.

Be honest: how easy is this to achieve? How easy is it for everyone to share the same opinion about something?

Consensus involves a lot of give and take, and depending on how strongly the stakeholders feel about their individual positions, it can turn into a no win situation where a decision is made that no one really believes in.

Compare this to collaboration, “to work with another person or group in order to achieve or do something”.

This distinction is important. To collaborate focuses on working together to achieve a common goal, where consensus requires everyone to agree on an opinion. It’s subtle, but important.