Don’t settle. Do things the way in which you want them (the right way).

It has been about a week since the last blog post – but I haven’t been wasting my time (or not getting out of BED – for those that read previous posts!)

The last week has been about tackling the things that I have left / ignored and not wanted to do. It has also been about facing up to my business weaknesses and making a plan to do something about it.

I was reminded of this when working with some of the great Managers at GE last week. Preparing to facilitate on the topic of ‘Leadership Essentials’, I noticed as soon as I walked in that the room we were to work in was set up in the traditional ‘U’ shape (not a favourite of mine). At the time, I left the room layout and focussed on the other preparation for the session. After about an hour, I realised that the room layout was holding back conversation and just wasn’t working. Just before morning tea, I advised the group to leave all of their work in the middle of the table, as I was going to move the room around at morning tea. I was told ‘The room layout is fixed – it needs to be left set up that way’, to which I replied ‘It will be back in the U shape at the end of the day’.

On return from morning tea, the room was set up in cafe style – a much more relaxed setting for the discussions and case studies that were being discussed. I was advised that I was the first person to move the room around to suit the style of the discussion. That surprised me – it felt like the most natural thing to do. I linked this idea in the training room to leadership – ‘How many tasks, set-ups, processes and systems have you noticed were inefficient or ineffective, but left them because others said it couldn’t be done?’ We also applied it to personal leadership – ‘How many things have you let go because they seemed too hard or insurmountable at first glance?’

As the group worked in small table groups to discuss the answers, I realised that my answer to that question resulted in a very large list. And that has been what the last week has been about.

1. Owning up to the skill deficiencies that I have (and are holding my business back) and doing something about them.

2. Addressing the gaps in my business plan and seeking ways to fix them.

3. Changing the environment that I work in to suit me, rather than living with the layout / set-up of the previous owner.

This week has been about not settling for the way that others have done things and finding the best environment, process and plan that works for me and my team.

Have you just accepted the environment that you have been placed in?

What should you change to suit the way in which you / your team works?

What will you fix / change / amend today that should have been done weeks ago?

What should you tackle today to make things better?


Book Review: The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team – A Leadership Fable

Teamwork doesn’t just happen. A successful team requires commitment, hard work, openness and honesty. In this regard, the skills that are present in a successful team are not dissimilar to those required for a successful relationship. In both, the expectations, desires and needs of the members will change over time due to increased knowledge, experience and changing circumstances. Successful team have the skills to adapt to these changing circumstances and continue to flourish.

“Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.”

Patrick Lencioni

There are many things that can make the difference between a bad team and a good team. But what about the differences between a good team and a great team? Patrick Lencioni’s book ‘The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team: a Leadership Fable’ discusses the 5 key ‘dysfunctions’ that make the difference between effective and ineffective teams. According to Lencioni, there are five things that can get in the way of this communication, which can then undermine the team:


1. Absence of trust

2. Fear of conflict

3. Lack of commitment

4. Avoidance of accountability

5. Inattention to results


Why we like the book:

1.            The 5 Dysfunctions described hold true for all of the difficult and troubled teams that we have worked with. In fact, the first 2 Dysfunctions and the impact that they have upon a team account for most of the difficulties we have found with teams.

2.            The use of story or ‘fable’ to get the message across. This is a very easy read because the messages are so easy to understand and relate to; there are so many examples in this book that will have you thinking ‘I have seen that’, ‘That is just like when….’ or ‘I do that’.

3.            It is not bogged down with research / models / theory that cannot be applied to the workforce or your team.

4.            Too often leadership and team writers get carried away with their own cleverness, confusing their readers as often as clarifying areas to improve. That is not the case with the 5 Dysfunctions.

5.            It is not a long read. Cover to cover you can complete this book inside 3 hours. Be careful though, we found the book so full of ideas and ‘aha’ moments that we spent a lot of time taking down notes to apply to our own teams.

6.            Rather than leaving you with a problem (or 5 problems!) to ponder, the fable takes you through how a Manager deals with and overcomes the 5 Dysfunctions of her team in a realistic fashion.

7.            It can be applied to new or existing teams and leaders with both small and vast experience will be able to learn and apply the material to their teams.

In short, this is the best team development book we have worked with so far. In fact, we have designed a 2-day Team development workshop to help Managers implement the 5 Dysfunctions with in their teams Maximising Team Potential.

Well worth the read.


Lesson 8 – Team Development Lessons Taught by My Dog

Lesson 8. Remember that each team has different rules to live by.

Working with a large variety of teams under development has reminded me of one small but crucial detail when working with teams – they are all different.

This was highlighted with Jake on the weekend at the beach. While we were happy to let Jake frolic on the dog beach, other dog owners were not. While just is scolded when he tries to jump up on people, other dogs were not. While there are some common sense rules to follow when owning dogs, the nuances are what makes each of us different.

The same can be said of teams. While there are some common sense rules for being a good team member, the nuances of how that is applied and regarded is different from workplace to workplace.

I believe that this rule is forgotten when people have worked in a team for a while. People wrongly assume that the behaviours that worked in their old team will automatically work in their new team. As soon as there is a change of workplace, culture, leader or personnel in the team, chances are the dynamics of the team are going to change.

Even in an established team with defined rules of acceptable / non-acceptable behaviour, the team dynamic can change either positively or negatively with the addition of just one person.

Every time a new person is added or removed from your team, it is an opportune time to ask a simple question: ‘What team behaviour does everyone believe will make a successful team?’

So what are the accepted behaviours for your team? Did they change with the addition of a new team member? Does everyone in your team know what you regard as good / poor behaviour?


‘Are you going to give me your best?’

A different style of post today. I thought I would include one of my favourite inspirational video clips on Youtube. I use this video as a basis for discussion on team coaching, development, goal setting and personal leadership style.

I think I love this video so much because of a question the coach asks an individual player on his team – ‘Are you going to give me your best?’

 In the video, the coach blindfolds his player and undertakes a drill without the player seeing what he has achieved, asking him to ‘give his best’. He pushes his player, and encourages him to go beyond what he thought was possible, inspiring not only himself but the rest of the team that is watching.

It got me thinking about two things:

1.            When was the last time you forced the best out of yourself?

2.            When was the last time that you asked for the ‘very best’ out of your team members?

Have we forgotten to ask for the best and will accept ‘OK’, ‘near enough’ and ‘a pretty good effort’?

I had to have a good think about this and look at what I had achieved in the last couple of weeks to answer this question. When I was truthful with myself, I can say that I have accepted good and perhaps even above average, but I haven’t given my best (in my opinion) very often recently. In my facilitation and interactions with team members, ‘my best’ was delivered on some very specific occasions. While other people have rated performances as good and very good (which is pleasing!), the effort, preparation and execution have not been my best.

Consider your team at present. Are they giving you their best effort? If not, have you asked for it?

I was reminded on the weekend about good and best efforts from a 10-year old soccer team. I was fortunate to coach the team in the absence of their regular coach, and I asked them the question ‘Are you going to give me your best?’ Needless to say I didn’t get the reaction I hoped for until I elaborated. I told them very clearly what I thought their best effort would look like, how they would play and how they would treat each other on the pitch. I also told them, one by one, what their individual best effort would look like. I them asked for permission to tell them when they were playing their best, and advise them when they weren’t.

It was one of the most exciting games of soccer I have seen. The boys on that team gave me their best effort, beating a two-year undefeated side 3-1 (after losing 3 months ago 6-2).

I would love to say the win was based on superior coaching and tactical skill, but that would be very far from the truth! The boys played so well because they were asked to give their best, and their efforts were recognised and reinforced. All I had to do was ask for it and gain permission to tell them if they were / weren’t delivering it.

When was the last time you asked for the best from your team? Equally, when was the last time you did the best you could for your team? What is holding you back? Ask for the best – you might be surprised by the results.


Lesson 7 – Team Development Lessons Taught by My Dog

Lesson 7 – Learn the things that you shouldn’t do in the team

There are many disadvantages to running your own business, but one advantage is being able to work the way you want; particularly when the subject of this blog is asleep at my feet.

Lesson 7 follows on from Lessons 1, 5 and 6, and relates to behaviour that is not accepted by the team.

As Jake has developed from a puppy in our house, we have had to teach him what is accepted and not accepted as part of our team. In Lesson 5 I highlighted how Jake’s development needed to be embraced by all members of the team; this is particularly important when it comes to inappropriate behaviour. A rule set by one member of the team (no dogs on beds) and then broken by smaller members of the team (‘we were just playing on the bed with Jake’) creates not only disharmony (and raised voices!) in the team, but also causes confusion for Jake.

In the same way that positive behaviour in the team needs to be discussed and agreed upon, so too does negative behaviour. As always, the common sense rule should not apply; just because you assume that something is inappropriate does not mean that everyone agrees with you. It is important that areas of non-performance (and the consequences) are discussed and agreed upon because a lack of agreement can undermine the best laid plans.

So how do you do this? Here are some simple ways to get started:

1.            In the same way you though about what you love team members to do, also consider ‘What do team members do that really annoys me or wastes my time?’

2.            Consider why you don’t like that behaviour and how it makes you feel. (It doesn’t need to be around the campfire, deep and meaningful emotion – does it make you feel annoyed, frustrated, unprofessional, out of control etc)

3.            Tell the people in your team what annoys you, how it makes you feel and the impact that this has on you, the team and/or the business.

4.            Once you have worked out what annoys you, get the rest of the team to discuss the same thing. Ensure that team members focus on actions and behaviours, not on individual team members.

5.            Agree on the things that annoy and frustrate all members of the group.

Now for the two most important points:

6.            Get the team to agree on what should be done if the team rules are broken. This ensures accountability by everyone in the team, as well as ownership. It also means that if one team member pulls up another for inappropriate behaviour, it is not personal – they are just adhering to the team rules that everyone agreed to.

7.            Ignoring a break in the team rules is the same as saying the behaviour is appropriate. Team rules are rules that have been agreed to and should not be broken. If someone makes a mistake it should be owned – the person should accept responsibility or the team should ensure that they do. Referring back to lesson 6, this is how trust is confirmed.

As a team leader, supervisor or Manager, sometimes we need to tell people when they have performed badly or have done the wrong thing. Trust me, it is much easier when the entire team knows what the rules are and what the consequences will be. You go from being the bad person to being the person who is just enforcing the rules that have been agreed upon by the team – a big difference. Once agreed, the team rules don’t always have to be enforced / reviewed by the leader – if everyone knows the rules, it can be reminded and enforced by all members of the team. Clarity around what should and should not be done in teams provides a sense of surety, calm and trust between all members of the team.

For some reason, the idea of agreeing what is right and wrong within the team seems to have been forgotten by middle Managers – either it hasn’t been taught by Managers above them or there is fear in regards to stamping their authority over a team. So long as your team rules are agreed by all and within appropriate business rules / laws, why can’t you set the standard for the team?

Does your team know what they should and shouldn’t do in your team? Have the consequences of poor behaviour been agreed? When was the last time you turned a blind eye to a team member’s indiscretion? You now know what you can do to fix it!


Lesson 6 – Team Development Lessons Taught by My Dog

Lesson 6. Trust is built over months, not seconds.

It took me quite a while to realise this, but the relationship between a dog and its owner is all about trust. There are certain things that I expect Jake to do, and there are certain things that he expects of me. When those expectations are met and not broken, we have started to build trust. For me, trust is a fairly simple thing to define:

Trust – the knowledge that someone is going to do what they say they are going to do.

Jake has certain expectations of us as a family. He expects to be fed in the morning, he expects to get a pat when he comes over to you, and he expects to go for a walk every day. There are plenty of others, but this is a blog post, not a novel. In return, we expect certain behaviour from Jake; not doing his business in the house, not jumping on people, not chewing things.

During particularly busy weeks, it is easy to forget that I have an obligation to Jake to maintain his trust. The last thing I want to do when I get back from a difficult day of training is go for a walk with the dog. Often there is not enough light, and there are requirements for the rest of the family. On days when I have haven’t taken Jake for a walk, you expect to see the consequences – a shoe could be chewed, paper is taken out of the bin and chewed, or worse, he does his business on the rug. He is expressing his displeasure in the only ways that he knows how. I can look at the results as his bad behaviour, but it has stemmed from my lack of meeting his (not unreasonable) expectations.

So many of the teams that I work with have trust issues caused by Managers / supervisors failing to meet the trust expectations that they have with their staff. It can start with the smallest of things:

a.         Stating that you will have a catch up once a week with your staff. It lasts for the first few weeks, then slowly becomes once a month or whenever you feel like.

b.         Promising to speak to your boss about the great job your staff member did, but never quite finding the opportunity.

c.         Saying that you will be somewhere or do something, but doing it far later than you expected.

Each time you complete one of these actions, you break the trust that you have with the people that work for you. Yet, we are surprised when those same people don’t meet our deadlines or expectations. Their behaviour is blamed on poor attitude or ‘they are just difficult to get along with’ – if only Managers could see that their staff members are mirroring their own behaviour.

Consider your own team. What do your staff expect of you as a Manager / supervisor? If you don’t know, why don’t you ask? Is the negative behaviour that you see from certain team members due to their lack of drive or passion, or are they just mirroring the lack of trust you have demonstrated to them? Lesson 5 was all about consistency. Lesson 6 is following through with what you have said that you would do. Meeting your obligations to the team consistently every day; quite simply, that is how trust is built.

What do you do each day to maintain the trust of your team? Do you know what your team expects you to do to maintain their trust? Are you seeing the effects of not meeting your trust obligations?