10 Characteristics of High-Performing Collaborative Teams

Today’s LeadBIG guest post is from Ron Ricci and Carl Wiese. It’s an excerpt from their new book The Collaboration Imperative: Executive Strategies for Unlocking Your Organization’s True Potential.  You can connect with Ron and Carl on Facebook and Twitter as Cisco Collaboration.

Most members of high-performing teams report that it’s fun and satisfying to work on collaborative teams because they are asked to contribute at their highest potential and they learn a lot along the way.

10 characteristics of high-performing collaborative teams

  1. People have solid and deep trust in each other and in the team’s purpose — they feel free to express feelings and ideas.
  2. Everybody is working toward the same goals.
  3. Team members are clear on how to work together and how to accomplish tasks.
  4. Everyone understands both team and individual performance goals and knows what is expected.
  5. Team members actively diffuse tension and friction in a relaxed and informal atmosphere.
  6. The team engages in extensive discussion, and everyone gets a chance to contribute — even the introverts.
  7. Disagreement is viewed as a good thing and conflicts are managed. Criticism is constructive and is oriented toward problem solving and removing obstacles.
  8. The team makes decisions when there is natural agreement — in the cases where agreement is elusive, a decision is made by the team lead or executive sponsor, after which little second-guessing occurs.
  9. Each team member carries his or her own weight and respects the team processes and other members.
  10. The leadership of the team shifts from time to time, as appropriate, to drive results. No individual members are more important than the team.

A team charter paves the way for collaborative success by providing clarity that builds trust and accountability. With a team charter in place, you’ll be able to unlock the potential value of your people by empowering them to contribute.

In the long run, teams with a clear purpose and good chemistry drive business results. Job satisfaction goes up, employees stay engaged in their work and everybody wins.



Dear Leader: My Name is Important

They were a small organization (by revenue and headcount measures) with a relatively new big problem: escalating turnover. The ever-increasing turnover was sapping their intellectual capital and employee morale. As one might expect, the owner hoped for a quick and low-cost solution.

A few interviews and focus groups later, a very low-cost — in dollar terms — solution was readily available. The leadership team was both shocked and abashed by the findings. Shocked by the brevity, abashed by the contents.

Employees wanted only two thing. Two simple things that meant the world to them. Two simple things that had slipped away as the company grew larger. Their asks and reasons:

Please acknowledge me. I know, boss and senior team, that you’re busy and have important work to do. But you used to say hello or shake my hand or even just nod in my direction. When you did that, I felt valued and a part of things. These days, there’s no hellos when we pass on the shop floor, not even any eye contact. That makes me feel like I’m just another piece of equipment, like I’ve lost my value and don’t mean anything to you or the company. Make me feel a part of things again.

When you do talk to me, get my name right or don’t use one at all. I don’t expect everyone on the senior team to know my name, but I know some of you do know it. So it feels belittling when you call me Bob when my name is George. Even my name badge reads George. I’d rather you call me “buddy” rather than get it wrong. Getting my name wrong says to me that I don’t matter and you don’t care.

The solution is certainly a no-cost one in terms of cash outlay. However, there’s a personal cost to the leadership team to make an effort to balance task completion with relationship building.

I’m hoping they make the investment. What say you?



Super-Charge Your Leadership with These Two Words

“What do I want most from my boss?” reflected Bill. “A simple thank you would make my day. When he hired me, my boss told me it would take at least two years to turn around the department. I’ve done it in a little more than a year. Would it hurt him to acknowledge what I’ve done?”

Many of us share the same yearning — for our boss to say thank you for a job well-done or to give us a pat on the back for going above and beyond. A recent study found that more than 50% of employees say their boss provides no recognition of any kind.

If you’re a boss, ask yourself when was the last time I told someone on my team thanks, you did a good job on the new product marketing campaign or I appreciate the thoughtful way you handled the Murphy account renewal. If it’s been more than a week, it’s time to get busy!

If your boss is stingy with recognition and saying thanks, there’s little that you can do to change your boss’s behavior. However, you are in complete control of what you do in providing recognition for your employees. You don’t have to be what’s happened to you or how you’ve been treated.

Become a recognition role model

  • If you dream of your boss telling you what a great job you did on the recent budget rework, make it a point to tell one of your employees how impressed you were with something they did. Mention a specific body of work she handled and what you liked the best and why.
  • If you’ve been waiting and waiting for your boss to acknowledge the extra long hours you put to complete a special project, step out of your office right now and thank an employee who has done the same on an assignment you gave him. Tell him what his dedication meant to you and how it helped the organization.
  • If you’re pretty sure hades will freeze over before your boss thanks you for that great money-saving idea you put into practice, start your next staff meeting by recognizing the contributions of several team members. Wouldn’t that be a great way to start every staff meeting - shining the recognition light on team members who deserve a special call-out for their efforts?

Informal recognition that’s sincere, authentic and from the heart doesn’t cost a dime and reaps super-size dividends in employee satisfaction, engagement and productivity.

  • The book 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave: How to Recognize the Subtle Signs and Act Before It’s Too Late based on Saratoga Institute studies of employee turnover reports that lack of recognition and inadequate communications were the top reasons employees gave for leaving their jobs.
  • A Towers Perrin Talent Report, Understanding What Drives Employee Engagement , reported that companies with employees who were highly engaged beat the average revenue growth in the business section by one percent, while companies with low engagement fell behind their business sector’s revenue growth by an average of 2 percent.

Drop the first “thank you recognition pebble” into your team’s “morale pool” and watch the positive ripples spread!

What say you?


Collaboration is messy…4 reasons to go for it anyway

I used to tease Frank, an accountant where I worked some years ago, for his hope that life would track more like a balance sheet — all the ins and outs offsetting perfectly, all neat and tidy.

Truth is, neat and tidy rarely applies to life, love and leadership. Getting ‘em right is messy, time-consuming and requires real commitment. This reality surfaced recently in a chat with a colleague when he remarked collaboration was more trouble than it was worth.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. ~African Proverb

Borrowing an acronym from the military, collaboration is full of VUCA - volatility, uncertainly, complexity and ambiguity.  Yet, when a shared effort goes right, the rewards are well worth the trouble.

Collaboration: 4 reasons and realities to go for it

  • Collaboration is volatile - hang on, fasten your seatbelt and enjoy the ride. Multiple opinions, experiences, styles and preferences come into play when working with a group. Sure it’s a balancing and sharing act, yet the variety of inputs yields a richer outcome than what you could have produced alone.
  • Collaboration is full of uncertainty - what a great way to expand one’s comfort zone and sphere of knowledge. Unpredictability and surprise expose us to ideas and emotions we may not encounter on a singular journey; some are beneficial, some not. Yet all add to the breadth and depth of our experience.
  • Collaboration is complex - embrace it. It can be confusing, confounding, crappy and chaotic, too. Embrace them, too! Go it alone if you seek simplicity. If you and/or organization seek growth, engagement and innovation, pass out the waders and head for the deep end of the pool. That’s where the group can really challenge and support one another in the way to excellence.
  • Collaboration is ambiguous - add that tolerance to your toolkit.  Ambiguity is the breakfast of leaders. There’s no room in today’s complex world for cut-and-dried, black-and-white answers to everything. Many of the realities of business are dualities to be perpetually managed — things like stability and change, task and relationship, impose and facilitate. Success requires you to do both because they identify a relationship that’s ongoing and which raises issues that don’t go away. A diet of all stability leads to atrophy and demise; a feast of all change yields bedlam and uncertainty.

As Emmanual Gobillot writes in Leadershift, “traditional leader behavior that focuses on command and control becomes irrelevant.” Communal social power and transformational leadership rest on a base of collaboration. Ready to play?!



7 Dumb Mistakes Managers Make and What to Do Instead

Today’s guest author is Darryl Rosen, a management coach and trainer. His latest book is Table for Three? Bringing Your Smart Phone to Lunch and 50 Dumb Mistakes Smart Managers Don’t Make!

You glance down at an incoming text while an employee is talking to you. DUMB! Or you bark “Just get it done!” to your team and then walk away. DUMB!

According to a recent CareerBuilder poll, 58 percent of managers received no training before starting the job, which often results in avoidable management missteps like these.

Even smart, well-trained managers make dumb mistakes. But the difference between dumb managers and smart ones is that smart managers notice when their people are unmotivated and uninspired. Smart managers work at making small behavioral changes to correct common management mistakes that impede their performance.

Here are seven dumb mistakes managers make and what to do instead.

1) Assuming they’re paying attention

Just because people are quiet while you tell them how to structure tomorrow’s presentation doesn’t mean they’re actually listening and learning. They could be planning tonight’s menu for all you know. Making sure your people pay attention isn’t their job – it’s yours. Check for understanding. Go around the table to gauge everyone’s grasp of the key expectations. Have each team member verbalize his or her next step. Brainstorm new approaches.

2) Turning their job into an episode of “Survivor”

All the weaklings got kicked off the island, and now you’ve got an ace team that’s talented, smart, and resourceful. So you set steep goals, and say things like “Have at it” or “Get it done.” Soon, though, your “tribe” is looking haggard and anxious. That’s because you threw your great performers to the wolves. Instead, ask them, “What information can I provide to help you achieve this goal? What are the best ways we can succeed?” Let them know you’ll support them along the way and provide the necessary resources to meet the challenge.

3) Using email to avoid a difficult discussion

When potential conflict is involved, it’s easy to send a terse reply rather than make the effort to discuss the issue face-to-face. However, is this the behavior you want to model for your employees? C’mon – be a leader and set an example. First, prepare for the talk. Next, ask yourself how you helped create this problem. When you meet, focus on facts, and don’t make assumptions about the person’s character based on his or her actions. Ask questions, show respect, discuss action steps attached to consequences, and come to a mutual agreement.

4) Turning into the Incredible Hulk

Do you lash out at your people figuring fear will motivate them? Here’s my rule: if you wouldn’t put it that way to your spouse, you shouldn’t say it to your employees. Anything that can be said in a negative manner can also be said in a positive manner. Being yelled at makes people feel worse; it doesn’t energize them. Get in the habit of rephrasing negative statements as encouraging ones: “I won’t listen to another angry supplier because of you guys!” becomes “I know you guys are better than this. What can we do differently?”

5) Walking around naked, without mirrors

Are you like the emperor who wore no clothes? Is anyone brave enough to tell you what you don’t want to know about yourself or the company? If your people are telling you what you want to hear, rather than what you need to hear, it won’t be long before they lose respect for you. Don’t depend on others to reflect back to you. Look in a real mirror. Are you clear about what you expect? Do you share your expectations in a straightforward manner? Can your people count on you to lead them with intelligence, vision, and consistency? Do you hold yourself accountable for everything that happens under you? Don’t forget to reward feedback even when it’s unflattering.

6) Being a helicopter manager

You hover over your employees. Your people stop in several times a day with questions. Your team calls and/or texts you constantly for help in solving problems. You wouldn’t tolerate ten calls a day from your child, so don’t let your employees do it either. Your micromanagement style is making them stupid. Set aside one specific hour a day when they can call or stop by to go over open items, questions, concerns, etc. Let them solve their own problems the rest of the time.

7) Watching their lips move yet hearing nothing

Quick: could you look at every employee and identify each person’s greatest challenge? Uh, do you even know what they do? If the answer is no, you either haven’t asked them lately, or weren’t listening when they told you. Help others feel heard by turning down the volume of your ego and turning up the volume of your listening. When people talk to you, ask them clarifying questions, such as: “What does that mean? Can you be more specific? How did you reach that conclusion?”  Shut up and listen.



How to Evaluate Your Leadership Style

The BIG team is delighted to have a guest post from Ken Blanchard today! Ken co-authored Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life and is cofounder and chief spiritual officer of the Ken Blanchard Companies. He is the author or coauthor of 50 books that have sold more than 20 million copies, including the iconic One Minute Manager®. Connect with Ken on Facebook. You can also follow him on Twitter here and here.

Today, I’m going to give a short, one-question quiz. Here’s the question: How do you rate as a leader?

I don’t ask this question flippantly. It is a question I’ve asked countless people at the leadership seminars we conduct.

As leaders, most people rank themselves as being very close to a minor deity or at least Mr. or Ms. Human Relations. Seldom do leaders give themselves low marks. Strangely enough, when the tables are turned and people are asked to rank their boss’s leadership style, we often find many supervisors graded as being adequate, merely OK, or at worst, office autocrats who depend heavily on the often-referenced “seagull management” technique as their sole line of attack — they leave their people alone until something goes wrong, and then they fly in, make a lot of noise, dump all over everyone, and fly out.

More often than not, we find that leaders lull themselves into thinking they are top-flight leaders because they think they use a supportive or coaching style, which someone told them are “good” leadership styles. Not too surprisingly, this isn’t the way they are seen by those in their department, office or store.

To get a true and accurate answer about the question above, it is necessary for you as a supervisor to honestly determine how your employees perceive your leadership style. These are the folks who know you best. They have first-hand experience with your leadership style and operate on their own perceptions about it. They are the best judges of your managerial effectiveness. However, getting an employee or subordinate to give his or her honest feedback on your leadership style is difficult. People fear being the messenger who will get shot for bearing bad news. Hence, they are naturally reluctant to be totally candid.

Employees are sharp observers. In the past, they may have gone to their leader and made an honest suggestion such as, “Ken, I think our Thursday afternoon meetings are a waste of time.” If the supervisor answers with an outburst by saying, “What do you mean a waste of time? Are you kidding? Those meetings are important,” it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that one thing the leader doesn’t want to hear is the truth.

It is important to remember that when people you supervise tell you what they honestly think about your style of leadership, they’re really giving you a gift. When someone gives you a gift, what is the first thing you should say? “Thank you,” of course! Then it’s a very good idea to follow up by saying, “Is there anything else you think I should know?” When a person learns that you won’t become defensive or hostile when he or she gives you an honest evaluation about your style, you’ll find that you’ll be given many nuggets of truth which are extremely valuable. My advice would be to encourage people to give (feedback) at the office, and to give often!

Just remember, what you think about your own leadership style really doesn’t matter. In addition, there is no one correct style, nor is there a “good” or a “bad” style. Rather, style is judged by those immediately influenced by it. It’s your people’s response to your style that matters. If you are getting the right response consistently — high productivity and morale — then you’re doing just fine. If not, then perhaps it’s your style that needs changing, not your employees.



5 ways to avoid expectation disappointment

Jorge hung up the phone. He sat for a long time, staring out the window, seeing everything yet seeing nothing. He kept replaying the just completed conversation with his business partner. The call had been contentious.

His partner accused him of three serious acts of wrong-doing that all caught Jorge off guard. Prior to today, he had no idea his business partner 1) wanted to be copied on every email he sent to prospective clients, 2) viewed his participation in a local networking group as an under-handed way to get to know more people in the community, and 3) saw Jorge’s popular blog as a way for Jorge to hog the limelight.

It appeared unlikely their six-month old photography business would celebrate its seven-month anniversary.

Too many times throughout my career, I’ve seen unmet expectations derail projects, careers and work relationships. And, too many times, those expectations were unmet because they were not communicated. A few simple ground rules can eliminate contentious calls and finger-pointing!

To avoid expectation disappointment:

1) define roles and responsibilities early on. Make sure everyone knows their own role as well as others. As new duties arise, make it a point to assign ownership for completion.

2) spell out how you’ll communicate with one another. Doesn’t matter if the communicating happens via email, text messages, phone calls, etc. Understand preferences and take them into account as much as possible (particularly important when generational differences come into play).

3) touch base periodically to candidly assess if things are on track or not. If adjustments are needed, identify who will make them. Flag potential problems and/or issues early - no one likes to be surprised.

4) do more exploring of styles, interests, likes, dislikes, goals, etc. before starting the partnership. If differences do exist (and they will), assess whether of not those differences can be tolerated. Know if those involved are interested in working through problems or if playing the blame game is the default position.

5) figure out if the end game between those involved is competition or collaboration. Egos can be insurmountable barriers to work completion…best to know this ahead of time.

We all have expectations of ourselves and others. That’s a given! However, to avoid disappointment, anger, frustration and a whole host of other ugly outcomes, share those expectations early and often.




5 reasons it’s OK to say “no”

“I so want to tell him ‘no’ but I don’t want to let him down.”

From the pained look on her face, I guessed Casey didn’t want to disappoint someone who was important in her life or career. That guess was wrong. When I asked about the relationship, Casey said she had only met the gentleman a few days ago.

As she described it, she had been sharing success stories at a cocktail party about her magazine articles and having had two pieces picked up by national magazines. Hal approached Casey saying he had an interesting story about how his business got started that he’d like to see get some national press and asked if she might be interested in writing about it. Casey agreed to meet and learn more.

They met for coffee the next day. Hal provided a high level overview of his story. He said he would pay her $500.00 for writing the article. The money was good, but Casey declined because the subject (tax law) was outside her expertise and comfort zone. Hal was insistent, upping the pay to $1000.00. Casey gave in, agreeing to write the article.

Three days later when we met for coffee, Casey was wrestling with an uncomfortable situation: her inability to figure out an appropriate story line for an article she really didn’t want to write and her fear of Hal not liking her for turning down his request.

5 reasons it’s OK to say no

1. It’s good, mandatory even, to set personal boundaries. Know where you draw your personal lines and be prepared to stick up for them. That’s what boundaries are for.

2. Telling people “no” doesn’t make you unlikable. Failing to say “no” when it’s appropriate to do so makes you a doormat. And the really ugly kicker here is that saying “yes” doesn’t necessarily make you likeable.

3. Don’t be seduced by money. Some things just aren’t worth it. Liking yourself is much more important.

4. Stick up for yourself. If you really aren’t interested in doing something, tactfully say so. If you don’t protect yourself, who will?

5. Don’t feel guilty for not wanting to do something. It’s your choice, your decision, and you accept the consequences either way so feel good about standing up for yourself.

Casey phoned Hal, thanked him for his generous offer of work that she was declining.  She gave him the name of a freelancer friend who might be perfect for the assignment. Casey left the coffee shop grinning from ear to ear.




Ready, set, go say thank you!

Mother Teresa wrote that “kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”

Thank you…two short, easy-to-speak yet incredibly powerful words:

if you say and mean them from the heart, and

…provided 100% of your focus/meaning is directed to the person you are thanking.

Offering sincere and heart-felt thanks to a colleague, friend, family member, or the stranger who retrieved your runaway hat is a positive connection moment that leaves both of you feeling uplifted. You for giving, the other for feeling valued.

It’s also an irretrievably lost connection moment if you make the thanks about you instead of what they did. You know, the back-handed tribute that sounds like praise for them but is really a self-accolade in clever disguise. It goes kinda like this: How sweet of you to help me. You must know how incredibly busy I am with the important new project the Board of Directors asked me to take on.

Have you told someone thanks today…and really meant it?

Have you told someone thanks today…and really complimented yourself?

Which kind of thanks would you like to receive today?



4 Ways to Cope with A Crappy Boss

Think you’ve got the worst boss in the world? Well, your boss may have serious competition according to a five-year comparative study commissioned by Lynn Taylor Consulting. According to this study, seven out of 10 people believe bosses and toddlers act alike. Being self-oriented is noted as the top offending boss behavior. Being stubborn, overly demanding, impulsive and interrupting round out the top five.

A 2010 Gallup management study of one million employed workers confirmed that having a poor relationship with the boss is the number one reason people quit their jobs. “People leave managers, not companies … in the end, turnover is mostly a manager issue,” Gallup wrote in its survey findings.

While you can’t control how your boss behaves, you are in total control of how you choose to manage the bad boss situation.

  • Is your boss a glory grabber who takes all the credit for your good work? Sure it rankles to see the boss accept all the praise and fail to mention your contribution, but there are a few things you can subtly do to favorably remind others of your involvement. Send e-mails containing pertinent work information to your boss and include other key management personnel in the distribution. Casually mention your input on a project if you get to share an elevator ride with your boss’ boss.
  • Are you dealing with a weather vane boss who changes the rules without notice? The most effective way to deal with this impulsive behavior is to clearly define the work outcomes with your boss when the assignment is given, and then send a confirming e-mail to him/her that outlines the established expectations. When your boss flip-flops on what is to be done, calmly share the e-mail and renegotiate the results.
  • Does your boss remind you of a helicopter hovering overhead, constantly interrupting and micromanaging your work? First, you need to recognize and accept your boss’ deep-seated need for control; and then manage around it. Reassure him that you have the bases covered and keep him updated on your progress by sending periodic e-mails, reports, phone calls, a quick coffee chat or whatever communication vehicle your company uses.
  • Could your boss be doubling as a secret agent, that mysterious person who’s missing in action and who communicates irregularly? With a boss like this, you must take responsibility for getting on her radar (sure it’s a pain, but failing to do so only hurts your performance review) by scheduling meetings or popping into her office to quickly chat, ask questions and confirm work assignments.

Bosses typically fall into one of three categories:

1) those who are totally clueless about their behaviors,

2) those who know they aren’t a good boss and do want to get better, and

3) those who plain just don’t care. They’re bad, know they’re bad and don’t give a rip.

If your boss falls into category one or two, discuss your concerns directly with them. Organize what you want to say, present it in a thoughtful manner and don’t respond in anger, which only hurts you.

If your boss falls in the last category and/or may be behaving unlawfully, talk to your HR representative if your organization has one; otherwise speak with another trusted person in management or decide if you can continue to work for the company.

A LeadBIG reminder: always take the high road in dealing with a bad boss so your performance is above reproach.