Monday, March 31, 2014

Building Our Leadership Team Part 6… How to Finalize Team Goals

So… where were we?  Oh yeah… we have a list of goals after brainstorming with our Leadership team… you and your apprentices.  We also have a list of values that describe the culture we want on our team.  Before starting this next part of the process, talk about a couple of important details.  We need to align our team goals and our values with the overall goals of our company/department/owner/whatever.  It will help to restate the company’s values, goals, and/or mission, and how our team helps to achieve these.  Whether or not your company considers you stakeholders and uses that kind of language, you can certainly speak to how we are all interdependent, accountable, and how we will all benefit by reaching our goals.

Before we finish with this meeting we will also finalize our team values… the ways in which we define what is important to us as a team.  These are the values around which we will make decisions moving forward, so they are very important.  All of the talk and ideas around building our list of goals will help us come up with our values, since our goals come from what is important to the company as a whole, as well as what is important to us as a team… how we want to act towards each other.  Our goals must be aligned with our values… not really a worry since they all come from the same list.  Don’t over think your values.  In my experience you can get a LOT mileage out of a simply value like self-responsibility.  It will take some time to get all of your team members on board with really understanding what being self responsible means.  Then you will probably have to work on describing what it means in different situations.  For instance, here is what self-responsibility looks like when you are on the sales floor.  Then later, you will find yourself describing what self-responsibility looks like when receiving the load.  Then… you get the picture.  It sounds ridiculous, and yet when you have worked with most of your team members on this one value, you will find the difference in how the team runs hard to believe.  Once you have that ingrained in them, they will not accept any additions to the team who are not self-responsible!  And you won’t be hiring any new people who lack self-responsibility, right?!  So, I have found that it pays to choose the kind of basic values that great team members have.

We should not avoid adding some of our personal goals, as many of them will be aligned with the team and company goals anyway.  Many of your team members will want to develop their leadership skills and get ready to be promoted, so we should add some relatively aggressive team member development goals to our list.

OK… so far so good.  That might be good enough for one meeting.  You want to keep things light and as enjoyable as you can.  If you are moving along well and everyone wants to keep going, feel free.  Just don’t press your apprentices, as they are not used to, and perhaps not comfortable with, this kind of process.  They may say they are comfortable, and you will have to read the room for yourself.   Your apprentices will not want to let you down, or come across as unable to keep up, and so tell you what they think you want to hear even if it gets to be too much for them.

At the next meeting, or if everyone is in good shape, later that meeting, you will go through your now updated list of goals to reword or reshape each one.  Why?

Every goal needs to be measurable.  If it is not measurable you will not know when you have achieved it.  So take each goal and rephrase it until it is something that can be measured.  In this process you may just find yourselves dropping goals from the list, or changing them completely.  That’s OK… you don’t need to control everything, and at this early stage of team development it’s as much about the process, working together, and building trust as it is about the actual goals.  Your goals should also be as specific as you can make them.  Making them measurable and specific will help later when we break down the goals into action steps.

When you are done with that, the group will choose from one to a few goals to work on.  How many you choose will depend on the size of your team, how excited they are about achieving these goals, the experience level of the group, and I expect some things I have yet to experience.  If you have experience with this process, please add what you learned in our comments for everyone to share.

If you have a very small team, I’d suggest one or at the most two goals at a time, and maybe choose smaller, easier goals to start.  You probably have your hands full just meeting your fixed goals, and adding too much to everyone’s plates can be disastrous.  Better to get some wins under your belts before tackling your bigger goals.

If you have a larger or more experienced team, you can probably split up the responsibilities and handle several goals.  Just as you would for a smaller or less experienced team, be sure to include at least a few small goals to get some easy wins.  For any size team, celebrate the hell out of those early wins to keep up the energy and morale of the group.

When you have chosen the goals your team will tackle first, you will need to break them down into action steps, and then assign these steps with accountability and due dates.  Your team members will likely have to work together on occasion, and/or will be dependent on each other’s work to achieve their part.  All of this needs to be transparent, talked about, written down, and agreed upon before the end of the meeting.  Who will be holding who accountable?  Are we dependent on people outside of our team, and how will we deal with that?  Agree on mid points for checking in with each team member’s progress.

At the end of this meeting you will go around the group and get a commitment to the agreed upon goals, and a promise to deliver the results for each other.  We are committing to each other… this is the key here.  We are not achieving these goals for some corporate bottom line, or some CEO’s idea of what we should do… we came up with these goals ourselves, and not only will we learn a lot from the work ahead, but we will all share the credit and glory!

As the team Leader, the point is much more than simply achieving these goals, so we are not approaching this as a test, where we look for people to fail.  If anyone fails, we all fail.  We all need to be doing everything in our power to get everything done within the agreed upon timeline, and reach our goals.  That means not just cooperation, but going out of our way to help each other along.  Picture military boot camp, at least in the movies… there are always one or two recruits who seem as if they won’t make it, and it takes the whole team to get them through.  That’s your team, and your job in this process is to facilitate the cooperation, teamwork, and energy needed to get everyone through to the end.

Either the group achieves the goal, or you failed the group.  It’s really that simple.  You are in charge of making sure that every one of the goals is achievable, measurable, and yet enough of a stretch that it challenges us.  Each should take the cooperation of the people involved in that goal so that we all share in the victory.  The only real defeat is if we don’t follow it through to the end.  Even if we fail to reach the agreed on measurement by our end date, as long as we cooperated, built trust and team morale, and deepened our relationships, we should call it a success and move on to our next goal!

We will assess why we didn’t achieve our measurement of success, and change our process moving forward to help us get there with our next goal.  We have a few, larger, overreaching goals like building relationships, building trust, developing the skills and qualities of all of our team members, and developing Leadership skills throughout the team.  We will also be changing the culture of the team from whatever we have now to one where team members feel challenged, are valued, are included, and get the credit.  A culture where the team Leader cares about team member’s personal goals, and actively helps them achieve them.  A culture that develops Leaders, promotes from within, and includes succession planning in its very fabric.  These are the goals of this whole process, so anything and everything that moves us forward towards these goals is a win!

I may have left out some steps… I probably left out some steps… I’m sure I left out some steps, so please add your input in the comments section.  As Leaders we share many of the same goals, and we can help each other achieve our goals and be as successful as we wish to be.

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Here is a great resource for you in developing your goals…

Setting team goals

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Leadership is...

Leadership is not something that is outside of us.  Leadership is in us…  The qualities of Leadership are in fact how we see the world.  Leadership, that is the way we act in the world and towards others.  Leadership happens or does not happen because of how we see the world and our place in it.

For instance…

If we see the world as a safe place, where giving love, credit, appreciation, and thanks do not diminish us in any way, we feel free to give those things and more to the people around us.

When there is a limited supply of everything, and we need to hoard love, praise, and credit, we will not be able to give it.

If we really care about the people around us, we will be interested in actually listening to understand what they are saying.  We will care about the feeling coming across in the way they communicate, and ‘hear’ that, in addition to the words they are saying.

If we care about people we will take the time to state our thoughts in a way that is easy for our listener to understand, and know that one size does not fit all.  We care enough that we do not get upset and take it personally if and when the listener does not understand what we are saying in the way in which we intend.  We can simply restate our thoughts another way, until the listener ‘hears’ us.

When we don’t care about others, we use communication to tell others what we need them to know.  We only listen to others, and hear enough, to form a rebuttal or argument, and get them to agree with ‘our side’.  We do not listen to understand, and certainly not to hear how the speaker is feeling.

If we care about people we will be interested in building strong relationships with them.  We will make the things that are important to them important to us.  We do what we can to make them feel special, and help them achieve their goals.  We encourage them, and cheer at their success, because we care about them.  We understand that these kinds of strong, honest relationships offer us benefits too, and that’s not why we are there.  Seeing others succeed does not make us jealous… we are truly happy for them.

When we care only for ourselves, we use people.  The only reason to get to know others is to get them to help us get what we want.  We call for help when we need it, however we are not there for others when they need help.  Others are tools to be used and put down.

If we are enough, in and of ourselves, we can do what we think is right.  We can then take responsibility, not only for our actions, and ourselves but also for the actions of those who work for and with us.  We know that mistakes and failings do not diminish who we are.  We believe in ourselves, and can handle criticism, and do not need to pass it on to others.  We can give away credit, and build up others without needing to keep it for ourselves.

When we do not fee like we are enough; when we need to be held up by others, we cannot accept responsibility.  We blame others when things go sideways.  We are never the ones at fault.  We will bend to prevailing thoughts, and can be swayed by others.  We do not stand for anything unless others are standing with us.

If we are confident in our abilities and ourselves, we understand that we don’t know everything.  We challenge ourselves to improve our own skills.  We have a clear picture of our abilities, and don’t use them to measure ourselves as people.  Since our abilities are not a measure of our worth, we can more easily hear criticism as helpful feedback.  We continue to learn and grow throughout our lives.

We may be more skilled at some of these qualities and less skilled at others.  We will be interested in improving all of them, and not for monetary gain or the admiration of others, but for the value to ourselves, and our ability to help others.

Leadership is a way of being.  It’s a way of thinking about ourselves, and the world around us.  That is why we hire for this way of thinking and being in the world.  It does not make sense to hire for any other reason, nor does it make sense to promote for any other reason.  People who see the world in this way will be Leaders, either for you or for someone else.  They will make a difference wherever they go.  Befriend them, and work with them as long as you can.  Teach them what you know, and learn what you can from them.  And appreciate the opportunity to know them.

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Building Our Leadership Team Part 5… How to Define Team Goals

So in rereading my posts about building your Leadership team, I think I glazed over the process of setting goals and coming up with values for your team.  We probably spent enough time on defining our reality, and the importance of coming to a consensus.  We all have to agree, at least by the end of the meeting, on what things are like right now.  At what level is our quality?  At what level is our customer service?  How different are standards from one day or shift to the next?  Do we actually back each other up, or do we really throw each other under the bus?  Do your apprentices feel that they can be honest with you?  If not… fix that before moving on, or everything you do with end up being a waste of time.

You will also want to read, or reread the post on setting an intention.  For this, and all future meetings about setting team goals, your intention is to allow things to happen as they will.  You have worked to build relationships with your apprentices, and you know about their personal goals.  You have worked to believe that they are trustworthy, and you have told them that you trust them, value them, appreciate their hard work, and are happy to have them on your team.  So… your intention is to remember that you trust them.  You trust the process, and you will allow it to happen.  This doesn’t mean you stop guiding the process… it just means that you will not impose your will on the group.  Allow them to be who they are, and in the long run you will be much better off for having done it this way.

This next meeting will focus of setting goals, both short and long term, as well as coming up with values for our team.  You will of course have goals that you must meet… sales goals, margin, comp goals, quality goals, and many others.  These are goals that for most teams will be non-negotiable.   We are accountable for minimally meeting these goals, and a number of you may be rewarded for exceeding certain goals.  So… we need to be transparent with the team about these ‘fixed’ goals, and how important they are.  When your apprentices understand that you, the team Leader, are accountable for achieving these goals, they will have a better understanding of why you have been acting the way you have, and saying the things you say.  You have been working on ‘being human’ and letting them know that you realize that you are far from perfect.

This is why we spent so much time and energy building relationships with our apprentices before we got to this meeting.  Today, they firmly believe that you care about them, that you are interested in helping them achieve their goals, and you will take great pride in their success.  Because they know these things, they will want to help you achieve your goals, and they will do what they can to help you excel in your job.  Since you made their goals important to you, they will make your goals important to them.  You did that right?  Because we’ve been talking about the importance of developing these relationships forever.  It’s the key to Leadership!  OK… I’ll assume you did, or that you are working on it now.

So we have our fixed goals, and we can move on to our team goals as well as our values.  Some of you are asking, “What do you mean ‘team goals’”?  “We have enough to do just meeting the minimum requirements here”.  “These people can barely can’t do anything on their own, and I certainly can’t trust them to come up with any worthwhile goals”.

If you are done…  Many of us have had teams that were, at least at one point, sub par let’s say.  As we talked about before, yes… you probably have a number of people who do not belong on your team, and you must start working to get them moved to a job where they will be successful… in other words, fire them.  You also have some great team members, even if it’s only one or two.  You might not recognize them because of how they have been treated in the past.  They will stand out as soon as you develop a relationship with them, and let them know you care about them, value them, and trust them (at first, you trust them to do their job and stop micromanaging them, then we can move on to more trust).  We’ve talked about this in several posts now… if you want this to work for you, I’d suggest you go back and read the whole blog from the beginning.  The point is for you to look to the future, and understand that the steps we are taking along the way here will bring out the qualities and skills already present in our team.  Those qualities are lying dormant since they have not been asked for, or even valued in the past.  The work we are doing, the groundwork we are laying will bring them to life.  Worry not.

Here we should also talk about how the size of your team will affect the group with which you develop your team goals and values.  If you have a very small team, say less than 12 (could be less than 20, or 30, it’s completely up to you), I would think about having the whole team involved, and not just the Leadership team (which on such a small team may be just you and one or two others).  Getting the whole team involved skips a step, and gets everyone on the team actively involved in deciding what’s best for the team.  If you have never experienced this process with everyone involved, it will blow your mind!  No… really.  Imagine having your whole team working towards the same goal… wanting to work towards that goal because they were there when the goals were developed.  Their input was heard and discussed… we might even be working on goals that one of them came up with.  You have never seen a team working so hard for and with each other as when they are all involved in goal setting.

I feel that when we get more than 15 or 20 people in a room it can be difficult to get them all involved in what is going on.  Plus, on a team that size that will you will have a couple of people who will not want to be involved, and they will make it difficult for everyone.  Even if you have 2 of those people in a 10 person group, the small size makes it intimate enough that they will probably not speak out and disrupt things.  I would advise you not to attempt to have the meeting with everyone but those couple of team members you want off the team.  Their teammates do not see them in the same light you do, and will resent having their peers left out.  Those left out will undoubtedly share their negative feelings with the rest of the team long after the meeting… right until you get them off the team.  So… get them off the team now.

If you have larger team you will have to have a whole team meeting, during which you and your apprentices will share the goals you came up with, set new expectations for the team, and let everyone know that there is a new sheriff in town!  No that’s not right… You will let them know that there are behaviors that were acceptable in the past that will no longer be acceptable.  We’ll have to talk about this over another post or two.

Back to the team goals and values…

We are talking about team specific goals that you and your apprentices will come up with together.  Having these kinds of goals will not only help bring your team together, but they will move your team along from wherever you are now, towards greatness.  You will also come up with values for your team.  Your values will describe what is important in how to act towards each other, and what behaviors you value as a group.  The values you come up with will define your new culture to your team.  As we talked about before, most teams have a culture that we allowed to develop while we weren’t paying attention.  We have to fix that, and redefine what is important, to purposefully recreate the culture we want on our team.  Both our values and our goals will reflect what is important to your Leadership group, and will assure that everyone on your Leadership team will be on board and working towards the same ends.

So… you have a white board, or some giant post it notes, or maybe you are just writing on the wall (although I wouldn’t suggest the wall, it’s your meeting).

Your team goals can run the whole gamut, from Leading the world in Widget production, to having the highest service scores in the region, to improving our sales to positive comps, to increasing profits by 12%, to getting 3 team members ready to be promoted, to getting everyone cross trained by years end… the list is endless.  What is important to you?  Where can you actually make a difference?  What is important to your apprentices?  Go around the room brainstorming ideas.  Remember, in brainstorming there are no bad ideas… write them all down.  Some people in the group may get goofy, since this will be a new experience for them.  Do yourself a favor and allow them to have some fun.  Keep things moving in the right direction, and it’s not Sunday school… You can enjoy the process, and have nothing to gain by being stern or playing the authority figure right now.

For coming up with your values, I think you can start by talking about what makes a good team member, what makes any group of people one that we want to be a part of, and how do people who respect each other act towards each other.  You can use the work you did on defining your reality and your brainstorming list to help define what your new culture will be like.  If someone wanted to change careers or industries, they might sit down and write out what they wanted their new job to look like.  For instance, I want to work Monday thru Friday; I want my boss to value me; I want to work with children; I want to work alone, or conversely I want to be part of a high functioning team; I want clear cut expectations, or I want to decide what I do and when I do it; you get the idea.  We are forming a kind of wish list here.  You and your apprentices will write down what you would like your team’s culture to be like, what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.  Write down how people will treat each other, how they will collaborate, and this should lead you to the things you value.  You’ll find that many of the answers line up with the qualities of a leader… how about that!  Things like self responsible, committed, honesty, transparency, shared fate, trying new things, being accountable to each other, and leaving things better than you found them…

I cannot claim to be an expert on this coming up with team values, and an Internet search will give you a long list of research, opinions, and even articles to walk you through the process.  In my experience, values are easier to understand by the team members who will be making he decisions, and dealing with your customers.

No matter what values you come up with, they will not stick, and all of your work will prove to be a waste of time if you and your apprentices do not live up to them every minute of every day.  If one of your values is open and honest communication, it’s up to you to set the standard for that.  You must always show good listening skills, you must have empathy, and you must always tell the truth.  Always.  Your team members will be watching you… watching for you to say one thing and do another.  Their experience tells them that the boss is not to be trusted, and you are out for yourself, so your job is to prove them wrong with every word and every action.  You MUST live your stated values.  There is no other way.

For your team goals, you are the team Leader, and you certainly want to add things to the list.  Remember that your goals will likely be on a different level than your apprentice’s goals.  Don’t get tied up in what they want on the list.  It’s a list of goals that both our and your apprentice’s will get behind, which is probably more than you’ve ever had before, so be grateful for what you’ve got.  You cannot go into this thinking you will end up with your dream list.  You will go through the list several times during this process, and goals will be crossed off as well as added.  It will contain stretch goals, as well as easily reached goals.  This is important, as you need some early wins to celebrate to keep up your group’s morale and energy.

Take a break… eat something, walk around a bit.  You are moving from one way of thinking to another, so cleanse your palate so to speak.

Your list of goals is a working list, and it can change over time, so don’t allow anyone, including yourself, to start carving it in stone.  Go through your list out loud, reading the ideas to the group.  At this point your group should be in good spirits, with everyone getting along pretty well.  So… you can probably have a simple first round show of hands vote to ‘keep or lose’ goals from the list.  DO NOT try to force your hand here… it will only backfire, the group will shut down, and you will have to work very hard to get to this place again… if you ever do.  Just allow things to happen… I cannot stress this enough.  For many of you this will be the hardest part of the whole process.

You will see goals on the list that you think are way to easy, that don’t align with your own goals, that won’t help the team, or that you think are just stupid.  Let them be!  You will have a chance to talk about them later.  There will be goals on the list that might be OK, and they will need to be reworded or more clearly defined.  You can deal with that later.  There will also be goals on the list that, when achieved, will bring this group together as a Leadership team.  They need to have the chance to achieve some of the small things that are important to them in order to know that their goals are important to you and the rest of the group.  The list belongs to the group, and you need the group to become a team in order for you to achieve your goals, so just be part of the group.  Now, if there are one or two items on the list that you simply cannot have, maybe they break some rule, or impose on another group, or whatever (as long as it’s a very good reason that you are willing to fully explain to your team), you can talk to them about that one or two, and pull them off this list.  Be very careful about overriding the team… you will be on thin ice.  You need their buy in with the whole process if you are going to successfully get the rest of the team on board.

If you don’t think you can play the role of moderator and group member, have someone from outside the group moderate the meeting… that is perfectly acceptable.  It could be a mentor, peer, someone from another division… it’s only important that they have enough Leadership qualities so allow them to understand the process and help it along, without any negativity at all.

This is getting a little long… why not take it up next time?

Be there, or be a mediocre leader with a team that takes so much work it isn’t funny!
See… I made a joke right there…  Did you catch it?

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I think this is an appropriate spot to link to this article...

The Five Obsessions Common to Champions

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Accepting feedback part 3… How to Develop a Culture of Trust

So… what we’ve been talking about should work to get your team members able and more willing to talk to you.  With more of this work building trust, they will be willing to tell you about their mistakes, let you know when they are not sure what to do, and ask your opinion.  The point of much of the work you’ve done with the team so far is to get your team members feeling, really believing that you value them, are happy to have them on the team, care about them and their goals, and look forward to helping them work through all of the mistakes they are bound to make, both from trying something new, and normal, everyday mistakes.  When they actually believe this, you will be amazed at how quickly good things start to happen.  Your team members will start thinking for themselves, and making smart decisions without always having to ask permission, or ask what to do.  This will free up a lot of your time, which you can then invest in other team members, and keep the momentum going.

So far though… after a lot of hard work, their trust is with you.  The next step is developing a culture of trust on your team.  Team members can then start helping each other grow, and using each other as resources.  It’s not too long after this starts to happen, and with continued work on developing team goals, that you will witness your team turn the corner, from a group of people working in the same place, to an actual team, working together on your shared goals.

I know this sounds too good to be true… looking at the people you have working for you now…  and you and your apprentices are reading the same book, right!?  You, the team Leader, are reading Developing the Leader Within You, right!?  You and your apprentices are discussing the tools you are reading about, and putting them into practice, right!?  You have been meeting with your apprentices and developing those relationships, right!?  You are using these methods to hire your new team members, right!?  Then you are on the right track.  Keep doing what you are doing, working to build trust and relationships, and you WILL get there.

This is probably as good a time as any to discuss an issue I had and had a tough time working through.  Let’s start at the beginning… I grew up with 3 brothers, and if something was funny in our house, it was almost always at someone else’s expense.  Sarcasm, and quick cutting responses were the name of the game, and we all learned well.  I was told throughout my life that I was fun to be around, and I always made people laugh.  Working with customers, and even strangers on the street, I could always get away with saying things that no one else would dare to say, and get at least a smile back in return.  Everything was right with the world!

Fast forward, and now I’m a Store Team Leader at Whole Foods Market.  We’re meeting all of our KPI, and I’m honing my hiring skills.  I was working hard at learning to be a better Leader, since our regional president valued Leadership.  I was reading every Leadership book I could get my hands on, and thinking up ways of putting the ideas I read about into practice.  Life was good!

Then… a problem.  At Whole Foods they have team member and morale surveys, where everyone gets to rate their team Leader, and the work environment at their store.  I scored well above average with the team members in my store, however my Team Leaders, otherwise known as department managers, didn’t rate me so well.  The comments I received we confusing to me, since at work they seemed to really like working for me, and yet they weren’t as happy as I presumed.

My regional vice president talked to me about his, and he put it this way… there is no problem with what you are saying, it’s how you are saying it.  I did not get it.  At all.  For a long time.

Finally, he related a story about himself, wherein he was told that people either love him, or hate him, and he was doing something to cause that.  After thinking about it for a bit, and talking to some of my team members and team Leaders, I finally realized what he was talking about.

I was sarcastic.  I didn’t mean to be cutting or hurtful… it was the only way I knew how to be, at least up until that point.

It was then that I realized that sarcasm should not be used by anyone in charge, anyone people look up to, anyone people trust, anyone who gives feedback to others, and anyone who wants to develop strong, honest relationships with others.  Leaders cannot use sarcasm at all.  Your team members will not be able to discern when you are being sarcastic and when you are being serious.  If you currently have a lot of fun at work, and are sarcastic outside of work, you are most likely sarcastic at work.  You will need to change the way you are at work if you want to build a great team.  When in doubt, err on the side of caution.  Do not use humor that gets a laugh at the expense of someone else.  You do not have to learn the hard way…

Now, where were we?  Oh yeah, we need to develop a culture of trust on the team as a whole.  As with everything else, it starts with you, the team Leader.  You will show in your meetings that you are not just willing to hear constructive feedback, but actually welcome it.  At first, you may have to get someone, one of your apprentices or a team member show wouldn’t mind speaking up in a meeting, to give you some feedback in that forum.  It will probably take a few meetings where your team is able to see you take that feedback in the right way.  You remember what that is right?  You will listen to understand, maybe even repeat it back in your own words so you show everyone there that you heard and understand that you hurt their feelings (or whatever it was you did you jerk!), and then apologize for doing it.  It doesn’t matter what your intention was, nor does it matter whether or not you meant to do it… you will apologize anyway.  Yes, it might seem at first a little strange, and lacking in transparency, to have someone prepared to give you feedback in a meeting.  And… I think it’s OK, in order to get the ball rolling, to give it a little push.

There is a key here… it’s all about perception.  However, perception is a big enough topic that affects so many aspects of our lives and Leadership that it deserves it’s own post.  So there.

Next we have to encourage team members to give constructive feedback to each other and to be accepting of that same feedback.  We also need to remind the whole group that we all have different strengths.  We each have something we can teach the others.  At first it will be natural for our team members to be distrustful of their peers, so they will get defensive.  It’s your job, and that of your better prepared apprentices, to jump right in, in the very beginning, and start interpreting things for both sides, as unfortunately by now we will have sides.  For this example, we will assume that the feedback was given with good intentions.

Your first task will be to stop the team member who received the feedback from striking back at the giver, and you will have to be quick.  You will likely have to interrupt them, and interpret the feedback for them as it was intended.  It will help, as usual, to state that you received this same feedback when “…”.  Perhaps point out that you still occasionally say or do this, and are still working on it.  This will probably help allow it to be heard as intended.

I would, right then and there, speak to the way the feedback was given, stating again that since I’ve made pretty much every mistake there is to make, I’ve done the same thing, and gotten the same results.  We can then have a short lesson for the whole team about not only the value of giving and receiving feedback, but also the right ways in which we should deliver feedback. Some times are better than others, and we are all unique.  Some of us can hear anything as long as it’s given in private, while others might already be fine with hearing constructive feedback in public. We have to be considerate of the other person’s feelings, since our intention is to give someone information to help them.  If we just send feedback flying in all directions, there is a good chance that something will be flying back at you!

We have now opened the door to delivering feedback in our meetings.  And of course it will take many meetings to get where we can all feel pretty good about giving and getting feedback from our peers.  You will need to make it a regular part of every meeting.  Perhaps getting each team member to speak to what lessons they learned recently, and what they would do differently.  Verbalizing our judgment of ourselves might be a great first step, even for several meetings.  Then we can move to adding one additional opportunity for feedback from someone else.  The team can address how it was given as a group.  This alone will bring them closer together.  Later, we can address whether this feedback was even valuable enough to bring up… much of the criticism team members have for each other is either personality clash, holding on to hurt feelings, or rumors.  It will be a valuable growth process for everyone.

I also suggest you do something that I learned at Whole Foods Market, and have probably mentioned before.  End each meeting with appreciations.  If you, the team Leader, and your apprentices take this seriously, so will the rest of the team.  You will have to get the ball rolling, and that’s no problem since you do in fact value and appreciate your team, right?  Good!  Come to each meeting with a list of things you think should be appreciated.  Some of them should be things that align with your goals, and the behaviors you have decided to change.  And some of your appreciations should just be atta boy’s, or atta girl’s.  Thank your team members for cleaning up the break room!  Thank you for not parking in the customer spots… I think that’s important.  Thank you to the janitors for cleaning up after the rest of us, and make sure you talk to the janitors too!  Thank you for giving me that feedback about that thing I was doing that was driving everyone crazy!  Thank you to my apprentice here for maintaining our standards on second shift!  Thank you for going out of your way for that customer the other day… she called me and told me how happy she was with your help!  Thank each and every person who has tried something new, especially if it went sideways.  It will take a lot of rewarding and celebrating to get the average team comfortable with failing, and then talking about it.

Reward and celebrate the behaviors your want to see more of.  If you can, literally reward them… movie passes, gift certificates, whatever you can.  And if it’s only a genuine “’thank you very much”, that’s fine.

I think it will help for the whole group to understand that if we are not willing to hear the opinions of those around us, we will end up surrounded by people with nothing to say.  We can end up with a team of people who do what we tell them to do, no more and no less.  Does that sound like a team that will achieve greatness?  Does that sound like a team that great people will want to be a part of?

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I read this article yesterday and thought it worth including here...

Tips for Building Employee Relationships

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Accepting Feedback… We Only Learn From People Who Disagree With Us!

At least that’s what I have come to believe.  There is a lot to this, so it might just be more than one post… sorry.

One of the worst things we can do as Leaders is surround ourselves with people who are just like us.  People who have a similar background, and people who think the same way we do.  We also have to be very careful to encourage people to bring us bad news.  Surrounding ourselves with ‘yes people’, or people who don’t trust us enough to tell us all of the bad news, will eventually mean that any great people you have working for you will leave.  And you will be left surrounded by people who have nothing to say.  You cannot innovate, or continue to grow under these circumstances, and you will wither and die.  Yes, that’s right… die.

Approach any problem or issue with a group of people.  It makes no difference how large or small the group.  If you state your interpretation of what is going on, and everyone agrees, what have you learned?  One of you states a possible solution to the problem, and you all agree… what have you learned?  You take a friend fishing, and you both agree on where on the lake to fish, what bait or lures to use… what have you learned?  You talk with someone after both reading the same book, and you have almost identical thoughts on how to put the ideas in the book into practice… what have you learned?  You and a friend need to get across town as quickly as possible, there are countless ways to get across town, and you both agree on the best way… what have you learned?  Unless you speak to, or read the thoughts (wait, you can read other people’s thoughts?) of someone with an opinion that differs from yours, you will not learn from that person.

We must surround ourselves with great people; with people who have different experiences than we do.  People who have worked in an industry other than ours would be great additions to our team.  People who have opinions that differ from ours are needed in order to innovate and stay ahead of our competition.

Yes… some of you are saying that you can learn from your own mistakes, and that’s great!  I want to say we all do that, and that’s simply not true.  How many drivers are there who have been driving for years, and yet are pretty poor drivers?  How many people have you encountered who have been doing the same job for years, and are not great at it?  I have found that there is a very small percentage of people who have very high standards for themselves, judge their performance objectively, and alter the way they do things to get better results, until they reach great.

And even for those who do learn from their own mistakes, learning from the mistakes of others speeds the process along.  There is no need to reinvent the wheel every time we need to do something… someone who works for, or with us has probably had some experience with this, what are you calling it… a ‘wheel’?

We need to not just allow dissension; we need to actually encourage it.  Yes, we need to encourage people to speak up when they disagree with each other.  No… we can’t have people who just disagree with everything… nothing would get done.  And… when we are talking about setting goals, how to approach a problem, or how to plan that project, we need to listen to our team.  We need to listen when someone states that this is a bad idea.  We will listen to what they have to say, fully understand it, weight it, chew on it, decide if it has merit, and either stop our plans, change our plans accordingly, or proceed as planned.

A couple of things will happen because of this.  Our team member will feel heard, and their trust in our Leadership, and us, will grow.  Because of this increased trust and better relationship with us, they will help indoctrinate our new hires.  In this way we will benefit from the new hire’s experience much sooner than we would otherwise.  And they will be much more likely to get fully behind whatever decision comes out of the process, because they have been heard.  The rest of the team will be more likely to feel safe speaking up when they feel they have something important to add, or when they see something going wrong.  And whatever decision we make is likely to be a better one because of the additional input.  Not only do we all win, but we also set up the process for continued success.

But Steve, no one really likes to hear about flaws, whether it’s in their great plan, or just how they do everyday tasks.  None of us really like to hear that we are not doing something in the most efficient way, that our plan won’t work in the real world, that your idea will cost way too much labor to make it doable, that what we’re doing is making work for someone else, that we are impeding progress, that our negative attitude is affecting the morale of the team… we could go on forever.  The kids don’t like to hear that I don’t like the way they load the dishwasher.  My honey doesn’t like to hear how I feel about her driving.  I don’t like to hear that I don’t call my mother often enough.

But what is criticism anyway but a feedback mechanism to help us improve our relationships, work, or performance in anything else?  How else do we get the continuous incremental improvement needed to make a high functioning team?  We’re only trying to help, right?!?

And… if we want to foster a workplace where we constantly improve, help each other achieve our personal goals, and achieve our team goals, we must foster an atmosphere where we can critique each others work, plans, and ideas.

So… How do we do that?  How do we foster an atmosphere in which people offer each other feedback without placing blame, and in which we can hear that feedback in the way in which it was intended?

Crap… 2 pages already, and my blog posts are twice as long as anyone else’s.  We’ll have to talk more about this next time.

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