DiscoverManagement Cafe - for leaders of colocated and remote teams
Management Cafe - for leaders of colocated and remote teams
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Management Cafe - for leaders of colocated and remote teams

Author: Pilar Orti from Virtual not Distant

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Improve your management and leadership practice over a cup of coffee and get a book recommendation too.

The role of the manager is evolving as technology helps us to self-organise and take more control of how and where we work from. In this podcast, Pilar Orti from Virtual not Distant, dissects modern management practice, not just for official managers, but for team members who want to make things happen too.
21 Episodes
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We're re-purposing the segments Oh No My Team's Gone Remote, for managers and leaders of remote teams, from our flagship podcast 21st Century Work Life. Find us over at virtualnotdistant.com
We're re-purposing the segments Oh No My Team's Gone Remote, for managers and leaders of remote teams, from our flagship podcast 21st Century Work Life. Find us over at virtualnotdistant.com
There has been much hype around systems like Holacracy, and while we might not want to move fully into self-management, there are plenty of aspects we can incorporate into how we lead our teams.  For the full script, go over to  https://managementcafepodcast.com/2018/02/04/self-management/   Meanwhile, here are some links you might want to check out: The article that inspired this podcast: https://hbr.org/2016/07/beyond-the-holacracy-hype And some further content recommendations: Maverick by Ricardo Semler You can also listen to the ten episode podcast LeadWise. Or watch his TedTalk How to Run a Company with No Rules: https://www.ted.com/talks/ricardo_semler_how_to_run_a_company_with_almost_no_rules And don't forget to check out what we do over at www.virtualnotdistant.com 
I'm back for another season. This time I will be podcasting "freestyle" using an article as inspiration. In today's episode I talk about what "authentic leadership" means to me and why I'm not that sure about the term... To get in touch, go to www.managementcafepodcast.com or www.virtualnotdistant.com  Today’s episode has been inspired by this article. You might want to read it before listening. The Truth About Authentic Leaders  by Bill George,  author of “Authentic Leadership”  What did you think? What did you take from it? What are your questions/observations/reservations/agreements? Here is what I took from it and the thoughts this article sparked in me 1) What is “authentic leadership”? Not pretending we’re someone we’re not. Not pretending we know everything. Let our personality and values through (not necessarily our personal life) Make unpopular decisions that aligh with our values – tricky for middle management It’s a great alternative to “heroic leadership” where you are seen as having to pull the cart. I would say we need flexibility, self-awareness and a degree of vulnerability. Example from Originals, loc 3152 2) The “bringing your whole self to work” dilemma. Flexibility is key – and after all, we bring different parts of ourselves to different situations and different relationships. Low self-monitors; High self-monitors “Authentic leaders are sensitive to the impact their words and actions have on others, not because they are “messaging” the right talking points. “They don’t hide behind flaws, instead they seek to understand them.” It’s not about being rigid, but in being honest about who you are. “One of the hardest things for leaders to do is to understand how other people see them, which is often quite different than how they want to be seen.” “Adapt the style without compromising character.” Go back to the point on vulnerability – another article, this time from Inc. Jack Ma made a Fool of Himself Last Week. Smart Move. Inc sept21st 2017 https://www.inc.com/jack-ma-made-a-fool-of-himself-last-week.html About being approachable and human – core of authentic leadership However, needs to be backed by actions and reputation elsewhere. (3) We always associate being “authentic” with “good”. This means, if we want a culture of authenticity, need to look out for values when we recruit, especially when we recruit people in positions of authority. For Your Reflection In the office, we can be ourselves, but what happens in the remote space? (or flexible) Need to be more deliberate. Our communication; make room for synchronous discussions; explain your decisions; ask questions to understand others before you try to understand actions through your own values What parts of me would be more useful to bring to work? (To my communication, to my interactions, to my decisions?) How much is my own behaviour encourating or deterring people from bringing their “whole selves” to work? How can we constantly remind ourselves that we are human? Because that’s really at the core of authentic leadership, not super heroes, but humans.
In this episode, we cover the change in mindset necessary to lead remote teams, working out loud, how to choose a tool, making decisions and planning for spontaneous conversations. (I know!) For detailed show notes go to www.managementcafepodcast.com The time zone issue 07.00 mins The difference between collocated and remote 09:00 Change in mindset 13.00 Working Out Loud 16:10 Choosing and using tools 21.30 Making Decisions 24.00 Informal conversation Recommend book: Under New Management by David Burkus For more on leading virtual teams, visit www.virtualnotdistant.com  
Building psychological safety requires us to be very aware of our own behaviour, as we create a place where team members feel able to bring up problems and admit mistakes. visit www.managementcafepodcast.com for the transcript   
Is it a manager's job to motivate team members? Or is it our job to just get out of the way? In today's episode, Pilar shares a couple of motivation theories and asks some questions to help you determine whether your behaviour is nurturing self-motivation or hindering it. Subscribe via the blog http://managementcafepodcast.com Self-determination theory suggests that we are inherently driven to be the best we can be and our motivation is affected by our surroundings and context. In order for this intrinsic motivation to flourish, we need autonomy, competence and a sense of relatedness to either others or a common purpose. (You can find out more about Deci and Ryan's self-determination theory here: http://selfdeterminationtheory.org/ ) Pilar recommends Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg, which has a brilliant chapter on Motivation. "We praise people for doing things that are hard, that's how they learn to believe they can do them." Smarter, Faster, Better Locus of control affects our motivation and it can be affected by training and feedback. When working as a virtual team or in a remote set-up, we need to keep an eye out to feed that sense of relatedness. The Progress Principle and the "inner work life". Emotions and perceptions during the work day. Catalysts - actions that directly affect the work and helps people to want to do a good job. Nourishers - actions that show support and help us feel happy about doing the work. Inhibitors - prevent us from feeling happy at work. Toxins - actions that decrease the happiness of workers. Remember, before you even think about what you can do to "motivate others", assess whether there is anything you're doing that might be inhibiting their intrinsic motivation. Further Reading and Watching You can read more about the Progress Principle here: https://hbr.org/2011/05/the-power-of-small-wins What Makes Us Feel Good About Our Work? Great TedTalk by Dan Ariely which re-defines "meaningful work". Pop into the Management Café or visit www.virtualnotdistant.com
MC1-7 Team Norms

MC1-7 Team Norms

2016-11-1013:40

In today's episode, we cover the five areas under which team norms develop and why we should pay attention for these unspoken rules that are emerging in our team. visit www.managementcafepodcast.com and www.virtualnotdistant.com Like it or not, your behaviour as manager, as team leader or as official person leading a team, really matters. Group norms develop as team members learn through experience what behaviours are acceptable and which aren't. These norms develop over time, as different people watch others in the team and adapt their own behaviour accordingly - either consciously or sometimes, even subconsciously. Group norms are those unspoken rules that emerge as people work together. They are part of a team's identity and culture. Some norms will be helpful but others will be unhelpful, so, at the very least, we should be aware of what they are. If as managers we are unaware of our own behaviour, we might well be planting the seed for an unhelpful group norm to emerge. The simplest example that comes to mind is attendance to meetings. If we always wait for latecomers to arrive before we start a meeting, either in person or online, then a norm will develop that says that it's ok to be late for meetings in this team. So, allow me to invite you for a little bit more of a guided coffee today. To just say, “Let's assess our team's norms” can be quite daunting. Where do we start? If we have a new team, how can we influence our team members so that healthy norms develop? As we're dealing with human behaviour, and even the more challenging  behaviour in groups, how about breaking our thinking down into different kinds of group norms? To guide you through this, I've tapped into a great textbook called Organisational Behaviour in Organisations by Baron and Cohen. When breaking down the kind of norms we might see in teams, we can talk about norms around Openess and Honesty, Taking Responsibility, Working with Others, Following the Rules and Use of Resources. This is quite an interesting breakdown, which can also help us to look at differences in our team. Sometimes individual team members seem at odds with others. There might even be some conflict in a team if people view these aspects of working in an organisation differently. Take 'Openess and Honesty'. If you are someone who likes guarding their work and only sharing small bits of information on a needs to know basis, and you're working with someone who much prefers transparency, who doesn't mind everyone knowing what they're working on etc., there are bound to be clashes between you. You might think they're requiring you to share too much and they might think you don't trust them enough. So, as well as using these five aspects of working together to identify our team norms, we can use them to figure out what might be causing friction amongst team members. Right, let's start with 'Openess and Honesty'. Well, there's not much more to add to the example I've given you. What is acceptable behaviour in your team? And here, it's worth to look at this behaviour within the team and in relation to other teams and the rest of the organisation. Does your team believe their work should be kept secret? Or are they happy to be open about their process, their failures, their success… This is especially important if you're working in a virtual team, as most communication will be written down, which in a way seems to be more definite. When you speak, the words disappear, but in the written form, they might stay around forever. So this is a discussion worth having with your team at some point, especially if you're going to be working together from different locations. The next area under which group norms develop is 'Taking responsibility for your actions'. Are people ready in your team to say, “Sorry, my fault”. Or is it always a question of, “Yes, but I was waiting for Laura to get back to me, so I couldn't finish that piece of work, and I thought, you don't like to be disturbed, so I didn't want to tell you it was going to be late...” What about the more general aspect, “What does it mean to work with others”? Are people ready to share the credit with others in the team or does shared accountability just happen when things go wrong? Do your people speak about “we” or “I” when they talk about their team? How about you, what do you use? And do you change your language depending on whether what you're talking about can be regarded as positive or negative? Let's move on, what about 'Following the rules'? What happens in your team? Are rules followed to the letter? Or are you a group of loose cannons who do whatever they want in the organisation? My guess is that it's something in between, but you'll have a tendency towards one of the poles. You might just work within the boundaries of your organisation, or maybe you are a team that sees itself as being able to work around the rules and culture of the organisation to get your work done. Again, this might be an area of disagreement or even conflict between team members, so worth thinking about… How about the 'Use of resources'? Are you a team that looks for the most cost-effective (or cheap) solutions, or do you enjoy spending large budgets without thinking of where the money is coming from? So, before I quickly recap on these five different aspects of team norms, it's worth thinking about why we're looking at them. These are the unspoken rules in our team, they form part of our identity and will influence how others see us too. They might even guide people's decision-making. So, if nothing else, it's worth being aware of what these norms are. And if some of them are causing us trouble or are being unhelpful (and by “unhelpful” I mean that they're stopping us from doing our best work or are leading to problems) between team members or in the organisation, then they will be worth addressing. At the same time, it's also worth noting that if someone is not “fitting in” the team, it could well be that they are at odds with the team's norms, that they feel like they need to act in a way that goes against their own principles and nature - that is worth addressing too. I'm afraid to say that how you deal with any of that will be left up to you, as every case will be very, very different. So, a quick recap: I've very quickly talked you through: Openess and Honesty, Taking Responsibility, Working with Others, Following the Rules and Use of Resources. Well, the café is getting full and I need to go, but, if you'd like to stay a bit longer at the table, how about thinking through the behaviour in your team, whether you are all in one physical space or distributed, or a bit of both, and having a little mental evaluation of your team norms. Are they helping your work? Are there any that you think, ah, we could do with changing that, that's not helpful. If you're looking at changing anything, I can think of two ways in which you can do that: by openly  having a conversation with your team or by starting role modeling a different behaviour. Your behaviour as a manager is in the spotlight and sometimes, you and your reactions to others' behaviours will be the barometer of what behaviour is acceptable or not. Even though I've got to go now, I'd love to hear whether have indeed tackled unhelpful norms in your team and how you went about it. And of course, I'd love to hear what team norms you are proud of. Oh yes, I almost forgot, I have a small book recommendation for you today. The subject matters is a little bit broader than this café, but I think you'll find it interesting. The book is The Upside of Irrationality, by Dan Ariely. The book explains why a lot of our behaviour, both in and out of work, seems irrational at times and it asks important questions about why we continue to create environments that squash people's motivation to do a good job. Plus, Ariely is a great storyteller, and if you enjoy this book, he's got a few more. And if you don't fancy reading, look for his talks on the TedTalk website. Ok, now, I'm off. I hope you enjoy your day and I'll see you soon.
In today's episode we dissect trust, think of ways to build it in our team and we ask ourselves some difficult questions.   Trust, where do we start? I suppose that before looking about what trust actually is, should we have a quick recap of why it matters? Does Trust Matter? Does it matter? Do you think it matters? What does lack of trust look like in a team, in an organisation? What does “plenty of trust” look like? And is there such a thing as “too much trust”? A word of warning, this episode might leave you with more questions than answers but if you’re up to it, let’s begin. My first question, when talking about trust, is, it’s important to trust others… to do what? A team where people trust each other to do a good job and act in the best interest of the team is going to look very different a team where people trust each other to keep their heads down when there are problems between individuals. Just the fact that some kind of trust exists between team members is not enough to have a high-performing team, one that can trouble shoot, one that can innovate. But if we have the kind of trust that allows people to fee like they can rely on each other to make decisions for them in their best interest, then, well I think we’re onto a winner. The Benefits of Trust Where there is trust, there is speed. (Remember the book titled The Speed of Trust) If we know that the information somebody gives us is reliable, we don’t need to check it. (Speed) If we trust one person to make a decision for the rest of us, that decision is made faster. If we trust that everyone in our team will flag up problems when they see them, we won’t be constantly checking and monitoring the work. But it’s not all about speed. It’s also about reducing uncertainty in our working relationships. It’s about creating an atmosphere (whether this atmosphere is palpable, in a room, or created across technology like in a virtual team) it’s about creating an atmosphere where people feel like they can get on with their work and find the support they need when they need it – and know that others will ask for help from them too, when they come across a block. As a manager, you want people to trust you so that you can make decisions on behalf of the team and they can back you up with their hard work; you need them to trust you so that they know you’ll represent them at their best in other parts of the organisation and beyond; Isn’t it better to have relationships at work based on trust than on power? Yeap, as you are sipping your drink I hear you think, “easier said than done”. So let’s try to break down this trust business and see where we get to… Two Types of Trust First I’d like to share with you definitions of two types of trust. One is calculus based trust, that is, you have trust in people that they’ll do the right thing because the consequences for them not to do so would be harsh. That… to put it in a simple way, is just not nice. To know that people’s behaviour is driven by fear of punishment means that we’ll never be able to rely on them to go the extra mile. The type of trust we’re looking to nurture is identification-based trust, where people understand each others' values and interests, and so can rely on others to act in their best interest. How your team members get to know each other and how we learn to empathise with others will be different in each team. For some, going out for lunch together or for a drink after work will allow people to get to know each other as people, not just professionals. For other teams, having regular in-depth conversations about the team process and our values might be more effective; In other teams, working closely on tasks together might be what people need to understand each others’ points of view and work styles better. Sometimes trust gets built when we deal together with a mistake, with a failure, when we focus on analyzing a problem and designing the next steps to move forwards. As a manager, a team leader, or someone in charge of a team process, or someone who just wants to improve the team process, it might help to look at trust in teams as having two components. One is the role of the individual – trusting others and being trusted. And the second component is the trust that we have in the team in being able to perform at its best. The Individual and the Team Let’s take the first component, the individual. How much do you trust people? How much do you tend to trust someone until they show they can’t be trusted? Or do you operate in the opposite way, you tend not to trust someone until they show they can be trusted? You’ll need to be aware of this propensity to trust, as it will affect your behaviour and your work style. In those teams which need to form quickly together, like emergency teams, trust needs to be built rapidly. And in those cases when we have to work closely with people we might have never met in person, like virtual teams, we need to know what it takes for us to trust someone to deliver the work and act in the interest of the common good, even if they don’t have someone looking over their shoulder (both literally and metaphorically). It might now be a good time to break down trust into specific components, into those behaviours that can make us trust someone and be trusted. Breaking trust down can help us to analyse a gut feeling we might have about someone. “Mmm, I’m not sure I trust her… Ok, why might that be?” The Components of Trust Reliability – do you do what you say you’re going to do? Or, just as important, do you communicate when you’re not going to do something you said you’d do? Integrity – do your actions match those values they say they have? And along similar lines, do your words match your actions? Do you act with congruity? Transparency – how much do you make your intentions and your thinking process available to others? Do people think you have a hidden agenda – or more to the point, have you got a hidden agenda? And finally, we can’t forget competence, which is really important when we’re looking at relationships at work. Can people trust you to do a good job? Or can they trust you to know and communicate, when you need help? Once we’ve looked at ourselves, we can start to think about what kind of processes our team needs to strengthen trust between individuals. It could well be that we need to look at improving our results. That could strengthen our feeling of competence, which could strengthen trust in each other. (To hear more on team development, check out episode 4 of this podcast). Or we might need more transparency in our work. Or we might need to learn to say no, to stop making promises to each other that we can rarely keep… Building Trust in Your Team The ways of building trust are numerous, if you feel like this is something you need to address, you have to dig deep into what’s going on in your team, or the behaviour you are role-modelling. At another level, we can also build trust in the team by continuously revisiting our purpose. Why are we working together and does our behaviour help us achieve our goals? These kind of conversations move the focus away from the individual team members and allow us to talk about making mistakes and solving problems, making our thought processes clearer. Making the time to have conversations about the team process, about what we’re finding difficult, what we’re struggling with and, let’s not forget, those things we are proud of and succeeding in make us more transparent. And, in most cases, this transparency helps us to understand each other better and feel safer with each other. When I say “feel safer” I don’t mean that where there is trust there is no conflict. On the contrary, if there is no conflict, there is probably also not much trust. If I can’t trust you to tell me if I’m holding back your own work, I’ll be constantly worried that it’s going to come up in our next team review meeting; if I can’t trust you to speak up if I’m going down the wrong path with my work, I’ll be afraid to innovate; if we never disagree on our team process or our how to go about a task… well… there’s probably no trust, and actually not much care for the work. I suppose this is related to the point about being transparent: trust exists when you know you can be transparent, when you know you can be vulnerable and that your vulnerabilities won’t come to bite you back. So crucial in what the levels of trust are like in a team, will be how we deal with our mistakes. Right, the café’s getting full and I’d better be off before the waitress comes back to ask me to leave… I trust her to do that, you see… I hope these thoughts have been of some help – Summary I’ll just recap what I ‘ve talked about so far, although let me see if I can frame the points as reflection questions: What do you trust your team members to be able to do? What do you think they trust you to do? (Go on, I dare you to ask them…) How long does it take you to trust someone, how high or low is your propensity to trust? What can you do to build identification-based trust, when people feel like you understand their needs and values? If you feel like trust is at low levels in your team, why might that be? What behaviours are you observing – what behaviours are you role-modelling? Do you observe integrity, reliability, transparency…? How much do you know about each other’s work styles, preferences and values? Recommended Reading The Trust Effect by Larry Reynolds, where he suggests eight practices to help build a high-trust organisation. I’ll leave you with a quote, where he talks about lateral relationships in an organisation, like those among team members or across teams. “Lateral relationships have many advantages - but they only work if there is trust. Because the hierarchy isn’t there, you can’t fall back on power relationships when the going gets tough. And it’s no use basing lateral relationships on hope – if they are to work in the long term, they have to be based on trust.”
Today we cover the psychological contract: how it's formed and how can we decrease the negative consequences when it is broken. visit www.virtualnotdistant.com When we first join an organisation, we develop expectations of what our relationship is going to be like with our colleagues, the organisation as a whole and our manager or team leader. This is referred to as the psychological contract. It’s all the terms and conditions that we think we are agreeing to that are not explicitly laid out in our written contract, if we have one. The psychological contract is our interpretation of what we agree to give and what we hope to receive – which is why it’s so much fun to talk about, but so complex to deal with at work. The psychological contract can easily be broken if we don’t address some of those assumptions early on. Expectations can start to form during recruitment, when candidates start to imagine what it would be like to work for the organisation. What makes this even more challenging, is that these expectations can also be shaped by our previous experiences at work, even by the experience of our parents at work. Why it’s important to think about this is that a breach in the psychological contract can lead to people no longer wanting to go the extra mile (why should I? I’m not getting what I thought I was promised) and at it’s worse, it can lead to destructive behaviour at work. Remember that this is all about perceptions of what we’re promised when we start a job, not about what has actually been said. The reason why I wanted to talk about this is that in an era where there is ongoing change around work systems and organisational structures, our expectations are constantly being adjusted. If we’re not careful, if we don’t maintain ongoing dialogue with our people and involve them in decisions that affect them; if we don’t constantly check in to make sure that their way of working makes sense, we’ll lose people’s desire to do a good job. So, being aware of the existence of the psychological contract also helps us to understand what the effects of change may be, and why people who have always proved to be engaged at work, might see their performance go down in response to change. (That is beyond the expected dip in performance that usually accompanies change.) Imagine for example, that your organisation is going through a big structural change. We can see this at the moment in organisations moving to a more self-organised way of working, away from the traditional command and control, in order to be more nimble and adaptable. At some point your organisation might decide to move all the way to a self-managed structure, where everyone has the responsibility to look after the business and after the working processes. People are now being asked to be more involved in decision-making and to be more accountable than they were under the more hierarchical structure, where most accountability lied at the management level. To the people instigating this change, this seems like a perfect opportunity for employees to be happier. To take more control of their destiny. To have more autonomy and stop just doing what they’re told by their managers. However, if you joined the company at the team member level, with no management responsibilities, expecting a traditional working model, where managers looked after the process and the business, your expectations will be shattered. Even though your physical contract didn’t say anywhere, “We will not change our organisational model during your time with us,” you might have assumed this to be the case. To find yourself having to look at company accounts to make decisions in your team, as part of moving to a self-management model, will not have been part of your expectations. In all your previous jobs, you’ve done your job and left management to the managers, you’ve never expected to have to take on any of those bits of work. I’ll give you another example, that of having the opportunity to work from home. Maybe you join a company that says they offer flexible working. During your interview and your induction, you find out all the ways in which you can request to work different hours or where you can request to work from different locations, but your job will be mainly office-based. But one day the company realizes they’re spending way too much money on real estate and decide that from now on, some teams will be required to work from home. The office begins to be quieter; you find yourself working from your kitchen table when you always saw yourself as someone who “goes to work in the mornings”. Once more, no-one explicitly said to you, “This will be a job where you come into the office every day and mingle with other people.” However, that was your assumption and your psychological contract has been broken. Another shorter example. Your company advertises itself as having an “open culture”, as being “innovative”, as actively recruiting millenials. Sandy, a young, dynamic, bright graduate joins your company after a thorough recruitment process. And on the first day, during her coffee break, she sits at her computer, opens Facebook and… finds that the site is blocked. You get the picture. Now, the best way of managing the psychological contract is to ensure ongoing open communication, so that people can gradually change their expectations rather than, at some point, experiencing a big breach. Find ways for people to voice their expectations, whether they’re in the form of transactions or relations. It might also help to understand that psychological contracts tend to be relational and/or transactional. People with different personalities will tend to go towards one or the other. So some people might be looking to receive economic contributions from the organisation, or tangible rewards in return for working beyond their remit and doing long hours, for example. On the other hand, other people, usually those with highly conscientious personalities or high self-esteem, will form a psychological contract around a social focus, in a more dynamic way and a broader, less tangible focus. Unfortunately, well, I say unfortunately but it probably is just part of human nature and how we enter into relationships, it seems like employees very often experience contract breach. Pay increases, promotions, the type of work we end up doing, the training or feedback we receive, these are all areas where our expectations might not be met, even if we feel we have delivered our end of the unspoken deal. Plus, a common cause of breach is a poor quality relationship with the supervisor or manager – which is why this people stuff is so important to you. And all this matters because a breach in the psychological contract can result in behaviour which can be bad for the organisation: in-role performance can decrease, our organisational citizenship behaviour can decrease (that is those times when we go out of our way to help others or the organisation) and there might even be retaliation, some kind of destructive behaviour, however subtle. Plus (yes, there’s more), a breach of the psychological contract can lead to higher intentions of leaving the job, lower trust levels, lower job satisfaction and lower overall commitment to the organisation. There are some good news however. Even when the psychological contract is broken (and this is all a perception, remember) there are conditions which lead to less negative consequences, conditions that lead to less negative emotions as a result of the breach. These are: support from the leader, either perceived or real, if there is mutual dependence (so we both know we need each other to do our jobs), and if there is trust, liking and respect. So although all this might be quite broad and feel abstract, it does highlight the need for ongoing communication and the need to understand what people expect to get in return from what they think they are expected to give. The more we can help them shape the psychological contract as we go along, and the more this perception mirrors reality, the less problems we’ll have in the future. And the more of these conversations we have, the sooner we can notice that the psychological contract has been broken, so we can be on the look out for changes in behaviour in our team. Now, as this phenomenom is right at the core of being human, regardless of how or where you’re working with others, I hope you can see that it will affect both collocated and remote teams. And as this non-location specific way of working is my speciality, let me highlight something to look out for if you’re making the transition from office-based to virtual team, or some kind of remote setup. Working in a non-location specific way often comes with an assumption that you will have more autonomy over your work. I know someone who started working for a completely virtual company. He was totally obsessive about working for that company. He loved it. He worked mainly from late morning to late night. Then one day, the team was told they had to start logging on at 9am. Well, that was the beginning of the end. Why? There was no need. They weren’t client facing. They weren’t going into a building that could only be opened till 6pm. You get the picture. As we move to more mobile ways of working, there can well be an expectation that they’re going to be more autonomous. If you have good reasons for this not to be the case, spell them out. Manage expectations. I’ve almost finished my coffee, so it may be time for me to leave you with a little challenge today – what is your own psychological contract with your organisation? Or with the leaders of the organisation? Have you perceived any breaches lately and if so, are they real, or perceived? And how have those affected your own behaviour? And let’s take the challenge further, do you know what your people expect from you in return for their own hard work? Let me recommend a book to keep you company. How about the classic by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, “First, break all the rules.” Based on a large study of managers in organisations carried out by Gallup, the book looks at recruiting and developing talent – and it does so in a slightly provocative way – slightly, because the book is still concerned with a traditional way of managing, but it’s full of stories and case studies and it’s structured in short sharp chapters. It’s an interesting read.
MC1-4 Team Development

MC1-4 Team Development

2016-09-2215:02

In today's episode, we look at strengthening and reviewing our team practice by using John Adair's Action Centred Leadership model to break down teamwork. I had a bit of trouble knowing quite what to order today. I wasn’t sure if I wanted team identity, which is so difficult to define and shape some times; or did I want team dynamics, but they’re really about the intrapersonal interactions in the team, so I felt I’d be too vague if I addressed them (teams are all so different, well, individuals are all so different that I wasn’t sure I could speak directly to you and your people) – and I would have loved to use the term “team building” but unfortunately this now often is associated with a one-off activity to help with team spirit instead of the long, process that building a team really is. So, I thought Team Development would be vague enough but could give us enough of a hook to start our coffee. When I talk of team development, I’m referring to looking at the processes or activities that can help our team get better every day. And for that, I quite like looking at a classical model, which I rarely hear anything about nowadays. And that is John Adair’s Action Centred Leadership. I’m not much of a model and theories person when it comes to looking at something as complex as working in a team, but it does help to frame our thinking and, when used with other people, it gives us a language. And of course, in looking through a model we start asking ourselves questions and we might even discover a solution that doesn’t involve using the model at all. Having said that, this particular model helped me a lot when I was running a small theatre company many years ago. My main aim was to build an ensemble, a group of freelance professionals who worked regularly together – looking back, building this team was probably more of a driving force through my time at the company than creating theatre itself, but that’s a story for a different coffee.. – We didn’t have the resources to put on more than one show a year, a smaller experimental event also only once a year and we also had an ongoing education programme – but this rarely saw more than a few of us working together and this was usually for a few hours, two days max. Around the time that I was looking at formalizing a bit more the Ensemble and building some sense of identity within it and around it, I took a Leadership course, a ten day course, which was a wonderful introduction into the world of theories and models I’d never come across. One model turned on my lightbulb, action centred leadership. In essence, Adair suggests that leadership in a team happens at the intersection of looking after the task, the individual and the team. It makes complete sense, doesn’t it. And, looking at it, this simple devision of our work process can helps us as much to plan and look forwards as it does to review how we’re doing. Think about reviewing how we’re doing in our team. We usually focus on the task. Well, I’m generalizing, but from what I come across, that’s usually the case. Mainly we look at where we’re at with the work. How about looking at how we’re doing as individuals? Not just in our work but in our sense of development, productivity, fulfillment and dare I say, happiness at work? Then we can move on to the team – are we aligned? What’s communication like – amongst ourselves and other parts of the organisation? What’s getting in our way? When you look at it, it’s not leadership that is at the intersection of task/individual/team, it’s teamwork that lies there. How we’re getting on with the task affects the individual, which affects their relationship with others in the team. This model is useful at all levels, whether you’re managing a team, or building one, or if you’re part of one, as it can help to decide which area to focus on when you feel that maybe something is not quite right. For example, the feeling in the team might be quite cozy, people are talking to each other etc, the task is on track but individuals are not really developing, because the task has become easy or routine and they’re so comfortable in the team that they don’t need to find fulfillment in growing as professionals. Then you know that it’s probably time to look at opportunities for people to grow in some way. Or when you’re putting a team together, especially if you’re the founder of a business, you might find yourself really being on top of the task and building strong relationships with individuals, but there might not be much team communication – something to look out for if you want to be a high performance team. (And do check out the very first episode of this podcast on that.) Development in Virtual Teams For virtual teams, when we need to be even more deliberate about team building than in those teams who are in the same physical space, this model can help us to set up simple processes or to help us decide what kind of meetings we want to have. The task is falling behind? Tracking the team progress, implementing OKRs or Working Out Loud might be the next best steps. Individuals not developing? Time to shuffle around tasks, or, if people are used to working on their own, it might be time form subteams so that people can have more interaction with others and hence have more opportunities to learn; or maybe it’s time to encourage one-ones of some kind, formalizing reflection time. If individuals are progressing, and our tasks are in line, it might be time to turn to team dynamics. Remember that our relationship with peers are very important in how engaged we feel with our work. And people who are used to communicating regularly and feel a sense of connection with the rest of the team, will be more likely to solve problems together, know how to navigate through conflict and adapt to change. Something I wanted to share with you. As I was reading back through some of Adair’s work, I realised how much of a traditional view it holds of relationships in the workplace. Well, this is my opinion, so it will be really interesting to hear whether you agree or not. So, what do you think of this: “There should be some social distance between you and the team, but not too much.” And the reason John Adair gives for this is that you might need to make decisions at some point which will be unpopular and that if you are in too friendly terms, you will weaken your position. I would like to think that we are moving a little bit beyond this. I’m not saying it’s easy, and I’m definitely not saying that people have to have friendships with people they work with – sometimes we can develop a really good working relationship without taking it beyond the work – this will even depend on your definition of friendship. So although I’m not saying that we’re moving to an era where managers need to be friends with their team members, I think it’s valuable to think of a way in which we can flatten the relationships but still allow managers to make tough decisions should they need to. For one, transparency, I’d like to think that if people understand the reasons for decision making, they won’t pull the “how can you do this to us” card; or how about finding ways of making tough decisions together – what would need to happen to be able to do this? Do we really have to manage so well our social relationships to be able to lead a team? I don’t know, maybe this is the only option in some cases – I’d still like to think that we can. Also, being friendly doesn’t mean that people get away with anything and that no-one calls out each other’s unsuitable behaviour. In fact, I’d like to think it’s the opposite, people who have high degrees of trust between them and who feel accountable to each other (which would be my definition of friendship) should be able to have these conversations more often. In a way, I also feel like if we need to create that distance, we are reinforcing the hierarchy, and moving the manager away from the team. Surely we want teams where everyone feels accountable to everyone else? Ok time to go – I’ll leave you to think about whether it is or not important to keep that distance between manager and team members. In any case, I hope that John Adair’s model of action centred leadership with his focus on the task, individual and team helps you if you are stuck on how to develop your team or even to help you diagnose where teamwork might be failing. Adair’s book if you’d like to read it, is called Effective Leadership. Recommended Reading However, the book I’d like to leave you with today is another classic, this time by Warren Bennis, called On Becoming a Leader. You’ll probably find it a little bit less of a practical read than Adair’s book, but if you feel like reflecting on your practice, on who you are and who you’d like to be, then it’s definitely worth a read. I read it a long time ago and marked several passages. In looking through it today, I found a quote I had marked as relevant to new managers, who might be the ones struggling most with this friend/manager dilemma. As a comparison to Adair’s work, here is what Warren Bennis had to say about these difficult moments when we have to disagree or go against those people we consider our friends. He quotes American President Truman as saying “It takes one kind of courage to face a duelist, but it’s nothinglike the courage it takes to tell a friend, No.”   I’ll leave you with the book and I’ll look for you in the café again next week.
In today's episode, Pilar looks at the components of Emotional Intelligence, she covers three phenomena we see in the workplace related to emotions and she introduces the emotional capabilities of high-performing teams. A little bit of history. Some of you might remember Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence hitting the bookshelves in 1996. What a revelation – how we navigate the emotional aspect of life is just as important as how we use our intellect.The book was followed by Working with Emotional Intelligence, as well as Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, co authored with Richard Boyazis. If you are interested in the subject, might want to check out one of those. I’ve dipped in and out of them. One of the reasons I thought I’d share my thoughts about this topic here is that just the term itself, just the fact that it has made our way into our vocabulary of desirable professional competencies, means that we acknowledge that we all have emotions, and that it’s how we operate with them that allows to work better or worse. (Visit www.virtualnotdistant.com/podcasts)  Long gone are the days when we were expected to leave our emotions out of the office door (or computer, if you are working away from your colleagues) – we are humans, let’s celebrate that.   I’ve been struggling with how to tackle this topic – defining emotional intelligence is all very well, but how does it help us? And how does it help us as managers and how does it help us to create the best conditions in which a team can operate, which, for me, is at the heart of 21st Century management. So I’ve decided to structure my thoughts in three parts: The components that make up emotional intelligence, or EI, then a couple of terms that I’ve come across over the years – sometimes it’s nice to have names for those elusive things that surround emotions – and finally, I’ll share some research on self-managed, outstanding teams, which shows some of what we might want to look out for, encourage, facilitate and even role-model. A little bit of a definition of emotional intelligence, as defined by Daniel Goleman (The term Emotional Intelligence was actually first used in 1989 by two American academic psychologists: John D Mayer and Peter Salovey.) but I’m going to stick with Goleman as he’s more palatable, this is a coffee break podcast after all, emotional intelligence is the cluster of skills that allow us to understand and regulate our own emotions and those of others.     Let’s start with the four components of of EI then.   Self-awareness This is the basis of all leadership practice and indeed, the basis of all successful human interaction.   I imagine you can see how in all human interactions it’s desirable to be aware of how we’re feeling and of how we’re coming across. But let’s go a bit further.   It’s not just about seeing or feeling that an emotion is brewing up (and it could be happiness, I have a feeling that when we talk about emotions at work we’re always looking at those that might get in the way – joy, excitement, they’re also emotions…   So, acknowledging the emotional aspect of communication is something key in our interaction with others; understanding where they might be coming from is the next step.   If you really want to know yourself, understanding where emotions come from can be uncomfortable. I’m not even thinking of going into some deep analysis (although you can do that, of course) but it’s thinking “Hey, doing this is making me really happy” or “Mmm having coffee with that person has left me inspired” or “You know what, that conversation made me really angry, probably because…” Fill in the blanks. When we’re leading a team or a project, it’s tempting to design a process or to shape the group’s process to suit our own tendencies. You might decide to continue running weekly meetings because it makes you feel connected to the team or it makes you feel in control. However, maybe what the team needs at the moment is daily progress reports on tasks, short bursts of information that are best shared online. Or maybe the project requires people working from different locations and actually, a weekly meeting is too unproductive. Revise your current processes to see who you’re serving: the task? The project? The team? Or yourself? Are you actually designing a team process that suits your individual emotional needs? That was self-awareness.   It’s also worth looking at this with your team – are you serving an emotional collective need with your processes or are you best serving the project or task? I suppose we can then move onto: Self-Management – this is a natural progression and I don’t really think we can move onto self-management without having addressed Self-Awareness. Makes sense – you can’t manage what you’re not aware of. Self-management is not just about managing your emotions, it’s also about keeping yourself in check, acting with integrity, staying adaptable – making sure that you don’t get in the way of your own opportunities or that you don’t get in the way of others. (As an aside, any time I start talking about management, I want to ditch everything I’ve ever thought, said and written and replace it with Just get out of the way… But that would be a very short podcast – and a very short career as a consultant…) So, if we strive to have healthy levels of EI, we need self-awareness and we need self-management. Now let’s start looking outwards. Another component of EI is social awareness and that includes empathy. This is not easy and it’s where management meets anthropology meets psychology. (And it’s why if you don’t like people or are not curious about their behaviour you really should delegate all people management responsibilities to someone else…) Empathy is really about standing in someone else’s shoes. It’s about understanding where they are coming from – and this builds up with time. Sometimes we think we understand someone because we have been in a similar situation – but then, are we just reflecting on how WE felt or are we really understanding how they’re dealing with it? This social awareness is key to understand what’s going on in your team, in your organisation and with your customers – and it takes time to develop. Curiosity and asking questions before assuming you know the answers will help… (Small ad here, check out episode 2 from this podcast, on Creating a Coaching Culture). And from social awareness, we can move onto relationship management, which is essential if you are running a team. And if you are not great at it, if you’re not great at bringing people together, instigating change or collaborating, then make sure somebody in your team is – I never said we can all do everything… and yet, in a moment, I’ll share with you what successful teams do to see whether there is anything you can tap into, even if your own natural tendency is not to facilitate teamwork.   So, emotional intelligence is composed of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management.   Now, I promised I’d introduce some terms here, which are just worth noting. And it will be interesting to see whether, now that you’ve come across them, whether you can identify some of these phenomena in the workplace.   The first is Emotional Contagion – and this is, exactly what is says on the tin. The ability of emotions to go from one person to the other, for emotions to be contagious – which is why it’s so important to be self-aware and to then self-manage. Don’t underestimate how these emotions can spread not just in person, but also through video and even through writing. If you want a little bit more psychology about the reasons behind emotional contagion, check out episode from 23 June 2016 in the Two Guys in Your Head   podcast.   In a nutshell, we have been designed to try to understand what people are feeling. So, when we’re with someone else, we absorb slightly another person’s emotions, to see whether we can understand what we’re feeling. It’s like putting on someone else’s shoes and then walking in them, to give us a sense of what they feel. And of course, as we absorb the emotion, we start to embody it. And this is the theory behind emotional contagion.   So you can see how we might not realise that we are in a terrible mood and then we come into contact with others and bang, the mood spreads. Soon, nobody in our team wants to talk to each other – or the other way round, we might be lucky and our happiness can spread everywhere!   But, this doesn’t mean that we supress our emotions or that we constantly have to check what emotions we’re displaying, because that can lead to, get ready for another term. Emotional labor. This is basically the psychological effort of holding back one’s emotions at work or of displaying emotions we don’t really feel. Maybe when something makes us very upset, or when we try and help someone out of a terrible mood by saying things that, well, we might not really feel but that we think can help that person out of the pits. And finally, one other term: emotional dissonance. This occurs when we are constantly having to display an emotion when we feel another one – when the waitress smiles at you even though she’s feeling terrible; when you have to contain your frustration when a client send you yet another last minute request and reply to them, yes, of course, what a great idea. Or even, when we are really happy because we’ve just got promoted while the rest of the team has just found out they have to go back to square one in their design process.   What should we do if we come across any of these in ourselves? Full disclaimer here, this is just my opinion and I’m not a trained psychologist, but if you are experiencing any of this, first, acknowledge it, then dissect it, why is it happening? Is it necessary? Then come up with some strategies that might help you – either talking to someone in or out of work; writing down your experiences or reminding yourself that you are human - I find this kind of dissection of negative emotional experiences often helps… Right, finally I’d like to share with you some emotional competencies of high performing teams, as identified by Vanessa Drukat where she analysed 150 teams at a huge American polyester plant and then compared the ten outstanding teams with others doing the same job.   Now these were self-managed teams, which means that we’re not taking into account the effectiveness of a manager or official leader. While I’m not saying that management as a profession should disappear – if I were, I would have titled this podcast differently – I do think that the main responsibility of a manager is to create or help create or remove barriers to an environment that will help people do their best work. So, in looking at the characteristics of self-managed teams, we can begin to understand what contributes to healthy team emotion.   What Drukat found was the following. These teams showed the following emotional competencies: and I’m going to quote directly from Goleman’s Working with Emotional Intelligence - Empathy or interpersonal understanding Cooperation and a unified effort Open communication, setting explicit norms and expectations and confronting underperforming team members A drive to improve, so that the team paid attention to performance feedback and sought to learn to do better Self-awareness in the form of evaluating their strengths and weaknesses as a team Initiative and taking a proactive stance toward solving problems Self-confidence as a team Flexibility in how they went about their collective tasks Organisational awareness Building bonds with other teams   Before we continue, just to say that the teams didn’t show ALL of these, but a combination of some. And with relation to the last two points, Organisational awareness and building bonds with other teams, remember the more recent research by Sandy Pentland into high performance teams, in the first episode of this podcast? One of the characteristics was that they often came into contact with members from other teams.     Some of these competencies are very difficult to nurture and all of them need plenty of time and patience. But for example, take “Initiative and taking a proactive stance toward solving problems” – what can you as a manager do to encourage this? Or take Flexibility in how they went about their collective tasks – what are the barriers to this? How about Self-awareness in the form of evaluating their strengths and weaknesses as a team – what processes can you suggest that will help to do this?   If your team is not located in the office, then you must absolutely review your communication processes to see whether there is anything that you need to start thinking about. Look specifically for examples where you can find empathy or lack of amongst team members (and yourself!) and have a look at how open communication is affecting team norms. (I’m assuming you have open communication because virtual teams, ironically, tend to have more open communication as it’s the best way of staying aligned…) So, my management challenge over today’s cup of coffee is for you to have a look at this list and think about how your team measures against them. Or better still, why not share this with your team in your next team strategy meeting? (What, you don’t hold them…) Have a look at the list, see how you compare and then pick a couple of items and see whether there is anything you can do to nurture those competencies in the team. Or maybe even just observe your team over the next few weeks and then go back to the list.   Following on from today’s theme, why not have a look at Daniel Goleman’s Focus , the hidden driver of excellence (don’t you just love this subtitles…) There he goes deeper into why self-awareness matters, he of course taps into plenty of science and he covers other essential skills such as developing empathy and social sensitivity. Aren’t those two wonderful phrases to leave you with today?
Get in touch through www.virtualnotdistant.com/contact Coaching was almost a buzzword a decade ago – we started to realised that one size of training doesn’t fit all and that a really personal approach to development was probably a better investment of organisation’s money. Better to employ a coach to help with behaviour change (especially at the senior level, when it’s more difficult to identify the problems we need to address), than send everyone on a course. Now, during today’s coffee, I’m not really interested in talking about employing external coaches or even how to work with internal ones, that’s a different conversation. What I wanted to share with you today is whether it would help us to create a coaching culture in our teams and organisations. “Ok, you’re almost creating another annoying buzzword”, I hear you say. Sorry, yes, you’re right. I’ll explain what I mean by that. And though the Learning and Development world uses ‘Coaching Culture’ to mean the use of external coaches and coaching practices and tools by managers, I’d like to go further than that – further and broader. I suppose I’m talking about building an environment where we are all encouraged to solve problems ourselves, by taking the time to reflect, by asking ourselves and others questions, instead of immediately looking for answers from others. And let me be a bit more specific on this too. Rather than looking for quick fixes which actually, might not even be addressing the real problem, because we haven’t even had time to identify what the real problem is, we should be asking the right questions. (For more on coaching, check episode 8 from the 21st Century Work Life podcast.) So for me, taking a coaching approach as a manager, or a team member, means asking questions before coming up with solutions to other people’s problems. And that is really hard. Especially if you are in a management position where you have been traditionally led to believe that you are there to make sure everyone does a good job and solves everyone’s problems. And if you’re someone used to working in a very hierarchical organisation, then you’ll be used to managers solving your problems for you and you might have heard “that’s management’s problem”. Asking Questions Now asking questions is not easy. For one, I’ve come to realise that people sometimes are suspicious of questions. I’ve run workshops when I’ve asked after an exercise,”Ok, how was that, how did that make you feel?” And people have indeed, told me whatever and then they’ve followed their answers with, “Is that what you were looking for?” To which my answer was, I wasn’t looking for anything, I just wanted you to share how you felt, that’s why I asked. But we are way too used to leading questions, when people who know they can solve our problems pretend they are asking questions, when all they’re doing is leading us to verbalise what is actually, in their heads. So that’s the first barrier to a coaching approach to management: on the whole, we’re not used to being asked questions, real questions where our answer is not right or wrong, is just our answer. And asking questions takes time of course. What’s faster to say, “Oh yes, if it’s not working for you in that way, try this, that’s how I do it.” In some situations, that might be the best course of action, but in others, it might actually be better to stop and ask, “So why do you think it’s not working?” or “What exactly is not working?” etc you see what I mean. It will take ages, won’t it… But if you never take time to help people identify themselves how they can move forwards (and “they” is very important, it’s about how they would move forwards, not about how you think they should) if you never take the time for people to figure it out for themselves, then you’ll end up as the problem solver – and then when you go on holiday, you’ll be checking your emails every day. Now, before I carry on, I know that sometimes we want people’s opinions when we ask for help. There is nothing more annoying than asking for someone for help and them replying, “Well, how would YOU do it?” “I don’t know, that’s why I’m asking you! But I hope that you know what I mean…” As always, if you are in a position of formal authority, you will be role modeling behaviour in your team. Group norms will form around what you are perceived to be doing ,like it or not and no matter how flat your organisation is or how much of a “non bossy boss” you are. So if you are seen to be asking questions and you are really interested in supporting people to find the answers for themselves, people will start to do this. And yes, I know that there will be many instances when this approach will not work, because not everyone is perfect and although most people do want to do a good job, some are just problematic, so feel free to share your concerns around any of this or even better, share your stories here in the Comments section. So, coaching culture, all about asking questions, about probing to identify the real problem before jumping in to give advice. A quick reminder of open questions, they’re preceded by What, How, When, Who and Why. And this last one is the most difficult one because Why sometimes feel like we’re accusing someone – Why are you doing that? Why did you decide to go down that road? But we can change all that, can’t we? [PS that’s not a real question either, just trying to get you to agree with me…] So why is a coaching culture useful to have in your team? [Now, I could pause this and let you answer it for yourself, go on, give it a try… Although really, this is a rhetorical question because I’m about to give you the answer, or at least, my opinion…] Unfortunately, you’re going to have to trust me on this one because for the life of me, I haven’t been able to find any data on this. I found some stuff on the coaching culture I was mentioning earlier, which is all about bringing in external coaches, but nothing around what I’m talking about here – so if you do have the data handy, either way, because if I’m wrong I also want to know, then let me know. But let’s see what you think of my argument. Things are changing faster than ever before. Processes that we have been using for ages start to become irrelevant. Surely you want people to stay nimble, to be trusted to solve their problems, to innovate? You don’t want people to think that only managers can identify problems, see opportunities to improve things. But people need to be trusted. And now that we’re starting to work from anywhere, or that we’re able to not be office bound for work, this becomes even more important. A Story from Work Rules (Recommended Reading Bonus) I’ll tell you a bit about the coaching approach in virtual or hybrid teams in a moment, but before I do that, let me just share a quick story from Work Rules. I love this story by Laszlo Bock from Google – if you had coffee with me last week, you might remember me recommending the book. It’s not at all a story illustrating a coaching conversation, but I think it illustrates where we want to get to. Laszlo Bock talks about a time at McKinsey & Company when he had a manager, called Andrew. I’ll read the story to you: “In 1999, we were serving a financial services company and doing one of the first e-commerce projects our firm had ever done. (Remember “e-commerce?) I brought a draft report to him and instead of editing it, he asked, “Do I need to review this?” I knew deep down that while my report was good, he would surely find some room for improvement. Realizing this, I told him I wasn’t ready and went back to refine it further. I came back to him a second time, and a second time he asked, “Do I need to review this?” I went away again. On my fourth try, he asked the same question and I told him, “N. You don’t need to review it. It’s ready for the client.” He answered, “Terrific. Nice work.” And sent it to the client without even glancing at it." Now wouldn’t it be great if we all worked with people like that? With managers who trust us and with people we can trust? Of course, there are many other things that need to be in place for this to work – good recruitment, great skills etc etc But I hope you see my point. It would have been very easy for Laszlo’s manager to pick up the report, make lots of corrections to it and then send, here you go. But isn’t this a much better way of working? What signals does it give out? What kind of behaviour does it encourage? The Virtual Team Bit Right, I won’t pause too much here because my cup of coaching culture is getting cold, so let me move onto why this kind of team culture is becoming even more important now, why as managers, we have to stop trying to solve problems for everyone and support people to learn by themselves, on the job. Now that people are starting to work from home, now that it’s more normal to work with others across the globe, now that “virtual teams” are becoming so common that I can just see we’re going to drop the word “virtual” very soon, we have to find ways of people working independently. I don’t mean in isolation, it’s very different, I do mean that our interactions become more purposeful and our teams and organisations become flatter. Everything I’ve been talking about so far can be done online too. Your emails can have more questions in them – next time you’re commenting, giving advice on something in writing, read through and ask yourself, what kind of behaviour am I encouraging here? Is there a different way of approaching this? What questions are going to help them, or even help us, to come to a better conclusion? And if you’re posting on a collaboration platform, this becomes even more important, as your behaviour is then public, and therefore, you’ll likely be role-modeling. And as you can see from my suggestions, ask yourself lots of questions too. Take a breath. The most important thing about this “coaching stuff”, whether we’re talking culture, management style or even working with external coaches, is that we actually stop to think, to reflect, to ask, to correct or to sustain. That is the most important thing. Everything else, the questions, the tools (if you must use them!) even the coaching sessions if you want to make them more formal, that all comes later. The first thing you need to do is acknowledge that stopping is important, that giving space to your team members to grow is important. Then the difficult part comes, which is figuring out the kind of questions that are going to help the person to figure out and understand the nature of the problem. Recommended Reading Well, I think the café is getting busy, so I’d better go. But if you’d like to keep the table, I can recommend you grab “The Coaching Habit” by Michael Bungay Stanier. He talks through the kind of behaviours that will help to make asking questions a habit, and he makes the case for this really well. In all honesty, it’s not the kind of book I usually recommend (a bit too much “this is how you do it” for my liking), but if this is something that you would like to explore, then it’s worth reading. So, I’d love to know what you thought of this episode, I’d love to know what other topics you’d like me to cover in this podcast. And, I might as well say this now, Virtual not Distant has indeed been set up to help managers and team leaders of virtual teams, or those in transition , through training, coaching – yes, the external coaching type – and team facilitation, which is like team coaching. The idea is we help you to sort it out for yourselves, because you’ve usually got the answers, you just need the space and permission to work them out, and then, we move on. It’s a terrible business model, we come in, help, make you self-sufficient and move on, but hey, I have to practice what I preach. So, my little management challenge today is to keep an eye out and see if you can catch yourself trying to solve other people’s problems, when actually, it would be better for them to solve it themselves. Let me know how you get on and I hope you’ll join me for another coffee soon.
In today's episode, Pilar shares a piece of research that looked into the patterns of communication of high performing teams and she asks you some questions to help you review how your own team is doing. I’ll start with an apology, or a disclaimer, I’m not going to tell you how to turn your team great in 20 minutes. What I would like to do is to dissect what communication in great teams might look like. “Teamwork” and “communication” are words that are often used vaguely, we need better communication, teamwork is really important… what does any of that really mean? Professor Sandy Pentland and his team at the MIT media lab gathered data which showed the patterns of communication in great teams. For a start, it turns out that 50% of the variation between low and high performing teams is accounted for by these patterns of communication, so I definitely think it’s worth looking at. So, what did Professor Pentland and his team look at? By putting a gadget on team members, they were able to measure how people were interacting. These gadgets measured the Energy behind the interaction, the body language, tone of voice, who you were facing, how long you were talking to them for – and whether they were in your team or not. The one thing they didn’t capture was the content of the conversation. I will tell you what they found in a moment, but I’d like to point out that these conversations included informal communication. And by this, I don’t mean when we are just chatting away about non-work related things but also about when we talk about work casually – when I ask you whether you have met one of my potential clients before, when I shout across the room to see whether you know when we’re likely to receive the next report; when you offer to help me with the new software. So the data from the sociometers was grouped into three components: Energy, how team members contribute to the team, Engagement – whom was talking to whom – and Exploration, how much team members talk to those from others teams. It’s probably not surprising that in the lower performing teams, the contribution of some people was much larger than others – and we’re talking about the contribution in face to face meetings. Let me just stop for a moment here, think about the times when you meet with your team informally, or even formally. Say at the coffee machine, water cooler, on the way from the office to the car park or the train station. Who contributes more to the conversation? Quite often, those further up in the hierarchy might be given more space, so if you are one of those, just beware. So, the informal energy we bring to the group seems to be important, as does how even this is throughout the team. The other thing measured in this study was Engagement, that is whom is talking to whom. Especially in new teams, we have to be aware that we don’t always end up having conversations with the same people. That we establish a relationship with everyone in the team. Once more, this is of special importance if you ‘re in a leadership position – you should make sure not just that you interact with everyone in equal measures, but that people don’t end up talking just to YOU. The third factor that affects team’s performance is exploration, how much teams look outside for inspiration, information and connection. The most creative teams in the study seemed to seek information and inspiration from a range of outside sources, not just when they needed help or advice, but constantly. If we are in charge of structuring team processes, or let’s face it, if we just care about our team and want to do something about it, these are three things that are worth thinking about – Energy (by which I don’t mean that everyone is moving their arms around, but rather what people are bringing from themselves to the conversation, the quality of our interactions), Engagement and Exploration And, even though this large study, carried out over seven years in a range of organisations, even though it was carried out in the collocated environment, where team members were together in the same location, there are still some very valuable lessons we can also take to the online space. For example, people like communicating in different ways – formally, through agendas in meetings; through structured emails; informally, in the corridor, over coffee, on a chat, with emoticons. What’s your preference? This is always important because we’re only human, so we tend to organise communication around us in the way that suits us most. But if you really prefer structured conversations and don’t pay attention to the fact that your team rarely gets to have informal conversations, you’re going to miss out on important communication – and not all your team members will be engaged. So how about this: carry out a small audit of the types of communication you have in your team. You should also do this even if you’re working in an office based team. You can do this now over coffee, you can even just do it in your head… How do your people exchange ideas in real time and asynchronously? If you are a virtual team or have a mixture of work patterns, try to have a healthy mixture of video, audio, and written communication. In the office, you can have structured meetings but how about also leaving time for new conversations to emerge? And you might have to make an effort to make sure that there are opportunities for informal communication too. How about engagement, whom is talking to whom. Think about how communication is flowing through your team – both when you’re in a meeting together and when you’re getting on with the work. Does everything go through you? Do all help request go through you? I suppose the easiest way to formulate this question would be: Are people in your team talking to each other? While I don’t want to put all the responsibility on you to enable this, there are some things you can do. You can encourage people to work on tasks together – or you can help to break down projects in ways that mean team members have to share information or solve problems together. By the way, this is what team building is about… If your team has some sort of flexible set up or if you are in a virtual team, it becomes even more important to talk about your communication arrangements together. To make sure that everyone can get hold of everyone else at some point so that people don’t start just communicating with you. Have you got an instant messaging system? If your people travel a lot, are your communication systems or platforms or apps, mobile friendly? Is there a way for people to communicate in different ways, to make sure nobody is being left out of the loop just because they find communicating in a certain way difficult. For example, if you have people who struggle with writing in the language your team uses to communicate, make sure you have video calls often. Or if some in your team need time to reflect on their thoughts and prefer to put them in writing, make sure you have an easy to use collaboration platform and that it’s being used. You will have to lead by example and even broker some of these relationships. Finally, exploration. Don’t forget to look outside your team for inspiration. How are other teams in the organisation operating? Who is responsible for what in the organisation who can provide you with useful information? How are people in your industry innovating? As a manager you probably have access to a range of people in the organisation who can help you not just when you need to reach out but also, who can help you to see things differently. If your team is dispersed, or not located in the office, you might need a strategy to continuously encourage your team members to explore (to use Pentland’s terminology) what other people are doing. So, communication – how many times have we heard that things went wrong due to lack of communication? We’ve broken down team communication here into energy (the quality of interaction), engagement (the patterns of communication within a team) and exploration, the connection of the team to the outside world. If you want to review how your team is doing, then here is a simple framework to double check whether your communication is conducive to being a high performing team. Recommended Reading Team of Teams by Coronel Stanley McChrystal, which is all about creating an organisation where transparency and ongoing communication is the norm. McChrystal shares the process of how he had to change how they operated in one part of the US army to keep up with terrorists in Iraq. It’s one of my favourite books – not just because of what he says, but how he says it. It’s full of wonderful examples throughout the story of management – and comes to the conclusion that we’re better off trusting people to do their best work. And I can’t leave you with a better thought than that, can I? So, I’d love to know what you thought of this episode, I’d love to know what other topics you’d like me to cover in this podcast, so if you want to say hello or if you’d want to subscribe to this podcast, go to managementcafepodcast and you can find me there. Twitter is also a good place to connect, I’m @PilarOrti and finally, if you are making the transition to virtual or hybrid, then check out the website virtualnotdistant.com and the 21st Century Work Life podcast. And, I might as well say this now, Virtual not Distant has indeed been set up to help managers and team leaders of virtual teams, or those in transition , through training, coaching and team facilitation. So my little management challenge to you today is to observe how people are talking to each other within your team and outside it and see whether there is anything that you can all do to improve communication. Let me know how you get on and I hope you’ll join me for another coffee soon.
I’ll start with an apology, or a disclaimer, I’m not going to tell you how to turn your team great in 20 minutes. What I would like to do is to dissect what communication in great teams might look like. “Teamwork” and “communication” are words that are often used vaguely, we need better communication, teamwork is really important… what does any of that really mean? So I’ll share with you my favourite piece of research, from 2012, on high-performing teams, where the authors present the communication patterns of high performance teams. I hope that will help you to evaluate your communication processes and habits, to see whether there’s anything you might be missing. Now the research was done on collocated teams, that is those in the office together, but, here, as we now need to cover both collocated and virtual or remote or even hybrid teams (a bit of virtual, a bit of collocated) I’ll also share with you some thoughts on all this can be transported to the virtual world. Are you sitting comfortably? (Actually, this is a podcast, so you could be anywhere, anyway…) A couple of years ago, in 2012, I came across an article which made me say, “Finally! We can dissect “great teamwork’.” If you read regularly read about leadership in organisations, and specifically if you read the Harvard Business Review, you’ve probably heard about this piece of research. Professor Sandy Pentland and his team at the MIT media lab gathered data which showed the patterns of communication in great teams. For a start, it turns out that 50% of the variation between low and high performing teams is accounted for by these patterns of communication, so I definitely think it’s worth looking at. So, what did Professor Pentland and his team look at? By putting a gadget on team members, they were able to measure how people were interacting. These gadgets measured the Energy behind the interaction, the body language, tone of voice, who you were facing, how long you were talking to them for – and whether they were in your team or not. The one thing they didn’t capture was the content of the conversation. I will tell you what they found in a moment, but I’d like to point out that these conversations included informal communication. And by this, I don’t mean when we are just chatting away about non-work related things but also about when we talk about work casually – when I ask you whether you have met one of my potential clients before, when I shout across the room to see whether you know when we’re likely to receive the next report; when you offer to help me with the new software. This is an important reminder, because it’s, unfortunately not unusual for people in offices to keep their heads down at work – and if this happens, no matter how many productivity tools we use or how many lists we make, our team is not going to fly. We’re never going to be great, just coast along. So it’s important that we don’t lose those times when we’re all together, or when we interact in the corridors – that we give space to those interactions as, as we shall see in a second, they’re important. And if you are in a virtual team, then you have to be deliberate about this and come up with processes that make this easy. And if you’re a hybrid team, this is even more important – because if not you might easily get an us and them mentality, as the people in close proximity get stronger as a subteam, while those away from the office do not. (By the way, I’d love to know how you encourage informal communication in your team or how it happens, or how it doesn’t happen, which is also interesting… do let me know through the blog managementcafepodcast.com/communication) Right, Let’s carry on with the research. So the data from the sociometers was grouped into three components: Energy, how team members contribute to the team, Engagement – whom was talking to whom – and Exploration, how much team members talk to those from others teams. It’s probably not surprising that in the lower performing teams, the contribution of some people was much larger than others – and we’re talking about the contribution in face to face meetings. Let me just stop for a moment here, think about the times when you meet with your team informally, or even formally. Say at the coffee machine, water cooler, on the way from the office to the car park or the train station. Who contributes more to the conversation? Quite often, those further up in the hierarchy might be given more space, so if you are one of those, just beware. So, the informal energy we bring to the group seems to be important, as does how even this is throughout the team. The other thing measured in this study was Engagement, that is whom is talking to whom. Especially in new teams, we have to be aware that we don’t always end up having conversations with the same people. That we establish a relationship with everyone in the team. Once more, this is of special importance if you ‘re in a leadership position – you should make sure not just that you interact with everyone in equal measures, but that people don’t end up talking just to YOU. How many times have you observed in a conversation, people talking just to the chair, or the manager, or the teacher, in educational settings. I notice it quite a bit, mainly in training situations. We’re having a discussion but I might have the focus, being in the higher status role, and so many people tend to direct their thoughts and speech at me, whereas it’s important that they distribute their eye contact amongst everyone else. In these cases, I have to directly ask them to share their thoughts with everyone else, and I do this usually with a hand gesture which reminds them to open up to everyone else. Once one person does it, others tend to follow. The third factor that affects team’s performance is exploration, how much teams look outside for inspiration, information and connection. The most creative teams in the study seemed to seek information and inspiration from a range of outside sources, not just when they needed help or advice, but constantly. If we are in charge of structuring team processes, or let’s face it, if we just care about our team and want to do something about it, these are three things that are worth thinking about – Energy (by which I don’t mean that everyone is moving their arms around, but rather what people are bringing from themselves to the conversation, the quality of our interactions), Engagement and Exploration And, even though this large study, carried out over seven years in a range of organisations, even though it was carried out in the collocated environment, where team members were together in the same location, there are still some very valuable lessons we can also take to the online space. For example, people like communicating in different ways – formally, through agendas in meetings; through structured emails; informally, in the corridor, over coffee, on a chat, with emoticons. What’s your preference? This is always important because we’re only human, so we tend to organise communication around us in the way that suits us most. But if you really prefer structured conversations and don’t pay attention to the fact that your team rarely gets to have informal conversations, you’re going to miss out on important communication – and not all your team members will be engaged. So how about this: carry out a small audit of the types of communication you have in your team. You should also do this even if you’re working in an office based team. You can do this now over coffee, you can even just do it in your head… How do your people exchange ideas in real time and asynchronously? If you are a virtual team or have a mixture of work patterns, try to have a healthy mixture of video, audio, and written communication. In the office, you can have structured meetings but how about also leaving time for new conversations to emerge? And you might have to make an effort to make sure that there are opportunities for informal communication too. How about engagement, whom is talking to whom. Think about how communication is flowing through your team – both when you’re in a meeting together and when you’re getting on with the work. Does everything go through you? Do all help request go through you? I suppose the easiest way to formulate this question would be: Are people in your team talking to each other? While I don’t want to put all the responsibility on you to enable this, there are some things you can do. You can encourage people to work on tasks together – or you can help to break down projects in ways that mean team members have to share information or solve problems together. By the way, this is what team building is about… If your team has some sort of flexible set up or if you are in a virtual team, it becomes even more important to talk about your communication arrangements together. To make sure that everyone can get hold of everyone else at some point so that people don’t start just communicating with you. Have you got an instant messaging system? If your people travel a lot, are your communication systems or platforms or apps, mobile friendly? Is there a way for people to communicate in different ways, to make sure nobody is being left out of the loop just because they find communicating in a certain way difficult. For example, if you have people who struggle with writing in the language your team uses to communicate, make sure you have video calls often. Or if some in your team need time to reflect on their thoughts and prefer to put them in writing, make sure you have an easy to use collaboration platform and that it’s being used. You will have to lead by example and even broker some of these relationships. Finally, exploration. Don’t forget to look outside your team for inspiration. How are other teams in the organisation operating? Who is responsible for what in the organisation who can provide you with useful information? How are people in your industry innovating? As a manager you probably have access to a range of people in the organisation who can help you not just when you need to reach out but also, who can help you to see things differently. If your team is dispersed, or not located in the office, you might need a strategy to continuously encourage your team members to explore (to use Pentland’s terminology) what other people are doing. So, communication – how many times have we heard that things went wrong due to lack of communication? We’ve broken down team communication here into energy (the quality of interaction), engagement (the patterns of communication within a team) and exploration, the connection of the team to the outside world. If you want to review how your team is doing, then here is a simple framework to double check whether your communication is conducive to being a high performing team. Recommended Reading Well, I’d better go… but if you have a bit more time, I’m sure it’s ok for you to stay at this table. And if you would like something to read, then I recommend Team of Teams by Coronel Stanley McChrystal, which is all about creating an organisation where transparency and ongoing communication is the norm. McChrystal shares the process of how he had to change how they operated in one part of the US army to keep up with terrorists in Iraq. It’s one of my favourite books – not just because of what he says, but how he says it. It’s full of wonderful examples throughout the story of management – and comes to the conclusion that we’re better off trusting people to do their best work. And I can’t leave you with a better thought than that, can I? So, I’d love to know what you thought of this episode, I’d love to know what other topics you’d like me to cover in this podcast, so if you want to say hello or if you’d want to subscribe to this podcast, go to managementcafepodcast and you can find me there. Twitter is also a good place to connect, I’m @PilarOrti and finally, if you are making the transition to virtual or hybrid, then check out the website virtualnotdistant.com and the 21st Century Work Life podcast. And, I might as well say this now, Virtual not Distant has indeed been set up to help managers and team leaders of virtual teams, or those in transition , through training, coaching and team facilitation. So my little management challenge to you today is to observe how people are talking to each other within your team and outside it and see whether there is anything that you can all do to improve communication. Let me know how you get on and I hope you’ll join me for another coffee soon.  
When we think of "collaboration", we often think: "meetings!". But there is much more to collaboration than meeting up - and moving to a remote setup, often involves adopting asynchronous communication. This episode will guide you some different ways of staying in touch with each other - and if you need to run online meetings, well, we've got the book for you (Online Meetings that Matter) and a free download: https://www.virtualnotdistant.com/books
We're re-purposing the segments Oh No My Team's Gone Remote, for managers and leaders of remote teams, from our flagship podcast 21st Century Work Life. Find us over at virtualnotdistant.com
We're re-purposing the segments Oh No My Team's Gone Remote, for managers and leaders of remote teams, from our flagship podcast 21st Century Work Life. Find us over at virtualnotdistant.com
We're re-purposing the segments Oh No My Team's Gone Remote, for managers and leaders of remote teams, from our flagship podcast 21st Century Work Life. Find us over at virtualnotdistant.com
We're re-purposing the segments Oh No My Team's Gone Remote, for managers and leaders of remote teams, from our flagship podcast 21st Century Work Life. Find us over at virtualnotdistant.com
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