Trying to keep your internal (employees) and external customers coming back? Maybe it’s time to engage diversity, embrace new and innovative ideas from all of your customers, and be a learner with everyone you meet.
Last week I was with a client teaching a session on the topic of Legendary Service. There were people in the room from six different countries and we were beaming out to three more. The participants represented a rich blend of values, generations, depth of knowledge of technology, and history with customer service content. It was an amazing opportunity to see what service looks and feels like given different life views. The dialogue was frequent, fiery, and focused. Below are a few pearls of wisdom I captured from the group’s spontaneous suggestions—with important morals for interacting with anyone.
- Some of the women felt that a mentality exists that women are not as technologically savvy as men. These very smart women feel talked down to when a product or process is being explained to them. They are left feeling insulted, irritated, and humiliated rather than cared for. Moral: When explaining a new product or process, treat every customer as if they were the smartest person you know who is simply learning something new.
- Some of the men felt that women take too long to get to the point when sharing their thoughts. These men want to know up front what women want—their specific, targeted needs or ideas—as opposed to spending time reflecting on whys, hows, and back stories. This reminded me of a football metaphor regarding the difference in men’s and women’s communication styles. Picture the players on the line of scrimmage: “64, 56, 72, HIKE!” Like football players, these men are eagerly waiting to get the ball and run with it. Moral: Do your work ahead of time so you can speed up the focus and desired actions from conversations.
- From an international participant: People don’t seem to listen anymore. Most attendees agreed that people have lost the talent of listening. Many act as if they have heard every question a thousand times. They don’t focus on finding out specific details, but rush to generalize the question and dive into their prepared spiel. We had a rich discussion on the cost of NOT listening to people—it causes rework, doesn’t solve the problem, and leaves the other person feeling uncared for. Moral: Give people the gift of listening. Listen to learn. See each interaction as the first you’ve had with that person and clarify what you heard before you share your thoughts.
- From a brilliant Latin American woman: Many people think they are being efficient with others’ time by diving right into the task—but they forget that some people need to know that there is deep appreciation for their time, ideas, and culture before they can truly listen. Others in the room agreed that in many Latin, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries it is crucial to build a relationship BEFORE transacting business. Moral: Build the relationship and show respect before addressing the task.
It’s exciting to live in a generation where we can learn so much about the different ways people solve problems, leverage their history, and stay energized. Customers expect us to know their needs. We can learn about and leverage the rich diversity of their values, ages, and ethnicities and their competence at using our products, services and processes. Let’s deliver value to all customers by listening to their voice and communicating with them in a way that ensures they feel heard.
About the author:
Vicki Halsey is one of the principal authors—together with Kathy Cuff—of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Legendary Service training program. Their “others-focused” posts appear on the first and third Thursday of each month.
Innovation also requires collaboration. Very few ideas can be successfully implemented without the cooperation and buy-in of others. Unfortunately, innovators often struggle in this area–especially if they fall in love with their idea and become defensive about feedback.
In an upcoming Leadership Livecast on Un-Leaderlike Moments I share a story about the way this sneaks up on unsuspecting innovators. See if this has ever happened to you.
The birth of an idea
You come up with an idea—it’s one of your best ideas—and you can’t wait to share it with the other people on your team. So you do. And you know what? They’re just as excited about it as you are. You decide to go in together and make this idea a reality.
But soon after, something you didn’t plan on starts to occur. Your teammates like your original concept, but they have some thoughts for making it better. They begin to share their thinking and give you some feedback. How do you react?
Dealing with feedback–two typical paths
If you are an experienced innovator, you take some time to really listen to what your team is sharing with you. You explore what they are saying, you ask for details, and you draw out the essence of their ideas. You realize that no matter how good your original idea may be, it’s always smart to treat feedback as a gift and to listen closely with the intention of being influenced.
If you are a relatively new innovator—and you are really attached to your idea—you may see feedback from your team in a completely different light. Ego can often get in the way and now you become defensive when others suggest changes. You dismiss their feedback as uninformed, uninspired, or just plain limiting. Instead of listening with the intent of being influenced, you listen just long enough to respond and remind everyone why the team should stay on course with your original concept. You become so focused on leading change that you don’t notice the energy, enthusiasm and participation of team members falling off as you march to the finish line.
It’s not until you get there and turn around for a group high-five that you see their weary exasperation with your leadership style. They congratulate you on your project.
A better way
Don’t let that happen to your next idea. Here are three ways to innovate and collaborate more effectively:
- Create space for other people to contribute. Take advantage of everything that people bring to a team. Utilize their head and heart as well as their hands.
- Listen to feedback. Explore and acknowledge what people are suggesting. Listen in a special way—with the intent of being influenced.
- Recognize that no matter how good your idea is, it can always be made better through the input of others. As Ken Blanchard likes to say, “None of us is as smart as all of us.”
True innovation requires passion and collaboration. Create some space for others. It will make your ideas stronger, give you a better chance for success, and create needed buy-in along the way.
PS: You can learn more about the 40 different thought leaders presenting in the October 10 Un-Leaderlike Moments Livecast here. It’s a free online event hosted by Ken Blanchard.
It uses questions from a Mensa quiz to illustrate the point that a team’s collective wisdom is always greater than any individual team member’s.
To get started, see how many of these questions you can answer individually. According to Mensa, if you can figure out 23 of these, you qualify for “genius” status.
(I’ve filled in the first one for you—check the bottom of this post for the complete answer key when you are done.)
Now, gather your team together (or send them a link to this page). How many of these phrases can your team correctly identify as a group?
When we conducted this exercise in class, results varied widely. Some people scored high, some people scored low. Some people came up with the more obscure answers, while others missed the easy ones. The point of course was that no matter what, the group as a whole always outscored the individual members—even the really smart ones who got many of the answers all by themselves. In every case the team was smarter than the individual members and had a greater capacity to answer the questions that were put in front of it.
What gets in the way of sharing?
So why don’t teams share information more freely and use this to their advantage? There are a lot of reasons ranging from, “I like to be the smart one,” and “I like to be unique,” to “As long as I have this specialized knowledge, I have some leverage, etc.”
Now ask yourself two more important questions. 1. What can we do as a team to break down individual silos and share information more freely? 2. What individual or organizational barriers are getting in our way?
Teams perform best when they operate as a collective unit instead of as a collection of individuals. But that takes work—it doesn’t happen by itself. As a leader or senior team member, consider what you can do this week to help your team share more freely. It’s good for you, your team, and your customers!
1. 24 hours in a day; 2. 26 letters of the alphabet; 3. 7 days of the week; 4. 12 signs of the Zodiac; 5. 66 books of Bible; 6. 52 cards in a pack (without jokers); 7. 13 stripes in the US flag; 8. 18 holes on a golf course; 9. 39 books of the Old Testament; 10. 5 tines on a fork/5 toes on a foot; 11. 90 degrees in a right angle; 12. 3 blind mice (see how they run); 13. 32 is the temperature in degrees F at which water freezes; 14. 15 players on a rugby team; 15. 3 wheels on a tricycle; 16. 100 Cents in a Rand; 17. 11 players in a football (soccer) team; 18. 12 months in a year; 19. 13 is unlucky for some; 20. 8 tentacles on an octopus; 21. 29 days in Feb. in a leap year; 22. 27 books in the New Testament; 23. 365 days in a year; 24. 13 loaves in a baker’s dozen; 25. 52 weeks in a year; 26. 9 lives of a cat; 27. 60 minutes in an hour; 28. 23 pairs of chromosomes in the human body; 29. 64 squares on a chess board; 30. 9 provinces in South Africa; 31. 6 balls to an over in cricket; 32. 1000 years in a millennium; 33. 15 men on a dead man’s chest
One of the hardest things for brilliant, technically proficient folks to realize is that as they assume more and more leadership responsibility they must depend on the help of others. And each of these “others” is an individual who needs to be seen, heard and understood.
One of the strategies you can use to map out all of the important relationships present in your work environment is to create a relationship map. To get started, take a large piece of paper, find a white board (though you want to be sure to keep this work private) or use mind-mapping software.
Begin by identifying your “prime objective.” What exactly are you trying to accomplish? What is the goal? (You may have several, so do a map for each objective.)
Now, draw a space for each person who might be affected by what you are doing. Include senior leaders, colleagues in your industry, peers in other departments, direct reports, functional reports, and dotted line team leads—anyone who might matter. Don’t worry about going overboard—you can always scale back—but you might be surprised at what you find when you get the big picture perspective.
Ask yourself some key questions
Once you have exhausted all of the possibilities, think about each person in turn and identify the following:
- What are their main goals/objectives? How will it serve them for to you succeed? Fail?
- What do you need from them? How can they help you? Hurt you?
- What is their style? How will you need to communicate with them to influence them? Are they visual, kinesthetic, auditory? Do they like a lot of detail or do they want the executive summary?
- What regard do they have for you? Do they like, respect, trust you?
- How do you feel about them? Do you harbor judgments about this person that they might be picking up on? What assumptions might you be making about them that you haven’t checked out?
Next, create a mini-action plan around each person. What are some of the things you can do to build relationships and better understand the people who are crucial to your success?
Action plans can include spending time together, going to the person to ask for advice, or pick up the phone simply to get their opinion about something. You can also plan to go to lunch, drop by cubicles that are not on your regular path, or include key people in relevant emails.
If there are some past misunderstandings, and you are comfortable with addressing it, you can even consider going to lunch with others to “name it and claim it.”
Your action plan should also pay attention to how people use language. It allows you to understand better what is important to others, what they focus on, how they think, and how they approach things.
Take the time
Thinking things through in this much detail requires a great deal of discipline, but the kind of discoveries you can make by thinking things through with this kind of specificity are rich and useful. Even though no one likes to think of himself or herself as a political animal, I have yet to meet a leader who can afford to be politically naïve about work relationships.
Many have been sabotaged by the move from the left that they never saw coming. Taking the time to map relationships and understand how these may or may not be serving your aims allows you to maximize your potential and the potential of others.
About the author:
This is one in a series of LeaderChat articles on the topic of executive development by Madeleine Homan Blanchard, co-founder of Blanchard Certified, For more of her insights , visit the Blanchard Certified blog or via Twitter @BlanchardCert
If you are like me, every time I am in an airport and see a military man or woman in uniform, I am compelled to go up to them and thank them for their service. And many times, I actually do thank them.
In my mind, that is the ultimate service one can give—dedicating one’s life to serve and defend others. And behind every serviceman or servicewoman is (hopefully) a strong servant leader who is guiding them.
I recently attended a good friend’s change of command from the position he has held for the last three years as Command of the Tactical Training Group, Pacific in the Unites States Navy. I had never been to something like this before and thought it would be fun to see what it was all about! I will tell you, it was an honor to attend this event, not only because I was so proud of my friend and his accomplishments, but also to be reminded of the sacrifices that all of the men and woman who volunteer to serve their country make for the sake of others.
My friend, Captain John S. Mitchell, III, held numerous leadership positions during his Navy career, most involving high level operations that required strong leadership to ensure the safety of his team. Although his resume impressed me very much, what inspired me to write this article about him was what his colleagues, peers, and his “manager” had to say about him. One of his colleagues said that Mitchell’s biggest accomplishment was building a strong team. He said that, “Captain Mitchell never had an us vs. them mentality—it was always WE.”
I couldn’t help but compare this to leaders in organizations around the world, and wonder if they truly understand how important it is to create a strong team and to get team members to feel like we are all in this together. It is pretty clear to understand the importance of teamwork when lives are in danger, but what about in our daily interactions with our own teams? Would your team say those same things about YOU and YOUR leadership?
Achievement and humility
What was also very telling to me, after all of the accolades my friend received from his peers and leader, was how humble he was about his accomplishments. He made a point of passing the credit on to his co-workers, team members, and leaders that helped make his job “easy” and made him “look good.” Mitchell said, “I was just doing my job.”
Humility and praise for others—great qualities of a leader who believe their job is to serve their team so that the team is able to do their jobs better. How I wish that leaders in organizations understood the importance of their role as a leader and their ability to make or break someone’s self esteem, confidence and even career.
I left reminded that there are so many lessons we can learn from the military service and this day was no exception. I left the event feeling very proud of men and women in uniform, and the work that they do. I was also proud of my friend who so modestly impacted the lives of so many in a very positive way. He made me want to be a better leader…how about you?
About the author:
Kathy Cuff is one of the principal authors—together with Vicki Halsey—of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Legendary Service training program. Their customer service focused posts appear on the first and third Thursday of each month.
In his book, Good to Great, author Jim Collins found that leaders at the most successful companies shared two traits—a fierce resolve toward achieving organizational goals and a deep sense of personal humility. At the best companies, leaders worked tirelessly to keep the goals of the organization ahead of thoughts of personal accomplishment. The result was financial performance that far outstripped the results of average organizations.
You may not be a CEO yet, but what can you do now to start building some of those qualities into your own leadership style and the way you are managing your current team? Here are three places to get started.
Help your team discover its larger purpose. The goal here is to have people pursuing a goal that is bigger than themselves. Self-centered behavior is a normal condition. Without something greater to serve, people naturally drift toward self-interest. As a leader, your job is to lift people beyond self-interest into serving something larger. What is the bigger mission of your team, department, or organization? How does each individual position contribute to the overall goal? Make this connection explicit.
Be careful with rewards and recognition. Even well-meaning organizations have trouble with this one. How do you strike the right balance between personal and group recognition? What types of behavior do you want to reward and encourage? Leaders get in trouble two ways with reward and recognition. The first is when they inadvertently emphasize individual accomplishment over group accomplishment. The second is when they use reward and recognition as the reason for doing the task. You want to recognize individuals, but not at the expense of promoting team behaviors and results. Both of these common mistakes strip away at true motivation and collaboration. Structure reward and recognition in a way that makes it easy for people to “high five” each other and feel a sense of shared accomplishment.
Keep an eye on your personal behavior. Actions speak louder than words. Are you focused on individual accomplishment or team accomplishment? If you are like most people, the answer is probably a little of both. How does that affect your subsequent behavior? As a leader, your actions are the single greatest teaching tool you have. People watch your behavior for clues of what you truly believe. What would people see if they watched you? Consider where your own personal focus is. Are you a serving leader—or more of a self-serving leader? What do you personally believe about individual versus group recognition? How does that play out in your work environment?
With a little bit of focus and some practice you can make important changes in your work environment. Recognizing where you are is the first step. Take that step and start making a difference in your life and the lives of the people around you.
Work used to be a lot more fun. Companies were looking up and looking out. There was a lot more growth and a lot more opportunities inside and outside of organizations. But today’s economic situation has created a long-term change in the work environment and some resulting resentment and control issues among employees that will require extra attention and new ideas on the part of leaders.
This passive-aggressive behavior is popularly known as “quitting and staying” and it happens anytime you combine a large number of employees with limited opportunities together with unresponsive management. On the surface, everything seems to be going along okay, but underneath, tensions and emotions are anything but tranquil. It’s a difficult situation for leaders because it is hard to get a handle on. People are not overtly working against company goals and initiatives—they just aren’t working as hard toward them.
It’s a normal reaction, but that doesn’t mean it can be left unaddressed, says Scott Blanchard, consultant, author, and EVP at The Ken Blanchard Companies. In an interview for Blanchard’s Ignite newsletter, he explains that it’s not healthy to have people working just for a paycheck. Leaders need to take direct action to identify where people are feeling disaffected and work hard to reenergize the passion and motivation that still exists.
Otherwise, the impact on the work environment can be predicted almost every time.
As an example, Blanchard points back to an experience he had working as a consultant to a client in the automotive industry.
“When I used to work in the automotive industry there was a principle that said, ‘You get the union that you deserve.’ And what that basically meant was that if you had a respectful relationship with the union and you didn’t break promises and you sat at the table together and shared what was happening in the business, relationships improved and things got better. And the same is true with your company—you get the environment that you deserve.
“If you do not make any attempts to make lemonade out of lemons and if you’re not working to bring people together and engage in good practices, you’ll get what you deserve as a result of that.
“One of the things that the late, great management consultant Peter Drucker said years ago, that is still true today, is that the only things that happen naturally in organizations are the creation of fear, frustration, inefficiency, friction, and political mayhem.
“And what Drucker went on to say is that positive things happen in a company only when leaders identify a purposeful, unified direction, shared operating rules that everyone holds sacred, and a tenacity to make good things happen.”
Take a proactive approach
It may seem like a large problem to tackle, explains Blanchard, especially if these issues haven’t been addressed in a long time. Still, Blanchard recommends getting started as soon as possible.
“It may feel hard to do at this point, but the best companies are the ones that are making efforts to work together,” says Blanchard. “Everyone is in the same boat. If you don’t create a positive environment where people are encouraged to work together productively, you are going to end up with a lot of people thinking only of themselves.
To address the situation, Blanchard recommends that leaders look at 12 employee work passion factors that impact employee perceptions of their work environment. By addressing what can be done on an individual, managerial, and organizational level, leaders can positively impact the work environment going forward.
As he explains, “You have to be proactive. Taking the approach of, ‘There’s nothing we can do!’ and throwing your hands up is a strategy that will predict a marginalized workforce, guaranteed! If you are just doing nothing, it’s not going to get the results that you want.”
To read more about Blanchard’s thinking, check out the January issue of Ignite. Also, be sure to see the information about a special Leadership Livecast coming up on January 25. Over 40 different business thought leaders will be addressing the phenomenon of “quitting and staying” in today’s organizations. It’s a free event and over 3,000 people are currently registered.
As Blanchard explains, “When people get caught up in their ego, it erodes their effectiveness. That’s because the combination of false pride and self-doubt created by an overactive ego gives people a distorted image of their own importance. When that happens, people see themselves as the center of the universe and they begin to put their own agenda, safety, status, and gratification ahead of those affected by their thoughts and actions.”
That’s a deadly combination in today’s business environment where organizations need people to work together collaboratively. If you think that ego might be taking up a seat on your team and holding back everyone’s effectiveness, here are three ways to recalibrate:
- Be a learner: The first way to recalibrate an overactive ego is by becoming a continual learner. Whether you’re a leader or an individual contributor, you need to be open to learn from other people and to listen to them. As Blanchard explains, “If people think they’ve got all the answers and don’t need any help, they’re not likely to be interested in collaborating.” That’s why having an attitude that you don’t have all the answers and you’re open to learning is so important. “None of us is as smart as all of us,” explains Blanchard. “This really means that one plus one is a lot bigger than two.”
- Be courageous in your selection of team members: Seek out people who have skills and energy that are different—and preferably superior— to your own. So often people are afraid to work with teammates who possess superior skills. Resist the urge to be the smartest person in the room.
- Build a shared purpose: Finally, the third key to achieving healthy organizational collaboration and minimizing individual ego is to rally people around a shared vision—something bigger than themselves. When everyone shares a clear sense of purpose, process, and practice, it’s amazing what can be accomplished.
Don’t let egos get in the way of your team’s success. Your ability to overcome these self-serving tendencies will determine to a large degree your ability to work effectively with others toward a common goal.
Would you like to learn more about working together collaboratively and creating teams that work? Here are a couple of additional resources:
Why Teams Fail—and What to Do About It (new article by Dr. Eunice Parisi-Carew in latest edition of Human Resource Executive Online)
Ken Blanchard on the Power of Collaboration (a free, one-hour, on-demand webinar recording featuring Ken Blanchard)
About 60 percent of the time, work teams fail to accomplish their goals, according to Dr. Eunice Parisi-Carew, a Founding Associate at The Ken Blanchard Companies. To make matters worse, the experience will create lingering hard feelings among team members,
In a new article for Human Resource Executive Online, Parisi-Carew identifies the top ten reasons why this occurs. See if any of these common missteps are holding back the teams in your organization.
- Lack of planning. Teams are often formed with little planning or forethought. When people come together on a team, they have questions that must be addressed: Why are we together? What are the goals? What role will each of us play? What is expected of me?
- Lack of support for a team culture. This shows up in various ways, all of which are damaging. For example, management “empowers” the team, but still demands that everything be cleared through senior leadership, or management refuses to decrease other responsibilities for people participating on the team.
- Lack of resources. An inadequate budget, training or time to do the job right.
- Lack of clarity. No agreement on how team members are expected to behave toward one another.
- Lack of mutual accountability. This means holding people accountable to agreements. Not confronting a broken agreement can lead to poor results, lack of commitment and lack of trust.
- Lack of effective or shared leadership. A high-performing team is one in which leadership is shared, and each and every member is responsible for team functioning.
- Lack of focus on creativity and excellence. This lack of focus negatively impacts the quality of team interaction and the quality of the final product.
- Inability to deal with conflict. Poor training or strategies for dealing with conflict—especially conflict that is caused by personal, political, or power issues and agendas.
- Lack of training. This applies not only to the leader but to all members. For example, just knowing that teams go through predictable stages—including conflict—can depersonalize and diffuse some of the natural tensions that are felt in a group.
- Poor use of teams. Not all organizational challenges require a team; some are better handled by individuals. A team is appropriate when multiple skills and perspectives are needed to accomplish the goal.
To ensure success with your next team, Parisi-Carew recommends three key strategies to have in place.
Set a Solid Foundation—Many teams are brought together with no more thought than a general idea of “we need a team to do this.” As a result, these teams get formed sloppily with no clear purpose or goal.
Deal with Differences—Provide training and guidance for effectively dealing with differences. This includes reminding the team that differences are inevitable when passionate people work together. It’s important that teams view friction and disagreement as a healthy stage of team development instead of something to avoid.
Approach Team Leadership from a Servant Leader Mind-set—A team is a living, breathing entity. A team leader needs to see himself or herself as a servant and a guide for the group, not as the hub or ultimate decision maker. You will never have a truly high-performing team unless leadership is shared, so that everyone on the team, and the team as a whole, develops
To read more about Parisi-Carew’s advice for team success, be sure to check out the complete article, Why Teams Fail—and What to Do About It at Human Resource Executive Online.
Differences are inevitable when passionate people work together. Eventually, after a team gets through an initial orientation with a new task, members usually come to the realization that working together to accomplish a common goal is tough work.
This occurs in the “dissatisfaction” stage of team development when the team recognizes the discrepancy between what is expected of them and the reality of getting it done.
It is not a pleasant stage.
As a leader it’s important to differentiate between the different types of conflict teams experience and to have a plan for helping the team move forward. Here are four examples of team conflict and some advice on how a leader can intervene properly from Dr. Eunice Parisi-Carew of The Ken Blanchard Companies.
Conflict over positions, strategies or opinions
If two or three strong, but differing, positions are being argued in the group and it is getting nowhere, a leader might stop the group and ask each member to take a turn talking with no interruption or debate. The rest are just to listen and try to understand where they are coming from and why they are posing the solution that they are. It may go something like this.
Leader: “Let’s stop for a minute. I want each of you state what is underneath your argument. What is your desire, your concern, your goal, your fear or your need that leads you to that conclusion?”
In this instance, the leader’s job is to make sure everyone is heard. When the exercise is completed the leader should look for concerns or goals that people have in common. Once all are uncovered, the leader can build on any interests that are shared. In most cases this becomes the new focus and it turns the situation from conflict to problem solving.
Mistrust or uneven communication
If some people on the team are dominating the conversation while others sit silent or appear to have dropped out, a leader might stop the process and ask each person what they need from others to feel effective in the group and how others can help.
Another simple practice is to appoint a process observer whose job it is to focus on how the team is interacting. If the teams gets out of kilter—it might be tempers are rising or communication is not flowing—the process observer is allowed to call time and point out their observations. For example, “In the last five minutes we have interrupted the speaker 10 times,” or, “We keep talking over each other.” Just knowing this fact can alter the team’s interaction. Soon the team will catch itself. It is harder to misbehave once you know what the impact of your behavior is.
If personal styles are very different and causing conflict among team members, a team leader might administer the DISC, MBTI, or another behavioral assessment tool to help people better understand each other and learn to work together. These tools help people understand what the other person needs. They can also provide a common frame of reference for dealing with individual differences.
Power issues and personal agendas
Conflict that involves power issues, or strong personal agendas must sometimes be dealt with also. The reality is that some people just do not fit on a team and a leader needs to be willing to remove them or offer them another role. This doesn’t happen often, but occasionally it is needed. The good news is that once it is dealt with, the team usually takes a leap forward. This should be an option only when other attempts to work with the person have failed.
Conflict can be healthy for a team when it is channeled properly. The challenge for leaders is knowing how and when to intervene.
PS: To learn more about Dr. Parisi-Carew’s approach to successfully resolving conflict on teams be sure to check out her thinking in the article Don’t Leave Collaboration to Chance or in the recording of her recent webinar on Why Teams Fail—Dealing with Friction and Dissension