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Virtual Team Building

Two clients contacted me recently to explore options for virtual team building because travel bans and budget constraints are making a difficult situation even more challenging. They want to go beyond standard conference calls to bridge the distance between people in multiple locations.

Video calls are another option that can create a more personal connection. In the same way that we set ground rules for an in-person team building session, the team needs to decide how they will interact on calls. Here are some things to consider in making this an effective tool:

Include an icebreaker activity to help people get to know each other. Check out 50 Digital Team Building Games

  • Determine how to ensure everyone’s participation
  • Constructively voice differences of opinion during the call rather than afterward
  • Define the boundaries for confidentiality
  • Establish accountability and timelines for action items

In between calls, pairing team members on special projects or initiatives can create camaraderie. Rotating the responsibility for leading the call is a great way to develop new skills and generate different ideas and approaches. Find more ideas at HBR Making Virtual Teams Work.

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Improve Your ROI

Try this exercise:  close your eyes and count to 20 slowly.  Sounds easy, right?  Do it again and start over every time you are distracted by another thought.  That is much more challenging for most of us.

The Power of Adrenalin

How long can you go without checking your phone?  Studies have shown that we get addicted to the jolt of adrenalin when we hear the text or email message notification.  When I lead team building sessions or facilitate a meeting, the participants agree on whether to turn off or silence their phones.  Some of them get the shakes – like they would if they had to give up coffee for a day.  I find it hard not to check mine every time I stop at a red light, even if I’m enjoying the song on the radio.

 40 Percent ROI

We have trained ourselves to expect distractions.  We think we can’t function without them but what do they cost us?  Research indicates that productivity can be reduced by as much as 40 percent when people switch tasks.

 Stop whatever else you are doing and think about that – you could be 40 percent more effective if you focused on one thing for a defined period of time.  Where else can you get that kind of ROI?

Achieving Your New ROI Goal

We know all this and yet we still do it.  Why?  We have to create a new ROIReturn on Intention©. What better time to do that than the beginning of a new year?  Here are some suggestions:

  1. Identify one thing you will do differently.  Be as specific as possible and avoid saying what you will not do. Write it down where you will see it often.  It could be, “I will sit through five stop lights without checking my phone.”
  2. Write down when you will start and how often you will do it.  “I will start tomorrow and continue for the next week.”
  3. Describe the benefit you will get from doing this.  “I will be able to enjoy what I’m hearing on the radio.”
  4. Find an accountability partner.  “I will ask my coach to check in with me every Monday by 9:00 AM if I haven’t emailed her about my progress by Sunday at 5:00 PM.”
  5. Recognize potential derailers.  Notice what gets you off track and find a solution.  “I’m likely to forget when I’m in a hurry so I will leave five minutes earlier for my meetings.”
  6. Reward yourself.  “I will add a new song to my favorite playlist when I achieve my goal for the week.”

 I invite you to test this approach to improving your ROI and see how it affects your productivity.

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Don’t Push Me!

My trainer kept saying, “Come on, you can do this!” even though I told him my foot wasn’t rehabbed enough for jumping.  The more he insisted, the more resistant I became.  I will push myself pretty hard, but not to the point of potentially doing damage.

How Much is Too Much?

Because he wasn’t getting it I questioned my own approach to pushing my coaching clients beyond their comfort zone. It is one of the toughest things I have to do, but discomfort is sometimes necessary to stimulate behavior change.

Stretch Without Breaking

Leaders also have to find the right balance when pushing their team members.  The best way to provide challenges that will stretch people without breaking them is to invest the time to learn:

  • What motivates the person
  • What de-motivates them

Where to Start?

A personality assessment like the Birkman is a great starting point, so let me know if you would like to explore how to add this to your leadership toolkit.

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How do You Slice an Apple?

Have you ever stopped to consider how many things do you do without thinking?  I have always sliced an apple with the small end down, even though it tends to wobble.  Recently, my apple rolled over and I realized how much easier it is to slice it with the large end down.

Who Taught You?

I suppose my mother taught me to slice it that way and I never considered doing it differently.  When you think about the people who taught you about being a leader, who comes to mind?  What made the good ones effective and the bad ones hard to forget?  How did they shape your leadership style?

Is There a Better Way?

In What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith reminds us to ask, “How am I doing?” on a regular basis.  The answers tell us what we need to continue doing and what we need to reconsider.  Are there some things you have been doing so long that you no longer pay attention to whether they are effective?

Adding Too Much Value

Of the 20 habits Goldsmith lists in his book, one of the most common I see in my executive coaching clients is adding their two cents to every discussion.  Your team isn’t very likely to be motivated by a leader who says, “That’s a good idea but…”  If you wonder whether this is an issue for you, ask someone you trust.

Like the apple, I invite you to turn your leadership style upside down and see if you need to slice it differently.

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Watch your Head!

If you’ve ever been on a ranch, you’ve probably seen a cattle panel (check out the picture above). Not something you want to run into, especially head first.  That’s what I did recently when there were several panels in the bed of my husband’s truck, at just my height.  I jumped out of my side of the truck and was headed around the back when, bam!  A sharp corner of the panel banged my forehead and jammed into my sunglasses.  I was lucky that I only ended up with a few scrapes and bruises.

Although you may assume that I’m generally clumsy (no comment), I would tell you that this happened because:

  • I was looking at the ground
  • I forgot the panel was there
  • I was in a hurry

After I had some time to reflect on my good fortune, I asked myself if there were any lessons to be learned that might apply to my work with leaders and teams, such as:

  • Are we missing a signal that we aren’t communicating effectively with someone because we aren’t looking for it?
  • Are we failing to change a non-productive behavior because we forget about the negative impact it has?
  • Have we overlooked an opportunity to create an effective team environment because we are in a hurry to get results?

Amid this busy holiday season and year-end planning, I invite you to raise your head and look around at the things you may be missing that could derail your professional relationships.  If you need someone to help you figure out how to avoid the bumps and bruises, give me a call.  In the meantime, enjoy the holidays.