The Top 10 Questions to Establish Better Team Rapport

Any team you become a part of – and certainly any team you are asked to lead – will be starving for the opportunity to get to know and appreciate their teammates better. As you might have experienced, hunger can sometimes make people weak and unmotivated, or can even make them irritable and defensive… but while your own physical hunger is often easily remedied with a snack or meal, teams often suffer – for the duration of their project or season – from an unidentified and unsatisfied hunger to understand other members and build relationships.  The only way to satiate that hunger for rapport is to provide your people the time and opportunity to share their background, talents, and motivations with each other.  Whether it is a questionnaire you send out to members that can be discussed and shared later, or as a group activity where members pair off and then share responses with the group, the impact of giving your people the forum to express their personality and reasons for investment in your project cannot be overestimated.  All answers should be shared with the entire group present to allow for laughter and follow-up questions that may arise to build stronger bonds of understanding.  Strong leaders will get them to do more than just show up – they will encourage team members to open up and begin to feel a part of something bigger than themselves – and to feel cared about as an individual. The following suggested questions all encourage your team members to offer personal information or metaphorical thinking to help identify or explain issues that may need to be addressed...

What Invisible Dragons are Your Teammates Fighting?

Every one of your teammates is fighting an invisible dragon. As a coach, it took me longer than I would like to admit to develop an awareness of the personal battles that each one of my players were struggling with once they left the court. Player strengths and personality types were not all I needed to know about. It was important for me to understand that not all players come from or go home to a great situation.  That insight was the result of a young man that played varsity basketball for me years ago… he was perpetually late for morning and weekend practices.  When I asked why he was late, he would shrug his shoulders or just say “sorry, coach.” My emphasis on discipline and team rules made him stay after for extra “conditioning” – and my frustration with his tardiness kept me from applauding or encouraging him as often as I probably should have. It was only later in our season that I learned more about his home situation.  He was living with his grandmother, and dealing with a couple of other personal issues that many adults would struggle with, and yet maintaining strong grades and trying to be a good teammate.   Sometimes, our greatest regrets are for kindnesses not done.     In my book, The 10 Commandments of Winning Teammates, one of the commandments that I was guilty of not living by was to Be Aware of and Encourage Others. Since that experience, I have wondered how many other players and colleagues I have neglected to thank or encourage in the past that were battling unknown...

Join Me for a #LeadWithGiants Tweet Chat Monday, August 22nd!

I am honored to be co-hosting an upcoming Tweet Chat with Dan Forbes, steward of the Lead With Giants community and blog. The #LeadWithGiants Tweet Chat happens every Monday at 7:00 pm Eastern time. If you haven’t ever participated in a Tweet Chat before, here is a great introduction to tweetchats that you might find helpful.   The Tweet Chat I am co-hosting will focus on a topic that you can read about in my most recent book – Becoming a Winning Teammate. (The 10 Commandments of Winning Teammates book is available now)   Here’s a list of the questions you might see: Q1 How would you define a “Winning Teammate”? #LeadWithGiants Q2 How is the term “teammate” overused at times? #LeadWithGiants Q3 How does being a good teammate affect others on your team? #LeadWithGiants Q4 How could you have been a better teammate in the past? #LeadWithGiants Q5 What are the 3 most important traits of a winning teammate? #LeadWithGiants Q6 What make someone change from a bad teammate to a good one? #LeadWithGiants Q7 How do you know when others see you as a winning teammate? #LeadWithGiants Q8 Should leaders see themselves as teammates? #LeadWithGiants Q9 If wearing a uniform doesn’t make you a teammate, what does? #LeadWithGiants Q10 What action can you take to be a better teammate tomorrow? #LeadWithGiants   To participate in the chat, all you need to do is tweet during the designated time using the #LeadWithGiants hashtag – and you can follow the conversation using tweetdeck or by searching for the #LeadWithGiants hashtag as well…   It is a terrific opportunity to connect with...

How to Take a Difficult Teammate Out… to Lunch

Everyone has that person at their office or work location. The difficult teammate. The person who, if you were living in an episode of The Sopranos, you would just tell Paulie to “take out.” Sadly, we don’t live in that world. But you do still have options.  You can take them out… to lunch. (and if you feel the urge, make it an Italian restaurant).    The truth is that in many cases, difficult people are just different. And in our culture, that becomes an issue – because we are used to seeing and being validated by what we find familiar.  We like what we like online in social media to ensure that we get more of the content and opinions and ideas that we like. They make us comfortable.  They validate our perspective and have similar insights.  They confirm us. But difficult teammates stretch us.   I wrote in an earlier blog, about how to deal with the sandpaper person on your team, that “…often the most annoying and uncomfortable relationships we have are the ones that we most need to become better ourselves.” It is important to challenge your ideas.  It is important to consider other perspectives and beliefs. And it is important to know how to take a difficult teammate out… to lunch.   So, first remember your WHY!      Because you will benefit tremendously from better understanding that someone in your life with whom you may often disagree. At the least it will likely soften your level of dislike toward a person you are in conflict with… and it will certainly help you to get to...

12 Empowering Things a Team Leader Should Take

Most team leaders spend their time thinking more about empowering people, considering what things they can give people instead of what they could selfishly take.  In fact, I would argue that servant leadership is the most positive, powerful, effective, and inspiring example a manager or coach could provide their team. I’m sure you have heard quotes about the importance of giving…  Benjamin E. Mays is remembered for sharing that “it is not what you keep, but what you give that makes you happy.” Edwin Louis Cole offers a similar belief, suggesting that “the degree of loving is measured by the degree of giving.” And it is true that the act of giving – of your time, your advice, and your encouragement is what quality leadership is largely based upon.   But while a servant leader may have his or her heart in the right place, sometimes a team would benefit more if their leaders would stop GIVING and start TAKING.   So here, now, is a list of the Things a Team Leader Should Take: Take care of your people. Great leaders are quick to praise productive decisions or ideas, and will always look for ways to reward those who are contributing to the team’s success.  By doing so, you will be encouraging future positive behaviors, while building recognition into the fabric of your organizational culture. Take some initiative. People in struggling organizations often suffer from the “wait to be told” syndrome.  The problem is that they soon become followers who need constant supervision and direction, placing the responsibility for their efforts on someone else’s shoulders. The best way...

3 amazingly simple ways to help your team thrive through change

Change is constant.  You can count on it. But you can’t always count on your people to accept it with enthusiasm… The saying goes that everyone wants progress, but very few embrace the change that makes it possible… and so it is likely the same with people on your team. The idea of seeing your team thrive through change instead of enduring it (or sometimes combatting it) may seem like a bit of an idyllic fantasy, but the truth is that it IS possible! There are 3 amazingly simple ways you can smooth the road ahead and create a far more positive expectation and attitude toward the changes your team is experiencing. When you are about to enter (or even already in the midst of) a major change in your company or project, these are the three things you want to do to help your team navigate and enjoy the journey:   Repeat and Clarify the Reason Why Explain what the issue is that necessitates the change.  If everything was going well, it wouldn’t need to be made – so what is the problem that you are trying to solve?  The more they hear the reason for the change, the more willing they will be to help accomplish it.  Repetition is the key to learning – and you need to be sure that everyone on board has heard and understands the decision behind the change.  Say it so often that they begin to mock you for it. Sometimes, if the reason for the change is clarified, winning teammates can offer ideas to assist with ideas to make the change...

Two Questions That Invite Conversation and Eliminate Dissension

Years ago – as a very young teacher – I was in a meeting where our department head introduced a mandatory form each teacher would be required to fill out.  She clearly felt it would be a good idea to have everyone commit to the weekly documentation. The form was to be included in what was then a formal evaluation notebook that would be used to assess our teaching effectiveness.  After introducing it, she asked something like “does that sound okay with you guys?” and then moved on quickly and later ended the meeting without any real debate or discussion. But I really don’t remember much about the meeting.  What I remember most is what happened after I left the meeting.  Ahead of me in the hallway were two more experienced teachers, and they could be heard complaining about and criticizing the idea all the way back to their rooms.  Nobody had asked their thoughts in the meeting, and they were not willing to take the initiative and share it in the open group.  Now, to be clear, Winning teammates speak up in meetings and not just after them… But it is the leader who always sets the table – and great leaders take responsibility for inviting the necessary conversations that lead to alignment and commitment. Regrettably, in many meetings around the country, accepting silence as passive agreement is a landmine that many leaders step on without realizing it. Many leaders continue to talk AT their people instead of WITH their people. And that dictatorial style is dangerous… because leaders who do not encourage disagreement and discussion often move on,...

Three Incredibly Powerful Ways for Leaders to Use the Word IF

The words leaders use have an incredibly powerful impact on their people. As an english teacher, I always emphasized the importance of vocabulary… but there is ONE word that leaders may over look that, when they use it well, can have a tremendous impact on team performance. “IF” is an incredibly powerful word for leaders. Leadership occurs one interaction at a time, and in those conversations it is important for leaders to influence their teams with the proper use of a common and powerful word: “IF.” There are actually three ways for leaders to focus on using the word to improve their team. The first use of IF is for team motivation. Using the phrase “What If…” is a powerful way to ignite imaginations and inspire innovative ideas. Steve Jobs once famously said that “innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”  Innovation is the result of asking “What IF?”  Ask yourself and encourage your teammates to consistently consider possibilities that might improve your systems and culture.  Regardless of the many diverse team members you may be dealing with, everyone is inspired to think more creatively when they consider questions like: What if we did it this way?  What if, instead of __________, we chose to ________? What if we stopped doing __________? Never allow your team to become content with where they are.  By asking “What IF?” you open the door to future innovations and ideas that otherwise may have been missed and motivate your team to invest themselves in possibility thinking.   The second use of IF is for creating a culture of awareness and ownership. It is...

12 Exalting Phrases Good Leaders Share with Their Teams

Leaders have a tremendous impact on their organization, because the phrases they share with their teams can either produce distrust and apathy or ignite passion and commitment. And the reality is that everyone (including YOU) is a leader. What you say to the people that you work with will influence their work ethic and attitude. A good leader will recognize this, and take advantage of every opportunity to be an encouraging and inspiring flame that his people want to be near and benefit from. Yes, HOW you deliver the words are a very important part of your communication… but these exalting phrases ensure that they are fully invested and feel themselves to be a valued and contributing part of something larger and more significant than themselves:   You were right about… Great leaders are quick to praise productive decisions or ideas. It isn’t about who is right, leadership is about deciding what is right. Instead of having to be the fountain of knowledge and wisdom for their organization, strong leadership acknowledges the contributions that the people around them offer — and by doing so, encourage future innovation and give other the gift of recognition.   I’m glad you are here People don’t want to be appreciated… they NEED it. Money may be the reason they took a job, but they will leave that job when they see a chance to get more recognition and feel more valued by their superiors and peers. The simple but powerful (and FREE) action of telling your people that you are glad that they are on YOUR team can be a much more impactful phrase...

Toughness and Resilience are Skills Your Team Can Learn

There is a big difference between brick walls and speed bumps. And I shared this with my son, because I couldn’t teach him to be taller.  At 12 years old, he worked passionately on improving his dribbling and shooting for hours out in our driveway.  But each night he would pray to grow taller – so he could be a better basketball player. And I would tell him (on a few occasions), that height might help, but success is achieved by focusing on and doing the things that you can control. He was 5’2” – and he couldn’t control his height. But after coaching hundreds of athletes and facilitating workshop events for thousands of professionals and teammates in a variety of industries, I knew that he COULD learn to be tougher. Toughness and resilience are skills, just like dribbling or shooting in basketball. And the truth is that, unlike height, resilience can be taught! In my experience, whether it is in basketball or in business, a person’s resilience is based on two things: what you ask yourself and what you see. My son worked hard on improving his skill.  He spent hours alone in the driveway pushing himself through creative drills to get better. But skill without resilience and toughness is like a fighter with a glass jaw. When it is tested by adversity, a glass jaw will shatter. So if my son truly wanted to be a competitor, he needed to focus on more than just technical skills.  He needed to invest time and energy in improving his toughness. And like any other skill, I explained to him that improving...