The 5 Word Phrase That Dooms Team Interactions and Individual Improvement

There is a 5 word phrase that dooms your team interactions. I have written before about how to benefit from the working with a “sandpaper person” on your team, and have also discussed the conflicts that can arise if your people are not aware of the strengths and challenges that different team personality types offer. But there is an issue even more dangerous to your team than either of those circumstances, and it involves a specific set of words that some people on your team may have been thinking or even saying out loud. The good news is that the condition is treatable.  The bad news is that often the people who suffer from the effects of this condition often do not realize the negative effects of their affliction. Of course, the “condition” that I am referring to is a repeated use and belief in a 5 word phrase that absolutely dooms team interactions and individual improvement. It is a phrase that you must never allow to be spoken – unless it is followed by a swift and passionate rebuttal.  Your silence would imply consent, and that would be devastating to your organization’s future. The 5 word phrase you need to train your ears to catch and correct is “that’s just how I am…” Think about that for a moment. “That’s just how I am” is a disturbingly common comment that becomes an excuse for poor team interactions and destructive behavior. Maybe you know someone who has used that phrase following a particularly unprofessional moment, where they said or did something that could really have no rational justification. That...

The 12 Best Books for Coaches and Great Teammates

Coaches and great teammates both read books, because they know that readers are leaders. When I was a coach, I was a voracious reader. I was constantly seeking new titles that would help me to grow – whether it was from a leader in a different sport or even from a leader in a different industry. And when I found a good one, I liked to share it with coaches and athletes that I knew were working hard to be great teammates.  That is what led me to creating this list for you… Great Teammates and Coaches are Readers    But what does reading have to do with teambuilding? In locker rooms, in board rooms, and in classrooms, great teammates and leaders know that to grow and develop others you must first focus on growing and developing yourself! Over the years, when I would share books and give away copies of the best books that I had read to coaches and great teammates, it seemed that there were a few that I always kept returning to as the most impactful and instructive. So, for all of the great teammates and coaches who are seeking a list of the best books to add to their reading list or to share with others and study over the course of your next season, I have put together my list. The list is not exhaustive, but the titles below are the ones I have recommended and given as gifts over the years more often than others.   The 12 Best Books for Coaches and Great Teammates   Toughness: Developing True Strength On and Off...

Move Your Team From Values to Behaviors

All failure is the result of vagueness. That is a powerful and memorable statement… But it means nothing if the insight is not translated into a changed behavior. There is a great deal of value in discussing and selecting core values. You can even download a very useful virtues and values activity on my resources page…   Your personal core values should be a list of qualities and priorities that all of your decisions are influenced and guided by. Your organization’s core values paly a similar role, and should be the filter through which your team sees and decides on issues and strategy… But as valuable as those values discussions are, placing a list of core values on the wall will NOT improve your personal or corporate productivity unless you take the NEXT STEP.   To make them matter, move from Values to Behaviors.   When I worked with a company last year to help them craft their values and a more engaging mission statement, they thought that the work was done when we had carved their ideas down into a few words that sounded really inspiring and purposeful. But that was only the first step. The next step was the really impactful one. The next step involves defining how those values will be ACTED OUT AS BEHAVIORS on a daily basis in their hallways and in their communications with each other and with their clients. Values are important.  But there is something more important…   ACTIONS are how others judge us…   Consider the value or trait of “integrity.” Most every organization would agree that it is important....

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,...