“The Way” to Build Team Trust

(Thanks to Dave Blum for sharing this guest article)   A few days back I watched a fascinating movie, called The Way.  Have you seen it?   One of my go-to online resources, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb.com), describes the film’s plot as follows:  “A father heads overseas to recover the body of his estranged son who died while traveling the “El Camino de Santiago,” and decides to take the pilgrimage himself.” Although the description makes the story sound dry and depressing, the movie is anything but.  Taken as a travel log alone, The Way is a wonderfully entertaining story.  While walking the 400-mile path to Spain’s famous pilgrimage center, Santiago de Compostela, the grieving father, Tom (Martin Sheen) encounters all manner of lovely scenery and awe-inspiring, historical, Iberian locales.  What interested me most about the movie, however, is not the just the father’s physical odyssey but his emotional journey as well.   At the beginning of his trek, Tom is self-contained in his bereavement, determined to scatter his son’s ashes along the trail while shunning as much contact with his fellow pilgrims as possible.  Nevertheless, as all travelers know, it’s mightily difficult to avoid all human contact when on the road.    By hook or by crook, Tom picks up a coterie of colorful companions along the way, including: Yoost:  A Dutchman with hopes of losing weight  Jack:  An Irish journalist endeavoring to overcome writer’s block Sarah:  A Canadian woman trying to quit smoking Like Tom, each traveler possesses a “professed” goal and a deeper, inner hurt motivating his/her actions.  Yoost, for example, binges on food and drugs as a way...

Make Team Feedback More Effective With COIN Conversations!

One of the most difficult parts of any team leader’s job is to have positive and effective feedback conversations.   Whether you are a coach, a sales manager, a school administrator, or a medical staff supervisor, The COIN model provides you a template for having feedback conversations that work and include 4 essential elements of effective feedback. But before you attempt to apply the model to your situation, be reminded that feedback is something that is best delivered in a timely fashion, and should be intended to help your team members grow. Feedback is not punishment, it is information and encouragement to improve… (focus on the next play!) And ANY tough conversation topic will be easier to navigate if you have invested time in building a relationship beforehand (here is a ten-cent secret to doing exactly that!)  People are much less defensive and are much more coachable when they know that you are aware of their challenges, interested in their growth, and appreciative of their efforts.      So… here is the COIN feedback conversation model:   C = CONNECTION First, connect with them personally and connect to the issue or project that you would like to discuss.  Provide context for the conversation and an emotional link to the topic.   O = OBSERVATION Second, share factual descriptions of their behavior.  It is important to be as specific as you can and to the point.  DO not waste time with dancing… just give them the numbers.   I = IMPACT ON TEAM Third, you must clarify the impact that their actions had on the team or business to inspire...

A Team Performance Chart to Improve Your Organization

If you are looking for a team performance chart to identify where your people are in terms of productivity or cohesiveness, the one below could truly help improve your organization. Team productivity is a measure of how successful your people are in terms of project completion or work efficiency.  Team cohesiveness is a measure of how well your people interact with each other and collaborate to accomplish team goals.  But not every team that displays productivity enjoys cohesiveness, just as not every team that enjoys cohesiveness displays productivity.   This team performance chart shows the four types of teams: The first and perhaps most disappointing team type you may have seen or been a part of is the team who displays poor productivity and lacks cohesiveness. These teams are identified as “Dysfunctional,” and they are often toxic mix of poor results and negative attitudes.   The second type of team we’ll discuss is one that may meet expectations or successfully complete a project, but has done so without much group interaction. These “High Stress” groups are not really teams at all, as they do not usually take advantage of other’s skills or insights, and are driven by pride or ego to do it their way.  This requires much more time and energy, though, and often becomes an environment of petty turf wars and personal conflicts.   The third type of team on the team performance chart can be frustrating to managers because they get along well and seem to be collaborating and sharing, but those collegial interactions simply fail to produce acceptable results. This group has built strong relationships, but...

Does Your Conference Need a Networking Facilitator?

So, now you are asking yourself… what the heck is a networking facilitator? I would have asked the same question 10 years ago. But modern conference goals and a good bit of research suggest that one of the most impactful parts of your conference may be the choice to add a networking facilitator to your schedule.   Quality speakers and relevant breakout sessions are important – they provide the valuable information and inspiration you want attendees to take away from the event… But, increasingly, conference attendees are showing up more for the hallways connections and conversations than the opening or closing keynote!   As a meeting planner, are you intentionally building things into your schedule that help your attendees to build and develop the relationships that will become a foundation for profitable collaboration after they leave the conference? As a meeting organizer, there are many ways you can help to encourage useful connections. – One idea is to pair up first-time attendees with more experienced community members, and to create a mentor / mentee relationship that offers an immediate relationship.  – Another possibility is to ask a few questions as part of the registration process, and then print a couple of interesting personal facts on the nametags that are provided.  Nametags should emphasize first names, hometowns, and business affiliation… but can also include information about the attendees’ favorite candy, or movie, or television show.  These are natural conversation starters, and offer a simple and fun opportunity for connection during your event. – The people at Velvet Chainsaw Consulting have suggested that another way to encourage networking is by posting a...

Chick-fil-A and Delta and Three Leadership Lessons

My daughter plays beach volleyball. So she was very excited when she learned about a week-long camp at Hermosa Beach, in California, that would be run by college coaches.  And she and my wife both think this is a great opportunity for her to get better and build relationships… But it was expensive.  And it involved travel.  And when I explained this to her and her mother, I was very clear that I didn’t think it would be a good idea. So, you can guess what happened. That night I registered her for the camp. I got her airplane tickets so she was on the same flight as a couple of her friends, and for the next two weeks she couldn’t think about anything else. My wife and the other moms arranged the transportation, and I was chosen to pick the girls up at the end of the camp when they got back to Atlanta. Another girl’s mom volunteered to take the girls to the airport – and their flight was scheduled to leave at 7:20 am on a Saturday morning. So Emily is up and packed and ready to go at 4:30 am. She can’t wait.  This is a kid that you have to wake up 3 times and drag out of bed to go to school – who was up and alert at 4:00 am completely on her own. So a couple hours later I leave, because I have an event that day, and I am presenting at a conference.  Twenty minutes before I am supposed to present to the audience, I get a call from my wife....

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...