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Creating a Collaborative Culture

Are you dealing with a toxic environment within your workplace? Can your employees barely tolerate each other? Do you fear that your employees are one miscommunication away from recreating a scene out of Lord of the Flies? Well it sounds like you are struggling with creating a collaborative culture and your employees are suffering as a result.

According to Inc. Magazine, “Building a collaborative culture requires defining and building a shared purpose, cultivating an ethic of contribution, developing processes that enable people to work together in flexible but disciplined projects, and creating an infrastructure in which collaboration is valued and rewarded*.”

While we agree that refining processes, systems, and structures contribute to a culture of collaboration there are two things that carry greater weight: strong leadership and healthy relationships. A team without a strong leader is like a rudderless ship, adrift in the wind. And what will happen to that ship? Well, we don’t know and neither do those on board. The ship ends up wherever the external forces determine. In addition, a team without healthy relationships is like a puzzle with pieces that refuse to stick together, even when they fit. Either way it is not a good situation to be in. But when leaders understand and commit to setting the right tone, and relationships are valued, it lays the groundwork needed to build a culture of collaboration.

Think of building a collaborative culture as Teambuilding 2.0. And truly fostering teamwork among your employees is more complicated that just getting them to be civil to each other. Perhaps everyone does get along great within your company. But even though everyone smiles at each other, and no one’s birthday is ever forgotten, somehow nothing ever seems to get done. And just because everyone gets a cake on their birthday does not mean that you are fostering teamwork. A truly successful work environment means more than cake. It means getting things done with and through others. Here are some of the most common challenges that leaders and teams face:

  • “We can’t serve our external customers because we haven’t figured out we’re each others’ internal customer first.”
  • “How can we collaborate with other organizations when departments, divisions, and units within this agency don’t even collaborate with each other?”
  • “Our culture is too toxic to be collaborative. We don’t trust each other and everyone thinks their way is the right way.”

Leaders and teams that are successful at cultivating a collaborative culture demonstrate several traits and characteristics:

  • They are believable. When we’re believable, people have confidence in our words and intentions. We increase our credibility and trust in each other. When the leader is believable the team not only trusts the leader, they trust each other.

 

  • They are teachable. Teachable means we are ready and willing to learn. We have the capacity to be instructed and then grow from the lessons learned. When the leader is teachable the team is teachable.

 

  • They are accountable. Accountable means we acknowledge that we are obligated to accept responsibility for our actions and required to answer to someone. When the leader is accountable team members increase expectations of self and others.

So are you struggling with cultivating a collaborative culture? If you ask the right questions and look in the right places sooner or later you’ll uncover culture killers within your team like: lack of trust (someone’s not believable), lack of listening (someone’s not teachable), or lack of results (someone’s not being held accountable).

The Weathers Group is a 12-year-old management-consulting firm based in Columbia, SC that specializes in organizational development, executive coaching, and facilitation. So if you’re tired of living in a Shakespearian tragedy and want to start creating a collaborative culture, let us know. We’ll provide the support to ensure that your company’s future is a bright one.

*http://www.inc.com/comcast/building-a-collaborative-culture-regardless-of-your-size.html

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Where’s the Synergy?

“What I want is synergy, I can’t really explain it, but it’s a feeling among team members that let’s us know we’ve got it – I want that feeling, I want synergy. “

I’ve heard the above quote, or some variation thereof, from leaders and team members more than I can recall. So many are in search of this mysterious element that we believe contributes to relationships and team performance called synergy. Like a mythical creature, we’ve all heard of it, some have attempted to find it, and a few claim to have seen it.

What is synergy? Where does it come from? Where does it start? What keeps it from staying once it appears. Can we mandate it? Maybe we can make people synergize. Sounds like something out of Star Trek, huh? Perhaps if we put it in a policy people would do it. What’s your company’s synergy policy? Do you have one? Of course you don’t.   Seriously, what is this synergy thing?

The most simplistic definition of Synergy can be captured in two words – Working Together. But I want to take it a little deeper. I believe synergy is more than working together; it’s how we work together.

It’s the spirit in which we work together, it’s that elusive feeling we all yearn for on our teams, it’s the “it” factor. It’s when the right people are doing the right thing the right way for the right reason. It’s when people want to be on the team together. It’s beyond a job, it’s journey. Synergy arises when my strengths compliment your weaknesses and vice-versa. Synergy appears when I know my contribution matters and you know your contribution matters and we know each others’ contribution matters. Synergy is birthed when we click, when we fit. Synergy appears when we’re inclusive and value the pool of diverse perspectives, experiences, and expertise among the team.

Synergy is evidence of a selfless team – members don’t compete with each other, they compliment each other. Synergy among team members is like chemistry in a relationship.

So what does all of this mean to leaders and team members?:

  1. When building your team, place a priority on the relationship over the resume. Yes, certain qualifications are important, but last time I checked, resumes don’t work together, people do.
  2. Make sure everyone knows how his or her part contributes to the whole. No role is insignificant – every position on the team matters.
  3. Find people who want to be there. Nothing will destroy synergy quicker than people with a “have to be there” attitude – they become toxic to your culture.

Tell us when and where you found synergy.  When have you been part of a team and felt the synergy effect??

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How Technology is Changing Teambuilding

Technology has come a long way in the last decade, and this IT revolution has dramatically changed the way that teams work on projects. Instead of wasting days commuting from one plant to another on costly business trips, teams can now work online to collaborate and share ideas. Companies that use video teleconferencing technology have a competitive advantage on other companies who rely on the old-fashioned methods of business. Today, you can share files, work on presentations real-time and exchange information in the blink of an eye. Whether you are in the nonprofit, government or corporate sector, you will benefit from the rapid expansion of information technology capabilities to strengthen teams.

Team building that is conducted online lets a company reach more of the members in the organization. With video teleconferencing capabilities, there is no need to budget for travel, hotels and meals. This allows a company to include more of their junior employees and emerging leaders. Companies can find opportunities to develop key players who would not have been involved in these workshops or seminars in the past. This allows a company to leverage their human capital to a degree that has never been seen before.

It is documented that team building increases a company’s performance since employees are bought in to the vision and mission of the company when they feel like they are contributing to the end goal. Technology has made it easier to conduct governance tasks that need to be completed on a regular basis. This saves time. It also allows senior executives to spend their time focusing on other areas of importance. Some leading companies use teleconferences as an opportunity to get all of their team members on the same page. If a project needs to get done in a hurry, it is easy to log in or dial in and start the information exchange process.

Whether your company is looking to improve leadership from your mid-level managers or you need to figure out ways to capitalize on cross-sector synergies, the Weathers Group can offer you solutions that will help your team improve their overall performance. A company’s strength should be its human capital, and today’s latest IT trends have made it easier than ever before to build teams. This teaming empowers your workforce. Teaming also allows you to take on more complicated projects that offer a larger return on investment.

How has technology impacted your teambuilding efforts????

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The Value of Time Off

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During a recent coaching session a young lady shared with me a challenge she faces on her job. Let me start by saying that I don’t get the sense that she’s a serial whiner or complainer, neither do I get the sense that she doesn’t like her boss and is just looking to rock the boat. After spending time coaching her boss and fellow employees I get the sense that she really loves her job, but she has a challenge that’s wearing her down, threatening her morale, and causing her to question her value.

Things are great at her job until it’s time for her to request time off. Even if she requests time off in advance she gets, in her words, “grief, griping, and groaning.” She feels that she does a great job, I’ve seen her work therefore I can concur, so she feels that time off every now and then for life events such as getting married, a child’s doctor appointment or meeting with a child’s teacher at school shouldn’t be that big of a deal, especially since the job doesn’t require face-to-face client contact. She can catch up on any lost administrative time later in the evening at work or on Saturdays, but. her boss doesn’t like the idea of this. In the words of her boss, “She’s paid to be here from 8am – 5pm, so I want her here from 8am to 5pm.”

Notice the language used by her boss – “She’s paid to be here…” After talking to her boss, I realized they had been dealing with the symptom not the problem or its root cause. This whole challenge of requesting time off is really about different expectations of what work is, what work looks like, and what people are paid for. For instance the young lady would frequently say, “you don’t pay me to be here, you pay me to get things done and whether I’m sitting here or not, I’m getting those things done and more.”

There are several lessons we all learned during this:

  1. In some cases, there are generational differences in the way we define and describe work; this was definitely the case here. The boss (in her 60’s) was taught and therefore believed that work was about being in a place for a certain time period and if you weren’t in that place for that period you weren’t working. The employee (in her 20’s) believed that she needed to be in a place for a period of time, but that didn’t define or constrain her work space. There’s a difference between a place of work and work space. Many baby boomers are accustomed to going to a place of work. Many millenials thrive when they are allowed to be creative when defining their work space.
  2. The term “boss” is one of those words that’s beginning to get some resistance because it creates a mindset between the authoritative figure (boss) and the subordinate (employee) – when’s the last time you heard someone referred to as a subordinate? My point exactly. I’m not anti-hierarchy and yes, the buck must stop with someone, however I believe the culture of having a “boss” versus the culture of being a leader are two different things.
  3. The third lesson we learned is that people have lives. As areas of their lives evolve it will have an impact on other areas of their lives – so yes, home life will have an impact on work life. This notion that my home life never impacts my work is a stretch for the average person’s reality.
  4. Some of us have been conditioned to give more credence to the activity than the accomplishment. The average employer evaluates or assesses an employee’s performance based on “activities performed” not “results accomplished”. Activity is the means, accomplishments are the results – many workplace disagreements arise from the fact that supervisors and managers believe that controlling the means guarantees results. That’s not the case in many places. When possible give your people the opportunity to modify the means and watch results soar. This takes courage and humility.
  5. Employees don’t necessarily consider their paycheck as a sign of the value they provide. The young lady in this story made very good money, but regardless of the check, she felt undervalued because her boss couldn’t see the commitment in her willingness to work from home to make up for lost time and the fact that all of her past accomplishments were discounted when she asked for time off. Please understand it wasn’t the denial of time off that was the problem, it was the grief, groaning, and griping – all of that made the employee feel unappreciated and “less than”.

 

What other lessons do you see here? Any recommendations for the boss or the employee?

 

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Why Can’t We Be Friends??

We like to be liked.  I don’t know the science behind this and I must admit I don’t have any evidence-based empirical data to support my assumption – I just know what I know from watching people, interacting with people, and oh by the way, being a person myself.  We like to be liked – I don’t think many people would dispute this.

Though it may seem harmless, “liking to be liked” can cause some challenges on the job.  If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard a person say one of the following I’d have a lot of nickels:

“They don’t like me.”

“What can I do to make her like me?”

“I just want to be friends.”

“Why can’t we be friends?”

I wish we could all like each other – but that’s probably not going to happen.

I wish all of your employees liked you – but that’s probably not going to happen.

The fact of the matter is this – you and I have to learn to work with, grow with, achieve with, and live with people we may not like and who may not like us.

Organizational performance, productivity, and results are the priority.  Being liked by everyone is not the priority.  If you’re objective is to be liked by everyone, you’ll compromise the mission and compromise your values to please people who will never like you anyway.

Here are three quick considerations for you and your team:

  1. Our individual petty differences and issues pale in comparison to achieving our mission.
  2. I don’t have to like you to work with you and you don’t have to like me – But we must respect each other.
  3. Just because a person isn’t social on the job, that doesn’t mean they don’t like you.  That could mean that’s not their focus.  Some people go to work, to work – they purposely choose to separate their social life from their professional life.

Bottom Line: We can be friends, but if we can’t, we can still work together.

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Talk To Everybody or Talk to Nobody

“They don’t talk to me, I don’t talk to them.”

“He speaks to her and asks her about her day, he’s never asked about mine.”

“She’ll walk right past me, speak to him, and keep moving.”

“He’s looked me right in the eyes and didn’t even acknowledge me.”

“She only speaks to ones she likes.”

“He only talks to the white people.”

“She only talks to the black people.”

“He only talks to the attractive ones.”

“I don’t know why he doesn’t talk to me.  I don’t care,  I don’t have time to worry about it.”

 Is the setting for these quotes the typical Middle School cafeteria during lunch time — NO!!!!

These quotes come from professional men and women in the workplace.  They’re talking about their Executive Director, CEO, Supervisor, or Manager.

True or not, right or not, agree or not.  This is the perception of some in the workplace.  Maybe even your workplace.

As a leader you can’t solve another person’s personal problems or issues and you surely can’t be responsible to meet all of their social and relational needs.  However; there is one thing you can do.  You can talk to them.  Talk to everybody. Speak to everybody.  Acknowledge everybody.

Believe it or not, there are some people who would improve their performance today, if you just acknowledged their existence.  And yes, leaders, talking to people IS part of your job.

So talk to everybody or talk to nobody.

Hey, if you talk to nobody, at least they can’t say you have a favorite (You know this part is for humor, right?? Don’t pick this option.)

 TALK TO EVERYBODY

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7 Things Staff Want

Your staff is on the front-line for your nonprofit, government agency or corporation.  Your staff see things that you don’t see, they hear things you don’t hear, they know things you don’t know.  Your staff doesn’t hold the key to your success, they are the key to your success.  ApproachABLE, TeachABLE leaders value their staff and take the time to find out what their staff really want and need to be succesful.

Here’s a brief list of what we’ve discovered staff want.  After reading, please suggest any additions in the comment section.

Staff Want:

1) To be respected.

2) To be valued.

3) To be appreciated.

4) To be heard.

5) To grow and develop personally and professionally.

6) To be challenged.

7) To trust leadership.

So what do you do now that you know???

Spend today respecting, valuing, appreciating, listening to, developing, and challenging your staff and watch them start to trust you.

 

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Should Staff Be Treated Like They’re Human??

Should Staff Be Treated Like They’re Human??  Silly question, huh??  Every prudent, responsible, mature leader is going to answer yes.  Of course they should.   But maybe the question isn’t so silly considering the stories we hear from staff that believe they’re not treated like they’re human.

Let’s play a game.  The name of the game is Guess Where I Work??? Here are the rules: I’ll give you a scenario and then give you list of work places to choose from – pretty easy, right?  Ok, here we go:

Guess Where I Work????

Managers yell at their staff.  On the right day, you’ll even here a manager curse at employees.  Employees from different departments yell at each other and have no problem telling each other “where to go and how to get there”.  Disrespect is the order of the day.  Staff are treated like they’re children, and to be honest, some act like children.  Managers talk to people from other departments in a condescending, insulting manner – some thrive on embarrassing those further down the “food chain”.  Some mid-level managers are considered a joke – they have no back-bone or credibility, their own staff  disrespect them – they’re just doing time until retirement.    Turnover is high, morale is low, but at the end of the year, we meet our goals.

So where do I work?

1) A Wall Street financial brokerage firm

2) A local trucking company

3) A Human Services nonprofit

The correct answer for this case is #3 – a Human Services nonprofit.  Are you surprised???  Why or why not??

One employee said, “I’m not doing this for the money, the least they can do is treat us nice.”

Another employee said, “It’s ironic, we’re in the business of human services, but we don’t treat each other like we’re human”.

Think about what these two employees are saying – “Treat us nice, like we’re humans.”  Yes, even in the Nonprofit Sector we have to be reminded to treat each other nice, like we’re humans.

LEADERSHIP NEWSFLASH:

PEOPLE WANT TO BE TREATED NICE.

 PEOPLE WANT TO WORK IN A SAFE ENVIRONMENT.

PEOPLE WANT TO BE RESPECTED.

Some questions for you to consider???

1) Could this be your organization?? How do you know??

2) What does this example tell you about the culture of this organization??

3) What do you do as a leader to intentionally develop and protect the culture of your organization??

4) How can we achieve our goals/objectives and still maintain a respectful work environment??

Remember, as the leader your job is to keep your finger on the pulse of your organization – if patterns like this develop, you nip it in the bud.  Don’t allow people to be verbally/mentally bullied and abused on your watch.  The fact of the matter is that sometimes you have to protect your people from each other.

By the way, as usual in all of our case studies, don’t try to guess who it is – the names have been changed to protect the innocent.  Also, you shouldn’t be trying to figure out which organization this is, you should be trying to make sure it’s never yours.

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Am I the Reason My People Have No Initiative?

Leader: “I can’t get my team to take initiative and take charge of projects.  They won’t just jump in and “do it”.  How can I get them to grab the reigns and take charge.”

Me: “What’s been your previous pattern of delegating authority?”

Leader: “Huh?”

Me: “Do you have a history of delegating authority and tasks to your people?”

Leader: “No, I haven’t in the past, but I’m starting to do it now.”

Me:  “Well this explains why they won’t take charge and just jump in.”  Let me explain.

Your team feeds off of your behavior and your patterns – they know you, they watch you.  If you have a pattern of just doing it yourself, you know the old saying “by the time I show somebody else how to do it, I might as well do it myself” –  you can’t be surprised when they don’t jump in to do a job that you NOW want them to do.  Every time you didn’t delegate a task to your team, that should have been delegated, you were telling them, “I don’t have confidence in you” – that was your pattern.  So this is new territory for them – you can’t expect them to just do it.  For those leaders who have seen the “delegation light” and want to now realize all the benefits of creating an environment where your team members can exhibit their competency and skills through delegation, here are a few things you are ABLE to do:

  1. Reintroduce yourself to your team: Bring everyone together and introduce the new you.  Acknowledge the new pattern of behavior you are committing to, and also share why you are doing this. Acknowledge that this is new and there will be a transition period for everyone – you have to get used to delegating and they have to get used to receiving.  You’re restoring trust at this point.
  2. When you delegate be very clear regarding roles, responsibilities and expectations.  For instance, ensure the individuals you delegate to, have the capacity to perform the task at hand.
  3. If you want something a certain way, let them know.  Don’t make people “guess” to figure out how you want something done. If you have specific imperatives that must be met, let them know up front.
  4. Let them know where there’s room for flexibility, imagination and creativity.  Let them be flexible, imaginative, and creative.
  5.  Finally throughout the delegation process communication must be clear, concise, and consistent.    You may not want to wait til the end to see what’s been done – create a space where you can check-in with each other without anyone feeling disempowered on one end or disturbed on the other.

Remember this “delegation thing” is new to you and to them.  Every time you delegate with confidence, they have the opportunity to demonstrate competence.  This becomes a powerful  cycle that leads to greater confidence and competence.

Want to learn more?? Take a look at TWG_retreats to see how we can help you and your team improve your performance over time.

CW

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