Challenges That Affect Teams – Part One

Do you know of a group that is not performing to it’s full potential?  Here are four common reasons why teams fail or fall apart and what you can do about it.  Stop the suffering! – find the right solution for a quick recovery here.

# 1.  Superficial Communication

Symptoms: Whenever your team gets together, the main topic of conversation is the game, the weather, or the weather at the game.

Prescription: The group needs to build bonds of trust.  How can a team tackle difficult discussions if they do not have experience as a group?  Plan icebreaker activities so people can talk about themselves and develop mature relationships.

For example, when I facilitate a meeting with a Board for the very first time, I like to ask people, “Why did you choose to become involved with this organization?”

This tactic really helps reserved people to open up, and for the group to start an honest conversation.  There is always ‘good stuff’ here, and everyone is interested in what is being shared.  Participants don’t have to be concerned with their opinion or saying what is “right” about an issue when they reflect and communicate their personal experience.

I can see the board members relax, likely because everyone feels that the group and facilitator (the outsider) knows them better and hears what they stand for.  This prepares the team to be ready for the challenge of working together.

A workplace scenario is a bit different.  People may not be so philosophical about why they work at a certain place if it is their main livelihood.  Most don’t really have a choice whether to work or not to work.

After-work or social events are common examples of how groups break the ice.  Often people with extra responsibilities cannot stay after work or find weekend events difficult.  Therefore, extra effort must be made to develop opportunities for team building.

Themed meetings, special events or creative conversation starters can be employed to allow team members to express themselves.  Workplace leaders need to be aware of those employees who are more withdrawn and help them have the space they need to be involved.

Try taking someone for lunch that you do not know very well.  Suggest a staff member accompany a group to a trade show for a different perspective on work.  Offer to send employees to an outside training session.  There are a variety of ways to facilitate a change from the normal, often-limiting work environments or meetings and promote meaningful conversation.

Stay tuned for Team Challenges #2, 3 and 4.

Written by Laurie Daschuk, BA

Meeting Facilitator with Stop the Presses

Eisenhower Principle of Time Management

“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important” – quote by Eisenhower.  

Great time management means being effective as well as efficient. Managing time effectively, and achieving the things that you want to achieve, means spending your time on things that are important and not just urgent. To do this, and to minimize the stress of having too many tight deadlines, you need to understand this distinction:

  • Important activities have an outcome that leads to the achievement of your goals.
  • Urgent activities demand immediate attention, and are often associated with the achievement of someone else’s goals.

Urgent activities are often the ones we concentrate on. These are the “squeaky wheels that get the grease.” They demand attention because the consequences of not dealing with them are immediate.  (excerpt above from Mindtools.com)

In the context of meetings, this dilemma becomes larger as your event comes closer.

  • Stay calm.
  • Focus on your to-do list.
  • Shrink your “inner circle” of advisors.

This is the time when you get to make “executive decisions” on what can and should be done.  Go with your instinct.  Delay responses if you can and carry on with your plan.  If you have responsibility for getting the event or project done, then you must do what you think is right, or at least choose the best option for the group as a whole.

Your determination and focus will be rewarded – in the end it takes leadership to get the job done.

For further study, check Steven Covey’s Urgent/Important Matrix.

 

Laurie Daschuk, BA is a meeting facilitator with Stop the Presses

Your Meeting – Only Better

When you wonder at the end of the week, “Where did the time go?”, you may not be alone. According to a Microsoft survey, people spend 5.6 hours each week in meetings and 69% feel meetings aren’t productive.

Some key issues identified:

  • Poor meeting mechanics – lack of meeting agenda or objectives, poor chairmanship
  • Key players missing, late-comers, uninterested attendees
  • Data Overload or Drought – Too many ideas bouncing around, no materials provided prior, lack of preparation
  • Unclear Roles and Responsibilities – Who’s supposed to be doing what?
  •  Problem Avoidance – Not addressing goals, reports or behavior issues that limit a team’s effectiveness
  • Meeting Conclusion – “What did we decide to do?”, incomplete minutes, minutes not distributed, or no action items resulting from the meeting
  • Tele-commuting and virtual teams further reduce the likelihood of key participants attending. Then add distractions from laptops, iPhones, emails and SMS.

Meetings need to have a sense of urgency not a mood of obligation.  People charged with organizing these meetings can be frustrated, overwhelmed and resigned to poor results.

How can Stop the Presses Help?

Many of these issues need to be dealt with by management, leading by example, an open trusting culture, and policy and processes tuned to make it easier to do it the right way rather than taking meeting short-cuts.

A meeting facilitator can inspire confidence, listen to leaders/managers and help by taking a look from the outside and then setting the stage for lasting change.

Laurie Daschuk, BA is a meeting facilitator with www.stopthepresses.ca

Extra Time and Effort

Presentations – what if the people making them were required to listen to them first?

I imagine that we would we enjoy a vastly improved performance. We would hear content expressed with clarity, with passion and interest, stripped of extraneous detail, sloppy language, and confusing digressions.

We would be spared meaningless PowerPoint exhibitions.  We would witness a speaker visibly interested in expressing an idea rather than simply enduring a speaking requirement.

It can be done. For instance, most public speaking self-help books suggest the presenter rehearse with a recording device of some sort. This is good advice. Hear yourself as others would and you will realize where you can improve.

If you can use video to capture a rehearsal – the presenter can both see and hear himself before an audience does. The impact can be astonishing. People would get insight into their own habits and expressions:

“I had no idea I did that with my arms!”

“I don’t look like I believe what I’m saying, do I?”

“Wow, do I really talk that fast?”

“You know, I could have sworn I was speaking in complete sentences.”

“Wait a minute, what was my point with that last part?”

“Oh, dear.”

People with good public speaking skills likely rehearsed and realized there was a bit more engineering that needed to be done before they were truly ready to unveil their presentation to the world.

Their reward: A presentation that was complete, compelling, cohesive…able to stand on its own merits, with a delivery that was confident, practiced, well-paced.

As for the audience, they could focus on the value of the message rather than be distracted by the clumsiness of the messenger.  When you plan your next presentation, think not about yourself, or even the details of what you have to say. Think first about your audience and their expectations for a program that satisfies their need for information.

Give your audience reason to remember its message. It’s absolutely worth the extra time and effort.

Pink Lemonade Theory

Pink Lemonade doesn’t make any sense, if you think about it.

First you have lemons.

Then you dress it up with sugar – knowing that lemonade means making the best of a difficult situation.  So if things are still not working out, can you really just hide problems with a bit more flash and dazzle?

Well, in the short run maybe, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.  Those people get really angry when the product or solution you offer really is the old stuff, re-packaged as new again (or pink!).

If you want to make people really upset, tell them you have fixed things, tell them this time it’s different, tell them THIS is the best thing you’ve done so far.  And if it’s not, you’re in trouble.  You will loose all your goodwill earned so far, and their trust will be ten times harder to recover once again.

Mistakes happen when companies are being rushed to get out the latest model. Organizations are sometimes under pressure to save a pending agreement or contract.  It can be an operational challenge to follow-up on all the comments and feedback that you recieve for products or services. But what you say versus what you do, can affect your reputation.

Be careful before you make that next announcement, speech, presentation or press release.  Is it really better, or is it just Pink Lemonade?

Laurie Daschuk, a facilitator with Stop the Presses, organizes meetings for professional organizations and assists professionals with personal branding.

When Everyone is Depending on You!

Your organization has been talking about doing a big event for a long time and now the date is set.  The committee has picked a speaker, the group has made a list for invitations and now they are about to relax and hand the rest of the details to you.

Welcome to the world of event planning.  It is a place where panic is only relative to how close it is to the big day.  Be organized and don’t procrastinate – it will come back to haunt you later.  Set expectations and then act on them.  Don’t wait too long to ask for help in the areas you need it.  No one can do this job alone, even if it is your responsibility.

Get your team together and strategically distribute activities – and then follow up.  You still have to ensure that the job is done well.  Teamwork is tricky:  people need encouragement, support and sometimes a big push.  Remember to document everything you do, so you can create a template for future events.

Also consider bringing in a facilitator to help with the event.  Sometimes the workload for planning an event is too large to do off the side of your desk.  People may underestimate your regular workload – which doesn’t go away when you are working on the big presentation.  Everyone wants a successful outcome, so in the end, it will be worth the investment.