A current advertisement reads: “Athletes score points, but teams win games.” While the ad is referencing the collaborative nature of a clinic the sentiment applies to teams of all types. Unfortunately, some athletes or other team members see their engagement in a team as optional. It isn’t.
In an organizational setting, everyone’s job description should include the responsibility to “be a good team member.” It doesn’t matter if a person has exceptional individual skills; they will not reach their full potential unless they can effectively function in a group setting. Acting as a “lone ranger” or independent contractor doesn’t work within an organization – at least not over the long term.
If you’re a leader or supervisor and see someone off to the sidelines or declining invitations to engage with the group, make a course correction quickly. A team needs everyone in the huddle to win the game.
A colleague recently became ill and had to bow out of a major project that she had volunteered to do for an organization.
My first reaction: fill me in on the tasks. I wanted to know all of the details about the project, where we stood, what I needed to do to pick up the baton, etc. Of course, I was concerned about the person, but I will admit my initial thoughts were about the job.
Another colleague wrote this to her: “I’m far more concerned about you than I am the work. Beth and I can figure that out. May I stop by on your lunch break tomorrow? Or bring you soup on Thursday? ❤” Obviously her initial reaction was about the person first and the task second!
If you have done True Colors or other personality profiles, you’ll immediately see the different temperaments in action! Neither is right or better but it helps to be aware of the differences on your team so that you can complement each other and play to strengths.
Think of this example when you’re assigning tasks. Who is best suited to complete a project and who is most natural bringing soup? Your organization will be better served if you match the jobs to the person as often as you’re able.
Two takeaways from a conference a colleague attended:
- Instead of offering only your standard breakout sessions, this conference provided an option for “huddles” – a time when people in similar positions could gather and talk about relevant topics for a three-hour time block. While workshops are wonderful and it’s always great to learn new content, some of the most practical wisdom comes from peers. Huddles are a tangible way to ensure that networking and idea-sharing happen more in-depth than what can occur in other ways at a conference.
- During one of these huddles, the facilitator gave prompts in three general topic areas (e.g. staff and culture) and then asked each table to discuss the topic using these four questions: 1) What’s right (in our organization relating to this topic)? 2) What’s wrong? 3) What’s confused? and 4) What’s missing? These questions seemed to be broad enough to engender lively conversations but still focused enough to stimulate meaningful idea generation and specific examples.
Think of how you can apply these concepts to your own work. Are there people in similar positions throughout your organization that don’t currently have time to meet to discuss larger issues beyond the nuts-and-bolts? Perhaps you could swap out one of your task-oriented meetings and allow them to huddle instead.
Can you use the four questions to conduct assessments of your own operations or in 1:1 meetings with staff members? Think of how you could frame your evaluations and broaden your thinking by sharing the four questions in advance and having meaningful dialogue on where each of you sees the performance in these quadrants.
Ironically, huddles took less preparation than a traditional workshop and probably produced just as much learning. What can you do to reframe how you absorb or share content that increases its impact?
From the Spire Conference 2019 – Thanks, bg!
An organization that is working on system-wide change did some evaluations with the front-line staff involved in the efforts. What many of them said was some version of “we want a road map” – please tell us how to enact this change, outline the steps for us, give us direction, etc.
The thing is – there is no road map. There isn’t one to give them – and the change is so new and so massive that no one could even make a map if they wanted to. Instead of a map, what the leaders need to give their team is an understanding of the process of change and reframe their identity to one of creator or explorer instead of follower.
I think about this on Columbus Day – and what must it have been like for him and his flotilla to set out to unknown destinations. There was no map for Columbus – nor is there one for any organization embarking on a change effort. In addition to spending time talking about the change itself, leaders would be wise to align expectations of their staff to ready them for ambiguity, missteps, and confusion – and prepare people to make the map instead of futilely seeking one.
It seems appropriate to share this quote again today:
When David Livingstone’s work in Africa became known, a missionary society wrote to him and asked, “Have you found a good road to where you are?” If he had, the letter indicated the society was prepared to send some men to help with his work. Livingstone’s answer was clear and to the point. “If you have men who will come only over a good road, I don’t need your help. I want men who will come if there is no road…”
…Or no map.
One of the barriers to change is overcoming internal resistance to ideas – and sometimes it is challenging to even identify from where that resistance will come.
A technique recommended in Creative Confidence suggests that you imagine yourself as owning an “invincibility cloak” that allows you to overcome challenging processes or people – and before your change efforts begin to consider where or when you would use this special garment. By framing the question through this hypothetical lens, it will often unlock keys to where you should expect to encounter resistance and give you preparation time to address it.
Harry Potter’s cloak may have made him invisible, but allowing your “cloak” to inform your strategies gives you much more power.
Source: Creative Confidence by Tom Kelley and David Kelley, 2013
To set a 1910 context for the movie Seabiscuit, the film starts out by describing the newly-invented Model T. When Ford began producing the car, it required 13 hours to assemble. Within five years, a vehicle rolled out every 90 seconds. “The real invention wasn’t the car,” the movie narrator claimed, “It was the assembly line that built it.” The process of building a car was replicated by other businesses and let to the industrial era of automation.
There have been other inventions that became a linchpin for others to use in new ways: the touch screen ushered in kiosks, smartphones, and tablets. The chimney allowed for skyscrapers and multi-level buildings which resulted in urban centers. ATM machines created a culture of self-service in industries far beyond banking.
But all transformative changes don’t need to occur through technology. Think of smaller enhancements you can create that have a ripple effect throughout your organization or beyond. Your onboarding process becomes a model for others in your profession. A new way of pricing is replicated by others (think subscription services). A whistleblower documents a complaint and inspires others to have the courage to do the same – changing the trajectory of leadership in the organization. You take the time to document a process and it enables others to build on your learning and achieve results that would have initially seemed impossible.
We often focus on the end results and only with time can we come to appreciate the true impact of our work. Keep building your equivalent of the Model T, realizing that your assembly line could turn out to be the real gem.
I listened to the audiobook It’s Not What it Looks Like, by the vivacious, funny, positive (and oh yeah, blind) Molly Burke. She shared many things to laugh about, think through and be grateful for but one that has been rattling around in my brain was how much accommodations for disabilities end up benefitting many more people than just the disabled audience.
Examples she gave include curb cuts that benefit wheelchairs also assist people pushing strollers or carts; close captioning aids the deaf and also those who use it to learn a new language to read the words as they hear them; and voice activation benefits those with physical limitations as well as people with their hands full who can’t immediately dial a phone, etc.
The Social Model of Disability states that disabled people are hampered more by the barriers in society than by their physical limitations. Universal Access reduces those barriers and allows everyone to function equitably.
What can your organization do to provide usage enhancements for everyone? Examples could include alternate text for descriptions on your images, always using a microphone for presentations, or web versions of publications that allow for text enhancement or voiceovers.
Do your part to make your organization and its message accessible to all.