Monday, January 14, 2013

Building a High Performance Team Part 2 of 2

Lesson 10

While still out on the beach, I laid out a plan.  After listing the people in order by respect, I drew two columns.  The first column was labeled, Weaknesses.  This column can get very long, very quickly because we notice weaknesses first and then have a tendency to concentrate on them.  You might ask, "Why write down all those terribly negative things?"  This list will become a map through the minefield.

The other column was labeled, Strengths.  I stared at the blank column and it stared back at me.  It was as though I had writers block.  Perhaps I hated to admit this person had any.  But, she was the most respected person in the office.  She had to have strengths.  I forced myself to concentrate on her strengths, which included mathematical ability, loyalty to the company, a good sense of humor, an appreciation for the finer things in life, and so on. 

Things I wouldn’t have necessarily associated with strengths on the job began to add up.  I began to realize the things that added strength to a person as a whole were strengths he or she could apply to his or her job.  My focus began to shift from the huge pile of weaknesses to the huge stack of strengths just beside it within each person.  The old dog was learning a new trick.

Once I realized how many strengths this woman had, strengths that weren’t being recognized or put to use in our organization, I was bursting at the seams with enthusiasm the next time I had the chance to talk to her strengths.  The strengths column was as long as the weaknesses column.  She immediately noticed I was enthusiastic about her potential.  I reflected back to her the things she felt were important and valuable.  What she thought and felt became my priority instead of ramming my priorities down her throat. 

We can transplant hearts and other vital organs from one person to another, but we can’t transplant strengths.  Nevertheless, managers and parents try every day and there has never been a successful operation.  Our job, therefore, is to be a catalyst between their strengths and the way we'd like to see the job done.  You’ll keep adding to both lists over time. 

A word of caution: The responsible leader does not leave these lists lying around the office.  This is an exercise for you and you alone.  Keep your lists at home.  Each evening take only a few minutes to pick a couple of your team members from your chart to connect with individually the next day in a coaching session.  Select one or two of the strengths from their individual lists that you can show them how to use more of in some part of their jobs.  Here are some ways to get started:

  • Make a list of the most respected person's weaknesses and a second list of the same person's strengths.
  • Keep in mind that the second list will be more difficult because of the long-term propensity to focus on weaknesses.
  • Lay out a coaching strategy for each person, based on your awareness of their weaknesses, but emphasizing communication with their strengths.

“Be aware of their weaknesses, but talk to their strengths.”

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Building a High Performance Team - Part 1 of 2

         Lesson 9

When my boss announced that the search for my replacement was on, I did what any sane and logical manager would have done.  I went to the beach.  My salespeople needed some breathing space, as much as I needed to be alone with my thoughts, the waves, the sand, and a legal pad of paper.  That's where I realized that there was a barrier or fence in my organization.  My people were on one side of the fence and I was on the other.  And the fence looked different, depending on which side you were on.  With this revelation came my first major team-building technique.

There was only one uniting factor in all of the people on the other side of the fence.  They all hated me.  It wasn’t a healthy bond, but it was strong.  I needed to end our segregation.  I could have invoked the power of my position and ordered my people to join me on my side of the fence.  But, I knew that yelling at people doesn't produce real cooperation.  Another option available to me was to crawl over to their side of the fence and try to recreate the wonderful camaraderie we had when I first came on board as the new sales person and they took me under their collective wing.  But, that wouldn’t be leadership either.

Then I realized that I was not going to reunite with all of my people at one time.  At best, I was only going to earn their trust on an individual-by-individual basis.  My first thought was to go after the highest producer in the office.  But, something told me that could foster professional jealousy among the other team members.  The situation could become even more divisive.  I needed to get someone over on my side of the fence that the others would listen to.

It dawned on me that the most influential member of the team was the person whom the others respected the most--not necessarily the superstar--but the person most respected by his or her peers.  Using this new criteria, I rated my team members starting with the most respected, the next most respected and so on.  I was incorporating the values of my people into my thinking.  The ratings I used were their ratings, not mine. 

So, I went to work on the number one most respected person on my list.  Before long, that person was actually saying some decent things about me.  Why?  Because that person was beginning to truly feel as if I was open and receptive to the team’s way of thinking.  Soon, number two on my list headed for my side of the fence, then numbers three, four, and so on.  Once I won about a third of the people over, the most respected third, others started heading my way from the far side of the fence.  Your people vote every day to decide which side of the fence to be on.

Here's how to get started on the Fence Technique: 

  • Determine who is the most respected among my team members.
  • Identify which qualities make this person so trusted.
  • Rank your team members in order of peer respect, but keep the list for your eyes only.

“Determination makes failure impossible.”