Untangling Team Talent

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The biggest challenge to effective teamwork is the failure to listen and understand how to ACT together!

In our highly competitive culture teamwork is often impacted negatively by the individual members’ efforts to ensure they receive recognition and compensation for their personal creativity. While this is certainly valid and important, leaders are often baffled on how to integrate this individual goal into the team culture and communications and still improve the quality of teamwork. There are many commonalities that support leaders in successfully diagnosing where the individual needs of the members (talent) get tangled up with the collective productivity of the team.

Gaining the benefit of top level individual and team performance is possible when the organization, departments and team leaders work together to maximize talent at all levels.

Organizations, need to acknowledge the challenge and opportunity, provide support to leaders and teams to gain the skills to perform in all their capacities and express gratitude regularly!

At the Department and Team Leader levels, best practices call for gathering and using data, holding team based candid discussions in a safe and collaborative manner. Use a team model that gathers data based on “we” questions to access team performance. Most analysis of teams is misleading as it’s based on individual factors, not team strengths and opportunities. Thus, a compilation of individual results from personality assessments such as MBTI, Emergenetics, Change Style Indicator or the many others will further the challenge of focusing on individuals and not teams. This is good an valuable data, it just should NOT be the only data considered. It is vital to look at the team as a distinct entity! When the team is recognized, intentionally responded to and lead, the team is given much more opportunity to flourish and productivity is enhanced!

The TESI® (Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey®) identifies the 7 core competencies teams need to function well. Action steps to untangle team talent begins with each team taking the TESI and receiving their own report. Then pull the data together to view trends across the organization. With this information action plans can be created for each team and at the organizational level.

Talent can be untangled by working with each of the team competencies as well as the team and individual performance.

PIE color whole tagTeam Identity is based on how well the team demonstrates belongingness, a desire to work together, and a sense of clarity around the role of each member. Teams tangle when roles and responsibilities aren’t sufficiently clarified. Take a look – is there a good balance in roles that is designed to bring out all team members talents? Does everyone understand the division of responsibilities?

Emotional Awareness considers the amount of attention the team pays to noticing, understanding, and respecting feelings of team members. Teams tangle when team cohesion is undervalued and there isn’t time for enhancing interpersonal relationships. A central theme in building successful teams is that sufficient time and resources are spent so the team feels recognized, valued and that the organization is aware of them. This is followed by an organizational expectation, that is welcomed by team members, that they are expected to pay attention to one another and be responsive.

Communication provides feedback on how well team members listen, encourage participation, and discuss sensitive matters. Teams tangle when communication is focused between individuals and there is competition for the data. When the focus is just on individuals, team potential is diminished – collaborative intelligence has trouble showing up!

Stress Tolerance gives the team a reflection of how well it’s doing in managing the pressures of workload, time constraints, and the real needs for work-life balance. Teams tangle when skills are developed without equality and balance. Are some people on the team seen as hot shots who get the plum assignments? The cost will come out in many ways – discord from those left out, maybe too much pressure on the high performers and missed opportunities of developing more skills in those who are getting less attention.

Conflict Resolution addresses how constructively the team conducts the process of disagreement and whether the team is able to deal with adversity to enhance its functioning, rather than being deflated by the conflict. Teams tangle when competition is encouraged and collaboration isn’t. Teams tangle when conflict resolutions skills aren’t practiced with intention and courage!

Positive Mood highlights the level of encouragement, sense of humor, and how successful the team expects to be; is a major support for a team’s flexibility and resilience. Teams tangle when fearful attitudes prevail instead of “can-do” attitudes.

Lead your teams to success by using your resources and skills to maximize individual and team contribution!

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Team Leaders Motivate Your Teams!

Leading emotionally intelligent teams is a tough job. Developing your skill is worth it as teams strong in EI are productive, creative and loyal to their organization. Building team motivation is a key strategy for success so team leaders maximize their own success by implementing the 7 motivation actions.

Before you implement any of these steps, think about someone who did a great job leading a team you were on. How did he/she motivate you? How did he/she engage and follow through? Now with a good example in mind ask:

  1. What are the characteristics of the team members on the team I’m leading? Know your team members individually.

Get to know your team members individually and help them know each other through a personality assessment such as Change Style Indicator or the Influence Style Indicator. You’ll be amazed at how much good data supports understanding team members’ preferences. With this information, you can strategically target your requests to gain the best buy in.

  1. What’s my team good at? What are their challenges?

Understand your team strengths and weaknesses with the TESI®. The Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey®, is a team 360 reporting on how team members access their functioning in seven core areas of team engagement. These measurable results help teams focus on how to tap into their skills and improve areas of weakness. You and your team can measure success through the pre-post assessment.

  1. What rings their bells – what dampens their spirits?

Pay attention to the feedback you receive on a regular basis and repeat what works. Utilize your data on individual and team strengths in order to further positive engagement.

  1. How will the team break out of old patterns to awaken creativity and boost spirits?

Creativity is an energizer. Even though some team members may moan about change, when you lead them in purposeful change and have a defined approach and outcomes it will help build new energy and clear out old ways of doing things that aren’t necessary anymore.

  1. What’s your team attitude?

Discuss the power of attitude with your team. Ask team members to explore current attitudes and then set intentions for the attitude they will express in the future. Be specific about who does what so you can notice and affirm positive actions as engagement improves.

  1. What inspires your team members and the team as a whole?

What about giving some time to a worthwhile community project? You and the team could spend an hour at a soup kitchen or a day helping build a house. There are many ways to contribute. Challenge the team to consider options and find a suitable project. After contributing your time get together and debrief. Talk about how it felt, what you learned about your community and what it means to volunteer as a team.

  1. Determine how well your team that functions with emotional and social well-being

The Collaborative Growth team model measures the seven specific skills seen in the outer ring. Your team can take the TESI, consider their skills and opportunities, and engage in intentional growth. The model shows that as teams are deliberately enhancing their skills they develop the benefits shown in the middle circle, such as trust, and then progress to being a team that enjoys emotional and social well-being. This is a highly productive and engaged state which leads to sustainable good results. However, be sure to pay attention to maintaining those skills. High performance requires constant attention.

Unpacking Team Identity

box-unpack

As part of the launch of the Expanded TESI 2.0, every month we will look at a new team competency and where the challenges lie in developing it. We begin this month with Team Identity!

In some ways Team Identity is the most fundamental competency of teamwork because this skill set incorporates the desire of the members to include each other and work together as a team. Many of the teams in existence today were assembled by others and told to work as a team but by itself that will never accomplish the goal – especially in national and organizational cultures where competition is so highly rewarded. If members are not compensated as a team in some fashion (bonuses, etc.) the disincentives for collaboration will be hard to overcome, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be. This is a good thing, because in the U.S. it is the exception rather than the rule to see employees compensated for the productivity of their teamwork.

Being assigned to a team does create a real degree of interdependency, and this is the glue that holds it all together. If your boss or your bosses boss expects you and several others to get something done together, that expectation can hardly be dismissed or discounted. Unfortunately it’s not enough incentive to cause people to make the kinds of adjustment in their behavior that genuine teamwork requires. There is a constant tension between my need to be recognized as an individual and my need to belong and be recognized as a productive contributor. Let’s consider some of the targets we need to be moving toward.

Effective Communication (another of the seven TESI competencies) is the critical, bare minimum requirement for any team to be productive. This means all information needs to be shared freely and equally among all members and this is not so likely to happen on its own. Everyone enjoys some degree of special recognition when they figure out how to solve a tricky problem. One reason that it’s still a problem is because no one else has figured it out so far. The shift that needs to occur here is in the recognition that the team can provide sufficient praise and recognition to fully reinforce the members’ achievements – if it knows how, and makes the effort every time. (In other words everyone’s achievements must be recognized not just the most assertive or the most drama prone members.)

The way to recognize individual’s contributions includes making sure that all team members are present at that meeting when the recognition happens, then ask the problem solver to tell their story– when did they first recognize the problem, what alerted them, what steps had to occur in what order to move from the problem to the solution. Teaching the team to tell these kinds of stories can provide some of the best instruction through experiential learning that the team is likely to receive, so get the full value by taking your time. Ask questions. Teach team members to recognize and describe the significant details. This helps to explicate their internal problem solving process and makes it a much more conscious, obvious one that everyone (even the problem solver) can observe more objectively and reflect upon. The trust that is demonstrated when someone openly shares their strategy for problem solving with everyone empowers the team as a whole, and builds each person’s identity with the whole group through sharing and appreciating even a small success.

Trust is such a huge part of effective teamwork that every team can benefit from regular practice in developing it! Trust grows as a result of people keeping their word to each other, but you don’t want to wait to develop this team skill until there is a pressing need for it – that doesn’t work! Applying the emotional intelligence skill of empathy is one of the fastest ways to build trust. Use a lot of reflective language in your team meetings like, “I think you’re feeling pretty frustrated because you can’t get a quorum together to approve this change to the project you’re running.”

The meta-message behind this kind of communication behavior is – “I notice you and I’m paying attention to the challenges you face and how you feel about them.” Just paying this kind of attention to each other on a regular basis helps people feel included and lets them know it’s safe to share what’s important to them at a more personal level. Without this, Team Identity cannot grow strong enough to support the team in dealing with the even trickier issues that come into play when serious disagreement and conflict occur. We’ll look at it all as we cover the seven competencies and the cool new features of the Expanded TESI 2.0

Next month we will be discussing Motivation and how the presence or absence of that energy is influencing all the team’s members all the time.

The 7 R’s to Team Motivation

7rMotivation is your team’s commitment to mobilize its three primary resources: time, energy and intelligence. We guide you through understanding how to motivate your team in Chapter Four of The Emotionally Intelligent Team. There’s no cookie cutter approach for creating motivation – the right strategies need to connect with your team. There are tools for success! As a team, focus on the values supporting your work, the relationships and the rewards available.

We have emphasized the research by Daniel Pink that three critical elements support individual motivation: autonomy, mastery and purpose. These are all essential for team as well and you’ll see these principles included in the 7 R’s below. Autonomy includes the chance to operate with independence and to influence your work. Mastery gives the team as a whole as well as individual team members the opportunity to be great at their work. Purpose is unquestionably the driving force for why we do what we do. It’s the source of pride in our work, the core of authentic motivation.

Leaders use their influence and behaviors to motivate teams through the 7 R’s.

  1. Reason – match team members’ WIIFM – help them answer the questions of “What’s in it for me?” and “What’s in it for our team?” Create a reason to engage. Tie the reason for the team’s existence to their purpose and help them develop mastery in their skills.
  1. Respect – take time to get to know the members of the team and demonstrate that you value each and every member. Deliberately share respect between team members. Autonomy is a key component of respect and can unfold in multiple ways by giving the full team some creative time as well as providing the time to individual team members or to sub-groups. Google is one of the best known companies that have gained great results by giving teams autonomy, yet the teams are also expected to collaborate intensely. This requires integrity and real engagement – and leads to powerful productivity. Respect for the team and team members is an integral component of an overarching purpose that everyone is excited about.
  1. Relationships – you can’t bend on this one – compromises are costly. Lead your team to connect with one another and to consistently demonstrate regard. When teams are focused on accomplishing a powerful purpose, there is a natural inclination to build strong relationships to accomplish the common good.
  1. Resilience – let the team know you are committed to engaging with them and that you’ll help gain the resources needed to the best extent possible. Resilience is supported by optimism, which is best experienced as a contagious sense of hopefulness around the team. Resilience is a big concept and casts a powerful web to support success. When all three components of autonomy, mastery and purpose are actively present team resilience expands.
  1. Responsibility – hold people consistently accountable. Let them know their responsibilities are tied to the team accomplishing its mission and providing value. Thus when autonomy is provided, ask the team to then come back and report on what they learned. It’s fine if the creative project wasn’t a huge success, what’s important is that they learned and that the learning is shared in a collaborative spirit.
  1. Rewards & Reinforcement – notice daily positive accomplishments and say something positive right away. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking money is the way to motivate your team. Surprisingly money can demotivate a team. What team members need in addition to respectful pay is to be treated with respect, included in the discussions on why the mission/purpose is valuable, and acknowledged for work done well – promptly. Supporting their ability to develop mastery so they can do their job well is one of the strongest rewards available.
  1. Role Model – like it or not “monkey see, monkey do” holds a lot of truth for human behavior. Researchers have found that our mirror neurons are one of our most powerful sources for learning. Develop your mastery and hold yourself accountable to act the way you would like your team members to behave.

This is the stuff of motivation and results in team productivity accomplished by a team that is experiencing emotional and social well-being.

Team Leaders Motivate Your Teams!

team_cheerLeading emotionally intelligent teams is a tough job. Developing your skill is worth it as teams strong in EI are productive, creative and loyal to their organization. Building team motivation is a key strategy for success and it’s a skill team leaders can always enhance by implementing the 7 motivation actions. This article complements our earlier team motivation article on Change and Teams found at http://www.cgrowth.com/articles/motivate_team.pdf.

Follow these 7 action steps to motivate your team. Before you implement any of these steps, think about someone who did a great job leading a team you were on. How did he or she motivate you? How did he or she engage and follow through. Now with a good example in mind ask:

  1. Who is on that team I’m leading? Know your team members individually.

Get to know your team members individually and help them know each other through an assessment such as Emergenetics or MBTI. You’ll be amazed at how much good data supports understanding team members’ preferences. With this information you can strategically target your requests to gain the best buy in.

  1. What’s my team good at? What are their challenges?

Access your team with the TESI®. The Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey®, is a team 360 reporting on how team members access their functioning in seven core areas of team engagement. These measurable results help teams focus on how to tap into their skills and improve areas of weakness. You and your team can measure success through the pre-post assessment.

  1. What rings their bells – what dampens their spirits?

Pay attention to the feedback you receive on a regular basis and repeat what works. Weave your data on individual and team strengths in order to further positive engagement.

  1. How will the team break out of old patterns to awaken creativity and boost spirits?

Creativity is an energizer. Even though some team members may moan about change, when you lead them in purposeful change and have a defined approach and outcomes it will help build new energy and clear out old ways of doing things that aren’t necessary anymore.

  1. What’s our team attitude?

Discuss the power of attitude with your team. Ask team members to explore current attitudes and then set intentions for the attitude they will express in the future. Be specific about who does what so you can notice as engagement improves.

  1. What inspires team members and the team as a whole?

What about giving some time to a worthwhile community project? You and the team could spend an hour at a soup kitchen or a day helping build a house. There are many ways to contribute. Challenge the team to consider options and find one a suitable project. After contributing your time get together and debrief. Talk about how it felt, what you learned about your community and what it means to volunteer as a team.

  1. How will we know when we have a team that functions with emotional and social well-being?

The Collaborative Growth team model measures the seven specific skills seen in the outer ring. Your team can take the TESI, consider Collaborative Growth Team Modeltheir skills and opportunities, and engage in intentional growth. The model shows that as teams are deliberately enhancing their skills they develop the benefits shown in the middle circle, such as trust, and then progress to being a team that enjoys emotional and social well-being. This is a highly productive and engaged state which leads to sustainable good results. However, be sure to pay attention to maintaining those skills. High performance requires constant attention.

Communicating Around the Team Table

 

The single biggest problem in communication is

the illusion that it has taken place.

George Bernard Shaw

group_peopleAsk any team what they need to improve most and they are like to say “Communications!” And they are right. Any team that communicates well has the foundational tools to respond well to stress, conflict, changes and to have a positive mood. So there’s a lot in it for you as a team leader or team member to improve team communications. Fortunately, this can be done! Remember all those phrases like an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, or a stitch in time saves nine! Apply this tested savvy to teams and you know it’s time to improve how you speak and listen to one another. This is one of the seven skills in the Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey® (TESI®), described in our book The Emotionally Intelligent Team.

Yet if communication is so important why is it often such a failure? Frankly, it’s not a complex answer. The skills needed have not been taught, fostered and insisted upon; mediocrity is too often accepted. Let’s start with noting the key parts to good communication.

Communication is what team members do to connect with others so that they can understand the collection of goals that are being pursued and how well each is proceeding in the attempt to satisfy their needs. Communication consists of the following ingredients as identified in The Emotionally Intelligent Team:

  1. Sender: the person who transmits the information
  2. Receiver: the person to whom the information is transmitted
  3. Message: the information transmitted
  4. Meaning: the intent of the message
  5. Feeling: adds depth to the message
  6. Technique: how the message is communicated

Communication is how people interact with each other so they can satisfy their needs and desires to make life better. To communicate, one person (the sender) must transmit information to someone else (the receiver). This message can go to the whole team or to one person, but there has to be an exchange of a message or there is no communication. For example, if a team member speaks about an issue, and another team member later believes he or she never heard of the topic, communication did not occur.

For effective communication to occur, the sender’s meaning must also be clearly understood by the receiver. Meaning is conveyed by both verbal and nonverbal communication. If the sender’s words are encouraging but he or she is looking down when speaking, the message and meaning are mixed. Nonverbal communication is likely to convey more of the truth, so it is important that the sender’s verbal and nonverbal messages are congruent in order for the meaning to be accurately understood.

All communication has meaning, from the trivial – “Please post a notice of our meeting” – to that of huge consequence – “The building is on fire!” The feeling component adds even more depth to the meaning.

Finally, technique is critical for effective communication. Without the awareness and implementation of effective techniques, the message, meaning, and feeling in the communication is lost. The following exercises will help build team communication. We have provided many tips and exercises for working with team communications in our Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Facilitator’s Guide – TESI® Short. This is an important area for us to strengthen together. So send us an email at mhughes@cgrowth.com or comment here on our blog!

Can Virtual Teams Demonstrate Emotional & Social Intelligence?

arrowJoin in the discussion on “Women and Assertiveness.” Recent discussions are adding to the understanding of how women use assertiveness. One, The Confidence Gap, in the May 2014 Atlantic Journal is a must read for women, coaches, mentors and leaders. We’ll write more about this in future issues. What are your thoughts?

 

Can Virtual Teams Demonstrate Emotional & Social Intelligence?

virtual_teamWhen Manuel cut off Maria and implied her research was simplistic during the recent team webinar, most of the other team members checked out and started doing email. Maria wiped a tear away and swore to herself that she wouldn’t risk participating again. The Team Leader, who is a top notch engineer and is signed up for his first management training class next month, said nothing. This interaction cost the team and the organization in terms of engagement, trust, and willingness to take risks with one another, yet nothing may ever be done about it. Virtual teams face big challenges in being able to connect at an interpersonal level. They are challenged with non-verbal communication, conflict resolution and forming a strong identity. Virtual teams are likely to struggle more than other teams in using their brain biology support system of mirror neurons, spindle cells and oscillators, which Dan Goleman and Richard Boyatzis recently described as core to using social intelligence (Harvard Business Review OnPoint, Spring 2011).

Yet no matter how big the challenges virtual teams are proliferating. So what should a good leader and organization do? Applying a team centered model to measure and build ESI (emotional and social intelligence) will provide the framework for understanding and proceeding successfully to build measurable team ESI skills. First, let’s understand what we mean by ESI and by a virtual team.

ESI is a set of emotional and social skills that influence the way we perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain social relationships, cope with challenges, and use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way.

Another way to think about ESI is that it encompasses your ability to recognize and manage your own skills and to recognize and respond effectively to those of others. These skills, or their lack, are exhibited daily by individuals, leaders and teams. The question is how well these engagement skills are demonstrated. The answer is to have a deliberate process for expanding the skills the particular team needs.

Virtual teams are teams that are working from dispersed locations so that they do not have the opportunity to work together face to face frequently.

ESI challenges for virtual teams include:

  • Developing emotional awareness of one another
  • Resolving conflicts
  • Developing trust
  • Communications challenges prevail due to:
      • Confused or ignored commitments on response time to one another
      • Lack of visual and non-verbal cues
      • Often cultural and language differences
      • Lack of emotional and social tags that create a sense of connection
      • Relying on email to get work done

These challenges need to be taken seriously because they can cost the organization, team and individuals in many ways including through lessened engagement, decreased productivity, higher turnover, and missed creative opportunities. Fortunately, these challenges can be addressed. By using a solid model through which the team members are given a voice about their functioning as a team their ESI can measurably grow.

The model we explore using is the Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey® (TESI®), which is composed of seven scales that measure a team’s strengths or challenges. The survey is an internal 360 on team performance as it results from team members responding confidentially to a survey about their team performance. With the data in hand from the survey, the team can frankly discuss their strengths and opportunities as well as their different experiences of being on the team. Best of all they can then create an action plan to support their development. Later the team can retake the TESI and measure their progress, which will be depicted through a pre-post chart.

7 TESI Skills & Opportunities for Virtual Teams

Team Identity reflects how well the team connects with one another and demonstrates belongingness and pride in the team. It also includes role and responsibility clarification. Virtual Teams can grow this skill by:

  • Making agreements and keeping them- trust builds through keeping commitments in virtual teams

  • Establishing communication agreements, e.g. response time

  • Clarifying roles & responsibilities

  • Creating a logo or motto

  • Naming themselves

Communication reflects how accurately the team members send and receive emotional and cognitive information. It indicates how well they listen, encourage participation, share information and discuss sensitive matters. Communication indicates the extent to which team members acknowledge contributions and give feedback to one another. Trust must be built faster in virtual teams and if key components are not attended to early, the team is not likely to have the foundation it needs to get work done at a distance. Trust is initially built by making and keeping agreements. Thus strong communication strategies will support the team in moving forward to experiencing trust beginning with trusting the communication process. Virtual Teams can grow this skill by:

  • Establishing a communication process with understood time commitments
  • Practicing active listening virtually

  • Setting up conversations in pairs – virtually have coffee or lunch

  • Building reflective skills

Emotional awareness measures how sensitive and responsive team members are to each other’s feelings. Does the team value and respect negative as well as positive feelings? This scale measures the amount of attention the team pays to noticing, understanding, and respecting the feelings of its members. Virtual Teams can grow this skill by:

  • Taking a personality assessment and use the information, such as the MBTI or Emergenetics. Understanding work preferences will facilitate smoother interactions with team members.
  • Working with the TESI to build understanding of preferences.
  • Matching technology to task

  • Telling stories about something that happened when working alone

  • Asking questions and listening, checking out the accuracy of what is understood

Motivation is the competency that shows the team’s level of internal resources for generating and sustaining the energy necessary to get the job done well and on time. It gives feedback on whether creative thinking is promoted and whether competition is working for or against the team. Virtual Teams can grow this skill by:

  • Setting stretch goals

  • Intentionally reinforce what works

  • Catch each other succeeding and talk about it- make sure team members know this is a part of what they need to do as well

Stress Tolerance is a measure of how well the team understands the types and intensity of the stress factors impacting its members and the team as a whole. It addresses whether team members feel safe with one another, and if they will step in if someone on the team needs help. Stress tolerance reflects the level of work/life balance that the team is able to achieve including its ability to manage workload expectations. Virtual Teams can grow this skill by:

  • Talking about a non-work joy

  • Agreeing to all go for a walk at the same time

  • Getting up and stretch during the virtual session

Conflict resolution scores show how willing the team is to engage in conflict openly and constructively without needing to get even. It measures the ability to be flexible and to respond to challenging situations without blaming one another. Virtual Teams can grow this skill by:

  • Expanding dispute resolution skills

  • Pacing one another

  • Practicing paying attention

Positive Mood reflects the positive attitude of the team in general as well as when the team is under pressure. Positive mood scores indicate the members’ willingness to provide encouragement, their sense of humor, and how successful the team expects to be. It is a major support for a team’s flexibility and resilience. Virtual Teams can grow this skill by:

  • Going to the movies together (in different cities)

  • Supporting team members in setting up a time for two to use Skype or an equivalent and have a drink together, be it coffee or…

  • Making a big and consistent deal of celebrating successes!

There are many resources that will support your ability to use these resources. Attend or watch our webinar on this topic, our books Developing Emotional Intelligence: Exercises for Leaders and Teams, The Handbook for Developing Emotional Intelligence, A Facilitator’s Guide to Team Emotional and Social Intelligence, A Coach’s Guide to Emotional Intelligence, The Emotionally Intelligent Team, and Emotional Intelligence in Action, Second Edition.

We welcome your contacting us for more information.

 

Coaching Leaders & Teams to Grow Conflict Resolution Skills

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

George Bernard Shaw

We are often asked to work with leaders, staff and organizations to guide them in improving their conflict resolution and communications skills. It is an honor to have this opportunity, one we don’t take lightly. Our intention is to facilitate a transformative process that results in sustainable behavior change. Reaching that long term goal requires investment by the individual, team or organization and the coach/facilitator.

Make no mistake about it; this is about making significant change and usually from deeply imbedded habits. Change is Hard Work – it’s possible yet it requires focused commitment and practice. Coaching individuals & teams to change, grow and produce requires:

  • Understanding (the cognitive part)
  • Commitment (the inspirational part)
  • Practice (the determined part)
  • Feedback (the collaborative part)

Success is built through following our four step process to improving conflict resolution skills. If sustainable change is desired, none of these steps can be missed and the dimensions of understanding, commitment, practice and feedback must be interwoven throughout the engagement.

Step One: Diagnosis and Willingness

The first step is making the decision to seek coaching and facilitation to help an individual or team to improve their conflict resolution and communication skills. You’ve heard the maxim that a stitch in time saves nine. However, it’s likely that by the time this decision is made there’s considerable challenge. Nevertheless, build these skills as soon as possible, the earlier you can intervene the better, even if you only save four stitches instead of nine.

At the beginning we normally ask the participant(s) to take one or two assessments, the EQi for individuals and teams will take the TESI or both the EQi and the TESI. All individual responses are confidential and used only to support development. This allows the participants and the coach to have data on the current state of skills and competencies and to highlight both areas that need to be improved as well as existing strengths that can facilitate the change process. The EQi2.0® reflects one’s overall well-being and ability to succeed in life. It explores the role that sixteen different elements of emotional well-being play in one’s life, by applying the fifteen skills in this model together with happiness as an indicator of emotional and social well-being. How one uses skills such as assertiveness, empathy, impulse control and optimism significantly influences their communications and conflict resolution success.

The TESI® (Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey®) is an internal 360 which measurers the team’s performance on seven team competencies including communications, conflict resolution and stress tolerance. Team members rate the team’s performance and then the aggregated results are presented to the team, with each individual’s scores remaining confidential. This allows team members to speak frankly with one another and quickly advances the discussion to building a successful action plan.

Willingness to honestly review current behaviors and results is central to making meaningful change. Fortunately, we don’t need 100% willingness at the beginning. There needs to be agreement to participate, however the vigor with which the participant(s) engage usually expands over time. As they perceive the possibility that they don’t have to stay stuck in this uncomfortable pattern and gain a sense of safety and trust in the process, willingness to make change usually grows significantly.

Step Two: Recognition and Ownership

Before a person buys into making personal change, he/she must recognize that the current way isn’t working. They need to take ownership of their own behavior and how that contributes to the difficult situations. At first it seems much easier to blame someone else – “It’s my bosses fault” or “It’s my team member’s fault” or “My organization doesn’t give us enough resources or time to do it right.” There could well be some truth in any of these statements, but they are not the point of the individual’s power. We can only change ourselves. Yet, fortunately, our changed behavior often leads to different responses. If an individual who used to create difficult conversations instead responds with collaborative invitations to work together, they are likely to receive a different response, although it may take a few times before the change is trusted.

Others, such as the team or organizational system likely contribute to the challenges. Often one person is treated as the Identified Problem yet it’s really a systemic issue. Frequently, the individual does contribute significantly to the difficulties occurring; however, they are very seldom alone in creating the difficulties. Thus in individual coaching we need to work with the individual to take full responsibility for their behaviors and to embrace learning to be more successful. Additionally, it is very useful when we also work with the team leader, the whole team or other key individuals to address how they are working together. Nevertheless, even if the others in the process won’t participate in recognizing and making changes, the coaching can be significantly beneficial for the individual. They will still gain skills that improve their engagement, are likely to enhance their productivity and reduce the negative feedback they receive. Sometimes these benefits play out more effectively in new situations rather than the on-going challenge area. The benefits of these behavior changes are certain to impact both their professional and personal lives as conflict shows up everywhere.

As a part of the recognition, the participant(s) need to understand what their challenges are as they respond to conflict. Are they avoiding, aggressive, or unreliable in that they don’t follow-through? These can be challenges for anyone, however, the problem to the team and organization is multiplied when these are challenges are held by the team leader. Then many people suffer the consequences of their poor conflict management.

Step Three: Learning New Behaviors

This is the role up your sleeves and build new habits time. It involves are four components of understanding, commitment, practice and feedback. As the cognitive awareness is developed of what occurs when their responses are curt and perfunctory, and the participant(s) become curious about what else they could do, we are starting to build commitment, the inspirational part. This is quite important to supporting the determination needed to start practicing the new ways. Finally, feedback will help to in fine tuning their approach, learning the right nuancing and getting it right. Both introverts and feisty people may not want to respond to feedback. This reluctance comes from different reasons, but can have the same consequences of not building the new relationships needed. Thus part of the coaching we do focuses on how to work with feedback as they begin using their new skills.

Key skills from the EQi that particularly influence conflict resolution skills are: impulse control, empathy, assertiveness, problem solving, flexibility and optimism. All 16 skills are influential because of the complexity of working with conflict, but these 6 are at the core of effective functioning with conflict. Let’s say that Jill has taken the EQi, which reports lower scores in impulse control and empathy. She talks over people, responds hastily, is highly judgmental and will tell her direct reports abruptly how they are failing, but seldom offers solutions or helps them make changes. She seldom recognizes their successes. You can imagine that it’s hard working on her team.

Circle-of-EmotionShe has come to us for coaching on how to improve her work with her direct reports because her performance review calls out these ineffective behaviors. First, we will help Jill understand the process of working with emotions as reflected in this graph that shows the circle of emotions. We would work with Jill to understand the consequences of her approaches, build her optimism that she can change and help her understand how valuable that change will be. Next we will work with her to articulate specifically how she is interacting with her direct reports. Together we will diagnose the trouble spots so new approaches can be identified and practiced. For example, if a direct report is speaking she needs to not rudely interrupt, but listen and then respond. Jill can create reasonable boundaries up front to let them know she only has five minutes before her next meeting if necessary, and then set a better time to fully deal with the matter. There are many specific and concrete skills that she can begin applying that can greatly change her success.

If Jill’s team is also involved we will have them take the TESI and work with them on how they are participating in resolving conflict, which will necessarily include other competencies, especially communications. Through this process we can build enhanced resourcefulness throughout the team. As everyone gets better at working through difficult issues, the team’s success will improve and Jill’s changes can be more effective and likely will be more appreciated.

Step Four: Implementation – Practice, Fine Tune, Practice

PIE color whole tagThis is the follow through stage that requires diligence and has the most positive payoffs. It involves the components of commitment, practice and feedback. A key part of coaching is to help pace the process of change so that her work builds her success and isn’t so overwhelming that the changes aren’t practiced. In our example of Jill we will encourage her to practice some changes, get feedback and then fine tune her approach. As a few changes start working and become natural, we can work on new and perhaps more transformative changes. Deliberate steps and managing the magnitude of what she is asked to do will promote and anchor her success.

Overall, investing in leader, staff and team improvements in working through difficult challenges can be quite effective. Building effective buy-in to the process from all parties greatly contributes to success. It is valuable to make a sufficient investment so that all four stages are implemented.

Generative Discussions by Boards Create Shared Meaning

“It’s not the rules and regulations.  It’s the way people work together.”

Jeffery Sonnenfeld

In his article “What Makes Great Boards Great” Sonnenfeld (HBR, September, 2002) researched many of the structural ideas of what differentiates great boards from other boards and found it’s not the structure, such as financial literacy, age, attendance or professional skills that’s the success differentiator, rather it is the social system the board has established.  He discusses a virtuous cycle of respect, trust and candor that establishes well-functioning teams, including boards.  “What distinguishes exemplary boards is that they are robust, effective social systems” according to Sonnenfeld.

Becoming effective social systems requires that Board Directors individually, as well as the Board as a whole, use well developed emotional and social intelligence skills.

In addition to developing your Board’s effective social system, it’s critical to choose the best format for your discussions in order to be effective leaders.  Many Boards are aware of the need to attend to fiduciary and strategic decisions, but there’s a third leg to the stool required when Boards intend to truly be leaders for their organizations.  They need to help frame the issues, to do the creative work up front that selects what will get organizational attention and how the issue will be approached.  They need to be leaders in creating the focus on key matters to be addressed, not just respondents to decisions by others in the organization.  Asking how Boards and its Members can be more effective leaders is likely to cause a reframe of how a board’s performance is defined.

In Governance as Leadership, Chait, Ryan and Taylor (2005), present an excellent discussion on board engagement and performance tied to the strength of using this three part Board process.  They point out the truth that many Board Members struggle with finding a useful way to feel they are making a meaningful contribution.  Part of the problem is that too often Board Members don’t understand the Board’s purpose.  If they can’t articulate the difference the Board is making for the organization, it is impossible to feel that their time is being meaningfully spent.  And they certainly won’t feel like they are contributing as leaders who are making a difference.

A key to bringing Boards into the leadership tent is ensuring that generative discussions are a fundamental part of the Board engagement.  This requires adopting a three part modality to Board decision-making. The three formats pictured in this triangle are each valuable and distinct formats for Board governance.

sgf_triangle

Generative Mode: Generative discussions come first, before the data is marshalled into a particular fashion to support an action.  This is the fuzzy time of exploring what’s going on.  It’s a subjective process that occurs through the opportunity for open, interactive dialogue.  It occurs well before making the decision on what to do.  Rather, generative discussions call for dynamically and interactively exploring the process, factors, and pieces of information around a big topic that eventually come together by framing the problem.  The Board acts as a robust social system with emotional engagement in the consideration at hand.  There is sufficient shared knowledge to work together with the CEO and leadership team and make sense of the topic so it can then move forward to be resolved through strategic and fidicuary decision-making.  This is the first step in shared leadership. If the Board is not involved in this step of meaning-making it’s leadership role is significantly compromised.

Fiduciary Mode: In this familiar mode the Board acts as a overseer of resources, legal compliance and fiscal accountability.  The Board’s fiduciary responsibilities are sometimes phrased as having a duty of care to quality and financial decisions, a duty of loyalty to being legally responsible and compliant and a duty of obedience to the purpose and mission of the organization. I would also add that there’s a duty to provide leadership, which calls for the generative conversation.

Strategic Mode: The board acts as a strategic partner to the CEO and senior leaders setting a course of action and priorities and goals against which performance can be monitored.

Generative Dialogue

Having a strong sense of purpose is likely the strongest motivator leading to successful Boards and its Directors.  Knowing what the purpose of the Board is allows Directors to guage their own success as a Director and to focus their time and efforts towards what matters most.  The Board is then a co-participant with the CEO and senior leadership in being a sense-maker or meaning maker.  Thus the Board is

not just told X + Y = Z but X and Y are occuring, let’s explore what this means and how to proceed.  As an example, for a hospital, that can mean the Board, CEO and physicians engaging in thoughtful and open discussions about what the massive changes in healthcare mean to physicians and their role in healthcare.  They can explore the most effective ways to build newly constructed relationships with a new

sense of partnership.  This gives the Board the power to participate as leaders rather than simply being in the position of approving a move to hire more physicians.  This is an example of sharing the experience of the discussion and through that developing a shared meaning.  With the foundation this conversation creates, the strategic and fiduciary work will flow as solutions are found. Significantly, the Board will be more engaged and have a authentic experience of being purposeful. This also supports the Board’s intellectual capital in being sufficiently developed to support effective Board leadership in the fiduciary and strategic domains.  Very importantly, as Chait points out, the quest is not to focus on a board member’s individual intellect, but rather on the “collective brainpower” that can be channeled into the mutual analysis and robust discussion that lead to effective governance and an experience of shared purpose.

Chait wisely comments,“Generative governance requires a fusion of thinking, not a division of labor.”  Helpful metaphors can be thinking of the board as a “sounding board” with the opportunity for the CEO to work together with the Board to define issues, frame problems and then pursue solutions.  As Chait et al comment, we can imagine the CEO and Board as co-pilots.  Instead of the Board being kept in a narrow role of approving management solutions, the Board plays an active role in defining the problem.

When Boards are engaged together with the Executives to define and resolve the decision, the foundation is laid for the Board understanding it’s role and the purpose of their existence.  This supports the Board creating a robust social system, developing a direct path to using their emotional and social intelligence skills and joining the ranks of the Great Boards.

Teams Getting Beyond Doing More with Less

Teams are encountering the request or demand to do more with less all too frequently. How do they respectfully re-direct expectations to gain more success in meeting productivity expectations while building their own team emotional and social intelligence? We’re the first to acknowledge that it isn’t easy. However there are strategies to support success. We discussed many in our recent webinar and will review many here.

First, as Dick Thompson, the publisher of the TESI® noted, teams under stress start focusing more individually and less on the team as a whole, which negatively affects the team’s ability to process information. Interpersonal issues between team members are often heightened, conflict is more likely to arise and can be harder to resolve and the sense of well-being is reduced. Working with the seven team skills measured by the TESI (Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey®) provides teams and their leaders with a powerful model to support their success. Each skill is identified together with a tip or tips for building team strength in addressing the stress of being asked to do more with less.

Team Identity is a skill that supports a sense of connection instead of the isolation stress can bring and that in turn helps teams better respond to management pressure effectively. Teams can build their skills by taking charge of some of their time together and have fun. When they get to know each other better, they can work on the same wave length, resolve challenges quicker and be more relaxed. So go to lunch together, go for a walk, or have a regular celebration for birthdays of the month. If your team ever is challenged by management for taking the time, respond that neuroscience shows that taking some breaks supports much more productivity.

Team Motivation gets the team geared up to meet the challenge they face. However, challenges must be reasonably designed so the team has a chance to be successful. If too much is asked the team becomes demotivated because they’re set up to fail. Part of the answer comes from the team finding their bigger “yes”. When they find what is more important they gain strategic perspective, it’s easier to communicate to one another and to management.

Team Emotional Awareness helps team members recognize what’s happening so they can respond to one another and to the situation. When they learn to name the stress and pressures out loud, team members can then discuss their feelings, hopes and worries. They become aware of how to support one another and do so more effectively with the opportunity to release at least some of the tension.
Team Communication is essential in so many ways, for example in applying their reality testing skills. When team members communicate they can discuss how many expectations are on their plate, lay out a strategic plan and propose direction to management to guide their mutual work. This can mean realizing there just aren’t enough resources to tackle all the tasks on their plate. They can show why and suggest the best course of action. Teams often lump everything they need to do under the concept of communications. This clouds the clarity that comes from recognizing communication touches all their skills, but can be separated from the other six TESI skills.
Team Stress Tolerance skills are central to addressing the challenge of being asked to do more with less. One core set of strategies comes with managing their physiology. For example, they can practice exhaling as long as they can, which shifts their conscious attention away from their overheated cognitive circuits. This easy strategy “refreshes their mental screens”. They can practice stair therapy – go climb one or more sets of stairs if possible before making a key decision or confronting someone. They can take a walk together, which is a great way to get to know one another and supports quicker team work when back at the office.
Team Conflict Resolution calls for teams to develop more collaborative solutions that strengthen their productivity and persuasive ability with management. Teams might perform a SWOT analysis on key activities, brainstorm how to make one or two meaningful changes, implement and then check back in in a few weeks. Incremental change is more sustainable and empowering than extreme makeovers!
Team Positive Mood gives the team energy, enhances happiness and better decision making. It’s at the center of developing real team agility. This brings us full circle by connecting with the idea under team identity of taking time to play. It can feel highly counterintuitive when the team is under pressure. Nevertheless, taking time out provides perspective and supports well-being at all levels.
How are your teams managing their challenges of being asked to do more with less? Let us know!