Posts Tagged ‘Teamwork’

Teaming Up: 9 Ways to Build an Emotionally Intelligent Team

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

The power of working together

You’ve probably heard about the teambuilding balloon exercise. No? Here you go, then. Each team member of a large group is given an inflated balloon with instructions to write their name on it, then throw it into a pile with hundreds of other inflated balloons in the room. After scrambling the balloons, the challenge was given: find the balloon with your name on it. After 15 minutes not one single person was able to find their balloon. They were then instructed to find any balloon in the room with a name on it and give it to the person whose name was on it. Within a couple of minutes every member of the team had their own balloon.

The team leader shared the lesson learned: “We are much more efficient when we are willing to share with each other. And we are better problem solvers when we are working together, not individually.” [https://www.teamworkandleadership.com/2015/10/short-teamwork-story-you-will-want-to-share-with-your-team.html]

What does a strong team member look like?

Teamwork can be defined as the ability to work well with others toward a common goal. I think the word synergy defines it best: “Synergy, n., the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.” The word is derived from both the Latin word synergia and the Greek word sunergia, meaning cooperation, and the Greek word ergon, which means work. [https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/us/]

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

Helen Keller

People who exhibit this competence of emotional intelligence not only work cooperatively with others, but enjoy it, even when opposing personalities and perspectives are involved. They are good at creating an identity for the group, and know how to draw each participant into enthusiastic participation. They are sharers. They freely share ideas, plans, resources — and the credit, both for positive outcomes and disappointing ones. Somehow they are able to put team goals before their own goals. They know how to build trust and respect.

Who is the best team-builder you know?

Those who aren’t so good at teambuilding tend to prefer working alone and struggle to coordinate efforts with others — or simply don’t want to. They’re known for saying “that wasn’t my responsibility” when a ball is dropped, or, “that was someone else’s job.” They tend to avoid conflict, and withhold information, unintentionally, and sometimes intentionally. They are known for not wanting or needing help from others. Without realizing it, they can undermine team decisions and actions by isolating themselves as a lone wolf, an island, by not abiding by team norms or standards. They see the team as a weight which slows them down from reaching goals.

“Unity is strength…when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.”

Mattie Stepanek

Today’s challenges to teambuilding

In the United States alone, it’s estimated that 41.8% of employees work remotely, and 56.8% work remotely at least part time. It’s predicted that this number will double by 2025. And while there are many benefits to remote work, this upward trend can take a toll on team cohesion if we’re relying on in-person interactions to connect. For some, navigating internet platforms for online meetings has proved challenging. For those who have mastered the art of online meetings, they know well that communication can be muddled with internet drops and lags. We’ve all sat in an online meeting when someone is talking and suddenly their voice is reduced to electronic sounds and blurred images. As you know, not a lot of relationship-building happens in those moments.

In just one year alone, from 2020 to 2021, Americans received 40% more daily notifications from emails, texts. And because it’s impossible to read facial expressions and hear tone in texts and emails, these methods of communication can lend itself toward a great deal of, well, miscommunication. [https://www.techrepublic.com/article/the-future-of-work-by-2025-36-million-americans-will-be-remote-workers/]

Despite these changes, the need for clear, concise communication is vital to building heathy teams and promoting collaboration.

What you can do to be a better team player

“None of us is as smart as all of us.”

Ken Blanchard

If you struggle with teamwork and collaboration, you are not alone. The great news about emotional intelligence competencies is that they can be learned and developed. Here are a few ways you can start sharpening your teamwork and collaboration skills:

1-Seek out opportunities to work with others.

2-Take a genuine interest in learning more about others, both their professional and personal lives.

3-Make it a goal to ask each team member how you can best support them, regularly.

4-Keep your team members informed of your aspirations, plans, and timelines.

5-Ask for other’s perspectives and viewpoints — and be open to having your own opinions changed as a result.

6-Develop your conflict resolution skills.

7-Share your knowledge and don’t be an information hoarder.

8-Give credit to whom credit is due.

9-Make it a point to treat everyone with courtesy and respect, no matter their job title or role.

Which one of these will you try today?

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

Henry Ford

Building Bonds

Article submitted by Amy Sargent

This month, we’re told to focus on romantic love, and encouraged to buy flowers, chocolates, and candy hearts to express our fondness for loved ones. And while these are fun — especially if you like candy —  there may be a better way to communicate your affections. Consider devoting some time this month to the emotional intelligence competency of building bonds.

Good friends and trusted colleagues are hard to come by. And there’s a reason. Many of us are lacking the skills it takes to nurture and maintain deep relationships.

With the rise of technology use, especially when it’s used to replace in-person interactions, and the ever-increasing number of people who are working remotely, alone, isolated from colleagues and clients, opportunities to connect with others face-to-face seem to be dwindling.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

– Helen Keller, Activist & Teacher

Andrea Michelli, Professor of Early Intervention in Mental Health, King’s College London, reported in a January 2022 article that 45% of those in the UK reported feelings of loneliness. She notes, “With reports that loneliness has been on the rise since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are concerns that it could reach epidemic proportions by 2030, unless action is taken.”[https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/01/lonely-study-green-space-city/]

The ability to build bonds with others is not some magical quality which only a few individuals are gifted to possess. It is something we all can develop. Those who are good at building bonds tap into their extensive networks of connections to share ideas, offer collaboration, and gain support when needed. They’re able to build rapport easily and earn the trust of others. Not only do they have a close-knit web of personal friends, they get along with colleagues at work and are not afraid to be open and authentic to build friendships in the workplace. They’re respectful of others and value people and perspectives which are different than their own.

When people struggle with this competency of emotional intelligence, they tend to have troubles connecting with their colleagues, direct reports, and upper management. Part of the reason behind this is that they are unable to recognize the needs of others, and don’t pick up on social cues to notice others’ concerns. They can be competitive, and when conflict arises, quickly let go or sever relationships to avoid the frustration. Because they have an extremely limited number of connections, when they need help, they have very few people they can lean into, which leads to isolation.

“No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.”

– H. E. Luccock, Professor

If you are struggling with building bonds with others, there are practices you can begin to help you improve your skills. On the other hand, you may be quite adept at connecting with others — if so, well done! But there’s always room for improvement. These same practices can strengthen and deepen those relationships.

Here are a few things to try:

  • Conduct a status report on your current friendships and connections. If you were to rate the quality of your relationships on a scale from 0 to 10, how would you rank your current friendships? Do you feel known and understood? Do they? And how about quantity? We’re not talking about having thousands of superficial interactions, but about increasing the number of connections upon which you can trust and rely. Maybe it’s time to make a new friend or two.
  • Note how your current relationships impact your success, both personally and professionally. Who is a major contributor to your achievements? Who do you turn to when you need help? Who reaches out to you for support? Take a moment to reflect on the impacts these individuals have on your accomplishments.
  • Reach out to those you are closest to and ask for feedback. Ask your besties what they would name as your strengths. Take some time to celebrate those. Then ask what behaviors hinder your effectiveness at building deeper relationships. Listen and take note of what they share with you.
  • Schedule time each week to meet with others, both to make new connections and strengthen current relationships. Even if you’re introverted, face-to-face time is best in developing better social skills. However, that may not be possible, so see if you can set up a virtual meeting at the least.
  • Notice what your friends and colleagues are going through. Can you tell when your personal friends and professional colleagues are experiencing stress or overwhelm? When is the last time you checked in with them — beyond the superficial “How are ya?”? Take the time to find out. Reach out with a phone call or text. Offer to help and support them. If you’re not sure what they need, try asking them directly.
  • Find someone you respect and trust and ask for support. It is not weak to lean into others. When we ask for help, it makes friends and colleagues feel appreciated and valued. It creates a safe environment for them, in turn, to ask for your help when needed. And, it provides us fresh with insights and perspectives as we work toward solutions…together.
  • Lighten your load. If you feel you have too much on your plate to spend time building bonds, consider taking a few things off that plate. Delegate where you can to carve out more time for connecting. Admit you have too much going on. Grab a trusted friend or colleague who can help you prioritize.
  • Seek out ways to connect with others, professionally and personally. Join the local Chamber of Commerce and attend the monthly meetings. Sign up for an industry-related workshop or conference. Join a social club or group who share your interests. Accept that invitation to meet for lunch. Jump on the optional Zoom call.
  • Become an excellent listener. More often than not, our inability to fully tune into others limits our ability to connect deeply. Put down your phone when someone is talking to you. Listen for the emotions they are conveying behind their words. Confirm that what you’re hearing is really what they’re trying to express. Here’s a simple test to measure your listening ability: note who is doing most of the talking in your conversations…you or them? If it’s you, a simple way to shift this is to ask more open-ended questions, and truly listen to their responses.

Which of these practices will you start with? Pick one and, if possible, spend 10 minutes in the morning thinking about how you might incorporate it into your day. Journal about it, and set some intentions. Who will you try this with? When? How? Where? What benefit will you glean if you do? As with any new habit, these practices may feel awkward or uncomfortable at first. That’s OK. If you get discouraged, remind yourself that building bonds with others is worth the effort, and your skills can grow.

Sure, buy the flowers, the chocolates, and the candy during this season of love. But if you want lasting, meaningful results, consider adding the gift of building bonds. What better way to express your affection this Valentine’s Day?

“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”

– Jane Howard

Becoming Trustworthy

Article submitted by Amy Sargent

“Do you trust me?”

It’s a familiar line from romcoms. The protagonist is getting ready to do something crazy and wants the heroine to go along with him. He reaches toward her with an open hand, hoping she’ll abandon all logic and jump.

And don’t we love it when she jumps?!

It’s fun to watch on the big screen, but in real life, trusting others can be tough. If you’ve ever been lied to (and, who hasn’t?), or betrayed, or deceived in any way, there’s a good chance you say, “No thanks, I’ll stay here and play it safe.”

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”

Stephen Covey

Trust–or a Lack of–in the Workplace

In the workplace, trust can be especially difficult to navigate. First of all, there’s a professional persona we all put on when we head to the office. Much of professionalism lends to a healthy workplace, by setting appropriate boundaries, offering mutual respect, and using polished, effective communication skills. However the downside is that sometimes our professional self looks nothing like our real self, and can leave us (and others) feeling, well, nothing. And that cold, hard shell of inauthenticity can be both exhausting to maintain, and empty.

Secondly, there’s fear. Fear of all shapes and sizes can prevent us from trusting in professional relationships, and instead, choose to stay closed off, hiding behind our masks of inauthenticity. Fear of not getting that promotion. Fear of being fired. Fear of management disapproval. Fear of employees not liking you. Fear of looking silly. Fear of looking too confident. Fear of … you fill in the blank!

However, without trust, the workplace becomes nothing but a hollow movie set of actresses and actors, pretending, resulting in shallow, unengaged teams.  Imagine, instead, if we could build authentic, value-driven teams working together with integrity to achieve success.

Wondering why your key players are quitting? Maybe it’s a lack of trust. Shelley Smith, in an article she wrote for Forbes entitled Lack of Trust Can Make Workplaces Sick and Dysfunctional, notes, “Team members who don’t trust their leaders are likely working the bare minimum and planning to get out.” She goes on to say, “If you don’t trust your team, you’re likely either micromanaging or withholding information and working on initiatives on your own or with a select group of people. This can create a vicious cycle, as your team may respond by pulling back even further, so you’ve created a perfect storm in this self-fulfilling prophecy of distrust.”[https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2019/10/24/lack-of-trust-can-make-workplaces-sick-and-dysfunctional/]

On the contrary, a workplace embedded with trust enables team members to feel safe — safe to be innovative, safe to achieve, safe to take risks, safe to fail. Paul Towers, Founder at Task Pigeon, shares this wisdom in his blog: “Successful businesses are built on relationships. Relationships between employers and employees, staff and customers, internal stakeholders and external stakeholders. At the foundation of all relationships is trust.” [https://blog.taskpigeon.co/workplace-trust-trust-important-workplace/]

What is trust?

What does it mean to be trustworthy?

It’s a way of behaving which creates a bond, or connection, with others which is appropriate, empowering, and safe. A trustworthy person is reliable and dependable and others feel enabled to speak their truth(s) and be themselves. Those with this competence of emotional intelligence encourage and participate in appropriate self-disclosure. In other words, they’re not afraid to share information — about themselves, about the project, about the company, when appropriate.

Trustworthy individuals are willing to be influenced by others, and are open to changing their minds in conversations with others. They are known to maintain high standards of personal integrity (doing the “right” thing, even when no one is looking), and their public behaviors match up with their personal behaviors. They treat others fairly and with respect. They genuinely care about others. They make good on their promises.

Would you want to work for/with professionals like this?

And if we asked them, would your colleagues, clients, and customers use these descriptors when talking about you?

Tell-tale Signs that Trust is Lacking

When trust is absent from relationships, it rears its dubious head in several ways. Do you notice any of these behaviors in your day-to-day interactions?

  • You’re not that great at establishing open, candid, relationships
  • You’ve developed a reputation for lacking integrity
  • You tell lies, often
  • You blame others for your mistakes
  • You say one thing and do another
  • You make promises which you can’t — or don’t intend to — keep
  • Your behavior is erratic, and inconsistent
  • You treat some people poorly
  • You’ve undermined others for your own gain
  • Others never come to you as a source of guidance or wisdom

If you can relate to any of the above, it may be time to do some work on developing the skills which build trust.

Trust Makers

Building trust, as in all emotional intelligence competencies, can be developed. Here are some ways you can begin your journey toward becoming more trustworthy:

  • Develop personal relationships with others by working on your listening skills. Ask open-ended questions, and tune in, carefully, to what’s on their minds and in their hearts.
  • Be accessible. Do others feel safe popping in your office to say hi, or talk about something which is important to them? We’re not talking about having no boundaries. But within your office hours, be sure to schedule time when you can be available to others.
  • Develop integrity. Check to make sure you’re doing the right things, even when others are not looking. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a counselor or a social and emotional intelligence coach to help build new behaviors where needed.
  • Always deliver on your commitments. If you say you’ll be somewhere, be there. If you say you’ll do something, do it. Let cancellations be a rare event, not something others expect with you.
  • Never knowingly mislead others or lie.
  • Know your personal values, and consciously articulate and demonstrate them in your day-to-day activities. It should be obvious to those who work closely with you and/or have a close relationship with you as to what you esteem and believe in.
  • Admit your mistakes. Own your missteps, and refrain from pointing the finger at others. Learn to express a quick and heartfelt, “I’m sorry” when you miss.
  • Don’t badmouth others. Let your words edify and lift up, both in person and when, on the rare occasion, you are talking about someone when they’re not in the room. It’s possible to openly discuss areas of growth without shaming or belittling.
  • Treat others with respect, no matter their title or ‘status’ within the organization.
  • And finally, be consistent with all of the above. Being trustworthy is not a one-time event. It’s a recurring and iterative way of behaving.

Rebuilding Trust

“Trust is the easiest thing in the world to lose, and the hardest thing in the world to get back.”

R.M. Williams

If you’ve broken someone’s trust — which we all have at some point in our lives — know that it can be rebuilt. It won’t happen overnight, and it takes work to establish a trusting relationship again. A formula which seems to work is consistency + time. The person who lost faith in you must be willing to trust you again, and if they’re not, you may need to let that relationship go. But if they are, they will need to see consistent, trust-building behaviors over a long period of time in order to trust again.

These developmental tips must be practiced regularly to turn them into habits. This can take time. But becoming more trustworthy is the only way to develop deeper, more meaningful relationships, both at work and at home.

“Trust is like love. It can’t be seen, but its value is immeasurable.”

― Frank Sonnenberg

Why Can’t We Get Along?

Article submitted by Amy Sargent

Disagreements are a normal part of everyday life. Gather more than one person in any room, even a virtual room, and given enough time, there will be variances of opinions. And this can be a powerful thing. Many of our innovative ideas come when we are exposed to fresh perspectives.

The Blame Game

The problem arises when we let our differences erupt into conflict, and start playing the blame game. At this point, it’s no longer a matter of disagreement, but a struggle for power. And suddenly, we’re just not getting along.

Learning how to resolve conflicts can lead to more cohesive work teams and healthier relationships at home.

But getting along, especially with those we don’t particularly like, and definitely those we don’t agree with, is easier said than done. Many of us are conflict-avoiders, so when disputes erupt, we shy away from resolve. A common tactic to avoid conflict is to place blame on the other person.

We learn at an early age that blaming can sometimes get us out of trouble…at least temporarily. As a child, pointing the finger at one of my ornery brothers “saved” me, countless times, from getting grounded, which made it appear to be a lucrative strategy! As we move into adulthood, many of us do not learn conflict resolution skills, and carry this childish behavior into our grown-up relationships, both at work and at home. It doesn’t take long to realize that assigning blame becomes a hindrance to healthy, happy connections with others. Sure, the technique may seem to protect our self-esteem, but it does nothing to move us toward resolve.

In her article, Workplace Blame is Contagious and Detrimental, Susan Krauss Whitbourne shares this: “Unlike other games, the more often you play the blame game, the more you lose.” Other studies show that casting blame is contagious, and negatively effects creativity and productivity [https://www.livescience.com/8018-workplace-blame-contagious-detrimental.html]. Nancy Colier, in a Psychology Today article, says this: “[Blame] blocks your personal growth, damages your relationships, and gets in the way of your own well-being.” [https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/inviting-monkey-tea/201601/4-steps-stop-blaming]

Avoiding Action

Blaming allows us to avoid action. Yet action is the very thing needed to heal rifts.

Pat Ladouceur, in an article entitled, Who’s Fault Is It?, says, insightfully, “Blame separates people from your values, beliefs, and commitment. If the problem belongs to someone else, then you have a reason to dig in your heels. You miss an opportunity to grow, to stretch, to challenge yourself. You might miss a chance to change the way you think or act, or a chance to be deeply honest: by sharing your fear, or disappointment, or sadness in a heartfelt way.” [https://www.mentalhelp.net/blogs/whose-fault-is-it-how-blame-sabotages-relationships/]

Ladouceur goes on to say, “Blame creates inaction. When someone blames, it’s as if they’re handing over control of the situation. “I can’t change until you do,” is the implicit message. The solution is in their partner’s hands.”

Self-Awareness

We all blame others from time to time. It is a learned behavior, a very human behavior. But it is something we can learn to do less of. Self-awareness, the first competency of emotional intelligence, can pave the way toward growth. But sometimes we have blind spots, and may not recognize how often we’re making someone else carry the responsibility for our own actions.

“People spend too much time finding other people to blame, too much energy finding excuses for not being what they are capable of being, and not enough energy putting themselves on the line, growing out of the past, and getting on with their lives.

— J. Michael Straczynski

How do you know if you’re a finger pointer? Try the following test, developed by Nancy Colier. Ask yourself these questions, and answer with either yes or no:

  1. Would it be normal for you to respond to someone with a problem by telling him why he is to blame for his problem?
  2. In relationships with friends and family, do you often find yourself pointing the finger? Do you tell others how and why they are wrong, using phrases such as You did it, or, It’s your fault?
  3. When you confront difficulties or inconveniences, is it common for you to identify and ruminate over who or what is to blame? 
  4. When you are upset or in a difficult situation, do you frequently blame someone for making you feel the way you do? 

Colier states, “If you answered yes to any one of these questions, you are a blamer. If you answered yes to multiple questions, then your blaming behavior may very well be compromising your relationships, your well-being, and your personal evolution.”  [https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/inviting-monkey-tea/201601/4-steps-stop-blaming]

How did you do?

If you’re a blamer, no shame. You are not alone. But if you are interested in growth, development, and relationship health, both at home and at work, at some point the blame has to stop. Whitbourne goes on to say this, “Learning to tell when you need to own up to your role in a bad situation will help you grow from your experiences, and ultimately help you achieve more fulfilling relationships.” [https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201509/5-reasons-we-play-the-blame-game]

Making Shifts

No matter how long you’ve been playing the blame game, you can start today to make a shift. Here are ten ways to get along with others better (and lay down the blame):

1-Set an intention to stop blaming. As with any goal, it’s helpful to be clear about your intentions. Say it aloud, share it with a trusted friend, write it down. It could be as simple as, “I intend to own my own role in my conflicts” or “I intend to stop blaming others.”

2-Tune in. Notice when you shift blame and take note. Is it when you are around a certain person? Is it only at work, or only at home? Is it when you know you’ve done something in opposition to your values? Is it when you are hungry, or tired, or emotionally spent? A great first step to stop playing the blame game is to simply notice when you blame, and why.

3-Develop your empathetic skills. It’s hard to show empathy toward someone when you’re angry with them…and it’s the last thing you’ll feel like doing! But try, difficult as it may be, to put yourself in their shoes. Ask open-ended questions as you seek to understand their perspective. Listen without judgement and ask clarifying questions. You don’t have to agree with what they are saying — you just want to validate their feelings. The emotions they are feeling — anger, frustration, irritation, injustice — most likely are very similar to what you’re experiencing. The feelings are legit — as are yours. Express clearly, emphatically, and often, that you understand how they’re feeling.

4-Seek a fresh perspective. Have you noticed that when you’re in conflict, it’s all you can think about? It’s the first thing which pops into your head in the morning, and the last thing you ruminate on when you lie down to sleep. Sometimes it can even prevent a good, restful sleep! This consumption can be detrimental to conflict resolve, because the longer you obsess on a particular topic, the bigger and more difficult it seems to become. You need a breath of fresh air. Get outside, engage in some exercise, talk to others (about anything but the conflict), watch a movie, read a book…anything to help you get your brain off the topic for a reprieve. Taking a ‘break’ enables you to step back and put your conflict into a larger-world perspective.

5-Name it to Tame it. Often when we shift blame, it’s to avoid uncomfortable feelings such as guilt, shame, hurt, disappointment, anger, etc. I get it. Negative feelings are no fun! Which emotion(s) are you attempting to avoid by pointing your finger? Be specific. Try to think of these emotions, as much as they may make you squirm, as dear friends, willing to tell you the truth. Emotions provide valuable insights into what’s really going on. Instead of stuffing them inside or pretending they’re nonexistent, allow yourself to name them, feel them, and note why they are there. Journal or talk to someone about these emotions.

6-Learn to say “I’m sorry”. Yes, they’re two of the hardest words to say when you feel wronged, yet so very powerful. Obviously, conflict is rarely one person’s fault. The Latin root of the word speaks for itself. Conflict comes from assimilated form of com “with, together” (see con-) + fligere “to strike”[https://www.etymonline.com/word/conflict#:~:text=conflict]. Remember, it takes two to tango. Own your contribution to the problem –even if you didn’t ‘start it’ — and apologize for the hurtful things you’ve said and done. Don’t wait for the other person to apologize first, because you may be waiting a long, long time. You can’t control their actions, but you can control yours.

7-Take Constructive Action. Instead of ruminating ’round and ’round on who’s fault it is, instead, shift your focus on what you can do to turn things around. Read a book on conflict resolve. Enroll in a class. Take on a new project. Help them out. Offer a kind word. Treat them to lunch. Not only will constructive actions help you focus on something other than the conflict, your energy will be repurposed elsewhere, pointing the way to personal and professional growth.

8-Decide to forgive. There is a phrase, “Hurt people hurt people.” Each of us have been hurt at some point or another, and each of us (whether wittingly or unwittingly) have hurt others. Recognize that conflict happens, and, even if someone is not owning their role in it, you can still choose to let go of trying to bring some sort of punishment or penalty upon them. It doesn’t mean you need to become best friends. But you can free yourself by forgiving yourself, and the other person, for the poor behavior.

9-Seek out the help of others. Don’t feel like you have to go it alone. Behavior change is much more palatable — and effective — when you have others walking alongside you. Enlist the help of a coach or counselor. Find a trusted friend or colleague who will speak the truth, and spur you along your new path. Choose a mentor and spend time learning from them.

10-Celebrate your wins. Congratulate yourself when you are able to own your role in conflict, and stop assigning blame. Big changes consist of small, day-to-day steps in the right direction. Try reflecting on your improvements at the end of each week, and keep a journal detailing your growth. Share your successes with a trusted friend, family member, or mentor and find ways to celebrate your growth.

Shifting habits such as blaming others can be difficult to do, and does not happen overnight. Offer yourself grace as you move in a new direction. You may never reach ‘perfection’ (does it even exist?), but keep moving, step by step, toward a new way of behaving. In doing so, you’ll begin to experience new levels of health in your relationships — and find that you actually can get along with others…even if you don’t agree with them!

“Everybody is responsible for their own actions. It’s easy to point the finger at somebody else, but a real man, a real woman, a real person knows when it’s time to take the blame and when to take responsibility for their own actions.”

— Marcus Smart

Leading with a coach approach

“The greatest good you can do another is not just share your riches, but reveal to him his own.” — Benjamin Franklin

Article contributed by Amy Sargent.

Very few situations create more resistance than the tasks we’re forced to do. Maybe it’s tracking expenses, or meeting with someone who makes you uncomfortable, or having to reach a sales quota to keep your job. When we have to do something, we often don’t want to, and find every excuse to avoid it. But when we’re motivated  and inspired to accomplish something, especially by intrinsic motivation (the type which draws from our internal values, resulting in ‘feel good’ rewards), we can hardly wait to get started.

More often than not, inspiration does not happen in isolation. Our motivation usually comes from others, often from someone in a leadership position. Think of the last great thing you accomplished. Did you complete the entire feat alone, or were there others who were part of the process, possibly by your side every step of the way, encouraging, bolstering, and inspiring you to be successful?

Some people seem to be gifted with the ability to see other’s potential and take action to help them be the best they can be.  In reality, the skill set they possess can be learned. These rare specimens show a genuine interest in helping others, and take the time it takes to thoroughly understand others’ hopes and dreams. They are able to help others recognize their strengths and also their areas of growth, understand their personal and professional values, and guide others toward moving past hurdles which may be tripping them up. They are able to give constructive and timely feedback when needed, and truly have a heart for the long-term development of others as they stretch toward excellence.

We call these people coaches, or mentors. And when these qualities show up in a leader, we’re inspired. Jack Welch said this, “Being a leader changes everything. Before you are a leader, success is all about you.  It’s about your performance, your contributions, about getting called upon and having the right answers. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.  Your success as a leader comes not from what you do but from the reflected glory of the people you lead.”

The old style of leadership where the boss has all the answers can prove to be very demeaning to those who work with him/her.  When teammates don’t feel like they have a voice, or the environment is not a safe place to exercise their voice, they soon will shut down and not speak up.  This quickly makes the idea pool quite shallow. Because innovate employees are often some of the best, they will no longer be interested in working there.

How can you tell if you’re an old-style leader?  If you can say yes to the following, you may want to shift how you manage others:

  • You direct, dictate, and do most of the talking
  • You presume and assume
  • You manages only for results
  • You solve problems in isolation
  • When things go awry, you assign blame

“Sometimes a person just needs a little inspiration or a different thought to get them propelled in the right direction”. — Tondeleya Allen

On the other hand, leading with a coach approach can inspire and empower your best employees. What is a coach approach? Coaching is a developmental process designed to help individuals and teams achieve and sustain top performance in support of the organization’s goals. It’s a venue for promoting discovery, learning, growth and higher levels of performance. It’s a collaborative effort where the coach serves as a strategic thinking partner, and manager and employee think and plan together. Think of it as an ongoing partnership, a sustained alliance.

Those who lead with a coach approach tend to:

  • guide, empower, and listens a lot
  • explore and discover
  • manage the development of employees
  • create partnerships with employees to collaboratively solve problems
  •  take responsibility when things go awry.

Learning to lead with a coach approach is about understanding the needs of those who work with you.  Here are a few things that people are looking for in someone who is managing them. They want to:

  • Know what is expected of them
  • Have the opportunity to do their best every day
  • Make a contribution
  • Be recognized for their work
  • Have someone at work care enough to encourage their development
  • Have their opinions count and be heard
  • Have the opportunity to learn and grow
  • Be respected

There are many benefits of being a leader who inspires others to be their best. First of all, it makes the manager’s job easier and reduces turnover and associated cost. It increases productivity, improves work quality, and promotes innovation (because the environment is a safe place to take risks). It provides clarification of the manager’s expectations, and “stretches” people to reach for bigger goals, to name a few.

In other words, people who are led with a coach approach become satisfied, engaged employees. Research shows that organizations with above-average employee satisfaction scores also had:

  • 38 percent higher customer satisfaction scores
  • 22 percent higher productivity
  • 27 percent higher profits

Learning to incorporate a coach approach to leadership can help you go from being a good leader to a great leader.  And along the way, you’ll be able to bring others along with you toward that greatness.

“Great leaders can inspire their people to unprecedented feats, convey grand visions of the bright future that beckons, rally the people to heroic efforts in defense of their country or their beliefs.” — Will Peters

13 Ways to Be More Collaborative

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.

Boy, are people cranky these days! And for good reason, right? Our norms have been turned upside down, and, combined with fear, uncertainty, financial strain, and worry — it’s a sure recipe for contentiousness.

Just take a look at just about any social media page. People can post the most innocent of comments — or not — but no matter, there’s always someone, or some-many, who will jump on their soapbox and argue, call names, sling insults, and make snide remarks, sometimes just to be disagreeable. Why is it when things get tough, we tend to throw teamwork and collaboration out the window?

Some would say it’s human nature and can’t be helped.

“Bad temper is its own scourge. Few things are more bitter than to feel bitter. A man’s venom poisons himself more than his victim.” — Charles Buxton

Oxford Language Dictionary defines human nature as “the general psychological characteristics, feelings, and behavioral traits of humankind, regarded as shared by all humans.” Why, then, if it’s something we all share, are some people kindhearted, uplifting, and encouraging, while others seem prone to be the thorn in everyone’s side?

It comes down to choice.

Contrary to popular belief, we get to choose how we react to the emotions we are feeling. Every single one of us can either choose the path of collaboration, or, decide to go down the path of contentiousness. We have the choice to either fall victim to our emotions and allow them to take us down the spiral of negativism, cynicism, and criticism, or use them as a vital source of data which can lead to greater connectivity and cooperation with others, leading to healthier, happier relationships.

No matter your circumstances, no matter how tough things are, no matter how utterly frustrated you may feel, you get to choose how you respond.

Experiencing negative emotions is normal. But we don’t have to act out on them. So why does it feel like poor behavior sometimes is an automatic reaction, one that can’t be helped? The answer has to do with how our brains are wired. When presented with stimuli which trigger a strong emotion, the signal first arrives to the emotional part of your brain, and communicates that you either need to fight or take flight, without delay. It takes another six seconds for the signal to hit the rational part of your brain and allow you to use reason in choosing your next steps.[How to best manage the six seconds that can change your life (for the worse)].

If you choose to react within those first six seconds, chances are your choices may be clouded by the hot emotions you’re feeling. Those are the moments when we shoot back that feisty text, fire off a heated email, or exchange hurtful words in a disagreement. This out-of-control response is a result of an amygdala hijack, a term coined by Daniel Goleman in 1995. The amygdala, the part of the brain designed to respond quickly to  threats, in order to protect us from danger, can interfere with our functioning in our day-to-day lives where perceived threats are now rarely a matter of life and death. 

If we delay reacting by just a few more moments, allowing the brain to take the emotional stimuli and process it with the rational part of our brain, we have a much greater likelihood of making a thought-out, cooperative and productive decision. [Amygdala Hijack and the Fight or Flight Response]

Easier said than done.

Becoming a team player, and leading others toward collaboration, takes emotional intelligence, including self-awareness, self-management, other awareness, and relationship management, to pull it of. These traits often don’t come easy. But with some focused effort and the help of a social + emotional intelligence coach, you can take steps in a new direction.

If working collaboratively with others is not one of your strong points, here are some things to try to work toward  a more cooperative approach:

  • Hit pause. When you feel your temper rising, take a break. Inhale deeply, step away, take a walk — anything to give your brain a chance to bring reason to the table.
  • Look for opportunities to team up with others. Instead of going it alone on your next project, find a few others to collaborate with and let them know you’d really appreciate their input.
  • Enhance your listening skills. When others offer their insights, even if you don’t like what they’re saying, tune into what they’re trying to communicate and take a genuine interest in learning more. Understanding their motivations may help you be more open to a differing viewpoint.
  • Keep others informed as to your goals, projects, timelines, and successes along the way. Communicating with others helps them feel like part of the team.
  • Be sure to say thank you to those who are working with you. Gratitude goes a long way in building rapport with others. Some people thrive on public recognition while others appreciate a private “thanks”. Learn your team members and be generous with your appreciation.
  • Lead without dominating. Seek out ways you can ask for input and allow for time and space for others to come up with suggestions, ideas, etc…especially those who may be quieter or less assertive.
  • Give validation freely. Letting others know their input is valued, even if the ideas presented are not ones you’d necessarily incorporate, goes a long way in building a cooperative spirit. An old proverb says, “In a multitude of counselors there is safety.” A variety of ideas, even the ones which sound crazy or far-fetched, can contribute to finding successful ones.
  • When conflict arises, attempt to resolve it sooner than later. Unresolved conflict can eat away at cohesion. Though avoiding hard conversations may seem easier in the moment, they’ll need to take place eventually. The sooner you can resolve disagreements, the sooner you can move forward toward your goals.
  • Treat everyone with respect and courtesy. There’s never a time when it’s OK to be rude, distasteful, or demeaning. No matter the job title, position, or lot in life, practice treating all people with high regard.
  • Share your resources with others. Don’t be an idea-hoarder. Who knows if your insights may spark imaginative ideas in others?“

“Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

  • Allow others to take credit. Your innovative ideas may spur others to come up with creative ways of doing things…so much so that they may forget the original idea came from you. That’s OK. Exercise enough personal power to not need to have all the credit all the time.
  • Empower others to be successful. Good leaders look for ways for others to be successful. Which of your behaviors turn others off? What hurdles may be keeping others from feeling like part of your team? What needs do they have? How can you go out of your way to meet those needs?
  • Get to know your colleagues. Learn their spouse’s names, ask about what their kids are up to, and seek to understand their motivations and personal interests. When team members feel understood, and appreciated, they’re much more likely to be strong contributors.

Learning to get along and work well with others will enhance your own sense of well-being, as well as contribute to happier, healthier relationships and a greater sense of community…something we all could use more of these days.

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford

4 Disciplines Create “The Advantage” for Growth

Article submitted by guest author Pam Watson Korbel

In my years of consulting, a few common issues arise for small and medium-sized businesses that always inhibit their growth:

  • Infighting among the executive team;
  • Failure to get out of the weeds and take the time to plan for growth;
  • Poor communication cadences leading to problems with culture and productivity;
  • Lack of appreciation for the need for a strong employee base.

One book tightly delves into all these topics – The Advantage (Jossey Bass, 2012) by Patrick Lencioni.   Known as a fable writer, in this book Lencioni focuses instead on the “how to’s” of organizational health.  I recommend it for executive teams in any industry.

Building upon the same premises that Jim Collins (Built to Last and Good to Great) and Verne Harnish (Scaling Up and Mastering the Rockefeller Habits), The Advantage starts out by laying a foundation of four disciplines necessary for strong organizational health:

1.  Build a cohesive leadership team – Anecdotally, I have found that when members of a leadership team spend a lot of time together, professionally and socially, their growth rate is faster than those who do not.  Interestingly, the personal bonds often spur the commitment to the business more than the professional bonds.  Lencioni espouses team building and makes a strong point that it is a process not an event.

2.  Create clarity – Lencioni lays out six strategic questions that every leadership team needs to answer on behalf of the company.  Beyond answering “why” the firm exists and what the culture is, the Lencioni system provides a framework for setting priorities.

Most importantly, it helps a leadership team to focus on less than a handful of matters at a time; completing them before it progresses to a new set of priorities.  In my experience, mid-market companies fail to advance when everything needs to be done today.  I have seen many companies improve revenue and profit just by reducing the number of initiatives for the company and for individuals.

3.  Overcommunicate clarity – Smart people who lead entrepreneurial growth companies often assume that their employees are as smart and agile as they are.  Generally, the employees who fit this description leave your company and start their own.  Which leaves you with people who want stability and consistency along with understanding of priorities.  And that requires that you develop a strong communication system within your company so that employees always know what is important and then they can execute.

4.  Reinforce clarity – The Advantage concludes by laying out a foundation of hiring the right employees who fit your culture and then providing high-quality feedback to each so that they are motivated to excel.  Especially in today’s knowledge-based industries, involving staff in decisions and direction keeps them motivated.  And as Ken Blanchard (The One-Minute Manager) says, “None of us is as smart as all of us.”

The bottom-line is that reading and implementing The Advantage in your company is a simple, direct way to encourage financial growth while engendering a strong team of supporters.  Lencioni lays out a process to address the four disciplines and implement them that leadership teams can manage effectively with coaching.

You can study this system by reading the book and you should also check out The Advantage app, which includes an overview of the content plus an organizational health assessment. For help with the four disciplines and implementing The Advantage, contact Pam Watson Korbel.

Do you play well with others?

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

“This job would be easier if people weren’t involved.”

It’s one of my favorite tongue-in-cheek sayings.  While true, as most of our conflict comes from interactions with others (though we all do struggle with self-conflict from time to time), most of us wouldn’t have a job if it weren’t for those around us — peers, colleagues, supervisors, employees, customers, clients are a vital part of any business. But working collaboratively with others can be difficult, frustrating, and downright annoying at times.

At some point in most relationships, conflict is going to happen whenever there is more than one person in the room. And our conflict management skills, which are a competency of strong emotional intelligence, are what can make the difference between frustrating, unresolved disagreements or enabling conversations where all parties can pursue the best possible solutions.

We all have a role when it comes to conflict, whether we are the vocal one who loses our temper or the quiet doormat that stays silent.

“Conflict cannot survive without your participation.”  — Wayne Dyer

It’s no monkey business:  learning how to navigate conflict can increase our sense of well-being and job satisfaction and contributes greatly to the quality of relationships both at work and at home.

How well do you play with others?

Ask yourself the following questions and see how many you can answer yes to:

  • I can see potential conflict before it arises and help de-escalate the situation.
  • I can handle difficult people with tact.
  • I can lay down my own expectations and be open to hearing the perspectives of others.
  • I can manage tense situations with diplomacy.
  • I can create a safe space for all parties to share their perspectives.
  • I can help all parties involved understand the other perspectives in the room.
  • I can hear diverse opinions and find a common ideal.
  • I can orchestrate win-win solutions.

Five Conflict Styles and when to use them

We all have our own ‘style’ when it comes to conflict resolve, but that doesn’t mean we can’t grow and learn other approaches that may better serve us and the situation at hand. In 1974, Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilman created the Thomas-Kilman Conflict Mode Instrument, which identifies five styles of conflict. There are situations that arise when some styles work better than others. Here is a quick guide:

1-Competitive/Controlling – A quick and decisive action is needed (vital in emergency situations), or the other party would take advantage of cooperation on your part.

2-Collaborating – The issues (and/or relationship) are too important to be compromised and the objective is to integrate differing viewpoints.

3-Avoiding – There are more important things to tackle, there is no chance of achieving your objectives, the parties need time to “cool down” or take time to gather more data.

4-Accommodating – You realize you are wrong, or understand that the issues at hand are more important to the other person and/or you need to build ‘credits’ with that person.

5-Compromising – It’s too risky to be too controlling, both parties are committed to mutually exclusive goals, you need a quick or temporary solution under time constraints.

Time for a Shift

How do you know when it’s time to shift your approach to conflict resolve? Simply put, when your approach is not working.  Losing friends left and right? Colleagues can’t stand you? Coworkers shut down and won’t share their perspective with you? Feel agitated and stressed when conflict is discussed? People walk all over you in meetings?  You are the only one talking in meetings? You get what you want but no one is alongside you to enjoy it?  If you find yourself in a confusing or disturbing conflict, try asking yourself these honest questions:

  • How was my behavior received by others?
  • How did I feel during the conflict?
  • How much do I care about the outcome?
  • What were my expectations of the situation and did they match up with reality?
  • What judgments did I make about the others during the conflict and were they accurate?
  • What did I want to see happen? What did they want to see happen?
  • What is my investment into this situation? What is theirs?
  • Am I acting in an old pattern of behavior that no longer serves me?
  • What can I say/do going forward to optimize the outcome?

Which of the five conflict resolve styles is your primary ‘go-to’ when faced with conflict?  Does it serve you well in all situations or could you stand to develop a new approach? If you struggle in the area of conflict resolve, good news! Behaviors in conflict resolve are learned and can be changed. Finding a social + emotional intelligence coach to walk alongside you to make behavior shifts can be a great place to start.

“When team members trust each other and know that everyone is capable of admitting when they’re wrong, then conflict becomes nothing more than the pursuit of truth or the best possible answer.” —  Patrick Lencioni

What is the Impact of Social & Emotional Intelligence on a Business’s Financial Status?

Article Contributed by Guest Author Pam Watson Korbel

Larry Linschneider, CEO & Owner of Linschneider Construction Co. (LCC), has watched his highway construction business slowly decline since 2008 when the recession hit the United States.

During the last 18 months, new projects are starting at a rate of 1 per month versus an average of 2 per month previously.  Consequently, sales revenues are 60% of the norm and profit has slid 5 percentage points to 3% for the past year.

More importantly, work is not fun for Linschneider anymore.  His employees act like children so he stopped having staff meetings.  The managers who report directly to him lack motivation so he quit managing them.  The ‘yard’ where equipment and supplies are stored is messy and two safety incidents occurred there in the past three months.  Plus, at a time when it would make sense for Linschneider to be re-kindling relationships to take advantage of potential construction opportunities, he chooses to withdraw even more spending most of his time in his office on his computer.  And two ‘A Player’ executives with LCC are now shopping for jobs with the competition.

While the names, company and statistics have been changed in this scenario, it is all too common.  Unfortunately, Larry Linschneider and many of his executive peers have not read any of the current literature about the impact of emotional intelligence on a business firm’s financial status.  If Larry and other executives had this information, they would have learned:

  • Lack of personal awareness among leaders is the number one cause of declining and failing businesses.  Larry has given up all his personal power to the karma called the economy.
  • Employees take their cues from their leaders on how to act and as a consequence change their behavior to mirror the boss.  Larry’s job isn’t fun anymore because attitudes are contagious.
  • Research by Six Seconds shows that 76% of business issues are people and relationship related versus 24% technical and financial.  Yet, executives like Larry spend hours tweaking cash flow reports to improve profitability.
  • Sales in companies that put a high value on people and relationships internally and externally can be as high as 37% more.  Small and mid-sized companies that focus on high customer service still find opportunities during economic downturns.
  • Profit in these same companies runs 27% higher, largely due to a company’s ability to take work away from competitors who do not value service and loyalty.
  • Employees with high achievement motivation, empathy and self confidence are more productive than those with just high intelligence.
  • The Gallup Organization’s research shows that 75% of workers are disengaged in their jobs resulting from the lack of useful feedback, poor assignment of tasks, not seeing the value of their work and working in a negative work environment.  Retention of ‘A Players’ is critical during a recession because forward-thinking companies consider this a good time to steal them away.

The research on emotional intelligence and its impact on business is convincing: hard results can be derived with soft skills.  Do you get it?

How do Expertise and Social & Emotional Intelligence Relate in Your Career?

Article contributed by Virg Setzer,MSOP

In my past blog comments I discussed two of the Nine Essentials to Career Success – Ownership and Mindset.  This week I am addressing the third essential, Expertise. 

What is Expertise?

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines expertise as:  expert skill or knowledge in a particular field” and Expert as, “a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area”

In the business world it is not at all uncommon to hear the phrase, “what is his or her expertise?”  In an interview, “tell me about your expertise”, or as senior leaders discuss key successors, the individuals expertise and overall capability is frequently a major discussion.  Sometimes expertise is described using different terms, such as what is his talent, but it all boils down to what is the special capability an individual possesses.  What is the capability or expertise that person has that sets them aside from others, in effect gives them a competitive advantage.

Expertise – Critical for a successful career.   There are many attributes necessary for success, but Expertise is clearly one of the essentials – it is in fact essential to continually build and enhance one’s expertise.  Expertise is not simply the special knowledge gained from focused education and experience. We all know of many people who have a vast resume of educational accomplishments, degrees, certifications, etc., yet are not all that effective in their performance.  Expertise is gaining that special knowledge and associated experience, but most importantly expertise is the ability to employ and apply your knowledge and skill in real world situations, and to do so in a highly effective manner.  Often there are people who are equally qualified in terms of education and experience, but it is the real expert who is able to apply it to achieve maximum performance.

Is expertise limited to technical or functional areas of knowledge and experience?  The ability to effectively employ and apply one’s capability encompasses a number of factors.  Those that are successful likely do not think of their capability as including social and emotional intelligence competencies, yet as we consider Personal Competence and Social Competence, we might make a case that all twenty-six competencies in some way have an impact.   A few however are key contributors to the successful application of expertise.  I believe those that may have the greatest impact are:

  • Organizational awareness: Reading a group’s emotional currents and power relationships; being able to “size up” a situation and plan an appropriate response.  This is critical in applying your expertise in any organization.
  • Integrity: Maintaining high standards of honesty and ethics at all times.  A must to build credibility.
  • Initiative & bias for action: Readiness to act on opportunities.  The term, “timing is everything” does in fact often apply in business – this competency is a major contributor to successful application of expertise.
  • Personal agility:  Readily, willingly, rapidly and effectively anticipating and adapting to change.  Our rapidly changing global and technological world requires personal agility now more than ever.
  • Communication: Listening attentively and fostering open dialogue.  Essential for every effective relationship.
  • Interpersonal effectiveness:  Possessing diplomacy, tact and interpersonal skills, and knowing how to use them to ease transactions and relationships with others; the ability to relate well and build rapport with all people.  Application of expertise cannot be completed in a vacuum – interpersonal effectiveness is essential.
  • Powerful influencing skills: Wielding effective tactics for persuasion.  A sub-set of effective communication, but also critical to success.
  • Building Bonds: Nurturing and maintaining relationships, cultivating a wide network; connecting with others on a deeper rather than superficial level.  Essential for a continued effective relationships.
  • Coaching & mentoring others: Identifying others’ development needs and bolstering their abilities.  Developing others supports and helps affirm your expertise.
  • Building trust: Being trustworthy and ethical when working and relating to others; ability to establish a bond of trust with others.  Trust is the foundation for successfully employing your expertise.

Building Your Expertise:

Building one’s expertise is not a quick or simple process.  It is also a never-ending process.  As people begin their business careers they may start to build their expertise based upon their educational background, undergraduate and graduate educations – the knowledge they acquired in school.  Over time expertise is expanded and the educational expertise supplemented as experience occurs.  The understanding gained from application in the workplace and on-going learning is vital to enhancing one’s expertise.

Building your expertise also takes into account the topic in my last blog – Mindset – building your expertise requires a “possibilities mindset” – a mindset of continuous learning and development.   I doubt that there is a formula or template for how to build your expertise?  But I encourage everyone at every stage of your career to periodically conduct a self-assessment of your expertise – an Expertise Audit.  Ask yourself, what really is my expertise?  What is the value I bring to the workplace?  Where do I have holes or voids in my expertise?  Have I only focused on developing my technical and functional knowledge and skill or have I also considered the social and emotional competencies associated with effectively deploying my expertise?  How do I best test what my expertise is?  What do I use to compare my expertise against?  Who can give me meaningful input about my expertise?  What actions must I take to improve and enhance my expertise?

Real Expertise sets you apart – it gives you a competitive advantage – consider how you can achieve that level of expertise.  Expertise is one of the Nine Essentials to Career Success – it cannot be taken lightly.  Whether you are 20 or 70, I encourage you to continuously build your expertise and in turn enhance your career!