Tag Archives: Team building

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Helping Old and New Work Together (4 min read)

Be Do Have Coaching_OldandNew

Your organisation has grown from a nimble owner-run yacht to a powerful cargo-ship behemoth managed by a consortium. How do you maintain your course, profitability and manoeuvrability while running the engine on full power and keeping everyone on board?

Some of your crew are Old Hands – they were there pulling the ropes to safely sail through the storms of the early days. They knew every crook and cranny of the old yacht, navigating with a sextant through the darkest nights and predicting the incoming weather from observing the clouds on the horizon. On the new ship, those Old Hands are lost – so many unknown passages, the complex computer driving the engine, the autopilot keeping course using satellites, even the weather predictions are provided by algorithms. What use is their knowledge of seamanship, the seas and the sextant? The Old Hands feel redundant and insecure in their positions.

To help run the complex ship you have taken on New Crew – they have never pulled a rope in their life, but can programme the complex computer, switch on the autopilot and interpret the weather data. They do not bother to look outside the window to check whether the weather algorithm is correct. When the Old Hands tell the New Crew of the best way to ride out the ocean swells they do not listen, and instead fire more fuel into the engine to power head on through the conditions. The New Crew think that the Old Hands are redundant.

You know that to make progress the ship needs both the Old Hands and the New Crew. So how do you get them working harmoniously together – as one team?

First you identify the next destination for the ship, with clear intermediary ports along the way. You share this plan with all your crew, ask for their input and listen to their suggestions, until everyone understands the way forward. You know that not everyone will agree with you, but you do not leave the dissidents out of the discussions, because you know that this can create unhelpful fractions in the team.

You create teams that include both the Old Hands and the New Crew, helping them to understand each other’s strengths, ways of thinking and communicating – so that they can work better together. You explain to the Old Hands that the complex computer will make your ship more efficient and profitable, especially as the New Crew know how to get the best out of it; and you explain to the New Crew that some reefs are unchartered in the sophisticated navigation software, so the knowledge of the Old Hands is crucial to your safe progress.

Right from the start you aim to create an inclusive work culture where everyone is valued, information is shared and each crew is clear about their roles and responsibilities. You minimise role and boundary disputes. You encourage crew to be flexible and proactive. Fixed mindsets lose out in constantly changing economic and business climate.

Everyone in your team is encouraged and expected to keep up their training and continuously develop their knowledge. You know that even the New Crew will fall behind industry changes if they stand still. The success and progress of your ship is directly linked to the knowledge, experience and talents of your crew. You ensure that the training is always relevant and does not leave anyone out. You want your crew to see training as a reward not a chore, so you regularly combine theory with practice in rewarding team-building days.

You encourage clear and timely communications. That way any issues are brought to the surface and dealt with quickly. There is transparency and fairness in feedback and appraisals. You know that a well-placed “Thank You” goes a long way in building relationships and loyalty. When conflicts arise between crew, you mediate or find an independent party to help out, to ensure that each side feels heard and has a chance to understand the other point of view. You try not to take sides.

You lead by example and adapt your leadership style to changing circumstances. You act with fairness and integrity towards all your crew, even the ones you do not personally get on with.

Sometimes, despite all your efforts a valued crew finds it difficult to be part of your diverse team. You know when to let go and wish them well on their way.

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As an executive and business coach, I regularly see tensions between the old and the new in organisations. Very few industry sectors seem immune from these pressures. For example, in manufacturing, adoption of new technology tends to cause upheavals. In retail, it is online marketing and sales. In any sector, transformation in management structure or business expansion or simply the unrelenting pace of industry change can lead to fractures in the team.

> What are your strategies for managing the tensions between the old and the new in your organisation?

> What is causing the rift – technology innovation, change of management structure, new marketing techniques?

> What advice would you give other organisations in this position?

For information on change coaching or team building please contact Natalia for a free consultation.

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Events

Why You Want a Mixed Team and Pitfalls of Profiling (5 min read)

Be Do Have Coaching_Team Building“Balance is key to every team. It is impossible to win a football game with 11 goalkeepers.” – Sir Alex Ferguson

Imagine a team of 11 goalkeepers. It would not get very far (literally). Sure your goal posts will be impenetrable, but your team would never score. Ideally, you want a combination of specialists (attack, defence, midfield, goalkeeper) and a few multi-position players. Similarly, in sailing, it’s no good setting off with just ace navigators. Sure you’ll know which course to sail, but who would helm, trim the sails, manage the cockpit and grind at the pedestals?

Successful sport teams require an assortment of team players, combining different skill sets, strengths and personalities. In the corporate arena, this is one area where businesses often fail to capitalise their gains. Why? Like attracts like. Generally business culture is driven top down. If the MD is a result-driven extrovert, who prefers to think in big pictures, makes quick decisions and communicates in bullet points, they are likely to get on easier with someone similar. Suddenly, the board is full of fast-paced and task-focused extroverts; making it harder for their more introverted detail-orientated or people-focused colleagues to be heard (even though they may have great ideas and important points to contribute).

Understanding and working with personality and communication preferences which are different to yours takes more awareness, time and effort, but the rewards are more than worth it.

One of my team, a talented round the world skipper, told me a story about his race across the North Pacific. One of his crew spent hours pouring over the meteorology charts to determine the quickest course through the weather systems, always waiting for the latest update before deciding on course and unpopularly spending lots of time below deck (while his colleagues froze upstairs). This drove the skipper (who preferred big pictures and quick decisions) up the mast. But ultimately, he conceded that the team’s success was in part due to their excellent course decisions, so they worked together to obtain the best balance of detail and decisiveness, and crucially, explained to the rest of the team why this was important.

Back to the corporate world, it is worth remembering that, even within a single profession, different personality types working together bring huge advantages. Take lawyers for instance, profession of which I have direct experience. Traditionally, you would expect a high preference for detail, task-focus, logical thinking, procedures, away-from motivation, internal reference, reactive action, organisation, self-motivation and probably introversion.

However, a modern corporate lawyer would also benefit from being proactive (when the case circumstances change), options driven (to come up with a creative solution), towards motivated (to achieve specific goals set by the client), seeing the big picture (how their work fits within the commercial solution and the whole business), people-focused (to understand the client’s needs and be a good team leader) and an extrovert (winning business, negotiating clauses, presenting in court, networking with clients). One person may not be able to fill all these criteria, but a team will.

Every time I conduct DISC or Jung-typology based profiles with teams, I ask what the purpose is. Some clients request whether I can devise a profile that shows that a particular person is in the wrong role. They have already made up their mind and would like “evidence”. In my opinion, this is a dangerous game, which disempowers the leader and weakens the team. Profiles are not weapons; they are means of increasing understanding and awareness. Used as weapons, they will make people defensive, resistant to any change and suspicious. Trust will be lost. However, used to their best, they can significantly improve team cohesion, efficiency, communications and productivity.

So how can you get the best out of profiling?

– Choose the best fitting profiling instrument for your situation. There are hundreds on the market. Some are better for individual career development, others for team building, others still for understanding communication styles. Determine what objective you would like to achieve. Be as specific as possible.

– Ensure that your chosen profile instrument and its results are appropriately presented to the participants. When introducing any instrument to participants, I never use the word “Test”. “Test” implies that there are right and wrong answers. Worse still I have come across some instruments that produce “red” for “bad” results and “green” for “good” results. Those simply make the participants defensive and more resistant to change.

– Be clear with the participants the about the purpose of profiling – if you would like to improve intra-team communications with DISC, present the instrument as a means of understanding each other’s and their own communication preferences, rather than as a general personality profile. Participants will be much more open to interpreting, sharing and applying the results.

– Consider confidentiality issues. Who will see the results of profiling? Head of HR? Managers? Colleagues? This is very likely to affect how participants answer the questions, and therefore, may compromise the usefulness of profiling. In a team profiling session, it is helpful to set out at the outset that the results will be shared between team members. This manages expectations and builds trust.

– Ensure that the profiling process and its results are professionally explained and delivered. In the wrong hands, profiling is at best a waste of time and money, and in the worst scenario could be damaging for the team and its members.

– Do not label people. Explain that profiles can change over time, are highly context-specific (work, crisis, personal life, public image, self-image) and the results are generally a combination of qualities, none of which are “bad”.

– Beware of participants conforming to type. A participant who obtains a high “D” (Dominance) in DISC may use this as an excuse/explanation for being impatient and blunt with colleagues. Instead, they should be encouraged to be more aware of the impact of their style on others and more understanding of other styles.

– Pre-hire profiling results do not predict in-job levels of drive, commitment and motivation. Those factors make a HUGE difference to performance and productivity.

– Finally, it is essential to USE the information gained from profiling. Very often once the profiling exercise is completed, it is quickly forgotten about and old habits are resumed. In order to assimilate new information about themselves and others, participants need to apply it in a way that is memorable and rewarding. This is one of the reasons why we combine profiling with tailor-made team building activities run by experienced coaches who can practically demonstrate the different styles and how they can work most effectively together. The other reason is because well-thought-out team building is fun and rewarding, developing trust, respect and understanding between team members.

Be creative and get everyone involved. It helps to take your team out of the humdrum of their office life – how about sailing, adventure courses, cooking, bridge building, fire fighting, logical reasoning puzzles, making clay pots? We have discovered that sailing is fantastic for improving communication, adventure courses teach trust and there are few activities more effective than a team campfire for thawing through team tensions. The key is to make the overall experience empowering for everyone and show how their insights can be transferred to their day-to-day work.

If you would like more information on coaching, profiling or team building events please contact Natalia for a free consultation.

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