I was 20 years old working for a US software company in the Uk and I was lucky enough to land a boss who was keen for me to develop. He recommended a 12 week Dale Carnegie course based around the book: How to win friends and influence people. The book changed my life and my career trajectory.
I have read the book numerous times and even thought the book was written in 1936. The lessons are as relevant today as they were then.
Each chapters headings are critical leadership skills and life skills. We should teach this to children at school.
My favourite chapters of all is don’t criticise, condemn and complain, followed by seek to understand before your understood.
The book is full of real life stories, that really challenge your thinking and actions. A must read for enjoying life and really developing great friendships and rapport.
Are you in a team where you feel you belong? you loved getting out of bed every day and connecting with your peers, they inspired you, you felt safe to share your vulnerabilities, felt safe to challenge the norm and together you delivered outstanding results?
Patrick Lecioni’s story of the Five dysfunctions of a team, is about the foundations that have to be in place to be a high performing team. As a leader your role is to create a safe environment for the team to express themselves without judgement and actively encourage the team to challenge, so the team can develop and remain highly engaged.
Here are the seven steps for you as the leader to build a high performing team:
Once the strategy is in place. Reviewing progress(monthly/quarterly): what’s working and not working, is essential with the team. Celebrate every success along the way, as the motivation for the team is critical. When parts are not working; Ask the team why they think it’s not working? what should we do? Amend the strategy and don’t forget to share the learning. At the back of the book 5 dysfunctions of a team, there is a survey and action plans on each of the 5 dysfunctions, use this with your team quarterly to see which area of the 5 dysfunctions need attention.
On the bus/off the bus. If the commitment of an individual or individuals is not there, tackle the situation head on. What is the issue? Is it behavioral? Get on top of this quickly as having a detractor in the team can slow the whole team, even if they are outstanding performers. Toxic individuals can bring a whole team down.
Another lesson during Covid19, the importance of regular 30 minute check ins without an agenda. Time to catch up and share, more recently the challenges for the team in Melbourne.
Personal development plans for each team member. Tailoring to the ability and need of the individual. This is critical for motivation and development. Being able to clearly articulate the difference between average, above average and excellent with clear examples of what they need to deliver helps them understand how they can be more successful.
Work with your team members to find internal and external mentors. This is so powerful, there are many times I have had individuals looking to move into different areas of the business and I have found them a mentor in that area and within 12 months they have secured a role.
Diversity is key to the above being successful. If you have inherited a team with poor diversity, here are some additional steps that you will need to take:
1. If you are in a corporate with a graduate program, go and introduce yourself to the Graduate talent manager, find out why graduates would find coming to your part of the business interesting and become a “destination for graduates”. They really know how to shake up a culture with their drive and curiosity.
2. Find talent in other parts of the business looking for a challenge and secure them on a secondment to deliver key components of the strategy. This is a true win/win in business for the individual and for the company.
3. Ensure the minorities are well supported and take time to understand any poor behavior. In my experience where you have low diversity of age, culture, gender and LBGT, you will have behaviors that will not be acceptable.
4. Expect to take 12-24 months to fix.
There are many leaders who believe the term “high performing teams” is overused. For me it is absolutely essential as a leader to create the environment that people can thrive and deliver outstanding results and that by definition is High performing teams.
I wish you all the best with building a high performance team.
A new employee in the team a few years in full time work shared with me his concerns about having difficult conversations. He said he is not looking forward to the conversations I have to have with various customers. I was curious as to why, he said they are really difficult you are sharing information with the customer, they really don’t want to hear.
I asked how did the customer respond when I delivered the news around the real challenges not perceived challenges by the customer in a customer meeting a few days prior to the catch up. He responded the customer was really appreciative of you sharing your insights.
Trust is built when we share insights and information that the recipient has not considered.
My belief is that I have a duty of care to provide information that has not been previously considered, so better outcomes can be achieved.
The new employees perception and beliefs play a big part on the approach. He felt very uncomfortable with the information being delivered, he saw it as challenging. The frame of reference for him was delivering bad news, mine was delivering important information to help them be successful.
The same is true when we have performance issues with employees. When we approach it in the frame of mind, I want to help and ensure success, as opposed to you have let me down, your message lands in a supportive as opposed to judgmental way.
What is you intention when approaching a difficult conversation?
Is the intention one of support and advice? If yes go ahead, if no, rethink your own intentions and take the time to approach at a time when you are in a better mind set to have the conversation.
Feedback is critical for growth, yet often leaders are not comfortable sharing the feedback with the individual, often discussing individuals behaviour and performance behind their back. Frustrating if you are always working on being the better version of your self.
You may have a boss who shares remarks about your team, when you ask have you given the individual the feedback they says no. When you ask why, they say ‘ I don’t want to hurt them’. Hurting them is not having the conversation with the individual.
Be very wary of leaders who gossip about others behaviour, but when you question them, have they had the conversation with the the individual and they say No. What are they saying about you? Worse still when the comment is a “perception” and their are no facts to support.
I treat others the way I wanted to be treated my self. Transparency and truth is a key value, therefore I will share observation for improvements because I care and I want them to improve. Always give feedback within 24 hours of the observation.
When we genuinely care about others you help them, not judge them. When we speak about others failings without them being present, ask yourself, how would I feel if I heard what was being said about me behind my back. The answer is simple don’t do it! Have the guts to have the conversation with the person you have the observation about, show them you care about them, be genuine with your conversation.
There is a great article written the Harvard Business review on What to Do If Your Career Is Stalled and You Don’t Know Why? This goes to the heart of poor leadership, when the right coaching is not taken seriously enough and a high performer misses an opportunity on a behaviour that could have been coached to success.
Our ego is our identity, without it we believe we are nothing. The reality without it we are happy people who can be present. So how does ego show up?
Eckhart Tolle uses examples and stories, that help you recognise where ego gets in the way of happiness.
Our image of ourselves is derived through where we live, the car we drive, the gym we join, telling others who we know, our celebrity encounters, what we know, our experience, qualifications and the list goes on. We believe we need these to be successful, but what is success if you get there are you are having no more fun!
“Nonresistance, nonjudgement, and non attachment are the three aspects of true freedom and enlightened living.” Summarised beautifully by Eckhart.
These are articles previously written on the topics:
Story telling is an art and something valued in society, as it creates connection, its memorable, its predictable to the listener as it has a beginning middle and end. However there are stories that we tell ourselves and others which are highly damaging. They right what we see as wrong in the world and stop us learning from the situation.
For many years I told a story about why I left the entrepreneurial world of start up to goto corporate. The story is I wanted to see how big companies worked. That is true but another story I tell is how I failed to influence the CTO and CEO of the global business to take a more pragmatic approach to a technology sunset challenge. A story I told for many years: This was to validate to me that the decision that was made that led to the business having to be sold, was not of my making. That story blocked me from understanding my own failing which is to tell and not ask questions, a much more powerful to influence.
I was in a leadership workshop and Lisa Vos the facilitator from Bendelta asked us to respond to how we felt about a workshop we had completed. She was listening for I feel XXXX. She explicitly asked for us not to tell stories, as this allows us to justify our response and she was not interested in that. I pondered on her request and then observed the groups responses, as soon as someone started with a story I could hear the difference. This was a profound moment as I like to tell stories all the time and realise that we cannot be vulnerable whilst we are in self justification mode of story telling.
What stories do you tell yourself to make you feel better about a situation?
How long have you been telling them to yourself and others?
What is the real reflection from the situation?
What are you going to say you learnt from the situation?
When you next feel something say I feel instead of telling a story that justifies your behaviour.
I thought I was alone on the need to find out how large companies work. After 20 years in tech start ups, small and medium sized business, I had a desire to understand how large business operate, how they scale, how they manage the volume of business. I secured my first corporate gig in Salesforce.com in my 40’s!
7 years on I have no regrets, I have personally grown, I am still an entrepreneur at heart and love the opportunities that present themselves daily. The transition is the hardest personal development opportunity I have ever been through, but worthwhile.
In preparation to going into corporate from a small business here are the five skills you need to perfect:
Stakeholder management: In small business can you can afford to be dismissive and intolerant of others. In corporate you have to work at every relationship and interaction. If you don’t you can earn the reputation as “throwing others under the bus”, “difficult to deal with” . The key to success is understanding what your stakeholders want from you, how you can help them through insights and sharing information and working as one.
Judgement: Let go of it. It has no purpose and gets you into a heap of trouble. Move from thinking about the persons annoying habits to how you can help them. Build great relationships across the business. you cannot afford to have anyone who speaks negatively about you, as that will stop your career and find it difficult to achieve the results
Job descriptions: In small business you need a versatile team that work across multiple disciplines, Job descriptions are a guide. In corporate the need for clarity around roles and responsibilities is critical to the growing empires. In rapid growth the land grab is part of the political positioning by leaders. Be careful when stepping over boundaries that you do it with consent.
Influence: ability to change others thinking. In small business, energy and passion does the trick, in corporate asking great questions is critical to influencing. You cannot influence by telling. You will fail fast, so learning to ask questions every day in every situation is the key to success. Collaboration is critical to working together
Intreperneurship: your greatest asset to a corporate. Your ability to create and build from nothing. You are not hung up on turning the titanic, Job descriptions, perceived limitations, you bring the can do attitude, glass half full that makes things happen. You will inspire others by your enthusiasm and people will want to join you on your expedition. Sell this attribute as this is of great interest to corporate.
Startup opportunities in corporate is the best of both worlds. You can utilise your SMB skills whilst developing many new ones that will accelerate your development.
Today many people with startup businesses at the next stage of growth come and speak to me about how to tackle the transition from small to medium, medium to larger business. Some want to take a step up and don’t have the skills, others want to step back in the business, others want to be on the board and leave exec leadership to transition in to non exec roles. What ever the transition is you are looking to achieve, each needs a transition plan and a coach/mentor to enable the change.
I chose a business coach to prepare for corporate. Without the coaching prior and in the early years I could not have made the transition. Your new leader in corporate may have never experienced a small or medium business so the responsibilities are with you to address your gaps fast, so you can operate effectively.
As a result of developing the skills, I have definitely become a far better leader and coach. You never stop learning, which is why career opportunities are so much fun and stimulating.
The words of Sharon’s boss at her funeral, will never leave me. He said “She never ever spoke ill of anyone” a rare trait that set her apart from others. Those words are inspiring and an important lesson for us all. Her boss himself admitted to running down others and he hated himself for the trait. A trait most people have.
Judgement is a terrible human trait, that leads to poor behaviors that really have impact on people. I never forget 6 years ago when Phil Crenigan my Business coach encouraged me to raise money for the homeless at the CEO sleep out. The evening of the sleep out people from all walks of life speak up about the events that led them to be homeless and then the loneliness of homelessness. Up until that point I would not make eye contact with homeless people, let alone hold a conversation, that day changed me forever and since then I always say hello and pass the time of day, and often give food or coffee. My judgement has gone and been replaced with a deep understanding of others who are less fortunate.
Not only do we need to ‘seek to understand, before we are understood’ a famous Dale Carnegie saying, we need to center ourselves in others focusing on there needs not our own.
When someone is criticizing another person, not in there presence, you have to ask yourself, do they do that about you when you are not there? My question always is, have you shared the feedback with the person? if not, why not? Feedback is critical for people to improve.
Don’t speak ill of others, none of us are perfect.