Is Accountability a Centerpiece of Your Leadership?

“It is not only what we do, but what we do not do, for which we are accountable.” –Moliere

 

If your workplace is free of accountability, it is likely filled with blame and distrust. When a project fails or a client leaves, it is natural for people to want answers, which may lead to suspicion and finger-pointing. An accountability-free workplace can easily turn ugly.

As David Gebler, author of The 3 Power Values, says, “Accountability is the number one success factor in any change effort.” If leadership does not hold their team accountable, it is difficult for integrity to be taken seriously. In a workplace where “anything goes” and inaction or missteps are ignored, there is little motivation to do good work. In such a haphazard culture, employees can miss deadlines, show up late, refuse to hold up their end of a project, or mishandle clients…all without consequence.

Unfortunately, many workplaces lack a clear system of accountability. Margery Weinstein of Training Mag cites a Workplace Accountability Study which reveals that “82 percent of respondents admit they have limited-to-no ability to hold others accountable successfully.” This number is especially startling because 91 percent of respondents said that accountability is one of the “top leadership development needs in their organization.”

This lack of accountability may cause interpersonal conflicts, distrust, or the constant need to make excuses. It also allows the dominant personalities in your workplace to direct the company’s ethics. The behavior of influential individuals can easily sway the entire tone of the workplace (which may or may not be a good thing!).

What to do? As a leader, it is tempting to react to a lack of accountability by hovering over your team and micro-managing their every move. There are many reasons why this is a flawed approach (some of which I address in a past blog post), but suffice it to say that your work team will not react well to micro-managing. However, a culture of accountability can be created without setting your team member’s schedules or closely monitoring their work projects. It’s all about striking a balance.

Here are five tips for creating a system of accountability in your workplace:

Clearly Communicate Expectations

Set your team up for success by clearly communicating goals, deadlines, and expected outcomes. Your team members should also understand the consequences of failing to meet a particular aspect of a project or action.

Articulate Your Team’s Value

“When employees aren’t valued, they’re less likely to be engaged with their work,” (Sean Pomeroy, Talent Culture.com). Make sure each member of your team is aware of their worth and the value they bring to the team. Communicate often and openly to your employees to let them know you appreciate their contributions.

Follow Through

Don’t deliver empty warnings. If you’ve made it clear that those who do not meet a specific project deadline will be removed from the project, then follow through with that disciplinary action. You may choose to use a three-strike system to soften the blow for those who have erred for the first or second time. However, be sure to talk to the offender, even if it’s her first time making a mistake, so she knows what your expectations are for the future.

Hold Yourself to the Same Standards

Lead by example. If you make a mistake, own up to it and articulate how you will correct the error and take preventative action so that the same mistake will not occur in the future. If you are exempt from being held accountable, how can you effectively enforce accountability?

Treat Mistakes as Learning Opportunities

Instead of sweeping mistakes under the rug, making excuses, or becoming overly distraught, try to look at workplace errors as an opportunity. Talk openly about the mistake with your team and strategize ways to overcome it and create a better system for the future.

 

Company leadership has the power to create a culture of accountability. When all members of a workplace community assume personal responsibility for their actions and inactions, the company can focus on solutions and strategy, rather than blame and distrust.

 

Contact Juli for insight and guidance for YOUR company.

We formed; we stormed! Building a productive team with the Tuckman model

Forming, storming, norming, performing; the Tuckman teamwork model

In a perfect world, our work teams would collaborate effortlessly and achieve their objectives without office politics, personality clashes, or disagreements about processes.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in such a world and often have to muddle through team conflicts that may be debilitating to the entire project. But even a team with fundamental disagreements can achieve great things. In fact, those very disagreements can lead to innovation and creativity.

How can team leaders build a cohesive and productive team? By recognizing the typical stages a team encounters and having a plan in place to deal with various obstacles that inhibit productivity.

Psychologist Bruce Tuckman articulated the typical phases of team development in his 1965 article, “Developmental Sequence in Small Groups.” Tuckman found that high-performing teams usually pass through four stages which he named forming, storming, norming, and performing. Let’s take a look at the four stages and how you can help guide your team to success in each one:

 

Forming:

In this stage, the team comes together and begins learning about one another and the team’s objectives. This is generally an amicable stage, although some team members may be anxious about the expectations of the project or working with their fellow teammates. Some teams warm up to each other quicker than others, so this stage can vary greatly in length.

Your role:

Leadership is crucial at this stage. A strong leader can help identify team members’ strengths and assign them to roles that are best-suited to their abilities. As a leader, you can also help others see the value each team member contributes and begin to build an atmosphere of mutual respect.

 

Storming:

Trouble starts brewing! This stage is characterized by interpersonal conflict, dissent, or disagreement about processes or objectives. Certain personality types may clash, causing team members to feel uncomfortable or even threatened. Leadership may also be challenged or questioned. Some teams skip this stage completely, while others may keep returning to this stage as new conflicts arise.

Your role:

Look at the storming phase as an area of opportunity. This is a time when creative solutions are born and team members can explore the merit of different approaches or concepts. Conflict opens up opportunities to  explore potential innovations and tap into others’ perspectives, which can unearth a treasure trove of new ideas.

If your team is truly struggling to move past the storming stage, consider employing the help of a credible assessment test, such as Insights Discovery, to bridge communication gaps and develop an understanding of basic personality differences.

 

Norming:

After the storm, is the norm. Team members acknowledge differences, but start to move beyond them. In this stage, the team begins to act as a tenuously cohesive group. They grow accustomed to each other’s quirks, motives, and ways of thinking. They also begin to refocus on the larger goal and rally around a common objective.

Your role:

This is a great opportunity to step back and observe. If you notice any leftover tensions from the storming phase, now is the time to address them. In this stage, it’s also a good idea to encourage team-building exercises or outings to continue to strengthen team bonds.

 

Performing:

In the fourth stage, the team is focused and intent on achieving common objectives. They have evolved into a cohesive unit—one in which interpersonal differences are acknowledged and worked through. This stage is marked by a high level of competency among team members and they should be able to work autonomously, as well as collaborate effortlessly.

Your role:

The leader nearly melts into the background at this stage. Trust that your team has what it takes to produce excellent results and don’t be afraid to delegate tasks. Focus on helping your team grow and develop their talents, and leave the work to them! Don’t forget to provide positive recognition for tasks well done.

 

 

By appreciating and planning for the four typical team-building stages, you set your team up for success. Use team conflict as creative fuel, rather than a stumbling block and capitalize on the diverse set of talents and ideas your team members offer. From forming to performing, each stage is a valuable part of the team-building process.

 

Need help with the storming phase? As a certified conflict mediator, I can offer you guidance. Please, get in touch.

 

Additional Reading:

https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_86.htm

http://infed.org/mobi/bruce-w-tuckman-forming-storming-norming-and-performing-in-groups/

http://www.project-management-skills.com/teamwork-theory.html

 

Analyze This: Is your company taking advantage of big data?

“Each of us is now a walking data generator.” –Andrew McAfee, Harvard Business Review

 

The term “big data” isn’t exactly a friendly one. It conjures up images of numbers ticking across a screen or servers churning away as they process terabytes of information. But the application of big data is incredibly personal. Data—and how it’s used—can help improve customer relations, streamline operations, or develop new products to meet market demands. Big data can give companies valuable information about internal operations (processes, employee engagement, communication efficiency). Or, it can boost external operations by streamlining advertising, enhancing customer experiences, or identifying inefficiencies. In short, big data can be converted to business intelligence.

No matter the size of your company or your operating budget, it is possible to put data at the center of your decision-making. A data-driven workplace reduces costs and operates more efficiently by putting an end to decision-making based on hunches and anecdotal evidence.

The solution, however, is NOT to throw money at big data systems and hope your company sees improvements. In order to take full advantage of data, your business will have to restructure itself to accommodate a new data-driven philosophy. Start by focusing on these three key areas:

1. Leadership

If a company is going to successfully put data at the core of its operations, the leadership has to be on board. In some cases, managerial teams will have to be trained to think about decision-making in a different way. In a data-driven company, the loudest voice or the highest paid person in the room isn’t the default decision maker. Instead, the process is more neutral and reliable, as it depends on collected data and analysis. As Andrew McAfee of the Harvard Business Review says in a recent article, “Smart leaders across industries will see using big data for what it is: a management revolution.”

What does a data-driven leader look like? This is a person who supports thoughtful, in-depth analysis and encourages decision-making based on findings. This is a person who is humble enough to realize that she may not have all the answers, or that her initial hunches may be proven incorrect by data analysis. Such a leader does not feel threatened by data-backed decisions, but embraces them as useful strategies that will potentially help the company.

2. A Robust IT Team

A company can purchase an expensive, top-of-the-line data analysis program, but if they do not also invest in a quality data analysis team, the investment will be almost worthless. Take the time to assemble an IT team that is well-versed in collecting, managing and analyzing data. These team members are essential to the decision-making process and have the potential to provide the keys to positive change.

Make sure these team members are supported in their roles. Check in with them frequently to see if they have the resources—tools, time, and support—to provide useful, in-depth analysis.

Above all, it is important to respect the findings of your data analysis team. Encourage honest, complete reports, not reports that are catered to highlight what the leadership wants to hear.

3. Incorporate data into the culture

A data-focused company integrates its philosophies into the workplace culture. Such a company encourages thoughtful decision-making at all levels, driven by evidence. Team meetings revolve around sharing data and developing ideas that stem from that data. Instead of relying on opinions and hearsay, team members who know the value of data will begin to ask “What do we know?” and “How can we apply that knowledge to our organization?”

To encourage this data-centric culture, it is useful to give employees the language and background they need to talk intelligently about data. Programs such as the Baldrige Excellence Framework can help company leadership understand the potential for data to improve customer relations and satisfaction, streamline systems, and encourage purposeful innovation.

 

Dive into data! The companies that focus on incorporating data-driven decision-making into their leadership, their IT department, and their company culture will begin making mindful decisions that can lead to huge successes. The potential for big data is huge. How will you begin to integrate data collection and analysis into your organization?


 

Want to talk data? I have experience in research, data collection, data management, and data analysis. I am also involved in conducting organizational evaluations against the Baldrige Excellence Framework. Contact me and let’s talk about how data can make a different in your organization.

Insights® Color Focus: Communicating with “a Blue”

Insights discovery blue energy

One of the things I like best about the Insights® Discovery program is the accessibility of the language. Even if you’re not familiar with this science-based assessment tool, it isn’t difficult to familiarize yourself with the basic concept. Essentially: All people have the capacity to behave and think in various ways, but we tend to emphasize or favor some methods over others. For example, outgoing, boisterous people have the capacity to tone down their energy and act discreetly, but they prefer an animated communication style, as opposed to a reserved one.

These tendencies are expressed in four different colors: blue, red, yellow, and green:

4 colors, good day

BLUE is associated with introversion and introspection. People who favor blue tendencies are often analytical, data-driven, and like to think carefully before they speak.

RED is associated with being brief and vocal. People who tend toward red often like to make quick decisions and aren’t afraid to exert their influence or step up as leaders.

YELLOW is associated with high energy and extroversion. Those who lean toward yellow are often highly social, enjoy brain storming sessions, and are generally not afraid to share their ideas.

GREEN is associated with a high level of empathy and awareness of others. Green-leaning people are generally steady and reliable and like to practice inclusivity.

KEEP IN MIND:

I am only barely scratching the surface of the Insights® Discovery model. There are many intricate parts to the model that can help build self-awareness, improve team dynamics, enhance communication, and develop leadership (contact me if you have questions about the potential benefits of Insights® for yourself or your team). However, this overview will give you a stepping stone for the focus of this blog post: communicating with someone who leads with blue energy.

As I touched on above, a blue-leading person is often quiet, analytical, and likes to understand the whole picture before making a decision. This type of personality can be difficult to interpret or communicate with, especially for red- and yellow-leaning individuals who tend toward extraversion and snappy decisions.

If you notice that someone is consistently quiet at company meetings, don’t write him off or assume he’s not interested. Instead, ask him for his input about what was just said. You might find out that he has reservations about a particular project or action because not enough research has been conducted or there are possible alternative routes that could be explored.

Let’s look at another situation. Imagine you are about to have a one-on-one meeting with someone who seems to be blue-leaning. It is best to come prepared with a meeting agenda that includes concrete statistics and thorough research. Keep in mind that a blue-leaning person may have tons of questions, but may be too reserved to ask them. Create a comfortable environment where asking questions is encouraged.

One last scenario: Let’s say you’re working on a team with a blue personality-type. She may not always offer up her ideas, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t a valuable asset! Since blue-leaning people are so good with practical details, your teammate would be great at the planning/logistical side of the project. Make sure she’s able to find her sweet spot within the team.

And what if YOU tend toward “blue?”

Don’t be afraid to ask crucial questions and offer your input. And don’t assume that the rest of the team can see potential flaws like you can. Your analytical abilities and organizational skills are valuable and it’s a great help to your company when you share your insight or ask the questions that need to be asked when considering a new project or task.

This is just a small glimpse into the powerful way Insights® Discovery helps teams connect and communicate. I plan to regularly publish posts focusing on specific Insights® color energies, with the goal of leading you to a greater understanding of yourself and others.

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Caring Workplace, Happy Employees

Diverse business team hugging in a circle in the office

Everyone wants happy employees. They’re more productive, loyal, and valuable. But what makes employees happy?

The Star Tribune examined that question in their 2015 list of “Top Workplaces.” The organizations that made it onto the list were recognized solely based on the results of a survey taken by employees. The companies on the list vary widely in size, industry, and mission, but they all have one key thing in common: they care.

What does being a caring workplace mean? According to Clockwork Active Media, which ranked number one in the survey, it means acknowledging that your employees have a life outside the office. “We don’t talk about work-life balance,” said Nancy Lyons, CEO. “It’s all about life. We’re human, and to expect that to be compartmentalized is ridiculous.”

It’s easy to view your employees in terms of numbers, but the fact is, they are much more than that. A caring workplace is one that fosters an open line of communication with its employees, so that they feel comfortable approaching their superiors with both work and personal issues.

Another way to create a caring workplace is to provide opportunities for your employees to engage with their community (both internally and outside the office). SPS Commerce, a company that took the number one spot on the survey among large organizations, provides ample opportunities for their employees to have fun together and give back to the community. They sponsor company picnics, organize charity auctions, and even hold overnight sessions to build websites for charities.

Giving back is not just a trend. The next generation of workers are actively seeking companies that are altruistic and caring. An incredible 88% of Millennial women and 82% of Millennial men believe it’s important to be able to give back to the community through work.

A caring workplace can take many forms. How will your organization show it cares?

 

Want to figure out your company’s “caring strategy?” Contact me and let’s discuss ways to create a compassionate workplace.

QUIZ: How Well Does YOUR Workplace Communicate?

How is communication at YOUR workplace? Image courtesy of PhotoDune

How is communication at YOUR workplace? Image courtesy of PhotoDune

Clear, effective communication is one of the keys to creating a successful business. A company might employ the brightest, most innovative, highly competent individuals, but all that talent is wasted if communication is ineffective or nonexistent.

How does your workplace measure up? Take this ten question quiz to find out!

  1. During a typical meeting, how involved are the participants?
    1. Not involved at all
    2. Somewhat involved—a few people speak up
    3. Very involved; meetings usually contain an open dialogue between all participants
  1. When your superior gives you an assignment that you don’t fully understand, what do you do?
    1. Try to figure it out for yourself
    2. Ask a co-worker or two if they can shed some light on the assignment
    3. Go directly to your supervisor and ask her to clarify the assignment
  1. How often do co-workers mingle?
    1. Rarely; we usually keep to ourselves
    2. Occasionally; we like talking to each other during lunch or at work functions
    3. Often; we seek each other out for discussion
  1. When you’re working with a team, how engaged is each team member?
    1. Not engaged at all
    2. Some team members are engaged, but some hardly participate
    3. Everyone is engaged and involved; all ideas or opinions are considered
  1. If you’re dealing with a personal hardship, what do you do?
    1. Nothing; I keep it to myself
    2. I might tell a trusted co-worker or two
    3. I approach my supervisor and let him know that I may not perform at my peak, due to the personal hardship
  1. Imagine you are working with a team that clashes. How would your team members likely deal with the situation?
    1. They would fume silently or only communicate with “allies” (those with whom they agree)
    2. They would involve some people in solving the problem, but would not consider everyone’s opinion
    3. They would have an open discussion to get at the root of the issue and make sure everyone is on the same page before moving forward
  1. If you have an idea that might benefit the company, how likely are you to share it?
    1. Not likely; I would probably keep it to myself
    2. I might share it with one or two people
    3. I would approach my boss and ask to meet with her so we can discuss the idea
  1. If you’re asked to complete a project that is out of your scope of expertise, how comfortable are you with saying no?
    1. I never say no; I would figure out some way to handle the project
    2. I might say no if the project is truly beyond my scope, but I would likely say yes
    3. I am comfortable saying no; if that’s not an option, I am comfortable finding the help I need to successfully complete the project
  1. Does your company provide opportunities to offer feedback
    1. No, it does not
    2. Sometimes I am asked to give feedback during meetings or one-on-ones
    3. Yes, we are regularly encouraged to give feedback
  1. Overall, your co-workers’ listening skills are…
    1. …terrible; they often don’t seem to care what others are saying
    2. …okay; some employees are good listeners, but most are not
    3. …great; we practice being present for each other

NOW, calculate your score:

      A. = 1 point

 

      B. = 2 points

 

    C. = 3 points

How did you do?

Between 10-15

Uh-oh. Your inter-office communication is severely lacking. You do not feel comfortable communicating with others about issues and there is little room for offering feedback or bringing forth new ideas. This closed-door type of workplace can create tension among co-workers or frustration when an issue arises.

Next Steps:

Your communication strategy could use a jumpstart! If you are in a decision-making or leadership position, consider hiring a coach that will identify trouble spots and create an organization-wide plan to improve communication. If you do not have the power to hire a coach, schedule a meeting with your supervisor and express your concerns about the current state of your workplace’s communication. If nothing else, you’ll start a dialogue and hopefully your supervisor will begin to tune-in to the communication issues in the office.

Another action you can take: Start talking! Ask your co-workers about their weekends, engage others in conversations, and offer your opinions during company meetings. Your positive communication can help open the door for others to follow your lead.

 

Between 16-25

Your workplace communication is okay, but could use some improvement. You may feel comfortable discussing some matters with some people, but there are instances when you feel that your voice isn’t welcome at the table. When a conflict arises, it is often not dealt with in a direct, open manner.

Next Steps:

Start a dialogue. Begin talking with those you trust about the workplace’s communication issues and develop a plan for improving the current system. Bring your ideas to the HR team and begin a discussion about how to create a more accessible, open workplace. Consider hiring a coach to identify areas for improvement and develop a strategy for solving your company’s communication trouble spots.

 

Above 25

Wow! Your company gets a gold star in communication. Your upper-level management keeps an open-door policy and welcomes feedback. Everyone feels fairly comfortable with each other and people are not afraid to bring forth new ideas, opinions, or reservations. When a conflict arises within a team, it is openly discussed and sorted out.

Next Steps:

Keep up the good work! Identify any areas of improvement that may need to be addressed and create an open dialogue that addresses those issues. Continue to encourage others to share their thoughts, so that everyone feels welcomed and valued.

 

Communication is vital to the success of a business. If your company is struggling in this area, Peer Performance Solutions can help. Contact us today to find out how we can help improve your company’s communication strategy.

 

Get People EXCITED About Your Business

Line Of Business People Listening To Presentation Seated At Glass Boardroom Table

Every company would love to be Apple, with their thousands of loyal customers and lines out the door whenever they put out a new product. The Apple phenomenon is incredible, considering there are plenty of other companies that do what they do (and sometimes do it better and for a cheaper price!). So, how do they drum up so much excitement? How do they motivate people to stand in line for hours to get their hands on the latest Apple offering?

Part of the answer has to do with the years of brand-building Apple has undertaken (and there’s no shortcut for that), but another part of their success comes from extensive research about their audience base and a skillful marketing plan.

Know your customer

Get familiar with your target customers by gathering market intelligence, conducting interviews or surveys, and analyzing data from sales campaigns and website traffic. Observe your competitors and notice what they’re doing effectively and what isn’t working. There are tons of great intelligence-gathering tools out there and PPS can help you get started.

Practice integrity

It’s more important than ever to build a company’s brand around transparency and trustworthiness. With online reviews, social media, and the ability of a news story to travel around the world within minutes, it’s crucial for your company to practice honesty and integrity. Take this principle a step further and actively involve your company in good works. Sponsor charitable events, encourage employees to volunteer in the community, or retrofit your company’s building to be more eco-friendly.

Build your credibility

Showcase your expertise by encouraging customer reviews and displaying testimonials and case studies on your website and literature. According to FirstRain.com, “Assembling reliable testimonials from authoritative sources or speaking to how an expert in the field uses the product can help customers understand that you can back the claims you’re making about the product.” Don’t forget to also show measureable results whenever you can.

Foster brand advocates

Your fans matter! Create a space for customers to advocate your brand through social media or online reviews. Forbes Magazine advises that engaging your company’s followers, encouraging feedback, or offering rewards for social sharing helps foster brand advocates. This kind of customer commitment makes people excited to be a part of your brand.

Let your own excitement shine through

If it wasn’t for the big dreams and perseverance of Apple’s founders, the company would not be what it is today. As thought leader and author Simon Sinek says in his TED Talk, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Let your vision be the centerpiece of your company’s marketing strategy.

Be memorable

What distinguishes your company from the pack? What do you offer that no one else does? What do you do best? Capitalize on your strengths and give your audience a reason to select you. Geoffrey James, contributing editor to Inc.com suggests adding emotion to your campaign to make it resonate with your audience on a more personal level. However you decide to market your company, make sure to keep your core values in sight and remain true to your company’s mission.

Creating excitement around a company takes planning, a clear vision, and a group of people who are enthusiastic and passionate about your company and its goals. Keep in mind that enthusiasm for your company probably won’t generate overnight, but a business that is built on integrity and excellence will likely find its success and maintain it for the long-term.

Let’s talk about creating excitement around your business! Reach out and contact me today.