Management

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Difficult Conversations Part 2

Preparing for the other person’s response…

One of the things that stops managers entering into difficult conversations, feedback or chats about performance is an anxiety over how the other person may respond.  What if they quit?  Cry?  Argue?  Shout?  Take it really badly?  Disagree and I can’t hold my own?  What if they say XYZ?

And so as a learning designer, facilitator or coach, we have the opportunity to help managers prepare for those eventualities – and for those they cannot even imagine.  The power here is in reducing the irrational fear.  Notice how our fear about something is usually worse than the reality of that bad thing happening.

For example, managers share stories about someone quitting and it being the best thing that ever happened for the team.  Other managers have experienced people crying and found that it really wasn’t that bad – you just deal with it, like anything else in life.

Sharing these stories and asking delegates to consider their own experiences of reality not being as bad as we fear, enables a more rational conversation.  What will you plan to do if the person cries?  Argues?  Threatens to quit?

Because the fact is that the question “what if he argues back?” is not generally explored and answered as a question.  It is used as a threatening statement to ourselves to say, “don’t bother starting the conversation, it may not end well.”  Actually helping managers work through those questions and realise they have answers, is extremely empowering.

Here are some classic responses we’ve heard managers come up with in small group work…

What if they cry?
Ask them if they want to take five minutes / go to the bathroom / get a tissue, then suggest we come back to the conversation when they feel ready.  Don’t let them off the hook though, make sure we come back to the conversation if it’s five minutes, hours or days later.
What if they argue back or disagree about the issue?
Stay calm and find out more about what it is they disagree with and maybe what they do agree with.  Ask questions like, “tell me more about what it is you think about this” and “help me understand, when you say you disagree, what do you mean?”
 
Rather than trying to convince the other person they’re wrong, work to understand how they think they’re right.  When we understand the other person’s thinking better, we can ask further questions like, “what impact do you think that has on the team?” or “how does that relate to the business priorities we’re working on?”
What if they threaten to quit?
Maybe this wouldn’t be such a bad thing.  But we could find out what their concerns are that are making them want to quit.
 
What is it they want and can we realistically offer that?  One manager shared a story of a colleague who wanted to avoid all people management, so that worked fine, they found a technical specialist role for them and everyone was happy.  But if what the colleague wants is never to be challenged on their behaviour, then they probably won’t last long!
What if they say something I’m not prepared for?
This is arguably the most critical question, as it is the one that throws us the most.  One manager shared a story of a difficult conversation where a team member had ignored specific instructions in an email and gone against the manager’s requests multiple times.
 
The manager raised this as an issue, prepared for arguments about who was right or wrong and how things should be done, but the colleague simply said, “I never saw those emails.”  The manager was flabbergasted!  How could this person have missed that email every time?  Surely they were lying!  But what could the manager do?  Completely shocked by this statement, the manager had no idea what to say so said, “ok, well make sure you check emails from me in future,” and that was that.  Afterwards the manager was so upset, “why didn’t I say more, challenge them, ask them how they would make sure this did not happen in future?”
 
The key is to give yourself time to think in these moments, so many managers come up with a get-out clause like, “I think we need to explore this more but I need some time to think it through, let’s meet again tomorrow to discuss.”  Or if you think you can get there quicker, “ok I could do with a coffee, let’s take five minutes.”

Of course there are no right or wrong responses here, this is all about simply feeling prepared.  It is no good scripting out some feedback, to then feel completely unprepared for the unscripted response from the other person.  So encourage managers to have a few stock phrases and questions up their sleeves for these conversations.  The ones we hear that people find most useful are:

Can I just clarify, when you say, do I understand it right that you mean….?

Tell me more about that….. Help me understand….

So what do you really think?

What impact could that have on other people?

What would you do now if you were me?

Let’s take some time out to get some clear thinking, how about the same time tomorrow?

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Difficult Conversations Part 1

Still the bugbear of L&D professionals the world over…

Why do our managers not give feedback?  Why do they not face upto those honest, tough or difficult conversations?  Whatever we call them, and many businesses have tried their share of variations, feedback and performance conversations are still a challenge for managers.

Here we look at why interventions to date may not have worked and share some top tips that are working well for us and our clients.

First, we need to understand what is holding people back from giving feedback.  Notice how most eLearning sessions on feedback or workshops covering the topic, dive into “how to give feedback.”  We all instinctively know some good practice ideas like be specific, tell them at the time etc, yet when it comes to it, we avoid the difficult conversation.  This means that simply teaching more “how to” tips is unlikely to help, as the fear of the other person’s reaction stops many managers from entering into the discussion.

We therefore find that the most effective feedback workshops start with What stops us from giving feedback?  This first question raises anxieties about how the other person will respond and concerns about others’ perceptions of us as managers.  Many managers will say something like, “I don’t want to be seen as a nag,” or “I don’t want them to quit,” or simply, “what if they don’t like me afterwards?”  There is power in getting these concerns out in the open, knowing that we’re not alone and then working through these concerns.

Then we can ask, how can we overcome those obstacles?  For some people this is about letting go of needing to be liked all the time, whilst for others it’s about acknowledging that it’s highly unlikely someone will immediately quit the first time they have a difficult conversation.  And if they did quit, would it really be such a bad thing?  Particularly given the fact that so many managers share stories of holding onto a so-called high performer who constantly upset the rest of the team, then one day that person quit and the whole team’s performance and morale sky-rocketed.

With all of this helpful thinking out in the open and managers realising it would be better for them to act than to not act, there is a shift in the room to, “ok, but how do I do it?”  It’s as though we have now earned the right to talk about the how-to practical tips, in the context of their real concerns and anxieties.

What do we need to do to have an effective conversation? 

We start by sharing stories of how difficult conversations have been derailed when any of the following aspects have been missing:

Awareness

Agreement

Action

In one example, a colleague was not aware of the impact they were having on the team by only ever making criticisms or highlighting concerns in meetings, so they did not respond to requests to be more positive.  In another example, a colleague was aware of the way they spoke at a hundred miles an hour during presentations, but they believed that this added to their energy and positive impact, so did not agree that anything needed to change.  In another, a colleague could see that the way they kept interrupting peers during the day was distracting and unhelpful following a difficult conversation with their manager, but there was no firm action agreed or review put in place, so nothing changed.

Everyone can share their own stories – they have seen this happen time and time again, when someone clearly disagrees that something is an issue, or a lack of review means behaviour has returned to normal.  And this really makes managers consider whether or not their colleagues are aware of the problem.  It’s so easy for us to fall into the trap of labelling people as lazy, rude, inconsiderate, thoughtless, without considering that the person may have no idea of the impact they are having.  And if they did know, they may well want to change.

So then the group comes up with ways to have conversations that ensure all three aspects are in place, followed by a review to check there has been progress.

We’ve given examples here of pretty basic stuff about people’s behaviour, but the same approach is equally effective for conversations about the need for more strategic thinking, for discussions about a lack of career progression, for questions over the leadership of a department and consultation over vision.

Because one of the main concerns managers have is how the other person will react, we then go on to explore how to prepare for that too.  We’ve put that into a separate article here.  Enjoy!

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Taking Accountability

Getting Others to Take Accountability

A common complaint from managers is that their people do not take accountability. Our feedback article talked about the need for awareness, agreement and action, but perhaps the message missing is the underlying foundation to it all: accountability.

In a recent coaching conversation, a senior manager we’ll call Jo described her frustration with a member of her team who was poor on time management. Jo shared a long list of things she had tried to help this individual, let’s call him Kris, to improve. Jo had done the work considering what could be the causes, issues and potential solutions.

Kris had the easiest job in all of this. All he had to do was describe how hard everything was, then simply say “I don’t know” whenever asked what he thought the causes or potential solutions could be. In a way, Kris has been allowed to take no accountability because he has never been pushed to explore his challenges or come up with solutions.

Driving accountability in others means asking them to come up with problem finding, analysis and solutions, then not letting them off the hook when they don’t have an immediate answer. When we ask, “what might be the cause of that problem?” and someone replies, “I don’t know,” we need to have other options than simply doing the thinking and talking for them.

What if you asked that person to take it on as a project, analysing the problem and coming up with ideas? What if you asked them to report back to you next week? What if you remembered that following week to ask for their progress report? What if you didn’t let it go?

Whilst you might argue that this isn’t really the person taking accountability at all, because you’re having to push and pull an awful lot, over time you create the expectation that your team manage their own problem solving. And that’s accountability.

This is not a quick fix, but what is when it comes to helping people understand their roles and take accountability for their work? Better to start small and build a culture or expectation over time that you expect people to think for themselves, than to keep going down the route of doing all the work for them.

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Motivating Millennials

Keeping the alliteration going.

Following on from our Managing Millennials article several weeks ago, we’ve been asked “how do you motivate them?”

There’s plenty of research to suggest that Millennials do indeed share some core characteristics to previous generations in terms of their work place needs, which is good news – you don’t need to completely re-write your competency framework to accommodate them.

But there are some important distinctions you should be aware of when managing this ever-growing part of your workforce.

A 2015 Gallup Poll found that Millennials are the least engaged cohort in the workplace, with only 28.9% saying that they are engaged at work.

This a real shame because a further study has found Millennials want to learn and develop their skills more so than any previous generation. They are eager to lead and are ambitious.  But how do we harness this ambition?  Let’s explore four of the possibilities…

Your company’s vision must be socially compelling.

According to research by the Center for Generational Kinetics and Barnum Financial Group, 60% of Millennials said a sense of purpose is part of the reason they chose to work at their current employer.

This means that your employer branding is more important than ever.  You may not be able to influence your organisation’s mission statement or the colour of the website.  But you can tweak your job descriptions, career pages and assessment centres to highlight the potential connection between a job role and its meaningful impact elsewhere.

 

My career will be one of choice, not one chosen out of desperation. It will align who I am with what I do.

- Male graduate employee, USA


Communicate.  Openly and frequently.

Millennials enter the workplace accustomed and eager to both give and receive feedback on everything, regularly.  In fact, one study reported that 42% of Millennials want feedback every week—more than twice the percentage of every other generation.

This will place a great deal of strain on your existing managers, do they have the skills and the confidence to have these honest and responsible conversations regularly?  The number one reason for millennial turnover is that their managers don’t.

Embrace technology.  They have.

Millennials are likely to be the most technologically advanced age group in your workforce.  And they will have acquired this training at no cost to your organisation (which comes with its own pros and cons).  But they are skilled multi-taskers and move from smart phone to laptop to tablet to television an average of 27 times an hour.

They were first to experience a wireless, connected world, and according to a PwC report, they “expect the technologies that empower their personal lives to also drive communication and innovation in the workplace.”

Encourage a culture of trust, autonomy and creativity.

Millennials are looking for employers and direct line managers who have created environments of creative freedom and give them the flexibility to make decisions and find their own path to success.

It is true that millennials move from job to job, not because they are aimless or disloyal – but because they are impatient with systems that stifle their ability to innovate, be empowered and ultimately stay happy.

 

[Millennials] expect to work in communities of mutual interest and passion – not structured hierarchies.

- Vineet Nayar, CEO of HCL Technologies Ltd

We’ll look further at why millennials want what they want, and how you might be able to deliver it to them in the following weeks, so stay tuned!  In the meantime, we highly recommend these additional sources – particularly the PWC research as it should form the basis for any stakeholder conversations in your business about managing and motivating millennials.

           

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Small Change?

If a butterfly flaps its wings…

On a recent workshop focused on personally coping with and adapting to change and uncertainty, the point was raised that we often don’t recognise small change in our lives as significant. 

When we get made redundant or join a new company or buy a new house, these ‘big ticket’ items stand out in our memories as significant. 

We might give ourselves time to consider the effects of that change and wonder how to accept the new normal.  But what about those smaller changes in life that can have equally big impact? 

Getting a new boss or colleague or losing a close colleague as they choose to leave the business or are made redundant?  Realising an aspect of our work has changed or that our expectations of something have changed.  These things can cause emotional turmoil and upset our routines, but do we recognise them?

You may have come across the concept of ‘The Change Curve’ before?

It provides an overview of the emotions that people go through when faced with change. It considers the impact of change over time in terms of self-esteem and morale and identifies four broad, common responses to change:

Denial, Frustration, Experimentation and Integration

This is a fluid curve and people will go through each area at different rates.

Dealing with resistance to change is often a case of understanding where someone is in the process of responding to change – and then helping them move towards a more positive response.

Recognising where people are, is an important first step to having the impact you desire – what might it be like to be in each of these four areas? What would you hear people saying? What would indicate someone was in this area of response to change? Thinking this through will help you recognise the signs through behaviour – then how can we help people move forward towards Commitment?

Denial—clues How to move on
Shock, anger

Fighting the outcome, saying why this should not happen

Claiming the change will not go ahead

Confront with evidence of the reality: what will change and what will stay the same

Create awareness of what will happen when

Describe the problem / reason for the change & discuss the implications for the future

Take time to listen and understand concerns

Resistance— clues How to move on
Pulling back from work, doing the minimum

Stating how they will not engage with the change

Showing frustration or going quiet

 

Take time to listen and understand concerns

Look for quick wins—help them see how the change could benefit them in the short-term

Remove barriers to change

Challenge assumptions: what do we know vs what is opinion or a guess

Listen to understand

Be supportive

Exploration—clues How to move on
Suggesting ideas on how the future might work / feel

Trying out working with aspects of the “new normal”

Asking questions about how things will work and how to make the best of the situation

Explore solutions: how could you help this work better?

Focus people on priorities

Set short-term goals and give feedback on progress

Get people involved

Commitment—clues How to help people stay here
Talks less about the way things used to be and more about making the new normal work

Shares ideas on getting the best out of the new way of working

Talks openly about both successes and challenges, focused on finding ways to make things better

Focus people on results

Look towards the future

Set clear goals, adding in some longer-term aspirations and giving regular feedback on progress

Acknowledge and recognise / reward progress and achievements

The focus with these tips is to help people accept change and recognise their new normal, so that they can adapt and make the most of it. So what is going on in your life that may not be a big ticket change item, but still requires you to go through this journey?

How might it help you to consider where you are experiencing frustration or even denial and work towards acceptance and adapting to this new life?

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Feedback.  The Constant Challenge.

How to get managers to have honest conversations, give feedback and coach their people?

How many L&D teams have spent many years trying to get line managers to give regular, high quality feedback to their people?

Every business we meet is facing this issue of encouraging people to have honest, quality conversations, so what can be done about it? Here we share the common pitfalls of the feedback skills workshops we have seen over the years and how change can be achieved….

Addressing the Fear

One challenge in many workshops is that the focus is on skills alone, rather than exploring the attitudes and beliefs people have. The trainer shows people how to give feedback without acknowledging that there may be a serial people pleaser in the room, two people afraid of being seen as too bossy and four people who hate receiving constructive feedback, so certainly don’t want to give feedback to others.

We need to understand what the specific barriers to giving good feedback are for each person, in order to help people overcome these obstacles.

Avoiding the Monologue

Many of the feedback models used in workshops encourage people to prepare in advance what they want to say. This is incredibly useful, particularly to help the manager stop over-thinking it, and just plan out what they want to say. The drawback to this approach is that it makes it all about what the manager wants to say, which can have the undesired effect of the manager simply giving a one-way speech.

We need to show managers how to make the conversation two-way, why this is so critical to success and how to overcome any more mental obstacles this may raise. It is fair to say that the defensive reaction to feedback causes many people to stop listening, how should you overcome this?

Focusing on a Useful Outcome

When we ask managers what they want to get out of honest conversations they often say things like, “I want him to know that what he did was wrong,” or “I want her to take the feedback on board.” For the conversation to be more useful, we need to go in with the end in mind – “I want him to provide better customer service,” or “I want her to be more organised and deliver projects on time.”

Starting with this end in mind can help keep us focused, so that if we end up caught in a conversation going nowhere, we can remind ourselves where we wanted to get to and re-focus.

Paying People to Think

Why is it that as managers we work on coming up with all the solutions? We pay our people to think so let’s get them doing the thinking. It is a challenge to teach managers to be concise in their feedback and then ask questions, which is why in some of our workshops we work on concise communication first.

Talking around the houses will not help the manager or the poor person on the receiving end of the ramble, so we make improvements here before focusing on questions that can be asked to facilitate the employee’s thinking.

Developing Habits

Finally a downside to many feedback or coaching workshops we see is that delegates naturally zone in on one or two specific challenges they are facing. This means that they sometimes end up walking away with a few ideas on how to challenge this person on poor time management and what to say to that person about their sloppy report writing.

We need to help managers take the higher level tools, attitudes and behaviours away so that they develop more long-term habits and lessons for healthy conversations.

Addressing each of these issues directly in workshops is having a very positive impact. Maybe there is power in simply acknowledging that training in the past has not been as helpful as it could have been, or maybe it is the exploration and overcoming of fears and unhelpful beliefs that makes the difference.

Whatever it is, we’ll keep monitoring the long-term behavioural change that follows from this approach and keep you posted on anything else we learn!

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Managing Millennials

Top Tips on Managing Millennials

We probably need to start this article with some caveats and health warnings.  We cannot claim that everyone born between 1980 and 2000 is the same or has the same requirements from their manager.

And just like any other group of people, the best thing you can do as a people manager is take time to build a relationship and work out together what each individual needs from you.

However there are some particular quirks to those in the latter half of this generation known as millennials: those born after around 1990, who grew up with technology at the centre of their lives and experienced 9/11 in their formative years.

There are lots of sources out there on millennials and understanding how they have developed into people that are frequently insulted in the workplace.  Our favourites are Simon Sinek’s frank and entertaining version from a US perspective and this UK version from the Guardian

But this article is about how to manage millennials.  Understanding their mindset and how they have come to certain ways of thinking and being is useful, but what do we do with that information when they’re in our team and we’re struggling?

There are again a lot of places to look for such guidance, but the best by far is this book where there are specific suggestions given on how to adapt your management style in order to get the best from your team (frankly whether they’re millennials or not).

Here are our highlights:

Adaptability – are you willing to adapt to the needs of others or do you find yourself (like most people do) saying about millennials: “I can’t believe they did that.  I would never have done that when I was their age / in their position.

They need to get a grip / realise the world we’re in / follow my lead or get lost.”  Examples often quoted are people taking long lunch breaks, leaving the office early or taking six weeks off to go travelling.

The problem here is that we always compare ourselves to others, so we say “I would never have taken a long lunch break when I was early on in my career – I never even do that now!”  But just because we didn’t do it, that doesn’t mean there is a universal law saying nobody can ever take a long lunch break.

We need to challenge ourselves to meet people where they are, challenge our beliefs about what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and work with each individual to agree ways of working.  In practice that probably means that sometimes it’s fine for people to take long breaks as long as they get the job done.

Challenge Orientation – ah that classic phrase – “it’s not a problem, it’s a learning opportunity.”  We scoff at this like it’s false, but the fact is that when we really believe something is an opportunity to learn and stretch ourselves and a challenge we look forward to, we get a lot more out of the experience.

We only need to remind ourselves of Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset work to see how powerful this can be.  So do you view millennials in your team as a pain, or as a new challenge for you to work through and find a way to help them thrive?  Your mindset could be the greatest barrier to your success in their management.

Poweralthough we probably all still come across people who use their title, rank and level in the hierarchy as their power, there is no doubt that this is losing its relevance and prevalence in the workplace.

For millennials in particular, having grown up without the need for authority figures in some ways, as they can find out just as much as an expert in seconds on google, the focus is on relational power over authoritative power.

So next time you feel like saying, “I’m the boss, so just do what I say,” remember that this is likely to switch people off.  Work on building trust and helping your team understand the pressures you are under, so that you can ask people to help you and all work together on solutions.

Success – finally another point on mindset.  Do you believe that millennials hinder your chances of success?  Or do you see that they can help you succeed – and you can help them thrive?  Not surprisingly, those managers who believe the latter tend to be better managers.

What you will notice is that far from magic solutions for getting millennials to adapt to the workplace, the research shows that businesses who see millennials thriving and contributing greatly to results, have managers with a different mindset.

So, are you willing to think differently, in order to help your team thrive?

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Goldilocks & Leadership Development

goldilocks1-400x265How do you design a leadership development programme right for you?

Many of our clients are wanting to have a development programme for managers and leaders that is tailored to them – or completely bespoke for each person.  The days of off-the-shelf learning approaches seem to be numbered as recognition grows that traditional classroom learning is simply not effective.

So what can businesses do to make their development programmes for managers and leaders – more appropriately tailored or bespoke?

Here are some of the lessons we’ve learned over the years about how this approach can work best – whether you work with an external provider or not.

Make the vision for development crystal clear.

Let’s start with the intent.  Why on earth are you doing this?  If you want to engage and demonstrate to your organisation the value-add of developing managers and leaders, you’ll need to answer the questions below.

What’s the purpose?   What do you want people to learn through this development?  What might people be doing differently as a result of this?  How does that add value to the business?  How could you measure that behavioural change to monitor the effectiveness of the programme?

Totem Lollipops

What’s the Development Path?  Where might learners want to take their careers and how does this development support that?  What features might your approach need in order to best support personal, career and business-critical development?  Do you need to add in mentoring from the Exec, buddy systems, external experiences and support?  How does your approach enable people to grow their self-awareness, a critical door-opener to all other development?

We’ll admit that list of questions can be tough to answer, and working through those questions with your stakeholders can often take months.  But in our experience, considering and responding to each of those questions will mean you’ll be able to create a solid and compelling business case for developing your people; and a better programme as result.

So now to the doing.  What activities or interventions could you use?

Below is a little list of things you can use on top of facilitated skills workshops, but we’d always recommend starting with the learning objectives.  What do people need to learn?  Is it knowledge, skill – or about embedding behavioural habits?  Plan interventions or learning activities that best suit that sort of learning.

  • Engage the senior team. When we talk about the 70: 20: 10 model, the difficulty is always working out what to do with the 70%.  The fact is that the 70% of our learning comes from the underlying culture and unconscious observation of how things are done around here.  That can be heavily driven by our managers – so getting them on board with the learning objectives and role modelling the right sort of behaviours is critical.  It doesn’t of course always work that way – but it’s a great starting point to at least get leaders on board.
  • Problem-solving workshops. Reflecting the best practice accelerated learning principles of having learners create their own learning, this approach starts with them.  What is the problem they’re facing linked to your development outcomes?  A common example is both the business and the delegates want to get better at having difficult conversations.  So instead of jumping into traditional classroom training showing people how they should have difficult conversations, ask people to look at it like a problem to solve.  The fact is that in this example, and many others, we all know what we should do, but actually doing it is a different story.  Powerful facilitation of “why is it we don’t do what we know we should, and how might we address that?” can be far more beneficial than yet another training course.  You can read more about this in the article High Performance Conversations.
  • Webinars and self-directed learning. If some of the learning you want to deliver is knowledge-building, then you may as well make use of all the resources available in your documents and systems – and the good old internet.  Giving people knowledge in a workshop can be energy-draining and unhelpful, so use online learning, webinars and workbooks to encourage learners to work at their own pace, reflect and build their knowledge.  The idea with self-directed learning is to encourage the same kind of behaviour as you see when someone is curious about a topic.  We start with a google search and find ourselves going in all sorts of directions from there, clicking on more links and expanding our understanding of something.  You can encourage this by suggesting particular Google searches, giving suggested web links and TED talks and recommending people explore from there.
  • 1:1 coaching and Action Learning Sets. When it comes to embedding behavioural habits, the best option is always to have a manager who supports and challenges us to try out new things, reflect on learning from experience and keep trying things out.  This of course is very rare – and whilst engaging your leaders at the start is wise, it’s always useful if you can give a helping hand to the embedding of habits.  Coaching and action learning give you the chance to challenge people on how they have applied their learning, what they’ve tried and what they could do differently next time.

Own it!

The real jazz hands moment in our work is when individuals take personal accountability for their learning.  This is singularly the most important thing you can encourage when developing people.  If you get this right, and get it in early, learners will be better engaged, more responsive and eager to improve their capabilities.  Starting any learning with it all being focused on people coming up with their own solutions is a great message – and enables you to build from there, the theme of personal accountability.

You could argue that there is nothing in here that stands out as particularly bespoke or different from an off-the-shelf programme – but the key difference is, it all starts with what your business needs to achieve and what your learners offer as solutions.  That’s what makes it work.

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Belbin Team Wheel

Totem-WheelUnderstanding how teams work

When a group of people work together with a clear purpose, the autonomy to do what they are naturally great at, combined with complementary approaches to getting things done, amazing things can be achieved.

The reality is of course that we rarely work in such high performing teams.  Why don’t we always see such amazing outputs from the teams we work with?

Often it’s because teams have been pulled together from the people who are available, willing to volunteer, or those with the technical expertise or experience required.  That’s not necessarily the best way to get a great team.  We’re often working hard to make the best of a far from ideal situation.

When we want a good team, we often focus our efforts on making sure we have people who have the technical expertise or experience we need.  Have we got someone with leadership experience on the team for example, who can cover Finance, HR, Operations of some kind, and so on…

Whilst this approach can be very helpful for making sure you have the knowledge around the table that’s critical, it is not the fundamental ingredient for great teamwork. What if all the people around the table are risk averse?  Or all but one team member are creative types, and there’s one person who is more interested in implementing?

Totem Lollipops

So part of what makes a great team is having a group of people working to their strengths, and appreciating the benefit each other person brings.  It’s helpful to understand the different aspects of work and the different styles or preferences that we tend to see and one way to dig into how we can build a great team is to use the Belbin Team Wheel.

Belbin Team Wheel
belbin

Each person in a team will have aspects of that wheel that they have natural strengths in. Here’s a breakdown of those strengths:

Plant – Generating ideas on what to do

Coordinator – Coordinating people, delegating tasks and keeping the focus on the overall goal

Investigator – Connecting with people outside of the team, networking and kick-starting momentum

Shaper – Energising people to get to the desired outcome at pace and maintaining momentum

Specialist – Pulling in specialist expertise as required to get the job done

Evaluator – Critically evaluating the work and managing risks

Team Worker – Keeping people in the team happy

Implementer – Getting on with the tasks to be done

Finisher – Checking everything has been finished and done correctly

There are benefits and downsides to each of these preferences or natural styles of working, which is why having a team made up of too many people with one style can be damaging or make it difficult to achieve your goals.  So it’s important to have a blend of working styles within a team – not simply the technical expertise required to achieve a specific goal.

The key to using the Belbin Team Wheel effectively is to develop a better understanding of these different ways of working, and how we can make the best of them.  A few tools that can help develop your understanding of others can be found in Transactional Analysis and Kahler’s Five Drivers.

Feel free to hop on over to Belbin and take a closer look.

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