Fostering A Healthy Team

Image created by Bristol Artist Rachael Johnson – Instagram @rachael.johnson20art

As the new year begins, we are often encouraged to ‘start afresh’ and overhaul previous modus operandi. By internalising this mentality, leaders can often make their employees feel that they too must change their attitudes and approaches. This, in turn, could demoralise staff who feel may feel undervalued and unconfident just being who they are.

Instead, beginning the new year with a positive focus will support the fostering of healthy workplace cultures where staff feel inspired. A great way to do this is to develop processes which allow employees to think confidently about their unique skills and abilities.

Encourage reflection

Whilst one-to-ones are often embedded in managerial strategy for the purpose of encouraging reflection, an environment which builds employees self-worth can also be developed in other ways. Where teams are asked to reflect as a group, individuals are provided with the opportunity to consider where their skills lie and have their abilities further attested to by peers. Peer validation is an important element in the building of confidence, so consider about hosting a group feedback session to promote mutual admiration amongst colleagues and highlight individual strengths.

Think beyond binaries

Often, feedback from managers is provided within the framework of ‘what went well’ and ‘what could be improved’. The connotations of this are that employees contribute well in some ways, and less well in others. This in turn leads to an understanding that some skills are superior to others. Helping employees to think beyond the binary of ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ attributes often allows them access assets that are traditionally undervalued, and in turn improve their self-confidence at work.

Encouraging peer group reflection might also help employees to understand that skills they might undervalue within themselves are just not being deployed in the right context.

Considering how certain attributes might contribute differently to certain areas of work will allow individuals to value all parts of their performance. It also draws attention to how working with peers can help individuals to bridge gaps in employees own ways of working, which might have been hindering their contribution.

Use reflection tools

The Creative Type quiz (https://mycreativetype.com/) by Adobe is a great tool for facilitating this way of thinking. Though a set of abstract questions, this software aligns the quiz-taker with a working personality type and highlights their strengths. In addition, however, it identifies which other ‘creative type’ you might work well with to maximise your potential. Undertaking this quiz as a team, and reflecting on it together, introduces non-hierarchical ways of thinking about ability, beyond the binary of positive and negative. This activity therefore reinforces the value of employees both as individuals and as a team

This was my creative type

Equally the VIA Strength Finder ( https://www.viacharacter.org/survey/account/register) could be used to encourage group-based reflection on what each employee brings to the team via their natural strengths, helping the collective group to leverage of the skills of each other and in turn create a positive working environment which boosts confidence and morale allowing each member to contribute in areas where they naturally excel.

Find out your top strengths using this free online tool

Juggling Priorities

We all know the feeling of being overwhelmed. The inbox is flooded with unread messages, the calendar is full, and the to-do list looks unmanageable. It is important to gain the ability to manage your time between short-, medium-, and long-term tasks and projects. By exploring how to spend time on the right things we begin to see the importance of setting a personal agenda to get your focus back on track.

This post will introduce two tools for developing time and project management skills that have proved very effective in my work with clients. The first is the Third Habit outlined in Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which details the importance of prioritising tasks.

Managing priorities

In Habit 3, Covey encourages leaders to ‘Put First Things First’. Here he refers to the Four Quadrants of Time Management, by which all tasks are classified in terms of both urgency and importance. Tasks in Quadrant I might entail important deadlines and crises, those in Quadrant II tasks contributing to long-term development. Quadrant III refers to small and potentially distracting deadlines, whilst Quadrant IV’s distractions are frivolous and often pertain to procrastination.

The process of working with these quadrants entails first identifying the levels of urgency and importance in certain tasks, and in this way becoming more reflective on your working patterns. Covey advises us to spend more time in Quadrant II, with tasks and projects that are important but not urgent. These tasks are about planning, prevention, and improvement. By focusing attention on them we begin to prevent crisis situations from unfolding and maintain a healthy balance between productive work and understanding our limits.

To do this, Covey argues, we must reassess the time we spend on Quadrants III and IV, which should respectively be delegated to others and eliminated entirely.

Visualising the plan

To assess how much time, we spend in each Quadrant, however, we must first identify the levels of importance and urgency in our routine tasks/medium term projects/long-term goals. Here I introduce a second tool which comes from the fifth chapter of my book, The Evergreen Executive.

As an idea generating tool for you to design and generate your own Plan On A Page take a look at this downloadable template https://www.sandrawebbercoaching.com/downloads/Strategic_Plan_On_A_Page.pdf

By creating a plan on the page, it becomes easier to see what your priorities are and where your time should be spent. It can also be used to communicate and assign ownership to other members of your team

Taking charge

We all work collaboratively in many ways, and it is important to recognise the impact that relational work has on our time management. Leaders often feel themselves getting pulled in different directions by many people. They are often juggling multiple projects and are relied on heavily by different teams. By refocusing attention towards your individual agenda, it becomes easier to identify important tasks and prioritise these. Time management works hand in hand with personal management, and by regaining agency you can achieve efficiency in your work practice.

Reframing Imposter Syndrome

One phrase that has come up in many of my coaching conversations over the past few months is “I think I am suffering from Imposter Syndrome”. This has been mentioned by leaders who are looking for new roles, individuals who have been in their existing role for some time, and people who are new into their current position.

One of the main barriers to leaders reaching their full potential is not a lack of skills and experience, but instead a perceived lack emanating from low self-confidence. In a 1970s study on the impact of this work-centred around self-doubt, it was coined ‘Imposter Syndrome’. From here on this phenomenon has been understood as a limitation by which skilled workers doubt their competence and believe they are not talented enough to belong in their position. In 2014 study of 116 executives, 60% stated that imposter syndrome had an impact on their leadership.

When understood in this way, as a disadvantage, imposter syndrome can have huge consequences on peoples’ attitudes towards and behaviours at work. Some might overwork and refuse to ask for help to meet impossibly high standards, with the aim of combatting imposter syndrome by gaining proficiency in the workplace. This response often leads to burnout which can have hugely detrimental effects on wellbeing. Others lean into the insecurity and begin to avoid feedback and opportunities for promotion, believing that they don’t deserve to be given any merit.

First step to moving forward – open up communication

To tackle this exhausting feeling, opening up communication around imposter syndrome will allow the insecurity to be humanised and understood as a necessary and universal part of professional progression. Self-doubt can lead to rich and valuable reflection but should be balanced with positive reinforcement regarding what you have already accomplished and using this to move forwards and build self-belief. Changing the focus from the feeling of Imposter Syndrome as being a limiting factor, look at the evidence of what you are good at and can bring to your role and move towards a reframing of your situation as a natural phase of personal growth which you can easily move through.

A huge barrier to overcoming imposter syndrome is the feeling that you don’t belong in comparison to others. Breaking the silence on these thoughts, therefore, can help you understand how widespread they are. But this can only start with you, and openly acknowledging these feelings will give colleagues the opportunity to do the same. Imposter syndrome has been found as one of the top fears for executives, so there’s no chance that you’re feeling them alone. Take the first step by talking to a trusted peer, line manager or external coach/mentor and move forwards from here.

If you need any further help please reach out using sandra@sandrawebbercoaching.com for an initial free consultation.

Sandra works as an executive coach for a multitude of businesses and private clients. She has over 30 years of experience to draw from in her work and has a particualar focus on creating high performing leaders.

Turn Problems into New Outcomes

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How good are you at taking a situation and switching from a problem focus to a solution focus?

Whether it be in private or professional life we can often be faced with unplanned events or situations that we didn’t anticipate and have the potential of derailing us. How quickly  you are able to pick yourself up and reposition both your thoughts, feelings and actions from a problem orientation to a problem-solving stance is a skill high performers work on continuosly. Having some tools and techniques to handle these situations are useful ones to have.

One way of training ourselves to move towards a solution is by thinking firstly towards what is the desired outcome we want. If the outcome isn’t obvious then the first habit to learn is to look wide at all the possibilities alternative outcomes so simply get a blank bit of paper, a white board or flip chart and ask the following questions.

What would good look like?

  • What would it feel like?
  • What would people be saying?
  • What do all the different stakeholders want?
  • What we be proud of?
  • How can we make this the best in class?

Try and get other people involved as well for tricky problems to get diversity of thought as sometimes we can be too close both emotionally and technically to the problems we are trying to solve. So that’s the first technique to learn, questioning with curiosity to explore new outcomes that you can work towards from the problem you are currently encountering. Just by reframing the situation in this way you can change the energy levels of those involved from low energy despair to higher and possibility.

Acknowledge the problem but move on quickly towards a new outcome.

 

Sandra works as a professional coach for both businesses and private clients, more information can be found at www.sandrawebbercoaching.com . She is also the author of Own It – regain control and live life on your terms available from Amazon click this link

 

 

The First 90 Days Concept and Practice

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Recently I have been working with a couple of people that have taken on new roles either from internal promotion or moving to a different company. We have been talking about how important it is to have a plan for the initial few months of the role. For many reasons adopting this methodology is helpful: to create a powerful professional first impression, it helps prioritise your time so that you learn as much as you can as quick as you can and you start building relationships with all the key stakeholders.

So what might this 90 day plan look like ? Take a look at a book entitled The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins for some more detailed material.

It should be a very personally created plan that is tailored to suit both you individually and the needs that success in the role require both short and long term.

As Steven Covey states in his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People “ begin with the end in mind” even when planning for the first 90 day transition period. A few questions that might help you here are :

  1. If you imagine the new role in two years time what do you want to have achieved?
  2. What legacy do you want to leave?
  3. How can you add value to the role?
  4. What type of person do you want to be described as by your team/colleagues?
  5. Describe you short/medium/long term vision for role
  6. What do your stakeholders want from you
  7. How can you take the role to the next level

The next element of the plan is to assess the current resources that are available to you both people and otherwise? How well do you understand the different personalities and motivations of the individuals that are critical to your success? If the answers are difficult in this section the first 90 days might include an action to build this knowledge and assess the resources available.

The final element is what actions are required to close the gap and what are the quick wins that can be accomplished in the first 90 day’s. In addition for the longer term action items, when they are broken down into chunks which are the chunks that can be realistically set down as goals to achieve in this 90 day period and which what chunks need to be assigned to the 180 day plus part of the strategic plan

The final step is to pull all the elements of the 90 day plan above into an easy to update one page top level summary that you can carry around with you as a working reminder and communication tool for the next 90 day’s,

 

Sandra works as a coach with both business and private clients. More information can be found at http://www.sandrawebbercoaching.com 

For New Leaders

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For anyone new into a leadership role or for anyone who has taken over the leadership role of a new team taking the time out to build up a pen picture of each team member is a good first step.

One suggested approach is to create a grid with team members name down the vertical access in the first column and then create a number of other columns across the page where you can note useful information that can help you flex your leadership style in order to get the most out if the individual. Effective leaders have the ability to adjust their approach and leadership style regularly to adapt it to differing situations and the unique differences of team members. Firstly however you need to understand these unique differences and this grid exercise is a way of doing this?

The sort of information that could be useful for the new leader to collect in a systematic way would be

  •  Personality preferences eg Myers Briggs extrovert/introvert sensing/intuitive/ feeling/thinking judging/ perceiving .
  • Motivational and de-motivational indicators for each person
  • Development level eg their current way of working from dependent to interdependent
  • Have they got a clearly defined and understood job description
  • Key objectives
  • Key areas of development
  • Any other useful misc notes

If this grid is compiled and used as a management tool it is useful as a “My Team on a Page ” part of your leadership tool kit . It  can be a useful refresher prior to 1-1 discussions.

Another useful activity to schedule with each team member in the initial few weeks is to allow them un- interrupted time to talk about their personal goals long and short term, for them to share how they prefer to receive feedback and also how happy they are with their current personal development plan. Are they in need of more challenge or more support in their current role. How can you as the new leader be helpful for them.

By taking a genuine interest in what makes each person tick and also how things are currently working out through their eyes it will let them know that you care about them all individually.

Armed with all the above information it will not only allow you to adjust your leadership style accordingly it will also help you understand which developmental opportunities are best suited to which individual in your team. As an effective leader the development and growth of your team should be a key objective.

 

Sandra works with both businesses and private clients as a coach and trainer. She is also author of the book Own It – regain control and live life on your terms. More information can be found at http://www.sandrawebbercoaching.com or http://www.own-it-book.com 

 

Taking The Lead In Adapting

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Adapting behaviours in order to build better relationships with others is a subject that regularly comes up in both the coaching work I do and also the training workshops.

Regardless of the originating subject matter the topics of relationship building or improving communication between specific individuals is routinely discussed as one of the challenges faced by people in and outside of work regardless of age, gender, sector or situation.

So why is it we often need to take the lead and adapt our approach to improve our interaction with others?

  •  The first thing to realise is that, unless the other individual has done a lot of self-development work in the area of understanding and respecting the individual differences, we can’t rely on the other person in the equation to change or try a different approach
  • If they do then great but we have to assume the adaptation has to be down to us.
  • The second thing after realising some changes are necessary is that you have to WANT to experiment with a different approach and you have to WANT to try and improve the relationship. If this isn’t genuine then any adaptation from your standpoint might come across as false or inauthentic.
  • The third thing is be prepared to experiment with a few different approaches until you find one that works. It helps if there is a strong reason as to why you want to improve the communication or relationship so that the persistence in trying a few times or with a few different techniques is worth the effort in the long run.
  • Try looking at any situation through the eyes of the person you are trying to improve the relationship with. If you were them what might you be thinking, what would you want to change?

I have seen many times relationships between two parties that initially have been very strained and difficult move to a completely different harmonious level once one person has taken the initiative to either be very brave and confront the situation with a very honest and open discussion or tried a different approach (often a few) until a breakthrough was achieved. Often having worked through this initial difficult beginning strong partnerships are forged with much greater appreciation of the differences each party brings to the relationship.

 

Sandra works as a coach in businesses and with private clients. For more information look at http://www.sandrawebbercoaching.com

Persistence & Accountability

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So how are you doing with all those good intentions, resolutions, goals or new habits that you decided to commit to at the beginning of the year?

If I look at myself then I would say I am doing better with some than others, there are certain actions that are proving more difficult to embed as habits than others. When I work with both business and private clients keeping the momentum going over a long period of time and working out how to embed certain behaviours or habits that the individual wants to work on is by far the hardest part of the change process.

So let’s take a work example to illustrate a couple of things that can help embed new ways of improving or creating new actions moving forwards:

 A leader I have been working with for several months was struggling to commit her time to holding regular Team Meetings and hold monthly 1-1,s with her direct reports. She had had various attempts at putting the meetings in the diary and had also managed to keep the momentum going with a few meetings but it never lasted more than a couple of months. She began to think it didn’t matter as she sat quite close to the people they all chatted every day and they were having the occasional meeting. Deep down however she knew that the regular pattern she had originally set out to achieve hadn’t been embedded to become routine practice plus the fact that these two activities in my view (as her coach) were key to maintaining individuals motivation, aiding consistent communication and managing performance issues. It took a couple of events to refocus the leaders attention back to the important “why” did she want to work on improving this area in the first place. The two events were a high performing member of the team handed in her notice as she felt she wasn’t been challenged or developed enough in the role plus in the end of year appraisal feedback the Team commented that they often didn’t know what was going on in other areas of the business. When we discussed both of theses events at a coaching discussion it was clear that if the regular 1-1’s had been happening with everyone and team meetings were a given part of daily operations then these two events might not have occurred.

 So this illustration shows there has to be a solid reason behind why you want to embed new behaviours or change the way you do things.

 Ask yourself the question for anything you intended to do at the beginning of 2018 what was your “why” was it strong enough? Is it still there?

 Also who are you accountable ? It really helps if you share what you would like to work on with someone else and ask them to be your accountability buddy until the new habit or action becomes embedded in your routine.

Sandra works as a coach to both businesses and private clients – more information can be found at http://www.sandrawebbercoaching.com. She has also written a book called Own It which can be found on Amazon at http://amzn.to/2m3l8Vl

How Well Do I Lead My Team?

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For some companies the end of the calendar year also coincided with the annual appraisal process in which, if done well, each person comes out the other end of the process having had a really good discussion with their line manager on areas in which they are doing well, some areas where improvements need to be made and with a new set of very focussed goals that are both meaningful and motivational for the individual and to support business strategy.

Conducting a meaningful appraisal is just one of the skills any leader needs to learn. A leader should also have as part of their appraisal a discussion about how they are performing in the leadership role and ask the question of themselves throughout the year “how well do I lead my team?”

In some of the companies I work with we go out and collect feedback for leaders prior to the annual appraisal process and ask both direct reports, peers, customers, senior managers and other key stakeholders. This feedback is summarised and then discussed with the individual leader to ratify things that are working well and areas of development.

If you can get this type of feedback either via a systematic online generated questionnaire and report (360 degree feedback) or a more informal process it is hugely valuable. I have seen leaders transform their leadership ability based on such feedback as they didn’t realise how important their behaviour was on a day to day basis and what their team expected of them.

The type of actions that can result from a critical review of your leadership style on a regular basis can range from instigating  or reinvigorating regular team meetings, scheduling meaningful 1-1’s on a monthly basis with each member of your team to redefining entire team structure and clarifying roles and responsibilities.

The important thing to realise that it doesn’t matter if you are a leader with years and years of experience or if this is your first leadership role there are always areas where improvements can be made and also its nice to know what you are doing well!

 

Sandra works with numerous businesses across the UK and runs workshops on Leading and Developing High Performing Teams. Find our more information from either http://www.thekudosgroup.com or http://www.sandrawebbercoaching.com 

 

 

 

Celebrate Success

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As we are about to enter the season of festivity and celebration it reminded me of the need to ensure we celebrate success, achievements or just continuous hard work throughout the year rather than just at set times.

In the work I do coaching leaders at all levels of the organisation I encourage them to routinely catch people when they do the right things and behave in the right way as this has a dual benefit. Firstly, everyone feels good when they get some positive feedback and recognition plus when we acknowledge that we have noticed someone getting good results, behaving in line with company values or in a professional way it reinforces the message that we want to see more or similar in the future. Most of us have experienced the way that if you laugh or acknowledge a small child behaving in a certain way they keep doing it to get a similar response. As adults it is no different we still like to please those around us.

The way in which you choose to celebrate success however must be individual and meaningful to the recipient and this is where the skill lies. It takes time for leader to get to know each member of the team especially if they have a wide span of control. In my experience this is time well spent understanding each person’s individual personality, building a picture of what is important to that person’s life inside and outside of work plus also identifying their motivational mix; what makes them tick. Once you have built a pen picture of each person it is much easier to work out what type of reward or recognition would likely work for that person when it comes to celebrating success or a period of hard work and dedication. Some people will like to be publicly recognized in front of their peers or senior management while others would like a simple thankyou behind closed doors.

This type of tailored approach is equally important regardless of the size of the team or business. In my work across all sectors and size of company it is most often the individual leader that makes this happen and it becomes part of their leadership toolkit they can take with them throughout their careers.

So, I challenge you how good are you at recognising the efforts of others? is this something you are naturally good at and just need to continue in the way you are or is this something you could do a better job of in 2018. We need to look after our high performers and encourage the growth of future high performers

 

Sandra is a professional coach who works with both organisations and private client. More info can be found at www.sandrawebbercoaching.com