Why are you on that team?

Yesterday I was watching a live sporting event, and I was intrigued by what I was anticipating on seeing. The reason I was intrigued had to do with the fact I have an allegiance to both teams, and because one of the teams isn’t performing at a level they could be. Yes, I’m being polite, but as I was watching the underperforming team, I was looking for certain clues that would provide me with insight about why their performance results were disappointing.

The thing that I really like about watching and working with sports teams is that no one ever shows up on game day and announces that they can’t wait to lose today! This is probably the single element that is highly appealing to working with a sports team versus a corporate team, as you know exactly what the motivation of each team member is. Yes, corporate teams can tell you individually and collectively that they want to be successful, but there are many elements which can impede this and their ability to make this happen.

The corporate team leader is also included in the equation of doing their best to bring out top results in their team, but there is something they lack, and which sports teams’ leaders have an advantage over them. What is it? It is a singular focus during their performance on “game day” that everyone has an opportunity to rally to bring their “A” game. Sure, there are opportunities for corporate teams to rally to do this too, but not nearly as many, and realistically they are not motivated the same way sports teams are.

As I was watching the two teams compete yesterday, I took notes on what I was seeing both teams and their coaches exhibit as behaviors which contributed to what was happening on the field. Was there a difference between the two teams? There absolutely was. Was it obvious? Let’s just say there were glimpses of what was obvious, and if you were not paying attention, you might have missed what was contributing to each teams unmeasured performance.

However, there were moments during the game performance when you could clearly see which team had an advantage over the team. I’m stating this with the thinking that if you didn’t know the team’s seasonal win/loss performance, you could see via my lens which team was going to win.  The funny part, was that what I was observing had nothing to do with their sport ability. It had to do with what I was observing from a leadership and team dynamics perspective.

In observing the team that has struggled to win this season, I began to wonder about what it must feel like for the team members to be on that team. Or, what challenges the coaches must be having in trying to recruit players to a team whose performance over the last two to three years has been dismal at best. Would I want to be on that team? Apparently, there are some athletes that do, or they are locked into a contract that makes it difficult for them to consider other options. Although we know that we always have options, and sometimes we just need to look harder to uncover them.

So, in thinking about why someone would lead or remain on a sports or corporate team that has disappointing performance metrics, I started thinking about the reasons they would do this. Perhaps they are eternal optimists and think their situation will turn around soon? Possibly they are comfortable with their scenario, even though from the outside it looks dreadful to observers. Or, maybe they have given up hope, and are just trying to get through a commitment they have made to being on that team, and because they fundamentally really like being with their teammates. Worse case, is that they don’t think they deserve to lead or to be on a better team.

In any of these potential scenarios, it’s entirely possible all of these could be different. However, the difference will have to be a collective difference that the majority of the team, or that the leader will need to rally the team to consider making changes to improve. Let’s face it, situations can only seriously change if people want them to, and are proactive about doing so. Especially since a team is made up of more than one person.

If you are leading or on a team whose performance isn’t what you want or expect it to be, there are some actions you can take to turn your situation around, and I have included some suggestions for you below to consider applying.

  • Some people are inspired by measuring their performance against others, for those individuals, mutually develop metrics they can realistically reach, so that they have some “small wins” to build off of.
  • For those individuals on your team who are not motivated by others performance, you will need to be more creative to determine what inspires them. Don’t be surprised by what they tell you that motivates them, and be sure to apply what you hear and tie it into performance metrics they can relate to.
  • Does your team truly know and appreciate each other? What have you done to develop your team in these areas?
  • As a leader, does your team know that you sincerely care about them succeeding? Do you tell or demonstrate this appropriately and on a consistent basis?
  • How is your attitude? If you are on an underperforming team, it’s likely not the best. What is something you could do every day to improve your attitude? A positive attitude can be contagious, and this is something you should be spreading.
  • Are you doing anything fun with your team that is unrelated to the sport or work you are doing? We are all kids at heart, and the majority of us still delight in doing fun activities from time to time. They don’t have to be expensive activities, you just need to leverage your creativity to accomplish this.
  • As a leader or individual team member, have you had any conversations with others on your team about how you would like the team to be better? Not just conversations that are complaint oriented, but ones that are infused with potential solutions.

With over several decades of experience, I have seen teams that others have given up on, or that were underperforming turn their team around when others didn’t think it would be possible to do so. Yes, there are plenty of other factors that will need to be integrated into your teams “turn-around” plan, but you need to ask yourself if you can do this, if you want to do this, or if you need someone from the outside to help you? Every team deserves to be a winning team, what’s holding you back from having your team claim this title?

TAGS: #Leadership #Teams #Success #Work #Sports #Sportsteam #Management #Teamdevelopment #Personaldevelopment #Humanresources #Hrprofessional #CEO #Teamdynamics #Motivation #Winning #Winningteams #Productiveteams #Interdependentteams #Aspirationalteam #Underperformingteam

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Why you should give someone a chance or an opportunity.

 The first time I had a chance to professionally give someone an opportunity was when I was in my twenties, and it involved hiring my first employee. I can vividly recall both the excitement and trepidation I felt about making the decision to hire this person. It wasn’t because I was concerned about them being able to do the job, it was because of the fact I did not have experience with knowing how to manage another person. It turns out thirty years later I did find out that I did know how to manage someone, and they sent me a hand-written letter expressing their gratitude to me for giving them a chance, and hiring them. 

At that point in time, I had been managed by other people, and fortunately I had some amazing bosses, and one not so amazing one. In some respects, I probably learned more from the not-so-great manager, and this was because I was cataloging in my mind things they did that I would never want to do as a manager. One of them was to be a micromanager, and unfortunately for me, they had this skill down perfectly. However, the best news about my least favorite manager was that they gave me a chance to enter a new career which I proceeded to be in for another twenty plus years. 

Upon looking back on the opportunity that manager gave me, I realized that they must have seen something in me which warranted bringing me onto their team. As I think more about why they did this, I would say it was because we were complete opposites in terms of our methods of how we interacted professionally. He was extremely introverted, and you guessed it, I was the opposite of this. My ability to interact and get along with others helped him to bridge the gap he had with interacting with all of the employees we had to work with. In some respects, I now realize that he did become better at working with people, and perhaps some of this had to do with me demonstrating how to do so. 

With few exceptions, everyone has at least one time in their life when they either can recall, or will have a situation personally or professionally to give another person a chance. Either to do something trivial, or perhaps extraordinary. 

Consider a recent scenario when you may have actually passed and did not give another person an opportunity. If you broke down the reasons why you didn’t give them a chance, was it because you were afraid they might make you look bad? Was it because you were concerned you would have to spend a great deal of time mentoring them? Or, was it because you didn’t think they would “fit in” with the team? 

If you didn’t hire someone because you didn’t think they would fit in, chances are high that this was based on a bias you may have had, but would never admit to. Or perhaps it was because you had a gut instinct that something wasn’t quite right on a number of different levels, but you may not have been able to articulate exactly what they were. It was purely a feeling you had. 

In the case of not giving someone a chance was oriented around a negative bias, I want you to seriously think about something. Did you feel intimidated by this individual? Were you concerned they might outperform you at some point? Perhaps their intelligence level was greater than yours, or possibly their EQ was obviously higher than yours? The point is, that you were afraid on some level, but may not have considered this as a factor. 

The interesting aspect of being afraid is that most of the time, our fear is based on something irrational. Although there are occasions when it is real. However, most of the time, the fear we have is in our minds, and if we took the time to potentially override this, imagine the outcome of many of our decisions. One time I heard a great acronym for fear, and I have always thought about this myself when I felt fearful. The acronym for F.E.A.R. is “false expectations appearing real”. This simple statement has course corrected many of my own decisions throughout the journey of my life, and I hope it might provide you with a new way of confronting your own fears. 

To help you increase your odds of giving another person a chance or opportunity, here are some suggestions to consider:

·      Think about how much giving the person a chance might change the trajectory of their personal or professional life. It might not be that dramatic of an impact, but then again, it might. 

·      What is the worst-case scenario of this person being given a chance, and having them fail? 

·      Look at what you can do to set the person up for success. If you are a leader, this is always something you should be doing. No exceptions. 

·      Be honest with the person about any reservations you have about giving them an opportunity, and let them mitigate any concerns you have. 

·      Nothing is permanent, and taking a chance on someone doesn’t have to be either, so err on giving one. 

·      Consider how this person might compliment, augment or even out strengths you or others on your team have. 

·      Mentoring someone can be a great on ramp, or interim option prior to fully committing to giving someone a chance if you are hesitant in doing so.

·      Do your best to override your fear of helping this person out. It might turn out to be the best decision you ever made, and hiring my first employee turned out that way. 

With few exceptions, everyone deserves to be given an opportunity. Whether it is to succeed, be included or be given more responsibility. The list is endless in terms of the benefits both that person and you will gain when you are in a position to give someone a chance. Keeping in mind, that someone likely gave you at one point or more in your life. 

TAGS: #Leadership #Personaldevelopment #Business #Teams #Mentor #Success #Opportunity #Givingsomeoneachance #Bias #Leader #Sales

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The power of a handwritten note.

I had the good fortune of learning a long time ago about the influence a handwritten note can have, and I can credit my Mom for teaching me this. She wasn’t a business person, she was a nurse, so she clearly had an appreciation of the impact words can have on others.

Initially when it wasn’t my choice to be writing handwritten thank you cards to people who had done something nice for me, or given me a gift, it seemed like and arduous task. One I actually tried to avoid doing. Mainly because I am dyslexic, and when I was younger, writing was not a talent I had developed. However, my notes were all sincere, and it established a wonderful and lifelong habit of sending handwritten notes.

Recently I was going through some boxes in my attic, and I came across a box which was filled with letters that I had saved. All of them were written before the internet came about. The amazing thing about these letters, was that they captured a time in my life I had not thought much about. Most of the letters were from my friends from high school and college, and they were mainly letters reminiscing about experiences we had together, updated me on what they were currently doing, or telling me they missed me, and were looking forward to seeing me again.

When I received those letters, they appeared to have arrived at the perfect time, as I was either home sick, or missing the person that sent them. Hearing from them cheered me up.

Some people might think of writing a letter or a card, especially in the professional world as being old fashioned. Perhaps it is, but since fewer people are writing them, they have a greater impact when they are received. In fact, I have saved the handful of cards I have received over the past few decades from other professionals.

One of the cards I saved was from a CEO I was working for. I was in fact shocked to have received a handwritten note from him, but it was probably one of the most impactful ones I had ever received. Why? Because I was incredibly disappointed by the way he handled a project. He knew this, and he knew he had made a mistake with the approach he initially took.

The CEO’s letter to me was an apology and thank you letter. In the letter, he told me that he should not have pulled rank on me, or have overridden one of my decisions, and he regretted that he did that. He expressed both his regret, and sincere appreciation for how I handled myself professionally, and for how exceptionally well the project I was leading turned out. Receiving this letter was actually shocking, but it provided me with an entirely new lens on this leader. A much more positive one, as I could see that he had taken the time to be reflective, had learned from the mistake he had made, and was willing to own up and take responsibility for owning his decision and actions. When I think about this situation, I don’t think verbally hearing what he had written would have had the same positive impact.  In fact, I know it would not have.

I can understand that some people might not feel confident about being able to craft a handwritten note, but let me assure you, you can write one with greater ease than you imagine. It just takes some practice, and the good news for you, is that it doesn’t have to be a long note. Consider the size of most traditional thank you cards. They are literally about four inches wide, and three inches long. That’s not a lot of writing real estate, so this can work in your favor. Even better? If you buy a traditional “thank you” greeting card, they often have something written inside, so you only have to add a sentence or two to personalize your note.

If you still are not convinced that you should be writing more handwritten notes to people, here are some other reasons to consider why you should be doing this.

  • Writing a handwritten note doesn’t take much effort, but the person receiving it will consider that you put genuine effort into doing this.
  • There isn’t any downside to saying thank you to someone, especially via a handwritten note.
  • If you are a leader, you should absolutely be regularly crafting handwritten notes. No exceptions or excuses for why you are not. As they saying goes, “lead by example.”
  • Yes, manners are still noticed. Especially when good ones are exhibited, and crafting a handwritten note ticks off the box of having good manners.
  • Being thoughtful isn’t overrated, and sending someone a handwritten note can speak volumes in your favor when you do this.
  • Sure, you can stand out on social media, but consider this. When do you think the person you are trying to influence the most received a handwritten note? Consider standing out from the crowd by finding your pen and a card to send to them.
  • Handwritten notes can cover a wide variety of topics. Consider all of the people you could write a card to, and what you could express to them from a positive perspective.
  • Keep the negative notes to yourself, as they tend to do more harm than good. However, writing them can be cathartic, but I don’t recommend sending them.
  • Consider the last time you received a handwritten note from someone. Perhaps you can return the favor and send one back to them?

So, having expressed my views about the power of handwritten notes, don’t be surprised if you get one from me one day. I’ll also be waiting to see who will take me up on my concept of leveraging the power of a handwritten note. Maybe I’ll receive one from you?

TAGS: #Leadership #Business #Success #Rolemodel #Leadbyexample #Impressions #Firstimpressions #Leader #Leaders #Positiveinfluence #CEO #Communication #Management #Marketing

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Everyone is a specialist. Where are the generalists?

Overview:

When I began my business career, I started out in marketing. At that time, I was tasked with doing basic marketing activities, and I gradually began to take on more advanced marketing assignments and responsibilities. About a decade into my career, I took on a leadership role and was responsible for a team of marketers. At that time, I was still able to be both a marketing practitioner, while leading the team.

The thing that I liked the most about my career as a marketer in the first half of my profession, was that I would have classified myself as a generalist. What I mean by this, is that I was able to participate in all of the aspects of the marketing field. I loved the variety and challenges that each of the areas of this part of business presented to me, especially the creative and strategic aspects.

Fast forward to the mid 2000’s and I started to notice a trend occurring in my profession. What I began to see happen was the evolution of those who wore a marketing “hat” start to veer into becoming specialists in this profession. This occurred around the time when social media marketing began to become more complex, and required a dedicated and hyper focused attention on the aspects of digital marketing. When this shift in marketing began to emerge, I knew this was leaning towards the demise of marketing generalists. At least for most medium to large businesses.

Being a marketing generalist was probably the most fun and creatively expressive time in my career, as I was able to flex and leverage all of my acquired marketing skills on a daily basis. When it became clear that the skills required to excel and be defined as an expert in social media was inevitable, this was around the time I began to wonder what would happen to other marketers who would classify themselves as generalists?

Did the marketing generalists began to fade out into obscurity and slowly begin to “exit stage left” in the marketing profession? Perhaps, but as a comparison, I think what happened was that marketing generalists with 15 plus years of experience began to either shift to work for smaller companies where they could continue to leverage all of their skills, or could be compared to general practitioner doctors. What I mean by this is that you go in to consult with the marketing generalist or general practitioner, and they refer to you as a specialist.

Is the specialist model a good one? Perhaps, and the jury may still be out on this, but I believe with both marketing and the medical worlds becoming increasingly more complex, there is likely a strong demand for the need to have people become specialists. The question is, do people presently even have the option to learn the aspects of becoming a generalist in any industry? What if you are the type of person who enjoys the challenge of having to know enough about each of the different areas of your profession, and are not interested or challenged enough by having to specialize in an area? Is there still a possibility for people entering the workforce to stay on what I will refer to as a “generalists track”?

In my opinion, when someone is either compelled, or perhaps not given a choice about whether they want to become a specialist, I have concerns about this model going forward. The reason for this is because as someone who has been both a generalist and specialist, I can appreciate the fact I have seen both sides of this model. However, I would also say that being a generalist can be a more difficult path for most people, as it requires you to be skilled in a number of different areas, and at a proficiency level which you wouldn’t be questioned about your abilities.

Achieving a “generalist” status in any profession is going to be quite challenging, but it is possible. Although I will offer that you will have to seek out more opportunities to gain the variety of experiences to acquire your generalist skills.

If you are looking for some suggestions on how to take the path of becoming a generalist, here are some ways you can consider doing this.

  • You will need to keep an open mind about where you will be starting this journey. It might be that you will need to consider living in a different part of the country where there are more opportunities for you to leverage.
  • I recommend you make it clear that you are not seeking to specialize in a particular role, but that you would like to gain as much broad experience as is possible in the role you will be doing.
  • It’s likely you will need to ask for additional opportunities to expand your options of the experience you will be gaining, and you may experience some resistance in being able to do activities you only have junior level skills to do.
  • Consider shadowing someone if they are not willing to give you hands on opportunities to try something new. Eventually they might give you a chance to “try” what you want to experience.
  • Smaller companies will typically offer you more of a variety of experiences, especially in marketing, so be sure to factor this into your experience planning. The larger companies will tend to hire mainly specialists at the entry to mid-level positions.
  • Although this might be more challenging to attempt, I would suggest you consider test driving a few different industries to gain your experience in. Doing this will allow you to see which industries might be more willing to provide you with opportunities to gain your generalist skills.
  • Channel your inner researcher skills and embark upon speaking to as many people as you can to help you to determine alternative methods to gain your generalist experience in other creative ways.
  • Don’t rule out volunteering at an organization where they would be thrilled to have you provide them with help, and perhaps allow you to stretch your existing skills, or learn new ones that you can benefit from gaining.

My intention for sharing information about this topic with you was to open your mind to the possibility of exploring what is now more of an alternative career track (e.g., generalist), when in the past, this was more of the norm. I believe there is still a need for people who have generalist skills, and that not everyone has to be a specialist going forward, and I applaud either direction you think is the right one for you.

TAGS: #Career #Experience #Marketing #Business #Teams #HumanResources #CareerDevelopment #Expertise #Specialist #HumanDevelopment #PersonalDevelopment #CareerOptions #SocialMedia #SocialMediaMarketing #Generalists #Specialists #CareerSpecialists #MarketingSpecialists #BusinessSpecialists #HumanResources #HRProfessional #CareerAdvice #MarketingCareerAdvice #BusinessCareerAdvice

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Thrive! What’s your plan?

I was recently having a conversation with someone close to me about how they were living each day and really struggling to get through it. Yes, they were admittedly depressed. They also felt as if they were stuck in a vicious cycle they could not get out of. The cycle consisted of working, going to sleep, repeat.

During the course of each day, they referenced that it took every ounce of energy they had to just do the bare minimum of what they had to do in their job. They didn’t feel as if they had time to do anything during the course of the day that they even slightly enjoyed doing. This made matters worse. Could this possibly be a time management challenge? Absolutely, and they would admit to this, but they still felt unable to break their vicious cycle, no matter how desperately they wanted to do so.

One of the things which came up during our conversation was the need to figure out what they could do during the day to refuel their energy battery. In other words, to do something which would provide them with additional energy to help them to break out of their situation of feeling like they were only existing day to day.

Hearing and seeing this person struggling was gut wrenching for me, yet as an optimist, I felt I still could do something to help them out of their situation. I just needed to be creative and have them be willing to try to do something different. Perhaps a bit radical to them. The next thing I needed to do was to get them to agree to doing something different. Then I asked them to commit to giving it everything they had in them to go from existing to thriving. Even if they were starting from a disadvantaged place of doing so.

If you are not familiar with having depression or anxiety, one of the things about it is that it consumes most of your energy, and makes you feel exhausted. Exhausted to the point of potentially not being able to accomplish anything but sleep. Fortunately, this person was not at this level, but I felt they were close to it.

When you are interacting with someone who isn’t thriving, they are typically frustrated and overwhelmed by what is happening in their life and at work. Of course, no one wants to feel this way. However, the challenge most people have is that they are often not equipped with methods to help them when they find themselves in this situation. Being able to recognize when someone is in this situation is critical, and it doesn’t take a professional to evaluate this. Having empathy and common sense will be enough skills to recognize someone is in a difficult situation.

I am not a trained mental health care professional, but my life and professional expertise in working with people over the last 25 years to bring the best out of them is both an honor and privilege.  I’ve written about how coaching is not therapy , and in fact, would suggest that people who are struggling with feeling like they are not thriving, and are simply existing could benefit from having both a therapist and a coach. In fact, I believe firmly that everyone should have a coach. I have three to four people in my life at any point in time who play the role of my coach. Some might refer to them as mentors, and in some instances the role definitions become blurred.

Let’s circle back to how I’m in the process of helping the person close to me with going from feeling like they are existing to thriving. One of the things I suggested was to in fact find a therapist. They are now working with one. Below are some of the other and more radical things they are doing, and that others can do too.

  • Outline on paper what you want your life to be like going forward. Think of this in terms of either a mind map, or perhaps a picture storyboard. Some refer to this as an inspiration board. This can also be created digitally too. The point is to begin thinking ahead.
  • When we begin to think about what is in front of us, and how to get to the place we want to be, it shifts our mentality from being “stuck” to considering that there are possibilities for doing something different.
  • Craft a list of all of the things you can think of that you would like to do or accomplish. Make the list as if everything on it is possible. In other words, think well beyond what you might even be able to imagine doing in reality.
  • Aspirational thinking is really powerful. Even more powerful is being able to plot out the tiny, and potentially large number of steps to get there. Although having many steps might appear to be overwhelming, if you can commit to doing one per day, it will allow you to accomplish this.
  • Having the perception of possessing good time management skills is often a challenge for people who feel they are simply existing. So, I highly recommend putting this on someone’s list to help them to learn how to improve this skill.
  • Committing to taking care of yourself is also highly important, as this is often overlooked when someone is not feeling great. Even doing something as small as drinking enough water and remaining hydrated each day can be helpful.
  • The radical thing I am having the person I referenced consider doing, is to think of their next career move as a paid internship. To have the experience be focused on building a new foundation which will support them to thrive. We are working on setting this up, but I know this will work, as I have had numerous other people apply this technique. No, it’s not easy, but the results are always remarkable.

So, if you or someone you know isn’t thriving, but wants to, I hope you will share this story with them. Everyone deserves to be thriving in their life, and sometimes they need additional support to get there.

TAGS: #Mentalhealth #Howtothrive #Howtosucceed #Management #Business #Life #Coaching #Therapist #Therapy #Leadership #Beingstuck #Feelingstuck #Thriving #Advice #Mentor #Virtualmentor #Perception #Timemanagement #Timemanagementskills

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