We all have the ability. The difference is how we use it." Stevie Wonder
Leadership isn't a fancy moniker that smart business people hang in their office or place at a conspicuous spot on their resume. It takes heart, commitment and responsibility to become a Team Lead that others will gladly follow.
Perhaps one of the most challenging leadership roles in the 21st Century is to consistently lead a successful team. We are required to do more with less. The demands we place on ourselves are the very demands we place on our team. Is this the best way?
As always, Cornerstone's endeavor is to provide support and encouragement for people in business to be successful, to thrive in their gifts and to aspire to heights they were always meant to climb. We are delighted to introduce a quarterly comminque, "Teambuilding Education News Brief," a motivating refresher on important leadership tips and techniques to create strong teams.
Cornerstone is also delighted to offer a four-hour workshop, "Teambuilding Within Your Own Space" to enhance your team's ambition to accomplish corporate product excellence and establish your company as the service provider of choice. Learn more and to schedule a workshop
Tenth Issue, Fourth Quarter, 2017
An Attitude of Gratitude
We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude---Cynthia Ozick
Expressions of gratitude are typically free for the giver and to its recipients, priceless. So why is it that leaders tend to be stingy with compliments that are meaningful to their team? Is their apprehensive a result of a few self-searching questions? For example, “Will gratitude make us seem weak and vulnerable? Will it close the ‘levels’ gap? Will it melt away our distinction as bosses?” Take another look at these questions and its source and ask, “Are they ego-driven or team driven?”
If you’ve chosen ego-driven, then you’re correct. In my thirty-five years in corporate America, the ego-driven leader was a person who enjoyed short-lived successes. What they didn’t understand is that a leader’s focus must be on their team and not on themselves. A successful doctor focuses on the health and welfare of their patients, not themselves. A teacher focuses on his learner. A writer on her reader. An actor on his audience. A car salesperson on her buyer. A parent on his children. One way we can focus on our team is to lead from our head and our heart. To lead with heart means that we are transparent, gracious with compliments, and refuse to take our team for granted. We are committed to freely giving away appreciation for their hard work. Here are a few tips to help jumpstart your attitude of gratitude:
Put Yourself in Your Team’s Shoes: When we slip our own feet into our team’s shoes, stand where they stand, see things from their perspective then we lose sight of ourselves and recalibrate our point of view to see how the world turns from their position. I’m reminded of stories of a mental shift on the popular TV show, Undercover Boss. While working side by side with their team, top management’s eyes begin to observe the workplace from that of their team. Wearing their team’s shoes changed their attitude. It opened a wide avenue of appreciation for their effort, dedication and commitment. Since the way they looked at their team caused them to change the types questions they’d ask of themselves. They shifted from ego-driven to team-driven questions, i.e. How can I best show my appreciation for my team? What best practices can I put into place? What can I do to serve my team vs. they serve me, the corporation?
The Golden Rule: “Treat others as you want to be treated!” Whoa! I was around seven years old when my mother taught me this rule. That rule literally stopped me in my tracks! Throughout my life, I’ve focused on this profound golden rule and it still stops me in my tracks. The “stop” is paramount to rethinking my attitude and analyzing a wider perspective of what is happening in the moment. Treating others as ourselves is having the ability to respect ourselves enough to give the best of who we are to our team.
Let employees inside. A good team lead never leaves their employees in the dark. Keeping things transparent is important in maintaining team effectiveness. Transparency is also important for showing employee appreciation. Letting employees in on financials and other important information helps employees feel as if they are involved in the ins and outs of the organization, which helps them feel invested in the outcome. Leaders should also let their employees in on some important decisions. This shows employees that their leaders trust their opinions and that they are important to the organization.
An Attitude of Gratitude—leading from your heart and your head—hushes the voice of ego that distracts leaders from coaching their teams to unthinkable results, maintaining a contented work force, and increasing job satisfaction and loyalty. Let’s roll up our gratitude sleeves by putting ourselves in our employees’ shoes, by practicing the Golden Rule and by trusting our employees enough to let them inside. When you can create a habit of incorporating these tips into your management style, then you let your team feel valued and they’re worth your time. What you’ve given to them will be returned to you in their gratitude of you as a leader._________________________________________________________________________________
Ninth Issue, Third Quarter, 2017
FLEX YOUR CHARASMATIC MUSCLE—PART 2
“It’s good to be able to laugh at yourself and the problems you face in life. Sense of humor can save you.” --- Margaret Cho
Part of 1 in this series (released in 2nd Qtr 2017) addressed humor as an important attribute for leaders to build strong teams. In Part 2 we’ll continue to pursue humor and help leaders to consider a microscopic view of their own behavior in the workplace. As Margaret Cho said in the quote featured in this article, it is vital that leaders can first laugh at themselves before they can develop their own unique sense of humor amongst their team. In other words, leaders don’t take yourselves seriously. Tapping into humor doesn’t mean you need to be funny all the time. Humor works best when it directs you to simple exercises: to breathe, to lighten up, to find simplicity in the complex.
It took me a very long time to understand the important concept of not taking myself seriously. Why? Because as a leader, I had this illusionary expectation that maybe I was above being human, that I couldn’t let my team see my vulnerabilities, that somehow I would be seen as weak, less than, vulnerable and God forbid, ineffective. One day another supervisor and good friend stopped by my office to “sit a spell.” We were discussing how best to execute the programs from our new senior manager. My approach was to follow his new plan to the letter—no wiggle room, just the facts and nothing but the facts. My friend leaned back into his chair and grinned from across my desk. He said, “Don’t take yourself so seriously.” He stood and walked out the door.
What? I’m the boss! I have to be serious!
And this is what I learned by not taking myself seriously. First, my team needed to know that I was a human being. I did not sleep while floating a couple of inches off of my mattress. I slept on it just the way they did—flat on their backs. Neither did I make a jumping leap into the slacks of my pantsuit—I put one leg in then the other just like they did.
Making a shift in my behavior, I learned, was a journey, which meant it took a while to change my “person in charge” mentality. When I was brave enough to laugh at myself, then my own sense of humor grew. As my own sense of humanness and humor began to immerse, my team rallied and began to exceed their limits of creativity and productivity. I learned the following tips as a result of not taking myself seriously:
1. Build Trust: Humor is a powerful tool to build trust because it often reveals the authentic person lurking under the professional mask. For example, I became more likable and was viewed as being more trustworthy. Humor can tear down walls and help people build relationships that will eventually lead to their success. And that’s what happened to my team. When they felt “safe” in their relationship with me, they made themselves assessable to other team members.
2. Boost Morale: Humor boosts morale where employees look forward to coming to work. We all prefer to have fun at work. What I began to understand with my own sense of humor and relaxed mood was that my team didn’t feel like they were boxed into a servitude environment.
3. Become more approachable: Although, I had always told my team about my open door policy, I often wondered why only a few took advantage of my “generosity.” But when I began to change my mindset and humor became commonplace, then I became approachable. My team felt safer with my open door policy. They were more honest and open. The result: they grew in passion, commitment, and innovative solutions.
4. Increase productivity: When teams can trust their leaders, a new passion flickers from their own sense of well-being. They’ll become more secure in taking a few risks in thinking outside the box. And all this leads to greater productivity and setting new standards of excellence. Enthusiasm for creative solutions and bold thinking became contagious.
Before recognizing the significance of humor in the workplace, I existed under a thin veil of what I thought was good leadership. I often wondered why a small fraction of my team took advantage of my open door policy. Why did only a handful of my team voice their opinion? Why did procrastination plaque the team? I misunderstood their complacency for what it really was: a lack of trust and passion, low morale, existing as a kind of robot—nodding their heads during a meeting and returning to their offices with half-hearted commitment. Before I could expect them to grow, I first had to grow. Creating a sense of humor was instrumental in paving a way where my team will motivate themselves to creative, can-do attitudes.
May you be challenged to revolutionize each member of your team! Salute to everyone’s success!! By the way, have you laughed today?
Eighth Issue, Second Quarter, 2017
FLEX YOUR CHARASMATIC MUSCLE—PART 1
A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done. --- Dwight D. Eisenhower
I was blessed with a few great bosses while working in corporate America. These leaders were a standout because they regularly exercised their charismatic muscle. They were not only brilliant but they embraced an important ingredient in leadership: a healthy sense of humor. Their propensity to laughter and keeping work-life light caused their teams to feel more secure, more trusting, and in the long run more creative and productive. These managers had the capability of dealing with tough tops-down decisions and communicating new policies that brought cohesion to the team vs. divisiveness. In a word, these managers used their charismatic muscle and became miracle workers in the workplace. You simply wanted to do your very best for this kind of leader.
I travel extensively on Southwest Airlines. Even though their planes aren’t designed for comfort, they try to make up for passenger “discomfort” with their humor. For example, an attendant will break into a song about why so many travelers choose Southwest with free snacks and beverages. Some attendants force themselves to be funny, but somehow we neatly-squished-into-teeny-tiny-seats appreciate them just for their effort. Southwest uses humor as their branding and by doing so, they create a fun corporate culture.
Michael Kerr, an international business speaker, president of Humor at Work, and author of The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses are Laughing all the Way to the Bank (Dec., 2013), says that surveys suggest that humor can be at least one of the keys to success. 91% of executives believe a sense of humor is important for career advancement, while 84% feel that people with a good sense of humor do a better job. Another study found that the two most desirable traits in leaders were a strong work ethic and a good sense of humor.
In this news brief you’ll learn the first five of ten tips on the important “success” concept entitled, Why Humor Creates a Successful Work Environment:
1. People Will Enjoy Working With You: Let’s face it. People want to work with people they like. Tasteful humor is a great way to win friends and influence people. Be tastefully funny but not offensive. But how can we be funny when there is absolutely nothing to laugh about? As a leader, don’t allow stress to rob your sense of humor. For starters, don’t take yourself seriously.
2. Humor is a Potent Stress Buster: It’s a triple whammy,” says Kerr. “Humor offers a cognitive shift in how you view your stressors. It’s the emotional and physical responses that relax you when you laugh.”
3. It is Humanizing: Humor builds common ground. It has a way of bringing people together.
4. Humor puts Others at Ease: Humor is a way to break through the tension barrier. People who tend to laugh in response to a conflict tend to shift from a single mindset solution to multiple ideas to resolution.
5. Ha + Ha = Aha! So if humor relieves stress and puts people at ease, then it’s fair to say that it leads to creative thinking. Humor and creativity helps us to observe a challenge in a new way and make new connections we’ve not thought about before. Humor creates an environment for innovation because people are more inspired when they’re relaxed.
Hone your leadership skills and master the art of humor in your workplace and begin to notice the evolution of creativity and success in yourself and your team.
Seventh Issue, First Quarter, 2017
“Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It's about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire team-mates and customers.” --- Robin S. Sharma, writer and speaker
ne of my most challenging yet gratifying team lead jobs was as a Project Manager for the phone company. My charter was to organize and influence telephony experts to strategize and deliver large scale telecommunication services to priority and major customers. This highly influential team consisted of 20-30 key personnel starting with Account Executives from marketing to outside plant engineering, right-of-way, construction, transmission engineering, central office connectivity, plant service centers, translations administrators, special services, installation, service management, and public relations. The challenge lied in not only meeting accelerated due dates, but dealing with a range of personalities and department politics that sometimes caused resistance at critical times during the project. Another team challenge was that members could change contingent upon the scope of work and geographical area. This change in personnel impacted team dynamics, familiarity and cohesiveness. Since the project’s end users were priority and major accounts, our performance came under the scrutiny of upper management.
I’ve often wondered if there was a lasso powerful enough to corral team members in a way that influences teamwork; inspires cooperation; and produces unimaginable results. I stole away one weekend to develop a list of my own to-do list focused on innovative teambuilding techniques. Over time, this list developed into helpful tips, evidenced by good results. The beauty of these tips is that they are as effective with members of peers, superiors, and subordinates. These tips facilitated me to a productive and effective “lead-er-ship!”
1. What does your team see when they look at you? Leadership is not about taking center stage. Real leadership is about putting others first and yourself last—keeping humble, gracious, kind and loyal. Be authentic—give them a person they are proud to follow. Lead-er-ship is about being honest with yourself and looking into the same mirror as your team.
2. Show appreciation and respect. I consistently stayed in touch with members outside of meetings and took the time to sincerely thank them for their continued resourcefulness. Everyone deserves to be appreciated. It takes less than a minute to say, “Good job!” Gratitude reaches the hearts of determination and that can last a very long time.
3. Keep looking toward the big picture. As team lead, it’s your responsibility to ensure every member focuses on the big picture. It’s easy for individual departments to focus on their needs and get tunnel vision and lose sight of the big picture. There were times during heated discussions when we’d take “time outs” to ask, “What is our big picture? What are we working toward?
4. People are waiting for you to make the tough decisions. Yes, you team is looking at you for your decisions. We all learn by watching, and they are watching you to see how you do it.
5. Enhance team effectiveness by relying on subject matter experts. Before heading to meeting with your team, leave ego at your office. A flaunting ego has no place in a team lead. Keep humble, understand that you don’t have all the answers, know that your charter is to give a voice to the experts and rely upon their experience and knowledge.
6. Listen and observe. Focus on each member. Let them know that they’re being seen and heard. Leadership isn’t about talking—it’s about watching and truly hearing your team.
7. Feed them. You may have heard the term, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” I can guarantee the way to a team’s cooperation is through their stomach as well. Team meets would start promptly at 8 AM. A local bakery delivered a variety of Danishes filled with homemade preserves or cream cheese, along with a large pot of coffee, hot water for tea. Members were always on time. Some arrived early for a tasty treat and conversation. By the time the meeting began, everyone was in a good mood. It’s amazing to observe the bonds of friendship that flourished over pastry and coffee. Cooperation and unbelievable results follow. If you’re hosting an afternoon meeting, serve popcorn, or chips and salsa, and soft drinks. Be creative with refreshments, and watch how creativity begets creativity. Being led without knowing it is the truest form of lead-er-ship.
Whether you’re leading a team of thirty or ten, each member deserves the very best of you: your support, guidance, caring, clarity, integrity, confidence. Be secure in who you are that grants the space your team needs to blossom where they are planted. Now go out there and lead-er-ship!
Sixth Issue, Fourth Quarter, 2016
ords are powerful! The words from a team lead have the power to build up a subordinate’s self-esteem or slice through their souls. Just the very thought of a word can either lift their spirits or conversely ruin their entire day, entire week, entire life! For example, how do you feel when you think about the word, “Win?” You may feel strong, positive, hopeful. Now what do you feel when you think about, “Worry.” Do feelings like stressed, anxious, fearful sink to the pit of your being? In our teambuilding workshops, “Teambuilding within Your Own Space,” we discuss the power of words by doing a simple exercise. Would you like to participate in this condensed version of this exercise? Read through the words in each section, think about how the words make you feel, then jot down your feelings in the space provided.
WHAT KINDS OF FEELINGS COME WITH THESE WORDS?
Suffer damage agony
Steal mean lose
Avoid condemn ruin
Injure criticism tragedy
Dispute hurt angry
Your feelings: _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
WHAT KINDS OF FEELINGS COME WITH THESE WORDS?
Kindness win reward
Improve enthusiasm respect
Achieve comfortable caring
Trust honor truth
Hope courage calm
Your feelings: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
A single word can make a dramatic shift in a person’s live. In your life as a leader. In your company’s success. Let your careful and thoughtful choices of words become the strength of your leadership. T
Fifth Issue, Third Quarter, 2016
hesaurus offers five word descriptions for leadership: control, management, headship, guidance and direction. Depending upon your leadership style, there may be a one or more word descriptors that resonate for you more than others. In this issue, we’ll do a deep dive into the significant facets of the qualities of a highly effective leader.
Inspire Engagement: Approach all corporate objectives from a positive mindset that inspires your people to do whatever it takes to be successful. The best leaders also clear away the organizational roadblocks that constrain the natural creativity and initiative of their employees. Your support—the idea of having their backs—unleashes a tremendous amount of energy in the process.
Be Optimistic: Make sure to seek out the positives in your people, helping them to overcome their own feelings of self-doubt. As supervisors, we’re all human and unknowingly we allow our own insecurities to spill onto our team. If you have issues in this area, and as a suggestion, please re-read this section again…and again…and…
Have Integrity: Research shows that the top characteristic that employees want from their leaders is integrity. Be honest, fair, candid and forthright, and most importantly, treat everyone in the same way that you yourself would want to be treated. Base your leadership style upon this timeless Golden Rule.
Have Confidence: Perhaps one of the loudest grievances I’ve heard over my thirty-plus years in corporate America is the need for a confident boss. One who is steadfast and doesn’t toss along with the winds of the organization. Confident leaders don’t see “can’t.” They only see “can do!” Tentative leaders make for tentative employees. If you’re confident, your people will be as well.
Communicate: Great leaders ensure that each employee is provided with complete and current information about the organization’s goals, performance standards, successes and failures. To achieve this level of connection, you should also provide ample channels for two-way communication for your employees, actively soliciting their ideas for improvement and rewarding employees for submitting them.
Be Decisive: Highly effective leaders aren’t afraid to be decisive and to make tough calls quickly when circumstances require it. Once you have all the information you need to make an informed decision, then don’t hesitate—make it. And once you make a decision, then stick with it unless there is a particularly compelling reason for you to change your position.
It is possible to become a more effective leader, inspiring your people to give their very best every day of the week. Track your leadership goals and when you do, your job satisfaction will improve as well. Lead and enjoy!
In my 25+ years as a manager in Corporate America, one of the most dreaded tasks was to reprimand an employee. What’s the best approach to reprove someone and still protect their spirit? How can we leave that person in a better condition than before we began the conversation? Consider my version of the One Minute Manager Reprimand with tips to turn an employee’s weakness into strengths:
Fourth Edition, 2nd Quarter, 2016
This is my story of how I was able to successfully coach a difficult employee:
My predecessor had warned me about Joe. During the first week in my new assignment, a parade of technicians marched into my office and complained how management let him “get away with everything.”
As with all of the techs, I had gotten to know Joe as well. He was an intelligent young man, but his job didn’t utilize his highest potential. Joe had a lot of energy. Somehow I had to harness that energy and put it to good use. One day I asked if he’d walk me through his daily routine. He showed me an organized method he developed to built and process a myriad of service orders. He was so organized that he seemed to have time leftover to do what? Loaf around? Take extended breaks?
During a staff meeting, I had asked for volunteers to IC (In Charge) while I worked at other office locations for at least three days/week. The IC would manage workload, grant approvals and handle escalations. Joe was one of five techs interested in this upgrade.
Joe performed the IC position as competently as my star employee. The added responsibility allowed him to use his energy and creativity. His peers no longer complained about his derelict performance. When he wasn’t an IC, Joe gathered the team to discuss process improvements. Eventually, he became my lead tech.
After a couple of years, I was being transferred to a different department. I covered my successor on Joe’s performance improvements. She laughed, and said, “As soon as you leave, he’ll return to his old ways.” I told her that I had called him by a different name. He was no longer a loser, a slugger. Rather he was creative, can-do, brilliant, a star! On my last day, Joe thanked me for giving him opportunities for personal growth. I thanked him for allowing me the privilege of working with him. Several months later, my successor called me. She couldn’t believe how Joe had changed.
The challenges for extraordinary leadership are to:
- To truly care about each individual and how they fit into the team.
- Amplify the strengths of each person and turn their weaknesses into strengths.
- Cal employees by a positive name.
- Offer training.
- Provide opportunities for them to grow and blossom.
Recall a time when a supervisor had mentored you and helped you to aspire to your full potential. Someone along your career path took an interest in your work and encouraged your advancement. Were it not for them, where would you be today? It is easier to lend a hand to others, when at some point you were on the receiving end. Could today be your time to give back?
Third Edition, 1st Quarter, 2016
Team Design-Part 2
1.The reprimand should be delivered within 24-hrs of the offense: Delaying sends the message that the matter isn’t really important.
2. This meeting should be done privately between you and the employee.
3. Watch your own body language: What unspoken message are you conveying through body language? Keep your words and gestures congruent. Otherwise you send two different messages.
4. Tell people what they did wrong: Be specific: Vague messages force the listener to create their own clearer message.
5. Be firm, but non-threatening. Be kind and gentle.
6. Emphasis their value and how important they are to the team.
7. Reaffirm that you think well of them but not of their performance.
8. Shake hands. Let them know you are honestly on their side. Leave the employee empowered with your support and your words.
After the One Minute Reprimand: Write up the discussion and have the employee sign it. You’ll need written proof that you have given the individual an opportunity to correct their behavior. Documenting each communication will set the business up to win and save your legal fees should the employee file a complaint. Finally with written proof they may not qualify for unemployment which also saves the company money.
It’s never pleasant to reprimand someone, but that’s part of the journey to excellence. Don’t deprive yourself or your team of this valuable role.
Second Edition, 4th Qtr, 2015
Team Design-Part 1
How can Team Leads effectively construct a team framework that integrates commitment, creativity, and produce high function teams of excellence? It only takes a minute!
Ken Blanchard, MD and Johnson Spencer’s provocative business book entitled, “The One Minute Manager,” was published on September 1, 1982. It is still one of the most practiced leadership tools in the workplace. Three lessons are commonly practiced: One Minute Goal Setting; One Minute Praise; and One Minute Reprimand. We’ll focus on building strong teams through the One Minute Praise technique.
Actually, a One Minute Praise takes barely a minute to tell someone that s/he did a good job—in other words, catch people doing something right. There is no need to elaborate when you can acknowledge someone—in a minute! One Minute Praise includes complimenting people immediately, telling them what they did right, how you feel about it and encourage them to do more of the same. You can say something as simple as, “You handled a difficult client with ease and confidence. Thanks for saving the account.” “I appreciate the extra effort you put in on the ABC project. Keep up the good work.” “Great end of month results. You’re hard work paid off. Thanks!”
We’ve been accustomed to receiving praise, even as far back as when we were toddlers. We took our first step then tried to stand up. We got up and tried it all over again. Our reward for the extra effort was hugs, cheers of “Yeah!” along with rigorous hand clapping. These accolades made us feel we had done something worthwhile.
Truth be known, we all have an invisible sign hanging from our neck saying, “Make me feel important.” We have a deep need to feel valued and when we are, our buy-in to the team, our commitment and creativity for unique solutions are ways common people make the climb to uncommon results.
And here’s another benefit for Team Leads: Complimenting your team not only builds them up, it boomerangs right back to you. By reaching out to others in a positive way, it’ll increase your own management satisfaction. It’s a win-win for the entire team!
First Edition, 3rd Qtr, 2015
You may recall this old adage, “No person is an island.” It’s an expression that implies a person's connection to his/her surroundings and to others. Most likely, this connection started in our own lives as toddlers, we were taught to share our toys. “Mine!” was the demanding cry to claim our property, and our playmates, too. But some adults still struggle with “sharing.” Because when it comes to teambuilding, some members want all the glory, accolades, and victory. Still chanting their childhood claim, “Mine!”
We’d all like to think that we’re willing to share our ideas and help promote others with support and encouragement—be the bigger person. Truth is, some of us fall short because we’re still protecting our own territory! Our intellectual property! Ourselves! At the end, where does this get us? Have we grown as a person and a teamplayer? Are we cheating ourselves from abundant living, because we’re stockpiling our successes? There’s a way to step outside the imaginary boundaries of Mine!—Learn to give ourselves away. Give our talents, ideas, time, etc. There’s a term for this effort—mentorship.
There’s a basic truth in life: What we give away, comes back to us in enormous portions. Reaching out to others will increase your influence and expand your borders. It’s about helping our team grow and flourish. It’s a win-win approach to creating uncommon results.
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