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Real Leaders Find A Way

Getting Core Values right in a business is the #1 way to build a strong and enduring Culture and is the foundation upon which an enterprise is built. Having a list of cool Core Values on a website – and really integrating them into the daily life of the organization based on intentional actions – are two different things.

EFI, an Insight CXO member with 80+ employees, finally nailed their Core Values and actions plans this week during their Q3 Quarterly Planning Session. We started the process in January, and I thought it would be helpful to share what a process can look like in reality. Month 5 is where this gets powerful.

Month 1 – Learn what a Core Value is and use sticky notes to generate a list of potential values.14485059353_8d009d4eb3_z

Month 2 – Review the list and test it against the following questions.

  • Are the Core Values alive in the company today?
  • Would you fire an offender for repeated violations?
  • Would you take an economic hit to defend them?

Some values are great attributes, but don’t make the Core Values cut.

Month 3 – Finalize the 3-5 final Core Values. We know the right values are identified, but the wording is not perfect.

Month 4 – Get the wording right for the Core Values, and get clarity on the specific behaviors and actions that support or violate each one. Begin thinking about how the values will be integrated into the company.

Month 5 – Roadblock!!! EFI’s planning team was supposed to start implementing the Core Values, but even though the values LOOKED right, they did not FEEL right to the team. The team was concerned the employees would not embrace the values and might even reject them. This is a common FEAR in rolling out Core Values that nobody talks about.

Here’s where EFI knocked it out of the park. Admittedly, the team was a bit discouraged, so they really dug and – with great focus – re-worded the values. They did not change the values, just the labels. Here’s what they came up with:

MAKE A DIFFERENCE – This is their overarching, one-phrase Core Value.

Respect every Individual

Lead with Humility

Focus on the Improvement Process

Assure Quality at the Source

Winning Attitude

To help everyone remember, they turned the first letter of the Core Values into this mnemonic: Real Leaders Find A Way.

Month 6 – Create a list and an action plan to integrate the Core Values into the company with real excitement. I will report back in a follow-up blog post on the cool and innovative ways they implement the Core Values.

EFI’s Core Purpose is To Inspire Through Innovation … I can’t wait to see what they do next!

My “One Word Close” at the end of our Q3 Quarterly meeting was GRATEFUL. I’m grateful to be EFI’s coach and get to witness a team who really cares about their employees and was unwilling to move forward with Core Values that did not 100% meet their standards.

Sometimes as a coach I learn more from my members than they learn from me. And I’m very grateful for that.

Image: Flickr

Stop Gambling On Hiring Decisions

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Hiring the right person can seem like one of the most risky things you do. On the most basic level, you’re looking for someone who has the skills for the job, but – especially in a growing company – that person must be motivated, share your Core Values and work well with the other members of your team.

When you hire someone, you’re making a financial, organizational and emotional investment in them and your business. And when you take the risk to invest in a person, you need the best possible likelihood of that investment paying off for your company.

Although building a team of A-players is one of the most important things you do for your business, the typical interview process isn’t the best way to determine whether the person who looks great on paper and shines in a face-to-face will pay off. This is why Behavioral Assessments are an important part of top Talent Management and Organizational Development programs.

Behavioral Assessments allow us to look deeper into what criteria will make a role successful, and which candidates have the highest likelihood of filling that role well. The assessments look at three key areas of a person:

  • their behavior,
  • their motivators and
  • the core skills/competencies they can bring to the job.

Add Power To Your HR Program

Here’s how this can add power to your human resources program. In a typical job interview, you get just one or two hours to get to know someone. By adding Behavioral Assessments, you get an inside view of the whole person. It may also make that 1-2 hour interview even more meaningful, because you can ask questions that will better help determine whether the person is the right fit, particularly whether his or her personality and internal drive is the right fit for the role and your organization.

Behavioral Assessments are also a valuable tool to help current employees thrive in your company. They can help show where a person has opportunity for growth within the position, as well as whether changes can be made to better adapt to their behavioral style and make them better performers.

The information we can gather from Behavioral Assessments can be used in many ways, including increasing personal awareness, determining fit in a role, building development/coaching plans, defining what is needed for a particular role, and identifying the right candidate – someone who will fit the needs of the role and be happy in it over the long term.

Benefits of Behavioral Assessments

Some of the ways Behavioral Assessments can change how you look at hiring and performance planning include:

  • You will be more equipped to make informed decisions that will be best for the company and the candidate.
  • You’ll be able to more easily weed out ineffective candidates.
  • You’ll be better able to find the right person who can hit the road running and be more effective faster.
  • You’ll help your employees understand what is expected of them and enable them to perform at a higher level.
  • You’ll be able to target performance incentives on the things that most motivate individual members of your team.

Behavioral Assessments are an extremely valuable part of your overall Talent Management and Organizational Development strategy. Whether you’re looking at hiring or staff development, consider whether adding Behavioral Assessments might be a Breakaway Move that makes your staff happier, more effective and more valuable to your business.

6 Roadblocks to Growing Your Business

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Companies often encounter barriers as they mature. Here are six big ones and how to break through them.

1. Not knowing your ideal customer

Customers aren’t all equally valuable; some can even be unprofitable. So CEO Scot Lowry of digital marketing firm Fathom, in Valley View, Ohio, had his CFO draft a profit and loss statement for each. That helped him phase out the costly customers — and identify the ideal ones, such as health care and financial services firms that need very customized service. “Our strategy is based on deep customer intimacy,” he explains. “We have to focus on select clients to deliver on this.”

2. Failing to scale systems

Many companies don’t want to invest in brand-new software for accounting, customer-relations management, and other operating systems as they grow because they’re pricey. But procrastinating will lead to chaos and mistakes when you need to tackle tasks that should be easy to do instantly, like updating customers’ addresses in all your records at once. If your company has hit 50 to 150 employees without upgrading its systems, don’t delay any more. It’s an emergency.

3. Using an old org chart

It’s tempting just to stuff this important document in a drawer and forget it. Don’t. With his now nearly 150-person team squabbling over priorities and resources, Lowry shredded his org chart and reorganized everyone into teams dedicated to specific accounts. He is listed at the bottom, with the role of helping employees serve clients at the firm, which expects $20 million in sales this year. “I stopped talking about my ‘direct reports’ and switched to calling them my ‘direct supports,’” he says.

4. Trusting your gut

In the startup phase, you’ve got to rely on your instincts because there’s no historical data to guide you. But intuition often deceives CEOs as their businesses become more complex, says Sunny Vanderbeck, managing partner at Satori Capital, a Dallas-based firm that invests in growing, profitable companies. If you’re not letting data drive decisions, such as what products to develop or which customers are worth pitching, he says, “you’re missing out.”

5. Letting your skills flatline

Companies often outgrow the founders’ ability to lead them because the CEOs don’t sharpen their management skills. “If your company is growing 30% a year, you have to be 30% better by this time next year,” says Vanderbeck. Learn from other CEOs by joining a peer group like Entrepreneurs’ Organization or Young Presidents’ Organization. “If you aren’t a learner, you are the reason the company isn’t as big as it could be,” Vanderbeck says.

6. Not investing in team training.  

Out-learning the competition is a powerful and sustainable growth strategy. To get everyone playing the same music, CEOs must focus training where the company needs it most. Studies have proven over and over again that training has the highest ROI compared to any other investment a firm can make. Jeff Frushtick, CEO of industrial equipment maker Leonard Automatics, found this to be true: Training employees on Lean production resulted in a five-fold increase in profits in a single year at the 35-employee, Denver, N.C., firm. Look into training that can boost your firm’s profits similarly.

 

Verne Harnish is the CEO of Gazelles Inc., an executive education firm. Robert Fish is founder and CEO of Insight CXO.

This blog is adapted from a story in the May 19, 2014 issue of Fortune.

Image: Nicholas Canup / Flickr

5 Steps To Beat Spring Slowdowns

Q2 is the quarter that can make or break your year. Every business year has a natural momentum: Q1 always starts strong – everyone is excited about the shiny, new annual plan that’s just put into place. Q3 presents another mental fresh start with the launch of a new school year, and in Q4 everyone moves into high gear, working with greater urgency to make a strong finish.

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But Q2 can be deadly. It’s the time companies are most likely to lose their momentum. The annual plan was made on predictions and assumptions, and by Q2 you know how well these are playing out. The big, lofty goals in the annual plan that motivated everyone back in January now seem impossible, so the team (including the CEO) puts the plan back on the shelf.

Or revenue spikes and it’s “all hands on deck” for client delivery, and important operational efficiency or team health work gets postponed to achieve short-term goals. Or maybe the annual plan wasn’t balanced – too much was stuffed into Q1, with no major priorities or initiatives for the rest of the year, so everyone just goes into cruise control mode and growth stagnates. Summer months are approaching, kids are nearly out of school, everyone’s starting to plan their vacations and things start slowing down. Yet the business still needs to drive forward.

The second quarter is the critical inflection point for the year, and the only way to prevent stagnation is through careful planning. Creating a strong Q2 plan sets the stage to carry momentum through the summer – to keep the team engaged and accountable for delivering results. In Q2, you may look at your annual plan and see it’s not quite working as you’d expected. You see it may need some adjustments, which is hard to do, but if the end result is an engaged and excited team, it’s worth making the changes.

Make every quarter count

Insight CXO’s 13-Week-Race© planning tool (PDF) was created to ensure that every quarter is as strong as the last and the next. It looks at the quarterly “Rocks” (your major goals), breaks them down into their component tasks and load-balances them throughout the quarter.

5 ways to make Q2 stronger

  1. Break down the quarterly Rocks into 13 weeks, with each Rock further broken down into its component parts throughout the quarter. The more detail the better.
  1. Be very intentional about letting the team know that Q2 is the pivotal quarter of the year. A strong Q2 makes for an easy Q3 and great end of the year.
  1. Look at the 13-Week Race weekly with the team. Don’t let tasks and action items go more than two weeks without updates or adjustments.
  1. Have your team verbally commit in front of each other that they believe 100% in the Q2 plan and will do what it takes to make it happen.
  1. Create a fun reward for having a great Q2. Engage the team in the reward development so they own it and make it their own.

Don’t let your annual plan hit the shelf in Q2. Treat Q2 as the No. 1 quarter to have a great year, and you’ll reap the results with a happy and engaged team.

Image credit: Lion Towers / Flickr

Eliminate Waste And Errors With Defined Processes

Does it feel like as you add employees things just get harder and not easier? Is your team spending too much time fixing avoidable problems causing frustration or doing unnecessary and expensive rework impacting the bottom line? In my experience, the No. 1 root cause of errors and rework is lack of defined processes.
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Have you ever played the Telephone Game? One person whispers a phrase into another person’s ear, then it’s passed from person to person. What you will see time and time again is that the phrase is never what the original person said – it’s been interpreted over and over to the point that it’s been misunderstood, and by the end of the line it’s a totally different phrase with a completely different meaning.

That’s what happens when processes aren’t written down. The information is just passed via word of mouth, and invariably the receiver mixes up something. Additional complexity comes in when there are multiple people supporting the particular process and/or there are multiple shifts that are trying to maintain consistency of the process over a 24-hour period.

There is a simple solution to help ensure everyone is on the same page and completing the same tasks to get to the end result.

  1. Find the Why
  2. Write it down
  3. Talk it over
  4. Test it
  5. Maintain it

1. Find the Why: the value proposition

It’s human nature to ask, “what’s in it for me?” Help your team understand what’s in it for them within the process – why are they performing the steps, and why is it so important to be able to repeat and reproduce the steps by person, by role and over a period of time. This could be done by aligning the process back to the company goals, core values or internal/external risks associated with not completing the process consistently. Find what works with your team and define the value proposition.

2. Write it down

There are varying levels of process documentation. This can range from bulleted steps, to process maps, to a detailed workflow that includes standard operating procedures, time value maps or spaghetti maps that show the product movements around the production floor throughout the day. The first step is to pick what works best as a learning/training tool for your team, and just write it down.

3. Talk it over

Work across the team that completes the process to make sure that the steps that you wrote down will accurately describe what really happens. This is where you start to learn where people do things differently and where inconsistency in process can cause errors, rework and employee frustration. Come to a consensus regarding how the process should work, then write it down. Then it’s time to test it.

4. Test it

Have each team member responsible for the process complete the steps, exactly as written by the team, over a period of 1-2 weeks. Debrief on what’s working, what’s not, where there are still gaps and what could be done better to get the best out of the process. As the team agrees on changes, update the process and test out the changes.

5. Maintain it

Once you have a process documented and working as originally designed, ensure you put measures in place to maintain the integrity of the process. These would be considered the quality checks. Along with quality checks, make sure there is a method to train new employees on the process once they come on board.

This simple five-step process will help ensure that your processes are clear, well-understood and easily followed by your team, and should eliminate costly and frustrating errors and wasteful rework.

If you think you may have more people-related issues in your company than you should have, start by cleaning and defining process first. You’ll be amazed at how many “people” issues go away once processes are clear.

Image credit: Geralt / Pixabay

Winning Culture With Core Values

Well-defined and leveraged Core Values are one of the most powerful mechanisms to grow a company, especially as it passes 50 employees and gains complexity.

Core Values define the character of your firm and create the foundation and frame upon which the organization is built. A company’s Core Values can exist by default or be developed and supported by design. “By default” is a dangerous way to run a business because employees won’t have a clear should/shouldn’t framework in which to make decisions. Well-designed Core Values are a simple set of rules that define the kinds of behaviors you want to see inside the business. They also eliminate the need for countless, more complicated rules and operating procedures that can destroy a company’s culture anshopping-list-707760_1920d chase off the A-players on your team.

The number one mistake I see with Core Values is they are rarely mentioned, and most employees don’t know what they are, let alone the key behaviors tied to each Core Value. Yet, getting Core Values right – and integrating them into every aspect of the business – generates huge leverage and saves a tremendous amount of time and trouble.

How To Leverage Core Values

1. Use Core Values as a baseline and a test for developing strategy. Does a growth strategy idea work within the Core Values? Or does it violate any of them? This is an effective method to screen out ideas that could pull the organization in the wrong direction.

2. Use Core Values to evaluate talent as part of the recruiting process. Drill deep into the behaviors that define each Core Value for your business. For example, the word “teamwork” may have different meanings to different companies and different people. You must have clarity on the specific behaviors that reflect each Core Value. You can teach Core Values to employees, but you’re better off hiring people who already share your organization’s Core Values. Most companies hire for skill and fire for fit. Getting clear on the Core Values and integrating them into the recruiting process can reduce the chance of poor hires due to wrong fit.

3. Use Core Values as an easy method to manage employees. Clearly defining Core Values and the behaviors that support them makes it easier and more productive to have difficult conversations. Employee problems are almost always due to a fit issue or some type of behavior that is getting in the way of production. Often, problem employees have the right skills, but the people dynamics get in the way of things. Well-defined Core Values are an easy way to help managers address problems early, get someone back on track or even make a more difficult decision clearer, faster. And the employee receiving the feedback is less likely to be personally offended or upset if you tie the behavior back to the Core Values.

4. Use Core Values in dealing with clients. Try to attract clients who share your view of the world and how you do things. And when a client becomes difficult or antagonistic with employees, use your Core Values as a framework to have a difficult conversation. Using a Core Value as a talking point takes the sting out of the dysfunction and makes the conflict less personal.

5. Try to use Core Values for marketing leverage. Look at Whole Foods. Shoppers are willing to pay a premium based on what Whole Foods believes… who they are… their Core Values. They will not buy certain species of fish to resell because of overfishing in certain parts of the world. They are willing to risk an economic hit to retain a Core Value. And look at how well the market responds to decisions like that.

6. Tie public praise for great work or deeds back to a company Core Value. If this can be done weekly, it can really imprint the Core Values into the mind and behaviors of everyone in the organization.

You can’t over-communicate Core Values. All employees should be able to name them, describe the key behaviors for each and tell a story about someone in the company living a Core Value in the past 90 days.

During facilitated planning sessions, we always open the meeting by asking about Core Value activity in the past 90 days. It’s a great warm-up exercise and a way to reinforce the concepts. One of the best early warning radars for anticipating trouble in a company is when no employee can tell a Core Value story from the past 90 days. Core Values are one of the best lead indicators of organization health. And healthy teams are winning teams.

 

The Winning Team

For a sports team to win the big game and stand atop the podium with the big trophy, it not only needs the best players at each position, but also all of the individual athletes working well together toward their ultimate goal: winning. To be the champ, an athletic team can’t just have the best players on the field, coaches on the sidelines or front-office staff to manage the day-to-day business. It also needs everyone who influences its success – vendors, sponsors, ticket buyers, consultants and the league office – to buy into what it’s selling.

The same things are true in business, and, just like in sports, a poorly functioning team will prevent you from achieving your version of the Ultimate Podium Finish™, the goals you’ve set that will determine whether you’ve beaten the competition and won the game of business in your field.

Just like in sports, your team isn’t just the people who work at your organization, but also your entire universe of customers, vendors, contractors, advisors, coaches, consultants, etc. You want to attract and retain A-players – the people who are onboard with your Core Values and achieving (or beating) performance goals – and weed out the players who drag your business down.

Build A Team Of A-Players

We’ve all heard stories about locker-room issues that prevent a sports team from winning games. This also happens in business. To build a team full of A-players you must address the things that repel A-players from your business. Often, this is management not taking any action to fix problems with B or C players, bad processes or customers who are more trouble than they’re worth to the bottom line.

A-players maintain your Core Values – the rules and behaviors that define your culture and personality – and are repelled by co-workers whose bad or inappropriate behaviors cause workplace tension or reflect poorly on your business.

First, make sure that everyone on your current team knows your Core Values and has a fair chance to show whether they can live by them.

Next, you need to identify your A-players and deal with the B- and C-players. Place everyone on an ABC matrix.

  • B-players: weak job performers, but their behavior reflects your Core Values
  • B/C-players: strong performers, but they have behavior problems
  • C-players: poor performance and poor behavior

Now you need to deal with what you’ve learned. Let’s tackle this in reverse order:

  • C-players: eliminate them, either by terminating them or finding a new role that will give them an opportunity to become A-players.
  • B/C-players: clarify behavioral expectations and give them an opportunity to change the attitudes or actions that are keeping them out of the A quadrant.
  • B-players: offer job training to help improve their job performance. (Consider Laurie Bassi’s exhaustive research, which showed that training and development produced a 672% ROI, more than any other investment a business owner could make.)
  • A-players: take actions to keep the A-players happy and engaged. (Dealing with the B- and C- players should help.)

Get Your A-Players Working Together

Building a team of A-players isn’t enough for small and midmarket companies to achieve the Ultimate Podium Finish™. Those A-players must work together, driving as a team toward your goals. The technique to breaking down those silos is creating cross-functional responsibilities. During your quarterly planning, identify quarterly Rocks, and the Tasks needed to achieve them, that involve multiple departments. Although one person is accountable for each Rock, he or she must work with people across the business to achieve it.

This strategy encourages leaders to work together, and it also exposes any interpersonal issues or other below-the-surface things that are preventing your people from being a team. As those issues surface, they must be quickly addressed with team-building exercises or other interventions to get healthy.

Why It’s Important

Just like in sports, your team can make or break your ability to achieve your Ultimate Podium Finish™. Take steps now to ensure that your team is full of A-players – high-performers who reflect your company’s Core Values and are committed to the business’ success.

Start Winning With Daily and Weekly Meetings

conference-room-768441_1280I get asked all the time what is the number one thing a company can do to leverage the Rockefeller Habits and tighten up execution.  Daily and Weekly meetings are often unstructured, boring and push aside in most companies but are the quickest way to solve problems quickly and get more work done.    I’m assuming you ARE holding your Monthly, Quarterly and Annual meetings.… right?  Your meeting rhythm is like the heartbeat of the organization that supplies blood and oxygen to the rest of the company.  Without it, issues don’t get uncovered, processes don’t get cleaned up, execution/accountability fades away and key strategic initiatives and adjustments don’t get made.  In short, hundreds or of decisions that should be leveraging the collective minds of the organization on an annual basis just never happen.  Your company’s success can be equated to the sum total of all the decisions, both good and bad, that happen in a year.

The existing or desired growth rate of the company should determine the intensity of the meeting structure.  A company with 20% annual growth should treat each 90 days like it is a year.  A company with 2X per year growth should treat one month as a year.

Each meeting starting with the Daily has a specific purpose and feeds up into the next meeting type.  The meeting types replace each other and are not on top of each other.  An example is in the week there is a Monthly scheduled, there is not a Weekly.


Here is an overview of each meeting and the overall role they play:

Daily (DE-hassle) Meeting – (Execution)

The primary objectives for the DE-hassle meeting is for Problem Identification and Behavior Measurement.  This meeting should be a ‘stand up’ meeting, should start and stop exactly on time, and should last 5 to 15 minutes.  It’s best to start at an odd time like 9:09AM.  The meeting format is as follows:

  1. What’s Up?  Go around the room and in about 30 seconds per person, discusses what is on their agenda in the next 24 hours to move the company forward.  Be careful about being too general in the information share.  If you are working on a proposal for a client, what client?  Why is it important?  What is the dollar amount, etc?  If you are the Moderator of the DE-hassle meeting, make sure you ask clarifying questions and dig into generalities.  The issues you are looking for usually lurk right beneath the surface.   Moderators, please ask “did anyone hear anything that you have a question or comment on before moving on to Daily Measures?”
  2. Daily Measures.  Ideally, each person should have 2 to 3 daily measures that give the group a good idea of how the company is doing.  The measures are data points and/or ratios that can be quickly shared.  This is where general trends are developed and is an early warning radar to catch issues early while they are easy to solve.  Examples are, # of sales call made, Net Promoter Scores, A/R Days, etc.  Or numbers that track how well the company is living it’s Brand Promise.
  3. Stucks?  A key component in healthly DE-hassle meetings is the willingness of each person to share a ‘stuck’ if one exists.  A stuck can be personal (they usually are) and don’t need to impact the rest of the group.  What is the rock in your shoe?  What has you frozen, unable to move forward in a project?  Are you too swamped to get to something important?  Turn each issue into a Process problem and not a People problem.  Otherwise, the group will not share their

Stucks as they will fear being attacked.  Moderators, please jump in immediately if you hear the conversation turn into a People issue and call a time out to re-adjust the flow.  If the Stuck only impact two people, quick ask them to discuss after the meeting.

Weekly  (Week-In-Sync) Meeting – (Execution)

All of the major issues uncovered in the DE-hassle  meetings should roll up into the Weekly meetings.  Weekly’s should be thought of as Issues Oriented and a Strategic Gathering of the company leaders.  1 to 2 hours depending on the size of the group is all the time that is needed to keep the pulse moving.  The suggested format for the Weekly is as follows:

5 minutes:  Good news only.  Each person shares something good that has happened personally and professionally in the last week.  This is a great way for the team to become more comfortable with each other and get each person in the Alpha state which is great for learning and problem solving.

10 minutes:  Go around the room and report on KPI’s, Smart Numbers, Ratios and data points that provide insight into the future.  Take note of anything that is out of line.

10 minutes:  Discuss any customer, prospect or employee feedback.  The management team exists to solve problems so make sure a Process versus People issue environment is enforced.  No feedback on a routine basis is much worse than negative feedback.  It’s hard to fix what the team does not know about.

30 minutes:  Discuss a Rock or single issue in detail and use the collective intelligence to maximize the opportunity, solve a problem or refine/develop a process.  Remember success is the sum total of decisions made in a company and this is critical thinking time to move the company forward.  And by going deep in the Weekly, the Monthly meetings don’t get bogged down in things that could have been handled weeks earlier.

5 minutes:  Complete the Who – What – When matrix with the output from the 30 minute discussion.  Also review the previous meeting Who – What – When’s and make any necessary adjustments.

Close:  Each person closes the meeting by sharing one word or short phrase concerning their reaction to the Weekly meeting.  This is a great way for the team to get a sense of where everyone is mentally and emotionally.