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Archive for the ‘teams’ Category

The Power of Developing Teams

Posted by Mark Bennett on August 21, 2010

Ravi and I had just been discussing the question of values and culture, when I saw Kris Dunn’s post on Which Managers Are Responsible for the Reality of Your Culture? All it Takes is One Question…

What I liked most was that Kris captured not only how managers and their behaviors are the real indicators of values and culture, but that perhaps the single most desirable value sought by employees is “they’re looking for managers who seem to care about development of their teams.”

This is a really powerful statement. Developing teams is key in two ways. First, developing people helps them find the meaning in their work. Done right, it links their passion to achieving the purpose the organization has laid out. Second, you are developing all the members of the team, which helps them see how, as each member brings their increasing knowledge and experience to the team as they develop, they in turn increase the knowledge of every other member of the team as well as that of the whole organization. But there’s a lot to making this happen.

But I Do Develop People!

First, the notion of developing individuals is seen as a risky proposition. If you invest in the development of someone and they leave, you’ve lost your investment. If they go to a competitor, it stings twice as much. Of course, your best people will leave if you don’t invest in their development, so what do you do? One thing that can help make the development investment create a tighter bond between the individual and the organization is to focus on things the individual is passionate about. In other words, rather than simply roll out a plain vanilla development plan, or throw a generic catalog at them, or stick them in programs or assignments that are tilted solely to what the organization needs, spend time to find what really makes them tick and help them create a plan (and a backup plan) that meets both party’s needs.

I know + You Know = We Know More

Second, the actual team aspect of development is often overlooked and that’s really a shame. This isn’t about everybody on the team getting the same development; it’s about how unique individual development and team development are intertwined and can amplify each other as well as create more cohesive teams. Instead of everybody getting the exact same development and thus very likely seeing others’ development as potential competition, each person brings their unique development experience into a truly collaborative team environment. That is, each person shares and exchanges their knowledge and what they’ve learned. This has multiple benefits – each person feels and is seen as a source of valuable knowledge and teaching to the other team members and everybody in total learns more than if they had all gone through the exact same development. It give them a greater sense of identity. What’s more, in the very act of sharing knowledge with their teammates, each person learns more about their subject because of the questions they get as well as their desire to teach it well.

We really believe in the positive impact these values have on organizational performance and it’s great to see the survey data back it up. Thanks for sharing with us, Kris!

Photo by papalars

Posted in development, leadership, learning, management, passion, teams | 1 Comment »

Try bagging spuds to increase employee engagement

Posted by Louise Barnfield on February 20, 2010

For me, one of the most meaningful and satisfying goals that Meg sets her team each year is that of Community Service.

As a team, we’ve participated in a number of local events each year, helping at various food banks, and local shelter housing projects. I am always blown away by how much we can achieve in a very short time when we work together as a team.

This week we returned to Alameda County Community Food Bank (ACCFB), this time bagging spuds! Working together for just a couple of hours, we bagged 14,000lbs of potatoes, the equivalent of 11,000 meals’-worth. That felt pretty good…until we realized that through their various programs, ACCFB now distribute enough food for 300,000 meals weekly. This put our contribution in perspective, and showed us how much the community needs help from groups such as ours, in order to meet the demand – a demand that has almost doubled in the past 18 months as a direct result of the current economic climate.

This week’s event had an added bonus, since a number of colleagues were visiting HQ, some for the first time, from a variety of states and countries. With such a dispersed global team, we rarely have the opportunity to meet in person, and particularly to get to know new faces as our team grows. Several mentioned how much they appreciated participating in this event during their visit.

Many of us had been cooped up in a conference room for three very full days, and were feeling the effects of brain-overload. So, a complete diversion for a couple of hours, performing a manual task, conversing with friends and colleagues while at the same time doing something meaningful and helpful for others, did us all a power of good.

After each event, we gather somewhere locally for a ‘happy hour’ – another chance to chat with colleagues, and also to acknowledge our gratitude for our own more fortunate circumstances. The camaraderie that this instills benefits the whole organization, as the team spirit that it fosters spills over into our day-to-day collaboration at work.

I feel fortunate that Meg recognizes the value of giving our time and effort for the good of the community, and the beneficial effect it has on our team. Earlier this year, she blogged about her experience with colleagues as guests on Compassionate HR Blog Radio, discussing the various volunteer projects we have taken on in the past year, and in particular how we have been supported by Oracle to do so.

As they pointed out, the volunteering projects that we undertake are as much a benefit to us as individuals, and to our organization, as they are to the community. It is true that we have the satisfaction of accomplishing something meaningful together as a team, which increases employee engagement and encourages closer working relationships.

So, instead of trudging into the office in ‘Friday mode’, brain-dead from a week of meetings, I spent today catching up on tasks with more enthusiasm and with a far lighter frame-of-mind, thanks to our rewarding team ‘down-time’.

A big shout-out to two other TalentedApps contributors, Vivian and Keshav – I am so thankful that you guys never tire of organizing our crowd for these events! 🙂

Photo: Anupma Sud

Posted in collaboration, engagement, goals, teams, Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

You Might Learn Something from a Pirate

Posted by Alex Drexel on October 4, 2009

BlackbeardAn article by Caleb Crain in the September 7th New Yorker provides a fascinating look into the business of being a pirate in the 17th century.  They were in some respects, quite forward thinking for their time when it came to keeping the crew aligned and motivated.  Most of us wouldn’t associate pay equity, performance based compensation and incentives, healthcare, democratic/bottom-up approaches to decision making, and racial tolerance with pirates, but research suggests otherwise.  Most of those practices came from the necessity of circumstances, rather than the existence of any higher ideals.

Before anyone was accepted into the crew, they had to agree to articles that dictated how booty, power and responsibility were shared on the ship – it created an at-will association that provided order.  Crew members knew in advance of any activity exactly what share they would receive and any add-on incentives they would be awarded for specific accomplishments.  Furthermore, an attempt was made to balance the shares paid out to the internal worth of each job – this included pegging the share the Pirate CEO (lead captain) received relative to the average man on deck.

For example, before the buccaneers, led by Captain Morgan, attacked Panama in 1670, it was agreed that Morgan would get 1/100 of the loot, while the rest would be divided in shares among the men.  Captains under Morgan got 8 shares, while each man got a single share. Those with specific skills received additional amounts; each participating surgeon got 200 pesos and any carpenters got an additional 100.  And there was incentive pay; anyone who captured a Spanish flag received 50 pesos, and the act of throwing a grenade into a fort got you 5 extra shiny pesos.  The agreement provided insurance against disability where the loss of an eye would yield 100 pesos and 1500 would be received in the unfortunate event of losing both legs!

Risk taking behavior was further encouraged through a crude form of estate planning (called matelotage), where two pirates agreed to keep the loot of whoever died first and distribute a portion to the dead man’s friends and family.

The system of paying out shares made every crew member an owner-operator which provided some alignment around the primary goal.  The democratic nature of decision making helped create buy-in and a sense of fairness among those who voluntarily served on the ship.  All decisions were voted on, including determining who would fill the role of captain.  The captain would have the authority to make executive decisions only in the heat of battle, otherwise, the crew members would have their say.  The captain could be deposed at any time by a vote, and was more or less seen as like any other crew member – the captain slept on deck with the rest of the men.

So while no one would agree with their profession, you might start to wonder if your organization is run as well as a pirate ship.  Is it?

Posted in Compensation, engagement, goals, leadership, management, teams | Tagged: | 5 Comments »

Do you have an awesome pit crew?

Posted by Louise Barnfield on May 19, 2009

f1-grand-prix-crewf1-grand-prix-crewI have been watching in delight as Jenson Button has taken four chequered flags in the last five Formula 1 Grand Prix races.

The meteoric rise of the Brawn team has set this F1 season alight, and Jenson naturally does not hide his excitement or pride in the current situation.

The F1 drivers are the attention-grabbers, the celebrities who dominate the air-time and headlines. It’s the excitement and speed of the race itself that commands the full focus of the cameras and the spectators, with only occasional glimpses of the pit crew. You could almost forgive the drivers for having huge egos.

Yet, what’s the first thing that Jenson did as he crossed the finish line in every one of his four wins this season? He elatedly screamed his gratitude to his team, broadcasting his thanks for the world to hear on the Team Radio.

His team: the guys huddled in the pits, wearing anonymous overalls and balaclavas. The guys who spend sleepless nights just before the event dealing with last minute glitches to get their machines out to the starting line in race-winning condition. “Thank you, thank you! …You guys rock! …The ride was awesome! …You guys did an amazing job!

Recently, I was that driver. I drove a demo to a wide audience of colleagues across a number of teams. Apparently it was a great success – let me rephrase that – it was a great success! The demo ran smoothly and I received a great deal of kind and enthusiastic comments from my peers who were evidently enlightened and entertained by the event. But I wasn’t the success; I didn’t make the demo rock; I was simply the representative who presented the terrific work and dedication of many others around me.

So, I want to share the positive comments and encouragement that I’ve received! I’m taking this opportunity to turn this post into my own Team Radio and give a heartfelt shout-out to our amazing pit crew who themselves spent sleepless nights just before our event, dealing with last minute glitches to get to the starting line in winning condition. “Thank you, thank you! …You guys rock! …The ride was awesome! …You guys did an amazing job!

Posted in productivity, teams, Uncategorized | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Authenticity is the new black

Posted by Meg Bear on May 14, 2009

2683142961_651dfd7926_mI tweeted this the other day, as one of those random things you think to yourself, and somehow end up writing down.  It’s possible this is just my own personal way of responding to the voices in my head.   Don’t judge.

At the time, I was thinking specifically about leadership.  How, as a leader, the more you try to hide from your team, the dumber you look, since they already know what’s wrong with you (probably better than you do). 

Your team doesn’t need you to be without flaws, but they do need you to be a good leader.  I believe that you cannot be a great leader without authenticity

This does not mean that you need to be without privacy.   Sharing  personal information is not authenticity, it’s a personality trait.  In fact, being authentic requires you to establish boundaries that are in line with your personality.

Without authenticity there is no trust and without trust you do not have a high functioning teamAuthentic leaders build trust because they can acknowledge when they have gotten off course.  That helps the team correct and sets the example for collaboration.

When you find yourself wanting to hide behind a facade, remember authenticity is the new black and those who lead with authenticity will ultimately be the most successful.

Posted in leadership, personal, teams, top talent | 5 Comments »

Do you wear your stripes with pride?

Posted by Louise Barnfield on April 30, 2009

school-uniformMy UK school days have receded into the far too dim-and-distant past, but I still remember our uniform.

Through 9th grade, the winter uniform at our all-girls school (junior high and high combined) was a traditional gray pinafore (skirt and bib), with striped shirt. 10th graders, however, were allowed to ditch the bib and wear a plain gray skirt. (The ultimate was in the final two years at senior and prefect level, when dress-code was further extended to any style of black skirt and solid color shirt.)

A typical ruse of the 9th graders (and later even 8th graders) was to unstitch the bib from the skirt, and replace with some kind of temporary fastening (velcro, poppers, or even just safety pins)! During the day, the bib was dutifully attached, with no outward signs of tampering. However, as soon as they left school premises in the afternoon, to head off into town or meet a group of boyfriends, they ripped off the bibs thereby achieving the appearance and status of those a year senior.

Of course, if they got caught by a teacher ‘sans bib’ there was hell to pay, but that just added to their sense of bravado – sounds pretty tame in comparison to what many teens get up to these days, doesn’t it! 🙂

On the other hand, 10th graders were not amused. They felt they’d earned the right to wear their senior uniform with pride, and that that right was undermined and devalued by the rules not being observed. (…and ‘they’, of course, included those who had themselves played the popper-game a year previously!)

In the military, uniform and rank are strictly observed. Each rank is immediately recognized for exactly what it signifies, by anyone with knowledge of the hierarchy. Officers wear their insignia proudly on their sleeves. There’s no opportunity to hide or misrepresent one’s position.

Not so in the corporate world.

Decades ago, the title of Secretary was a respected position. A true secretary had excellent typing and shorthand skills, as well as a great deal of responsibility for the smooth running of their bosses’ calendars and lives. Then, mere typists started calling themselves secretaries to inflate their resumes. Firms started advertising for personal secretaries, hoping to attract the cream of the crop, then personal secretaries became executive secretaries, until the word fell into such disrepute that the alternative terms Personal Assistant or Executive Assistant were spawned.

In 2007, Wharton School’s Knowledge@Wharton published an excellent article: Chief Receptionist Officer? Title Inflation Hits the C-Suite, discussing the cheapening of titles, and the reasons behind inflation infatuation! But it’s not just C-level; the same issue pervades every level of the corporate chain.

While companies have figured out that “many times it is cheaper to give people a title increase than a raise increase”, I believe they have created a rod for their own backs, not only by devaluing the titles, but more significantly by demeaning and alienating the employees who have genuinely earned their ‘stripes’.

As the article above notes: “Firms should be deliberate about how they give these title awards out to employees, because each additional person who gets a C-level title dilutes the currency of the title structure.”

How meaningful are titles where you work, and does your HR department care? Have you earned your stripes, or are you one of the unjustifiably bib-less? Do you see over-inflated titles as a necessity to represent your company effectively, or just an ego-trip at the expense of others?

Yours sincerely,

Chief Senior Principal Vice Managing Dogsbody and Bottlewasher

Posted in hr, management, teams, top talent, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Managing a global workforce

Posted by Meg Bear on December 18, 2008

talentteam1

When I hear talk about hand wringing about flex hours and how do you keep people focused when working from home I must admit I don’t get it.  That’s not to say I don’t understand the comments, I do, it’s just that I have been working with a remote/global workforce so long I’m not sure I really remember what it was like to wonder how to make it work.  My first India + US HQ + Random other location work team was in 1995.  Back in the good old days when connectivity between India and the US was dicey at best.  We did, however, have email. 

Of all the companies that I’ve worked for I have to say that Oracle has this mastered better than anywhere I’ve seen.  Global workforce is not the exception, it’s the only rule (at least in development).  My own situation is having a boss in the UK and staff in several US locations, 2 India locations and Australia.  My peers teams are even more distributed.  If you are new to a global workforce here are some tips I’ve gathered over the years you might find helpful.

  1. Communication skills are a competency that you can no longer consider optional or nice to have.  This is especially impactful for engineering teams where personalities might find this challenging and education often downplays the need.
  2. Webconference tools are used every day.  At Oracle we are lucky to have our own tools for this, but if you don’t, you need to get favorable pricing for usage, since rarely do I attend a meeting where a webconference is not used.
  3. Technology helps a lot.  VoIP, record/playback, Forums, Wikis, Microblogging, Social Networking.  You name it, we need it.  Making it possible for interactions that happen via technology can be used (and reused) is critical to spanning the globe.
  4. Flexibility is critical.  Every team has to share the load of precious “real time” communication.  Supporting split shifts and shifting work schedules for early morning and/or late evening meetings is a part of life.  This is not just working from home, it’s starting meetings from home at 9pm.  A full scale cultural norm shift of what it means to be working is required.
  5. Timezone awareness is not optional.  Knowing that Friday afternoon is the weekend in Australia is something you just have to know.  Having a good tool to keep you in sync (I’ve been using iGoogle’s widget these days) and having someone on your team to remind you when daylight savings gets everyone off for a few weeks, can make or break critical deadlines.
  6. Nothing is more critical than relationships.  Using travel wisely and focusing on relationship building will make all the difference when times are tough.  If you are just a random name or email account you are easily ignored.  If you are a known person you will have a hope of rising above the noise when you need help from a teammate in a different part of the world
  7. Surprisingly a photoshop competency on the team is useful.  How else would you ever get a full team photo?

Working globally is not something that every industry is going to embrace, at least not at the level that we have here.  I will tell you that the insight, value, collaboration, joy and experience that you have with a diverse and global workforce is the best of the best.   While the hype will tell you that around the clock productivity is the benefit, I would argue that around the world talent trumps that by a long shot.

Posted in community, engagement, global, teams | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Thoughts on coaching and feedback

Posted by Meg Bear on December 16, 2008

coach  We talk a lot about how effective performance management requires regular coaching and feedback.  As luck would have it, I have been giving and receiving said feedback lately and so I’ve been thinking about what makes for good feedback.   

I think the most critical element of effective coaching is intention.  When you share feedback with an individual do you do it with honest intentions?  Do you want that feedback to be heard?  If so, you need to consider how it will be received.  Often times, the most important feedback is delivered in a way that it is of little or no use to the person who receives it.    This is the worst possible outcome for all involved.  The person receiving the feedback is hurt and now feels betrayed by the person giving the feedback and the person giving the feedback considers herself in a no win situation so avoids ever doing it again. 

To help you avoid these pitfalls, I thought I’d offer some suggestions  for your consideration.   The next time you need to give feedback I recommend you:

  • Evaluate your intention – are you giving feedback to help the person grow?  If so, can you present it in a way that your intention is clear?  You are not attempting to tell someone that they have something in their teeth to make them feel badly, you are doing it avoid having them feel badly.  Building up a relationship of trust with the person and helping them understand your intention, will help them hear you.   If they can’t hear you there was little value in providing the feedback.

 

  • Share your thinking – giving the person the broader context of your thinking can really help them understand what you are saying and put it to use.  If you just tell someone “don’t do this anymore” you often trigger their defense mechanism.  Natural skepticism can kick in such that they might disregard your feedback, justifying to themselves that, you might just be wrong.    Explaining why a certain behavior might be sabotoging their broader goals (and giving examples), will help them understand and digest the feedback in a way that moves them closer to addressing the issue.

 

  • Balance the feedback — only pointing out flaws can give the recipient a “mother-in-law” bias against your views.  If you are always pointing out what is wrong with someone, they are inclined to think that there is no pleasing you anyway.  Again, not a reaction that will cause someone to be open to taking action on your suggestions

 

  • Don’t forget to say the good stuff – do not take it as a given that the person receiving the feedback knows what you appreciate about them.   Even if they do, I know of no person who wouldn’t enjoy having it repeated.  Feedback is more helpful when it’s positive anyway.

Lastly, I would encourage you to do more feedback.  For your peers, for your management, for your employees.  Like anything else we get better with practice, so please do make coaching and feedback part of your personal style.  When good feedback happens, everyone benefits.

Posted in management, performance, teams | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

The leadership cop-out, the employee hot potato

Posted by Meg Bear on December 3, 2008

mrpotato

Dan was talking this week about how real leaders do the right thing, even (or especially) when it means that you have to let a poor performer go.   You all know that I’m a big believer in job fit.  Finding a role that leverages your strengths is critical for success.  For some, finding the right role can be a process of trial and error, using our failures to course correct is a part of personal growth.  Sometimes coaching and role adjustment can turn a lack-luster performer into a star.   But we all know that there are times when the problem is not just job fit, it is job attitude.

When an individual has a negative attitude you are dealing with a cancer that impacts the whole team.  It is the job of the manager to resolve the situation quickly and fairly.  Too often, weak managers resolve their situation by creating an employee hot potato.  These disgruntled employees find themselves sharing (and often compounding) their negative attitudes across multiple groups as they bounce from manager to manager, each too weak to take action.

Moving performance problems around the organization is one of the worse kinds of management cop-outs. It is not honest for the individual and it is not good for the company.  It is not leadership, it’s cowardly.

I am well aware that the process of resolving performance problems takes considered thought and diligence.  Even when attempting to do the right thing, it is often not black and white.   We all want to make sure we have given enough chances to the employee and have done our best to coach them to improvement.  I would not want anyone to take this process lightly.  I would just like to encourage you all to make sure you are honest with yourselves that you are not perpetuating performance problems in other groups, because you are too lazy to deal with them yourself.

If you are not sure, get help from your HR team.  HR professionals can support you through the tough job of coaching the team member to acceptable performance or terminating.  It is the role of HR to make sure that the process is fair for the employee, the impacted team and the company.

Repeat after me, no more employee hot potatoes!

Posted in hr, leadership, management, teams | Tagged: , , | 6 Comments »

A Sympathetic Nod to Dentists and White Rabbits

Posted by Louise Barnfield on November 17, 2008

I visited my dentist last week.

My appointment was at 7.30am. I always ask for that slot, because it’s the first one of the day! I can depend on it starting pretty much on time, and can plan the rest of my day accordingly … assuming my dentist’s alarm clock goes off, and that his commute from the east bay is kind to him.

After the 7.30am slot, it’s a crap-shoot as to how long one has to wait, depending on how many clients arrived late, and how many appointments run over their allotted time. Dentists, unfortunately, have limited control over both eventualities – it’s not good for repeat business to turn Mr Jones and his abscess out on the street because he’s 10 minutes late – neither is making a poor job of Ms Smith’s filling in order to save time … the latter might lead to ‘repeat’ business, but probably for a different surgery.

I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date!

I sympathize with my dentist!

Recently, I’ve been contemplating my daily schedule, its subtle changes over the past couple of years, and how much my day (and, more importantly, my stress levels) are influenced by meetings, meetings, meetings. My colleagues agree! I have far too many of them – meetings, that is, not colleagues!!

Meetings start late, meetings run late, and I often feel held hostage to seemingly uncontrollable circumstances: late host, late participants, technical difficulties, or, even worse, a completely unnecessary meeting in the first place.

I sympathize with Alice’s white rabbit!

I also realize I’ve become an offender myself…by hanging on to the end of a late-running meeting, I end up being late for the next one. I’m also an offender because so often in the past I’ve bust a gut to arrive at a meeting on time, only to wait until others have rolled up 5 or 10 minutes late, so that now I’m tempted to think: “Well, there’s no point me leaving the current meeting before it’s ended, because the next meeting won’t start on time anyway!” Understandable to many, I hope, but not excusable!

So, enough I cry! I might not be able directly to influence how many meetings are held, or how many of them I’m invited or expected to attend, but I can help myself and others by brushing up my meeting skills!

This is not a new problem. It’s a recurring issue that simply provides new challenges with the evolution of technology.

In an increasingly global workplace, where conference calls have replaced physical meetings as the norm, we live with a number of logistical challenges that are unique to remote meetings, including conflicting timezones, no visual cues, and the temptation (and sadly often the necessity) to multi-task. Worse, back-to-back meetings allow no ‘wiggle room’ – no allowance for comfort breaks, or caffeine refills, or simply to breathe and clear the mind between one topic and the next.

When meetings took place more often in a physical space, it was common to wrap up a few minutes early, to enable folks to pack up and get to their next meeting, and to allow the next incumbents to start on time. We’ve lost that habit.

So, at the risk of condemning myself to failure, I hereby promise:

  • to make an effort to join a meeting on time, or at least as near as damn it. Yes, of course, stuff happens, and sometimes I’ll have a jolly fine excuse for being diabolically late, but I promise not to make it a habit!
  • if I join a meeting late I won’t expect to have the last 15 minutes repeated just for my benefit. Similarly, as a host, I won’t feel obliged to recap every time a latecomer joins…the rest of you, who were there on time, don’t need to hear it again…and again…and…!
  • for meetings involving half-a-dozen or more, I’ll provide web conference details beforehand, in the meeting invite or recorded message on the conference line – another way to avoid unnecessary interruptions and repetition!
  • if the meeting is still going strong with only 5 minutes left, I’ll wrap up the meeting – can we conclude satisfactorily in just a few minutes, or should we plan another meeting to continue? Some colleagues are meticulous about this, and I’m striving to emulate them, though it’s still not easy, especially if some participants (like me!) are determined to get their say!

I’ve printed and pasted to my office wall 6 Tips to Avoid Being Late. Unfortunately, #4 won’t be easy, as I’m more often the ‘bookee’ than the ‘booker’, but they are excellent aims to have in mind!

Though focusing on the arrogance of CEO’s specifically, I’m Late I’m Late I’m Late (posted by Del Jones for USA Today way back in 2002!) is cautionary reading for all of us, suggesting: “chronic tardiness, no matter how innocent, can so gum up the gears of a corporate work ethic, create resentment and hurt a reputation that experts address the topic as if it were a mental disorder.”

Is basic meeting etiquette part of your company policy? Is it included in new hire training, and published as a reminder for old timers like me who need a kick up the proverbial from time to time?

How have you adapted to changing technology and meeting styles? What are your pet peeves?

Posted in hr, teams, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 9 Comments »