Warning! Construction Ahead, Team-Building in Progress!

One of the hardest things about the development of a strong team is finding people that you work together to bring out the best in each other. A team, based on the old team development framework by Tuckman is not easy! The concept of Form, Storm, Norm, and Perform takes patience. It takes people who are willing to go beyond self-focus and seek out the best in others.

under-construction-clipart-Under-constructionIn our culture this rarely happens. We don’t often see teams that withstand change. Whether we are talking about the turnover of professional sports, or the new environment found in the organization of today – rare is the team that has any real sense of continuity.

So, if we are unlikely to see teams stay together for more than a short period of time, what can be done to encourage teams to flourish? Three things stick out as key components for successful teamwork in this environment:

1) Set constraints – researchers on creativity are pointing more and more to the reality that rather than hampering our abilities to create, constraints actually encourage our ability. If constraints are placed on the process (e.g. the purpose of the group is to formulate a new haircare product for our consumer line), then the group is likely to reach better results.

2) Set deadlines – ok, so deadlines really are just more constraints, but from a specific perspective when we are given deadlines we have a goal that needs to be reached. Groups that have a time-sensitive factor to their work understand that an outcome needs to be reached and are more likely to iterate than to get stuck forever in the brainstorming and discussion stages.

3) Encourage humility (not meekness) – not often talked about, but groups that show humility have a significant advantage. They know what they are good at and what they aren’t. Too often individuals overestimate their abilities, and groups (with a desire not to hurt feelings) place tasks in the hands of people who are not capable of flourishing in those roles. Teams that practice humility have a proper perspective of their abilities, yet still show care and concern.

So your team won’t be able to age like a fine wine or a tasteful cheese, but that doesn’t mean success can’t be the endpoint for your work.

Bringing back the human element.

I have come across multiple posts recently on Facebook and in actual media outlets (Check out Adam Grant‘s take) decrying how the social media context has caused us to lose sight of what friendship. Too often in our over-saturated, noisy world we allow an electronically mediated message to get in the way of the actual human element of relationship – and I admit I am a huge offender.

I often refer to people as friends even when I admittedly haven’t talked to them for years, or rarely ever. I have lived in 4 different states in the last 11 years, including 9 different cities, and I am really bad about working on true unfiltered continued relationships (except with my wife and daughter). I am the guy who would rather email, text, message, or post something to you than pick up the phone and call you – if we are at a distance (I will say I would much rather grab coffee with you than those other things, but I think you get the point). To make matters worse, I for most of my adult life have worked in small organizations where my actual human interactions with people on a daily basis are quite limited. Yet at my core, I am a developer, coach, teammate, and community member. In the words immortalized in the show Lost in Space, “this does not compute.”

With an ever-shrinking world, ever-increasing access to information, and the constant buzz that surrounds the everyday life of individuals from infancy to geriatrics, how do we put the human element back into relationships? I don’t believe that it is anything but a result of our lack of human interaction that vitriol is expelled on the comment sections of so many articles, that we are becoming more and more divided everyday, and that injustice seems to be on an uptick.

So how do we create person-to-person, person-to-group, and person-to-community connection back to our society? I wish I had an easy answer, but I don’t. My only thought is that we have to start by being intentional and aware of this reality. We all have a need for belonging, from political parties to sports teams, gangs to religious organizations, clubs to conferences, we need others and we need to be connected. In 2015, I am would like to embark on a journey of reconnecting to the human element of our society – through shared community, phone calls, coffee talks, and video chats.

Will you join me in seeking to bring back the human element to our lives again?

If only I had more time

I find myself thinking that so often. Right now I serve as the Executive Director of SynerVision Leadership Foundation, I teach adjunct at Spring Hill College, and I am working with an amazing group of community leaders to bring innovation and entrepreneurship structure to my new hometown of Mobile, AL (not to mention other volunteer work that I do).IMG_20140508_073843

(Places like this do help the process. Taking time to reflect and enjoy your surroundings are helpful)

Still, it bothers me when I think about all of the other projects (including this website) that I just can’t seem to spend my emotional and mental capital in more places. The truth is, we all want to do more. The organization you work for wants to, the school that you attend desires to, and you wish you could – but the reality is, we all have to be strategic about what we choose to do, otherwise we will be spinning our wheels.

If you are like me, this is a really hard lesson, I mean REALLY! So rather than just whine about the problem, sit down and write out your list. Choose five things that you feel that you can really invest yourself in. No more than five. No cheating…and if you can’t come up with five – open your eyes to all the possibilities that are out there. Why five, because that it just makes sense – trust me, or don’t (I mean you only have five fingers on a hand…it was just meant to be – and no, don’t tell me you have two hands…I know that but really when you start to go to the second hand for anything do you really remember it, no…I didn’t think so!)

Go forth and invest yourself wisely!

Where Are You On Your Leadership Journey?

It isn’t everyday that you come across an author who you feel gets it. In fact in the area of leadership, I find that i tend to disagree with more writers, than those with which I agree. Over the last few years, I have enjoyed Mark Miller. Mark and I have some differences in our paradigm of leadership and organizations, but I value his work on leadership, values, and development highly. He is certainly a strong voice for well-grounded leadership!

If you don’t know him already, here is a little bit of info about Mark and the 10th Anniversary edition of his book The Secret that is going to be released on September 2, 2014.

Mark Miller, Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness for Chick-fil-A, believes that leadership is not something that’s exclusive; within the grasp of an elite few, but beyond the reach of everyone else.  In the tenth anniversary edition of The Secret, Miller reminds readers of a seemingly contradictory concept: to lead is to serve. With more than 600,000 books in print, Mark has been surprised by the response and delighted to serve leaders through his writing.

Here is a post that Mark previously shared with his audience on Monday, November 4, 2013 at www.greatleadersserve.org. I think the metaphor Mark shares in this post is very useful for each of us to bear in mind on our own journey!

Enjoy!

TG

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Leadership as a journey is probably a tired metaphor. I’m as guilty as the next guy for wearing this out. I not only say it – I believe it! And as with any journey, there are stages or phases you and I consciously consider when planning a family vacation that we often overlook when we think about our leadership.

This is a topic I’ve not given much thought to recently. However, with some restructuring at the office, this responsibility falls squarely back to my team. Therefore, I’ve reengaged on this critical topic.

My thoughts are still in a very rough form, but since I’ve been encouraged to be transparent in the posts I write, I thought I’d share some “work in progress,” not polished ideas.

I think a leader’s journey has at least four phases:

Preparing for the trip = Emerging Leaders

Before you take a trip, most people I know pick a destination. Before the route is planned and hotels are booked, you decide where you want to go. Emerging leaders have a choice to make: do they want to lead? If so, they can begin the preparation in earnest. The best preparation involves both the heart and the hands.

Leaving the house = New Leaders

Who are the men and women in your organization who become leaders? For many the answer is, those from the emerging leader ranks who appear to be the most prepared or hold the most promise. These are the men and women you actually give a position of leadership. Once “in charge,” the real adventure begins.

Are we there yet? = Mid-Career Leaders

For many leaders in mid-career, there is often a sense of unfulfilled potential – a desire to do more and be more and contribute more. During this mid-career season, this desire either becomes productive or poison. Those who channel this desire for greater contribution and lead beyond their assignment are often rewarded with more responsibility. Those who whine and wait are done. The answer to, “Are we there yet?” is, you are always in a place to add more value – the best leaders seize it all along their career journey.

You’ve arrived! = Seasoned Leaders

This is probably not the best label for this stage in a leader’s career because the best leaders never arrive. However, they do reach a point where they realize their success is inextricably linked to those they lead. The successful seasoned leader has gotten self out of the way and is focused on helping others win. As a result, he or she wins too! They also know, their continued contribution is contingent on their growth.

So, what’s the point? I think there are several…

  • Increased influence is a choice – independent of where you are on the journey.
  • Expanded leadership opportunity is not contingent on your title or stage on the journey.
  • The fuel for advancement and increased contribution is growth, not time.
  • A focus on others will make the journey a lot more fun!

I know we’re all on the journey, my challenge and yours is to navigate the road ahead successfully and take as many people with us as possible!

What travel advice do you have for others on their leadership journey?

 -Mark

Be up front, even when it hurts!

One of the most important lessons I have learned in relationships and organizational life is that things that bother you, don’t stop – unless addressed. There is something innate in most of us that drives us to avoid confrontations (though I admit, there are a small percentage who seem to thrive off them). We don’t like the idea of addressing things because we fear what could happen, yet we willingly let the problems reside inside of our head, our emotions, and our bodies.

STOP!!!!!!! I know that it sounds easy, but that is what must be done in productive relationships and organizations. In both settings, it is important to create a safe space where we can be up front with one another in a caring and sensitive way, to state the frustrations, challenges, and/or needs that we have in moving forward.

The flip side to this is, we have to provide this space for others as well. There will be times that we unknowingly have offended, annoyed, overworked, or under-appreciated someone that is important to our daily life. When that happens, we need them to tell us…hurt as it will! This is how we grow!

We daily function with an image of both our self and our functioning that is developed from our internal viewpoint – meaning it lacks the depth and clarity of what we would see if we examined ourselves from a 360 degree perspective – but when we give others accepted space to be able to engage with us, the opportunity for real growth begins!

Today, make a plan for being upfront when your team, friends, or family do things that overwhelm, under-perform, or just plain grate at your nerves. Use “I” statements (e.g. “I feel overwhelmed when this happens”) as opposed to “you” statements (e.g. “You are overwhelming me when you do this…”) *We need to be certain that trust has been established in these relationships  prior to addressing issues.

Life is too short and too amazing for each of us to carry things in our baggage that could be remedied by addressing them gently with those that are important to us!

Why I Still Don’t Like Lebron, the Cavs, or the Heat (but I respect James more)

As a sport fan, I was growing tired of the #Indecision2014 tag that had been making the rounds throughout last week. My biggest hope for all of this hoopla is that it would not turn our as a repeat of the horrendous made-for-tv ploy of “The Decision.” That being said, while the whispers had been pointing towards it for a time, I was still moderately surprised by LeBron James decision to go back to his “hometown” Cleveland Cavaliers.

Let me take a moment to state this succinctly – I hail from SE Michigan and love all things about Detroit/UM sports, as an effect, I can’t stand the following: Ohio State, any Cleveland team, Michael Jordan, UNC, and LeBron. I grew up in an era where Detroit and UM sports were like the towns of the Detroit area – TOUGH!

Now, I have to admit having LeBron back in Cleveland just means I have less disdain that I have to spread around to NBA franchises, I mean I used to like the Heat back in their early days, but that was surely lost during the LeBron era.

A funny thing happened to all of my annoyance with LeBron the other day – The Letter was released. Gosh the lack of humility found in the “…not 5, not 6, but 7 championships” statement was notably absent and a much more mature LeBron was found.

I’m not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver. We’re not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010. My patience will get tested. I know that. I’m going into a situation with a young team and a new coach. I will be the old head. But I get a thrill out of bringing a group together and helping them reach a place they didn’t know they could go.

Sure, I can nitpick about how some of this was just overblown that the money helped bring him back to Cleveland, that the NBA rigged three lotteries in 4 years to make up for the Decision (and to set up the Return), but I will not let that be the focus. The truth is, while I could (mostly) care less about this choice, I very much respect the character and leadership that his letter shows. Young people make mistakes, being uber-wealthy and having whatever you want only exacerbates that, but growing up…that is what counts. 

Congrats LeBron. You have my respect…until the Pistons play you (kidding, sort of)!

New Article on Humble Teams!

I am pleased to announce that my new article has been come out as part of the work of a wonderful group at People Development Magazine. This issue is part of a 6-month initiative to speak to the top 6 issues facing organizations today (as determined by the Centre for Creative Leadership). The July issue is all about leading a team!

You can check the article out here.

Give Without Expecting to Get

ImageSo, I admit, I am biased. I am personally pre-disposed to the needs of the group, pre-disposed to helping others, pre-disposed to providing resources for those that are in my sphere. What is exciting is that research by Wharton professor Adam Grant, in his book Give and Take, shows that those that are truly concerned about giving before they get actually turn out to have more long-term success than those that are takers first (though takers do often seem to be ahead in the short term).

Beyond Grant’s research (which is fantastic), this idea has been creeping up in many other unrelated spheres. In his book Startup Communities, Brad Feld encourages those working in and around communities for startups to focus on giving first. In other books like Go-Giver similar principles are encouraged in a slightly different context.

The reality is setting in. People who give ultimately receive even more than those who take, but why? First, let me suggest that those that give actually receive, simply by giving to others (the Apostle Paul quotes Jesus as saying “it is more blessed to give than to receive” in a speech in Acts 20:35). Intrinsically we feel good when we give, serve, help, and care. Retail therapy has become a big part of our consumeristic culture, but it has nothing on giving therapy in the long run!

Second, the reality of givers are that they have a strong network of people. In the process of giving without expectations, you strengthen bonds by showing that you are in a relationship for the long haul, rather than seeking some quick repayment. There are often people who tell you that they are willing to help, want to do anything they can to assist, etc. but never actually follow through (great intentions, but just not the biggest priority for them). Then there are those who are givers, these people thrive off of sharing with others and seeing them succeed.

Today, take some time to evaluate your mode – are you a giver? In what areas do you find yourself more pre-disposed to give? How do you react to the idea that givers get further in life than takers? Has that been your reality?

If it doesn’t challenge me, why do it?

This post continues the series on humility, previous posts can be found herehere, and here. It is the last in the 4-part humility series and is a follow-up from a weekend retreat for teens that was focused on Paul’s Letter to the Philippian Church.

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50 teenagers sat uncomfortably (at first) as it was rolled out that this weekend wasn’t about them. Well, more specifically, it wasn’t about them as individuals. It was about the group, it was about service, it was about relationships, and it was about embracing their faith. Talk about a tough message to a generation of people who have grown up with a steady diet of me-centric media…but if it isn’t tough, why do it?

What is amazing is that they respond. Tell them that they have a choice – live a life that looks self-centered, potentially abusive, and self-gratifying or a life that is other-focused, concerned about the good for others, and self-emptying and it surprising that they actually seem excited for this “new” path forward.

I think all too often we offer simple solutions, band-aid fixes, and low hanging fruit to people when what they really want (or at least need) are transformative experiences, deep and hard self-work, and big goals.

What if we asked people to help others without being concerned about their desires all the time? What would happen if we asked people to let go of the things that they are holding onto in order to lift the burdens of someone else? What if we asked them to forgive, rather than to hold onto grudges?

The answer to these questions is that we would have a wholly different society. One that was not focused with getting its own way, or constant self-gratification, but instead recognized that every person in showing value to others would actually have more than enough as in giving they themselves receive.

So, enough writing and talking about the subject, who is ready to enact this challenge. For 30 days, live with an other-focused orientation showing honor to others above even your ownself. Encourage them, serve them, and stop worrying about “getting yours”. I guarantee that you will see change among those that surround you and within your ownself.

Live big, otherwise what is the point – who wants to live a small and petty life?

[Friday Coaching Corner] How Humility Impacts Organizations

This post continues the series on humility, previous posts can be found here and here. It also is part of the weekly Friday “Coaching Corner” (a deeper, more  in-depth focus on organizational development and related subjects)

When I began examining humility one thing bothered within the literature – it only examined and discussed humility as something that happens within the individual. As a researcher and practitioner focused on teams and groups, I was more interested in how humility (which as I have already posted in this series is one of my favorite topics to discuss) can transcend the individual and actually make its home within the fabric of a group or team. So I set out to build a case that this very thing was a reality. A discussion of the research, and its implications for organizations follows.

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The Perception of Group Humility (PGH) Scale was developed through a two-part research study examining individuals working as Emergency Medical Technicians in part 1, and those who are Middle School Teachers in part 2. Saving you the very technical aspects of the research (e.g. validation, factor analysis and the like). In the second study, an examination of the relationship between the PGH scale and some very important organizational activities was engaged. The results were overwhelmingly positive!

The results of this study presented that the existence of higher levels of the PGH positively related to the existence of Participative Leadership Behaviors (willingness for leaders to allow others to participate in the leadership process), Collective Efficacy (expectation that a group can accomplish the tasks before them), Organizational Citizenship Behaviors (positive behaviors enacted by members of an organization to show care for others), and Team-Learning Orientation (the focus a group has on learning).

These findings are important to any organization, as within the present organizational environment a great deal of collaboration and sharing of resources is needed for a positive, learning-centered culture. At the core, the humility virtue – and by extension, the group humility phenomena – seems to render a path forward in understanding how the challenge of individual and collective humility can be best engendered.

This path forward occurs as the organization promotes the value of humility as advantageous to their culture and performance. The understanding that humility includes a low self-focus, accurate portrayal of self and others, willingness to learn, and appreciation of others can serve to aid organizations significantly.Some areas that humility has the distinct potential to impact organizations are: long-term planning, enculturation of new organizational members, leadership development, and group functioning.

In this research, humility was examined for its ability to transcend the individual and become a group trait/norm. Through the perception of group members participating in Study I was validated. Group members were able to perceive within their teams/groups the presence of a willingness to learn, proper placement of self in relation to others, care and concern for group members, and an accurate self-knowledge. In Study II, the four hypotheses were examined, with each data set displaying a significant, positive relationships between Perceived Group Humility and the outcome variable. In each of the regression analyses a positive relationship was found, as had been posited based on the theoretical underpinnings found in the literature. The strength of the relationship in each of the four was more than expected, with the final three hypotheses showing extremely strong relationship.

The statistical results of this research inquiry present an important case for the value of PGH in its relationship to other positive, other-oriented (and well accepted) group constructs. As such, we see the multi-functional aspect of group humility with its influence on leadership behaviors, expectations of efficacy, citizenship behaviors, and learning paradigm. While it is too soon to say what this construct will show over the course of time, the PGH scale clearly offers tremendous insight into important areas of growth for organizations as they daily enact group structures.

Discussion of the Claims of the Research Study

This research follows within a research agenda seeking to better understand what humility actually is. Over the last decade and a half, the process of re-establishing the definition of humility has made great strides in moving away from the mentality of the downtrodden, lacking, ‘wimp’ to the pattern held by individuals (and now – groups) that exhibit a low self-focus, an acknowledgement of personal limitations, openness to the ideas of others, the ability to keep one’s accomplishments and abilities in the proper perspective, and an appreciation of the value of all things (see research by  Julie Tangney at George Mason University).

This research established that the presence of PGH was a vital foundation for virtuous behaviors. At the outset of this study, it was posited in that humility has the potential to re-orient individuals, groups, organizations, and even societies. Within the studies in this research, it was established that the presence of humility within a group is strongly related to the orientation of helping others. This fits well with previous findings, in which individuals exemplifying humility have a low self-focus, an appreciation of the strengths of others, and a desire to learn. In an ever-changing world, that is continually finding opportunities for the use of groups, the understanding that groups can have significant impact both internally and externally through the enactment of group humility, leads to the possibility that an encouragement of real and substantive good can be engaged in organizations and communities.

Organizations can also benefit significantly from the new understanding of the effects of humility on learning, particularly that of a group. As learning has become a vital financial (as well as operational) concern in organizations, it is of increasing importance for organizational leaders to better understand how to encourage the growth and learning of groups and their members. While arrogant individuals and those expressing low-humility are unlikely to engage in, and enact new learnings, individuals and groups that express humility are more likely to seek out new learnings, as they first recognize that they are not perfect. In Study II the data showed that there was a strong, positive relationship between PGH and a Team-Learning Orientation. The importance of humility within individuals and groups (as the connection to team-learning orientation should note) may prove to be valuable in finding an increase in the transfer of training rates, and thus the financial allocation for training within organizations.

Finally, this study provides great hope for how humility and collective efficacy in tandem can establish more accurate goal-setting and performance expectations. Organizations stand to be in much better position, fiscally, purely through the means of better understanding their own competencies and capabilities. In this research it was established that there is a strong, positive relationship between PGH and Collective Efficacy. With this connection at the forefront, the presence of group humility and the correlate, a higher level of collective efficacy, should present an opportunity for establishing proper, reachable standards, thus helping prevent a great deal of waste, over-inflated goals, and the potential for new areas of growth.

Opportunities for Organizations

These findings have the potential to positively impact the culture and bottom line of any organization through the implementation of some, or all of the following methods:

1)      Beginning with upper leadership, model humility through:

  1. A demonstrated willingness to learn, as well as the acknowledging the specialized knowledge that others bring to the table.
  2. Maintaining a proper placement of themselves (not overly important or overly unimportant, not taking credit for what others have done, etc.)
  3. Show care and concern for other group/organization members through checking in at appropriate junctures and assessing what is needed for others to thrive.
  4. Develop an open and honest feedback circle which allows for an understanding of what one does well and needs to improve on.

2)      Demonstrate the importance of organizational values through:

  1. Display values in public places.
  2. Enactment of feedback processes for recognizing extraordinary examples.
  3. Consistent reminder and encouragement of these values.

It is important that while encouraging and researching the value and importance of humility within groups and organizations, that humility doesn’t become ‘cheapened’ or ‘manufactured’. When individuals and groups truly enact the behaviors that undergird humility, growth most certainly will take place. However, when false modesty is implemented and modeled, little value will be found.

True humility, as enacted within groups should assist the development of an uplifting organizational climate. With the recasting of the humility construct and the substantiation of humility as leading to care and development of others, humility solidifies its value in the organization. As such, it is imperative that organizations, awake to the blessings found in this humble perspective. Given that almost every organization utilizes groups for some aspect or function, it should become imperative for organizations of all stripes to seek for better understanding about how group humility functions, how it can be encouraged, and what that means for recruitment, leadership, and training.

If you would like to learn more about this research and the Perception of Group Humility scale, please leave a comment below.