All Posts in Category: Team Building

Leadership Insights

workshop-groupWhen conducting workshops on various leadership topics I tend to list several points for being effective in the area being discussed. Inevitably someone will ask, “Of all the points you listed, which is the most important?” Listed below are several leadership topics followed by my typical response.

TIME MANAGEMENT:   What gets scheduled gets done. Schedule your action items in specific time slots. If you get blocked on an item re-schedule it.

COMMUNICATION:   Stay in the moment. Wherever you are, be there. Give the other person your undivided attention. Make appropriate eye contact. Eliminate distractions. Ask questions.

MOTIVATION:   Help people feel “special.” Pay attention to them; spend time with them; get to know them; take a sincere interest in things they are interested in; listen to them; and encourage them.

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  1. Be generous with encouragement. Without encouragement, most people will only give you a minimum effort. Encouragement will cause people to give you an extra effort. All encouragement makes a difference.
  2. Give positive feedback regarding outstanding, improved, and consistent performance. Giving feedback on outstanding performance is usually easy because it is obvious. Giving feedback on improved performance is a little harder because you need to recognize that performance has improved. A good scorekeeping system will help you become aware of improvements. The hardest feedback to give is for consistent performance. People ask me why they should give feedback for people who are “just” doing their job. My response is, “because you want them to continue being consistent – doing their job.
  3. Help people set and achieve personal, business, and professional development goals. Personal goals provide motivation. Business goals are objectives to make the business better. Professional development goals will help the person be capable of accomplishing more and helping the business achieve its goals.
  4. Communicate your expectations clearly and in writing. The people on your team want to meet or exceed your expectations. If your expectations are unclear, non-existent, or constantly changing, team members will be uncertain and/or confused and will not give you their best effort.
  5. Help people clarify their thinking. It’s been said that the problem with people is they just don’t think. When you help people clarify their thinking by asking good questions and giving good direction, they will be more focused, motivated, and productive.
  6. Reinforce the behaviors you want repeated. Give feedback on what you want to happen, not on what you don’t want to happen.
  7. Focus on specific issues or behaviors the person can control. Results come from behaviors and behaviors are observable. When you focus on observable behaviors rather than intangibles you will have a greater chance of getting the outcomes you want.
  8. Avoid personal attacks, sarcasm, or innuendos. Personal attacks, criticism, sarcasm, and innuendos do not bring out the best in people. These types of interaction will cause resentment and people will get even by not performing up to their potential.
  9. Avoid inflammatory words such as “should have”, “ought to”, “have to”, “always”, and “never”. Using words and phrases like these usually causes resistance and defensiveness. People will feel like you are “wagging your finger” in their face. Parental words will many times bring out the “rebellious” child in even the most mature employee. Consider substituting “next time…” or some other positive, forward-thinking word or phrase.
  10. Believe in your people. People will live up or down to your belief in them. They can read your mind, and, that’s good because you can determine what’s in your mind for them to read – that you believe in them and expect them to perform at their best.
  11. Be a positive role model. Most people, if not all people, would rather see a “sermon” than hear one any day. Say what you will do and do what you say. Practice what you preach.
  12. Stay in the moment. Give the other person your complete time and attention. When you don’t stay in the moment, the other person will sense it and could feel devalued and/or you might miss something crucial to the relationship or issue being discussed. Either of these outcomes can hamper productivity, lower the quality of work, and damage an important relationship.

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As promised in Coaching Tip #61 here are steps you can take to confront problem behavior (any behavior that gets in the way of achieving predetermined team and/or organizational goals).

Preparation Step:

  • Approach problem behavior situations as soon as possible
  • Gather the facts – be specific (what and when)
  • Select an appropriate meeting place, e.g. private without distractions
  • Have your goal for the session clearly defined; what type of discussion is appropriate?
    • Coaching – an informal discussion to remind the employee what is expected of the employee and/or what his or her responsibilities are; your goal is to gain the employee’s agreement to make a positive change.
    • Counseling – a more formal approach where you are dealing with a major rule infraction or continuing problem.
    • Formal Discipline – discipline could be a reprimand or loss of privileges for minor offenses, suspensions without pay for a more serious offense, or demotions or termination for severe behavior problems (theft, assault, etc.). Because of the legal risks involved with severe levels of formal discipline, it is advisable to seek legal or HR counsel and obtain necessary approvals first).
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Most minor behavior problems can be corrected by simply addressing them in a gentle, straight-forward manner. This can often be done in a relaxed, casual setting. The better your relationship with the team member, the easier it will be to get an improvement in behavior. However, if the problem persists and is having a negative impact on your team and productivity, you will need to let the employee know that some sort of resolution is imperative. This usually requires a more formal setting.

When the problem behavior warrants a formal meeting and you have the facts, the best time to act is as soon as possible. Waiting will not make the situation better and it probably won’t go away. Follow these steps in getting prepared for your discussion:

  1. Get the facts. Do not rely on rumor or innuendo.
  2. Know enough about the person to predict his or her responses.
  3. Write bullet points about what you will say and in what order.
  4. Choose an appropriate location that is private.

Do not use E-mail when dealing with problem behavior. You will lose the effectiveness of tone, inflection, facial expression, and body language; plus, your message or intent might be misinterpreted without the advantage of a dialogue. Try to deal with the issue face to face. If that isn’t practical, do it by phone.

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Problem behavior can be described as any behavior that gets in the way of achieving predetermined team and/or organizational goals. The problem behavior might cause the person to be less productive than he or she could be and needs to be. The problem behavior might be counter-productive to other team members as well, e.g. disruptive in meetings, consistently late or absent, sloppy work, unsafe practices, etc.

In short, a problem is the difference between a goal and a result; behavior is an observable action. When there is a difference between the expected behavior and the actual behavior, you have problem behavior. The difference could be missed expectations, failed promises, or both.

Many people think confrontation is negative. If someone’s behavior is inappropriate, you do the person a disservice by not bringing it to his or her attention. Most, if not all, people want to know if their behavior is counter-productive for achieving the desired results; they want to contribute to the team’s success. Often, managers confuse confrontation (positive) with criticism (negative).

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“Flatter me, and I may not believe you.

Criticize me, and I may not like you.

Ignore me, and I may not forgive you.

Encourage me, and I will not forget you.”

William Arthur Ward


Flattering, criticizing, or ignoring people will not bring out their best. Encouraging them will. There are hundreds of ways to encourage people. Listed below are some of the key ways you can encourage others:

  • Believe in them even before they believe in themselves.
  • Take a genuine interest in them.
  • Listen to them.
  • Care about them and their successes.
  • Ask questions that will clarify their thinking and goals.
  • Help them think big and deal with reality at the same time.
  • Celebrate improvements with them.
  • Identify the habits they need to develop to be successful.

These motivating actions are not easy to do, but they are worth it when you see people grow, develop more of their potential, and succeed.

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From early childhood, we are conditioned to “fix” our weaknesses. When adults are asked to list their strengths, most of the time it is a struggle for them to list more than a few. When those same adults are asked to list their weaknesses, a much longer list is usually forthcoming.

Most adults have been exposed to numerous people in positions of authority who were determined to help them fix what was wrong with them. In other words, fix their weaknesses. Most managers spend an inordinate amount of time working with weak performers and focusing on mistakes. It is a myth to think that fixing weaknesses makes everything better. The best way to drive excellence is to focus on strengths and manage weaknesses.

Instead of focusing on weaknesses, determine the strengths of your team members and determine ways for them to spend more time in these areas and less time in their areas of weakness. Look for ways to offset weaknesses in one team member with the strengths of another. People are energized when they are working in their areas of strength. And, they are more motivated about their work. In the process their self-esteem is enhanced.

You can start an epidemic of positive energy on your team by making a conscious effort to seek out and acknowledge the strengths of your team members. Start by observing working behaviors in broad categories and then get more specific. Make a list for yourself and each team member. Look for how active each of you is or how much energy each of you has. Then, determine who has strengths in the following areas:

Attention to detail





















Versatile [If these descriptions don’t work for you, create your own list.]

Create situations where you can spend a high percentage of your time in your areas of strength. Then, give your team regular feedback to reinforce the behaviors you want repeated. Doing this on a regular basis will produce an accumulative effect that will have a major impact on your performance, productivity, and results.


  1. Have high expectations for yourself and your team members.
  2. Find out what you and team members do well and do more of it.
  3. Find out what you and team members do not do well and stop doing it.
  4. Manage your weaknesses and help your team members manage theirs.

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A common misconception is that authority is bestowed. To the contrary, authority must be earned. Titles are bestowed and it is usually assumed that control and power come with the title. As a result, most managers overestimate the amount of control or power they have and tend to underestimate how much they can influence outcomes.

Authority is the right to decide no and the right to say yes. If someone has the right to decide either yes or no, but not both, they do not have authority. They have the illusion of authority. Empowering someone in an organization to decide no, but not yes, can limit performance and productivity. Authority (the ability to say yes or no) can and must be delegated. In addition, the limits of authority must be clearly defined. Freedom is greatest when boundaries are clearly defined. When people know exactly what their authority entails, they will be more confident to make correct decisions.

Power is the capacity to grant and withhold cooperation. You are a manager because there is a job to get done that you cannot do alone. If you cannot do it alone, you will need the cooperation of others. Therefore, anyone whose cooperation is needed has power. If a manager had both authority and power, everyone would cooperate automatically to get the job done.

A management problem arises when those with power (employees) refuse to cooperate. This lack of cooperation can be manifested in not getting work done at all or correctly, through slowness and delays, and poor quality. Attempts to gain cooperation with authority usually result in bribery or intimidation. If either of these methods worked consistently, most managers would not be needed.

The best way to deal with power (cooperation) is influence. Influence is the ability to get people to cooperate because it is in their best interest to do so. In order to influence people, you need to know what motivates them. To know what motivates them, you need to get to know them as a person because it’s hard to motivate a stranger.

To get to know the people on your team, observe them, talk with them, listen to them and find out:

  • What they are interested in
  • What’s important to them
  • What they are proud of/what gives them a sense of pride
  • What they do for pleasure
  • What benefits they want to gain
  • What pain they want to avoid
  • What motivates them (it’s ok to ask them)
  • What type of feedback or recognition they prefer

Taking the time to get to know your team members will pay big dividends through better cooperation, improved motivation and morale, and improved performance and results.

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  1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  2. Smile.
  3. Remember a person’s name is the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  4. Be a good listener; encourage others to talk about themselves.
  5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interest.
  6. Make other people feel important – and do it sincerely.


  1. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it (you don’t have to attend every fight you’re invited to).
  2. Begin in a friendly way.
  3. Get the other person saying “Yes” immediately.
  4. Find areas of mutual agreement.
  5. Let the other person do a majority of the talking.
  6. Let the other person feel the idea is theirs.
  7. Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
  8. Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
  9. Appeal to the nobler motives.
  10. Dramatize your ideas.
  11. Throw down a challenge.
  12. Show respect for others’ opinions. Never say, “You’re wrong!”
  13. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.


  1. Be generous with encouragement.
  2. Give positive feedback regarding outstanding, improved, and consistent performance.
  3. Help people set and achieve personal, business, and professional development goals.
  4. Communicate your expectations clearly (preferably in writing).
  5. Help people clarify their thinking.
  6. Reinforce the behaviors you want repeated.
  7. Focus on specific issues or behaviors the person can control.
  8. Avoid personal attacks, sarcasm, or innuendos.
  9. Avoid inflammatory words such as should have, ought to, have to, always, and never.
  10. Believe in your people.
  11. Be a positive role model.
  12. Stay in the moment. Give the other person your complete time and attention.

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  • Steps up and can make tough decisions; pulls the trigger.
  • Good communicator, good listener, and likes the interaction with people.
  • Offers innovative ideas and effective solutions to critical operational problems.
  • Understands his/her personal weaknesses and build a complimentary team to fulfill the tasks at hand, covering individual weaknesses.
  • Knows how to build trust among the people around him/her; very credible.
  • “Vision” seems to be his/her forte; their thought process just seems right for the organization and its future success.
  • Has good timing. Seems to know what is right for the organization at the right time; asks penetrating questions and exercises good judgment.
  • Has the “Arnold Palmer” factor; the magnetism. Exercises “people skills;” people just want to be around this person as a mentor and as a leader.
  • Has a deep understanding of how the company makes money and appreciates the contribution of each individual department to that end.
  • Demonstrates “marketing skills” and helps create a “customer focus” in the organization.
  • “High energy” person who is results oriented. And, knows how “to keep many balls in the air” but has an excellent sense of priority.
  • Is open to new ideas and is willing to change his/her point of view.
  • Smart person in terms of I.Q. but, more so, has “street smarts;” intuitively perceives patterns of external change and can adapt “vision” to these changes.
  • Has “quick study” characteristics. Is always curious, an observer, who acts rather than reacts.
  • Has a track record of personal success. Strong record of extra-curricular activities in college and in career, helping to make her/him a well-rounded individual.
  • Understands the concept of “value creation” and the relationship to the top line and bottom line.
  • Has high moral/ethical standards and brings a sense of integrity to the company.
  • Has a track record of removing “barriers to change” and is not content with the “status quo.” In most cases believes that “sacred cows make the best hamburger.”
  • Loves interaction with “stakeholders.” Loves the job, the people, and loves spreading the word.
  • Has a ‘life,” not just the work place. Is well read, knows how to get educated well beyond formal education. Is up on current events. Has a handle on what’s happening out there.
  • Knows how to balance work life and personal life.

*Excerpted with permission from “Return of the Body Snatchers” by Cary Blair & Ron Watt

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