Don’t Let Post Election Anxiety Hurt Your Team

It’s Thanksgiving– Keep Talking and Supporting Each Other       The election is over, but the uncertainty, divisiveness and questions remain. Colleagues, friends and relatives who are on different sides of the issues (and supported different candidates) are questioning each other’s intelligence, thought processes and whether they really know each other at all. Trust and in some cases civility have eroded, and our tendency is to withdraw from speaking to or even being with those who don’t share our opinions. But this is the worst thing that could happen. When we are divided and don’t seek common ground in order to move forward, we just make matters worse. This is sadly very evident in the rash of hate crimes that have started occurring across the county.

You MUST continue to communicate with all your co-workers. Your job and the effectiveness of your team may depend upon these people skills, which are now being put to the test. You should not isolate yourself from friends who don’t agree with you. After all, you may have spent years doing things together and building a host of wonderful memories. Is that worth just throwing away? No, it’s not.

How do you get past this? Time certainly will help, but “go high”—like Michelle Obama said, and reach out. Go and actively support issues that matter to you. Talk to your colleagues and friends. Share Thanksgiving with those you love. Maybe you can’t talk politics right now, but you can find positive things to share and to rebuild your relationships on.

For co-workers, talk about events that you shared, successes that your experienced together in the past, upcoming goals and how to reach them together. Steer away from what divides you at this time. The same for friends and family—talk about fun trips and occasions that you shared, what you are currently doing, fun hobbies, the kids, the holidays. Keep it positive.

IF you feel compelled to talk about the election, approach it knowing that the discussion could be negatively charged. So, you want to go into it with some “ground rules:”

  1. I would really like to hear your opinion on why you voted this way. Maybe I could learn something.
  2. Let’s keep it factual and unemotional if at all possible. Leave out words like “How could you…?” That is a put-down.
  3. Are there things that we actually do agree upon? What are they?
  4. And if it does get uncomfortable, let’s agree to table the discussion until we can talk about it calmly without so much emotion. You must realize that you may never have this discussion at all.

Remember that truly the most important thing you will ever do in life is Communicate. If we stop doing that, we will cease all positive forward movement—which is the key. Let’s work together to stay together and make progress– together.  “Thanksgiving” after all, is a word of action.

Good Leaders Can Use Conflict to Build a Great Team

Few things divide teams more than disagreement. We experience this in personal life as well as business and politics.  Poor leaders believe in creating problems and divisiveness by telling everyone how bad things are. They bully people into agreeing with their ideas and are dictators not leaders. Though people may follow along for a while, this is an extremely poor and disastrous way to lead a team—or a nation. For too long, many of our “leaders” have succumbed to digging in their heels and refusing to make any progress unless it was their way. Is this your boss? Is it you?

There will always be differences of opinion, and that diversity can make great teams if conflict is seen as a way to get the best results—not a “right or wrong” fight. Good leaders know this and promote this way of thinking. There MUST be communication and everyone should strive to contribute to that dialogue. Here is the mindset that will drive positive results and higher functioning teams:

  1. Build on what is positive first and find common principles. Do not simply tear down the past—especially if you are a new boss and have no history with the company.
  2. Respect your team members. Those who disagree are not “the enemy.” Many on your team may have more experience than you; don’t discount their contributions. Name calling and bullying is the worst thing you can do—and will only serve to dismantle the team and undermine success as well as trust.
  3. Ask your team to see conflict as a way to move forward—not a paralyzing force. Patrick Lencioni, in his book- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, writes about “fear of conflict.” This is what allows some managers to get their way much of the time—when it is not always the best way. People don’t want to rock the boat. They are afraid of being fired. They think that sharing an opposing opinion is a waste of time. As a boss, if you foster this kind of thinking, you are doing your team and yourself a huge disservice.

This diagram illustrates how we should see conflict. At the far left is “artificial harmony” where everyone just agrees with everything. We know everyone has lots of opinions, but they are not sharing them, and therefore as a resource of ideas and knowledge, these people are limited—not supportive team members. On the far left is very destructive conflict, in which people are openly attacking each other personally – which includes childish name-calling and degrading comments.

conflict-continuum

 

The middle of the diagram is the “ideal conflict point.” It is still constructive, but it represents having a variety of divergent ideas—without trying to destroy the personal integrity of team members. This is what great leaders should strive for and ask of their teams.

  1. Establish common goals and ideals. If your team is in total disarray (and most are not), start with your mission statement. This establishes your purpose and why you are together as a team. This has to be the basis for progress, and you must agree that progress toward goals is necessary—otherwise, there is no reasons for your existence as a team. In government, you always hear about “reaching across the aisle,” but this is more than just talking one-on-one. This is setting a common platform for everyone.
  2. Agree that it is ok to disagree. This is how a team comes up with a myriad of ideas on how to solve an issue and move forward. However, again the ultimate goal must be to move forward.
  3. Learn to compromise. This is not a bad word. If we do not learn to compromise, then instead of progress, you foster inactivity; no movement forward or backward. And those who refuse to learn about compromise and change will ultimately see their teams, businesses or indeed governments decline and fail.

How to Have More Interactive Meetings

Many planners would like to incorporate a team building event into their meetings. After all, people are taking the time to be together away from work, so you should take advantage of this rare opportunity and do what you can to have them interact, get to know each other better and bond as a team.  Unfortunately, a packed agenda often makes it difficult to find the time. Here are some things you can incorporate right into the meeting to create interaction and also help improve the meeting content.

  1. “Group Questions” A speaker always asks if there are any questions, and sometimes people either can’t think of one or they are too shy to raise their hand and ask. After a speaker has finished his or her presentation, ask each table to talk amongst themselves for a couple of minutes—and come up with at least one question for the speaker. If the group is large and time is sort, just call on a few tables (who really want to ask their questions). Everyone else should write their question(s) on a card and these will be collected and handed to the speaker. These can be addressed later or even in a meeting follow-up. This gets people talking to each other and discussing the content.
  1. “Presenter Feedback” After each presentation, ask each table to write on a 3 x 5 card some concise feedback for the presenter. The two questions they should answer: 1) What did you like about the presentation?; 2) What could the presenter have done to make it more effective? Presenters should not feel uncomfortable about this. It is done so that we all learn from each experience. Additionally, this gets people at each table to talk to each other about the meeting content.
  1. “Common Bonds” Before the meeting commences tell the participants to introduce themselves to the other people at their table. If seated in classroom or theater style, it is more difficult, but you can still do this. During the first day of meetings, they need to find out one rare or interesting thing that everyone at their table has in common.  The more rare the better. At the end of the day, they have to write this down on a 3 x 5 card—with all their names at the top. The best ones will be picked and read the next day. You can even give a prize to these “teams.”

The idea is that you get people talking to each other. You can see there are simple ways to incorporate it right into your meeting—without having to set aside a substantial period of time. No, it doesn’t take the place of a great team building event, but at least it is more than having people just sit and listen to speaker after speaker—without any interaction among the attendees at all.

Don’t Let Co-worker’s Behavior Sabotage Your Team

Co-workers walking on eggshells (from East Bay Times on 7/18/16)

DEAR AMY: I have worked closely with a co-worker for five years. She can be warm and generous, is a hard worker and is always the first to volunteer for projects.

She is also incredibly sensitive and thin-skinned and often perceives slights in benign comments. When this happens, she flies off the handle. She has stormed out of meetings in tears and snapped at coworkers. She recently said something hurtful about a colleague (presumably meant to be funny).

I have stopped defending her, but because I think her behavior is atrocious, now and then I still “run interference” in an attempt to prevent her from melting down and to protect others’ feelings.

She often wants to vent about how she has been mistreated and asks for advice about how to handle these imaginary insults, but she rejects any actual help and seems to only want to be told that she is right and others are wrong.

Colleagues and I are constantly walking on eggshells around this person, and we resent it.

Emotional Hostage

DEAR HOSTAGE: You have kindly run interference for your co-worker for years, smoothing things over for her, so that she will be shielded from the consequences of her actions. No doubt you have done this for her because you are a genuinely good person who wants to protect her and others from her actions.

Emotional bullies get the best of people by making others check their own reactions. Over time, this can make things much worse.

If she is acting out, don’t offer help or advice. Never “protect” her from a meltdown. If she is venting to you and asks for advice, tell her, “You ask for advice but you don’t seem to actually want it. I’m confident you can figure this out.” If her unhappiness and behavior at work interferes with her (and others’) ability to do your jobs, then it would be time for a supervisor to offer her a course correction.

Corporate Games added comments…

Notice this particular sentence: She has stormed out of meetings in tears…” This means that she is acting out publically at her own “team of co-workers.” There are probably many such meetings of the team—and why this behavior is not specifically addressed at the meeting shows a “fear of conflict.” If team members are uncomfortable with this behavior, they can do several things:

  1. Ask the team leader to set ground rules for the meetings that include appropriate behavior. For example: 1) Be respectful of each other. 2) Encourage different points of view but challenge the concept or idea—not the person. 3) We are all adults and emotional outbursts are not acceptable. 4) Be mindful of time. 5) Stay on topic. 6) Work toward resolutions not endless discussion.
  2. Address her previous behavior/outburst at the next meeting: “We want to acknowledge the breakdown that occurred at our last meeting. It is unproductive and uncomfortable for everyone. What can we all do to insure that this doesn’t happen again?”

The workplace is a team effort. There will always be problems. Team members should work together to find solutions—not shrink from adversity and retreat to the comfort of silence.

7 Essential Tips for Becoming a Great Manager

If you are new to managing a team or not good at managing your present team, here are some great tips to help you succeed:

1.     Pay Attention to the Culture of the company and blend with it. Observe how much people do or don’t socialize. The overall dress code- casual or suit and tie. Do people prefer emails or face-to-face conversations. Come in early and observe how people behave.

2.     Don’t be Arrogant and assume your way is the best way. Listen and learn. Take time to understand how things work before you start making changes.

3.     Be Visible and Accessible to your team. Some managers hide themselves away for a variety of reasons. Take time to build relationships with your colleagues and direct reports. Yes, there may be times to close your door, but make sure there are plenty of opportunities to see and talk to you. Walk around. Check in on people once in awhile.

4.     Clarify Expectations. When people do not know what is expected of them, it is hard for them to deliver. Be specific as possible. Prioritize. Let your team know what is the measure of success.

5.     Admit Mistakes. We are all human and no one is perfect. Just because you manage people, doesn’t mean you don’t make mistakes too. When you do, acknowledge it. Do not try to blame others or make excuses. Do offer and seek solutions.

6.     Ask for Feedback. This is especially true if your team has people who have been working there longer than you. This shows respect for their knowledge and builds a team that collaborates. Ask ALL your direct reports for their opinions when appropriate—not just a select few.

7.     Find Positive Traits in your team members. Don’t talk negatively about people behind their backs. Some find validation in confiding in others what they dislike about certain team members, but a manager should NEVER do this. It just divides people rather than brings them together. Work on finding and building upon your team members’ strengths. Helping people grow and succeed is what makes a great manager.  

How has team building changed or evolved?

How has team building changed or evolved over the past couple of years? Has technology contributed to the innovation? The essence of “team building” has long been fun and games. It started out as a way of getting people to interact and ultimately get to know each other better—leading to a higher comfort level among employees and hopefully better communication and collaboration. Many of the first team building companies offered things like inflatable games that eventually became the staple of grad nights across the country. Team Olympics in a wide array of formats were also popular and continue to be. However, more companies are looking for events that also have more direct bearing on teamwork and group problem solving –not just fun (though fun will always be a key requirement). These activities include design and construction events, scavenger hunt variations, and other unique team challenges where there is no one “right answer.” Though technology does offer new possibilities in creating these challenges, the basis of team building is still through face-to-face interaction. For example, in some of our challenges, we require internet access to find answers or decipher clues. The common use of GPS also has provided lots of possibilities when it comes to scavenger hunt events. And there companies that have developed apps that provide a scavenger hunt done totally by Smart phone.  At Corporate Games, we don’t like to rely too much on electronics for a number of reasons, the most obvious one is that it is something else that must work flawlessly in order for the event to succeed. What happens if you can’t connect or when devices are not working properly?

Reality TV and the entertainment industry in general has influenced the direction of team building events also. People like to believe they could compete in Survivor, Amazing Race, or other reality TV competitions and game shows. They do, after all, require teamwork -and reveal the difficulty and angst that often comes with trying to work with many diverse opinions and abilities. Many companies, including Corporate Games, have found ways to incorporate elements of these shows into intriguing and entertaining events. These challenge everyone’s team-player abilities and allow them to practice working together in a “safe situation,” because even if you don’t “win”–it will still be fun and you will have learned something about yourself as well as your teammates.

Business Pet Peeves

Few people realize that sharing pet peeves is a great way to start building trust within a team. These “peeves” reveal things about ourselves, and sharing them is a step toward understanding each other.

Here are some of the ones that make the top of our list.  Corporate team building events are aimed at helping people work more effectively together, and we all know it’s not always that easy…

Team Building Pet Peeves

  1. The person who has to comment on EVERYTHING in your meeting,– not because it is relevant, but because they need to hear themselves talk and show everyone their expertise on every single thing. It just makes them look bad– though they don’t realize it.
  2. The person who can only consider their own solution to an issue, and they will fight for it. They cannot seem to listen or grasp anyone else’s suggestions—and do not welcome other ideas. “My way or the highway.”
  3. Team meetings that go nowhere and are just a waste of time. People not prepared and just meeting for meeting’s sake.
  4. People who roll their eyeballs at ideas, but never have any of their own to offer.

General Business Pet Peeves

  1. Tiny print on business cards. You can hardly make out the email address or phone number. I guess they don’t want us to call.
  2. People who go to networking events, but don’t seem to want to talk to anyone except their friends.
  3. People that ask for proposals and have to have them right away, but then when you follow-up with them, they do not respond–ever.
  4. Not doing what you say you will do. Don’t promise to deliver something if you can’t.

Other Pet Peeves

  1. People who are walking ahead of you and then stop suddenly to block walkways or aisles.  Hello!
  2. The lady ahead of you in the checkout line who appears to have just a few items. But then just as it’s her turn, she is joined by her friend, who has an entire cart full of stuff.
  3. Drivers who creep onto the freeway at 25 mph. Or drivers who speed up to pull in front of you, then slow down.

With all of this said, here is an interesting Ice Breaker for a small meeting: Have each person share their pet peeve(s). If you want to focus on the workplace, you can certainly ask for “your biggest pet peeve at work.” It’s very interesting;  you will find out some unique things about each other—and maybe get some good ideas for improving things.

How to Be a Bad Boss–is this you?

By Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer

Recall your worst day at work, when events of the day left you frustrated, unmotivated by the job, and brimming with disdain for your boss and your organization. That day is probably unforgettable. But do you know exactly how your boss was able to make it so horrible for you? Our research provides insight into the precise levers you can use to re-create that sort of memorable experience for your own underlings.

Over the past 15 years, we have studied what makes people happy and engaged at work. In discovering the answer, we also learned a lot about misery at work. Our research method was pretty straightforward. We collected confidential electronic diaries from 238 professionals in seven companies, each day for several months. All told, those diaries described nearly 12,000 days – how people felt, and the events that stood out in their minds. Systematically analyzing those diaries, we compared the events occurring on the best days with those on the worst.

What we discovered is that the key factor you can use to make employees miserable on the job is to: simply keep them from making progress in meaningful work.

People want to make a valuable contribution, and feel great when they make progress toward doing so. Knowing this progress principle is the first step to knowing how to destroy an employee’s work life. Many leaders, from team managers to CEOs, are already surprisingly expert at smothering employee engagement. In fact, on one-third of those 12,000 days, the person writing the diary was either unhappy at work, demotivated by the work, or both.

That’s pretty efficient work-life demolition, but it leaves room for improvement.

Step 1: Never allow pride of accomplishment. When we analyzed the events occurring on people’s very worst days at the office, one thing stood out: setbacks. Setbacks are any instances where employees feel stalled in their most important work or unable to make any meaningful contribution. So, at every turn, stymie employees’ desire to make a difference. One of the most effective examples we saw was a head of product development, who routinely moved people on and off projects like chess pieces in a game for which only he had the rules. Another way is making sure to point out mistakes and shortcomings. Doing this publically is even better.

The next step follows organically from the first.

Step 2: Miss no opportunity to block progress on employees’ projects. Every day, you’ll see dozens of ways to inhibit substantial forward movement on your subordinates’ most important efforts. Goal-setting is a great place to start. Give conflicting goals, change them as frequently as possible, and allow people no autonomy in meeting them. If you get this formula just right, the destructive effects on motivation and performance can be truly dramatic.

Step 3: Give yourself some credit. You’re probably already doing many of these things, and don’t even realize it. That’s okay. In fact, unawareness is one of the trademarks of managers who are most effective at destroying employees’ work lives. As far as we could tell from talking with them or reading their own diaries, they generally thought their employees were doing just fine – or that “bad morale” was due to the employees’ unfortunate personalities or poor work ethics. Rarely did they give themselves credit for how much their own words and actions made it impossible for people to get a sense of accomplishment. You may be better at this than you think!

Step 4: Kill the messengers. Finally, if you do get wind of problems in the trenches, deny, deny, deny. And if possible, strike back. Here’s a great example from our research. In an open Q&A with one company’s chief operating officer, an employee asked about the morale problem and got this answer: “There is no morale problem in this company. And, for anybody who thinks there is, we have a nice big bus waiting outside to take you wherever you want to look for work.”

Teresa Amabile is a professor and director of research at Harvard Business School. Steven Kramer is a developmental psychologist and researcher. They are coauthors of The Progress Principle.

What weakens a team and what can you do to fix it?

Whether you realize it or not, we are all part of at least one “team.” This can be a work group, a family, a social group or community service committee. There will always be changes, people and incidents that work to improve or weaken your team. Things that could work against your team include:

  1. Toxic personalities who knowingly or unknowingly hurt your team’s effectiveness.
  2. Bad luck. Let’s face it, we can’t control every aspect of our lives.
  3. Inability to communicate with team members. This could be for a variety of reasons.
  4. Lack of commitment. Within a team there will always be varying levels of commitment to the team and its projects/goals.
How do you deal with some of these issues? Obviously, you cannot do much about luck, but the answer to fixing the other problems can be summed up in one word: Communicate.
This answer may seem trite or simplistic However, communicating well is one of the most difficult skills, and it does not come naturally to most people. You can learn how to diffuse difficult situations, bring people around to agreeing, and boost commitment– all from being an effective communicator. Learning how will also make you an extraordinary leader.
This requires thought and engagement with others. Unfortunately, a lot of people would rather walk away or cut a team member from the group before communicating. This does nothing to help the core issues, and may even make things worse.
So how do you start? Yes, you could take a class, but jumping in, practicing and getting experience are the most valuable. For example, start with one problem. Let’s say you have a team member who belittles others, is extremely loud in expressing opinions and is very divisive. Even if you are not the team leader, there is no reason why you cannot talk to this person (except you stopping yourself from doing so). However, don’t attempt the conversation without some forethought and possibly some homework…
1. What do you want the outcome of your conversation to be? This is the key. Many people start talking without taking this into account at all and simply go by the seat of their pants and how they happen to feel that day. Establishing in your mind the desired outcome will give you a framework for style of communication (soft or loud; dictating or persuading; etc. etc.), the words you should convey, and where is the best time and place to engage this person.
2. Have your facts in order. If you are going to “build a case” to convince someone to change their behavior, facts are important and powerful. Don’t guess and don’t make up things that can easily be disproved.
3. Appeal to a person’s sense of “good.” Everyone wants to be well thought of and seen as a valuable individual. Make sure you mention the person’s contributions and traits that are assets (for example, “people listen to you”).
4. Talk about changing behavior to benefit the team— not about how bad or negative the person is. Make the idea of changing beneficial for the person (ex: “I think that if you soften your approach, you would be able to garner more support for your ideas.” This instead of, “you are always yelling at everyone and taking up valuable time.”)
5. Be as specific as you can. Suggest concrete changes in behavior and a time frame for changing. People don’t just change in a day.
6. Give people options. Maybe they dislike the team so much, they want to leave. That is an option too.
7. Whatever you do, you must talk to the person causing the issue– not gossip or complain about him/her behind their back. Then, you are just adding to the problem not the solution.
8. Revisit and recognize. One conversation is probably not enough. Keep the conversation going by checking in from time to time. If the person is doing better and the team is thriving, please remember to recognize this publically.
Yes, this all takes time and effort. It’s very easy to say “It’s just not worth my time.”— and stay silent. But if we all took the time and effort to communicate more effectively, the world would be a much better place.

A Team Activity that Helps Our Environment

Our latest newsletter featured this team project that helps save birds and marine mammals as well as reduce the trash in our bays and oceans. It’s easy and you can do this anytime of year. Below are the instructions on how to build a Fishing Line Recycling Bin that the Audubon Society will install at fishing areas around the S.F. Bay.

California Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project: Monofilament Recycling Program

Bin Construction and Installation Instructions

Construction The monofilament recycling outdoor bin is made of 6” or 4” PVC pipe and fittings that can be purchased at just about any hardware store or plumbing supply house.  There are different grades of PVC and different colors.  We will use white pipe for this project.  Schedule 40 PVC is more expensive than 3034 (sewer grade) PVC; either grade is  Materials needed to construct one (1) bin:

  • Two feet (2’) of 6” PVC pipe
  • One (1) 6” elbow
  • One (1) 6” female threaded adapter
  • One (1) 6” threaded male plug
  • Hacksaw (or have hardware store cut the pipe for you)
  • Power drill with 1/4″ or 3/8″ drill bit
  • Sandpaper
  • PVC Glue
Fishing Line Bin

Assembly:

  • If the hardware store wasn’t able to cut your  PVC pipe for you: use a hacksaw. Use sandpaper to remove PVC “burrs” around edges.
  • Working in a well-aerated area and wearing protective gloves, apply PVC glue to the inside (non-threaded part) of the female adapter. With adapter sitting squarely on the ground, press the pipe down into the adapter until snug.  Note that PVC glue works by dissolving the PVC, then sets rapidly, so you don’t have a lot of “play” time with it.
  • Apply PVC glue to the inside of one end of the elbow (it does not matter which end). Press the elbow onto the pipe.  Try and make sure that any blemishes on the pipe end up on the backside of the bin.
  • Drill 2 holes (about 1/4”or 3/8”) in the center of the threaded male plug (this allows the bin to drain. Thread plug into adapter (hand-tight, and be careful not to cross-thread).

Important Contact Information-  The bins will be labeled and  installed by the SeaDoc Society. You should contact the Golden Gate Audubon before you start this project. This will allow them and you to determine the number of bins –and how they will get them from you.

Noreen Weeden
Golden Gate Audubon
510-301-0570 cell phone
nweeden@goldengateaudubon.org
www.goldengateaudubon.org