The First Truth about Teams

The essence of good work team performance is not good communication or good relationships but a focus on performance and an agreed upon appreciation of what this means. Typically in the work place people relate to each other socially. This means they are concerned with getting along and staying out of each others hair. This is not how team players relate to each other. Basically, the difference is between how one relates to people at a barbecue and how one relates to the work group who is trying to win a big contract. The nature of the relationships is quite different. The first is based on the social context of let’s all just get along while the latter is based on the context of let’s get something remarkable done and perform together so that specific results occur. Looking to create a performance oriented culture in your workplace? Click...

Creating High Performance Teams

Performance within groups typically does not just happen. For a group to really perform well it needs practice. The group needs to understand the best way to organize itself for performance. This concept is commonly understood by sports teams and the military. They clearly see the need to give groups opportunities to practice. Boot Camp for the military and pre-season workouts for sports teams are the norm. It is interesting to note in business that there is far less interest or appreciation of group development and the need for practice. Team practice, for the most part, is not factored into the business or corporate world. We form groups in business and march them into the corporate battle zone expecting them to perform and when they fail we are surprised. This whole process was once again revealed to me as my business, CMI, went through the process of putting together a high performance work team. In 2008, we expanded our organization by one. A full 25% change in our employee numbers. This growth caused a change in our work mix and demands. In essence, we needed less administrative work and more research and marketing. As we went through the expansion process, some basic truths about teams, groups, and performance helped me traverse this territory.  Over the next few weeks, I will highlight some of these basic truths. For more information about CMI, click...

Not the Top, not the Bottom: the Third Strategy for Middle Management

The Third Strategy Still another way of developing the middle is through the establishment of a middle management development and training program. What this does is either bring in talented new hires or promote key employees into a rotation of positions throughout the company. Rotations can last from six months to a year, and the entire program can last up to two years. At one company I worked with, the Underwriting Manager became the Claims Manager, and the Claims Manager became the Underwriting Manager. What was great was that the employees of each department stepped up to support and train their new managers. This had some positive results. By teaching their new bosses, the employees better learned their own disciplines and roles. They also gained experience in managing up and supporting a manager to win. Meanwhile, the new managers got trained in an aspect of the business with which they were unfamiliar. They became better-rounded executives. At another company, managers formally rotated to sales and production management positions before being eligible to be Plant and Territory General Managers. This type of initiative provides a training and development course that allows employees to experience and learn about the different facets and aspects of the firm. This makes them more valuable as future leaders of the company. To learn more about CMI’s strategic development programs click...

Not the Top, not the Bottom: the Second Strategy for Middle Management

The Second Strategy Another way to support the growth and development of the middle is to form a group of middle managers from various companies. Participants are leaders from different departments: sales executives give input to production and human resource department heads, and so on. There is learning and sharing of different views that goes on during the group sessions, which I also recommend being led by an outside facilitator. I have led such a middle manager key-employee group. We met for each session at different companies, which allowed participants to see the different facets of participating organizations. This key middle management group also gained perspective by reading a different book for each session. Members coached one another on issues and concerns brought to the meetings. The coaching model we followed goes like this: A participant presents a problem with which he or she wants coaching and counseling. This is something challenging that they want their peers’ perspectives on. In “round robin” style, everyone asks questions about the issue. You are only allowed to ask one question at a time. Once the question is asked, the person presenting the issue responds with an answer. Then the next person asks a question. Once all questions are asked and responded to, it is assumed that everyone understands the issue. Participants then give coaching and feedback to the person presenting the issue. The participants, in effect, become one another’s board of advisors.   For more information on CMI’s leadership development programs click...