This month Direct Selling News is exploring a topic recently discussed in SUCCESS magazine. When looking at a company’s internal environment there are two things that a leader must do and do well. First is to make sure your team can function to the best of its ability, and that may mean starting fresh to build trust and focus on each individual’s strength. Second is to get the full benefit of this interaction through productive meetings that have a clearly defined mission and the right format.
How To Turn Around a Team Without Firing Anyone
by Emma Johnson
Dysfunctional relationships are one thing. But what if your entire team is dysfunctional? What does a leader do if the whole team’s failure to work together results in backbiting, low productivity, poor sales, high turnover and an atmosphere loaded with tension and resentment?
“As the leader of a department, two things are critical: expectations and trust,” says Mike Figliuolo, Founder of management consultancy thoughtLEADERS and author of One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership. “You have to walk in and very clearly say, ‘I don’t care how we got here, but here are my expectations on how people are to behave and here are our performance standards.’ If people don’t know they are messing up, they are going to keep messing up, and that’s unfair.”
There is power in making it clear that no one will be fired initially. This creates a sense of security that is critical to the teamwork and trust required to turn around a poorly functioning department, says Kevin Lombardo, CEO of Denver-based management consultancy Summit Group Partners.
“It’s easy to walk into a new management position and identify a Jack or a Joe who is the bad apple, and just get rid of them,” Lombardo says. “Instead you have to step in and create the culture of the department. You need to be decisive and go in with the thought process of, ‘How can we really engage the entire department by working as a team?’ ”
First, assume the best in the team, says Brad Worthley, a Bellevue, Wash.-based professional training consultant. “In employee surveys, I find that 95 percent of people love their jobs and the companies they work for, but 85 percent hate the office drama.” The takeaway: People want to do a good job but often either don’t know how or lack a leader to free them to do their best work.
The initial action step is to create your own set of guiding principles, Figliuolo says. He advises creating a list of 10 “leadership maxims,” philosophies that guide your professional and personal life, written in everyday language. Share this list with your employees. “People will get a really good feel for who you are and what you’re about,” he says. This creates consistency. “Team members can apply the maxims to any decisions they make and use them as a way to predict your behavior. Then they begin to trust you.”
Create nonnegotiable standards to which each employee must adhere, Worthley advises. This can include everything from customer service standards to office behavior like gossiping. It should also clearly state the ramifications of failing to stick to the standards.
Train team members on effective communication. “Most people have never in their lives been taught how to communicate,” Worthley says. It might make sense to bring in an outside consultant or require team members to read a book on communication.
Speak with each individual. Find out what motivates them. What are their strengths? “This makes the team feel that someone is listening and that their opinions are important, and the manager learns about them and how they operate,” Figliuolo says. Find ways to best motivate each person, and consider reassigning employees to roles that play to their strengths.
How To Maximize Meetings
How to Banish Boring and Up Productivity
by Jane Hodges
Meetings are a fact of life, whether you’re running a three-person startup or a growing company with hundreds of helping hands. But not all managers are born to run them, and that can prove detrimental—in part because unproductive meetings can eat into valuable work time, undercutting the company’s performance and competitiveness.
“Time is currency,” says Jon Petz, a business consultant and author of Boring Meetings Suck: Get More Out of Your Meetings, or Get Out of More Meetings. “If you’re pulling workers away from their tasks to attend a meeting, you need to think in terms of results, of focus.”
How do you know if your company or team suffers from bad-meeting syndrome? Aside from the obvious signs (lack of eye contact from employees when you speak, too many PowerPoint slides, sub-meetings or texting going on during your meeting), other indicators of unproductive meetings may include the following:
- Workers leave meetings without specific tasks and deadlines for completing them.
- Discussions during meetings don’t lead to decisions.
- Brainstorms become complaint sessions versus idea-generating machines.
- The meeting rehashes but doesn’t advance prior meetings’ accomplishments (what Petz calls a “déjà meeting”).
- Meetings force attendance from nonessential employees (“over-invitation syndrome,” in Petz-speak).
Fortunately, taming bad meeting habits isn’t difficult—if you pay attention to a few basics.
Define Your Mission
Petz says meeting organizers need to develop two statements going in: a mission statement that includes goals (make decisions, assign tasks associated with a big project, etc.) and an outcome statement (who will do what as a result of the meeting’s findings?).
For instance, Petz says he was recently in a meeting in which the goal was to narrow a list of five possible technology vendors down to two finalists. If the meeting’s goal had been simply to debate pros and cons of the vendors, its purpose would have been vague and wouldn’t have resulted in a useful outcome—actually selecting finalists. But with shortlist formation as a goal and a time limit for participants to share feedback, the group came to a consensus efficiently.
“I’d say 99 percent of people miss doing an outcome statement,” he says. “If you have an outcome statement—a sense of what your goal is from the meeting—you can end meetings on time.”
Choose the Right Meeting Format
Meetings have different purposes. Is your meeting a short, weekly status update? A brainstorm and pitch session? Is it a problem-solving or decision-making effort? Is it an all-day offsite mixing morale boosting, big-picture thinking and mission building? Are you making major management or business announcements? Or does your meeting incorporate a mix of elements?
Depending on the meeting’s goal and your organizational goals, you may need to rethink meeting formats, says Todd Cherches, a consultant who has worked with clients ranging from small businesses to American Express in his role as Co-Founder of New York-based Big Blue Gumball.
“Problems with the standard meeting in many organizations are the question of who is running the meeting and whether the meeting is dialogue-based or presentation-based,” Cherches says.
The meeting organizer needs to set expectations. If the meeting is presentation-based, with a leader explaining a new practice or breaking some news to the group, that’s different from a dialogue-based meeting, where attendees might need to prepare by pulling numbers, doing some solo brainstorming beforehand or doing research so that the group can make collective progress.
“You have to let people know beforehand if they have homework,” Cherches says. “Otherwise people show up unprepared and sit back like they’re going to the movies.”
A good meeting is like a stimulating conversation that fires workers up, sending them back to their corners with a sense of mission and excitement about tackling clearly defined next steps and making specific things happen. A bad meeting is like a long, frustrating dinner with in-laws.
These articles were reprinted with permission from SUCCESS magazine.