5 Simple Steps to Improve Teamwork

Are you looking to improve teamwork? Is your team motivated, energised and enthusiastic? Does your team work well together? Do they look forward to coming to work each day to be a part of the process? If not, it’s time to develop better teamwork and reignite team spirit.

Great teams don’t just happen. Teams are comprised of people. People need to feel both needed and wanted. One of the key factors in getting the most out of your employees is for them to realize they make a difference.

Have you ever wondered why some teams are so quick to work together and others are not? It’s not just down to the manager each and every team member has a responsibility for the effectiveness of the overall team. Each person can add value or can detract from the performance of the team. Ultimately, it’s about the chemistry. When the chemistry is right, teams tend to work more effectively.

5 Simple Steps to Improve Teamwork

  1. Share responsibility among all team members: This is one of the easiest ways to get the team to develop mutual accountability. If team members know they must count on each other, each member will work hard because they don’t want to be the one to let the team down.
  1. Get everyone to understand each person’s strengths: This will aid in getting everyone to work together and build on each other’s strengths and improve overall team performance. We cannot all share the same strength so when Sharon’s strength can assist Bob in an area he doesn’t have a particular strength in, it creates a win-win for the team.
  1. Get each team member on the same page: Too often team members don’t understand how what they do plays into the bigger picture of the organisation. This is critical. Your team will be able to think more critically and problem-solve better when they understand the part their contribution makes to the company as a whole.
  1. Encourage members to praise each other: Like Canadian Geese that honk along their flight, it is important for team members to motivate and encourage each other. One of the largest misconceptions in business today is that motivation must come from management. Motivation must come from within, and each member can play a part in increasing others’ desires to improve and be self-motivated.
  1. Humanise each team member: This one is a little sticky with some employees because they feel they are there to work and not to socialise. While on the surface this is 100% correct, it has been shown that when employees know something about each other as people, they are quicker to empathise and help each other out. One key factor here—don’t press the issue with someone who absolutely does not want to share.

With these tips you should be able to start that journey which will enable you to improve teamwork and get more from your team.

How to Prepare for a Difficult Conversation

In the previous post I looked at the skills you need in order to be able to have effective difficult conversations. Now I want to take you through the steps you can follow when preparing to have that difficult conversation.

When you know that you must have a difficult conversion – whether you’re on the receiving end or you’re the person who is arranging the conversation – there are some things you can do to make it easier.

  • Know Your Purpose – Why do you want to have this difficult conversation to start with? What are you hoping will result from it? Be sure to know your goals and objectives in advance of even mentioning the talk to the other person or people involved.
  • Don’t Make Assumptions – Whether you’re on the receiving end or not, do not make assumptions about how the other person is going to react. It’s okay to go over different scenarios in your head so that you know how you might deal with them effectively, but do not assume that you’re correct about them. You have no idea what their real thoughts or intentions are until they share them.
  • Know Yourself – If you know that you’re an emotional person, do things to help prepare yourself for the discussion such as avoiding caffeine, taking anti-anxiety medications if you normally use it, meditating, or taking a run or walk in advance of the meeting.
  • Is Your Opponent / Partner Aware There Is a Problem? – Before approaching the person, ask yourself if they are aware that there is a problem. Often something that seems obvious to us is not even on the radar for the other person. If they’re going to be blindsided, acknowledge that your lack of communication is the cause.
  • What Are Your Fears? – Before going into this difficult conversation, what do you fear about the potential discussion and its outcome? Often these fears are unfounded, but naming the fears can help you figure out how you’ll talk to the person.
  • What Part Is Your Responsibility? – If you can determine from your perspective what your responsibility is in the situation, you need to address that up front when you enter the discussion. That will calm their fears and make them realize right away that this is not a blame game discussion.
  • Watch Videos – This is a great video from Ted Talks headlining Celeste Headlee, a writer and radio host, where she talks about ten ways to have better conversations. This can work for many types of difficult conversations.
  • Seek Advice – If you’re unsure, you can also seek out advice from someone like a counselor or a mediator. Mediators’ sole focus is on helping people get through difficult conversations and negotiations. Find one that is well versed in the area you need help with.
  • Practice – One of the biggest things you can do to get better at having difficult conversations is to practice. Keep having the conversations, acknowledge your mistakes and learn from them, so that you can do better each time.

Preparing for a difficult conversation is just as important as having the conversation. If you are ready and have taught yourself about communication, conflict resolution, and have a good understanding of human nature and how to get to solutions, you’ll end up doing great.

Skills You Need to Have a Difficult Conversation

Having recently started a new role I have been having lots of conversations as I get to know the business and the challenges that individuals face. As with any business, change is a constant and one of the things that people tell me they find most challenging is some of the potentially difficult conversations that they find themselves needing to have.

That set me reflecting on the skills we need to have in order to be able to deal with those difficult conversations and how to ensure they go well. Over the next few posts I want to explore that in a little more detail and in this first post in the serious I will look at the skills we need.

Throughout life, there come times where we must have difficult conversations with others. No one really wants to, because most people do not like confrontation. And while difficult conversations are never easy, if you avoid them there are still consequences which can often be much worse than just having the conversation to start with.

Think of it this way: by avoiding difficult conversations, you are deciding to ignore the solution and allow the problem to continue. When you look at it like that, it becomes clearer that you must have difficult conversations so that you can find solutions.

Having difficult conversations can be easier if you develop certain skills that make you better at communication and problem solving.

Skills You Need to Have a Difficult Conversation

Developing skills that you need to succeed with difficult conversations is possible for everyone. You need to know who you are, what your goals are, and how to reach them. When you know what you need and take the steps to achieve your goals, you will be successful.

  • Information Gathering – The first thing to do is gather the right type of information to support your goals. For example, if this is a discussion at work so you can get a raise, you want to show proof that you deserve the raise. If this is about a problem you’re having with your spouse, you want to remember situations that occurred due to this issue. Not to use against them, but to learn what you can do differently.
  • Be Assertive – To have difficult conversations, assertiveness is necessary so that you can go forth with it without procrastination. It’s hard to have tough talks, but once they’re over it’s usually not as bad as you thought it would be. Most of the time our fears aren’t founded, and when they are, you can use other skills to mitigate problems.
  • Be Empathetic – Right now you may think that the problem is really the other person’s issue. But if you can look at things from their side, and even argue their side for them in order to show them you do get it, that will go far in helping bring them closer to understanding your view too.
  • Control Your Emotions – Depending on the topic, it can be very hard to control your emotions, but you must if you want to reach a solution. Even if you cry, or feel angry, or shake, you can still control what you say and do. For example, even if you’re angry, don’t yell accusations or start playing the blame game.
  • Be Willing to Negotiate – Most of the time the answer is in between what they want and what you want. If you can negotiate, you’ll both come out feeling like winners because you solved the problem.
  • Understand Verbal and Non-Verbal Language – When we communicate, we transmit both verbal and non-verbal cues. Sometimes these can be interpreted wrongly, especially if you were raised differently or have different cultures. If you’re in doubt, ask. Never assume intention.
  • Listen – Listening involves more than hearing. It involves hearing and understanding. If you want to really understand someone, you need to learn how to listen actively.
  • Learn Conflict Negotiation – Even if you don’t often have difficult conversations in your life, learning conflict negotiation skills can go very far in helping prepare you for general communication throughout your life. Harvard Business Review has books and guides about this very topic.

When you grow these skills, it will not only improve your ability to have successful difficult conversations but it will also improve your relationships in every aspect of your life. In my next post I will look at how you can prepare for the next difficult conversation you have to have.

Four Leadership Assessment Tools

There are a number of leadership assessment tools that can help you decide if you have what it takes to be a leader, or to spot your strengths and weaknesses as a leader. In this way you can make the most of your opportunities and really start to shine. You can find many of these types of tools however the four that follow are certainly worth taking a look at:

1. Myers Briggs Tests

More and more human resources departments require candidates to take the Myers Briggs personality test in an attempt to determine what kind of worker they will be. There are 16 different personality types, with the classifications based on four main factors:

1 – Are you outwardly or inwardly focused?
* Extrovert (E)
* Introvert (I)

2 – How do you take in information
* Sensing (S)
* Intuition (N)

3 – How do you make decisions
* Thinking (T)
* Feeling (F)

4 – How do you live your outer life?
* Judging (J)
* Perceiving (P)

These four factors can be combined into 16 personality types, such as:
ENTJ, the commander
ESTJ, the executive
ESTP, the entrepreneur
INFP, the mediator

Take the free test at MBTI and read your results. Determine how accurate the report is. You may gain some insight into your leadership style and learn more about your strengths and weaknesses as a leader.

2. Kellogg School of Management Tools

The Kellogg School of Management, part of Northwestern University, has a very useful page of tools: the Leadership Assessment Tool Inventory, which offers a range of exercises you can take to learn more about your leadership style. Modules include:

* Gaining Power and Influence
* Using Influence Strategies
* Effective Empowerment and Delegation
* How Creative Are You?

Take all the exercises at Kellogg and use what you learn to improve your leadership skills.

3. The Mind Tools Website

This interesting site offers a range of free tools to test your business and career-related skills. The free test at https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_50.htm will give you a score and detailed feedback on what you should do to improve your leadership skills, plus suggestions for further reading and self-help activities.

They also offer a leadership motivation tool on Mind Tools that can help you determine how motivated you are to be a leader, both in terms of wanting the responsibility and helping others.

4. Benchmarks Assessments

The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) offers a range of what they term benchmark assessments to help determine how effective a leader a person is on CCL

The four modules available are:
* Executives
* Managers
* Learning agility
* Design

You can take the tests yourself. You can also be certified as a test administrator so you could give the test to others interested in improving their skills, such as if you were working as a leadership coach or consultant. Pricing is based on the size of a group, so you and any colleagues who might aspire to leadership might all wish to take it.

There are many leadership assessment tools that can help you work towards a leadership position, or improve your skills to become a better leader. Take the time and effort to invest in yourself to become a better leader, and see what a difference it can make to your life and the lives of everyone you are leading.

Identifying Your Current Leadership Skills and Experience

One of the most important aspects of being a good leader is being able to assess your strengths and weaknesses honestly and do what you can to play to them on the one hand, and minimize them on the other.

The first thing to consider in relation to your current leadership skills and experience is whether you are in any sort of leadership role at the moment. You might not think you’re a leader because you don’t have a fancy title, but you would be surprised at how influential you might actually be in your company without even realizing it – or getting the credit for it.

For example, if you’re the person everyone comes to when they have a problem, you’ve clearly got leadership potential. If your boss or manager is always asking you to head up projects and initiatives, then you’re obviously functioning as a leader.

If you often help other staff through teaching them what you know, then you are also ready for a leadership role. It is just a case of having your role recognized and hopefully getting a title and salary increase to go with it.

If you’ve already served as a leader in the past, or are doing so now, how did it go? Did you have any issues with your own performance? Were there issues with the team? Or were there problems with both?

Being honest about what might have gone wrong and what could have been done better could make all the difference in your level of success if you get another chance to become a leader.

Or maybe you discovered that being a leader wasn’t all you had hoped it was going to be? In this case, assessing what went wrong and your own skills and abilities can help you decide whether you really want to climb the corporate ladder, or stay where you are. There’s nothing wrong with that if you do.

Remember, being a leader isn’t just about getting the best things in the company, but also the responsibility and accountability that goes with the role. The responsibilities could involve significant sacrifices in terms of time, effort, and your personal life. Therefore, it’s important to take a 360-degree look at the impact of a promotion on your family and friends if you were to adopt a leadership role.