Becoming a Better Team Player

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If a team is to reach its potential, each player must be willing to subordinate his personal goals to the good of the team. – Bud Wilkinson

To highlight its annual picnic one year, a company rented two racing shells and challenged a rival company to a boat race. The rival company accepted. On the day of the picnic, everyone entered into the spirit of the event. Women wore colorful summer dresses and big, floppy hats. Men wore straw skimmers and white pants. Bands played and banners waved. Finally the race began.

To the consternation of the host company, the rival team immediately moved to the front and was never headed. It won by 11 lengths. The management of the host company was embarrassed by its showing and promptly appointed a committee to place responsibility for the failure and make recommendations to improve the host team’s chances in a rematch the following year. The committee appointed several task forces to study various aspects of the race. They met for three months and issued a preliminary report. In essence, the report said that the rival crew had been unfair.

“They had eight people rowing and one coxswain steering and shouting out the beat,” the report said. “We had one person rowing and eight coxswains.” The chairman of the board thanked the committee and sent it away to study the matter further and make recommendations for the rematch. Four months later the committee came back with a recommendation: “Our guy has to row faster.”

We hear much today about teamwork and intuitively we understand its importance. Unfortunately, too many want to sit in the boat and shout out instructions and too few want to row.

Becoming a better team player is an evolving process. It requires continual work and evaluation. Perhaps a few questions are in order to help you gauge your effectiveness as a team player in your organization. Here are a few for starters.

Is my niche still a fit?

Every team player has a niche as it relates to his or her role on the team. It’s important to know what it is. It’s even more important as time goes on to make sure that your growth and the growth of your organization are in harmony. If the team has outgrown you, or you have outgrown the team, then adjustments need to be made.

Do I still have the right motives?

Effective team players think “we” over “me”. If that has changed or you’ve succumbed to playing politics to get your way then perhaps you are not the team player you once were. Team players at heart are selfless and are willing to set aside their personal agendas for the good of the team.

Am I supportive of my teammates?

A good team player doesn’t allow petty jealousies to take root and can celebrate the accomplishments of fellow teammates. Why? Because when one succeeds the team succeeds. Being a good team player is about being a good sport. When you are willing to share the spotlight eventually it will shine on you.

Am I still coachable?

The most difficult player on any sports team is the one who thinks he knows it all and can’t be coached. This type of attitude is drain on the rest of the team. When a team member goes rogue it creates a vacuum that other team members have to step up and fill. So be honest; are you still coachable? A smart leader knows there is still more to learn and a wise leader is humble enough to acknowledge it.

Am I still passionate?

A good team player is passionate about the mission and vision of the organization. Do you still have that ‘fire in the belly” that inspires you to be your best, give your best, and bring out the best in your teammates? That type of passion is what championship teams are made of and is what will see you through adversity and lead you to victory.

Baseball great babe Ruth said, “The way the team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” That is the secret to the success of your team and it’s the secret to your success as a team player. As you commit yourself to your teammates the possibilities of great success can’t be overstated.

Becoming a better team player is about intentionally looking inward from time to time and making adjustments where needed.

Are you a team player?

 

© 2015 Doug Dickerson

 

 

 

 

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Three Difficulties Every Leader Should Embrace

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When we long for life without difficulties remind us that oaks grow in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure. – Peter Marshall

An old woodsman gives this advice for catching a porcupine: “Watch for the slapping tail as you dash in and drop a large washboard over him. The washboard will give you something to sit on as you ponder your next move.”

As a leader dealing with difficulties is not a new phenomenon to you. Workplaces are an ever present source of stress in people’s lives. The American Institute of Stress (http://bit.ly/1i5E7Zs) identified workload as the number one cause of stress by employees followed by people issues, juggling work and personal issues, and lack of job security.

Because you are surrounded by so many people who are stressed it’s important to keep your leadership skills sharp. Difficulties will come to you as a leader. But here are three you should always welcome because in doing so you will be a stronger and more effective leader.

The difficulty of personal growth

You have to take ownership of your personal growth as a leader. Your effectiveness in leading your team hinges on your ability to lead yourself. It’s all too easy to put personal growth on the back-burner; after all, we are stressed ourselves. We have meetings to attend, clients to meet, personnel issues to resolve, deadlines that are looming, and the list goes on.

But no amount of busyness will ever replace your need for a personal growth plan. How can you grow leaders around you if there is no growth in you? Regardless of how busy your life is you need to find the time to read, join a mastermind group, attend workshops, listen to audio CD’s during your morning commute, etc. Conquering the difficulty of personal growth can be a challenge but it’s a non-negotiable if you want to be effective.

The difficulty of forward thinking

The bedrock principles of leadership such as trust, loyalty, ethics, values, communication, etc. are your foundations. They are the principles you stand upon that keep you grounded as a leader. They are timeless. But your effectiveness as a leader also rests with your ability to adapt to your present circumstances with forward thinking.

This can be difficult for a leader because it’s all too easy and much too predictable to stay in our comfort zones. But the comfort zones of yesterday will not always serve you well tomorrow. The challenges are new and different. Business is not just local; it’s global, and the way we communicate is ever evolving. Forward thinking combined with timeless values can position you for the future and the challenges you face. Let your values be your guide but keep an open mind.

The difficulty of building community

Building community is an emotional investment and challenge that many leaders are just not up for. It can be a thankless job. It’s difficult. I get it. But your success as a leader and the successes of your organization are directly tied to a strong sense of community and relationships. And it begins at the top.

John Maxwell says, “Don’t ever underestimate the importance of building relational bridges between yourself and the people you lead. There’s an old saying: To lead yourself, use your head; to lead others, use your heart. Always touch a person’s heart before you ask him for a hand.” When you embrace what is difficult about building relationships it will revolutionize your leadership and your results.

The simple truth is this: people are your most appreciable asset. People are more important than your brick and mortar, product or location. When you get community and relationships right then everything else will fall into place.

Being a leader is not always easy but it’s very rewarding when you embrace what’s difficult. When you do it changes everything.

What do you say?

 

© 2015 Doug Dickerson

 

 

 

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Take Your Leader Down From The Pedestal

Holding Up Person On Pedestal

Contrary to what you may think, good executives don’t want to be worshipped. – Howard Behar

Everyone has leaders they respect and admire. I know I do. Along my journey I’ve been privileged to meet some rather interesting people. Included on the list are four U.S. Presidents and other political figures, famous athletes, actors, musicians, and authors. Some had large egos while others came across as more grounded and down to earth. While the trajectory of each person’s career path took them to differing places of fame and work they each embraced their talents and made the most of it.

Within your business or organization are leaders who are striving to make a difference. Some may be succeeding on a grand scale while others are struggling to find their way. So what can you do to help your leader, and yourself, in the process? One of the first things I’d suggest you do is this: take your leader down his or her pedestal. Here’s why.

It’s all about perspective. Let’s examine this from your leader’s perspective. If you are worshipping your leader then he or she has two primary concerns they wrestle with, (1) your motives and (2) your loyalty. If you are worshipping your leader and are always kissing-up to them they will always wonder why. In addition, they tie your loyalty to their tenure and not much more.

Now let’s examine things from a different perspective and look inward. So long as you keep your leader on a pedestal you will have two primary conflicts to wrestle with, (1) freely speaking the truth out of fear of repercussion, and (2) the appearance of misplaced priorities. Each struggle has ramifications and if they are holding you back then your pedestal is your greatest obstacle moving forward.

When you take your leader(s) down from the pedestal it opens up a whole new realm of possibilities. Here’s how you can do it and why it matters.

Embrace their humanity

What most leaders want you to know is that they are surprisingly human. They have the same struggles, concerns, hopes and dreams as everyone else in the office. Just like you, your leader is not perfect and makes mistakes. Instead of being overly critical perhaps you can be a little more forgiving. So long as you idolize your leader because of their position and not as a person then you fail to see what is most important to them. At the end of the day they’d rather not be above you, they would prefer to be beside you.

Welcome authenticity

Once you take your leader(s) down from the pedestal then authenticity and transparency can begin. So long as you look at your leader through rose-colored glasses then it’s hard to move forward in a meaningful way. Open and honest working relationships include the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s a natural by-product of being human. What makes you an adult is the way you work through the difficult times and come out on the other side with something to celebrate. An authentic leader will respect you more if you idolize them less.

Build community

Once you embrace the humanity of your leader(s) and welcome authenticity then building community is the reward. Most leaders want to build a team of committed and like-minded people who share the same vision and will work passionately to get there. So long as your leader is on a pedestal being idolized, or in a worse-case scenario – feared, then community will suffer. Your collective strengths and weaknesses form a powerful combination of all the skills you need to do great things. But it won’t happen until shoulder to shoulder you are working together in community as a team.

Taking your leader down from the pedestal is not about abolishing lines of authority or diminishing your respect. Ultimately, it’s about how to move out of an “idol” status with your leader to something more beneficial.

What do you say?

 

©2015 Doug Dickerson

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People: The Key to Building Your Organizational Structure

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10 Value Statements Every Leader Needs To Know

Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value. – Albert Einstein

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As a leader, adding value to those around you should be of paramount importance. After all, people are your most appreciable asset. How well are you showing appreciation to the people in your organization?

In a Ragan.com (http://bit.ly/18VETIk) article a survey revealed that 69% of employees would work harder if management better recognized their work. How different would your organization look if 69% of your people were gladly putting forth more effort? By contrast, sixty- three percent of those who don’t feel appreciated plan to leave their jobs within two years. Based upon the way you show appreciation to your people would you expect a high turnover in the next two years?

When the truth about adding value of your people takes root in your heart and mind it will transform your leadership style. Adding value to those you lead takes on many forms. But there’s no easier way to do so than by the words you use to communicate with them. Try these (no particular order) for starters. Use them generously and see the difference it makes.

“We appreciate you”

This value statement speaks directly to your team member as a person. It’s not based on their specific job skill, position, or tenure. It’s simply about them as a person. Relationship building is at the heart of this value statement and it builds the foundation for moving forward.

“You’re making a difference”

This value statement is attached to the contributions your people make. These value statements belong to every person in your organization – from the CEO to the cleaning crew because everyone is important.

“How can I serve you?”

This value statement is an acknowledgement that you rely on your people to make your business work and as a leader you are committed to their success. When your people hear and see that you are 100% invested in them they will react in similar fashion. It creates a win-win scenario for the whole organization.

“Thank you”

These two words add value to your team members because it’s seen as an acknowledgement that you’ve recognized their hard work and dedication in moving the team forward. It’s perhaps the single most powerful value statement you will ever make.

“Let’s work together on this”

This value statement is based upon the notion that we can accomplish more together as a team than we can by ourselves. It’s when we bring our individual skills and talents to the table in mutual collaboration that our productivity can skyrocket. It’s also a reflection of your desire to be involved in the process of reaching those common goals.

“Let’s hear all sides”

This value statement is based on the belief that everyone has a voice that needs to be heard. Keeping your people apart is what hinders growth, fuels mistrust, and creates unhealthy alliances. You add value when you build bridges among your people. Healthy debate sparks creativity and often produces better solutions. It’s about tackling problems, not each other.

“Look at what you did”

Celebrating the successes of your organization and your people is important. You add value to them when you give credit where credit is due. Honor and reward the work of your team and don’t steal their spotlight.

“Go home”

You add value to your people when you give them time to be with the people they value most – their families. Never attempt to build your organization off the backs of your people by insisting they give up family time for company time.

“Here’s where we are going”

This statement is important because it affirms to your people their value in moving forward with the mission and vision of the organization. By keeping the vision before them they begin to see the value they contribute and the service they render as something meaningful that they can take pride in.

“Our team would not be complete without you”

Quite frankly, it’s hard to overstate the importance of people being the most appreciable asset in your organization. There will always be a bad apple here or there, but by and large when you have built and invested in your team that shares common values and goals your potential is unlimited.

Value is built where value is given. Make it a priority and you will go far as a leader.

What would you add to the list?

 

©2015 Doug Dickerson

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When Your Process Replaces Your People

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When people go to work, they shouldn’t have to leave their hearts at home. – Betty Bender

John Maxwell shares one of my favorite stories about a turkey chatting with a bull. “I would love to be able to get to the top of that tree,” the turkey sighs, “but I haven’t got the energy.”

“Well,” replied the bull, “why don’t you nibble on some of my droppings? They’re packed with nutrients.”

The turkey pecked at a lump of dung and found that it actually gave him enough strength to reach the lowest branch on the tree. The next day, after eating some more dung, he reached the second branch. Finally after a fourth night, there he was proudly perched at the top of the tree. But he was promptly spotted by a hunter, who shot him down out of the tree.

The moral of the story: BS might get you to the top, but it won’t keep you there.

While the story is humorous the ramifications of it in the way it plays out in the workplace is not. Unfortunately, many employees feel that they are getting BS from their employers. Let me be clear: strong employee engagement is essential to your success in business. And yes, all businesses want a healthy bottom line and rightfully so. But what happens if your business places its processes over its people? Here are three consequences you will potentially face unless you change.

Fractured relationships

It’s been said that people are your most appreciable asset. But when your bottom line becomes your most coveted resource then you have issues. The most essential ingredient to the success of your organization is not having the best business model, location, marketing, or product. It’s your people. They are the life-blood of your organization and the face of your brand. If you only see your people as a means to an end (your bottom line) then you are using your people.

If relationships with your people are fractured the rhythm of your business will suffer. Don’t expect your people to buy-in to your product until you have bought-in to your people. Until you get this right nothing else will be.

Divided loyalties

Here’s the rub: Your people want to be a part of an organization and service that they believe in and have a connection with. They want to be a part of something that is meaningful and contribute in a way that makes a difference. But when their good intentions brush up against a ‘process over people’ mentality it creates division.

Now your people have divided loyalties between liking the service they render and the people they serve and those who are calling the shots. If divided loyalties are widespread among your people then your processes have failed you.

Revolving doors

It’s been said that people don’t quit organizations they quit bosses (leaders). If the execution of your leadership is grounded in policies and procedures over relationships and teamwork then expect high turnover. Simply put; rules over relationship breeds rebellion. Eventually there comes a tipping point when your best and brightest will vote with their feet and find the door.

Let me be clear – boundaries are important and there is a place for policies. But policies and procedures should complement the work of your people and their productivity, not stand in the way of it.

Your organizational culture is tied to your employee engagement. Such fallout as articulated here due to poor employee engagement does not have to define your organization. But whether it does or not is on you as the leader.

Your path forward begins by recognizing that your people are your most valuable and appreciable asset. To that end you must recognize relationships and communication for what is it is – the heartbeat of your organization. Be committed to serving your people, building relationships, and developing leaders. At the end of the day, had you rather be known as the organization with great policies or great people?

What do you say?

 

© 2015 Doug Dickerson

 

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Five Excuses That Kill Accountability with guest co-author Elizabeth Stincelli

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The problem that we have with a victim mentality is that we forget to see the blessings of the day. Because of this, our spirit is poisoned instead of nourished.” – Steve Maraboli

As a leader there are few things more important than creating a strong and healthy organizational culture for your employees to thrive in. It’s up to you as the leader to be proactive and take the lead in developing the organizational climate you wish to have.

Unfortunately, many harmful behaviors threaten the fabric of the culture that you are trying to create. These behaviors include bullying, manipulation, office politics, etc., and they each pose a real threat. But there is one in particular that we would like to address – so here is our question: Is a victim mentality preventing accountability in your organization?

No doubt there are accountability measures in place within your organization that serve to track performance and measure each person’s progress. Accountability measures are healthy and necessary and keep everyone focused on shared goals and outcomes.

But what happens when a team member perpetuates a victim mentality? What does it sounds like? Here are five common claims that will give you some insight.

It’s not fair

The “it’s not fair” mantra is perhaps the oldest one in the book. It can be used when an employee feels that his or her work has gone unnoticed, was passed over for a raise or promotion, or has made an improper comparison of the value of their work in relation to a colleague. Whether justified or not, this feeling of being on the receiving end of unfair treatment is a source of concern. As a leader it is up to you to address it. Accountability makes sense when each person on the team has a clear picture of the value they bring to the organization. Don’t let an employee’s feelings of being slighted go unanswered.  When they see and understand their importance they will not see accountability as a threat.

Finger pointing

Finger pointing is so destructive because it’s so easy. It’s the first gesture of the least accountable. Yet sadly, the blame game is alive and well. But clear expectations of employee performance along with useful accountability guidelines will go a long way toward bringing an end to finger pointing and fault-finding. As a leader, you must take ownership of these expectations. When employees can build a collaborative team environment around the idea that “we are in this together”, it can unleash everything that is good and creative about your people. Finger pointing now gives way to mutual accountability, and fault-finding takes a back seat to an “I’ve got your back” mentality. Which would you rather have?

It’s Not My Job

When employees have the mindset that they are only responsible for specific, outlined tasks, it is easy for them to dodge accountability with the simple statement, ‘it’s not my job’. The most effective organizations are the ones where everyone has the opportunity to make an impact. As a leader, you must create a culture of collaboration and teamwork where everyone feels they have a vested interest in the outcome. Let employees see you roll up your sleeves and do what needs to be done regardless of your formal job description. Achieve accountability by replacing the mindset of ‘it’s not my job’ with ‘I benefit when everyone participates as a whole’.

Feeling Powerless

Employees will not take accountability for decisions or tasks which they feel they have no control over. As a leader, you must provide employees with pertinent information and encourage them to ask questions. Then, give them the power to make decisions and design how their work gets done.  Accountability will increase dramatically when employees are given power and control over their own work.

Denying Responsibility

Employees often deny responsibility out of fear or frustration. They fear the repercussions for failure or they are frustrated by a lack of clear expectations and control over their work. As a leader, you must create a team mentality. Help employees understand that when one team member fails to carry their weight, they drag down the performance of the whole team. Inspire in them shared values and clearly communicate expectations. Teach problem solving and creative conflict resolution skills throughout your organization. Increase accountability by removing the fear of failure and building employee confidence by giving them a sense of control.

As a leader, it is your responsibility to develop a culture that encourages accountability and discourages a victim mentality. If your employees willingly accept accountability for their decisions and actions, your organizational effectiveness will skyrocket.

© 2015 Doug Dickerson & Elizabeth Stincelli

 

*Elizabeth Stincelli is passionate about recognizing and inspiring the leader in each of us. She is the CEO of Stincelli Advisors where she focuses on helping organizations engage employees and improve organizational culture. Elizabeth holds a Doctor of Management degree with an emphasis on organizational leadership. Learn more about Elizabeth by visiting her website, stincelliadvisors.com You can contact her by email at stincelliadvisors@gmail.com.

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