Tuesday, June 3, 2008

You and Your Team: How Well Do You Meet Goals?

Deborah Moses

Deborah Moses
Veris Associates, Inc.

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Given Veris Associates’ specialization in corporate training and development, we are often asked the question, "What does training and development mean?" by clients.

Veris offers, in a non-traditional manner, corporate and business training that may be called "traditional." The training topics are typical and atypical, and include leadership, managerial skills, and IT process training. Some are customized for the client organization. The training delivery is atypical because we don't deliver it in a lecture format, but in an interactive, engaging style that gets all participants "bought in" and allows them to take more of what they learn back to the office with them.

On the development side of things, I get even more questions. What type of development? Is it technical skills training? Who is it for?

Development, to us, means identifying the areas you, or your team, need to develop in order to reach your goals. Goals, in a business environment, usually take the form of increasing productivity, decreasing cost, increasing skill levels in some area, or developing and keeping new business.

In our very first newsletter, back in the fall of 2003, we discussed the cost of training, and the cost of not providing educational opportunities to your staff. The cost of having a "stagnant" staff far exceeds the cost of training or development, both directly and indirectly. A recent Gallup poll indicated that more than 70% of U.S. employees can't wait to go home from their jobs each day, and consider themselves "clock-watchers." How productive can these people really be? Do any of them work for you?

Evolving Management Styles, Valued Staff for Business Success

Management styles used in most businesses are out-dated. They are hierarchical, monarchy-type systems in which communication is one-way. Down the chain. If you trend-watch, you will realize that successful new businesses, and the established businesses that are thriving are innovative, two-way communication systems. They encourage idea generation and build teams that interact on trust, not fear and intimidation. This seems a HUGE cultural shift for some companies, but not such a stretch when you think about it in terms of one simple question.

"What would make you feel really good about going to work every day?" Most often, the answers to this question are things like:

"I need to feel like I make a difference." "Knowing I am valued and what I do is appreciated." "Being challenged by my role." And, of course, there's the obligatory, "Getting a humongous raise and promotion." We'll leave that one up to you for now...

Steve Farber, in his book The Radical Leap: A Personal Lesson in Extreme Leadership, says "Leaders must go beyond the established norms to change the world." I submit to you that you don't have to change the world, but you probably need to change your department or your company, if you want to make a difference. So, how do you "go beyond the established norms"?

One thing you can do is think about your goals in relation to a staff development plan. Many companies don't even address staff development. Ask yourself things like: "What can we do differently in the future to cause different (better) results than we've had in the past?" "What behaviors do I need to encourage or build into the team? What skills do they need to obtain the results we need as a team? Do they have them today, or can we teach them?"

Improving Team Communications

Here's a suggestion. Most teams do not communicate well. This can open a can of worms, but I'm going to stick to one type of communication on which you can focus. Jon Katzenbach and Marshall Goldsmith, authors of The Wisdom of Teams, coined the word "feedforward." Even without formal learning goals, you can begin to use feedforward to enable teams and help each individual be a leader. Feedforward is, effectively, the opposite of feedback. It's a positive, forward-looking suggestion enabler, in which you think about how an individual or team can do something differently going forward to obtain a positive result. It does not include the rehashing of the history; or, translated-it does not mean completely reliving in vivid detail what someone did wrong. Leave that part out. We all know, all too intimately, the things we have done less than exceptionally well! Feedforward is simply a suggestion for change for positive improvement or results for the future.

Then create a development plan for your staff, enabling them to participate in decisions about their future. Discuss the plan as it relates to the goals, which helps them understand their individual role and its contribution to the "bigger picture." This also shows them that developing their skills, whether hard or soft skills, is as important to you as to them.

Get Beyond Same Old Habits for Better Results

Executives, when asked, will generally tell you that they want managers working for them who are independent, forward thinkers. The want to know that the people running their teams are going to seek creative ways to motivate their teams and get impressive results to the goals set forth. They don't want "yes-people" or puppets that simply do what they are told, no more and no less. Today, managers have to be motivators, teachers, challengers and leaders and so do the people on their teams. Are you a follower or a leader?

Wasn't it Einstein who told us that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results? As managers, are we all insane? Or are we going to "go beyond the established norms" to create new and better results?

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