Posts Tagged ‘Coaching’

How accountable are you?

March 17, 2014

The Accountability Ladder is a tool we use a lot at Blue Sky; it’s part of the company lexicon and used to help us understand why we’re not achieving everything we’d like to at work and at home. So, how does it work? Well, a recent conversation with my nine year old nephew explains it rather well:

“Hey Vincent, is everything ok, you’re looking a bit worried?”
“I’ve got a bit of a problem, I’ve not done my school project”
“So how come you haven’t done it?”
“Well, I didn’t know it needed doing.”
“Hmmm, but if you didn’t know it needed doing, how come you’re telling me about it?”
“Well, I guess I did know that it needed doing…”

In this short exchange, young Vincent is already on the shifting sands of perspective. So how does the tale fit with the tool?

Well, the Accountability Ladder describes the eight levels of accountability that allow us to step back, evaluate and really look at the choices we make and how we handle different situations. The top four rungs describe accountable behaviours (things that happen because of you) and the bottom four describe victim behaviours (things that happen to you). The more time you can spend towards the top of the ladder, the more opportunities you can open up for yourself and your team and the more attainable your goals will be. 

So, although I wouldn’t want to say that a young nine year old is a victim or displaying victim behaviours, in the sense of the model, Vincent was just not taking accountability. What he was trying to do was hold on to being right about being wrong; his own very good reason not to change. Indeed, in his own mind, an entirely adequate reason for his lack of effort or his lack of success. Our conversation didn’t stop there:

“When you said you didn’t know, but you did know, what’s the real reason you haven’t done it?” I asked.
“Well, I never really had it explained to me, the teacher didn’t make it clear,” so he moved to a place of blaming someone else.
“Ok, what didn’t the teacher make clear?”
“Well, she didn’t make it clear… well, actually she did make it clear”.

Even at this point, Vincent’s fertile imagination continued to justify his inaction:
“We’ve just been so busy this holiday” (still at the bottom of the ladder…. someone else’s fault for taking him out and showing him a good time).
He then moved up the ladder to excuses.
“Well I can’t do it now because there’s only three days left so it’s pointless, it’s not worth me doing it”.

So here he’s kind of saying there’s maybe something I could have done, but at this point I’m still right in not having to do it, if it was my fault before, I’m still ok because there’s no time left.

He then went on to say: “Well, with a bit of luck, some of the other kids won’t have done it either.”

So Vincent is now on the wait and hope rung and what he’s really doing is saying: “These are all the reasons I haven’t done it: I didn’t know about it, other people should have explained it to me, I can’t do it now because I don’t have time and with a bit of luck, other people won’t have done it either.”

In a work context, we’ve all sent a wait and hope email; the kind where our response is non-committal or pushes the responsibility away… the kind where you press send, sit back, sigh in relief and cross fingers that it won’t come back.

So when we choose the “I didn’t know” and “blame others” excuses, or “I can’t” and “wait and hope”, the chances are we’re stuck. So next time you find yourself thinking “I can’t talk to that person because they’re just so aggressive” (blame others) or “I haven’t got the time” (excuse) or “well at some point they are bound to realise what they are doing wrong” (wait and hope), the chances are that you’re on one of those bottom rungs of the ladder.

So when Vincent said: “My dad will kill me if I don’t do it”, he was acknowledging reality and in doing so, he moved up the ladder. He realised that actually, if he was the only child in that room that hadn’t done the project, the teacher was going to hold him to account. He then moved into owning it.

In fact, he was like the cat who got the cream when he turned round and said:
“Do you know what? I bet in three days I could make it look as if I’ve worked on it all holiday”.

He had started to find a solution and make a plan, “I could use google maps”, “can I borrow your camera, Uncle Guy? You could drive me around and I could take some photos around the local area”. And then he moved into making it happen.

The Accountability Ladder doesn’t necessarily mean you get the output that you want, or that you’re able to solve things. What it does mean is that irrespective of whether or not things turn out in your favour, you can hand on heart, look anyone in the eye and say “I was accountable for my decision”.

If you think of a relationship with any one person where it’s not as good as it should be and you want to change it, then you need to own it, become the solution and make it happen. At Blue Sky we talk about Conscious Choice, which is about making the decision to actually act from the top of the ladder.

Where do you sit?

Guy Bloom - Blue Sky Performance Improvement  Guy@bluesky

  http://www.blue-sky.co.uk

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The great trust gap

October 8, 2013

2013 has been a terrible year for organisational trust.

The Jimmy Savile inquiry highlighted a worrying lack of accountability within the BBC and even the police. Edward Snowden’s data-privacy whistleblowing suggested the governments not only don’t trust us, but we shouldn’t trust them. And the new Governor designate of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, declared that trust “screeched out of the parking lot” in 2008 and banks need to undergo deep cultural change to restore public confidence.

Frankly, these scandals of mistrust come as no surprise to most of us, whether you’re the waitress in a bakery or the CEO of a bank. The CIPD’s quarterly report found that only 36% of employees trust senior leaders and 58% had adopted a ‘not bothered’ attitude for work. The symptoms of mistrust – hostile gossip, fruitless meetings and incompetent leaders – are daily realities for many in the workplace.

Yet high trust is a key characteristic of profitable and sustainable businesses. Trust not only provokes customers to buy, it encourages employees to stay loyal and turns process-clogged organisations into lean, mean collaborative machines.

It’s time we spoke up about the lack of trust in our organisations and took responsibility for change. Here are the three steps we take at Blue Sky when turning rhetoric into reality.

1.    Take the trust blinkers off

Start noticing the unquestioned low trust behaviours that happen within your business every day. Examples to look out for include leaders talking the talk but not demonstrating the competence or the character to live up to their senior role; widespread grumbling behind the backs of colleagues; a reluctance to make decisions; not owning up to mistakes and making self-serving decisions.

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2.    Break trust down into its elements

Steven M.R Covey brilliant book The Speed of Trust emphasises that trust is a behaviour rather than a trait. By breaking trust into 13 characteristics, including talking straight, righting wrongs, confronting reality, clarifying expectations and practicing accountability, he demonstrates that trust is under our control, and that it can be rebuilt, step by step – if we can find a way to commit to it.

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3.    Get buy-in from within

Finally, trust has to become a priority truly embraced and evangelised by people at all levels of an organisation to ensure cultural change. Naming the behaviours you identified in step one, and citing the evidence that show the impact of trust on the bottom line (for example, people are 87% less likely to leave an organisation with high trust) will help win over cynics. With senior leaders as your champions, you then need to ensure that trust coaching spreads through the ranks. As role models begin to emerge, the groundswell of trust will begin to grow.

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You can share your own stories on twitter #DoTrust or through our LinkedIn page and of course your own blogs and social presences.

Elke Edwards - Blue Sky Performance ImprovementElke Edwards

I am Director of Learning at Blue Sky, so am firmly placed to share with you our approach to performance improvement at every level from your contact centre staff to your CEO. I know that for businesses to achieve major success, their people need to work towards organisational objectives, not individual or departmental ones. I love the work I personally deliver for senior teams that are positioned to support this behaviour from the top down.

Getting honest about trust

September 17, 2013

I recently had lunch with one of our clients, the chairman of a large global bank. He told me a story about a call he recently took from a head hunter, who wanted some advice on his list of potential candidates for the CEO role at a competitor bank.

The client, being a generous man, spent an hour and a half on the phone giving his opinion on the 30 or so candidates. He didn’t personally know all of them, but, in a tight-knit industry, he immediately knew who was an instant write-off and who would be a better fit. What on earth, I asked, could he have conveyed about these top-level execs for this incredibly important role in just a couple of minutes?

 “Well,” he replied, “I basically said whether I trusted them to do the job or not.”

For me, that conversation was a powerful reminder of how many important events in our life occur because of stuff people say about us when we’re not in the room.

Imagine you’re applying for a job in a different part of your organisation. You send an email to your potential new boss. What’s the first thing your potential new boss does? Asks your current boss for their opinion. They’ll probably take more than a couple of minutes, but in that brief conversation they will say whether or not they think you’re right for that job. No matter what comes after, that one initial exchange will have been a key decider in your future career.

The single most important emotion in these conversations and decisions is trust.

The degree of trust people place in us – to get a job done, to support them in a crisis, to show up to lunch on time – influences our lives in ways that are often completely out of our control. Most trust judgements occur without us having any consciousness of them, but they have a profound impact on where we end up.

If you don’t trust your partner, however great your relationship may be on the surface, it will eventually fall apart. If you do trust your friend, you’ll let them get away with an awful lot, because you know they’ll come good in the end. This is just as important in business as it is among friends or family. If you trust your leader, you’ll give them your all, because you know the effort will be reciprocated. If you don’t, you’ll always be trying to protect yourself, afraid that your work will go to waste. And these attitudes directly impact on the performance of the organisation as a whole.

Over the past few years we’ve been inundated with scandals in the press featuring people in senior positions making untrustworthy decisions. This year’s Edelman Global Trust Survey interviewed 31,000 business people across 26 different markets and found that banks and financial services are the least trusted organisations of all. The same negative feedback has been found for leadership; only 38% of people trust what a CEO is saying about their own organisation.

Lack of trust is obviously a huge organisational issue; in fact, I think it is the most important challenge we currently face. So the big question becomes: what can we do about it?

In the meantime I’ll be sharing my own thoughts in three articles, kicking off with what I see as the first essential step, removing your trust blinkers.

Start noticing the unquestioned low trust behaviours that happen within our businesses every day. Immerse yourself, become a trust detective. Begin by spotting how common, and commonly accepted, low trust behaviours are. Here are my suggestions for some good places to look:

  • Corridor conversations – It’s amazing how often there’s silent consensus ‘in the room’, followed by long and angry dissections outside the room with zero accountability or action.
  • Gossiping – We all hate the thought of people whispering behind our back. But be honest: How many times have you heard or participated in a good gossip?
  • Self-serving decisions – People may claim that their decision is the best thing for the company, but their true motives are crystal clear.
  • Do as I say, not as I do – My personal bugbear! Leaders talking the talk but failing to walk the walk are all too common. This is a trait of many organisations that score ‘superficial’ on the trust barometer, where leadership is a title, not a behaviour.
  • Incompetent leaders – How many of today’s leaders lack either the technical competence or the people skills to do what is expected of them? If you have a culture of high trust with continual feedback and development, it’s not such a problem. But in low trust organisations people work around their incompetence in a miasma of fear
  • Meeting mania – Low trust manifests in general ineffectiveness. Too many people are involved in decisions for fear of ‘leaving someone out’. Decisions are constantly deferred in case they are wrong. Everyone fights their own corner. Inertia ensues.
  • Low accountability – Blaming others, not owning up to mistakes, not holding poor performance to account, silos, inter-department warring…you know the drill.

So, now you’re seeing the trust issues clearly, what can you do?

Look out for the second article in our trust series, coming next week. In the meantime, I look forward to hearing your own thoughts on how to spot the trust underbelly in your organisation…

You can share your own stories on twitter #DoTrust or through our LinkedIn group Blue Sky Performance Improvement and of course your own blogs and social presences.

Elke Edwards - Blue Sky Performance Improvement Elke@BlueSky

Asking questions as a creative habit

August 20, 2013

Abraham Lincoln

“The trouble with quotes on the internet is that you never know if they are genuine.”
Abraham Lincoln

Being a bit, well, old I can remember when research exclusively meant having to physically go to a library and read stuff. And when I say read, I mean really read. You’d ask librarians, speak to subject matter experts and whittle it down yourself to a few key titles if possible. Then you’d be alone: scouring the contents pages looking for the right chapters.  Essentially it was a whole lot of reading. Then the world changed.

Behold the internet!

Often we fail to recognise how it has made stuff quicker and simpler. Now we don’t even have to read because a subject matter expert has made a video. When it comes to DIY it’s possible to “get good” at any number of things because one can watch a VideoJug or YouTube expert showing you how.

Of course, quicker and simpler isn’t always better.

As my induction to Blue Sky Performance Improvement rattles along I find an increasing need to up my understanding on various topics. This has become a curious hotchpotch of t’interweb (video or otherwise), reading actual books, working with subject matter experts and getting coached. It’s underpinned by plain ol’ fashioned questions.

Then it occurred to me that I was experiencing blended learning. Now this has me reflecting not only on the shortcomings of each method in isolation, but of my own disappointingly lazy tendencies for finding evidence to fit the crime (so to speak). So as adoring of the web as I am, my level of trust in myself needs to be policed. I am staying honest and tempering my rampant enthusiasm by one simple question.
Is that true?

Is that cynicism? Nope, it’s pragmatism dear reader. The hopeless romantic in me would love to think that everything published out there in the Cloud was good and true. Then I read about Professor Hal Gregersen at INSEAD who positively relishes asking questions of what is presented to him. Like him I now find myself helping reshape and refine existing materials, practices and processes because questions have been asked. This feels good. This adds value. So now I modify my approach.

So what if that was true?

Now we have joyously disruptive conversations around here that test current thinking and move us ahead. How very refreshing.

Abe Lincoln would be proud…

Ian-Beer - Blue sky Performance Improvementwww.blue-sky.co.uk

Bringing the complexities of the human brain to the masses

July 25, 2013

I don’t know about you, but I start to read numerous articles each week, but in truth, actually finish reading only a small proportion. I’ve been wondering why that might be.

I think many open with statements that immediately make me feel like I’ll need to commit to a considerable journey of exploration with a resulting output, that in truth, is likely to leave me none the wiser.

Confronted with complex questions, theories, models, mnemonics, tinged with an inordinate amount of academic references and unpronounceable words, the outcome tends to be the same. “Hmmm, haven’t I got work to do?”

Now, whilst I’m no Stephen Hawking, I’m certainly no slouch so surely if I find much of this stuff heavy going, intimidating even, there must be others like me, no?

I want to read articles that engage me immediately. Things I can identify with and understand without reaching for a thesaurus, something that hints at what’s in store and lures me in with tantalising titles, offering me a little “try before you buy”. Essentially, I want a mini-break before committing to the fortnight’s holiday.

Well, I fairly recently discovered Daniel Goleman and have found his articles an absolute breath of fresh air. Whether skimming the surface or a mere flirtation with the topic, he has a way of keeping it simple whilst offering links which will take me on the deeper journey, if and when I decide I’m ready. Whether it be Evaluating your own Emotional Intelligence with the starting point being asking myself 9 very straightforward questions or exploring the Five Key Steps to Habit Change, he does enough to engage my thinking swiftly.

Seriously, who could resist an article entitled Maximize your “Aha!” Moment Before I know it, I’m there, bags packed and heading off on a journey to who knows where.

Now, I wouldn’t want anyone to think that this is over simplified nonsense. Trust me, with his Ph.D. from Harvard, for those interested, there’s enough references to Freud and gamma activity to keep even the purists happy.  I think he succeeds where others struggle, in bringing the complexities of the human brain to the masses.

Miranda-Cain---Blue-Sky-Performance-Improvement   Mirandaatbluesky

Blue Sky Performance Improvement Logo - High Resolution

Schools not out forever!

July 4, 2013

I am Eloise Welch and I am a GCSE student in year 10. I have been lucky enough to do a week’s work experience with Blue Sky. I have gained an insight into how business’ work and the skills you need. One subject I do at school is psychology.

One of the topics we do in psychology is memory and how the memory works. A theory that has been proven is that if you teach someone something you are trying to learn, you are more likely to remember it. An example of this is when I am trying to revise my school subjects e.g. PE, I talk to my mum about the bones and muscles I have to learn, basically teaching her the information.

I think this results in the information sticking in your head because you have to really think about what you are saying when explaining it to someone else. This is relevant to Blue Sky because it forms part of their Embedded Learning Methodology and helps clients to learn, to make sure that they understand and remember the information.

I love psychology and was really pleased to see a connection between what I am learning at school and how Blue Sky use this as part of their work. Maybe there isn’t such a difference between school and work after all.

Happy Smile - Energise - Blue Sky Performance Improvement     www.blue-sky.co.uk

Could 50 Shades of Grey help your learning stick?

July 31, 2012

It was the conversation over a coffee with friends that made me brave my local bookshop and buy the hottest book of the moment – 50 Shades of Grey.

Even my husband when he saw it in the bedroom (I’d hidden it under a copy of Infinite Jest, another novel I’m trying to get through) cried out “not you as well?!” Yes, it seems that everyone on his commuter train and beyond are mesmerized.

So it made me think ‘wouldn’t it be great if we could design and launch a learning programme that would have the same impact as 50 Shades of Grey?’ A programme that employees would clamour to sign up to and evangelize with their colleagues about the content and learning.

Perform - Handcuffs - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

I am not advocating that learning interventions should involve porn, bondage or domination, just the sentiment that we need to keep designing creative and exciting content to capture employee’s imagination to make learning stick.

And so the Blue Sky 50 Shades of Learning was born by asking our staff to email their lighthearted take on the book and the world of learning. Here are our top 10 for you to enjoy and we want to find the 40 best others from out there in the learning community to make up the 50. If you’d like to send in your contribution, please email hello@blue-sky.co.uk and the top three winners will receive a bottle of Jo Malone perfume or cologne (no handcuffs or gimmicks are involved in this offer!)

The Blue Sky Top 10 Shades of Learning

“Make me cry like I’ve never cried before!” he screamed. “Alright” I said and made him read the entire works of Tom Peters.

“I am your master and you will perform everything I say” …it was then I knew it was time to leave the CIPD.

“I’m curious” he whispered. Never had she felt so deeply probed. She felt exposed from all angles; naked, yet strangely liberated and safe. “So” she said silently to herself, “this is how 360 degree feedback works.”

Wearing my seductive skimpy schoolgirl outfit, I gazed around the room. How was I to know that that was not what they meant by classroom learning?

Once I knew his seven habits…I was disgusted.

He felt his net promoter score rise as she whispered down the phone “thank you, that’s the best customer service I’ve ever experienced”.

My heartbeat raced as I heard him suggest his embedded learning methodology would be different to anything I’d ever experienced before…

He brought a new meaning to the phrase “yes, we can plug the leak in your sales pipeline…”

His PowerPoint presentation was the longest I had ever seen. Slide after slide after slide after slide of animated ecstasy. I died a thousand deaths before I fell into a deep untroubled sleep.

She lay back, disappointed. It was all over so quickly. “Oh” she said, “that’s what you meant by accelerated learning!”

Briege@Bluesky

Briege Kearney - Director - Client Development - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Making Training Stick

April 2, 2012

Lots of organisations now spend thousands or even millions of pounds on training programmes every year. But how many of them actually stick, how many make lasting performance differences or behavioural change? Whilst you reflect on that question, let me share with you one reason why many training programmes are not as successful as they could be. That is they are not followed up immediately after the training, they are not consolidated.

If you have ever been on a training course or seminar before, I am certain you will know what I am talking about. You turn up at the venue and the course may even extend to 2 or 3 days. During that time you are mixing and mingling with either colleagues in the same large corporate company or a mixture of people from different companies and backgrounds. There is usually a buzz about the place as the course progresses and in some instances it can be quite entertaining.

What happens next? Still slightly high on the euphoria of all the new tools and techniques you have picked up, you go out with a renewed kind of vigour, desperate to try them out. Then after a few days, at best, maybe a few weeks the lift has almost gone completely and you find yourself slipping back into that fabulous recognisable comfort zone. Is this starting to sound familiar?

Sustain - Blah Blah Blah - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

So what is it that happens and why, in most cases, does the training not deliver the return on investment that you would expect? A huge part of this challenge is down to something called the Ebbinghaus Effect. Please allow me to explain.

Hermann Ebbinghaus carried out the first experimental investigations of memory in Germany from 1879 to 1895. He discovered that our ability to recall information shows a rapid decrease over a very short space of time. After just a few hours, more than 60% of information is lost. A frightening thought! The decline in recall then eases slightly but, even so, within a month, more than 80% can no longer be recalled. His now famous results are known as the Ebbinghaus Curve of Forgetting. So you see, it’s not necessarily the training itself, it’s just the natural human trait of forgetting.

A cause for concern maybe? Let’s look at the possible implications. On a course spanning 3 days, more than 50% of the information given on days 1 and 2 will be lost before the training has ended. A further 50% of day 3 could be lost on the drive or flight home. Now start adding those lost days and attach a monetary value to them.

Ebbinghaus Curve of Forgetting Diagram - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Imagine in the world of sports, would a Premier league manager give a team talk about strategy in the boot room and then not practice that in a game situation? Would a tennis coach tell you how to improve your forehand in training and then wait until a competition to check whether you have understood it? Training is just the beginning, to truly master a skill in particular takes lots of practice, and some say 10000 hours to master any skill. Lots of training does involve role play and real play activities, which are great for practicing. But real plays are not the real world, it is a bit like swinging a tennis racket in training without the ball or court to practice your forehand, but until you practice that forehand in a real situation with another player and then practice it when it really counts in a competition you cannot test whether you have made improvement and changed your swing. It is the same with delegates, you can start the practice of skill or knowledge transfer in the training room, but you must follow it up with practice in the real world with the ball (customer) and the court (the work environment). We call this practice consolidation. So what do we mean by this?

This is about taking the opportunity to practice and receive further feedback and coaching. The purpose of consolidation is to practice what you have learnt and seek additional feedback and coaching, to refine your skills and address any issues that may prevent you from transferring what you have learnt. To make sure you have the time to practice, polish and improve your skills.

Let’s think about the steps to learning, how do you move people to conscious or unconscious competence? Is this achieved in training? I would argue at best you move people to conscious competence. To really master the skill or apply the new knowledge effectively will take hours of practice. Unless the quality of this practice is monitored and supported, lasting change will not happen, people will slip back into their comfort zones, back into old bad habits and back to unconscious incompetence in some cases. This is where consolidation comes into play.

Top tips

Here are just a few things you could do:

  • Get your line managers to attend the training, so they fully understand the skills or knowledge that needs to be embedded
  • Create a Training Sustainability / Stick ability Plan –  Build in time to work with all stakeholders to achieve this, focus on what will make the training stick and consider what road blocks might make it fail
  • Communicate to the rest of the business what training is taking place
  • Build consolidation, resource and time, into your training budget
  • Ramp up your coaching activity for 6 weeks post training
  • Introduce ‘coach the coach’ activity, there is no point ramping up coaching if the quality of the coaching is not there
  • Start to consolidate your training, this means trainers and leaders spending time immediately after training coaching delegates in the live environment to help support them to embed the learning
  • Align your quality process with what is being trained
  • Plan ahead, ensure that there is significant time set aside following training for line managers to consolidate training
  • Provide trainers with coaching skills necessary to embed the learning back in the real world
  • Train your trainers on how to feedback in the real work environment
  • Conduct post course de briefs at regular intervals, to see how delegates present back what they have learnt, how they have applied their learning, what the impact has been and what the next steps are
  • Review action plans, where delegates committed to learning actions in training
  • Conduct post course surveys, following Kirk Patrick’s learning evaluation model
  • Conduct a TNA two months after training to benchmark skill / knowledge transfer and application compared to pre training TNA
  • Measure the quality of your consolidation activities through surveys
  • Measure ROI, link success to training
  • Celebrate success, recognise people for performance improvement and most importantly, behavioural change
  • Catch people doing things right, fill people’s emotional bank accounts and build their confidence
  • Introduce behavioural coaching, to help people address limiting beliefs and breaking old habits
  • Nudge your team post training, provide them little nudges that support key messages in training
  • Conduct skills drills, use team meetings to focus on specific skill areas
  • Test retention of knowledge 4 weeks after training, not just at the end of training
  • Build in refresher training post course, make this modular and focused on areas where delegates are struggling or need advanced skills to take them to the next level

There are many more things you could do, contact me if you want further thoughts or ideas. The key thing is to remember that learning is a continuous cycle, unless businesses stop thinking of training as isolated interventions….. training will not stick. So next time you roll out a training programme ask your self:

“Will the investment I am making be worthwhile or will the Ebbinghaus Effect take its toll?”

Sean@Bluesky

Sean Spugin - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Can people management skills be taught?

September 14, 2011

Many of you reading this will have been taught how to become a better leader or manager. Coaching of individuals in this way is commonplace, yet coaching senior teams to become more effective is less so. This is a paradox, since organisations are facing increasingly numerous and complicated challenges which require answers well beyond the power and capability of any one individual to provide. The need to harness the power of effective teamwork to drive business performance has therefore never been greater.

Sadly, many senior teams operating ineffectively – although aware of some of their limitations – are unaware of what the real opportunity is that exists. Awareness is of course a pre-requisite to understanding how to put things right. Without it, there can be no surprise that so many teams operate to a low standard. We can all think of examples of team effectiveness – the top sports team in which individuals sacrifice personal glory for the sake of silverware – but we find it harder to translate these notions of what good looks like back to our own teams at work.

In today’s business environment, however, it is essential that we try. After all, it has been highly effective teamwork, rather than an individual moment of genius, that has led us in recent years to enjoy breakthrough inventions such as Google and the Apple range of iMacs, iPods and iPhones. Awareness must begin with a frank and open admission, from the leader downwards, that he or she may not actually know fully what a good team really looks and feels like. Teams need to admit their current limitations in order to progress to a higher level of effectiveness.

Change - Key - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Once this admission has been made, a central step to any effective team lies in the attitude or mindset of its individuals. Many of us consider ourselves to be ‘good team players’. We are undoubtedly well-intentioned, yet mentally we may arrive at a meeting as individuals (ie as the director of a department) and work on the basis of trying to ensure the best for our area. Team members need to ask themselves (and each other) whether they are truly putting the collective purpose of the team ahead of their narrower territorial interests.

Truly effective teams are not – and never have been – simply about individuals getting on with each other

When it has been recognised that a team is not working as effectively as it could be, many leaders move to overcome this hurdle through developing good ‘relationships’ within the team. Teams that don’t work well together may resort to an expensive team awayday or even an attempt to ‘bond’ down at the pub. However, truly effective teams are not – and never have been – simply about individuals getting on with each other. Good chemistry certainly helps, but is only a small part of a much bigger picture.

The rock upon which true team effectiveness is built is to understand and buy into the collective endeavour of that team – why is the team there in the first place, as opposed to a group of individuals? And what is it that it can only achieve as a team? Whether the purpose is to double the size of the business or create culture change, the team’s core purpose must come ahead of individual or departmental interests in order to get the job done.

There are of course many other challenges to overcome in operating an effective team – the clarity with which team goals are pursued, the appropriate composition of the team, the way its members talk to each other, the yardsticks by which they assess themselves and the connections they have with stakeholders, to name but a few. Yet only when teams take the first steps in becoming more aware of current limitations, adopting collective rather than individual attitudes and developing a commonsense purpose of what the team is there to do, can they tackle these latter challenges with a genuine sense of confidence.

Elke@Bluesky

Elke Anderson - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement