When you have your nose to the grindstone, it’s hard to see beyond the grindstone. It can be a great place to focus but only on what’s immediately in front of you.
Sometimes you have to lift your head up, take a different view to see options and factors that are outside of the immediate picture, and go from “What can I do within this situation?” to “What can I bring into this situation?” from “What are we doing?” to “How are we doing?”
Which is why I love the conversation I had with a newly appointed charity director last week. Like many charities, they have seen a significant drop in funding, with one of their major sources virtually dried up. But while funding was his most immediate focus, our conversation was about team development and productivity.
He understood the value of investing in people in a time of budget cuts. The value of team, that he couldn’t do it all on his own. He knew his strengths – what they are and what they’re not – and recognised that if he was to use his strengths most effectively, he would need each member of his team to be confident, equipped and empowered to do what they do best.
He understood the value of dialogue. He knew that the best ideas are not always the most obvious ones, and may not come from him. He needed to create an environment where each member of the team felt able, confident and free to throw their ideas into the pot, however plain or unusual, in order to brew up the best ideas.
Getting funding was just one side of the equation. Using those resources well was something that required the whole team to be fully engaged, highly effective and working well together, to the best of their capacity and capabilities.
He asked me how he could go about developing his team and improving their effectiveness in a way that created a culture of openness, where ideas are welcome, where all are valued and feel confident playing to their strengths.
Here are the tips I gave him – and how they apply to you even if you are the only person in your business:
1. Identify your strengths
The best teams have different people working well together. The more they can be harnessed, the better results for the team overall, but strengths are the things that strengthen us too, so the more each person plays to their strengths, the more motivated, energised and fulfilled by their work they are likely to be.
What are your strengths? How clear are you on what what they are and what they are not? For those of us who are self-employed, the tasks we ‘have to’ and ‘should’ do can sometimes take over and push aside the work that really brings out the best in us.
How much do you play to your strengths? And how well do they complement the strengths of the people you work with – your clients, your partners, your support team or suppliers?
2. Speak Life – Use Constructive Language
Those differences that make a great team can also be a source of tension. Overused, our strengths can be the very things that sabotage our success. When a team can communicate constructively about their strengths, weaknesses, differences, mistakes and successes, they can create a culture of collaboration and improvement, rather than one of blame, criticism and avoidance.
What kind of language do you use – with your team, your clients, your stakeholders (your family, for example) and with yourself? Is it open and constructive? Or defensive, critical or apologetic? Do your words build up or tear down? And yes, this most definitely applies to the words you use with yourself too.
3. Purpose and drive comes from a clear vision and values
Somewhere inside all of us is a desire to make a difference, to serve a purpose and be part of something bigger than ourselves. But when there’s confusion, uncertainty and distrust in the air, it can feel safer to retreat to our own little bubble, keep our head down and just focus on doing our job. A cohesive team needs clear vision and values – a common cause and direction to rally around. A confused team gets tired, demotivated and distracted.
How clear are you about your vision and values? How much of this is communicated and lived out in the way you do business? Business author Patrick Lencioni describes a core value as something you’re willing to get punished for, and violating it would be like selling your soul. That’s why, when you are clear about your values, it’s so much easier to focus – to identify opportunities from distractions, choose between good ideas and best ideas and distinguish between ideal clients and ones to walk away from.
4. Equip yourself with what works
Effective training is not just about telling people what they are doing wrong and how to do it ‘properly’. In fact, I would wager that most people have a good idea of what’s not working, especially when it comes to time management and productivity. What they are less clear about is why, and how they can change the picture.
Forget proper. Go for what works. A great coach or trainer is one who can help you to develop new insights, consider fresh perspectives and implement strategies that work for you – in a way that fits your personality, lifestyle and working style.
Where are your training gaps? Who can help you to fill those gaps? What resources do you need to bring into your current situation to change the picture?
I’d love to hear from you – how are you investing in your people and in you? What has this prompted you to work on? Do share your thoughts in the comments box below.
And get in touch if you’d like me to help.