Tell Individuals They Are Part of a Team
I often refer to teams when I’m teaching supervisors or managers (or sergeants, lieutenants and commanders). That term may not be used in the various workplaces represented in the classes, but it’s convenient for describing offices, units and sections. (It might even be used to describe your Sunday School class, club or other group.) However, the fact that a group is called a team doesn’t mean that is the way the work is done.
Is your team actually a herd? Last week, one of the people in a class on conflict resolution said, “My group isn’t a team, it’s more like a herd. Sometimes we’re busy on our own and sometimes we’re stampeding, but mostly we’re in each others’ way.” We all laughed at that colorful, though cynical, description. Another participant made a very insightful statement:
“I coach 2nd and 3rd grade softball and that’s what most work groups, including mine, remind me of. It’s not that the kids don’t want to be part of a team–actually they love the idea of that, especially when we win. It’s just that they’re so focused on themselves they don’t get around to thinking about anyone else. One of my tasks as a coach is to remind them, every few minutes, to be aware of what’s going on around them and what their teammates need from them.”
I thought that was an excellent analogy and it led to a discussion of how much we should focus on individuals and how much on the team. The majority thought that most adults prefer to be valued for themselves and their individual work rather than primarily for helping their team be successful. This is particularly true when the individuals in a work group don’t get along well. (Not all employees may feel that way, but it’s a safe bet most of the time.) However, just as there are times when every person has to focus on their own work and depend upon others to do the same, there are also times when sharing a task is necessary and collaboration and cooperation is needed.
Contrived methods, such as naming the team (especially for yourself, like “Team Anderson”) are almost always rejected. The main way to ensure a team concept is to talk about it as though it is obvious and expected, then move on and let people work. If you’re a supervisor or manager and are observing as you should be, you’ll notice when the team is functioning like one.
*Refer to the team or group in meetings or when talking to more than one or two people: “This is a great group of people.” “Let’s stay united as a team on this.” “Each of you represents the entire section.” ”OK, Team, let’s get started with our meeting.” “You guys know what you need to do on your own, but remember you’re part of a team too, so look around and see if anyone is needing help.” (You’d say something better than any of those–but it needs to be said.)
*Commend people who contribute to the work of the larger group. “Your work on this made us all look good.” “You represented us well.” “Lara, I’m always impressed with how much you contribute to the work of the group.” “Jim, Tom, Deanna, Mike and Maureen, your teamwork made this happen.” (Just make sure you are telling the truth. Don’t thank the team if you know not everyone contributed at an acceptable level.)
*Quickly correct actions that distracts the group negatively or that hurts team work: “When you made it hard for Darren to get his work done, you hurt the whole section.” “You may think you just upset Sherry, but what you did was distract the entire team.” “You do good work when you’re working on your own, but you’re expected to work effectively with others and within the team, too. That’s not happening right now.” ”The most harmful effect of this kind of gossip is that it puts people at odds with each other and hurts the team.” “When you two are snipping at each other, you’re snipping away at everyone, because it ruins work for all of us.”
Recognizing good individual work and good teamwork requires awareness of what is happening, then taking a leadership role to talk about it. There is a time to give a pat on the back to individuals who are doing good work on their own. There are also times when it’s good to say, “Let’s go,Team!” Whether you are an employee (team member) or a supervisor or manager (team leader), take that leadership role and help everyone feel better about their work and their herd team.
Do you have a few times and dates permanently printed on your mind because, after that one moment or one event, nothing was ever the same again? You may have had no control over some of those fateful times–although you probably have retraced your steps to see which ones led you most directly to what you now think of as the moment that changed everything. However, many of your career-changing, life-changing, reputation-changing, habit-changing, future-changing, memory-changing moments were the result of your own decisions. It may have been a door you opened or a door you closed; you may have had a brief “aha” thought or an “uh oh” feeling; warning bells may have sounded or the situation may have seemed unimportant. The memory of those times can remind you that today may bring just such a decision-point into your life. Be alert for the moment and in a state of readiness–mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually–to respond in the best way.
*The concept of being in the moment can help you slow down a bit and think about what you’re saying, doing and being. If you have ever eaten a handful of candy you didn’t really even want, but you did it while talking or thinking of something else, you can relate to the idea. In your work and life, give yourself time, even if only a few minutes, to consider what you are doing and whether it is really what you want for your life, now and over time. Give equal thought to the impact you are having on the lives of others.
*Be as alert and ready for good things as you are for things that may turn out badly. You can greet most people and situations with a welcoming smile and cheerful anticipation. Add zest, energy and hope to your life with the belief that something special is about to happen. Even if later events dull the initial glow, you very often will gain new perspectives and personal and professional depth.
I chose the photo at the top of this article because I first saw only the foggy road and thought it was interestingly ethereal. Then, I saw someone approaching through the fog. Is it a stranger or a friend? Is there a threat or an opportunity? Will he or she pass by or stop–and what will be the result? Because it is a photo, the moment is suspended forever and the outcome will never be known. In your life and work it may be the moment that changes everything. Be alert and ready.
The suffix ship, is used with a large number of words, to designate the condition of being something, possessing skills and abilities related to something, or having the duties or status of something: Readership, horsemanship, fellowship, friendship, dealership, craftsmanship and others–including leadership. Nevertheless, there is something compelling about the concept of a ship, flags unfurled, leading the way for others. That is why it is such a shame when we see leaders and their followers run aground or capsize.
Old military and western movies often had the hero say, “Follow me, men!” Then, the hero left no doubt where they would be going–because he was already half way there.
In the New Testament of the Bible, Jesus is quoted as saying to a group of men who were fishing, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” They knew he had a mission and was making them part of it, so they threw down their nets and followed him. Uncle Kracker, in his 2001 song, only said, ”Follow me and it will be alright.” John Denver, in his 70′s era song could only promise, ”Follow me….and I will follow you.” The Great Leader made disciples by telling people what to expect if they looked to him for leadership. He was even honest about the fact that following Him would result in scorn, ridicule and maybe death–but people followed anyway.
I mention those examples to remind you that your leadership is all about encouraging, directing and hoping that people will follow you. But why should they? What will it get them and where will they end up? Calling yourself a leader is one thing. Taking people some place is another thing. Taking people someplace worthwhile is the ultimate thing.
A good way to force yourself to think about this issue is to develop a short statement that says what those who are influenced by you can expect in their work and their lives. You may never say it directly to those you wish to influence–although I think you should. But, just saying it to yourself is a test of whether or not there is anything definite to your leadership or if it is all blah-blah-blah fluff talk.
Will those who follow you be recognized for producing consistently excellent work?
Will they have experiences they can use to develop their careers?
Will they have many finished products they can point to with pride?
Will they be in line for advancement, bonuses or at least some kind of recognition?
What will be the downside? Might they be viewed as over-achievers? Could they be resented for holding to high standards?
Or, is the best you can promise, “Follow me and I’ll appreciate it”?
If you think you are an informal leader or if you have an organizational leadership role, develop an answer to this question: If people follow you, what results will they get?
Another way to put it: Pretend you are in front of one or more of the people you hope will view you as a leader. Complete this sentence: “Follow me, and…………!!”
By the way, Go Broncos!
One of my favorite lines of poetry is by John Milton: “Tomorrow, to fresh woods and pastures new.” The poet wasn’t writing about work, but those words certainly apply to the longing we sometimes have for a fresh start. If you can’t start fresh, you can at least freshen things up in your work space and in your mind and spirit as well. January is a good time for that. (February through December can be, as well.) Here are the basics:
1. Do the most obvious cleaning and tidying first, so those who visit your work area will notice and you will get a positive feeling right away. Completely clear the top of your desk or work top and wash and sanitize it. Wash or dust everything, even if the items don’t appear to be dirty. You will probably be surprised at how much dust and dirt you remove.
2. Decide what needs to be on your desktop before you put anything back. Consider the items that you think of as necessary to have in front of you or at least close at hand. Apply the test of asking how often you use the item and when you used the item last.
If you don’t use an item but you want it for the cool factor (the red Swingline stapler that shows you like the cult movie, Office Space, for example), maybe it is time to move on from there. Maybe not, but at least think about it. By the way, that Milton isn’t related to John Milton, the poet.
3. After you have the essential items in place, consider the other things you have in and around your work space. What about freshening up the photos, cards, notes and other things that you may not even notice anymore? Replace them with new items or rearrange them to add some freshness. Or, take them home and don’t put anything in their place and see how open your work area feels.
4. Your next project can be to sort through desk drawers, bookshelves, the items you have under your desk, things on the cubicle walls and stuff and things in general. Down the line you can work on paper files, books or old forms and items that are no longer needed. You may not get to those things for a while, but at least the area where you do your work will look more fresh and appealing. If not to you, to those who come into your work space.
The bottom line: You will probably have few opportunities to move to completely fresh woods and new pastures in your life and career. You may have thought you were doing that, only to find that the grass was not as green as it looked from the other side of the pasture fence. Try a simple thing like making a fresh and clean work area. After that, focus on creating a fresh you. You can probably also use that at home!
I’ve posted this story several times and get asked about it every year if I don’t post it on time. So, here it is…..again.
A number of years ago (seems like a couple of years but I think it’s been fifteen), my hair stylist said she was making cranberry sauce for Christmas dinner. She said she had a very unique recipe that involved adding pork rinds. I was startled and said, “Doesn’t that give it an odd texture?” She said no, that it only added to the flavor. We discussed the idea of unusual recipes and I decided I would give Pork Rind Cranberry Sauce a try.
As I was walking out the door I turned to ask her, “How much of the pork rinds do you put into the cranberry sauce?” She said, “Only a fourth of a cup or so. I just get the small bottles of port wine and use about half of a bottle.”
Oops. Port Wine, not Pork Rinds. I never told her about my misunderstanding, but I’m glad I checked again. Life can be like that!
How to Think and Grow Rich (and also how to get things done).
Napoleon Hill (1883-1970), the author of the most well-known self-help book ever published–Think and Grow Rich–emphasized action rather than only thinking, wishing and dreaming.
“Don’t wait. The time will never
be just right.”
“Patience, Persistence and Perspiration makes an unbeatable
combination for success.”
“Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire
and begin at once, whether you are ready or not,
to put this plan into action.”
That last quote fits several people who have worked with me to produce a Worship Without Worry seminar in their area, in the last few months (and it also can fit you in your work and life):
*Tim Hawkins, U.S. Attorneys Office, Boise, Idaho (He’s the Law Enforcement Coordinator and Intelligence Specialist and a nice man!)
*Tony Snow, Reserve Deputy with the Etowah County, Alabama Sheriff’s Department (Tony and that Reserve Force are tremendous workers in many ways.)
*Lee Nathans, Security Director of Temple Israel in Columbus, Ohio (Also chair of the Bexley, Ohio Police-Community advisory board.)
*Steve Campbell, pastor of the Garden Church and Better Way Ministries, also in Columbus (He and Wanda are busy every day and night with a challenging urban ministry.)
*Mark Mitchell of Foothill Family Church near Irvine, California (A business person who gives of himself to his work, family and church, continuously.)
*Jim Caauwe, Crime Prevention Specialist for the Savage, Minnesota, Police Department (This man knows how to make things happen! He had an accomplished law enforcement career and now is involved with a zillion things in the Savage community.)
*Dorothy Strebe, Operations Director for Triumph Lutheran Church, Moorhead, Minnesota (Sheriff Bill Bergquist started the project but relied on Dorothy to arrange it and coordinate it–and she certainly did.)
*Chief of Police David Bentrud, Waite Park, MN, Police Department (We have a seminar set for February 27th, 2014–and he only made the first contact a few weeks ago That is some quick action!)
What they all have in common is that they started, worked hard, took care of details and finished a project successfully. They didn’t just talk about one day hosting a seminar, they went from asking about making it happen to bringing all the elements together–and they took care of details that make a difference.
By comparison, I know people who have been talking for years about wanting to do a lot of things–not just hosting a seminar, but also about finances, fitness, relationships, clearing clutter or dealing with a work problem. They will probably still be talking about all of those things in five years, because they’re waiting for conditions to be right, better weather, someone to help, a new boss, less other things going on, more support, etc., etc.
What Napoleon Hill would say: Think and Grow Rich, provides steps to success, based on visualizing the success you seek and aiming your life toward it. The essence of his advice on how to get what you want:
1.) Clearly picture what you want, in great detail. Make it the vision towards which you aim your energies.
2.) Decide what it will take in time, effort, cost, sacrifice, etc., to get what you want.
3.) Starting working toward your goal and never give up until you get what you want–then keep paying the price to maintain it.
There is more to the book and his concepts, of course–but those really are the main steps. They have helped millions of people find ways to accomplish their goals. They also point the way to how to get any project started and finished. Yes, the one you’ve been thinking about but haven’t worked on yet. Yes, the one you’ve procrastinated about for weeks, months or years. Yes, even the one you think seems close to impossible.
Napoleon Hill didn’t say this next thought, but he should have: “You’ll never be able to drive anywhere if you wait for all the lights to turn green at once.” None of the people I listed, above, made a list of why they couldn’t get a seminar produced in their communities–they simply said they wanted to produce one and the next thing I knew, it happened.
How you can apply it: Write down something you would like to accomplish or have talked about doing or have on a wish list for yourself. Do something toward that project or goal before you go to bed tonight–preferably something constructive that starts to overcome the inertia that has kept you essentially motionless. Over the next days, weeks and months, whatever time it takes, do something every day to keep going and keep going and keep going, until you can see the successful finished product.
There is a lot of work involved in that brief overview, I realize that. But, once you start and move forward just a bit, things will happen and it will become easier. Honest!
Napoleon Hill (1883-1970)
The Best Food In the World!
My mother, Creola Kincaid Lewis, worked in the Fish, Pet and Plants department of the Woolworth store in Arkansas City, Kansas, in the 1950s and 1960s. Every dime she made went to support our family, so eating at the lunch counter was a rare treat. But, sometimes my brother and I were given that treat! When we did, my favorite thing was a Grilled Cheese Sandwich and a Vanilla Malt or a Deluxe Baked Ham Sandwich and a Strawberry Malt.
I once asked my mother, “Don’t you think this is the best food in the world?” I doubt that she did, especially since she was a tremendously good cook. However, I know she liked eating at the lunch counter as much as I did, because we planned those special lunches as if they were big events.
Not long ago a seller on e-bay, scram85, offered a 1964 menu and used the photos shown here. 1964! I would have held a menu just like it, as a teenager. I wanted it very much and bid it up to $205 before I dropped out. It sold for a little over that. I was probably lucky someone else was more impulsive than me. However, I may always regret not going just a few dollars more in an effort to buy it.
Incidentally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the wonderful food I enjoyed at the Woolworth lunch counter couldn’t have been enjoyed by black children or adults until the mid to late 1960′s. Sadly, it took sit-ins by black college students, and a willingness to go to jail and face sometimes unsupportive local justice systems, for that to change. ( In 1998, Lisa Cozzens–at the time a student at Brown University–published an excellent online resource about those events and others related to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.)
Nowadays I eat at restaurants more than I want to, although none of them have counter service. If they did, I probably would rather sit at a table and I would probably think the food was edible but not wonderful. Nevertheless, I wish I could ask Ms. Lucille, who managed the lunch counter at Woolworth’s, to fix me a sandwich and a malt. And, I wish Mom and I could sit together at the counter and enjoy it.
Have you ever eaten at at Woolworth’s lunch counter?
You don’t have to referee every day–just stop the fighting.
There are few workplaces without at least some minor conflicts and irritations. Those are part of most relationships, working or otherwise, and are usually tolerated well enough that they don’t effect work or the quality of work life. However, some workplaces have ongoing, simmering feuds, daily vengeful actions and verbal warfare that makes work miserable for everyone.
Fighting between employees hurts morale, lowers the quality of work, takes the focus off customers and clients and indicates poor management, supervision and leadership. The biggest negative result is that work stops being fun and starts being a daily verbal and mental brawl. If you are a supervisor or manager, your responsibility is to stop fighting quickly and completely. If you are a coworker, you should show your displeasure, never support fighting and ask for help to get it stopped.
What takes a temporary disagreement or conflict to the level of a fight? Consider the boxing jargon that fits many situations: Frequent and unpleasant verbal sparring, hitting below the belt, sucker punches, blind-siding, bum’s rush, body-slam, gut punch, low blow, jab, pulling no punches. Listen for frequent angry comments and complaining, sniping, insults, mocking and all of the behavior that fits bullying. The difference is that in fights both sides usually keep it going.
How to stop fighting:
1. Don’t let it get started and stop it the moment you see a fight developing. You may need to work on something that is ongoing now, but while you’re doing that, don’t let anything else get started. “Gina, I can tell you’re upset and I can understand why. But, we’re not going to have an ongoing fight in the office, so let’s get this thing between you and Lisa out in the open and work on it.” ”Kyle, you spent the meeting taking jabs at Ron. Don’t do that again.” “I heard the snippy remarks you made to Linda over the phone. That’s not the way we deal with disagreements here. So, tell me what happened with that conversation.”
2. Find out the root cause and make some judgments. Yes, I know that goes against everything you were taught in the class on conflict resolution. But, the truth is that sometimes one person is wrong and the other is at least less wrong–or even completely right. Bullies rely on having managers take the “You’re both in the right and you’re both in the wrong” approach. Have the courage to say, “You treated her rudely. Stop it right now and don’t ever do it again.” (Yaaaaaaay for the people who have put up with that rude person for years!) Good judgment is a trait we admire in people–have the courage to show it yourself.
3. Don’t contribute to fighting in an effort to be supportive. If you can help solve a problem, do it and move on. Don’t have a role in keeping it going by encouraging an escalation of comments and actions or by shrugging and figuring they’re adults and they’ll work it out. If they could or if they wanted to, they would have by now.
4. Start a Peace Rally in the office. Do not let another unit, section, team or group become identified as the Evil Empire that must be resisted and hated. Talk about individuals rather than the whole group. Mention anything positive that is done by the other group. Take action about the things that are problematic, if you have that authority. But, if you don’t have the authority, accept that life will be more pleasant if everyone can get over being so sensitized about the group they perceive as the enemy. If it’s tolerable, tolerate it. If it’s intolerable, make a decision about it.
Are there people in your workplace who you wish would get along better? The fact that you are aware of their dislike is reason enough for them to stop whatever they’re doing that makes it so obvious. (And, I’ll bet when you think about it, one person does more than the other. Be honest about it and don’t put the blame on both of them equally.)
5. Be the one who lets your entire workplace be saved by the bell. Even if you are not a manager, you can start the process of having managers and supervisors intervene. You can do more than you think you can. If you are a manager, do what it takes to stop fighting and get the fighters focused on something else. One thing is for sure: If anyone is going to throw in the towel, it shouldn’t be you. Stick with your efforts until work becomes a safe and pleasant place to be.
In the last few weeks several people, in different career fields and positions, have made comments to me about feeling phony, like a fake, and as though they are playing a part in a bad play.
“Sometimes I feel like the biggest fake in the world.”
“I feel like an actor playing a part. It wears me out so much I can hardly wait to get home and just be me.”
“If they had known what was going on inside my head they wouldn’t have been so impressed.”
“I feel like a hypocrite when I’m coaching employees, because it sounds like I have my act together, but I know I don’t. In fact, in some ways they’re doing a better job than I am.”
Each of those people were seemingly successful, well-adjusted, happy and confident–but their conversation certainly was not. They felt unequal to tasks they were being given, undeserving of praise and unimpressive. They didn’t seem to be afraid they would be found out–they just disliked feeling phony.
Walt Whitman’s poem, “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” has lines that fit all of us who sometimes wonder if everyone else is so full of self-doubt (sometimes self-loathing) as we are, and so full of unpleasant thoughts and impulses.
“It is not upon you alone the dark patches fall,
The dark threw its patches down upon me also.
The best I had done seem’d to me blank and suspicious,
My great thoughts as I supposed them, were they not in reality, meager?”
Nor is it you alone who know what it is to be evil,
I am he who knew what it was to be evil,
I too knitted the old knot of contrariety,
Blabbed, blushed, resented, lied, stole, grudged,
Had guile, anger, lust, hot wishes I dared not speak,
Was wayward, vain, greedy, shallow, sly, cowardly, malignant,
The wolf, the snake, the hog, not wanting in me,
The cheating look, the frivolous word, the adulterous wish, not wanting,
Refusals, hates, postponements, meanness, laziness, none of these wanting,
Lived the same life with the rest, the same old laughing, gnawing, sleeping,
Played the part that still looks back on the actor or actress,
The same old role, that role that is what we make it, as great as we like,
Or as small as we like, or both great and small.”
Or, as my friend, Jeff Adams, pastor of Graceway Church in Kansas City, Missouri, says: “We’re all pretty much big messes.” Walt Whitman would agree.
What about you? Do you sometimes feel like a phony or a fake, or as though the view that others have of you is much better than the view you have of yourself?
Pay Attention To The Noise You Make While Eating and Drinking.
No, That’s Not Being Picky.
On the Ask the Workplace Doctors site, a frequent complaint involves coworkers who eat and drink noisily–especially those who do it almost constantly during the workday or shift. We hear about food odors as well as noise. This summer I’ve heard complaints about the noise of thermal sipper cups. (First is the slurping-sipping sound, then the “ka-thunk” as the ice falls back into the cup.) It sounds picky, until you have to listen to it all day, every day. It’s distracting and irritating–and it is unncessary.
One employee said, “I’m surrounded by people crunching carrots, rustling food bags, guzzling drinks, chewing ice, slurping hot chocolate, blowing on soup then sipping it repeatedly from a spoon, munching on celery sticks, glugging from a bottle, and at least three or four people who politely but obviously, burp. Right at this moment I can smell said chocolate as well pizza, egg rolls, burritos, leftovers of something and a hot dog–and it is not lunch time. With some of them, the eating never stops. One coworker consumes a bag of carrots a day, so the chomp, chomp sound is almost continuous. I want to scream!”
A reality of worklife is that working in close quarters requires some adjustments. Every employee has to have the courtesy and good sense to realize that to the person who isn’t eating, the sounds of eating can be very noisy and very irritating. The solution is easy:
1.) Use the break room as the eating area, not your desk or work station.
2.) Pour your beverage into a glass or cup, if using your thermal container makes noise.
3.) Stop grazing all day–or leave the desk to do it.
4.) Be courteous and mannerly about the impact you have on those around you when you eat and drink.
I don’t think that’s too much to ask! But, an employee told me when he asked a coworker to please stop chomping ice all day, the coworker gave him a pair of earplugs and brought in an even bigger cup of ice. That is when it becomes obvious that peers are not always able to get cooperation. The supervisor is responsible for the workplace environment and supervisory intervention may be necessary.
If you are a supervisor or manager, consider talking to employees individually (not in a blast email) about the noises and smells caused by eating at desks or work stations. Then, informally monitor it when you are walking around the area. You don’t have to create a tough rule and enforce it, simply remind people of the potential for bothering others and ask for courtesy. Let employees know they can talk to you if there is a distracting or irritating situation developing. That means you may need to do something about it–the tough part for many supervisors.
If the situation is more than minor (chewing carrots all day, chomping on ice or making other eating or drinking noises), and requests for courtesy aren’t helping, you will have to tell the bothersome employee to stop. Don’t worry, the employee won’t starve or die of thirst. But a bunch of other employees will probably silently thank you!