The Value of Team Briefings

And a little bit about communication

The Value of Team Briefings

We have many communication options these days – phone calls, faxes, emails, text messages, and so on. You can even communicate with just a single emoji. Who hasn’t sent a message to someone that was just a single emoji? (And, I bet it was probably the little “poop” emoji. wasn’t it?) Sometimes it seems as though traditional, face-to-face meetings are disappearing. In fact, it looks like the more options for communicating that we have available, the less real communication occurs.

The Value of a Good Team Briefing

I often say, “I am a B.A. guy in a B.S. world.” By that, I mean that I am probably one of the only individuals at my place of employment without a Bachelor of Science degree. Most are engineers. My degree is a lowly Bachelor of Arts degree. And it is in Mass Communications. And, finally, it is from a fairly unknown school. However, I have leveraged that little degree fully throughout my career. And one of the things that I recall about the communication process is that it has 3 parts and not just 2. We often think of the “sender” and the “receiver”. But we often forget the all important “feedback”. And unfortunately, feedback is extremely hard to discern outside of face to face communication. And even then it is hard to discern its real meaning.

So, for today, let’s look at Team Briefings and what role we have as leaders in that setting. And let’s consider the characteristics and benefits of well-run team briefings.

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Building It By Hand

What a Railroad Can Teach You About Leadership

Building It By Hand


I fondly remember the experience of constructing a rail line with a group of social cast-offs during two summer vacations. And in this concluding segment, I want to share with you a few final thoughts and the leadership lessons that I learned constructing a small rail system by hand.

I learned from the design and implementation of the activity. I learned from observation of the completed project when I visited the area. I learned from hearing the appreciation of tourists who commented on the opportunity to take a steam train ride in this rural community.

The project married a passion for trains (the historical society members provided this) and good old fashion muscle (the youth provided this). It has been said that strong backs created strong tracks on this project. Even today when I observe tourists riding the rails, a sense of accomplishment and pride in the work still results. Little is known about the workers who did this project, but the tourists do not seem to care.

A Change in Perspective and Practice

The experience impacted my perspective on business leadership in profound ways. The activity changed my practice and view of leadership in significant ways. Over time I became a more effective leader as a result of this project.

The most important result of this experience was

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Leadership Requires Making It Permanent

What a Railroad Can Teach You About Leadership

Leadership Requires Making it Permanent

In previous installments, I have been trying to challenge you to accept and use tension as a tool for establishing best practices. In addition, I have challenged you to use constant evaluation for ensuring the course of business is following the stated business plan. In this installment, I want to challenge and encourage you to recognize markers for ensuring integrity long after the business plan is established.

On the railroad project, the importance of this concept was evidenced in the need to set the rail in small units such that the shape and integrity of the track were established to carry the locomotive and passenger cars over the long haul. The project utilized spikes and spike plates every few feet to ensure the shape of the track was maintained. The project required the crew to think both short-term and long-term when securing the track. An outdoor track will experience a wide variety of weather and use conditions requiring each plate to hold its position and maintain the shape of the track. The same principle impacts effective business leadership.

Leadership requires individual and group markers to be established to ensure individual and organizational integrity long after the work is completed.

Tension created shape and shape allowed the crew to lay a course for the business of providing rides to tourists. A spacing tool ensured that our course was useful to the steam engine used to transport tourists from a loading zone back to the point of origination without disruption and injury. The final aspect of constructing the track reflecting leadership related to how the track was held in the designated shape long after the project was completed. In other words, getting the rail to the desired shape was only one part of the process. After the crew got it to the desired shape, there needed to be a method to hold it in place long after the crew left the premises.

The crew used spikes and spike plates to achieve the desired outcome.

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Leadership Requires Constant Evaluation

What a Railroad Can Teach You About Leadership

Leadership Lessons from the Railroad-2

In the first installment of this series I drew a parallel between the tension needed to flex a straight piece of steel to create an oval train track and the tension necessary to create growth in business professionals and organizations. In the second part of this series I will discuss the importance of constant evaluation and review and compare that to the need for two tracks to be kept parallel and equally spaced to ensure the locomotive and passenger cars remain on track from point-to-point in a rail system.

Parallel tracks warrant that passengers will remain safe from point-to-point in a rail system. To ensure that a track is parallel requires the installers to constantly evaluate and assess the distance between the two rails. In our project, the construction supervisor kept assessing our placement of the rails before allowing us to drive spikes in the rail ties and secure the track in place.

LESSON #2Leadership requires constant evaluation and review to ensure the desired path carries the organization to the intended outcome.

The foundation that an organization establishes is similar to how we guaranteed the track was laid appropriately to carry the train from a designated starting point to the corresponding end point. The crew was required to certify every rail would safely carry tourists around the historical grounds. In laying the track, the tension and shaping of the rail was only as effective as the care given to ensure the tracks were parallel and equally spaced in relation to each other. The train, without parallel tracks, was sure to derail resulting in broken equipment and lives. The most important tool used in the project evaluated and assessed the distance between the two lines of rails.

The rail enthusiasts we worked with continually evaluated and assessed the distance between the two rails with a simple tool made from a piece of wood cut to ensure that when placed between the two rails the distance from one side to the other was constant and matched the width between the two wheels on the steam engine and the cars that carried passengers. Even the slightest divergence in the space between the rails required action to eliminate the deviation. It was not long into the project before the work crew knew the importance of the spacing tool and the need to measure our achievement in placing the rails on the ties in the appropriate alignment.

In organizational leadership, similar tools are required to ensure that the progress being made is measurable and meeting the desired outcomes. We measured in small increments to ensure that a small deviation did not result in a significant problem. In addition, we all faced the reality that honesty was better then denial in using the information we found using our spacing device. Evaluation and assessment do not always require complicated formulas or tools. Many times a simple device will provide the necessary data to achieve consistent performance. Consistent performance will ensure foundational results. And, foundational results will establish a long-term path to organizational and individual growth and development.

Adaptation to the benefits of tension and constant evaluation of progress ensure business practices guide individuals and organizations toward desired outcomes. Evaluation and assessment also aid the individual and organization in measuring progress toward ensuring the satisfaction of customers and elimination of issues related to defective products and services. The third, and final, lesson in this series will parallel the need to secure the track for the long-term and the importance of implementing a business plan which sets the course for practice and productivity.

My goal is that you will be able to identify tensions and how these opportunities contribute to the success of the established business plan. Additionally, I want you to be able to identify available methods for evaluation and assessment of a business plan to yield desired outcomes. In the final installment of this series, I will identify individual and organizational markers to aid you in securing a successful completion of a business plan long after it is established.

Special Guest Post by David Ruhman Bio PhotoDavid Ruhman – Please see his short bio below.  Reach out to him via email and check out his blog via the links below in his Author Bio.  And watch for more posts from Dave in the coming days.

Three Circles of Leadership

Three Circles

A few weeks ago I took a look at the ancient roots of strategic leadership.  In case you missed that article, click here and you can get up to speed with my stream of thought that leads us to today’s article.

Socrates observed similarities between businesspeople and generals. Socrates was convinced that a meaningful parallel existed in a businessperson’s focus on profit and loss and the military general’s focus on victory and defeat.

In order be successful as a strategic leader, you must first understand your responsibilities as a strategic leader.  Picture, if you will,  three interlocking circles: “Task, Team and Person.” Each circle represents an “area of need” that you must master, and each skill contains proficiencies that overlap with the others.  Consider these three:

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20 Fundamental Questions for Team Building

Teamwork - Dogs

In my last post I shared 5 sports-themed principles of team building. In this post I would like to give you a practical tool to help you build a team, unify them, point them in one direction and then let them execute the plan.

One of the best leadership practices is question-asking. Accordingly I would like to give you 20 questions that you first answer yourself and then work through with your team. As you think through these questions and collaborate with your team on possible answers and implications I believe you begin will see the true potential of team-effort. There can be a beautiful synergy between team members co-laboring on mission, vision and goals but as the leader you have to ask the right questions.

The first three question are foundational questions that will lay the groundwork for building your team:

1.     Why do I want a team? — Loneliness isn’t a good enough answer; neither is “trying keep up with the times” or “trying to be relevant”. Simply claiming “best practices” or “streamlining our organization” isn’t enough either. Is a team really necessary to accomplish your task? Continue on through these questions to help you decide if you really need a team.

2.     What can a team help me do that I can’t do on my own? — Is your task big enough to need the insight and assistance of others? And are you really needing a team or do you merely need to disseminate projects? There is a difference. Simple delegation can be done without a team. True teamwork means the job can’t be done alone, and requires each person to contribute thoughts and ideas and to do their part in order to accomplish the end goal. Before we can determine if we need a team, then I guess we better discover what we are trying to accomplish.

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Teamwork Principles from Sports

Mule Team

Teams are all the rage today in business. Surely some of this comes from our love for sports and the beauty of seeing a group of people on the field or court, working together in unity and skillfully executing a play. But furthermore we love to talk about teams today because of the camaraderie represented, the importance of each team member knowing and executing their job and the synergy that occurs through mutual trust and proficient performance. But loving the concept of “team” and actually building a team and helping it realize its potential are completely different things. I would like to propose 4 sports-themed warnings to help you build a better team.

Going 5-wide just isn’t possible; Going 4 wide isn’t sustainable – I know when you are watching Nascar the adrenaline gets pumping when the competition is tight and an inch can mean the difference between placing or even finishing. But a good crew chief will recognize how many things can actually be done effectively, simultaneously and won’t attempt more than this. When you attempt too many things at once the bottleneck will slow down progress or even worse, end up in catastrophe.

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What in the World?

isis-ferguson

 

Who do you trust?  Who do you believe anymore?

Ebola has come to the United States of America. Our President, the leader of the free world said it would not. He was wrong. Maybe the open border policy is not a good one.

The Center for Disease Control says we should not panic and this is an isolated case. This new plague can be easily contained and there is no issue. Nothing to see here.  Purchase your Starbucks and watch your Netflix.  Just remember to wash your hands.  Maybe this disease is weapon-ized and we should be wondering what religion Patient Zero subscribes.

Okay, let’s calm down for a moment. 

My point — A track record of double speak, political correctness, and failed leadership breeds distrust and hostility towards authority.

As a leader of a small team, project or a free republic, our words have consequences. Our credibility can shape the morale and effectiveness of our team or the direction of a nation.

It started with- “You like your healthcare…you can keep it.” To “Read my lips…No new taxes.” Don’t forget — “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”

What we are witnessing today in our country and communities is failed leadership.  From the top down in every aspect of execution…this crosses political and ideological lines.

I will never be on television managing a crisis but as a leader in my home, my church, my job, and my marriage I can subscribe to the following:

Be slow to speak and quick to listen.

Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’.

Say what you mean and mean what you say.

Be truthful.

Just my two cents.  Excuse me.  I’m going to wash my hands.

Shared Leadership

Sharing - 1It seems to me that the very meaning of leadership is someone that leads. So how could it be possible to share leadership? I am thinking shared leadership is “one too many cooks in the kitchen”. So, is sharing leadership an acceptable model. Could it work?

I don’t know, but let’s talk about it.

The all-knowing Wikipedia says “Shared leadership is leadership that is broadly distributed, such that people within a team and organization lead each other”. I guess what I am thinking is a little closer to home. As I came up with the thoughts that generated the start to this piece, I realized there are lots of things that I discuss with my wife, but leadership has never been one of them. Why not? Aren’t we really sharing the role of leader in our family?

Shared leadership involves maximizing all of you resources in an organization, team, family, group by empowering individuals and giving them an opportunity to take leadership positions in their areas of expertise. With more complex problems, issues and markets increasing the demands on leadership, the job in many cases is simply too large for one individual.

Sharing - 2Sharing leadership isn’t easy, but it’s definitely possible, and in many cases, highly successful. For instance,

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Leadership Bias

Leadership Bias - 1I’ve recently been conducting internal interviews for a potential project, I have been granted the opportunity to “hand pick” my team. What I have discovered is I may have a bias toward some people in my organization. So I started thinking about how a bias could affect my leadership of this team. My research related to bias uncovered some excellent and surprising information on how to build a greater awareness of one’s biases. These discoveries have also unintentionally helped me develop a more acute awareness of my role as a leader and beyond.

Bias in its basic definition is described in a negative light; but in its purest form doesn’t have to be. It can be equated to discernment (a positive term) because in the end it’s all about that — making a judgment based on certain criteria, and we know the better the judgment, the better the outcome.

When you look at the source of bias and how it is developed, here is where the dilemma surfaces. Whatever bias or preferences you have in any situation has been shaped and cultivated from your collective experiences or conditioning. That conditioning has shaped who you are, crafted your capabilities, molded your beliefs, tested your values all through the filter of your innate wiring — which some call personality. It’s that conditioning that has made you the leader you are today, and in that you could say, your bias (or your conditioning) on some level has been part of your success. Yet, that same collective experience can unknowingly work against you and those you lead. Here in is our quandary.

One of the most interesting areas of professional development is creative and innovative thinking. It’s an area that the Institute for Business Values proclaimed through a survey of 1,500 CEOs as one of the most important leadership qualities. In fact, Richard Florida, states,

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