Author: Robert Whipple

Tips to Improve Team Culture

The culture of a team governs its effectiveness. Most teams have a culture that allows adequate performance despite many unfortunate outbreaks of tension and sometimes childish behavior. It is unfortunate that more teams do not experience the exhilaration of working in a supportive culture that produces excellent results. The methods of building teams into high performing units are well documented, but most teams do not go through the rigor required to get to that level. This paper blends well known processes with horse sense born of experience that will allow any team to perform better. In 1965, Bruce Tuckman described four stages that every team goes through. They are Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. A critical time for any team is when it is forming. This is when the team is trying to figure out its role and goals. Members are not sure of their status or contribution at this point, and personal bonding is a key element to the eventual success of the team. It is advisable for the group to go offsite for some initial teambuilding activities. Many leaders avoid this step because often team building activities involve a kind of game atmosphere that does not feel like “work.” In fact, team building is real work that may be fun at the moment, but it is deadly serious business that can result in millions of dollars of...

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Playing Favorites

As a leader, do you play favorites at work? I ask this question in my consulting and teaching work frequently. Most times leaders think about this for several seconds and then say with a shrug, “Well, I guess I do play favorites, but I try not to.” Occasionally I will have some managers or supervisors who are adamant, “No, I do not play favorites.” As we discuss this a bit more, the managers realize that they do have some people they are more compatible with than others. In every group, there are people you would rather work with if possible. That is human nature. When making decisions about who does what in an organization, leaders habitually “play favorites,” even though they know it is a real trustbuster. Let’s examine why this is and suggest a few antidotes that allow you to operate freely, and not fail as a leader due to the issue of favorites. First, recognize that you do have people that you prefer to work with on specific jobs. You click with them and work well together, or they have a special skill and track record that gives you confidence the job will be well done. These are your “go to” people for specific jobs. Barring any outside force, you would choose these people for their traditional roles. Unfortunately, the more you use people in a certain...

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Ubiquitous Reinforcement

The most effective way to get people to perform in a certain way is to reward performance that is in the direction you wish and disregard performance that is not. Two other important concepts are to establish an environment of trust up front, and gently shape impending wrong behavior toward some activity that can be positively reinforced. These concepts are documented Ken Blanchard’s book, Whale Done, published in 2002. When people are properly reinforced, they develop habits of doing the right things because it makes them feel good. The reinforcement becomes intrinsic. People are doing their best at all times, not just when the boss has a chance to witness it. Of all the tools at a leader’s command, positive reinforcement is by far the most powerful. Yet reinforcement can be a minefield of potential problems, and many leaders, after getting burnt, become reluctant to use it. By avoiding reinforcement, they ignore the most powerful correcting force available to them. A good analogy is when a military pilot flies a fighter jet. The way to get a fighter jet to do what you want is to carefully control the stick at all times. Reinforcement at work is like the stick of a fighter jet. If we are not skillful at using it, the results can be destabilizing or even disastrous, but that’s no reason to let go of the...

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Cross Training – The Miracle Cure?

Don’t you love the advertisements that promise to cure all your problems just by taking a pill? They try to convince you that all ailments are related, and for only $19. 95 plus S&H you can have a full month supply of the cure – “But wait! If you order within the next 20 minutes, we’ll double your order; just pay separate S&H.” It is amazing that there are people who actually believe this drivel. For organizational ailments, I believe there is a potion that really does attack many issues at the same time, and you can actually get a double dose for a very low price with no S&H (and the offer does not expire in 20 minutes). The tonic I am referring to is cross training. Let’s look at some of the reasons why this is such powerful medicine. Link Between Training and Satisfaction Several studies over the past 50 years have established a strong link between training and satisfaction. Organizations that continuously train their people have higher motivated employees and less absenteeism. If you look at the organizations in the Top 100 companies to work for in the United States, you will see that every one of them has a strong training program in place for employees. Improved Bench Strength It is not rocket science to discover the benefits of having people cross trained on each...

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4 Tips To Improve the Morning Meeting

Some companies have a kind of pep talk on a daily basis followed by a cheer before employees are allowed to work. There are two ways of looking at this practice. In most groups, these pep rallies have only a short-term positive impact on morale. In fact, many groups eventually stop the practice altogether because of the incredible negative impact on morale. The boss is uncomfortable because she knows people hate the “morning meeting,” and the discipline of the company cheer before going to work has become a joke. People feel the activity is a waste of time, because their morale comes from sources other than pep talks. It does not matter what the boss says at the start of each shift. What matters are the signals sent a thousand times all day outside of the rallies. The ritual of a morning meeting only serves to underscore the hypocrisy, and therefore, has the reverse impact of what was intended. In some groups, the pep rally concept actually does produce higher morale and is a sustainable positive force in the company. What factors allow this to happen? 1. The Meeting Itself There is some actual benefit if the meeting contains useful information or some kind of social support that people find helpful. Often the meetings are a time to remind employees of new policies or drill on the location of...

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Elephants at Work

Lynn Dessert, MBA PCC

Lynn Dessert, MBA PCC

Lynn Dessert is an Executive Coach based in Charlotte, NC. She assists high achievers to be exceptional and versatile through executive, leadership and career coaching. She works with clients by phone, ZOOM and in-person.

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