It’s wise to empathize

Dear Dr. Jim,
How can I build an empathetic and cohesive hybrid team?
– Charmaine*

 

Hi Charmaine*,

At Vivo Team we recommend getting together (virtually) at least three times a week, for no more than 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of your team, and doing a check in. We call this a D.O.S.E.—a direct ongoing swift encounter.

What you do is a quick go-around where every says what they are working on or what their priority is for the day. Then you do another round where everyone says a stuck point—what’s getting in the way of getting stuff done today. Lastly, every goes around and says a “win” they recently had.

I would also encourage people who are used to working closely with each other in the office, that both of you go on Zoom, and you can actually be side-by-side if that’s something you need.

The other thing to do is to make sure that you have, a least every quarter, a 15 minute meeting with your manager. What you are going to talk about is:

  • What you have accomplished in the last thee months
  • What you still need to accomplish
  • One item that you would like to work on to improve your professional development

As well, sometimes on a Friday afternoon people have a virtual get together to just chat and talk about what’s going on. Once people get used to it you’ll feel quite connected, quite cohesive. It doesn’t have to be a barrier if you have discipline. Discipline is the key.
– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

Prioritizing Priorities

Dear Dr. Jim,
Our company has competing priorities. How do I prioritize priorities? Do you have any suggestions? What are your top tips for a leader/manager?
– Joshua*

Hi Joshua*,
First of all, all companies have competing priorities. HR priorities may be different than the CFO’s priorities, versus Marketing’s priorities, versus the CEO’s priorities. That’s number one.

So the job of more senior management is to be clear on what the overall company priories are. And then within those priories (lets say finance, HR, Marketing, and Sales), they establish their priorities, and then there’s a conversation about how, and do all of those fit within the larger company priorities. Because unless that’s clear and open to conversation with everybody—recognizing that different people have different agendas—there’s likely to be confusion.

So the key is that the most senior people must help define and clarify the priorities for everybody else.

This is the basic principle for determining this:

  • There is an “i” in team (or company)—so that each person puts their best foot forward. And in this case, with priorities, they would best define their priorities as it fit the organization’s priorities.
  • And then there’s a “we”—where the different groups or teams have their priorities, but are in line with the company priorities.
  • And there’s the “us”—which is the larger organization. And, as always, senior management must set the guidelines for those priorities.

Absolutely crucial for a company to be competitive in the marketplace is to be clear on their priorities, because if the priorities aren’t clear through the organization, we’re losing money, we’re losing time, we’re losing energy.

I hope that helps!
– Dr. Jim

Energy Booster

Dear Dr. Jim,
Our team used to thrive off of each other’s energy and the ability to work closely together. But now, with a hybrid workforce, I’m finding it challenging to foster that same collaboration and inspired environment. What can I do?
– Beth*

Hi Beth*,
We see this all the time when there is a major shift of some kind. This is a major shift for many people (when they go from working in the office to working remotely). You’ll notice behavior changes, some people may have been really good at what they were doing before, but are maybe not so good now. Check in with them and ask them how it’s going.

The D.O.S.E.I also recommend, at least three times a week, at an appointed time, get together online and do a check-in. Everybody goes around and first says what they are working on. You do another round of what your stuck points are, or what you’re frustrated about. And then you do a final round where everybody shares a “win” they’ve recently had. This way your employees are engaged with one another and maintain connection. At Vivo Team, we call this a D.O.S.E.—a direct, ongoing, swift, encounter.

Another thing, it’s a bit radical, but you could for 1 hour in the morning and one in the afternoon, have everyone come up on screen and work together at the same time. You can see everyone moving around and doing their thing, and you can have a little chat—just like in the office. There’s not much difference in many respects, except it’s virtual and some people may need time to get used to that. Again, it increases the connection and it can really help people in terms of stress and anxiety just to know people are there with them, even if it’s virtually.

Give it a shot—watch for changes in behavior, respond to help team members get better, and encourage those who are doing well.
– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

It’s Not Fair!

Dear Dr. Jim,
Why did my colleague, who has similar background and experience as I do, get promoted instead of me?
– Richard*

Hi Richard,

This is a very complicated question.

But, there are a couple of things to think about:

1. Some people seem to have a knack of connecting with the right people, of doing the right things within the organization so they get noticed, or creating a perception that they have leadership capabilities or need to be promoted to the next level.

People perceive you in a certain way, and some people will perceive you as having leadership capabilities and others as not.

2. One of the important things here is to be willing and able to present yourself in a way that you are seen (as much as possible), understood (as much as possible), and recognized (as much as possible and appropriate).

3. If you really are interested in getting promoted, then the thing to do is to present yourself in a way that you are heard. One of the best ways of doing this is to regularly connect with your Next-Level Manager (NLM). Your NLM is probably the most important person in your career because they see things going on with you. Ensure you are well connected with them; don’t wait for your NLM to make the move.

It’s kind of a “just enough” thing. We want to put ourselves out there so that we’re seen, but not seen as pushy. So be wise, be strategic about how you’re presenting yourself, and ask others for feedback about your blind spots and how you come across.

Hopefully that’s helpful!

– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

Make the Unknown Known

Dear Dr. Jim,
How do I prepare my team for the unknown?
– Valeria*

Hi Valeria,

This comes up a lot–when you’re trying to change the organization, or you’re trying to change a process, or when starting a new project.

Here’s one of the things people have recommended to me:

Get everybody involved using post-it notes (or a similar virtual tool), and have them just throw out all the things that could go wrong, so that people have a voice, and in a way it’s preparation for what might happen.

When you get a lot of people involved, they may come up with items that you hadn’t thought about, and now you’ll be prepared for it, if it does come up.

This tactic also creates space for the pessimists in the group to offer their input and, at the same time, the optimists are challenged to think about things that might go wrong. It’s a great conversation starter and everybody gets a chance to participate in the process! After you’ve done this, the next step is to prioritize the potential challenges in terms of their impact.

As the project is going along, whether it be a change project, or just a regular project, stop every once in a while, take a look at what’s going on, i.e., what’s working well, what needs improvement, etc. and take a look at your list–you might add to it, or you might realize: “Oh we’ve covered that, we thought that might happen, and we’ve actually handled that really well”. Sometimes discussing negative potentials is actually a way of preventing them.

Hopefully that’s helpful. Go for change!

– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

Hybrid Hype

Dear Dr. Jim,

How do I know if my hybrid team is succeeding?

– Mika* 

 

Hi Mika,

First of all, you and your team need to have a clear agreement as to what “hybrid success” looks like. How do we know? What are our goals? What kind of experience do we want to be having? You need to set that so everybody’s really clear. And, it may be different for some people.

Once a week, I would highly recommend that you get together with your team, for no longer than 15 minutes and go through what we, at Vivo Team, call the D.O.S.E.—a direct, ongoing, swift, encounter. One at a time, each person shares what they’re working on. The second piece, after you’ve gone around and everyone has shared, is a stuck point. What’s a stuck point that each person has? And the final piece is a ‘win’. This is designed to get in touch and better connected with one another.

Now, another way of doing it is in a one-to-one. In no longer than 10-15 minutes per person, the leader connects with each team member and goes through:

  1. What’s working well
  2. What needs improvement

It’s a quick check-in.

Quarterly, I would recommend that you have some kind of an assessment. For example, we have the Vital Statistics Report (VSR). I’d recommend that quarterly or semi-annually, your team do a VSR. So in that VSR, you get an idea of how that team is functioning in six key areas. In the second area, there’s an element called the Leader Behavior Gap, and that will give you an indication of how you perceive your behaviors as a leader, and how your team perceives your behaviors as a leader. And, if there’s any gap(s) it opens up a conversation.

Hope that’s helpful.

– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

Business Finance – No Margin, No Mission

by Dr. Jim Sellner

A friend of mine, Neville Joffe, tells the following story as he was frustrated that his employees did not understand that a five-million-dollar business (revenue) does NOT make five million dollars (profit). 

Weirdly, many people do not understand this because they know their gross salary is not their take-home number.

 

Neville said his employees were skilled in the manufacturing process – not in finance, so he started teaching small groups of people why and how to improve profitability. Which he hoped they would understand would increase their job security as well as their pay.

He was not being effective, they were not getting it.

He then tried something outrageous. 

He withdrew $1,000 in small bills, crumpled them up, stuffed them into a bag.

He called a town hall meeting.

Standing in front of them he dumped the crumpled bills onto a table. 

“This is called revenue.”

Then, he placed a handful of cash in a bucket labeled “wages.” 

Continuing the exercise with different buckets labeled

“rent,” “maintenance,” “insurance,” = overhead or fixed costs, must be paid regularly.

Variable costs, “materials” etc. = cost to provide services or produce products.

He then started tearing up $20 bills.** and throwing them into a bucket called “waste”, lost tools, damaged equipment, project overruns, re-dos

People were stunned into silence when he tore up the bills.

“Why are you so surprised?” he asked. “You do this every day, but

you just don’t see it.”

 

At the end of the demonstration, some cash remained on the table.

He said, “What’s left lying on the table is called profit.” 

Neville shifted some of the remaining cash towards the crowd and said, 

“This is for all of you for your hard work this year. 

The remainder is for the owners/shareholders in return for all the financial risk they

take to support this business.” 

The team was stunned.

They finally understood the message he was trying to deliver. 

As a result of this eye-opening experience followed up with more information

key financial metrics dramatically improved.

Inventory levels decreased, accounts receivables were collected faster because . . . 

we delivered what we promised, low margin products were eliminated, people stopped saying “yes” to every change to a project, because they understood the principle of contribution margin, unprofitable customers were let go, discounting and “special offers” decreased.

Over time, having created a culture of financial accountability

with the right metrics, common language, and accountability, combined with wage increases and bonuses, the entire landscape of the business changed. 

Equally important people were engaged and committed to the sustainability of the business for themselves.

In a nutshell – NO MARGIN, NO MISSION

** No real bills were harmed in this experiment.

Accountable Hypocrites

Dear Dr. Jim,

My manager can be hypocritical. What can I do to hold them accountable?

– Gurjot*

 

Hi Gurjot*,

This is a difficult issue. There are a couple of things going on.

I’m going to assume that what you mean is that your manager doesn’t follow through and do what they say they’re going to do, or they ask you to do things and they don’t model it. This could be a big issue because a lot of managers are very busy—they get overloaded and then they just don’t follow through on things.

Another reason may be that this manager is not very competent in what they do. But the question that you have that is most poignant is: how do I hold them accountable?

Simply, you can’t! What you want to do is engage with them in a way that they can help you get what you need.

So one of the things I recommend is that you put it in the form of: “I need some help…” You may be very clear about what you need to do, but you’re asking for help and opening up the possibility that your manager is going to respond in a helpful way.

Another way of opening up is to say: “I’m really stuck and I’m not sure what to do based on what I heard your instructions for this to be”. It’s your responsibility, and I know this is very hard, but it’s your responsibility to stay as focused as you can, to stay specific about what you need, and what you want.

This is a very difficult situation. Keep at it. And, if it’s not working, then you might want to talk to a colleague or another manager. Be proactive.

In emotional intelligence, it’s called leader assertiveness and it’s really important for us to be assertive (not aggressive) in terms of getting what we want.

I hope that’s helpful.

Thank you for the question—that’s a great one!

– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

Developing Leaders

Dear Dr. Jim,
I promoted our communications coordinator to manager. She is skilled and experienced, but her direct reports are still coming to me instead of her. How do I help her assert herself?
– Will*

 

Hi Will,

Your statement: “she is skilled and experienced”—yes, skilled and experienced in communications, as a coordinator, but not skilled and experienced as a leader or manager (yet).

So, your job is to help her learn how to become a better manager. If she’s lacking development, she’s going to become what we call an “accidental leader”, and she’ll likely not succeed in the new role. Here’s what you do:

  1. Identify articles for her to read about leadership and management.
  2. Initiate/establish weekly meetings with her to talk about (1) what’s going well in her new job and responsibilities, (2) what needs improvement, and (3) what might be missing.
  3. Finally, encourage her!

The other thing that’s really important—if her direct reports keep coming to you, direct them back to her. (I’m assuming you’ve been through significant leadership or management training and you know how to do these things.)

If you too are an accidental leader who has been promoted but not developed, that’s a problem. Consider connecting with us!

– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

K.I.S.S. Your Data

Dr. Jim,
There is so much employee data available now, how do I decide what to focus on?
– Connie*

 

Hi Connie,
I always always operate on the principal of K.I.S.S. the data: Keep It Simple, Silly! That means, first of all, make sure you really know why you want to collect the data.

Is that data going to be used to improve performance? What is your objective? Will you be able to easily report back to the people you got the data from? Finally, are you willing and able to take that data and show whether there are improvements or not and how that relates to business results or increased engagement?

There is another aspect to consider, and that is data around learning and development, which is our specialty. Some is personal stuff, like how the person operates, what their values are, etc. Then there’s teams. If most of your work is done as a team, it’s really important to have data on how well the team is operating. That’s going to help you increase productivity, effectiveness levels, and the overall satisfaction of people working on the team. If there’s mostly individual work, then you collect data based on that.

Yes, data can be a struggle. Make sure you pare everything down to only the amount that you really need. In a sense, it’s better to have not enough than too much. If you’ve got too much it can be expensive and people won’t pay attention to it. Hopefully that’s helpful!
-Dr. Jim

*names have been changed