If Your Team Agrees on Everything, Working Together Is Pointless

Collaboration is crumpling under the weight of our expectations. What should be a messy back-and-forth process far too often falls victim to our desire to keep things harmonious and efficient. Collaboration’s promise of greater innovation and better risk mitigation can go unfulfilled because of cultural norms that say everyone should be in agreement, be supportive, and smile all the time. The common version of collaboration is desperately in need of a little more conflict.

You’ve probably been taught to see collaboration and conflict as opposites. In some cultures the language and imagery of teamwork is ridiculously idyllic: rowers in perfect sync, or planes flying in tight formation. As a team, you’re “all in the same boat.” To be a good team player, you must “row in the same direction.” These idealized versions of teamwork and collaboration are making many teams impotent.

There’s no point in collaboration without tension, disagreement, or conflict. What we need is collaboration where tension, disagreement, and conflict improve the value of the ideas, expose the risks inherent in the plan, and lead to enhanced trust among the participants.

It’s time to change your mindset about conflict. Let go of the idea that all conflict is destructive, and embrace the idea that productive conflict creates value. If you think beyond the trite clichés, it’s obvious: Collaborating is unnecessary if you agree on everything. Building on one another’s ideas only gets you incremental thinking. If you avoid disagreeing, you leave faulty assumptions unexposed. As Walter Lippmann said, “Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.” To maximize the benefit of collaborating, you need to diverge before you converge.

Unfortunately, our distaste for conflict is so entrenched that encouraging even modest disagreement takes significant effort. I find that three specific techniques help people embrace productive conflict. Carve out some team development time to do these exercises before your next contentious discussion.

First, discuss the different roles in the team and highlight what each role brings to the conversation. Highlight how the roles are there to drive different agendas. As an example, if you are in a cross-functional meeting with sales and production, the production person might be advocating for more standardization, control, and efficiency. The sales person advocates for the exact opposite: more flexibility, customization, and agility. When they are doing their jobs well, the sales and production leads should conflict with one another on the path to an optimized solution. One is fighting to be as responsive as possible to unique customer needs; the other fights for the consistency that breeds quality control and cost effectiveness.

As you work through each role in the team and their different motives, you’ll see the light bulbs going on as people realize, “You mean I’m supposed to fight with that person!” Yes! “And when he’s disagreeing with me, it’s not because he’s a jerk or trying to annoy me?” Right! If the team has the right composition, each member will be fighting for something unique. They are doing their jobs (and being good team players) by advocating in different directions, not by acquiescing. By taking the time to normalize the tensions that collaborators already feel, you liberate them to disagree, push, pull, and fight hard for the best answer.

Second, use a personality or style assessment tool to highlight differences in what people are paying attention to. In addition to differences stemming from their roles, team members will have different perspectives on an issue based on their personalities. As you explore the findings for your team, look for any tensions that might stem from personality-based diversity. Pay particular attention if you have one or two styles that are in the minority on your team. Team members with minority perspectives should be given the responsibility to speak up if the team’s thinking becomes lopsided.

For example, in my work with dozens of executive teams, I’ve found a dearth of executives who fully appreciate the process-related issues involved in strategy and execution. I call out those who have this lens and set the expectation that they are going to challenge the team when big ideas are insufficiently thought out or when alignment is only superficial. By describing the unique value of different perspectives, you encourage those in the minority to raise their voices.

A third approach to normalizing and encouraging productive conflict is to set ground rules around dissension. Ask your team to define the behaviors that contribute to productive conflict (i.e., conflict that improves decision making while contributing to increased trust) and those that detract from it. Cover as much territory as possible to give people a clear picture of what is, and is not, acceptable behavior on your team.

In addition to clarifying appropriate conflict behaviors, you might want to define processes or roles that will help you to have more-frequent or more-effective conflict. Some teams have success with DeBono’s Six Thinking Hats, which has team members use a specified perspective (e.g., white hat is logical and fact-based; black hat is cautious and conservative; green hat is creative and provocative) to shed new light on the issue at hand. Others assign the responsibility for eliciting diverging views to a rotating chairperson or the owner of the agenda item. The key is to clearly define the process you’re using and the associated expectations. Continue

How To Build A Better Team? New Meta-analysis Says Active Learning

Whether you work in healthcare, engineering, or as a professional soccer player, working together smoothly with your colleagues is essential. Teamwork is so important for organizations that a whole industry of teamwork training has sprung up to help teach employees how to be better team players. But do these kinds of team-building interventions actually work?

To find out, a team of Canadian researchers recently conducted a massive review of the research on teamwork training interventions. Their results suggest that, overall, teamwork training really does seem to help teams of all stripes boost their performance.

“Bringing a group of highly-skilled individuals together is not sufficient for teams to be effective,” the researchers write. “Rather, team members need to be able to work well together in order for the team to successfully achieve its purposes.”

Led by psychological scientist Desmond McEwan of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, the meta-analysis included 39 interventions from 33 studies comprising a pool of more than 8,000 participants.

From bringing in motivational speakers to multi-day workshops, there are many different approaches to teamwork intervention. The researchers started their review by classifying different interventions into one of four general categories:

  • classroom-style lectures where a group listens to speakers on teamwork-related topics;
  • hands-on workshops that might include interactive discussions of the team’s purposes and goals;
  • simulation training, where teams practice various skills that they actually use (e.g., an airline flight simulator or a medical emergency dummy);
  • and in-situ reviews where team members provide feedback on each other’s work in real time.

The researchers also analyzed several other factors that might influence the effectiveness of a training, including how long the team had worked together, how improvements in productivity were measured, and whether the study took place in a lab or in a real-world context. Additionally, McEwan and colleagues only included studies that compared a control group (i.e., employees that did not receive teamwork training) to an experimental group (i.e., those who received teamwork training).

Across the board, teamwork interventions had a significant positive impact on team performance.

“[T]eamwork interventions were shown to be effective at enhancing both teamwork and team performance across a variety of team contexts, including laboratory settings as well as real-world contexts of health care, aviation, military, and academia,” the researchers write.

Interestingly, interventions seemed to work better for new teams compared with already established ones.

“It is possible that teamwork processes might be more malleable and display greater potential for improvement with new teams compared to more established teams whose teamwork processes may be more entrenched,” the researchers explain.

The researchers note that a far higher proportion of the studies included in the meta-analysis focused on new teams compared to already established ones.

The analysis also showed that “all four training methods were effective for enhancing team performance,” but some were far more effective than others. Specifically, classroom-style instruction was found to be far less effective than the three types of interventions which included hands-on components.

“This suggests that simply providing educational lectures wherein team members passively learn about teamwork is not an effective way of improving teamwork,” McEwan and colleagues write.

What works for boosting the effectiveness of teams of doctors and pilots also appears to be true for teams of astronauts. A 2015 review published in Current Directions in Psychological Science looked at the emerging field of teamwork in space. One of the best ways to improve the quality of teamwork, the researchers found, was to incorporate active involvement into team-building exercises.

For organizations, this means that interventions that utilize interactivity and active learning are likely to be more effective than lectures or other forms of passive instruction.

Source:psychological science

Are we learning anything from climate change?

Its absurd that a lot of climate change talk has been done since time memorial but no one seems to care. Uganda is experiencing the worst dry spell since 100 years ago, this as explained by researchers. 2015 was really hit with many districts having food shortages because the crops dried and couldn’t grow anything. The forests are still being cut all at the expense of farming and development.  Real estate and industries are encroaching on the wetlands; we need an immediate solution.  Fortunately the causes of this problem are well known and need to be addressed with everyone on board. Environment degradation needs to be addressed with an iron hand to ensure that things move.

Forests and wetlands need to be restored to return water vapor back into the atmosphere, absorb greenhouse gases that fuel global warming, keep soil moist by blocking the sun, produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide.  I believe the hot weather we are experiencing is just the beginning and hence immediate action needs to be taken into account.

The more we learn about how climate change will affect people and the environment, the more we can see why people need to take action to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change. We can also take steps to prepare for the changes we know are coming.

Giving a Keynote Speech That Everyone Will Remember

What makes a keynote speech compelling? originally appeared on Quora – the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights. In this post i borrowed the mind of Josh Levs, Author, Former CNN & NPR Journo, on Quora on how to give a keynote that everyone will remember. 

Every keynote you do is an honor. Understanding this is the first, and most important, rule. Even when I have a busy week doing three keynotes in one city, or in three cities for that matter, I am acutely aware that my stepping onto each stage is the result of a group of organizers, and a hopeful audience, looking to me for deliverable.

So my job as keynote speaker is to make sure they get what they came for — and more. That means knowing about them, the organization, the reason they’re there. It means knowing the ethos and goals of the group. It also means knowing what else they’re hearing from other speakers that day.

That’s why I speak directly with the organizers of each event in advance, to find out whether they have specific requests for what I will and won’t touch on. It’s also why I try to attend as many of the other speeches and events as I can. I use that time to tweak and fine tune my talk, so it’s a natural accompaniment.

People respond to passion. So a great keynote is driven by that. When you’re passionate about what you’re there to say, people can feel it. When I train keynote speakers, I go over things like body language and eye contact that help invoke passion in a positive way.

It’s crucial to design your talk as a human story. You can’t be all about facts and figures. Share your journey as it relates to the topic. Take the audience on an emotional ride, through what you felt.

Be honest. People sense what’s fake very quickly. It’s a major turnoff.

Don’t boast. Talk about your struggles and failures as much as your successes, or even more. Explain the lessons you learned and how they apply to the topic.

I never write down what I’m going to say. I know that some people need to — particularly those who are invited to speak because of their fame, not because they’re particularly good speakers. But I feel much better just knowing the general order of the points I plan to make, looking at the audience the entire time, and talking.

Feel the energy in the room. Notice how people are responding. If they’re not focused on you, punch up your energy.

Don’t use lots of slides with lots of text and numbers. No one will remember what’s there. If you use slides, keep them simple with just a couple of points, all bolstering the central thesis. I like to use video clips and images along the way, but just a few.

Remember that every second you have up there is a gift, and treat it as such. This room full of people has given you one of the biggest gifts anyone can give — their time. The more you focus on earning and deserving that gift, the more the audience will see and appreciate you. They’ll know you respect them. And they’ll respect you.

This question originally appeared on Quora – the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions:

Executing strategy the best way possible

Of late my mind has been awash of many things, most importantly on how to go forward on the things i want to achieve.  I thought utilizing my skills more would earn me the extra cash which true but the execution on how i move forward is what keeps puzzling me.Of late i built a team of people i work with but how to implement the company strategy is still challenging: the key question i ask myself is:How can I align everyone’s efforts and help them accomplish the organization’s most important work? For a while this has got me thinking and i got in touch with a process called Big Arrow that has helped me work better. Here are a few tips i felt like sharing  on executing strategy effectively;

  • Define the Big Arrow (aligning the strategic direction of your company)
  • Once the big arrow is clear, we to identify highest impact people to enable forward the momentum of the company.
  • Determine What They Should Focus On

    Once we have established the key people, to work with each we work with them to determine their:

    • Key contribution to moving the Big Arrow forward
    • Pivotal strength that will allow them to make their key contribution
    • Game changer, the thing that, if the person improves, will most improve their ability to make their key contribution 
  • Hold laser -focused coaching sessions to  make clear headway on their key contribution to the Big Arrow.
  • Amplify performance

For info about the Big Arrow read the Harvard Business Review on Strategic Execution (More)

We need to start to start

So its the new year and everything seems frenzy and brand new. Not much going on but a lot planned. its still a question of where do i start from and how do we make everything work. A number of us i guess developed resolutions for the year and the question on everyone ‘s mind is how? . How do I (we) make this work? These are things we deal with daily but never at anyone moment have a clear answer. In many cases nothing is done and whole year is wasted. I believe 2017 is a unique year to make lasting adjustments in our lives. We need to start! Stop complaining, sleep less, hard and start on working our dreams.
Am guessing a certain group of us are saying i have had this talk of progress for a while and i did everything and nothing happened. Well no one said it would be easy and life is also a continuous journey. There are bumps, challenges and more bumps. These are the realities of life and we to deal with it. The how question is still lingering for answers but reality is there will be no answer until you start. Start today with a positive mind and attitude towards the things you want to achieve. I have no answers to yours but am working mine. So welcome to 2017, a year of starting and doing.

Cheers
SSP

Thanks a million times

To everyone who reads and follows this blog, i would like to personally say thanks a million for all your support. 2016 was quite slow especially on the frequency of updates for this blog but we continue to provide you with the best in the development world. We believe information is a necessity and everyone is entitled to good quality information; so from myself and team, we wish you happy holidays and  profitable new year.

cheers