Human Resources

HR Strategic Planning: Taking Deliberate Steps to HR Success by Christina Stewart ~ Post 1

Introduction to Strategic HR Planning

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Integrating human resource management strategies and systems into your overarching organizational strategy will help you achieve the overall mission, ideas, and create the success of the business while meeting the needs of employees and other stakeholders.

The overall purpose of strategic HR planning is to:

  • Ensure adequate human resources to meet the strategic goals and operational plans of your organization - the right people with the right skills at the right time

  • Keep up with social, economic, legislative and technological trends that impact on human resources in your area and in the sector

  • Remain flexible so that your organization can manage change if the future is different than anticipated

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Strategic HR planning predicts the future HR management needs of the organization after analyzing the organization's current human resources, the external labour market and the future HR environment that the organization will be operating in. The analysis of HR management issues external to the organization and developing scenarios about the future are what distinguishes strategic planning from operational planning. The basic questions to be answered for strategic planning are:

  • Where are we going?

  • How will we develop HR strategies to successfully get there, given the circumstances?

  • What skill sets do we need?

The strategic HR planning process

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The strategic HR planning process has four steps:

1. Assessing the current HR capacity

2. Forecasting HR requirements

3. Undertaking a Gap analysis

4. Developing HR strategies to support organizational strategies

Check in next week when we break down Step 1: Assessing the Current HR Capacity, and of course, reach out anytime to admin@praxisgroup.ca to get some help in setting your own HR Strategy.

Why I Love Recruitment by Drew Stewart

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We heard from Christina about why she loves recruitment, now let’s hear from Drew: I came by my interest in Recruitment organically. I was exposed to it through my job as a manager working for a well-established video game publisher. When I would tell people where I worked, the majority of the time I’d get a response such as:

“Oh wow, must be fun to play video games all day.”

I wish! Now that would be a fantastic job! Unfortunately, when you got to the heart of what I did there, it was not much different then most companies. I spent most my time in spreadsheets, developing reports and managing external relationships with outsourced partners. However, there was one thing that I always looked forward to breakup the monotony of a project cycle. That “thing” was recruiting. I took an active role in evaluating my teams and going through skill set inventory to see where we needed to supplement existing attributes. I particularly enjoyed interviewing and getting to know individuals on a bit more of a personal level. I came away from interviews feeling re-energized and infected with the enthusiasm that came from the candidates who wanted to work for this company and be a part of making a video game that they have personally enjoyed. The process gave me tremendous perspective, in two very different and conflicting ways.

1. Seeing people come into an interview and discuss at length about how a product you are a part of has influenced their life, is a very powerful thing. Now, I fully realized that we were not solving the worlds problems within those walls, we were providing entertainment for people. Nonetheless, what we made impacted individuals and motivated them to pursue a career in our industry. It made me feel proud and excited about the future to eventually have even more influence over decision that could make our products even more entertaining and fun.

2. If I loved this one facet of my job so much, why am I not doing more of it?

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I like to simplify my life and the world around me, as much as possible. I find that getting into too many details can paralyze me into a state of inaction. Paralysis by analysis, if you will. So, when I weighed the two different pieces of perspective, one just seemed too simple to ignore. That question of why not do the thing I enjoy, was too simple to ignore and ultimately it is what gave me the motivation to leave a wonderful organization and enviable place to work.

So, what is it about Recruiting that pushed me to making it a bigger part of my professional life? In my simplified way at looking things, I came up with my top three things that I love about recruiting.

Research

I am a natural introvert. Thankfully, like a lot of introverts, I am a genuinely curious person. I love finding out the “why” or the “how” behind how things work or how people think. Through recruitment, I spend a lot of time researching best practices within different industries and searching for the individuals who have the skills that are desired by our clients. I get the time to work independently doing this, which feeds my natural introversion personality.

Chance to be Extroverted

I wouldn’t be a well-rounded individual if all I did was seek out opportunities to stay in my introverted lane. Doing interviews and talking to candidates on the phone allows me to connect with people and flex my extroverted self. A misconception about introverts is that they appear aloof and disinterested in conversation at times. What I find, is that introverts can become extremely connected to people when getting to a deeper meaningful level. Not so good at small talk but we can build a relationship and stay connected as good as anyone else.

Impact someone in positive way

When one takes inventory of their life and lists out important milestones, they do not get very far down the list before thinking about a job they loved or hopefully getting the opportunity to work somewhere they always dreamed of. Giving good news to candidates that they secured such an opportunity if a definite highlight of my job. I help people get the job they want, which impacts their everyday life. Being a small part of it is extremely satisfying.

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I have found that recruiting suits me. I have not regretted leaving that tech job, not for one minute. I feel like I have grown and learned a lot about a number of different industries and the people who drive them. I feel that I am helping to make an impact in a community where I grew up. I still don’t get to play games all day but when the opportunity arises, I do so as a fan and not a job.



Why I Love Recruitment ~ By Christina Stewart

I absolutely love recruiting! Cheesy? Maybe, but still true.

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I can remember the “HR Lady” at my first office job. I was working as an Administrative Assistant at a Brokerage in my very early 20’s and until that point, I had never heard of HR or Recruitment. As I watched her move from project to project and from a senior level meeting to a training session to interviewing for a vacant role in the office I thought she must have the coolest job ever. She got to know everything about everybody. She was the keeper of secrets – all things confidential were in her grasp.

Naturally as a highly curious person myself, I was intrigued by all that she knew about our company, our office, the people who worked there and our future as an organization. It seemed to me that she had her hand in it all – she was part of the big picture strategy and culture along with every other step down to the minutia of how the office functions; she knew it all and her opinion mattered. I wanted her job.

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I started taking HR classes and luckily one of my first was recruitment. I was hooked. The importance of recruitment became very evident very quickly. Hire the wrong person and your workplace could suffer serious implications. The impact could be felt by unhappy employees, high turnover, low productivity, managers spending too much time on management and not leadership, disgruntled customers – the ripples could turn to waves pretty quickly. Conversely, hire the right person and the opposite can happen: happy colleagues, increased retention, increased productivity, managers spending time leading, and satisfied clients.

Beyond how pivotal it is for a company to have the right complement of people I simply like the duties and responsibilities of being a Recruiter. I like speaking with the client to find out what they are looking for and helping them to refine the ideal person with the ideal skills and experience. At the beginning it can feel as daunting as looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack, however, by crafting the right job ads and putting them in the right places along with picking up the phone and talking with people, people and more people, it ends up being more like putting a really fun puzzle together. I feel the joy of putting someone in a role the same as if I were to find the last piece of that puzzle on the floor under my chair. I couldn’t see it right away, but it was there all along ~ Eureka!

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Add to all of that, that I simply enjoy talking with people – I love hearing their stories and learning about why they took this job or how they landed what that company. Everyone has a career story and if you ask the right questions you can often learn a tremendous amount about someone in a fairly short time. I have interviewed hundreds, maybe even a thousand people, in my HR and Recruitment career and every single one of them has something of interest to say. I learn and I grow with each and every interaction.

Telling people that they aren’t successful is hands down the hardest part of this gig, but I see it as an opportunity to provide feedback when someone asks for it, and as an opportunity to treat others with grace. I hope if you were to ask the people I’ve interviewed over the years that they will tell you that I treated them with class and respect throughout the process. I’ve never left anyone hanging, not one of the people I have ever interviewed will tell you that I didn’t speak to them directly to let them know that they didn’t get the job. My attitude is of understanding – I know how hard job hunting can be and how frustrating and arduous to be looking for work but through that process every person has a right to be listened to and treated with dignity.

We do a wide variety of things at Praxis, all of them feed me in some way, but Recruitment really hits home for me with the significance of my contribution, my ability to meet and work with a huge variety of people and how in the end, my perseverance pays off.

Employees Keeping You Up At Night? Read on:

HR Audits Work! By Christina Stewart, CPHR

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A healthcare company leader had employees keeping her up at night. Her main concern was entitlement: tardiness, absenteeism, a spike in peer to peer conflict, giving rewards and additional pay and getting a non-response – or an outright complaint that it wasn’t enough. Basically, she was seeing employees take and take and take and an overall sentiment that the company should simply be happy that the employees showed up to work each day; these team members were lacking in self-awareness and taking no accountability for their actions. The culture was flat at best and the negativity was taking over – people just seemed miserable – especially the CEO and she was worried that it was leeching out to her clients. She had done an employee survey a year before, but the results simply confirmed what she already knew and mistakenly, she didn’t do anything about the mediocre results. She didn’t undertake any changes or take any further action other than simply conducting the survey.

She reached out to us to see if there were a way, we could help in turning this collection of individuals into a true team. Before we could do that, we needed to understand why theses behaviours were happening.

We undertook an audit – interviewed a variety of employees (different roles, departments, tenure, and levels of responsibility) reviewed all the HR documentation (policies, procedures for hiring, promoting, terminating, training, benefits – everything related to HR). In doing so we quickly came to see a few patterns emerge:

  • The first and largest was concerning unclear expectations provided from leadership. Employees weren’t sure what success looked like for their role and they were not connected to the greater goal of the organization. They just didn’t see the value in the work they were doing.

  • There were further themes identified around how the rewards and recognition of good behaviour and reaching milestones were handed out

  • How the policy was interpreted and executed (often inconsistently), and

  • How poor performance was mostly ignored.

We were able to provide specific tactics to take to implement address the above list:

Expectations By setting very clear expectations on how, when and where the work is to be done and by whom, conflicts were immediately reduced, leaving leadership with more time to motivate the team instead of simply running interference. The other outcome of clear expectations was increased productivity. When a leader says “bring in clients” an employee will be creative in determining what that means (Only bringing in one is still an increase, right?) but when the leader says “your job this month is to bring in 10 clients” the employee works directly toward that goal until it’s met – no creative interpretation required. Through this process with us the employer lost two employees who were at the heart of most of the conflict – all turnover is not bad!

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By connecting the team to the significance of the company we were able to increase engagement and of course increased engagement means increased productivity. As leaders we know that productivity equals profitability and of course profitability equals increased rewards for the team. Round and round it goes.

The best part of the story: The Leader finally got some much needed sleep!

If you have any questions about how we can help your organization get to the heart of what’s happening for your team – let us know. We offer free consultations and free HR Pulse Checks to help guide you in creating your best HR strategy.

Are Personality Tests Valuable? By Christina Stewart

We think so.  But there is a catch… The Results Must Always Be Used For Good!  Let me explain…

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Personality tests, such as the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI for those in the biz,) can give folks a super strong sense of who they are and why they behave the way they do. They can also give employers a strong sense of who the employee is, where they may naturally be adept and show the ways that someone may contribute to the team. The problem lies in taking the results at face value, and using those results as a basis for either hiring or not, because there is always more under the surface.  

A great example is with the MBTI.  I am an ISTJ – and I am an ISTJ – I like structure and order and I’m also incredibly reliable.  The risk comes in when, let’s say, an employer may be interested in hiring me to facilitate training. They may see the ISTJ, and assume that I’m too introverted to speak up and move on to another candidate who shows a stronger preference for extroversion.  But what you don’t know about me by only seeing the “I” or the Introvert in ISTJ, is that I actually love public speaking. I adore standing up in front of a group of people and sharing knowledge and having great conversations.  ISTJs can actually be extremely adept at delivering training sessions because they are always incredibly prepared and they’re also information junkies – both attributes would be positive assets to an employer’s training department.

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The lesson here is to use personality assessments to prove what you already and know about someone “Look there is an ISTJ – I knew she seemed like he would be reliable,” and to use it as a way to allow a person a vaster contribution once you do hire someone.  They can provide tremendous value for self-discovery, team building, coaching, enhancing communication, and numerous other developmental applications. But due to limited predictive validity (does this test show how an employer will perform in the future?), low test-retest reliability (will this person answer the test exactly the same each and every time?), lack of norming (can this test be held up against another person’s and show the truth?) and an internal consistency (lie detector) measure, etc., they are not ideal for use in hiring.

Employers with a role to fill who only look at a certain type of person take a big risk in missing out on someone who would be outstanding in a particular role.  Personality Tests can be very valuable when used for good – to build people up, but not to exclude potential employees from their workforce.  They may just miss out on a shining star.

Onboarding is Essential - By Christina Stewart

You have spent time, energy, money and other resources finding the right person to fill your vacancy; the last situation you want is for that new team member to leave your firm early and have all those resources go to waste.  Plus you’d be stuck doing it all over again.  But how do you bridge the gap between recruitment and retention?  Onboarding.

Make your new employee feel welcome, wanted and engaged before the first day.  Often there is a lag between signing the offer letter and the first day of employment, so a week before the start date call your new team member and say how much you are looking forward to having them onboard.   If it is an executive position call again on the afternoon of the day before they start.  This will warm any cold feet and calm any nerves.

It is imperative that when the new hire arrives on day one that they have a work space completely set up, everything from a computer with a working e-mail, e-mail signature, and any other necessary programs to pens, notebooks and business cards printed and sitting on their desk.  Plan in advance what the orientation and initial training will look like.  Know exactly who is teaching what and when.  Show a commitment to having prepped for them and they will feel important and valued from the start, thus increasing their chance of making it through the critical first three months.

One idea is to have new employees start on a Friday – this gives them the weekend to process the new environment and then they can hit the ground running on Monday.  The Friday is essentially a meet and greet anyway.  Make sure your entire team knows they are starting – send out an announcement e-mail with a brief overview of the new hire’s background and always set up their name in the phone system and on the phone directory.

The key to effective onboarding is to always appear organized and to always appear enthusiastic.  Make a commitment to your new team member before they even start and you’ll be rewarded with a team member that makes a speedy commitment to you.

 

 

 

 

I am Yoda by Drew Stewart

The newest Star Wars is in theaters today, which I know this for several reasons.

1.       Thanks to the permeation of their marketing and dollars that Disney has put behind this movie, one would need to be living under a rock to not know it exists

2.       I have always been a fan of the franchise and enjoyed all of the movies. I am not a ``super fan" per se but have seen them all, owned some merchandise when I was a CHILD and can offer up the odd quote from the movie.

3.       Lastly I know the movie is out today because my son and a host of other kids from his school are making the special field trip to see it. He has been under strict orders not to give plot spoilers when he comes home 

All of this got me to thinking about what character resonates with me most. Thankfully for entertainment purposes, there are a number of ``What Star Wars Character Are You`` tests online. In my search I found a quiz that is related to the MBTI and took it.  For the uninitiated, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a widely utilized personality test, which we use in some of our team building sessions.

“Adventure. Excitement. A Jedi craves not these things.”                                                      Maybe i am a Jedi

“Adventure. Excitement. A Jedi craves not these things.”                           

                       Maybe i am a Jedi

Now, I already know my personality type to be INTP but took the shortened quiz anyway to see if there was any symmetry and confirmed that not only did it spit out INTP but the character that I am most like is Yoda.  That is pretty good right? He is wise and logical and a pretty chill guy who magically disappears much like I do at a Christmas party. No notice given we just go poof and are gone.

I mean it could be worse; I could be Owen Lars (sorry Christina). The poor ISTJ’s get stuck with the most boring characters. They are not boring people. If you know an ISTJ, tell them you find them interesting and don’t tell them about this quiz.

 If you are looking for a way to entertain family and friends over the holidays, there are many fictional character/MBTI quizzes online. They are fun especially when you know the subject matter fairly well.  I would suggest you just give them a try but Master Yoda and I don’t operate like that.

Try not. Do... or do not. There is no try. 

-Yoda

Team Building with Purpose (part 5 of 5) by Christina Stewart

Team building is a comprehensive theory encompassing different types of activities with a clear purpose. True Team Building with Purpose has both intention and determination.

In the final entry of our five part series we explain team building through problem solving.  In Part 2: Team Building through Personality Assessment, we talked about how the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) uses the differences in employee’s preferences to launch a conversation about how to move forward as a team.  In Part 3: Activity Based Team Building and Part 4: Skills-Based Team Building we spoke about how learning can be overt or covert – but both ways can have positive impacts on the team development. In our final installment we’ll discuss tackling a problem head-on.

Team Building through Problem-Solving

This type of team building activity usually takes place in a retreat setting far away from the regular work environment and is led by an outside facilitator; well versed in mediation and conflict reduction and who must be an impartial third party. In problem-solving-based team building, team members come together to first identify and to second solve a key challenge the group is currently facing.  Problem-solving-based team building is a brainstorming experience that brings to light the team’s barriers to success. Once the symptoms have been elicited, the team goes on to examine possible causes, until they reach the root cause of the problem. At this stage, team members are able to develop a concrete action plan to solve the challenge.

This team building approach has great benefits in term of stress relief and positive emotions towards the work environment. Problem-solving-based team building is an outlet for frustrations and a step forward to action. The team building helps the group move beyond inertia, stay motivated and take control over its own destiny. 

Team building is a comprehensive theory encompassing different types of activities with a clear purpose. True team building is certainly fun but also has both intention and determination – Team Building has Purpose!

Team Building with Purpose (Part 4 of 5) by Christina Stewart

In Part four of our five part series we walk through Skills Based team building.  In Part 1 we learned that Team Building has Purpose and that when teams are functioning at their capacity in a productive manner, there is no stopping success.

One option is to Team build through Personality Assessment using something like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator to develop a deeper understanding of why we and our colleagues do things the way we do.  And from understanding often comes conflict reduction.

While Activity Based Team Building is an indirect way of teaching specific skills while brings employees together, skills-based team building means direct learning.

Skills-Based Team Building

In skills-based team building, team members participate in workshops where they learn and practice a specific skill set, such as:

·         Conflict resolution or management

·         Reaching group consensus

·         Give/receive constructive feedback

·         Types of Power, Control and Influence

·         Shifting Perspective

·         Effective Communication

This type of team building focuses on skills that can be applied immediately to the work environment. Human Resource Managers may likewise use this team building approach to develop the leadership potential of members.

Skills Based Team Building is a superb option for developing your employees both for your organization and for themselves.

Next Entry: Team Building through Problem-Solving

Team Building with Purpose (part 3 of 5) by Christina Stewart

We know from reading in part one and part two Team Building with Purpose that team building is a lot more than a frivolous experience; team building is not just a socializing event, team building isn’t just a way to get out of the office for the afternoon. Many people think of team building as fun and games, risk taking adventures, or merely play time. Although there’s more to team building than just that, team building can actually be a ton of fun!

One option is to Team build through Personality Assessment using something like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator to develop a deeper understanding of why we and our colleagues do things the way we do.  And from understanding often comes conflict reduction. 

In Part three of our five part series we walk through activity based team building.  Often, when people think of team building, this is the kind of session they think of.

Activity-Based Team Building:

Activity-based team building is used to provide teams with challenging tasks that often take place in the outdoors:

·         Ropes Course

·         Rafting

·         Mountain Climbing

·         Orienteering

·         Kayaking

·         Survival Events

·         Boot Camp

But there are lots of indoor activities too:

·         Iron Chef Competitions

·         Trivia Battles

·         Scavenger Hunts

·         Video Game Competitions

These kind of activities address specific development needs of teams such as problem solving, risk-taking, trust-building and paradigm breaking.  The idea is not just to have fun together, bond well and learn new skills, but to actually understand how these teamwork lessons can be applied to a work situation. The experience of success in an outdoor challenge can be a great booster for the team’s morale and productivity in the workplace.   

Team Building through Activity can be a tremendous opportunity to bring employees together, see colleagues in a different light and get people working together. Next Entry: Skill Based Team Building

Team Building with a Purpose (Part 2 of 5) by Christina Stewart

Team Building through Personality Assessment – Part 2 of 5

We learned in part one Team Building with Purpose that team building is one of the best investments that an organization can make, but what are some of the options?  What can a company actually do with their team?   In Part two of our five part series we walk through one of those options: Team Building by Personality Assessment. 

Team Building through Personality Assessment:

In personality-based team building, individuals fill out a psychometric test – MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), for example – where they can learn more about their own personalities and those of their teammates as well. The results of the self-assessment are shared with the team and used as a tool for communication and understanding. Personality-based team building is an effective development tool which helps team members gain better self-understanding, become aware of the differences between each other and adjust their behavior to match their teammates’. Different individuals have different motivational needs and different reactions to work situations, stress or change. This can lead people to misinterpret each other’s intentions and actions. Understanding and accepting individual differences will greatly enhance conflict resolution, collaboration and team effectiveness. 

What You Can Expect After a Session – After completion of the MBTI organizations report that they experience:

Improved Communication: A greater understanding of the preferences of others leads to more open and collaborative dialogue throughout teams, between leadership and employees as well as across separate teams of employees.

Improved Team Performance: The insight gained into the preferences of those around you can aid in decision making, training, project management and other workplace initiatives. Also, by understanding the sources of stress for your colleagues team members are better able to aid and avoid pitfalls.

Conflict Resolution: With increased communication and understanding of differences comes a reduction in the nature and severity of usual conflicts within a work environment.  Employees become better at being empathetic colleagues.

Selecting Better Employees and Increased Building of Effective teams: If you understand the underlying dynamics of your teams it becomes easier to hire the right fit as well as to put your teams together.

Team Building through Personality Assessment can be a fabulous way to bring employees together and keep those connections going long after the session ends.

Next Entry: Activity Based Team Building

Team Building with Purpose (part 1 of 5) by Christina Stewart

The words “team building” are bandied about in business and industry – but what does it actually mean?

We know that when teams are functioning at their capacity in a productive manner, there is no stopping success.  We also know the opposite to be true. A team with issues, conflicts or uncertainties, will plod along with success as a far off concept.

Whether in athletics, business, education, government, or a group of people trying to plan a birthday party, things are done smoother and with greater success when people work together towards a common goal. The more effective they are at working as a team, the more fruitful the task they set out to accomplish and additionally, as an added bonus, the greater each team members’ sense of satisfaction.  Provided team members can communicate freely and share confidence in each other’s abilities and judgment, working in a team is the way to go.  Team building is a way to boost confidence in colleagues and ensure that free communication flows. 

Coming together as a group may come naturally for some people, but positive intentions are not enough to turn a group into a team – and a successful, high-performing team at that. HR Leaders know that exceptional teams are built not born. Teams need building and team building is one of the best investments an organization can make. Team building is about creating connections and bringing out the cooperative intellect within the team.

Team Building is an Intervention that:

Solves – Task/Problems

Clarifies – Rules

Solves – Interpersonal Challenges

Enhances – Social Relations

All of which affect team functioning

So, then what is an “Intervention???”

There are four kinds:

·         Team Building through Personality Assessment 

·         Activity-based team building

·         Skills-based team building

·         Team building through problem-solving

Check back soon where we’ll go through each in detail. Next Entry: Team Building through Personality Assessment

Why Praxis? by Drew Stewart

Not unlike many people I know, I didn’t have a professional career path picked out for myself that enabled me to seamlessly transition through High School, Post Secondary and right into the workforce.  My best laid plan was to roll out of bed one day, and magically throw a baseball 100 mph.  Scouts would clamour to sign me and the lineup of teams looking for a lefty flamethrower would rival the headcount for the first McDonalds cheeseburger in Moscow’s Red Square.  Alas, that magic never came. 

I struggled finding something that clicked. Something I could identify as a passion or pursuant interest that would potentially last a lifetime.  Like anyone else without a plan, I tried a wide variety of different things but nothing really stuck. It wasn’t until I started working within the software field, for a video game publisher, that something really clicked for me. Now I know it might seem obvious on the surface, ‘’Young male enjoys working for a video game studio’’ but it was much deeper than that for me. Truth be told, I am not a real avid video game player or enthusiast, only playing casually and sticking to the sports simulation genre. However, what I really loved about working there, was being part of a team.  Being part of a team was tapping into those long held dreams of being an athlete. In fact ‘’ex-athlete” (pick a sport) was a very common part of someone’s CV at the studio.  This wasn’t by accident I’m sure. There is something about the late nights, long days and tight deadlines with members of the same team that creates camaraderie, not unlike a professional locker room. The “we’re are all in this together” mentality. 

At the end of any given project it was always amazing to look back at where we started and how it looked at the end. It made me realize the power of people. In my time there, thankfully there were very few projects that were abysmal failures. It was much more common to come out of the process viewing it as a success.  What I came to learn was that there was a common thread that helped distinguish what made a project successful and want didn’t.  Team Composition.  I found it fascinating with the technology and tools that we had at our disposal, the human element was really the factor that could make or break whether we were successful or not. It was also interesting to see individuals who were utter superstars on one project, struggle on another with a different team. They were after all the same person with the same attributes right? 

It is my interest in human interaction and the power of team that evolved into the formation of PraxisPerformance Group.  We want to open up eyes that your own success can be as simple as optimizing the people that are already onboard with you. Not to mention, opening the eyes of the individuals who work within your company into realizing that varying styles and preferences can become your greatest strength as a team.  

The magic that could have made me part of a World Series Champion never came for me but it’s absence made me able to contribute to making a number of teams stronger.   

“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” 
― Phil Jackson

Ditch the “Trust Fall” and Just Follow Through

Have you ever been depended on for the immediate well being of someone standing directly in front of you?  Have you ever been armed with the knowledge that you are tasked with keeping that person from feeling immediate pain and embarrassment? Knowing that failure to do so will not only result in excruciating pain for the individual but also damage any relationship you might have had with that person, at least for the time being?  Sounds like the description could apply to something life altering and dangerous. However, in this case I am more trying to paint a symbolic picture that is representative of an age old team building trust exercise.  That technique is called the “Trust Fall.” 

For the uninitiated, a Trust Fall is a trust-building game often setup within a group exercise in which a person deliberately allows themselves to fall, relying on another team member to catch the person. As one of 4 siblings we used to do it for fun; to feel the rush of not knowing if (or when) someone was going to catch you.  Of course with family members or close friends, it isn’t long until someone finds it kind of funny to just let the unsuspecting person meet the floor with a thud.  Now the real question is, does it actually develop trust and is it a valuable tool to use in your team building? While there is no scientific evidence that it fosters any elements of trust, it can be used as a metaphor or ice breaking exercise.  So what does help build trust within a team?  The answer is simple; Accountability and Follow Through.

As the saying goes, ‘’trust isn’t given, it is earned.’’ So first we need to allow our fellow team members the opportunity to gain that trust.  As Ernest Hemmingway famously said, ‘’the best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.’’ This is surprisingly difficult for some people. I think we have all worked for or with someone who is considered a micromanager, needing to be involved in everything.  How did that make you feel? For most of us, we feel frustrated, angry and wondering why they can’t just trust us to do our job. Given the opportunity to deliver results, we become motivated to do a good job and not let our team down. Delivering on the results and following through on our commitments, deadlines or deliverables is what builds trust within the team.   It is the commitment we make to one another and following through on those commitments, that really builds trust within a team. 

While I appreciate the symbolism of the Trust Fall and the little anticipatory adrenaline rush it gives, I’d rather put my faith into the hands of a team member who follows through and does exactly what they say they will.

‘’Individual commitment to a group effort - that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.’’  - Vince Lombardi

Motivation and Retention Rate

New ways to motivate your team will likely have crossed your mind at one time or another. What are some of the ideas you’ve come up with?  Money might have landed in your top three.  You may also have considered the team itself that your employee works with or perhaps you’ve thought of looking at location or possibly culture.  If this is true of you, to put it bluntly, you’re wrong.  Factors such as salary, working conditions, interpersonal relationships with colleagues, fairness and friendliness of the supervisor and company policy do little to motivate the average employee.  But they are still very important.  If your employee views any of these as negative or lacking then dissatisfaction will soon follow and this dovetails directly with your retention rate. 

While related, there is a huge difference between motivation and retention.  Imagine this scenario; your top Account Manager, Taylor, feels that your company doesn’t meet the desired work/life balance.  She regularly comes in early in order to catch necessary clients on the East Coast but is still then required to stay until the usual quitting time.  Due to the fact that she is not authorized to leave ‘early’ she’s continually missing her son’s soccer games.  This is the sort of reason why employees move on, which of course impacts turnover rate.   What if you adjusted the work hours in such a way that Taylor could continue to meet the demands of her role and her life? It’s likely that Taylor would feel positively about her working conditions.  In this scenario Taylor’s not likely to move on and therefore the retention rate has increased.  However, since Taylor would view this optimistic work/life balance as the way it should have been all along, this adjustment would most likely have little impact on her motivation. 

To keep your retention higher you will want to look at those factors that aren’t related to the job content, but are related to the job environment (these are listed in the first paragraph.)  If these aspects are absent a dissatisfied workforce is a possibility, which leads to an increase in turnover, and turnover really means higher operating costs for lost production time, recruitment and training.  So before you push for motivation from a team, take a long hard look at the environmental job factors and make sure they are encouraging. 

Motivation comes from the content of the job which has a direct impact on satisfaction.  If someone enjoys what they do and the inherent facets of the job itself, that employee is going to become better at it and more interested in growing with the role.  This improvement equals an increase in production and an increase in production is truly what is desired when speaking about motivating a team. 

So, what are the magical job features that will increase motivation?  In short, the top five are: the work itself; a sense of achievement, earned recognition, the importance of responsibility and the opportunities for growth and advancement.  Besides the job tasks, these all boil down to a team member feeling valued.  So, if you haven’t told your team lately that you appreciate them you might want to simply say “Thank you.” 

Misconceptions in Communicating with Introverts

Working within a team can be a fun and rewarding experience. There is something exciting about coming together as a group and delivering the highest performance possible, while utilizing the skills of everyone involved. With that being said, I have been fortunate enough to work together with a variety of fabulous people and on great teams. However, there have also been teams where it was a constant struggle. I would fantasize about days being ripped off a calendar counting down towards the deadline so we could go just all go our separate ways.  Invariably, at the root of the issues of these dreary and underperforming teams is the ineffective way that we communicated with one another. 

When there is a lack of communication on a team, we tend to fall back on assumptions or completely rely on our own instincts when making decisions. These judgements completely dismiss the advantages of teamwork altogether.  Teams are generally made up of a variety of individuals who bring with them varied experiences, personalities and ideas. Getting input and leveraging all that knowledge would seem to be of great value, keeping in mind the old saying of ‘’Two heads are better than one.’’   Assumptions and misconceptions, in place of simple communication, can be especially dangerous when it comes to decision making. 

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) theorizes, in part, that people have preferences in behavior with how they like to operate within their ‘’Favorite World.’’  Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world? This is called Introversion and Extraversion. These are fairly common words that I believe most people have the understanding on what they generally mean. But how do they help in communicating with one another? And what assumptions do we have about Introverts or Extraverts that get in the way of harmonious team?

Introverts typically like to live in a world where they can think things through thoroughly before making their thoughts public. They tend to be more introspective and do all the refining of their ideas internally. When the idea is presented to the group, it is usually very polished and close to what they feel is a final version.  Where a negative assumption comes into play is the misconception that Introverted personalities are too quiet and not offering anything up in a team meeting or brainstorming session. In reality, they have great ideas but they just have not had the chance to be refined. They are not generally comfortable in throwing those ideas out as an Extravert is. Ever been part of a brainstorming session and wonder why a handful of people are very quiet and don’t seem to be offering anything up? Chances are, they are an Introvert. Again, the misconception is that they have no ideas and sometimes leads one to think they are not valuable and maybe are not simply smart enough to contribute.  In our human nature when we feel someone isn’t contributing, we tend to cut them out of any future thought processes or team decisions because clearly they are not invested in what we are doing. This is not reality.  What would work best would be recognizing someone who might be more introverted and allowing them the time to go back from a meeting and give their thoughts after they have had time to think about it.  Brain storming sessions are a great way to get everyone involved but keep them open ended and allow people to still input after the meeting is over.