Archive for May, 2015

It’s the Little Things that Matter….

A typical weekend for us might look like this:

There’s a lawn to mow, naturally, and some laundry that needs doing. Perhaps a blazer and a couple of sweaters need dropping off at the dry cleaners. Food shopping, without a doubt, hopefully at some non-peak hour when we won’t find ourselves in a checkout line that resembles the wait for a ride at Disneyland. We might also go to a movie, or perhaps a hike with our dog, Zoe, who manages off-leash commands quite well and loves to play with any other dogs rambling along the trail. We’ll also most likely need to gas up the car and, oh yes, run either a dust cloth or vacuum over our home’s horizontal surfaces.

When Monday arrives invariably someone will ask, “How was your weekend?” to which we’ll likely reply, “Pretty good. The weather was perfect so we took Zoe and headed up to Riddle Brook Park.”

Nary a mention of anything else, and why would there be? All those other things we did (which probably took up most of that “pretty good” weekend) are the kinds of things that everyone does all the time. No one needs to talk about them; they’re assumed.

The time at Riddle Brook Park was wonderful, of course, but was it more important than everything else we did? Not really. All those other things—the routine, run-of-the-mill, gotta-get-done maintenance tasks of life—are the true engines that keeps things moving. Imagine if all we ever did was go hiking, or to the movies, or to concerts. Our lives would suffer rapidly and seriously. All those other things are critical activities, even if we don’t pay them much attention.

Our lives as leaders, it turns out, aren’t that different. Oh, sure: we work hard to have those great events for our employees—the development programs, the holiday parties, the summer picnics. Those are valuable and remembered. But equally valuable (perhaps even more so) are those smaller repeated tasks that keep things running smoothly every single day. The good mornings, the smiles, the one-on-one conversations, the mentoring and coaching sessions, the problem solving meetings…. the time spent, each day, with those who work for us, those who make us, as leaders, successful.

When we maintain our employee relationships we encourage a better life for ourselves and those around us.  It may not be what we remember, it may not be shiny and glossy, and it may not have the same cache as a big celebration or big event, but it’s what makes everything work for us, each and every day.


Why we call it “Team Building”

Teams are interesting things, shifting and changing both in composition and direction, constantly fluid even while team members work hard to stay focused on a specific set of goals and objectives.

It almost doesn’t matter what kind of team you’re talking about for this to be true. There are famous rock bands, for example, that have changed personnel over the years and have seen their “sound” change along with it, yet the basic goal—producing quality music, remains unchanged. The same holds true for sports teams, pit crews, and the casts of successful TV shows. A good example of the latter is the original CSI which, after fifteen years and numerous cast changes, still pumps out the same solid formula week after week. (And Saturday Night Live has been doing it for forty years, consistently defying one premature obituary after another!)

It’s an absolute fact that teams and team members have a flow to them. And if it’s true for the kinds of teams outlined above, then it must be true for your teams, too.

The difference we often find, though, is that the bands, sports teams, and television casts never seem to be done “building” their teams. They know change is a constant; the makeup of a team can (and will) alter and they can never say that they’re “done” building.

Yet those of us in business sometimes forget that a team is never “built,” but always “building.” We too often allocate time to getting a team off the ground, but then, once it’s up and running, tend to leave it alone. As leaders, it’s important to remember that team-building activities are not “one-and-done” efforts, but ongoing and necessary parts of continued success.

Whether they are rock bands, sports franchises, casts of actors—or organizational constructs—teams compose, compete, perform, and execute, all while in a constant state of subtle flux and change. As leaders, we best serve our teams by never forgetting that building is a process, not an activity, and that truly great teams are those that embrace that process as an ongoing part of growth.



This week Renee heads up to Maine, where she’ll lead a session at the Maine HR Convention, which also commemorates its 20-year anniversary. She’s done this for a few years running now, and her sessions always focus on a book that she’s found both enlightening and practical. This year she’s introducing The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander.

The book covers a variety of interesting perspectives, many related to Benjamin Zanders’ experiences as an orchestra conductor. The Zanders discuss frameworks of leadership, the importance of speaking possibility, enrolling others in your vision, and how best to listen to the voice in your head. Their views truly open up new ideas of furthering “possibility,” providing us with guidance that can inform how we engage with others in ways that are productive, creative, and inspiring. The book’s concepts instantly resonate with HR leaders.

“Possibility” is a wonderful and powerful word, isn’t it? It’s the stoker’s fuel, the swimmer’s stroke, the pilot’s current. Possibility can take us anywhere, allow us to do anything, reach for any goal. It’s a word steeped in color and vision.


Each of us is surrounded daily by possibility. We see options and we make choices. Many of them are repeats of choices made the day before, or the week before, or the year before, while others are new, unique. Some are mundane—choosing breakfast, for example—while others are life-changing, like offering up a ring from one bent knee. Some are innovative. Some challenge us to try new things, while others limit opportunities.

What’s important, though, is not which possibilities we explore and which we don’t, but that we recognize that the possibilities are always there. Too often we encounter possibility like a butterfly encounters the air. It is so much a part of existence that we don’t even know it’s there. But it is. Each day we experience it, breathe it, catch its flow.

What the Zanders remind us—over and above their specific notions of Capital-P Possibility, is that possibility is constant, always with us, always presenting opportunities for change, innovation, and growth. It’s just there for our taking.

Photo courtesy of lightwise.