Archive for Change

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.

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Possibility…

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.

Possibility.

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.

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We are all so many things…

Sometimes ideas for this blog come from the strangest places. It might be a lightning-struck tree that sparks thoughts of fragility, or time spent weeding flower beds that germinates reflections on care and mindfulness. Wherever we look, something always emerges.

Today, it’s a photograph. This one:

The flying fish is an odd, odd creature, and not just because of the way it lives in two worlds. Each of the more than sixty species are structured precisely to their purpose, able to propel themselves out of the water for brief periods before returning. They are attracted to light—a trait easily anthropomorphized as spiritual—and exhibit behaviors both regal (as in the broad and noble “wingspan”) and frivolous (as in the curlicued trailing wake).  Too, they are excellent swimmers, gaining speeds of nearly forty miles per hour on their way to breaking the surface.

This living in two worlds—and adapting perfectly to each one—reminds me that each of us also lives in multiple worlds. We have home lives and work lives, family lives and friendship lives. We wear personas for each, shifting easily (most of the time), moving from metaphorical water to air and back to water.

What does this mean for us as leaders?

It’s easy to develop a profile of those with whom you work, to cast them in bas relief as employee, or team member, or contributor. Such roles are important, providing a sense of definition and the accompanying responsibilities and expectations that come with it. However, it is often too easy to forget that the people we work with are so much more than just that one definition, that each of them, like the flying fish, can leap and dive among roles, can be more than employee, or team member, or contributor.

Each person we manage arrives to work each day, quickly shifting from sea to sky. We lead them through the air, guiding them through eight hours before they slowly shift back to the sea. It’s also worth remembering that each lives a life of more than just one role, and that they bring with them each day the cares, concerns, emotions, and upheavals of all the worlds they inhabit. As leaders, we do well to remember the complexity of each person, noting how they shift, how they participate, and how they live.

And how they fly.

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Changing Thoughts

Change is hard.

I know that all of us in the Leadership and HR fields write about it endlessly, offering sometimes facile reminders like “The only constant in life is that everything changes,” or “To improve is to change.” And those clichés—well-worn because they’re true—are certainly worth remembering.

But we know, deep down, that it’s not quite that simple.

We often write about change as it happens to others: our employees, our teammates, our family members and friends. It’s easy, then, to offer simple advice because, after all, it’s happening to someone else. But when it happens to you, then you remember the truth of just what change really is.

Change is hard.

Try to remember the last time a big change occurred in your life. Perhaps it was a relocation from a place you had lived for many years to a place much less familiar. Or maybe it was a job change, and the trepidation that came from walking in that first day, not knowing anyone at all and suddenly realizing that you were now surrounded by relative strangers with whom you were about to spend eight or more hours a day, every day. Or maybe it was a sadder, more personal event, like the occasion when your first-born left for college and you realized that a voice, a pattern of footsteps, which had become part of you had now wrenched free.

If you’re like the rest of us, then it didn’t much matter whether someone offered you a timeless homily, didn’t matter if someone suggested you plan out what you would do next. If you’re like the rest of us then a big change hit you in the gut, sparked a viscerally emotional response. That was what needed to be dealt with before you could move forward—the feelings sparked by a major change in your life.

I sometimes wonder whether we, as consultants, as professionals, as experts, take the few needed moments to recall that when we help our organizations deal with change, there are very real people dealing with those changes, and most of those people are not thinking about denial and bartering, or Bridges’ famous model, or the precise ways in which communications are flowing from one group to the other. What most of them are probably thinking about—and quite justifiably—are What does this mean to me? and Will anyone listen to me? and What comes next?

We’ve all immersed ourselves in the how of helping organizations cope with change. We need, equally, to remember the how of helping people cope with change. In fact the latter, I would argue, is far more important, for it’s the people that create our organizations. It is always crucial—in any “change project”—that we take the time to talk to people, to find out what they are feeling, to let them know that it’s okay, and to help them through it. Only then can organizations effectively manage change.

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