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Posts Tagged ‘team building’

Make It Safe to Tell the Truth – Working Well With Coworkers

Giving feedback upwards is hard. Giving feedback downward is hard. Giving feedback to peers can be the hardest of all. We work closely with our peers. They’re often our friends. And still, we need to be able to speak freely when our coworkers violate our expectations.

The key to being able to give peers feedback (to give anyone feedback) is to agree that doing so is not only acceptable but expected. Before agreeing to give and receive feedback, peers need to set clear expectations of how they’ll work together and treat each other.

Telling people how you want to work with them is always easier than asking someone to change their behavior. But it often just doesn’t occur to us to tell our peers what we want and need from them. We’re busy. They’re busy. And don’t they already know what courteous workplace behavior looks like? Return all emails within a day or two, tell people if you’re running behind on a project and will miss a deadline, and call into meetings on time from a quiet workspace. Aren’t all of these behaviors fairly obvious? Do I really need to tell people these are my expectations? Uh….yes, you do.

If you don’t want employees dumping these challenges on their managers, help employees talk to each other.

Here are seven steps to help people who work together set expectations and hold each other accountable:

  1. Schedule a meeting during which people working together can discuss what they need from each other to be satisfied and productive. Then facilitate a discussion during which the group creates 5 – 7 behavior guidelines each person agrees to follow.
  2. Put the list of agreed-upon behaviors in a shared folder. Leave the guidelines there indefinitely.
  3. Give each person in the group permission to talk to individuals who violate the guidelines. This is very, very important. For the most part, employees won’t tell a peer s/he is missing deadlines, gossiping, or is distracted during meetings. People will suffer in silence and avoid the offender rather than speak up about the behaviors that frustrate them.

Ask the group to grant each other permission to speak up when guidelines are violated. Giving each other permission to speak up will make future conversations possible – difficult but possible. Without permission and these agreed-upon behaviors in place, people will suffer in silence or talk about each other, not to each other.

  1. Ask everyone in the workgroup to take feedback graciously, responding with “thank you for telling me,” rather than with defensiveness.
  2. Two weeks after making the list of guidelines, get the group together on a call to review the list, and make any necessary changes to it. Discuss behaviors that were omitted, aren’t realistic, and are realistic but aren’t being followed.
  3. Then follow up by facilitating a monthly conversation during which group members give honest feedback about which guidelines are being followed and which are not, and problem solve as a group. These conversations aren’t a chance to embarrass or call people out in front of a large group. If one person is violating a guideline, that conversation should happen individually. Group conversations keep the lines of communication open – which is essential to making working with others work.
  4. You will need a strong facilitator for the group discussions. The facilitator must tease out people’s thoughts while making sure no one gets blasted in front of the group. Don’t let concerns, that you know exist, be brushed under the rug. Group members must openly and regularly discuss what is and isn’t working about their work environment, or frustrations will build, and unhappiness and dissension will ensue.

It’s not too late to put these practices in place, even with a group that has been working together for a long time. Just schedule the conversation and explain why you’re having it. People will be relieved and grateful.


Change Your Expectations for Better Working Relationships

The days I’ve struggled to be with my young son during this stay-at-home period are the days his behavior is other than I expect. Jumping, running, and racing around at bedtime when I expect it to be a calm, quiet time. Eating ice cream sandwiches before breakfast when I had already said no. Continuing to play during clean-up time when we had agreed to clean up toys together.

Working with our coworkers, managers, employees, and customers is not different. “I tell people if I’m going to be late or not attend a meeting. Why can’t other people do that?” “I touch base with my employees weekly to see what they need. Why can’t my boss do that?” “I tell vendors if I don’t want to do business with them. Why can’t potential customers just tell me if they don’t want to work with us?”

All of these frustrations stem from violated expectations. I expected you to do x. You did y. That’s – irritating, infuriating, flabbergasting.

To be less frustrated and enjoy working with others more, change your expectations.

I know bedtime is going to be wild, so I need to budget more time to allow for running and jumping before we settle into our bedtime routine. Or better yet, I need to accept that running and jumping are part of our bedtime routine. If someone has a history of not responding to emails or phone calls, I give them more lead time knowing I won’t hear back for a week. I work with the person instead of against them.

It’s easy to think that changing expectations is the same as lowering expectations. It really isn’t. It’s altering the way we work with people to reduce struggle. It’s working with versus working against. Altering expectations is challenging. It takes a lot of patience and preparation.

Below are four ways to change your expectations with people who don’t do things as you think they should:

Remind yourself how this person engages, based on your past experiences with the person. Not to be cynical, but your coworker will likely do something today the same way she did it last week. Remembering how people typically work will help you set your expectations accordingly and you’re likely to be less frustrated when she takes a week to reply to an email.

Set clear expectations when you begin working with people. “I need to get back to my client with this information by Wednesday. I know that’s a quick turn-around. If I don’t hear back from you tomorrow, what’s the best way to get in touch with you?”

I need to tell my son that if he eats sweets when he isn’t supposed to, I won’t buy any more. When it’s clean-up time, any toy my son doesn’t help put away goes into storage for a while.

Follow through on the expectations you’ve set. If you told your coworker you’re going to call and text when you haven’t heard back from them, you need to do that. If the agreement is to escalate when something isn’t done or that you do it yourself and that person isn’t able to provide input, you need to do that.

Following through on expectations is tricky. No one wants to be the ‘’bad or mean” person who holds others to account. And sometimes holding people to established expectations results in anger and backlash.

I’ll never forget the first time I taught at the graduate level at a local university. I set the expectation that I would deduct 10% from assignments that were turned in late. When I followed through on that expectation my students were irate and complained to the Dean, telling her I was unfair.

It was hard to reduce students’ grades. But if I didn’t follow through when expectations were violated, there was no point in setting expectations. It only undermines me and makes me seem like a person who doesn’t mean what she says.

Lastly, be real with people, not harsh or stringent, but real. If you’re struggling to work with someone or struggling to follow through on expectations, tell people that.

“I really need to get this information by Friday, and I don’t know what to do. I’m feeling stuck.”

“I want us to have a good working relationship, but I see that we’re struggling. Can we talk about it?” “I’m realizing I need more contact with you. How can we find 15-minutes a week to connect live?”

No communication techniques supersede being authentic and courageous. When you don’t know what to do or say, just be real. “I’m realizing this isn’t working but I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to go around you. What do you think we should do?” Working with other people and being a powerful communicator takes courage.

People aren’t us. They won’t do things our way. To be less frustrated, alter your expectations. Be ready for others to do things their way and plan for that. And when you can, set clear expectations with everyone involved in how projects and work will be managed. And it’s ok to get upset and express frustration. Be real, be yourself, and plan ahead.


Bowling Is Not Team Building

Early in my career, I worked with a woman with whom I didn’t get along. We were on the same team and had the same job, but didn’t see eye to eye on how to approach work or solve problems. And when we didn’t agree, things got ugly. I have to admit to being afraid of her. She was nasty when things didn’t go her way.

The odd thing is that socially, we did fine. When our team socialized outside of work, we had fun and got along well. That’s when I realized that there was no correlation between getting along outside of work and working well together.

Lots of teams go bowling, to baseball games, and out for happy hour as team building activities. And while team members may enjoy being together at these events and getting to know each other personally, they don’t learn team members’ working style preferences, the work others are really good at, and the things at which team members are not as good.

Go bowling or out for happy hour, just don’t expect people to work better together after doing those activities. If you want to do impactful team building activities, give team members a chance to learn about each other and themselves, and make agreements of how team members will work together in the future. Create occasions for candid conversations.

When I lead corporate team building activities, I put people in small groups, give the group a box of Candor Questions for Team Building and time to answer the questions. One person in the group asks one question from the box. Everyone in the group answers that person’s question. The person who asked the question then answers his own question. Then another person on the team asks a question and so on. A great conversation always ensues.

People talk about things they should have and wished they were talked about when they started working together. Team members learn about each other’s work style preferences and what each person needs from both the job and each other. But most importantly, team members have permission to talk about things they normally don’t, and begin to create a climate of candor, which is essential for any group of people working together. For a team to work well together, it must be safe to tell the truth. Teams need to talk about the things that impact them most – each other.

So go bowling and out for happy hour. But also create opportunities for team members to talk about the things that matter most — how they impact each other at work.

workplace communication


Make It Safe to Tell the Truth – Holding Peers Accountable

Giving feedback upwards is hard. Giving feedback downward is hard. Giving feedback to peers can be the hardest of all. We work closely with our peers. They’re often our friends. And still, we need to be able to speak freely when our coworkers violate our expectations.

The key to being able to give peers feedback (to give anyone feedback) is to agree that doing so is not only acceptable but expected. Before agreeing to give and receive feedback, peers need to set clear expectations of how they’ll work together and treat each other.

Telling people how you want them to behave is always easier than correcting a behavior. But it often just doesn’t occur to us to tell our peers what we want and need from them. We’re busy. They’re busy. And don’t they already know what courteous workplace behavior looks like? Return all emails within a day or two, keep your workspace quiet so others can focus, turn off your personal cell phone alerts at work, take personal calls away from your desk, and don’t wear anything scented at work. Aren’t all of these behaviors fairly obvious? Do I really need to people these are my expectations? Uh….yes, you do.

If you don’t want employees dumping these challenges at their managers’ doors, help employees talk to each other.

Here are seven steps to help people who work closely together set expectations and hold each other accountable:

  1. Schedule a meeting during which people working together can discuss the working environment they need to be satisfied and productive. Then facilitate a discussion during which the group creates 5 – 7 behavior guidelines each person agrees to follow.
  1. Post the list of agreed-upon behaviors on a poster that is large enough to be read from any place in the work environment, or virtually. Leave the guidelines posted indefinitely.
  1. Give each person in the group permission to talk to individuals who violate the guidelines. This is very, very important. For the most part, employees won’t tell a peer s/he is missing deadlines, gossiping, talking too loudly, has too many visitors at her desk, listens to music or videos without headphones, or is distracted with personal calls/texts. People will suffer in silence and avoid the offender rather than speak up about the behaviors that frustrate them.

Ask the group to grant each other permission to speak up when guidelines are violated. Giving each other permission to speak up will make future conversations possible – difficult but possible. Without permission and these agreed-upon behaviors in place, people will suffer in silence or talk about each other, not to each other.

  1. Ask everyone in the work group to take feedback graciously, responding with “thank you for telling me,” rather than with defensiveness.
  1. Two weeks after making the list of guidelines, get the group together to review the list and make any necessary changes to it. Discuss behaviors that were omitted, aren’t realistic, and are realistic but aren’t being followed.
  1. Then follow up by facilitating a monthly conversation during which group members give honest feedback about which guidelines are being followed and which are not, and problem solve as a group. These conversations aren’t a chance to embarrass or call people out in front of a large group. If one person is violating a guideline, that conversation should happen individually. Group conversations keep the lines of communication open – which is essential to making working with others work.
  1. You will need a strong facilitator for the group discussions. The facilitator must tease out people’s thoughts, while making sure no one gets blasted in front of the group. Don’t let concerns, that you know exist, be brushed under the rug. Group members must openly and regularly discuss what is and isn’t working about their work environment, or frustrations will build, and unhappiness and dissension will ensue.

It’s not too late to put these practices in place, even with a group that has been working together for a long time. Just schedule the conversation and explain why you’re having it. People will be relieved and grateful.


Ask Real Team Building Questions – Bowling Doesn’t Cut It

team building questions

Regardless of who your company’s org chart says you should work with, people work with the people they want to work with and around those they don’t. One way to get people working with you (by choice) is to get to know your coworkers better, and I don’t mean personally.

Most people don’t know the people they work with very well. Coworkers often don’t know what fellow team members are tasked with doing for the company, their past work experience, education, or working style preferences. They often don’t know how fellow team members like to receive information, but get annoyed when they don’t return unopened emails.

If you’ve had any team building training with me, you know I advocate getting to know people better by asking more questions.

Organizations spend a lot of money on team building. Teams go bowling, out to happy hour, and have pot luck lunches, etc. All of those activities are fun and build comradery, and that’s important. But comradery and enjoying spending time together outside of work won’t help a team learn to communicate or overcome challenges.

If you’re really committed to team building and working well with people, ask more questions at the onset and throughout working relationships.

Here are five team building questions coworkers should be asking each other:

  1. What are your pet peeves? How would I frustrate you and not even know it?
  2. Are you a big picture or detail oriented person? Should I send you information in bullets or paragraphs?
  3. What are you best at doing? What type of work could you be doing that you’re not doing now?
  4. What are you working on now? What are your priorities for the next six months?
  5. What’s something I could do differently that would make your job easier? (You will survive the answer. I promise)

Your manager may coordinate an activity that gives your team the ability to ask questions like this, and s/he might not. Either way, ask the questions and be forthcoming if others ask you for this information. It’s not just your manager’s job to get your team working well together.

Your daily experience at work – how much you get done, how easily you get that work done, and how much fun you have along the way – is largely dependent on the people you work with. Don’t leave your working relationships to chance. Be assertive. Get to know people better. Ask more questions and offer information about yourself.

team building questions


Ask Team Building Questions and Have More Fun at Work

We added to our team at Candid Culture a few weeks ago, so we did what I teach other organizations to do –used Candor Questions to onboard our new team member, and help the entire team get to know each other better.

I sent my team the Candor Questions below and asked them to pick a few additional team building questions for everyone on the team to answer.

  • What will keep you working here and what would make you leave?
  • What’s the best way to get information to you – voicemail, text, or email?
    • What time is too early?
    • What time is too late?
    • Do you leave your email and/or text alerts on at night/when you go to sleep?
    • Would you prefer I send all emails and text messages during regular business hours?
  • What frustrates you at work?
  • What are your pet peeves?
  • What’s something you want to learn, skill or business wise, that you haven’t had a chance to do?
  • What’s something you wish I would start, stop, or continuing doing?

We run so fast at work and are so focused on completing goals, we often don’t take the time to really get to know the people we work with. I feel very strongly that asking the team building questions above will help people work better together. We’ll make fewer ‘mistakes’ with each other, and get more done with less stress and more ease. As William Ury said in his book, Getting to Yes, “Go slow to go fast.”

team building questions

How many times have you sent someone five emails and become frustrated when none were returned? Or you thought an employee was happy, only to be surprised when she quit? Or you needed to talk with someone but couldn’t get her attention, so you walked by her office throughout the day, wondering if it was ok to knock? Working with other people doesn’t have to be so hard.

Taking the time to ask team building questions is much faster than recovering from missteps with other people. Ask the questions at the beginning of anything new – when you hire a new employee, get a new customer, or start a new project. And keep asking the questions as you work with people.

Asking questions about working style preferences and goals is an ongoing process, and it’s never too late. You can ask the team building questions during meetings or just slip them into your conversations. The process doesn’t have to be formal or time consuming. The point is simply, don’t guess what people need and are expecting from you, ask.

team building questions


Ask Real Team Building Questions – Bowling Doesn’t Cut It

team building questions

Regardless of who your company’s org chart says you should work with, people work with the people they want to work with and around those they don’t. One way to get people working with you (by choice) is to get to know your coworkers better, and I don’t mean personally.

Most people don’t know the people they work with very well. Coworkers often don’t know what fellow team members are tasked with doing for the company, their past work experience, education, or working style preferences. They often don’t know how fellow team members like to receive information, but get annoyed when they don’t return unopened emails.

If you’ve had any team building training with me, you know I advocate getting to know people better by asking more questions.

Organizations spend a lot of money on team building. Teams go bowling, out to happy hour, and have pot luck lunches, etc. All of those activities are fun and build comradery, and that’s important. But comradery and enjoying spending time together outside of work won’t help a team learn to communicate or overcome challenges.

If you’re really committed to team building and working well with people, ask more questions at the onset and throughout working relationships.

Here are five team building questions coworkers should be asking each other:

  1. What are your pet peeves? How would I frustrate you and not even know it?
  2. Are you a big picture or detail oriented person? Should I send you information in bullets or paragraphs?
  3. What are you best at doing? What type of work could you be doing that you’re not doing now?
  4. What are you working on now? What are your priorities for the next six months?
  5. What’s something I could do differently that would make your job easier? (You will survive the answer. I promise)

Your manager may coordinate an activity that gives your team the ability to ask questions like this, and s/he might not. Either way, ask the questions and be forthcoming if others ask you for this information. It’s not just your manager’s job to get your team working well together.

Your daily experience at work – how much you get done, how easily you get that work done, and how much fun you have along the way – is largely dependent on the people you work with. Don’t leave your working relationships to chance. Be assertive. Get to know people better. Ask more questions and offer information about yourself.

team building questions


Ask Team Building Questions and Be Less Frustrated at Work

We added to our team at Candid Culture a few weeks ago, so we did what I teach other organizations to do –use Candor Questions to onboard our new team member, and help the entire team get to know each other better.

I sent my team the Candor Questions below and asked them to pick a few additional team building questions for everyone on the team to answer.

  • What will keep you working here and what would make you leave?
  • What’s the best way to get information to you – voicemail, text, or email?
    • What time is too early?
    • What time is too late?
    • Do you leave your email and/or text alerts on at night/when you go to sleep?
    • Would you prefer I send all emails and text messages during regular business hours?
  • What frustrates you at work?
  • What are your pet peeves?
  • What’s something you want to learn, skill or business wise, that you haven’t had a chance to do?
  • What’s something you wish I would start, stop, or continuing doing?

We run so fast at work and are so focused on completing goals, we often don’t take the time to really get to know the people we work with. I feel very strongly that asking the team building questions above will help people work better together. We’ll make fewer ‘mistakes’ with each other, and get more done with less stress and more ease. As William Ury said in his book, Getting to Yes, “Go slow to go fast.”

team building questions

How many times have you sent someone five emails and become frustrated when none were returned? Or you thought an employee was happy, only to be surprised when she quit? Or you needed to talk with someone but couldn’t get her attention, so you walked by her office throughout the day, wondering if it was ok to knock? Working with other people doesn’t have to be so hard.

Taking the time to ask team building questions is much faster than recovering from missteps with other people. Ask the questions at the beginning of anything new – when you hire a new employee, get a new customer, or start a new project. And keep asking the questions as you work with people.

Asking questions about working style preferences and goals is an ongoing process, and it’s never too late. You can ask the team building questions during meetings or just slip them into your conversations. The process doesn’t have to be formal or time consuming. The point is simply, don’t guess what people need and are expecting from you, ask.

team building questions


Corporate Team Building Activities Don’t Include Bowling

About fifteen years ago, I worked with a woman with whom I didn’t get along. We were on the same team and had the same job, but didn’t see eye to eye on how to approach work or solve problems. And when we didn’t agree, things got ugly. I have to admit to being afraid of her. She was nasty when things didn’t go her way.

corporate-team-buildingThe odd thing is that socially, we did fine. When our team socialized outside of work, we had fun and got along well. That’s when I realized that there was no correlation between getting along outside of work and working well together.

Lots of teams go bowling, to baseball games, and out for happy hour as corporate team building activities. And while team members may enjoy being together at these events and get to know each other better personally, they don’t learn team members’ working style preferences, the work others are really good at, and the things at which team members are not as good.

Go bowling or out for happy hour, just don’t expect people to work better together after doing those activities. If you want to do corporate team building activities, give team members a chance to learn about each other and themselves, and make agreements of how team members will work together in the future. Create occasions for candor.

When I lead corporate team building activities, I put people in small groups, give the group a box of Candor Questions to Say Anything to Anyone, and time to answer the questions. One person in the group asks one question from the box. Everyone in the group answers that person’s question. The person who asked the question then answers his own question. Then another person on the team asks a question and so on. A great conversation always ensues.

People talk about things they should have and wished they’re talked about when they started working together. Team members learn about each others’ work style preferences and what each person needs from both the job and each other. But most importantly, team members have permission to talk about things they normally don’t, and begin to create a climate of candor, which is essential for any group of people working together. For a team to work well together, it must be safe to tell the truth. Teams need to talk about the things that impact them most –each other.

So go bowling and out for happy hour. But also create opportunities for team members to talk about the things that matter most –how they impact each other at work.

corporate team building


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