29 November 2011

7 Observed Characteristics of High Performing Teams

Through experience of working with teams from all manner of diverse organisations, we have observed 7 consistent characteristics that differentiate the high-performing teams, in any environment, from the rest.  In order to consistently stay ahead of the pack, a high performing team will typically exhibit the following characteristics:

1 – A clearly defined vision and goals

A team differentiates itself from a group by having a shared goal.  The high-performing team differentiates itself further by having a clear vision that describes the team’s very reason for being.  It sets, communicates, and reviews SMART goals that support this vision so that its members are clear about their priorities, and as a result consistently act in ways that support the team’s overall mission and goals.

2 – Clear team roles

All team members understand their roles and those played by others, and efficiently utilise  every team member’s  skills and abilities. They are also clear about the connection between team goals and their day-to-day activities.

3 – Effective team leadership

Team leaders define the team’s goals and priorities, encourage collaboration among team members, clarify priorities on a continuous basis, and work constantly to create a supportive team environment.

4 – World class communication

Members of a high-performing team share information freely, openly, and honestly; listen to each other; and regularly offer each other constructive and positive feedback.  Information is disseminated regularly through formal and informal means.  Meetings are managed effectively to be focused, timely and necessary.

5 – Positive relationships

Team members respect, support, cooperate with, and trust each other. Such teams proactively work to build positive relationships. Teambuilding activities are carried out as part of an ongoing process of managing the work environment, encouraging the active participation of all team members.

6 – Development opportunities

Members of a high-performing team have access to ongoing development opportunities in technical, professional, and interpersonal skills, through a variety of means including formal training, coaching and mentoring, and developmental assignments.

7 – Timely Decision-making and problem-solving

A high-performing team will identify and resolve problems, manage conflict, and make decisions effectively and in a timely manner.  Team members are actively involved and brought in to the process as appropriate.

ACT Now Team Development Ltd. specialises in the area of working to help teams develop through teambuilding activities, coaching, workshops, and facilitation, all of which align perfectly with the goal of developing the characteristics above.  Please contact us if you want to know how we can help to keep your team ahead of the pack.

1 November 2011

Key Coaching Skills: Active Listening

Flick through the index of almost any book on coaching, and you will find more page references to listening than any other topic.

Alison Hardingham asserts that active listening “is the single most important skill for a coach” and that “questioning is the second most important skill, and together with active listening probably achieves 80% of the positive outcome of coaching”.  

The criticality of deep listening is a common thread throughout coaching literature. No doubt is left in the reader’s mind that to be a good listener one must be an active listener. Hardingham explains that to be actively listening the listener must demonstrate their level of attention. This includes both verbal and non-verbal signals that they are genuinely absorbing and responding to what is being said. A good listener will be both audibly (through encouraging noises and words) and visibly (through attentive body language) signalling that the listener has their full attention.

As well as indicating their level of attention, good listeners are not just listening to what is said, but also to how it is said, and to what is not said. Julie Starr points out that paying attention to and picking up on the tone of voice enables the listener to hear beyond the superficial level of the words spoken and potentially uncover far more subtle information.

Bob Thomson describes Levels of Listening, the inference in each version being that the higher the level the better the listener. In Thomson’s version the steps are:
  • Not listening
  • Listening, waiting to speak
  • Listening to disagree
  • Listening to understand
  • Listening to help the client understand
Any coach must spend the vast majority of their time either listening to understand, or better still, listening to help the client understand.

Nancy Kline talks about the fact that people interrupting is a ritual of power, and in many organisations urgency is actively cultivated, leading to situations where whole organisations seem “pathologically incapable of listening”. The corollary is that, to be a good listener, one must be at ease with oneself. Being at ease with oneself makes it easier to operate at higher levels of listening, without feeling the need to interject. 
Almost everyone will tell you they are a good listener, but active listening, listening to help the client understand are skills that a coach takes years to master.

If you would like to experience what it is really like to be listened to then try a free trial coaching session.  You hold the answers to your own challenges in your mind - you just need someone to listen to you to help to break through all the noise.

28 September 2011

Businesses need coaches just as much as sports teams

Even with the best products or services if your team is dysfunctional your business is destined to fail.  Compare this to the misfiring sports team packed full of international stars behaving as individuals and you can see how sometimes the failure of teams to gel can lead to significant under-performance.   

In sport, teams are constantly trained and measured:
  • They have very clear objectives
  • Feedback is constant and instantaneous, with video replays, statistical analysis, and clear outcomes
  • Successes and failures of both individual players and the team are widely communicated

A successful sports team has hands on coaches who manage the team with clear goals. The players are trained in new skills and taught new tactics and winning strategies and are constantly coached. And at the highest level teams are managed by the best coaches money can buy.  When a coach fails at this level the team does not reject the idea of coaching, but instead finds a better coach.

In business teams lack many of the factors that work in sports teams. The typical business team is a group of people, each recruited to fulfil a specific role, rather than to complement the team.  The leader is a working part of the team, often only leading as a result of past performance as a team member. He or she may have little or no training in how to lead or direct a team, and usually little time to even meet with members, let alone the time or ability to coach them.

Evaluation of the team tends to come just once a year, and can then often be a fairly meaningless exercise. The evaluation process rarely results in a more highly functioning team.

So what can business teams learn from sports teams?  Business teams, in order to be successful, have to be formed and then managed in much the same way as a sports team, with clear goals and valued team members who receive new skills, learn new tactics and winning strategies, and are constantly coached.  Failure to provide professional coaching for the business team is just as ridiculous as it would be for a professional sports team not to have a coach.

8 September 2011

7 simple ways to generate more enquiries for your business.

This week's guest blogger is Dave Sharpe, MD of Local Faces Ltd.

These 7 powerful principles have transformed the fortunes of many local businesses. Take a minute to read through each one and consider how they could benefit your business. They may seem obvious at first glance, but ask yourself… do you actually apply them on a regular basis?

1.      BE PERSONAL… Stop hiding behind your logo… ‘people do business with people’! When showcasing your business, introduce the people behind your brand – it builds a huge amount of trust, brings your company to life and makes your potential customers feel at ease when making contact with you.

2.      BE KNOWN… Most business opportunities come as a direct result of people knowing each other. Get yourself known personally by those who can refer business to you, build mutually-beneficial relationships and pro-actively generate ongoing ‘word of mouth’ opportunities.

3.      BE FOUND… Make sure that when potential customers are searching for information relating to your specific services they end up with your business in front of them. These people are looking to do business with someone… make sure they find YOU.

4.      BE INTERESTING… Potential customers like lots of useful and interesting information but only if it’s well written and simple to understand. Give your potential customers the information they want to know in a clear and easy to read format.

5.      BE CREDIBLE… People are less trusting than ever. Make sure that potential customers perceive you to be an expert in your field and give lots of supporting evidence to back up your reliability and quality of service.

6.      BE IN TOUCH… People’s circumstances change all the time. Have a system in place to keep in contact with your potential customers on a regular basis… you never know when they will need your services.

7.      BE CONTACTABLE… It sounds obvious but… make it as easy as possible for potential customers to get in touch with you. 

Needless to say these principles form the foundation of my own business and the services we offer. If you would like to know more, or need help achieving these objectives please contact me to arrange an informal chat.

Good luck growing your business!

Dave Sharpe


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5 September 2011

MBTI Personality Types: INTP, The Analyst

The INTP* is The Analyst 
*see below for an outline of how the four letter code is derived

As an INTP you are an independent problem-solver, using logic and analysis, and especially enjoying theoretical or scientific pursuits.  Your greatest satisfaction is normally derived from making sense of concepts, and finding or developing principles and structures to explain your world.

You tend to be highly logical, analytical, and objective, and approach everything with detached scepticism, seeking to form opinions and standards based on the information available.  You will then rigorously apply these standards.

You are able to see possibilities and connections beyond the immediately obvious, and hold open thoughts, ideas, and plans, however final they seem, to allow yourself to adjust as new information becomes available.

As an INTP you will probably find it difficult to work on routine tasks, preferring instead dissect a process, identify inconsistencies and illogical aspects, and then rework the ideas into a more logical structure.  As a result you can bring tremendous energy and focus to analysing or reengineering a complex problem. 

How Others May See You 

Typically quiet and reserved, you are generally more interested in ideas than social niceties, but you can be loquacious when talking about your own areas of expertise.  You are generally tolerant and agreeable, unless and until your guiding principles are challenged.

Others will generally see you as quiet, calm, and detached, with a strong sense of independence. 

Possible Blind Spots 

If you cannot find a way to employ your innate gifts to great advantage, as an INTP you may become cynical and employ cutting sarcasm.  This can also lead to you isolating yourself and procrastinating, or you may becoming hypercritical and argumentative.

Under great stress you are capable of outbursts and inappropriate displays of emotion, which can be both hurtful and shocking to others, and embarrassingly out of character for you.

If you reach this point, or preferably before you do, back off, find some space and peace, distance yourself, and re-group to get yourself back in balance. 

The INTP's Career Preferences 

Above all else you are motivated by variety in your work and a sense of autonomy, independence, and achievement.  The occupations that most appeal are those where you can use your solitary, objective analysis based on technical expertise, such as
  • IT professional
  • architect or surveyor
  • engineer
  • research assistant
  • solicitor or judge
  • manager
  • scientist
  • writer or editor
  • photographer
The INTP's Relationships 

    You are probably not that motivated by relationships, and will not tend to have a large circle of friends, preferring instead to let in only a few people who proven themselves worthy of hearing your inner thoughts.  Although you tend to be quite difficult to get to know well, those that are allowed in are held in great esteem.  You will value those who have proven themselves to be intelligent, and once the relationship is made you will be ferociously loyal.  Uninterested in playing games, a relationship is a serious thing which lasts, unless something happens which which you consider irreconcilable, in which case you will walk away without any qualms. 

    The Four-Letter Code - Your MBTI 

    Myers-Briggs personality profiles are determined by identifying individuals' preferences on four dimensions, known as preference pairs or dichotomies.  The underlying assumption is that everyone is innately predisposed to a preference for one or other of the modes on each of these dimensions.  This preference should not be mistaken for a strength, as everyone is able to operate in any of the modes, but instead may clearly prefer one over the other.  The preference pairs are: 

    (E)xtraversion - (I)ntroversion
    • Someone with a preference for (E)xtraversion focuses energy and attention on the outer world, and is energised by people and experiences
    • Someone with a preference for (I)ntroversion focuses energy and attention on the inner world, and is energised by reflections and thought
    (S)ensing - i(N)tuition
    • Someone with a preference for (S)ensing focuses most naturally on the specifics of reality experienced through their five senses
    • Someone with a preference for i(N)tuition focuses most naturally on the possibilities of what could be and looks for the big picture and overall patterns
    (T)hinking - (F)eeling
    • Someone with a preference for (T)hinking prefers to analyse information and make decisions using objective logic and by focusing on cause and effect
    • Someone with a preference for (F)eeling prefers to be guided by personal values and convictions when evaluating information and making decisions and focuses on harmony and understanding human values and motives
    (J)udging - (P)erceiving
    • Someone with a preference for (J)udging prefers reaching closure as early as possible, and having things settled and decided
    • Someone with a preference for (P)erceiving prefers to keep their options open as long as possible, leaving the option to continue taking on board new information as it becomes available
    Uses of the MBTI

      Understanding your preferences and thus identifying your type has several practical advantages, for example:
      • Coaching and Development - Knowing your type can help you to understand yourself better, and appreciate how to deal with your strengths and weaknesses
      • Managing - Improving your awareness of the preferences of your employees and what makes them tick can help you to understand their reactions to situations and how to communicate with them and motivate them
      • Teambuilding - Recognising the different types that make up your team will help you to see how they relate to you and to each other
      • Personal and professional relationships - Understanding the relative perspectives of your own preferences versus those of others will help you to see things from their point of view, and express yourself in a way they will understand
      • Career Planning - Knowing your own personality helps you to recognise where you would naturally be happy and what you would most like to do
      For further assistance with any of these areas please contact us.

      26 August 2011

      NF personality type bosses - People people with a dark side?

      NF Bosses - People People

      NF bosses (those who have iNtuition and Feeling preferences as described by the MBTI concepts of personality type) usually have an awful lot going for them. Amongst other things they are often insightful, imaginative, creative, supportive, passionate, and nurturing.  They are people people who understand what makes their employees tick.

      NF bosses see potential in everyone.  They expect cooperation in their efforts to promote constant harmony, and when they succeed they create a warm and nurturing environment for their team to grow and flourish.

      Seems too good to be true?  The challenge for "NFs" comes in dealing with the inevitable conflicts that team members will face at some point.  How they react to these situations can surprise their employees, as it can often involve being uncharacteristically critical for example.

      NF Bosses - Conflict Avoiders

      "NFs" are conflict avoiders, and they can become unnerved when faced with situations that threaten the harmony they have created.  The danger is that they may not face up to the conflict, and if someone needs to be put in their place, the NF boss may just rely on someone else to do the dirty work.

      NF Bosses - Four Different Types

      There are four NF types: ENFJs, ENFPs, INFJs, and INFPs.  All potentially inspired natural leaders, but each one also has their own specific challenges.

      ENFJs have the potential to build great teams and coordiante very diverse groups to reach consensus, but when conflict arises they can be in danger of taking it very personally.

      ENFPs are the masters of change, oustanding communicators, visionary, charismatic.  If only they could just focus instead of constantly generating new options.

      INFJs rarely intend to actually become bosses, but their approach to leadership is strategic, intellectual and insightful.  But when conflict comes along they may well prefer to hide their head in the sand rather than face it head on.

      INFPs are generally drawn more than any other type to the people development side.  They can be charming and engaging, but at the same time difficult to pin down.

      NF Bosses - Their Biggest Challenge, and How to Overcome it

      But for all the NF bosses, the conflict avoidance gene can often betheir biggest challenge.  Many organisations value the logical thinking types who get the job done.  So while the NFs are building harmonious teams, other types are getting on with the task.  And when the harmony just won't come, the NFs may just reach breaking point and suddenly turn against the people they have been trying so hard to to nurture but who just don't want to help themselves.

      To avoid this breaking point the NF boss needs to remember to stay true to their values and recognise the need to present a logical and rational framework for the thinking types in the team and the organisation.  If they can do that they can realise their potential and their inspirational leadership can become the real asset the organisation values.

      17 August 2011

      13 Ways to STOP Procrastinating

      1. Make a To-Do list... prioritise, and follow it
      2. Sort out your workspace. Clear it up, consolidate it, and get rid of the distractions
      3. Schedule time for email, social media etc. and don't go near them at other times
      4. Anticipate problems and interruptions to allow for the fact that you may not have as long as you think
      5. Get Realistic - Keep a log of how long things really take, instead of how long you imagine they might take
      6. Break a large project down into manageable parts instead of waiting until you have enough time to do it all
      7. Even if you only have 5 minutes available, do something that needs to be done
      8. If you really want to do something but just don't have the time, find the time
      9. If the first step is too hard to start on, get started on another step just to get the ball rolling, or...
      10. ... do the hardest part first to break the back of it
      11. Set yourself deadlines and milestones, and reward yourself in some small way as you tick them off
      12. Tell someone else what your deadline is
      13. Consider delegating, or swap tasks with someone who is procrastinating over something they hate doing