How to build the best team

Learnings from the Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team

My husband has been an avid cyclist since his childhood. He remembers sitting in the Scout Hall in the late 60’s to watch 8 millimetre movies on the Tour and the Giro that the “lucky old hands” had shot during their trips to Europe – by sea (which also tells you how old he is!). He never thought that he would be fortunate enough to go and see these races live, nor that cycling would become such a followed sport in Australia (he used to get teased about his shaved legs…often), or that we would end up having a Tour de France winner or our very our own cycling team. And of course he never thought he would marry an Italian who knows nothing about cycling.

Executive Coach Exchange Orica GreenEDGE Photo ASO G.Domouveaux
Photo: ASO/G.Domouveaux

So last Sunday, when he organised to go and watch the Orica GreenEdge Movie “All For One” with his cycling group I could not refuse, also because I am an incredibly supporting wife – most of the time that is …

The amazing thing was that not only did I enjoy the movie, I also found some great reminders on how to build and maintain successful teams – so here they are – apologies to all of those cycling enthusiasts in advance as this is more a focus on team building and the things that I found inspiring than on cycling itself.

Allow people to be themselves, have fun … and celebrate being human

One of the things Orica GreenEdge did was start shooting small videos that they would then upload on YouTube called “Backstage Pass“. In these not only did they advertise their team, they also showed the riders as people and how they could have an amazing fun time despite the pressure and fatigue. The “human” side comes out often in the interviews and how their “humanity” has helped them through the tough times as well as the successes.  These videos allow us a glimpse exactly into that, which of course includes disappointments, frustrations and …successes. If you haven’t seen the videos go and take a look because even for non-cyclists like myself they are great fun. So how do we allow individuals to express themselves and shine through adversity? Adding fun and allowing people to be themselves seems like a good start.

Invest in your “Talent” and believe in them as individuals…

The best interviews throughout the movie are with someone who looks like a little kid. His name is Esteban Chavez, he is from Colombia and his story is amazing. When he was contacted by Orica GreenEdge he had had a life changing accident that had left him in a coma and subsequently nerve damage to his shoulder that was not healing. The team saw the potential in him, had him join the team and invested in him, until he proved himself with an astounding 2nd stage victory at the Vuelta de Espana in 2015. The interviews with him and his parents are the most touching throughout the movie. When you believe in the Talent of your team members amazing things happen, and what happened to Mathew Hayman another member of the team is perhaps even more incredible. Cycling is a sport for people who like pain, or at least that can deal with pain over long periods of time. Paris-Roubaix is one of those classics that show you the pain even when you are watching it from home. Mathew Hayman (37 years old and team support rider) had ridden in it 15 times before. Six weeks before the 2016 edition he broke his arm in another race. Six weeks later he won this race, the toughest race on the cycling calendar – despite all odds (including the fact that he had been dropped during it which in this race means you can’t catch up). So believe in all of your team because in times such as this, hard work and determination breed success, especially against the odds, even team members that have always been “supporters” (or “domestiques” to use a cycling term) and may be close to the end of their career.  And what a difference doe their success make to the rest of your team!

Share successes…at a higher and deeper level

We all talk about sharing success – however, what Simon Gerrans did in the 2013 Tour de France gives it an even deeper meaning. Simon was the lead man – team captain – for the Orica GreenEdge team and in 2013 he, along with the team won the time trial and consequently the Yellow Jersey as leader of the Tour de France. Again, I do not know much about cycling but even I know that it is a BIG deal. The attention is all on you – you feel like you are on top of the world and everyone thinks you are. Cyclists that get the Yellow Jersey try and keep it for as long as they can, even though they know they may not win the Tour. So what did Simon do? He walks in the tour bus after this exhilarating experience and tells his team mate Daryl Impey “tomorrow you get to win the Yellow Jersey”. And that is exactly what happened. They worked to make sure that the next day Impey was the one in Yellow. This takes the sharing of success to a much deeper lever – it means allowing your team mates to have their own victories even when you could be the victorious one. Personally I have not had the opportunity to experience this type of generosity often – but I can just imagine what this can feel like both for the giver as well as the receiver and the type of emotions this would create in the team.  This is taking celebrating success to an all-new level.

All of these things created a truly inspiring team that achieved unbelievable goals, permitted individuals to shine by believing in them and at the same time allowed them to be themselves while having a good time. Now, who wouldn’t want to be part of this team?

Contributor:  Our featured member, Paula Liverani-Brooks, is an HR consultant and executive coach.

Cutting edge coaching

Here at Executive Coach Exchange we were delighted to be given the task of coaching an entire team at the Centre for Aboriginal Health.

The Centre, which is part of NSW Health, asked us to work with all the staff there who wanted to participate and we were so pleased that they did. The Centre is developing a reputation for innovative approaches to professional development and we feel privileged to have played a part in this.

The Centre undertakes very effective advocacy for Aboriginal Peoples and is excited by the challenges presented by new strategic approaches in Aboriginal Health. The decision to coach the whole team was based on the belief that each person in the team contributes to the outcomes of the whole team, so each person should be supported to perform at their best.

The Centre has a coherent and cohesive leadership team, who have a strong commitment to the vision of the Centre, to quality improvement and to achieving better outcomes. This commitment is shared by the staff who also share with them a strong appetite to find new and better ways of doing business.

Coaching the entire team meant a significant investment in staff time, as all staff, irrespective of how long they had worked with the Centre or what their role was, were invited to participate.

By expanding coaching from the leadership team to the entire team, the Centre provided staff with the opportunity to build skills in a completely personalised program. This is paying dividends already. We found that staff engaged enthusiastically in the opportunity provided by the coaching program and tried new ways of working as a result. We were impressed and pleased to witness the improvement in work practices and the excitement and energy of the team in trying new ideas.

The Centre for Aboriginal Health is to be congratulated for this program. While executive coaching for leaders and aspiring leaders is becoming well-accepted across the NSW Public Sector, the idea of investing in this type of professional development for an entire team is at the cutting edge of coaching.

Delegating effectively – part 3

In previous posts we looked at how to set up successful delegation and how to follow up to ensure your delegation is successful.

This week we look in more detail at one of the more complex issues that can arise from delegating relationship and negotiation responsibilities.

There is potential for delegates to become so comfortable working with ‘the other side’ that they are at risk of “capture”, forgetting which organisation they represent.

An organisation we’ve worked with provided a clear example of this issue. Account executives were expressly instructed by their management that it was their responsibility to be an advocate for their client. This is not uncommon – account executives will push hard to achieve the best deal for their client, and that can be consistent with building strong relationships with a client and achieving sales goals.

However, the important caveat, that they should advocate for their client when facing inwards to their employer, but still represent their own employer when facing outwards to the client, was glossed over. The account executives found it understandably difficult to change hats. Ultimately, this approach created significant compliance difficulties, and client disputes, when the account executives tried to work around internal protocols and overpromised to their accounts.

An Australian Government department we dealt with was well-known for regularly rotating its delegates.

Executive Coach Exchange colleagues rawpixel pixabayThis was an interesting arrangement. On one hand, it effectively avoided what the department called “provider capture”, where their staff became advocates for external organisations instead of representing their own. On the other hand, external bodies constantly had to provide information which they had already provided, because they were always dealing with someone new. This was not efficient and other organisations often felt the new representative lacked expertise and knowledge.

Our view is that there might be a limit to the effectiveness of this kind of rotation. Nevertheless, we believe you should regularly review your delegation arrangements, at least once a year. By this, we mean looking at the responsibilities each of your staff members has been given and asking:

  • Are the delegation arrangements still delivering the outcomes you need?
  • Has your staff member been successful in delivering these outcomes?
  • Are they still engaged and interested in the area?
  • Are your staff still effectively representing the interests of your organisation?
  • Are you confident they have not been captured by their stakeholders or their opponents in negotiations?

If the answer to any of these questions is “No”, then it’s time for a refresh. While your staff should have sufficient time to learn how to undertake their new responsibilities, no delegation arrangement should be a job for life.

In conclusion, here is an excellent tip from Mind Tools. “When you first start to delegate to someone, you may notice that he or she takes longer than you do to complete tasks. This is because you are an expert in the field and the person you have delegated to is still learning. Be patient: if you have chosen the right person to delegate to, and you are delegating correctly, you will find that he or she quickly becomes competent and reliable.”

Delegating effectively – part 2

Last week we looked at setting the stage for effective delegation.  This week we’re considering how to follow up to ensure that your delegation is successful.

Executive Coach Exchange colleagues starflames pixabayEffective delegation does not mean things will never go wrong. If a task is not on-track, avoid the temptation to take the work back and complete it yourself. Your staff member cannot learn how to do a task properly if they know you will take it back at the first sign of a problem. You should also give a clear message that your staff should come to you when they encounter problems. Your staff should feel confident that they can come to you with a problem and you will help them solve it. You might like to try talking to them in these terms:

  • If something goes wrong, I want to hear about it from you and not from someone else;
  • If something goes wrong, we will work together to find a solution and fix it;

and, as they develop their skills,

  • If something goes wrong, come and tell me about it and propose a solution for us to fix the problem together.

Patience and calmness are essential. If your staff are frightened of your response, they won’t tell you when things go wrong until they become crises. Small, solvable problems can quickly become serious if they are not dealt with early. If you calmly work with your staff member to find a solution, they will build their problem-solving skills. They will be more likely to be able to propose a solution when they tell you about a problem and will learn to solve problems for themselves.

Finally, as you contemplate delegating, reflect on times when your managers delegated to you effectively. Recall how you felt when you were first asked to take responsibility for a significant piece of work. Probably you felt happy, proud and more than a little nervous. What did your manager do to help you get started? How did you know what was expected of you? How did they check back in with you? How did they react when things went wrong? Be mindful of your own experience as you delegate to your staff.

Next week, we’ll look at the interesting issue of capture, and when delegation arrangements need to be refreshed.

Delegating effectively – part 1

Every manager needs to learn how to delegate effectively to be successful. Martin Zwilling comments that while some people find delegating easy, most of us struggle to get this important management skill right.

He refers to Jan Yager’s time management self-improvement program, Work Less, Do More, discussing ways to improve your delegation skills, including:

  • Choosing what tasks you are willing to delegate and the right person to delegate each one to;
  • Giving clear instructions, including a definite completion date;
  • Delegating responsibility and authority, not just the task;
  • Trusting those to whom you delegate; and
  • Giving public credit when your staff succeed.

Zwilling also suggests you delegate tasks you are not suited to, for example those which require particular technical expertise. Yager writes, “Delegating the right task to the right person at the right time is key to growing your business and increasing your productivity.”

Executive Coach Exchange colleagues rawpixel pixabay

Mind Tools has a terrific article about delegation. They ask, since “Delegation is a win-win when done appropriately…”, why don’t people delegate? They suggest people don’t delegate because it takes a lot of up-front effort. However, “Delegation allows you to make the best use of your time and skills, and it helps other people in the team grow and develop to reach their full potential in the organization.”

They provide a checklist to help you decide when to delegate:

  • Is this a task that someone else can do, or is it critical that you do it yourself?
  • Does the task provide an opportunity to grow and develop another person’s skills?
  • Is this a task that will recur, in a similar form, in the future?
  • Do you have enough time to delegate the job effectively? Time must be available for adequate training, for questions and answers, for opportunities to check progress, and for rework if that is necessary.
  • Is this a task that I should delegate? Tasks critical for long-term success, such as recruiting the right people for your team, genuinely do need your attention.

Once you decide the conditions are right for you to delegate, you need to help your staff member to be successful. For this to happen, your staff member must understand the objectives of the tasks they have been given and be allocated sufficient authority and responsibility to carry them out.

Trust is important but this does not mean ‘set and forget’. As manager, your role should be to undertake regular check-ups to ensure delegated tasks are on track. We recommend setting specific milestones for this, with both times and required outcomes.

Next week we will discuss how to follow up on effective delegation.

Dealing with difficult people in your meeting

Over the last two weeks, we’ve looked at planning your meeting, and running and reflecting on your meeting.

This week’s post is a more detailed look at dealing with difficult people in your meeting.

Executive Coach Exchange sheep pixabay malcolumbus
Don’t assume that everyone in your meeting will follow the flock.

It can be useful to think of your meeting attendees in 3 main groups.

  1. The disruptive

There are a number of factors which may lead meeting attendees to disrupt the agenda.

Some people will seek to dominate the meeting, out of habit or because they don’t recognise your authority or the validity of other viewpoints.  If this happens, it will mean that your voice and the voices of other attendees are not being effectively heard.

It’s your meeting – it’s important to enforce time limits, call for other points of view and actively manage someone who is dominating the discussion. Don’t let them become your focus; others in the room will want your meeting to be successful. If you keep focusing on the disruptive, you will give them control of the agenda.

Others will argue with the points you’re putting forward and it’s important to make an assessment of why this is happening.  We’ve written previously about the importance of distinguishing between obstructionists and sceptics, and embracing the genuine sceptics.  Part of this work will have to happen outside the meeting, but meetings themselves are a valuable source of information about the motivations of those who disrupt them.

Don’t expect to turn around disruptive behaviours in one session, but a consistent, assertive approach will see you getting your meetings back on track.

2. The disengaged

Bored? Distracted? Negative? Looking for a way out? Or uncomfortable with conflict?

It’s critically important not to just call out or disparage the disengaged as you risk causing someone who was temporarily distracted, unhappy or unconvinced, to move towards being a member of the disruptive group.

You also don’t know whether they are keeping a low profile due to conflict with other meeting attendees, or because their management’s viewpoint is not aligned with yours.

In our previous posts on meetings, we talked about planning for breaks to allow people to recharge and manage their distractions.  If you’ve done this and people are still appearing to be switched off, or holding side conversations, you need to take responsibility for bringing the focus of the distracted back to the meeting without engaging in personal criticism.

You may need:

  • to make a genuine call for input;
  • to allow time on the agenda for this group to present their opinions formally;
  • or it may be that you need to take tighter control of the agenda because this group has switched off – potentially because the disruptive group is dominating the conversation in a way that makes them uncomfortable or even distressed.

If you can gain understanding of whether the disengagement is due to personal or professional reasons, and whether it’s temporary or ongoing, you can address disengagement appropriately, maintaining the respect of the disengaged individuals and the group as a whole.

Most importantly, in planning for and dealing with the disruptive and the disengaged, don’t forget a third group:

3. Your supporters

Sometimes when the disruptive and the disengaged are taking up a lot of time and focus, it’s easy to take your supporters for granted.  However, you need to minimise the distractions posed by the other groups as it’s your supporters who will help you move through your agenda and achieve your goals.

In our change management series, we also wrote about looking at the motivations of your supporters.  When you are trying to achieve change through meetings, it’s important to understand why your supporters support you and to ensure you’re managing their concerns and interests appropriately, so that their support for you and your goals continues.

An executive coach can work with you to understand the motivations of your meeting group, work through scenarios and practice assertiveness skills to ensure that your meetings achieve your goals no matter who attends.

Running an engaging meeting

Last week we looked at how to set up a successful meeting.  This week, we look at running an engaging meeting that will support your overall goals.

  1. Own your meeting

You’ve called people together. It’s your responsibility to make the meeting successful. If you have added items to the agenda, take ownership of these and get them through. If you have prepared well, these items should be the most straightforward of the day.

2. Bring a minute-taker

You can’t chair a meeting effectively and take the minutes yourself. Bring a minute-taker and empower them to check they have recorded the decisions correctly before you move on to the next agenda item. In this way, you can create an accurate record of your meeting that everyone has agreed as the meeting progresses. This includes assigning tasks and timeframes to the right people during the meeting.

3. Reward the punctual

Always start the meeting on time. Begin by welcoming everyone and ensuring everyone knows everyone else in the room. The next step is to acknowledge traditional Owners of Country, and then step through the agenda.

Go through the minutes of the previous meeting and check the group agrees they are an accurate record. Once the minutes are agreed, check the progress of every action.

4. Other business

Everyone hates it when, just as a meeting is drawing to a close, someone starts adding extra items to the agenda. Call for ‘other business’ at the beginning of the meeting. Decide if any of these can be considered under items which are already on the agenda. Add any essential items to the end of the agenda – but list the rest for the next meeting. ‘Other business’ should only be for urgent items which have emerged since the papers were sent out. Don’t let people use them to raise personal preoccupations that are best dealt with in another forum.

Executive Coach Exchange meetings hans pixabay
“At today’s meeting, I’ll be reading the slides word for word.”

5. Pay attention

Watch people’s body-language. Notice:

  • who makes eye contact, with whom and when
  • who are the allies and who are the antagonists – is this stable or does it depend on the matter being discussed
  • who looks uncomfortable and why

If it’s a long meeting, when people get restless call a break. Make it long enough for people to check their devices and have a chat. A lot of goodwill can be gained in a meeting break.

Paying attention is your most important role as chair.

6. Set the tone

Set the tone yourself. If you are checking emails and not paying attention, you are sending a strong message that you don’t think your own meeting is important. Be involved in every item and take an active part in the discussion.

7. Give everyone a say

The purpose of a meeting is to allow discussion and information exchange. If only one person is talking, that message can usually be better conveyed in writing.

Some people can talk under wet cement. Others will wait to be invited and yet may have the most important things to say. Make sure everyone’s opinion is heard and taken on board. While it’s essential you steer the meeting, you don’t need to speak all the time to do this.

8. Push for an agreed decision

You have got the decision-makers at your meeting. While discussion is important, decisions also need to be made now. Push through to a consensus and ensure the decisions are recorded.

9. Thank people

Acknowledge the time and effort of the people who came to your meeting and thank your staff publicly for running it well.

10. Act on the actions

It’s essential to get the minutes out as soon as possible after the meeting, while the decisions are still fresh in everyone’s minds. Although the minutes will still be in draft, if they were agreed during the meeting, there should be few changes so people with actions can get them done.

11. Evaluate

After the meeting, consider thoughtfully and thoroughly what went well and what didn’t. Evaluate your own performance and decide if your meeting was worthwhile. Get feedback from trusted people. Plan for continuous improvement in your meetings.

Finally, if you decide the meetings are a waste of everyone’s time, and nothing can save them, cancel them and find another way to get views heard and decisions made.

Next week we’ll look in more depth at dealing with difficult people in your meeting, an important topic in its own right.

Oh no – not another meeting!

We’ve all found ourselves in this situation – dreading the boredom of another pointless meeting. Yet, when it’s our turn, we still call people together. If meetings are such a waste of time, why do we keep having them?

And how can you make meetings work for you, now you are the chair?

This is the first post in a series of our top tips for giving your meeting the best chance of success.

Good preparation ensures the best outcomes.

  1. Set a tight agenda

Make sure to set a tight agenda that only contains issues that need to be discussed when the group gets together. This means your items should be important to the organisation, strategic and controversial. They should be items where different views need to be heard.

Executive Coach Exchange meetings bored pixabay pixel-mixer
Oh no. Not another meeting.

Don’t make the meeting longer than it needs to be. Administrivia is a waste of everyone’s time – deal with it another way.

  1. Involve key stakeholders in setting the agenda

Call for agenda items from the group well in advance. If papers are required, ensure the group gets enough time to read and consider them before the meeting. Including items from other people gives them ownership in the meeting’s success. However, you also need to understand why these items have been added so you are not caught out by a hidden agenda.

Go through the minutes of the previous meeting, check the progress of action items and ensure as many tasks as possible have been completed.

Make sure attendees are aware whether the meeting, or individual items, are confidential, before the meeting begins. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for confidentiality acknowledgements for highly sensitive material.

  1. Get the decision-makers in the room

Meetings are about decisions, so you need to get the decision-makers at your meeting. The more important the decision, the more important it is to get the people with the authority to make decisions to attend. Consider what people expect to gain from coming to your meeting.

  1. Dealing with substitutes

If people want to send a substitute, make it clear that decisions will be made and their substitute will be part of those decisions. If people are constantly sending substitutes, they are telling you that your meeting is not important. Ask yourself whether they need to be part of the group at all and, if they are needed, ask them why they are not attending.

  1. Schedule the meetings well in advance and set the mode

To make sure people can attend, fix the dates and venues of your meetings at the beginning of the year and don’t move them. Decide whether people can attend virtually to reduce travel time. If a meeting must be face-to-face for people travelling long distances, make sure the content is worth their while. You can waste a lot of relationship capital by insisting on personal attendance for meetings with routine content.

  1. Set the meeting up properly

Delegate the set up to someone you trust. Make sure the meeting room is properly set-up before the meeting starts. Provide food and drink if the meeting is to go for more than 2 hours or if people have travelled a long way to get there. Without a practical set up, you risk losing engagement.

  1. Controversial items

Talk to people before the meeting as items and papers are being developed and take their concerns on board. Enlist allies to speak in support of your items. Know what objectors will say before they speak. Anticipate questions and address these in your papers. Make sure you know what members will say and, if applicable, how they will vote, before the meeting starts.

Next week – running your meeting.

Diversity – part 1 – the challenge

Last week, we celebrated the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, with its theme of Creating Equality, and International Women’s Day 2017 #BeBoldforChange. These significant annual events were leading us to reflect on organisational diversity, when we came across this powerful image.

Photo: State Street
Photo: State Street

The statue of the little girl has been temporarily placed in Wall Street to draw attention to a campaign by State Street Global Advisors to see more women in board roles.

State Street has about $US2.5 trillion in investments under management, and has committed to vote its shares in 3500 public companies against boards which are not taking tangible steps to increase the diversity of their boards.

Why would State Street do such a thing? Are they just “virtue signalling”, to use the latest put-down for those trying to do the right thing as they see it?

On the contrary, Lori Heinel, the deputy global chief investment officer for State Street, has said: “The best thing we can do is be more activist in those companies to improve their performance as a long-term provider of capital” (our emphasis). She has noted the broad evidence that companies with diverse boards perform better on measures including return on equity, average growth, price/book value multiples and profit margins.

Forbes has produced an insight paper looking at the links between innovation and diversity, using surveys and interviews, with all respondents working for large global enterprises with annual revenues of more than US$500 million.

The key findings included:

  • Diversity is a key driver of innovation and is a critical component of being successful on a global scale.
  • A diverse and inclusive workforce is critical for companies that want to attract and retain top talent.
Photo: AP
Photo: AP

When you think about it, it makes perfect sense that those organisations that are not prepared to challenge themselves to look outside traditional sources for board representation, are also less likely to be innovative and adaptive in other areas of their business.

We’ve all heard entrenched board members saying, “We don’t want diversity quotas. We just want to hire the best person for the job”. State Street’s initiative looks like it may be a tangible pivot point towards “We want diversity quotas because we want to hire the best person for the job.”

Next week – part 2 – saying it, meaning it, showing it.

Bosses behaving badly

A client recently sent us a study from the University of NSW by Chris Jackson and Michael Collins which shows a link between “emotional self-regulation (and) a capacity to maintain attention”. In this study, the researchers put candidates in high stakes, stressful situations to measure how they responded.

Executive Coach Exchange bosses behaving badly pheee pixabayThey found, “Some people have a higher sensitivity in the ability of the brain to switch out fear when faced with a threat – (such as) …delivering bad news to the board – and some get caught up in that threat. They entertain anxieties, fear and anger, and ruminate on them and, as they’re churning through those thoughts, they have less capacity left to solve problems.”

The researchers discuss hiring the right people in the first place, by selecting people with the internal resources to manage effectively in times of disruption. They also make a point which will resonate with many people.

“Organisations need to understand they cannot pile the pressure on people more than they can actually deal with or things will go wrong. It leads to an abusive environment in which staff leave or litigate or generally become demotivated,” said Jackson.

We felt two findings had the most relevance for executive coaches and their clients.

The first is that frequently bosses are not aware they are behaving badly. “After working with executives over the years, I’ve found they’re often totally surprised that people would see them as bullying and harassing…,” Collins said.

The second is that, while you can’t grow your natural ‘attention resource capacity’, you can learn to use your limited resources more effectively.

“…practising mindfulness and cognitive behaviour strategies may reduce emotional overload, along with coaching or workshops to help leaders understand the relationship between how they perceive a situation, their thinking style, and how that influences strong negative emotions. The next step is learning self-regulation strategies to reduce the intensity of their emotions so they react more appropriately to difficult situations.”

Executive coaches can help you develop awareness about your own behaviours. They can assist you by bringing an objective perspective to your circumstances and help you build more effective responses to stressful situations.