Category Archives: collaboration

Five Challenges All Teams Face

Five Challenges All Teams Face

GUEST POST from David Burkus

Teams face a lot of different challenges. Leading a team involves leading through many challenges. You’re given performance objectives. You map out a plan of execution with your team. But pretty quickly, you will run into challenges—both seen and unseen. And while most of these challenges are unique to the work being done and the team doing that work, some challenges are universal for teams.

These challenges all teams face are less about the work and more about teamwork and collaboration. That’s what makes them so common. But because they’re so common, they can be anticipated—and overcome.

In this article, we’ll outline five challenges all teams face and offer some insight on how to overcome them.

1. Finding Direction

The first challenge all teams face is finding direction. Most teams in most organizations don’t get to decide what specifically they get to work on—it comes with their collective job descriptions. However, they still get to make decisions as a team about what the priorities around all their tasks are, and sometimes even who is going to do which task. This is the initial challenge of finding direction. But keeping direction in a changing environment can be just as challenging as well. Priorities often need to change or be rearranged. New tasks are assigned. New changes in the environment happen. And that could mean slight shifts in the direction need to be made.

As a leader, one of the easiest ways to find and keep direction is through a regular “huddle” or weekly meeting. In that meeting, give the team a chance to review what they’re focused on, what they’ve completed, what potential roadblocks they face, and who needs assistance. These weekly meetings help review the large-scale direction and provide space to make any small-scale shifts in direction as well.

2. Improving Communication

The second challenge all teams face is improving communication. Communication is the lifeblood of any relationship, including the relationships on your team. The challenge of improving communication arises because everyone has slightly different communication preferences. Some people prefer to talk in person, some on the phone, some in email. Some people write short, quick emails, others write five paragraph essays. These differences in communication preferences can lead to a lot of miscommunications as well. Many conflicts on a team happen because one person assumed their preferences were shared by everyone else, and they were not.

As a leader, taking the time to have conversations about communication preferences can go a long way toward improving communication. Outline the communication tools the team has available and discuss when the team would prefer to use each one, for what type of communication, and any best practices the team can think of for that tool. Ideally, this leads to a set of group norms around communication and communication tools. Those norms can be revised from time to time but should be done so collectively. Otherwise, everyone goes back to their typical preferences.

3. Building Trust

The third challenge all teams face is building trust. Trust is a core component of teamwork. We need to trust the competency of our teammates—that they’re going to do what they say they’re going to do. But we also need to trust the character of those teammates—we need to know we can admit failures or request help without being demeaned or ostracized. Teams need a climate of trust so that they can safely disagree with each other and engage in task-focused conflict that ensures the best ideas rise to the top.

Research suggests that trust builds through a reciprocal process. So as a leader, the way to build trust on a team is to step out and signal you trust them. The most powerful way to do this is to be vulnerable. Leaders need to share certain vulnerabilities they have. They need to be willing to admit they don’t have all the answers all of the time, and that they need help from the team as well. Lead with vulnerability and teammates will follow, which over time will lead the team into greater levels of trust.

4. Keeping Diversity

The fourth challenge all teams face is keeping diversity. To be fair, many teams still struggle with finding enough diversity, but most leaders and team recognize that diversity on a team is a worthy goal. That creates a new challenge, keeping diversity. Ideally, diverse teams are formed because people with diverse backgrounds bring a diverse set of experience and perspectives to the team. However, as the team works together over time, they start to share the same experiences and perspectives. Eventually, if a team works together long enough, their ideas and opinions will start to become really similar. They may still look like a diverse team, but they act like a monoculture.

As a leader, this means rotating the roster of your team more often than it might seem necessary. It means being comfortable with the idea that people leaving the team can be a net positive as new members, and new perspectives join. It could also mean looking for small scale additions to diversity such as inviting members of different teams into group discussions or encouraging the team to seek out new cross-functional colleagues or new sources of ideas and inspiration.

5. Maintaining Motivation

The fifth challenge all teams is maintaining motivation. Staying motivated as a team, especially when the work gets difficult is a huge challenge for any team. Motivation and engagement happen when the work people are asked to do challenges them just enough to engage their full skillset—but not so much that it seems impossible. It also requires those challenges to be connected to a broader mission or purpose. People want to do work that matters—and teams want to know why their team matters.

As a leader, this requires looking at motivation both individually and teamwide. Individually, pay attention to the task-load of each member of the team. Ensure that they’re being challenged, but not overwhelmed. This may require moving some assignments around to different people on the team. Teamwide, make sure the team understands how its mission and objectives fit into the larger purpose of the organization. Be ready to draw a clear and connecting line between the work the team is asked to do, and the way that work serves a bigger purpose. Perhaps the best way to convey this purpose is by answering the question “Who is served by the work that we do?” and then building in reminders around that “who.”

These five challenges are ones every team faces eventually. But they aren’t the only challenges teams face. However, teams that proactively work to overcome these challenges work together better—and are better able to overcome those new, specific challenges. All teams face these challenges, but the answers to these challenges are how any team can start to do its best work ever.

Image credit: Pexels

Originally published at https://davidburkus.com on January 23, 2023.

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Creating Productive Interactions During Difficult Times

Creating Productive Interactions During Difficult Times

GUEST POST from Mike Shipulski

When times are stressful, it’s more difficult to be effective and skillful in our interactions with others. Here are some thoughts that could help.

Decide how you want to respond, and then respond accordingly.

Before you respond, take a breath. Your response will be better.

If you find yourself responding before giving yourself permission, stop your response and come clean.

Better responses from you make for even better responses from others.

If you interrupt someone in the middle of their sentence so you can make your point, you made a different point.

If you find yourself preparing your response while listening to someone, that’s not listening.

If you recognize you’re not listening, now there are at least two people who know the truth.

When there are no words coming from your mouth, that doesn’t constitute listening.

The strongest deterrent to listening is talking.

If you disagree with one element of a person’s position, you can, at the same time, agree with other elements of their position. That’s how agreement works.

If you start with agreement, even the smallest bit, disagreement softens.

Before you can disagree, it’s important to listen and understand. And it’s the same with agreement.

It’s easy to agree if that’s what you want to accomplish. And it’s the same for disagreement.

If you want to move toward agreement, start with understanding.

If you want to demonstrate understanding, start with listening.

If you want to demonstrate good listening, start with kindness.

Here are three mantras I find helpful:

  1. Talk less to listen more.
  2. Before you respond, take a breath.
  3. Kindness before agreement.

Image credit: Wikimedia

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Hyper-Innovation

A Change Management Strategy for Better, Faster Ideas

Hyper-Innovation

GUEST POST from Douglas Ferguson

The nature of innovation is that it is a hyper-fluid force that is never fully predictable. A well-curated change management strategy helps to harness the power of innovative change.

Innovation plays a significant role in driving positive change, as 51% of organizations attribute their success to innovative initiatives, all of whom also experienced an 11% increase in revenue.

In this article, we trace the pathway to innovative change in the following topics:

  • The Plan for Change
  • Designing Strategies for Change
  • An Agile Approach to Transformation
  • Getting Curious About Change

The Plan for Change

In charting a course to bigger and better ideas, a clear change management strategy helps to identify a direct path forward. Creating a thoughtful change management strategy allows you to plan several steps ahead and steer change in your favor.

The most intentional change management strategies focus on proactive change. The following are key elements in creating a proactive path for change:

1. Prepare to Plan

Preparing to create a change management strategy is essentially planning to plan. As you consider the best approach to creating change, take time to map out each step of your strategy. While it may seem more effective to just dive in, remember that intentionality is the name of the game in lasting change.

2. Cultivate Transparency

Many changes are unexpected and unwanted. For this reason, many organizations make the mistake of keeping changes quiet from the rest of the team. However, this type of secrecy can sabotage your organizational transformation.

Make it a point to cultivate a sense of transparency at every level of your organization. By including all parties in your plans for change, you’ll get a head start on driving innovation. When team members feel included in major decisions like a big change, they are more likely to accept and support it going forward.

3. Encourage High Tolerance

Tolerance for change is a muscle that should be exercised. Challenge your team members to fight their resistance to change by sharing the benefits of change. Explaining “what’s in it for me” gives team members a reason to root for change while increasing their tolerance for the unknown.

4. Monitor and Measure 

Just as true change is a long-term endeavor, creating a change management strategy isn’t just a one-time event. Successful strategies for change will never be static, making monitoring and measuring key performance indicators a perpetual part of the change management process.

Design a fluid change management strategy by teaching your team to measure success, monitor potential problems, and resolve issues as efficiently as possible. This way, your strategy for change will evolve according to your needs.

Designing Strategies for Change

A design thinking change management strategy places team members at the heart of a change. This people-first approach to purposeful change lets team leaders curate a strategy with the greatest benefits for all parties involved. At Voltage Control, we explore design thinking as a change management practice to inspire the most innovative ideas, allowing team members to shape new initiatives together.

Apply design thinking to your change management strategy in the following ways:

1. Find the ‘What’ of Change

Design thinking facilitates purposeful change. Shape your change management strategy by determining the “what” of your change to inform your path to the most viable and innovative solutions.

2. Center Empathy

Successful changes tap into our emotions. Design thinking cuts to the heart of a change by prioritizing empathy from the very beginning. Harness empathy in your next change by considering your team members’ mindsets and perspectives before implementing change. Continue to research how all participants will be impacted by a change as you incorporate empathy into your change strategy.

3. Use Divergent Thinking

Employ divergent thinking in your change management strategy. Through a design-centered approach, shape a plan for change that encourages collaborative thinking, integrated innovation, and holistic decision-making.

4. Practice Constant Experimentation

Experimentation is the beating heart of design thinking. Make the strategizing process more tangible by testing new ideas and running experiments to see what works. By testing an idea on a small scale, you’ll be able to make the necessary changes to help shape your initiative for real change.

An Agile Approach to Transformation

An agile approach to change management zeroes in on a faster, more urgent need for transformation. Agile principles offer a valid framework for transformation. Agile is tailor-made for systemic problem-solving, allowing team members to find the most groundbreaking solutions to the most persistent problem.

According to Carie Davis, a corporate innovation specialist, inventing new methods for problem-solving is the key to driving innovative change. Regardless of how powerful an initial initiative is, lasting change won’t take hold until it truly transforms an organization. For this reason, Davis suggests that businesses initiate long-term shifts by starting small and by making little changes at the core of the company. These smaller changes are a key part of Agile change management strategy and are instrumental in catalyzing lasting transformation.

Consider applying agile methodology to your change strategy in the following ways:

1. Go Lean

  • Focus on a change strategy that provides increased value and positive change. Going lean allows for rapid transformation by limiting factors that waste resources, energy, and time.

2. Practice Continuous Improvement

  • Agile champions continuous improvement through small changes over time. These small changes lead to the most significant shifts.

3. Encourage Employee Authorship

  • Innovative change doesn’t happen with a top-down approach. Create an agile-informed change management strategy by bringing your employees into the decision-making process. This way, all team members can determine the most pressing areas for improvement and make meaningful contributions as they work together to co-create the next change.
  • 4. Practice Reflective Improvement 

  • In shaping a change management strategy to grow with your organization, practicing reflective improvement guarantees consistent long-term change. Regularly evaluate your organization’s performance and initiatives as you continue to shape your change management strategy into a better, leaner plan.
  • Getting Curious About Change

    In designing the most innovative change management strategy, don’t forget to consider a sense of curiosity. Thrive through change and drive innovation by cultivating a curious desire to be better than ever.

    Research shows that curiosity allows us to welcome new experiences with less defensiveness and aggressiveness. By responding to the unknown in uniquely positive and inquisitive ways, your teams can dream up the most imaginative solutions on their path to lasting change.

    In addition to helping teams accept change, facilitating a sense of curiosity is an essential component in designing an innovative workplace. In creating a culture of curiosity, you’ll encourage team members to become change agents themselves. With a desire to learn more, be more, and do more, you’ll be able to reframe the potential pitfalls of change and the fears that come with it as an opportunity to get better and better.

    Innovation and change are infinitely interconnected. Harness the power of both by designing a change management strategy that continues to transform your organization in the best ways possible. Explore our offerings to learn more about taking change management to the next level.

    Image credit: Pixabay

    Article first seen at VoltageControl.com 

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    Did You Know That I’m a Business Ninja?

    Neither did I!

    At least until I appeared recently on the Business Ninja podcast hosted by WriteForMe, a modern content marketing company that helps their clients achieve their growth goals by telling their story across the Internet and social media.

    I had the pleasure of speaking with Andrew Lippman for the podcast, which is available as a traditional audio podcast (on this link or via your favorite podcast provider) or as a YouTube video which I’ve embedded right here:

    In this conversation we explore how the Human-Centered Change methodology and the Change Planning Toolkit came to be, and how the collection of more than seventy (70+) tools was designed to be used visually, collaboratively either in person using posters and sticky notes, or virtually using digital sticky notes in a tool like Miro, Mural, LucidSpark, or Microsoft Whiteboard.

    Did You Know That I'm a Business Ninja?Don’t plan a change effort by starting with a blank Project Charter but instead get everyone literally all the same page for change. Using the Change Planning Toolkit employs more modern ways of working instead of legacy methods and by design will lead to increased buy-in, alignment and momentum towards your change or transformation goals.

    We also explore the topic of change resistance and how to overcome it, and some of the tools that are part of the human-centered change methodology that help you in this quest. And, my conversation with Andrew also touches on the next set of tools that I’ll be introducing soon, which come together to form the FutureHacking™ methodology.

    Finally, the podcast also dives into my origin story, just in case you’re curious who this Braden Kelley guy is and the journey that has brought me to you!

    I hope you’ll check out the podcast and as always, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to add them as a comment below and I’ll do my best to help you with your challenge!

    Once again here are the links:

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    Back to Basics: The Innovation Alphabet

    Back to Basics: The Innovation Alphabet

    GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

    You know ALL the innovation tools and frameworks:

    • Design Thinking
    • Lean Startup
    • Disruptive Innovation

    But knowing and doing are two different things.  When I first learned Jobs to be Done, it felt painfully obvious, exactly like the customer research I did for five years at P&G.  Then I had to do it (conduct a Jobs to be Done interview), and it was difficult (ok, it was a disaster).

    And teaching others to do it is a third entirely different thing.  Because by the time you have the skills and expertise to teach others, you’ve forgotten what it was like to start from the beginning.

    It’s easy to forget that before you can read a sentence, you must know how to read a word.  Before you can read a word, you must recognize a letter.

    So let’s go back to basics.  Back before the methodologies.  Before the frameworks.  Before the theories.  Let’s go back to the letters and words that are Innovation’s essence.

    Let’s go back to the Innovation Alphabet.

    Assumptions, every innovation has them, and every innovator tests them to reduce risk

    Brainstorming, a great way to get lots of ideas and maybe even some new ones

    Customers, the people we innovate for

    Disruptive Innovation, cheaper, lower quality products that appeal to non-consumers

    Experiments, how you test assumptions and reduce risk

    Fun, what innovation should be

    G

    Hope, it springs eternal in the heart of every innovator

    Ideas, where most innovations start

    Jobs to be Done, the problems people have/the progress they want to make (and the hill I will die on)

    K

    Leadership, the most crucial element in innovation (and often the biggest barrier)

    Mistakes, how we learn, grow, and make progress

    No, the start of a conversation, not the end

    Opportunities, a nice term for “problem”

    Problems, where all innovations should start

    Quiet, what we sometimes need to think big and create something new

    R

    S

    Team, how innovation gets done

    Uncomfortable, what innovation should make you (especially if you’re a senior executive)

    V

    W

    X

    whY, the one question you can never ask enough

    Zzzz, what you finally get to do when you’ve changed the world

    As you can see, some letters still need words.  What should they be?

    Are there better words for some letters?

    Let me know in the comments!

    Image credit: Unsplash

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    Designing Innovation – Accelerating Creativity via Innovation Strategy

    Designing Innovation - Accelerating Creativity via Innovation Strategy

    GUEST POST from Douglas Ferguson

    To innovate is to survive.

    As an overwhelming 80% of founders believe innovation to be the heart of organizational growth, employing an innovation strategy that promotes,  facilitates, and feeds innovation is essential.

    Developing a solid plan for facilitating innovation in your organization is a necessary step in your company’s growth. In this article, we’ll discuss the best ways to harness innovation as we explore the following topics:

    • The Source of Innovation
    • What is an Innovation Strategy?
    • Strategizing for Innovation
    • Innovating from Within
    • A System of Innovation

    The Source of Innovation

    Innovation often feels like a form of magic: it’s a powerful yet elusive force that drives the best ideas and creates the greatest breakthroughs. While some prefer to wait for inspiration to strike, happenstance is hardly the driving force behind innovation.

    The true source of innovation is the organization itself. Leaders must intentionally create systems, processes, and strategies that allow for innovation at every turn.

    Innovation is similar to any other corporate function as it requires careful strategizing to make the best ideas come to life. In doing this, leaders can set the stage and make the most innovative ideas and processes a regular practice in their organization. Ultimately, innovation may appear in the initial spark of a great idea, but it takes purposeful, thoughtful, and conscious planning for a great idea to exist beyond that moment of genius.

    What is an Innovation Strategy?

    Driving organizational innovation starts with creating an innovation strategy. An innovation strategy identifies processes that allow for the most creative and effective solutions.

    The ideal innovation strategy allows an organization to zero in on its audience’s expectations by:

    •  Identifying customers’ unmet needs
    • Targeting these needs for growth

    A healthy innovation strategy allows an organization to create the most efficient pathways to resolving these needs and growing its company. Effective strategies for innovation follow a prioritization method to help teams understand which ideas hold the highest return. In creating a solid innovation strategy, leaders must develop a system that can be repeated time and again.

    Strategizing for Innovation

    From defining your goals to using tech to transform your organization into a hybrid model, the possibilities are endless when it comes to innovation. As you design your innovation strategy, it’s essential to understand the nuances of innovation. Working with an innovation consultant can help you iron out a strategy that’s best for your team. With an expert in innovation, you’ll be able to better determine effective next steps toward the business’s goals.

    Consultants are equipped to explain the subtleties in innovative strategizing, such as the various types of innovation:

    • Routine Innovation.

    Routine innovation is a building block that adds to the company’s pre-existing structure, such as its customer base or earlier versions of a product.

    • Disruptive Innovation.

    Disruptive innovation results in a new business model that disrupts or challenges the competition’s business models.

    • Radical Innovation.

    Radical innovation introduces new inventions, software, or technology to completely transform an existing business model. This type of innovation is best used to help organizations achieve a competitive advantage in the market.

    • Architectural Innovation.

    Architectural innovation uses new technology to create new markets. Essentially, architectural innovation changes the entire overall design of a product by redesigning existing components.

    In creating the best innovation strategy for your current needs, take into account the following guidelines:

    • Clarifying your goals and priorities.

    The right innovation strategy outlines your organizational goals and efforts to identify the best actionable steps to achieve these goals.

    • Fostering alignment within your organization.

    Alignment should be at the center of any innovation strategy. Everyone must be aligned in pursuing a common goal for an organization to achieve new ideas and an innovative way of working.

    • Encouraging your team to keep improving.

    Complacency kills innovation. Make sure your company is always ready to move on to the next great idea by making continuous growth and development a key part of your innovation strategy.

    • Reaching long-term success.

    Focusing on reaching long-term success is an essential part of any innovation strategy.

    Innovating From Within

    An innovation strategy becomes the most effective when leaders can ingrain the processes and practices into their culture. Once innovation becomes an integral part of how a team works, they’ll be able to keep innovation top-of-mind.

    By innovating from within, you’ll create a sustainable innovation strategy that becomes part of your company culture. Consider these pillars of innovation as you center innovation strategy at the heart of your company:

    1. Models: Innovation strategies fall into two models:
    • Business model innovation
      In this process, an organization completely adapts its business model to add value to its customers.
    • Leveraging an existing business model
      This process allows an organization to use its existing business model while bringing innovation to the business itself.
    1. Intrapreneurship
      Intrapreneurship empowers employees to act as entrepreneurs while working within the company. This encourages each person to create and act on their ideas, thus fostering a culture of ongoing company-wide innovation.
    2. Corporate Accelerator
      Corporate accelerators are programs started by larger enterprises, offering aspiring entrepreneurs the opportunity to find mentors, access seed capital, and make important connections.
    3. Innovation Labs
      Innovation labs are a starting point for R&D teams and startups to facilitate new ideas.
    4. Open Innovation Program
      This model of R&D encourages existing employees to collaborate on new business ideas that add value to the company.
    5. External Accelerators
      Though external accelerators don’t meet in-house, they can add incredible value to an organization. Businesses can use external accelerators to advance startups and drive concepts that align with their goals and needs without covering the costs of running an in-house program.
    6. Collaboration
      Collaboration is an integral component in shaping a cohesive innovation strategy. Through constant discussion, interaction, and creative collaboration, all members of an organization work together to bring their ideas to life.
    7. Ideation
      Managing innovation requires organizations to manage ideation. In doing so, leaders work to identify the best plans for analyzing, gathering, and implementing the right ideas. Ultimately, companies need an effective system that will transform an idea into a process that gets results.
    8. Measurement
      Innovation strategies should include a plan to measure success by considering relevant metrics for each goal. For example, KPIs such as email subscribers, website traffic, and social shares are excellent metrics for tracking brand awareness.

    A System of Innovation

    Developing a comprehensive innovation strategy must go beyond general objectives such as achieving growth, creating value, and beating competitors. To truly create company-wide change through innovation, organizations should clearly articulate specific objectives that will allow for the most sustainable competitive advantage.

    A thorough innovation strategy successfully embeds innovation in the very system of an organization. To implement such systemic innovation, design your innovation strategy with the following objectives:

    • Creating Long-Term Value for Potential Customers

    An innovation strategy should always consider the most effective ways to create long-term value for customers. In developing a cohesive strategy, consider the type of value you’re aiming to create through innovation. Value can be created in many ways, including improving customer experience, making a product more affordable, or benefiting society at large.

    In your efforts to identify what values to zero in on, consider those that will have the greatest impact in the long term. This way, your innovation strategy will include continuously iterating towards better designs in the future.

    • Capturing Value Generated From Innovations 

    Innovations easily attract competitors that can pose a risk to the original product or idea. In your efforts to create a thorough innovation strategy, consider how your company plans to capture the value its innovations create.

    For example, a company that creates an exciting new product should be prepared for its competition to create more affordable prototypes. In the worst-case scenario, the competition may capture the value of the innovation.

    Consider these risks in your innovation strategy by identifying what complementary services, products, assets, and capabilities may improve customer loyalty. This way, you’ll already have a plan in place to ensure your organization continues to profit from every innovation.

    • Strategizing for Business Model Innovation

    Technology plays an important role in innovation but isn’t the only path to new ideas. In developing a robust innovation strategy, consider the level of technology and your preferred method of innovation to pursue.

    Harnessing the magic of innovation takes careful planning. Need help driving innovation in your organization? At Voltage Control, we help leaders develop innovative strategies through change! Contact us today to discuss the best path to innovation. 

    Image credit: Pexels

    Article first published here: voltagecontrol.com

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    Effective Facilitation for All

    How Leadership Fundamentals Benefit Everyone

    Effective Facilitation for All

    GUEST POST from Douglas Ferguson

    Effective facilitation isn’t limited to the inner workings of staff meetings. True facilitation goes beyond simply setting an agenda: it’s a mindset, framework, and way of being.

    Excellent facilitators know how to get the best out of their teams and design conversations that are innovative, exciting, and productive.

    In this article, we explore how the fundamentals of facilitation affect an organization in the following topics:

    • Leading with Great Expectations
    • Effective Facilitation for Everyone
    • Facilitation with a Purpose

    Leading with Great Expectations

    At its core, great facilitation is an engaging conversation. In practicing effective facilitation, leaders make sure all communication is as clear and thoughtful as possible. Facilitators can begin this conversation by intentionally setting their expectations with all stakeholders in every conversation, meeting, and project.

    Often, meetings end with attendees unaware of their colleagues’ and leaders’ expectations. By focusing on effective facilitation, leaders can identify and communicate their expectations as well as the expectations of everyone else in the room.

    Consider the following facilitation fundamentals when identifying others’ expectations and needs ahead of a meeting:

    • Personal Preparation

    Preparation is essential for any form of facilitation. Whether you’re leading a meeting or heading up a project, participants expect you to come prepared. Demonstrate proper facilitation techniques by preparing to be physically, emotionally, and mentally ready for your presentation.

    • Practice

    Practice is the next step in proper facilitation. In practicing, you’ll be able to review your process and identify any areas needed for adjustment. Moreover, practicing will help you visualize your upcoming session, anticipate problems, and prepare alternative plans should something go wrong.

    • Process

    Effortless facilitation follows a seamless process designed specifically for your audience. Facilitators have a variety of processes to choose from, including strategic planning, problem-solving, decision-making, and more.

    • Place

    Your physical or virtual environment plays an important role in your facilitation ventures. It’s essential to be as intentional as possible in selecting the space for your next session. Consider the requirements for a space, such as the size of the room, what equipment is needed, and any other elements that may affect the flow of your meeting.

    • Purpose

    The purpose may be the single most important component of effective facilitation. Your purpose will outline the end goal of a meeting and will communicate why the session is taking place.

    • Perspective

    Perspective is as essential to effective facilitation as the purpose. Your perspective allows you to contextualize the goals, mission, vision, and purpose of your meeting.

    • Product

    As effective facilitation hinges on meeting with a purpose, understanding what that purpose will produce is just as important. Consider what deliverables should be created by the end of a project, meeting, or conversation. Additionally, be sure to define the most important goals and actionable steps required to achieve them.

    • People

    Facilitate with intention by identifying who should be in attendance. Learn more about each participant by researching the bias, potential barriers, and preconceived ideas that they may bring to each meeting. Likewise, be sure to highlight their strengths to further assess how they can be an asset in your conversation.

    Effective Facilitation for Everyone

    Integrating effective facilitation skills and techniques goes far beyond the walls of a meeting. A facilitative approach to leadership zeroes in on the positives of leading an active and engaged group. Facilitation techniques such as active listening and encouragement work to stimulate participative group conversation and collaboration.

    Every member of an organization can benefit from the power of facilitative leadership. Leaders that demonstrate and embody proper facilitation skills can impart these practices to their employees.

    Facilitation techniques benefit employees in the following ways:

    1. Fostering Collaboration and Learning

    Facilitation skills are essential in encouraging an environment of collaboration and learning. Encouraging team members to look at a situation from a different perspective, consider new solutions, and understand how to bring the best out of each other will result in the most productive experiences.

    In creating a culture of learning, leaders should take the time to learn from their teams as well. Giving your employees a platform to offer their own insights is the best way to invite them into this collaborative process of co-creating learning.

    2. Getting More From Meeting Attendees

    As employees adopt the elements of effective facilitation, they’ll bring more of their skills, focus, and energy to each meeting. Equipped with the skills to act as influencers amongst their peers, each employee will become an active participant in the meeting, encouraging each other to make the most out of their time together.

    3. Improving Productivity

    As team members work together on various projects, effective facilitation skills allow them to move forward in the most productive, cost-effective, and timely manner. When employees incorporate their finely-honed facilitation skills, they work together efficiently, converse productively, and solve problems effectively. Ultimately, facilitation fundamentals allow everyone from team members to management to make the most of their time at work.

    4. Boosting Group Dynamics

    Incorporating effective facilitation skills helps improve group dynamics as well. All team members benefit from improved communication strategies, both in and out of the structured setting of meetings. These strategies allow all participants to better express their thoughts, opinions, and concerns as they work together to achieve a common goal.

    Teams that invest in developing their communication skills are likely to retain the best employees. Statistics show that organizations that practice strong communication skills experience 50% less attrition overall.

    5. Encouraging Active Participation

    While effective facilitation is often considered from a leadership perspective, it is also an excellent catalyst in driving employee participation. Oftentimes, team members don’t feel comfortable enough to share their true opinions in a meeting. Moreover, they tend to bring the bare minimum to the workplace if they don’t feel as though their participation, efforts, and insights are valued.

    Organizations that champion effective facilitation as part of their company culture are actively shaping an environment that makes employees feel as though they are truly part of their team. Feeling this sense of psychological safety allows all stakeholders to feel comfortable enough to put their all into their work.

    6. Encouraging Team Competency

    Leaders that excel in facilitation techniques are able to engender a sense of self-efficacy in their team. Oftentimes, leaders fail to go beyond methods of coaching to help their team members understand and internalize pertinent information. Effective facilitation helps to bridge the gap of competency in an organization.

    Leaders must encourage team members on the path toward true competency. This approach to facilitation is essential to incorporate a culture where facilitation skills are easily transferable.

    Lauren Green, Executive Director of Dancing with Markers, shares that the path to competency starts with meeting employees where they are:

    “First, you’re unconsciously incompetent. You’re unconscious. And then you become aware [of] your incompetence, and then you’re consciously competent. And then you start to grow your skills. So then you’re consciously competent. And then when you don’t have to think about it anymore, then you’re unconsciously competent.”

    Facilitation with a Purpose

    Just as the purpose is a powerful tool in leading a meeting, it’s also essential in building effective facilitation skills in others. Intentionally investing in facilitation training allows organizations the opportunity to teach, practice, and embody the structured techniques of effective facilitation.

    The nature of effective facilitation is that nothing can take place without purpose. From managing meetings to running projects, leading with the fundamentals of facilitation helps every facet of an organization run smoothly.

    Lead with purpose by focusing on the following effective facilitation practices:

    1. Listening first and speaking second
    2. Leading with effective communication
    3. Managing time and tracking deadlines
    4. Asking intentional questions
    5. Inviting others to engage
    6. Creating a focused and psychologically safe environment
    7. Providing unbiased objectivity
    8. Acting as a decider in group discussions

    Effective facilitation benefits everyone, whether you’re leading a meeting or encouraging employees to take their leadership skills to the next level. At Voltage Control, we help leaders and teams harness the power of facilitation. Contact us to learn how to apply these fundamentals to your organization.

    Article originally published on VoltageControl.com

    Image credit: Pexels

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    Why Small Teams Kick Ass

    Why Small Teams Kick Ass

    GUEST POST from Mike Shipulski

    When you want new thinking or rapid progress, create a small team.

    When you have a small team, they manage the hand-offs on their own and help each other.

    Small teams hold themselves accountable.

    With small teams, one member’s problem becomes everyone’s problem in record time.

    Small teams can’t work on more than one project at a time because it’s a small team.

    And when a small team works on a single project, progress is rapid.

    Small teams use their judgment because they have to.

    The judgment of small teams is good because they use it often.

    On small teams, team members are loyal to each other and set clear expectations.

    Small teams coordinate and phase the work as needed.

    With small teams, waiting is reduced because the team members see it immediately.

    When something breaks, small teams fix it quickly because the breakage is apparent to all.

    The tight connections of a small team are magic.

    Small teams are fun.

    Small teams are effective.

    And small teams are powered by trust.

    Image credit: Pixabay

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    Using Leading and Lagging Indicators to Drive Your Business Forward

    You get what you measure, so make sure you’re tracking the right things.

    Using Leading and Lagging Indicators to Drive Your Business Forward

    GUEST POST from Soren Kaplan

    I’ve seen a lot of organizations create strategies, programs, and projects focused on optimizing operations, streamlining processes, and driving innovation. Leadership teams put lots of energy coming up with the next big thing. But amazingly few teams think about how they’ll measure results. They may say they want revenue growth or cost savings, but that’s about the extent of it. Digging into the details by defining the specific metrics that will help track progress and forecast whether they’re going to achieve their goals in the future often gets neglected.

    I’ve used this Key Performance Indicators template to address this challenge. Here’s the basis of why it’s important to use KPIs for your strategy and innovation initiatives, and how to use the template.

    Strategy Without Successful Execution Is Just Brainstorming

    Between developing strategy and executing it, there’s a step that requires creativity coupled with analytical thinking. It’s defining leading and lagging indicators. Many manufacturing companies and organizations that embrace Six Sigma know the importance of the metrics. Metrics help you quantify success, so you know when you’re achieving it and when you’re not.

    Most companies focus on lagging indicators, like how much revenue they made in the last quarter, how many products they sold, or how many new customers they acquired. That’s important information, but those measures are obtained by looking in the rear-view mirror of what’s already happened. In addition to these things, you also need leading indicators to help you predict what will happen in the future. Here’s how to use both of these indicators to translate strategy into tangible implementation plans.

    Leading Indicators Help You Predict the Future

    Leading Indicators predict how you will perform in the future. They are more easily managed than lagging indicators but are harder to define. For example, if you’re looking to increase sales, you might measure the number of emails you send or sales calls you make. If you know that one in 10 calls results in a sale, the more contacts you make, the higher your sale forecast. Same goes for if you’re running a manufacturing organization. Leading Indicators for a manufacturing plant might include number of incidents that cause production slowdowns or the availability of specific materials in the supply chain.

    Lagging Indicators Tell You How You Did

    Lagging Indicators are easier to measure because they quantify what happened in the past. For example, a lagging indicator for sales would be measuring the number of products sold last month or number of new customers that signed up for a service. This information is usually easy to obtain and measure. Lagging Indicators are essential for charting progress but are not necessarily that helpful when looking at the inputs needed for achieving your overall desired results.

    Create Your Dashboard

    If you want innovation, reduced costs, and greater performance, you need to figure out how to do it, and what it looks like when you get it. Creating a set of lagging indicators gives you targets to achieve. But lagging indicators without leading indicators won’t provide focus around what to do–or early warning signals that things might be off track. If you’re manufacturing products, for example, if you’re not measuring whether your suppliers are delivering your materials on time, you might get surprised one day when you realize you don’t have the raw materials you need to achieve your manufacturing targets.

    Here’s how to create a simple dashboard that contains both leading and lagging indicators:

    1. Convene your team and identify the specific quantifiable targets that you need to achieve (your lagging indicators). Ask: What does success look like and how do we measure it?
    2. Once you have your lagging indicators, define the inputs needed to achieve them. Ask: What specific things need to happen for us to achieve these targets and how do we measure those things? (your leading indicators)
    3. With your lagging and leading indicators defined, use specific tools to gather and report on your data, whether a spreadsheet or online dashboard.

    Management guru Peter Drucker once said, “What’s measured, improves.” If you want to improve your processes and business, figure out what you’re measuring. If you measure only the outputs (lagging indicators), your success will be far less predictable than if you’re also measuring the things that will get you where you want to go.

    Image Credit: Praxie.com

    This article was originally published on Inc.com and has been syndicated for this blog.

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    Lobsters and the Wisdom of Ignoring Your Customers

    Lobsters and the Wisdom of Ignoring Your Customers

    GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

    Being the smart innovator (and businessperson) you are, you know it’s important to talk to customers. You also know it’s important to listen to them.

    It’s also important to ignore your customers.

    (Sometimes)

    Customers will tell you what the problem is. If you stay curious and ask follow-up questions (Why? and Tell me more), they’ll tell you why it’s a problem and the root cause. You should definitely listen to this information.

    Customers will also tell you how to fix the problem. You should definitely ignore this information.

    To understand why, let me tell you a story.

    Eye Contact is a Problem

    Years ago, two friends and I took a day trip to Maine. It was late in Fall, and many lobster shacks dotting the coast were closed for the season. We found one still open and settled in for lunch.

    Now, I’m a reasonably adventurous eater. I’ll try almost anything once (but not try fried tarantulas). However, I have one rule – I do not want to make eye contact with my food.

    Knowing that lobsters are traditionally served with their heads still attached, I braced for the inevitable. As the waitress turned to me, I placed the same order as my friends but with a tiny special request. “I’ll have the lobster, but please remove its head.”

    You know that scene in movies when the record scratches, the room falls silent, and everyone stops everything they’re doing to stare at the person who made an offending comment? Yeah, that’s precisely what happened when I asked for the head to be removed.

    The waitress was horrified, “Why? That’s where all the best stuff is!”

    “I don’t like making eye contact with my food,” I replied.

    She pursed her lips, jotted down my request, and walked away.

    A short time later, our lunch was served. My friends received their lobsters as God (or the chef) intended, head still attached. Then, with great fanfare, my lobster arrived.

    Its head was still attached.

    But we did not make eye contact.

    Placed over the lobster’s eyes were two olives, connected by a broken toothpick and attached to the lobster’s “ears” by two more toothpicks.

    The chef was offended by my request to remove the lobster’s head. But, because he understood why I wanted the head removed, he created a solution that would work for both of us – lobster-sized olive sunglasses.

    Are you removing the head or making sunglasses?

    Customers, like me, are experts in problems. We know what the problems are, why they’re problems, and what solutions work and what don’t. So, if you ask us what we want, we’ll give you the solution we know – remove the head.

    Innovators, like you and the chef, are experts in solutions. You know what’s possible, see the trade-offs, and anticipate the consequences of various choices. You also take great pride in your work and expertise, so you’re not going to give someone a sub-par solution simply because they asked for it. You’re going to provide them with olive sunglasses.

    Next time you talk to customers, stay curious, ask open-ended questions, ask follow-up questions, and build a deep understanding of their problems. Then ignore their ideas and suggestions. They’ll only stand in the way of your olive sunglasses.

    Image credit: Pixabay

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