4 ways to encourage better teamwork in your business

In a teamwork culture, team members work collaboratively to further their team’s objectives, perhaps even placing these objectives ahead of their own individual goals. Organisations where employees work alone or in silos will arguably become less productive over time compared to organisations that encourage teamwork.

The message should come from the top, with your Senior leadership team communicating the clear expectation that teamwork and collaboration are expected. However, there are some key issues which should be dealt with as a team leader or line manager, in order to maintain a positive teamwork culture. We’ve highlighted 4 ways that you can encourage better teamwork, based on both our experience of working with organisations on their employee engagement and leadership development strategies and by looking at trends within the employee surveys that we’ve conducted for our clients.

Leaders are only as good as their teams (and vice versa!)

As a leader or manager, you are setting the tone for the rest of the employees in the workplace and your positive attitude and energy will help to motivate and inspire your team. There is lots of good advice out there on how to be a good team leader but I’ll highlight a couple of issues that often come up in our clients’ survey results.

  1. Try to adopt a coaching approach rather than a ‘do as I do’ attitude, allowing team members to demonstrate what they can do without constant interference. Giving clear instruction without micro-managing will prove to your team members that you believe in their abilities and efforts.
  2. Consistency is key when it comes to managing your team. It’s impossible to build trust amongst your team is there’s perceived favouritism. Make sure team members feel they are treated fairly and equally, and take care not to exclude anyone from group decisions or activities. It seems obvious, but conduct team meetings on a regular basis and allow your team members the opportunity to volunteer or get involved with special projects or tasks.

Encourage open communication

Encouraging a culture of open communication will help develop great teamwork and will undoubtedly have a positive on your team’s overall performance. Communication is often an area which scores poorly in the Employee Surveys we conduct. In our experience, many employees often feel that they aren’t being listened to, whether it’s by their immediate managers or the senior leadership team. Your team should be confident in sharing their ideas, points of view, and feelings and not be afraid of doing so.

Let employees know their contribution is valued by introducing rewards for feedback and suggestions. Encouraging contributions from teams rather than individuals will help get team members working together more closely so make sure you offer rewards for collaborative efforts as much as recognising individual contributions and achievements.

Define and share responsibilities

The more clearly you define your team members’ roles and responsibilities, the more effectively they can meet expectations. The team as a whole, as well as individual team members, must have clearly defined responsibilities and objectives in order to focus their efforts. Your team should be encouraged to recognise each other’s role on the team, helping one another when needed. No one completely owns a work area or process all by themselves. As a manager, make sure your team members have opportunities to cross-train others in the team so that the team’s contribution to the business and service to customers is reliable and consistent. This inspirational quote sums up the point perfectly: “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” (Phil Jackson)

Resolve Conflicts

You spend many hours of your life at work, so getting along with your colleagues is very important. Conflict and ‘politics’ amongst team members is a major cause of stress at work. For example, our clients surveys have revealed instances such as team members arguing in public, others giving each other the silent treatment and where one person was left to do all the work while their team members allegedly ‘slacked off’. As a manager or team leader you’ll need to make sure that any tension is resolved as quickly as possible to prevent long-term damage to your team dynamic. Put in place a clear process for employees to raise and resolve issues, so they know they are being listened to, taken seriously and that issues will be dealt with fairly. Teams which include people that do not get along with one another will quickly collapse, become inefficient and unproductive.

 

Team up with INSPIRING…

At INSPIRING, we’ve helped thousands of organisations with Employee Engagement issues over the last 15 years and we’d be happy to share our experience with you. We are also an approved CMI centre providing leadership and management training at different levels with the option of CMI qualifications.

Call us on 0800 612 3098 to find out more or email info@inspiring.uk.com or get in touch using the form.

Creating Learning Agile Leaders

Research from Korn/Ferry Institute assessed nearly 1 million executives and found that the higher up the corporate ladder an individual goes, the more at home they become with uncertainty and change. This is where being Learning Agile comes into play, especially for leadership.

Sports fans around the world will tell you that agility is rated as one of the most keenly appreciated skills a sportsperson can display. The ability to be flexible in the face of what is thrown at them is of paramount importance. The same skill of agility is extremely important for improving learning in a business environment. Business, as in life, is not all plain sailing. It is sometimes a treacherous place, where you never know what is going to happen next, hence why being Learning Agile has become such an important quality to possess. In a position of power it is you who is looked upon to make the decisions (sometimes without knowing the full details) and it is up to you to lead.

Learning Agile Leaders

Learning agility is described by Korn/Ferry Institute as ‘knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do.’ They go on to say that Learning agility is a key indicator for leadership potential because Learning Agile individuals ‘excel at absorbing information from their experience and then extrapolating from those to navigate unfamiliar situations.’ Therefore, in an increasingly turbulent business environment having the ability to learn and adapt and apply yourself in constantly changing circumstances is the best way to ensure you and your leadership team do not become stagnated.

There are 4 main types of agility that Learning Agile Leaders have:

  • Agility with Others –Agile Leaders will have the ability to relate well with others which is easy in good times however they still can relate to them in tough situations.
  • Mentally Agile – Agile Leaders will have the mental ability to delve deep into complex issues and create new possibilities from them.
  • Agility with Results – Most leaders can deliver results in a repetitive cycle in an area they know well. Learning Agile Leaders deliver results at the first time of asking in new and changing environments by inspiring their team and building confidence.
  • Agility in Change – Learning Agile Leaders enjoy change they like the perceived challenge of change and can deal with uncertainty. They view change as a chance to learn.

Research has also identified that there are four very specific behaviours that Learning Agile Leaders have that enables them to constantly learn and progress.

  • Innovation – These leaders constantly want to challenge beliefs and find unique ways of completing tasks. They examine the status-quo from different angles to try and see if there are new and better ways of working. This leader is constantly seeking new experiences for them to begin to innovate.
  • Risk – There is always an element of risk for these leaders. This risk comes from the want to try new ways of working, and to experience new roles. They use what is called ‘Progressive-Risk’ they do not throw caution to the wind but understand that risk leads to possibility. These leaders put themselves forward for tasks that may not have success guaranteed but there is the possibility of learning, as in the saying ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’.
  • Reflection – Just because a Learning Agile Leader has new experiences does not mean they will learn from them. A constant need for reflection is necessary, they will look for feedback and process what has gone well and where there needs to be improvements, be it with their own behaviours or their actions. By reflecting these leaders become more insightful.
  • Performance – The most learning comes from being in the thick of it and performing a new task or challenge. To learn from these circumstances, the individual must be able to stay on task, not get flustered by the new challenge and be able to perform. The Learning Agile Leader will be able to pick up the new skills required and perform them quicker than their less agile colleagues.

In addition to these four specific behaviours that a Learning Agile individual will have, there is one behaviour that they must avoid:

  • Defensive – A defining principal for learning is being open, be it to new experiences or receptive to feedback. For these individuals they like to seek feedback as it is a chance to validate their progress and processes; they are then able to build upon what has gone well and identify where they need further development. A non-agile learner will be defensive when they are challenged or critiqued. This will put them directly at odds with progression through learning.

How can you develop into an Agile Learner?

  • Innovation – Take any opportunity to seek out new ways to operate. Ask yourself questions such as ‘What more could I be doing?’ ‘What different ways can I approach this task?’ Get yourself into the mindset of looking to innovate where you can.
  • Risk – Look to find tasks where you are not guaranteed success, try to find areas where you will test yourself.
  • Reflection – Ask yourself ‘What if’ questions and think through ways in which tasks would have turned out differently if you had used a different approach. Regularly seek feedback from colleagues and ask them specific questions as to how they felt you approached a task such as ‘What two areas should I improve on for the next task?’. This way you can be sure they will give specific and actionable feedback.
  • Performance – When dealing with a new or complex task, try to find the similarities in this task to that of tasks you have successfully completed. Be deliberate in what you do; don’t simply react in a knee-jerk way. Understand the task at hand fully before rushing to complete it.

Learning Agility is a skill. Like any skill it can be developed and honed over time. It takes time, effort and practice you need to consistently make sure what you are doing is working toward your goal. However, once you have become plugged into this mind-set you will see any chance to learn as an opportunity not to be missed. 

 

Inspiring is an approved CMI centre offering CMI accredited leadership and management programmes and qualifications.

Developing Leadership with the Johari Window

As a leader, trust and honest communication should be at the centre of what you strive to achieve. Without trust, it will be impossible to work through any complex problems or issues with your team as honest and productive conversations will not be able to take place.

What is the Johari Window?

Building good working relationships is a common leadership goal, but it can be difficult to know how and where to start. That is where the Johari Window comes into play.

The Johari Window (1955) was developed by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingram it was created as an attempt to better understand ourselves and our relationships with others. They created the model below:

Open –  This section relates to all that is known about that individual. It is what is known by the individual themselves and what is known about them by the group. The information that is open can relate to their behaviour, feelings, knowledge, experience or skills etc.

Blind Spot – This area relates to what is known about the individual by the group, but that individual does not know about them self.

Hidden – This relates to what the individual knows about them self but does not reveal to the group. This could be related to their own feelings, fears, sensitivities, agenda or manipulations.

Unknown – This section deals with all the information, feelings, experiences such as a natural ability the individual does not know they possess etc. These are neither known to the individual or known to the group.

Putting the Johari Window into context

Understanding the premise of the Johari Window is one thing but being able to put it into the context of leadership is another! Below are the two most important aspects to focus on whilst using the Johari Window for leadership development.

When engaging in honest conversation as a leader, important information is placed into the open area. Leaders want others to know what the relevant details are to enable them to make informed decisions or understand the targets they must achieve. However, the complicated aspect is moving information from hidden into the open.

Moving information from the Hidden into the Open

It can seem strange to want to move things that are hidden into the open. However, when employees are not aware of what a leader’s goals or concerns are, often they will guess them. Keeping things hidden from employees is often problematic; how can your employees be expected to alleviate your concerns when they aren’t aware of them? When speaking with your team members, consider sharing these two crucial bits of information:

  1. Your top priorities and in what timeframe
  2. The issues that are keeping you up at night

When you share what’s on your mind with colleagues and team members, you are giving them the opportunity to offer their help.

Moving Information from the Blind Spot into Open

To develop this, you as a leader must provide an environment based safety and trust for your employees. It also takes a degree of courage to ask for honest feedback, both from the perspective of yourself and your team members. Your aim should be to have as few blind spots as possible. In our experience, one of the best methods of ensuring ongoing honest feedback is by having frequent one to one sessions with your direct reports. Within these sessions, it may help to ask these questions in order to uncover information on your blind spots:

  1. What should I start doing?
  2. What should I stop doing?
  3. What should I keep doing?

An effective leadership development tool

The Johari Window is an effective tool for helping to develop leadership as it enables a leader to identify areas that they need to work on and issue they have. It is great for helping to create honest conversations within a business and for gaining the ability to build trust –  two elements that cannot be overstated within a productive business environment. Try using this for yourself and see how effective it can be.

10 Business Thought Leaders You Need to Follow Today

The online world is a hub of thought development and business insight. But how do you cut down to the nitty-gritty of genuine information? Find the people who have it.

Here’s our top ten thought leaders who will actually inspire you, help you genuinely motivate your workplace, or seriously develop your conversational abilities. Follow them on Twitter for some quick snippet intros into what makes them tick.

Gary Vaynerchuk (GaryVee)

Known for: CEO of VaynerMedia and VaynerSports. Investor in (and vocal on the topic of) social media.

Follow him if: You want to know how to wield social media to your advantage.

https://twitter.com/garyvee

Elon Musk

Known for: Tesla, SpaceX, PayPal and SolarCity (to name a few).

Follow him if: You are interested in sustainable energy and businesses that invest in humanity.

https://twitter.com/elonmusk

Alice Korngold

Known for: Philanthropic thought leader, and consultant for global businesses and non-profit organisations in corporate community involvement.

Follow her if: You are interested in leadership and development with a positive social impact.

https://twitter.com/alicekorngold

Tim Ferriss

Known for: Leading tech investor. Ferriss is an angel investor to a number of companies including Facebook, Twitter, Evernote and Uber. Author and inspirational speaker.

Follow him if: You want to read the latest business book everyone is talking about.

https://twitter.com/tferriss

Kate Darling

Known for: Expert in robot ethics at MIT, nominated for Digital Thinking awards.

Follow her if: You are interested in the relationships between humans and robots as they evolve.

https://twitter.com/grok_

Michael Porter

Known for: The most cited author in business and economics. Winner of multiple business leadership awards.

Follow him if: You want wisdom backed by a lifetime in the industry.

https://twitter.com/michaeleporter

Nilofer Merchant

Known for: Ted Talk ‘Sitting is the new smoking’. Made over $18b in sales from personally launching over 100 products.

Follow her if: You want to know how to best unlock the capacities of others, and other business strategy solutions.

https://twitter.com/nilofer

Tony Robbins

Known for: American author and entrepreneur. One of the most popular and well known thought leaders.

Follow him if: You want motivation to succeed.

https://twitter.com/TonyRobbins

Simon Sinek

Known for: Motivational speaker and marketing consultant. Focus on inspirational leadership and organisational structure.

Follow him if: You want be a great leader.

https://twitter.com/simonsinek

Eric Brynjolfsson

Known for: Academic and professor at MIT. Brynjolfsson co-wrote ‘Race Against the Machine’ .

Follow him if: You are interested in the co-working of digital tech, employment and organisations.

https://twitter.com/erikbryn

 

Anyone you think we should be following? Let us know.

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Want more sales? Have happy employees

An unhappy workforce is something your customers will pick up on and will undoubtedly impact your sales. In addition, unhappy employees usually unproductive employees. It’s therefore crucial to dedicate resources to ensuring your employees are happy in their work.

Happy, productive employees

There’s plenty of evidence around relating to the link between employee engagement and productivity. A study from the University of Warwick suggested that happy employees were 12% more productive. The research was carried out by Professor Andrew Oswald, Dr Eugenio Proto and Dr Daniel Sgroi from the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick. Professor Oswald said: “Companies like Google have invested more in employee support and employee satisfaction has risen as a result. For Google, it rose by 37%, they know what they are talking about. Under scientifically controlled conditions, making workers happier really pays off.” Dr Sgroi added: “The driving force seems to be that happier workers use the time they have more effectively, increasing the pace at which they can work without sacrificing quality.”

Happiness and your bottom line

When it comes to the impact of employee happiness on sales, research by the Hay Group found that organisations scoring within the top 25% for employee engagement achieve 2.5 times the revenue growth of organisations in the bottom 25%. The Hay Group reported more evidence of the positive impact of employee engagement, finding that high engagement levels can reduce employee turnover by 4%, which reduces recruitment costs. It also found a direct link between employee engagement and customer satisfaction, suggesting that employees who are happy at work will often go the extra mile when it comes to customer service (backing up the theory behind the title of this blog!).

Valuing your people

The key to employee happiness is balancing the value that you place on your employees with the value that they get out of working for your organisation. If your business plan includes a strategy for valuing people and ensuring the happiness of employees, the benefits could be huge. For example, more ideas, greater commitment, improved customer service and, ultimately, better productivity that will help to gain a competitive advantage.

If working for your organisation creates a valuable experience for your employees, they are more likely to remain loyal and put in extra effort.  The result of that extra effort is an employee whose value to your organisation far outweighs their cost.

This may sound like the holy grail of employee relations, but it really doesn’t require complex or expensive investment in new ways of working. What it does rely on is wholehearted support from your senior leadership team, through their vision, leadership and communication.

Team up with INSPIRING

INSPIRING provides valuable, practical advice for organisations who want to improve employee engagement or look more generally at achieving performance improvements. Take a look at our employee surveys, leadership programmes or find out more about BS 76000 – the British Standard for Valuing People. Get in touch using the form on the left, email us or call us free on 0800 612 3098.

Nurturing Leadership Qualities

When you’re looking to grow your business and enable it to achieve its potential, it’s vital that you have a strong leadership team.

Promoting from within can foster a meritocratic culture where employees understand that with the right qualities and behaviours they can rise up the ladder within your company. It can be more beneficial to recruit internally rather than externally because of the smooth transition between roles and increased employee engagement and retention.

A great leader can engage your staff and encourage increased productivity. Spotting employees with leadership potential and helping them to develop their skills and behaviours will reap big rewards for both the individual and your organisation.

There is an argument that great leaders are born rather than taught, however many people do recognise that leadership is indeed a skill you can learn. Leicester City Manager Claudio Ranieri is a prime example of how leadership skills can be developed and perfected over time, with the help of personal knowledge and experience.

Writing in an article in The Psychologist, with Professor Alex Haslam of the University of Queensland, the psychologists explained: “Ultimately, Claudio Ranieri’s redemption follows a trajectory from ‘I’ to ‘we’. From his first day as Leicester manager he was keen to make it clear that it was not he who was special, but the team and league that he had come to serve.” Professor Haslam added: ‘Ranieri’s failures and successes teach us critical lessons about how to be a good leader – and also how to be a bad leader. Indeed, there is a long history of leaders in sport – but also in politics and business, moving in precisely the opposite direction to Ranieri.

Leadership may be a skill, but it is understood that many leaders share similar traits, and it’s these traits that you can identify in your employees. In an article for the Guardian, Senior management coach, Steve Nicholls, was quoted as saying: “There is something built into leaders about the kind of personality traits which enable them to be effective. A strong self belief is very important. Natural qualities are fundamental to leadership. You can learn the techniques of leadership, but in terms of personality I don’t think you can.”

Once you’ve identified leadership qualities in individuals it’s your job as an employer to encourage and assist them to reach their full potential.

How to nurture?

The first step is to talk to the person, let them know how well they’re doing and find out if they’re interesting in stepping up into a leadership role within the company. This is your opportunity to discuss development areas and see which path the individual would like their career to take. Once you know that the potential leader wants to progress, you can help them to reach the required level to step into the role when a vacancy appears.

Give increased responsibility

Providing opportunities to take on additional responsibility will show your employee how much you trust them. How you do this depends on the person’s role and your organisation but there are usually ways to offer small leadership roles, such as a place on a committee or chairing a team meeting.

Other ways to increase an individual’s responsibility include delegating challenging assignments and tasking them with special projects. Give those you’re nurturing the autonomy and freedom to solve problems for your organisation. Managing director of INSPIRING John Telfer says that it’s important to make sure that managers aren’t using all of their time on reporting and line management duties however. “This can hinder their own progress by making them focus on what has been, instead of what could be achieved if they are allowed to develop their own inspiring leadership skills,” he explains.

Mentoring programme

Offering a mentor programme can help to support those in whom you spot potential. Pairing them with a senior leader will give your junior staff the opportunity to benefit from the senior member’s experience and they can be inspired to push forward and achieve their goals. Providing mentors can also assist your future leaders in growing their leadership skills. The mentors could suggest books to read, TED talks to watch, and so on.

Provide training in areas of development

In their current role it might not be possible for your future leaders to be exposed to areas that they need to develop, for example commercial knowledge. Offering training that fills these knowledge gaps is a good way to help your staff develop. This could be done formally through an external training provider or informally through work-shadowing or internal coaching on specific skills and leadership competencies.

Recognise achievements and show your appreciation

One of the traits of a good leader is commitment and dedication to the organisation. Your leadership team needs to be fully invested in your company, aiming to be able to encourage and engage junior employees. Thanking your staff and giving honest recognition for their work achievements can help them to feel appreciated and enhance their job satisfaction. As Bart Cleveland wrote for Ad Age, “Sure, it is an employee’s job to do their best. But ask yourself, would you give even more if you knew you were appreciated?”


If you’re looking for a formal way to identify development areas and provide leadership qualifications for your future leaders, our INSPIRING Leadership programme could be ideal for your organisation. This three-phase approach gives your employees a personalised development programme, helps you to retain talent and aligns with your business needs, directly benefiting your bottom line. Find out more about INSPIRING Leadership here.

Successful Strategic Planning

For a small business, the strategic planning process doesn’t have to be complicated and to prove this, we’ve put together some of our best tips for developing an effective plan.

Developing a strategic plan will allow you to determine your goals for the future of your business and then decide how you’ll go about achieving them. In a small business, it’s often difficult to find ‘thinking time’ and put time aside for strategic planning when you’re constantly caught up in the running of day to day operations. However, this is an important exercise, especially if you want to grow your business. Things may be ticking over nicely, or not as the case may be, but either way setting out your expectations and aspirations and deciding what’s realistic over the next year or so will prevent you from falling into the trap of keeping things as they are because that’s the easy option.

John Telfer, Managing Director of INSPIRING, comments: “Setting the strategic direction of the business is only part of the job. Clarity and clear line of sight for all staff is just as important to ensure cohesion”.

For a small business, the strategic planning process doesn’t have to be complicated and to prove this, we’ve put together some of our best tips for developing an effective plan.

Start with your mission, vision and values

You’ve probably already determined these, but if you haven’t here are some pointers. A vision statement should challenge and inspire both your organisation and individual team members to achieve your business goals. A mission statement describes the “what” and “why” of your business and identifies your organisation to its customers and the outside world. If you have these already, revisit and redefine them because as your business changes so should your mission and vision. Your values are the only thing that should be constant, as they define how you conduct your business and how you expect your people to interact with others.

Make sure you get the right people involved in the strategic planning process

You should have input from team members across all areas of your business, which may include finance, customer services, human resources, quality management, sales and marketing. As a leader, you’ll have in mind your own overall business goals, but listen to your team and remain open to their ideas and suggestions as they’ll each bring valuable operational knowledge to the table.

Give your strategic plan the time and attention it deserves

What’s worked well for own business, and many of the organisations we’ve worked with over the years, is taking time away from the usual workplace and spending a few hours or a day in a room somewhere, away from distractions of phones and emails. In fact, you could even switch your mobiles off for a while and revert back to a good old flipchart!

Time is valuable so plan your meeting effectively

Brainstorming is great and gives us a chance to explore different ideas, but make sure you don’t all go off on a tangent. Put together an outline of all the aspects of your business that you want your plan to cover and appoint a chairperson to keep time and to make sure you address them all within the meeting. You could ask your team to consider a number of questions before the meeting and come prepared, for example: ‘What’s working and what’s not?’; ‘Are our customers getting the best service?’ or ‘Are our employees engaged and productive?’

Make sure your plan is achievable and visible

When you’ve discussed and agreed your goals, spend time developing them into SMART objectives (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely in case you’d forgotten!).  Place an agreed level of importance to each of your goals and objectives so that you can set deadlines and plan how and when you’re going focus on them throughout the year (or whatever period you’re plan is for). Include monthly initiatives which will help keep your plan active and moving in the right direction. Don’t let all your time and effort go to waste by letting it fall by the wayside when you get back to your daily business.

TEAM UP WITH INSPIRING…

INSPIRING Business Performance provides practical advice, business information tools and training programmes for organisations who want to improve employee engagement, develop their leaders and managers or look at organisational development. If you would like to speak to us about strategic planning or any other area of business development, call us on 0800 612 3098 or get in touch using the enquiry form on the left. We would be happy arrange for one of our consultants to meet up with you for an informal chat.