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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Coaching Teams

High Performance Team Coaching: A Comprehensive System for Leaders and Coaches by Drs. Jacqueline Peters and Catherine Carr (FriesenPress, 2013), reviewed by Steve Gladis, April 2017. 

Overview: Only 1 of 5 teams is high performing, in part because team coaching has lacked a solid performance model—at least until now.  High-performance coaching is systematic and focused on the collective talents, strengths, and goals of the organization. First, the authors define the critical difference between a group and a team. A team is complementary, committed and, especially, interdependent. And a high-performance team hits or exceeds organizational goals they set for themselves. The authors set out several key elements. I’d call them the Key 3s. Three fundamental steps for a team: Assess stakeholder expectations; put a plan in place; measure progress and results. Three critical drivers for success: Team structure, team launch, and team coaching. Three times for best coaching impact: The beginning, middle, and end. And finally, three critical outputs: Quality results, team capabilities and relationships, and individual engagement.

1. Team Coaching: Team and individual coaching are different animals. Only in the past decade has team coaching emerged as a sub-discipline of coaching. Moreover, systemic team coaching focuses on the leader, the team processes, and the team’s impact on stakeholders to transform performance of the team and the business. Typically, an external coach works with the leader, the team and, where needed, individuals on the team. Safety and trust are critical factors for high-performance teams. There are 6 phases of High Performance Team Coaching: Assessment, Design, Launch, Individual Coaching, Team Coaching, and Review.
2. Assessment & Design: Referring to Wageman’s research (2008), the authors cite three essential conditions (a real, defined team; compelling direction; and the right people). Also there are 3 enabling conditions (solid team structure, supportive organizational context, and competent team coaching). Teams need both essential and enabling conditions to be successful. The assessment phase determines the strengths, weaknesses, and gaps between the current and desired states. In general, the essential and enabling conditions that follow provide specific guidance for the first two phases of team coaching.
   a. Essential Conditions of Teams: 1) “Real” Teams have clear boundaries, defined membership, and strong interdependent goals; 2) Compelling direction gives teams a sense of purpose about their work and its impact on their stakeholders; 3) The right people are those with the knowledge, skills and abilities to achieve the team’s goals.
   b. Enabling Conditions: 1) Solid team structure means clear roles, responsibilities, and working guidelines/agreements; 2) Supportive Organizational Context means that a team has resources to support its operation—time, talent, money; 3) Competent Team Coaching refers to coaches with experience in the discipline of team coaching.
3. Team Launch: New teams are launched, and established teams are relaunched to develop and/or refresh their mission and vision and establish a safe, cohesive unit. Led by competent team coaches, such launches are held offsite to focus teams on the purpose and the ground rules (working agreements) of the team. In essence, a team charter is formulated to keep the team on course, especially when things get rocky. If good rules aren’t established up front and adhered to, people will create them, ad hoc.  The authors provide a valuable, simple worksheet to help coaches and teams craft such a charter.
4. Individual Team Coaching: Coaching the team leader through this transitional period helps provide a valuable sounding board and guide to keep the team coaching and processes on track. In general, coaching is good both for the leader and also team members who might get stuck along the way. Coaching team members can be done by the team coach or an internal or external coach and/or, especially, peers. Peer coaching is easy to teach and implement as long as the team coach creates rules, especially around confidentiality, that lead to safety, truth telling and ultimately progress.
5. Ongoing Team Coaching: It may be best to have an external coach when launching a new team. Moreover, having that coach at least monitor the team’s progress in the middle and end of the engagement is critical. Sometimes the team leader will take over the reins after the team is up and running well. In many cases, the team coach provides regular, periodic coaching for the team and leader. Again, peer coaching is viewed as a key driver of employee engagement.  
6. Review of Learning and Successes: Reviewing a team’s progress periodically and then at its completion is a key factor for future team success. One of the coach’s jobs is to push the team to review their experiences (tasks, milestones, etc.) and reflect on their collective and personal learning during the team’s lifecycle. Worth noting—often this step is skipped by many teams, especially in the glow of completing a difficult task. Coaches and team leaders must vigilantly reflect on the team’s journey to ensure both the growth of team members and the organization. Excellent teams produce the following three outputs: Quality results, team capabilities and relationships, and individual engagement.
7. Team Coaching Activities: Chapter 5 is a goldmine for coaches. The authors provide guidance to ensure that a series of key elements of the six-step team coaching process are followed. For example, in support of the assessment step, The Team Coaching Readiness Assessment provides a list of detailed questions to ask prior to coaching to ensure a greater chance of team success. Supporting the launch step, the Team Charter Page offers a simple, effective team summary including vision, mission, values, key goals, success measures and working agreements.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Driven to Distraction

The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World by Adam Gazzaley
and Larry Rosen (MIT Press, 2016,) reviewed by Steve Gladis, Dec. 2016.
1.     Overview. A basic premise of this book: We have an evolutionary and survivalist need to access information. We literally forage for important information, much like food foraging. In fact, novelty and information trigger our brain’s reward-dopamine system. However, modern access to huge volumes of information creates an overload and the frustration associated with it. This book outlines why and how we’re distracted, especially in an e-world full of competing images and sounds. The big problem: Our ability to set goals is far more evolved than our goal-enactment abilities. And given the amount of e-interference today, goal interference looms over us constantly. The authors describe the conflict between goal setting and cognitive control; attention setting and managing goals resulting from distractions; and, interruptions and multitasking. The 3 HUGE disrupters in our current world are the internet, cell phones, and email. Finally, the authors offer strategies to combat such distraction and make us more resilient by employing education, cognitive training, certain video games, physical exercise, pharmaceuticals, and nature exposure. In addition, here’s a TED talk that will orient you to their work.
2.     Cognition and Control. In Section I, the authors discuss how our limited cognitive control wrestles with interference, distraction (both internal and external) and poor performance.  Interference appears as ‘noise,” like task switching (erroneously labeled “multitasking”), which distracts us from our goals. For example, you go to the pantry but forget why you went there!  Our brains have evolved over time to develop complex goals and focus on them using cognitive control by using attention, working memory and goal management—all of which have limitations and are affected by age and daily circumstances. Unfortunately, multitasking is associated with novelty, pushes the brain’s rewards button (dopamine system), and is more fun than focusing! Example: I just exported a quote from this book to OneNote, then tried to sync it, couldn’t find the sync button, and spent 4 minutes trying to locate it. Now I’m trying to get back to my goal—writing this review!
3.     Modern Behavior. Today’s technologies offer us a “foraging” feast and an unlimited ability to trigger the pleasure of a dopamine (rewards) hit. This external technology is ubiquitous, addictive, and harmful—all at the same time. Thus, the constant presence of technology affects our safety (texting and driving); education (website visits and texts during class); sleep (screen time and sleep interference); and health (spending too much time sitting and not moving).  Further, this technical interference especially impacts people with ADHD, anxiety, depression, and autism. The danger: “attentional blindness” is paying too much attention to our top-down brain functions and not enough time to our bottom-up sensory functions—we lose track of what’s happening in the moment. People get hit by cars and bump into walls because they’re too distracted by their phones. In fact, 23% of all car crashes involve distraction by using a cell phone! At work, interruptions are constant, especially in open offices, and it can take up to 30 minutes to get back on task. To make up for interruptions, people work faster, demand more of their brains, and experience more stress and higher frustration. Socially we are often “alone together,” paying way more attention to our cellphones and less to people around us. In fact, the mere presence of a cell phone (iPhone effect) had negative consequences in social interaction, such as a lack of empathy. The overuse of technology has been associated with psychological problems. Sleep is critically affected by screen time, especially an hour before bedtime—it inhibits melatonin release. Technology—especially the internet, smartphones and social media—has had a serious effect on the key domains of Attention (selectivity, distribution, sustainability, processing speed); Working Memory (capacity); and, Goal Management (multitasking and task switching).

4.     What to Do. With important tasks, turn off any distracting devices. However, unimportant, boring tasks might benefit from paced disruptions. Augmenting  our knowledge of technology’s effects on the brain, decreasing our access to it, diminishing boredom and reducing anxiety are the keys to getting this technology danger under control. Here are just a few cautions and tips to diminish distractions. Driving: texting while driving increases the risk of a crash 23 times! And, just using a cell phone while driving is like being legally drunk. Boredom: Conversation in a car is OK unless it requires deep cognitive thought. Audio books seem to be safe and don’t measurably conflict with attention in a major way. Anxiety: To avoid compulsive message checking, inform your friends when you’re unavailable and set up auto-responses. Critical Assignments: Avoid multitasking to increase productivity and reduce stress. Take regular breaks. Limit yourself to one screen at a time. Reduce open programs on the computer. Limit daily contact with email and set time limits. Listen to your favorite music (I prefer instrumentals)—symphony or smooth jazz.  Rest your eyes; try the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes take a 20 second break and focus on things 20 feet away. Take short 10-minute naps. Take nature walks. Keep phones out of sight. Have weekly 15-min. family meetings. Have family meals—for best child psychological and family relationships. Remove technology from the bedroom. While drugs like Ritalin and Adderall may help people with ADHD (a burgeoning class in a distracted world), the side effects, including addiction, for healthy people taking them can be negative. 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Great Leaders Put Others First

Overview: What makes Marines so great? Marine officers take care of their
troops always. For example, they “eat last”—after the troops. Soldiers act better than most of us because they are willing to sacrifice themselves in service of the safety of others. However, often in business, leaders eat first—get paid more and stand first in line for benefits. Real leaders put others first—protect others first. An excellent organization has a culture of empathy that protects and serves its people first, who in turn look out for the organization. When people feel unsafe and unprotected by leaders, they feel stress and anxiety. They seek safety and protection in silos and engage in internal politics that hurt the company. When we compete between those silos, we give off selfish chemicals; but when we collaborate, we give off selfless ones—allowing us to be our best selves.

--Employees First: CEO Bob Chapman (of Barry-Wehmiller) bought a number of manufacturing companies and was willing to listen to his employees. Factory workers noted how differently they were treated than office workers. Chapman decided to inject more empathy into the company—allowing everyone the same freedoms and discretion. Through a culture of caring, Chapman grew loyalty and nearly doubled revenues. Advice for leaders: “To earn trust, he [she] must extend trust.”  Our minds register threat or no threat, especially from leaders, and Chapman works to be no threat.

--From Me to We: Sinek offers this simple but powerful concept: The “circle of safety.” In short, strong cultures provide internal protection from external threats. Weak cultures do the opposite and create toxic work environments. Intimidation, isolation, and politics inside organizations with weak cultures can be a serious threat to success. Real leaders protect the tribe from both internal and external threats. Sinek references Steve Pressfield who wrote about how the Spartans (Greek warriors) protected each other: “A warrior carries helmet and breastplate for his own protection, but his shield for the safety of the whole line [comrades].” Without protection, factions (corporate gangs) and silos form for self-protection and ultimately hurt the entire organization. Gallup studies show that 40% of employees will quit if ignored by bosses, and 22% leave if actively criticized. Having little sense of control at work creates stress. And, about a third of workers want to leave their job.

--The Group:  When people feel safe at work, they band together to fight the outside competition. When they don’t feel safe, they expend much energy on self-protection. Size also matters: The optimal size of a company or a working location (office/plant) should be about 150 people. We’re all inclined to cooperate, especially if we know people we work with. In excess of 150, we lose that capacity to know people.

--Selfish Chemicals:  Self-focused chemicals like dopamine, adrenalin, and cortisol drive us to “hunt,” achieve, and compete to win. Dopamine gets released when we reach a goal, cross it off our to-do list—achieve something. Feeling a sense of progress and reward is created by dopamine. Unfortunately, emailing, texting, overwork, and gambling, alcohol and drugs can also cause the release of  dopamine—and thus become addictive, destructive habits. In an overly performance-driven environment, dopamine can become destructive to the circle of safety, creating stress, breaking down loyalty, and hurting the organization.  Cortisol prepares our bodies and muscles for fight or flight. This hormone protects the body under stress. It’s only intended to surge to protect in the moment. Lingering levels of cortisol—caused by difficult bosses, layoffs, and internal politics—break down the immune system, increase aggression, impair cognitive ability, and lower our capacity for empathy.

--Selfless Chemicals:  Such chemicals as serotonin and oxytocin are the social glue that holds the culture together—they are “the backbone of the circle of safety.”  Family, friends, and coworkers all get us through the good and bad times by causing us to produce serotonin, a mood enhancer given off from this support that makes us feel grateful towards those people. Generosity and physical contact (shaking hands, hugs) stimulate oxytocin. Oxytocin also boosts our immune system and makes us less addictive. In safe environments, oxytocin is given off and creates the feeling of love, friendship, belonging and trust. A good tribe should stimulate serotonin and oxytocin (making us feel safe), not dopamine, adrenalin and cortisol (making us feel threatened and competitive). Leaders who sacrifice for the group are revered as alphas and are allowed to lead by their followers.  Safety yields trust, and trust is the lubricant of good, responsive business.

--Examples of What Real Leaders Do: 1. Rather than laying off people, they have everyone, including all execs, take furlough days. 2. They protect (keep people safe), connect (socially bond the group), and direct (project a vision of the future). 3. They break the rules only to do the right thing, not for personal gain. 4. They provide cover from above. 5. They avoid “destructive abstraction” by putting a human face on statistics, not mindlessly employing draconian policies for the sake of numbers—selfless vs. selfish pursuits.  6. They sacrifice for the greater good of others.

Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t (Penguin, 2014) by Simon Sinek, reviewed by Steve Gladis, July 2016.

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