Making an Impact as Team Leader

Making an Impact as Team Leader

Some people stand out, while others fade into the background. But if you want to make the most of interpersonal relationships, you have to be able to leave a lingering positive impression on your team.

Creating a Powerful First Impression

You’ve probably heard this saying before: you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

In today’s fast-paced world, you have to maximize the time and opportunities you get with the people that you meet. The following are some tips in creating a powerful first impression:

Dress to impress. Beauty is within, but this doesn’t mean that people don’t make conclusions about you based on your appearance. If you want to create a great first impression make sure that you look your best. Whenever you’re presenting yourself to other people, be clean, well-groomed and dressed in clothes that fit and within the prescribed dress code

Be positive. Nobody likes to talk to cranky, irritable, and pessimistic people! Instead, people are drawn to those who smile a lot and radiate a pleasant disposition. If you want to be remembered, make them feel welcomed and appreciated. A positive experience is as easy to remember as a negative one!

Communicate your confidence. Powerful first impressions are those that show you are self-assured, competent, and purposive. Always establish eye contact with the people you are talking to. Shake hands firmly. Speak in a deliberate and purposive way.

Be yourself! Meeting people for the first time can be extremely anxiety-provoking, but do your best to act naturally. People are more responsive to those who don’t come across as if they’re putting on a front or are very controlled. Let your personality engage the other person.

Go for the extra mile. Do more than the usual that can make you stand out from the rest.

Assessing a Situation

All interpersonal skills involve sensitivity to what is going on around, especially what is happening with the people you are interacting with. After all, context variables, such as timing and location, can change the meaning of a communication. You want to make sure that you are not just saying the right thing, but you are saying the right thing at the right moment.

If you want to make an impact, you have to factor in the situation.

The following are some tips in assessing the situation:

Listen, not just to what is being said, but also to what is NOT being said.  An excellent interpersonal skill to master is a keen observing eye. You have to be able to note the body language of the people around you in order for you to be able to respond appropriately. For example, there is body language that says “go on, we like what you’re saying.” There is also body language that says “I don’t want to hear that right now.”

Identify needs. A second way to assess the situation is to ask yourself: what does this social occasion need right now? A newly formed team, for example, likely has members who still don’t know one another. The need then is for someone to help break the ice. A team that is tired from a long working day probably needs an opportunity to relax and unwind. Knowing these needs can help you respond to them more appropriately.

Practice etiquette. Etiquette may seem like a useless bunch of rules to some people but they serve a purpose: they tell you what are generally considered as acceptable and unacceptable for certain situations. It helps then that you know basic etiquette rules so that you don’t make a faux pas that can ruin the great first impression that you made.

Being Zealous without Being Offensive

Enthusiasm, diligence, and persistence are all great virtues to have, especially if you’re in the business of creating social networks. However, you have to be careful that your persevering doesn’t cross the line to pestering — or worse harassing the person.

The following are some tips in being zealous without being offensive:

Focus on what is important to the other person. Being “other-centered” is the best way to monitor your own eagerness to make contact with other people. Before you do something, make that habit of asking yourself: does this action address the need of the other person, or is it merely addressing my need?

Respect boundaries. Everyone has personal boundaries, and it would do us well to respect them. Not seeing clients without an appointment is an example of a boundary. The same goes for not accepting calls during the weekend or past regular office hours. Work within these boundaries, and you’ll be able to communicate your courtesy. And if you don’t know what a person’s boundaries are, you have nothing to lose in asking!

Make requests, not demands. As mentioned previously, we can always do our best to persuade and influence other people, but we can’t force them to do what they don’t want to do. So always courteously ask for permission, and verify agreement. And if they say no —- then accept the no as an answer, unless you have something new to offer.

Note non-verbal behavior. Similar to the tip in the previous section, always be guided by the other person’s non-verbal response to you. If you find that they are already showing irritation — example they speak in a gruff, annoyed tone when talking to you —- then perhaps it’s time to back off. But if they appear open to you — they look at you with interest while you speak — then it’s advisable to go on.

 

Sharing Your Opinion in a Team

Sharing Your Opinion in a Team

Sharing your opinion is an invitation for the rest of the team to share their opinion, setting the stage for an engaging discussion or debate. In this blog, we will discuss the skills you can use in sharing your opinion. Particularly, we will discuss how to use I-messages, disagree constructively, and build consensus.

Using I-Messages

An I-message is a message that is focused on the speaker. When you use I-messages, you take responsibility for your own feelings instead of accusing the other person of making you feel a certain way.  The opposite of an I-message is a You-message.

An I-message is composed of the following:

A description of the problem or issue

Describe the person’s behavior you are reacting to in an objective, non-blameful, and non-judgmental manner.  

“When … “

Describe the concrete or tangible effects of that behavior.

“The effects are … “

A suggestion for alternative behavior

“I’d prefer … “

Here is an example of an I-message:

“When I have to wait outside the office an extra hour because you didn’t inform me that you’d be late (problem/issue), I become agitated (effect). I prefer for you to send me a message if you will not be able to make it (alternative behavior).”

The most important feature of I-messages is that they are neutral. There is no effort to threaten, argue, or blame in these statements. You avoid making the other person defensive, as the essence of an I-message is “I have a problem” instead of “You have a problem”. The speaker simply makes statements and takes full responsibility for his/her feelings.

Disagreeing Constructively

There is nothing wrong with disagreement in a team. No two people are completely similar therefore it’s inevitable that they would disagree on at least one issue. There’s also nothing wrong in having a position and defending it.

To make the most of a disagreement, you have to keep it constructive. The following are some of the elements of a constructive disagreement:

Solution-focus. The disagreement aims to find a workable compromise at the end of the discussion.

Mutual Respect. Even if the two parties do not agree with one another, courtesy is always a priority.

Win-Win Solution.  Constructive disagreement is not geared towards getting the “one-up” on the other person.  The premium is always on finding a solution that has benefits for both parties.          

Reasonable Concessions.  More often than not, a win-win solution means you won’t get your way completely. Some degree of sacrifice is necessary to meet the other person halfway. In constructive disagreement, parties are open to making reasonable concessions for the negotiation to move forward.

Learning-Focused. Parties in constructive disagreement see conflicts as opportunities to get feedback on how well a system works, so that necessary changes can be made. They also see it as a challenge to be flexible and creative in coming up with solutions for everyone’s gain.

Building Consensus

Consensus means unanimous agreement on an area of contention. Arriving at a consensus is the ideal resolution of bargaining. If both parties can find a solution that is agreeable to both of them, then anger can be prevented or reduced.

The following are some tips on how to arrive at a consensus:

Focus on interests rather than positions. Surface the underlying value that makes people take the position they do. For example, the interest behind a request for a salary increase may be financial security. If you can communicate to the other party that you acknowledge this need, and will only offer a position that takes financial security into consideration, then a consensus is more likely to happen.

Explore options together. Consensus is more likely if both parties are actively involved in the solution-making process. This ensures that there is increased communication about each party’s position. It also ensures that resistances are addressed.

Increase sameness and reduce differentiation. A consensus is more likely if you can emphasize all the things that you and the other party have in common, and minimize all the things that make you different. An increased empathy can make finding common interests easier. It may also reduce psychological barriers to compromising. An example of increasing sameness and reducing differences is an employer and employee temporarily setting aside their position disparity and looking at the problem as two stakeholders in the same organization.

 

How to Begin the Coaching Journey with Your Team

How to Begin the Coaching Journey with Your Team

In this blog, you will learn how to place that stake in the ground, marking the beginning of the coaching journey with your team.

Getting a Picture of Where You Are

Framing the reality of the situation for your team is an important step to accepting the coaching process. It is easier for you to outline your team’s performance problem, but this does not create the most receptive environment. In order to gain acceptance of the problem, it is best to let the team come to the realization themselves. Neglecting to do this could result in a non-responsive team. They may feel apprehensive or defensive and shut down. They may go along with your coaching, but their attitude is that of just getting the coaching session over with in the least amount of time. Involving your team is easy if you are willing to ask questions, listen, and guide your them to where they are in their performance. Here are four simple questions you can ask:

  • What is happening now?
  • How often is this happening?
  • When does it happen?
  • What is the effect?

These questions help you to guide your team to a place where they can see their performance affect the organization. When they realize the impact on their own more buy-in is created. In addition, more information may be obtained on why your team is not performing at the level they should be achieving.

The realization of the problem marks the starting point. It also serves as a marker on performance. For instance, a team member may discover that they are not reaching production goals because they are taking extra time doing something incorrectly. Knowing this, you are able to refer to this issue when improvements occur.

Identifying Obstacles

When coaching, obstacles will arise and you need to be prepared to handle them with efficiency. The last thing you want to happen is your team handing you an obstacle you cannot address because you are not prepared to handle the problem with a consistent response.

Using the IRA steps to obstacle identification and removal is vital to the coaching process. Here is the breakdown of the process.

  • Identify the obstacle: Have a frank discussion with your team and determine what is blocking their performance. Waiting for them to give you the information voluntarily will probably not happen.
  • Root out the cause: Many times underlying emotions or problems may be the cause of the obstacles. Ask probing questions and jot down the answers. You might realize they have a fear that must be addressed.
  • Antidote given: A remedy to the situation is needed in order to get past this obstacle. Brainstorm with your team on ways to remove the obstacles. In some cases, you may have to try several different antidotes. Be patient if the cause is genuine.

No matter what the perceived obstacles are, do not let it stifle you coaching objective. Rarely, you may encounter a team member that throws obstacles constantly your way in an effort to derail you. Identify this and address it with that team member, documenting every conversation.

Exploring the Past

Exploring your team’s past performance and development is a great way to develop the reality of today’s performance. Of course, you want to avoid belaboring a past mistake to the point where it makes the session ineffective. On the other hand, focusing on previous achievements helps to encourage your team.

Here are some things to focus from the past:

  • Goals that were met
  • Great behaviors
  • Great attitudes
  • Problems solved

Using the past helps to recap where your team is at today. It is like telling a story, but the end has not yet been determined. Use this time to speak positively to your team. Avoid being negative or emphasizing the consequences of failure. This will leave an impression on your team that could hinder their success.

Keeping Yourself Motivated As a Team Leader

Keeping Yourself Motivated As a Team Leader

Maintaining personal motivation is something essential as an important member of a team, particularly in the case where you are responsible for the motivation of others. As a team leader or manager you will be looked to for reassurance and guidance in a job, and if you give the impression that you are merely going through the motions, your lack of motivation can become contagious. Even if you are responsible solely for yourself, personal motivation remains vitally important. Motivation is what keeps us from giving up and refusing to get out of bed in the morning. Any way we can improve on our level of personal motivation is valuable.

Identifying Personal Motivators

What constitutes a motivation for one person may not be the same for others. Personal motivators are different between people, because the very definition of personal requires that you see things differently from the next person. The importance of identifying your own personal motivators is clear. Without a clear, identifiable set of personal motivating factors, it can be easy to fall into either an unmotivated condition or to rely on other people’s motivations to keep you going forward. There are times when we cannot rely on other people to give us the motivation we feel we need, and when you are on your own you need to motivate yourself.

Identifying your own personal motivators is something that takes some self-knowledge and some thinking time. What is it that you want to take from your job? Are you happy to keep cashing the paychecks, or do you wish to advance further in the company? Why did you apply for the job in the first place – and are you close to satisfying that goal? Ask as many questions as you can ask yourself, and as many answers as you can give to those questions, the better your own personal motivation.

One motivation that works well for a number of people is surpassing themselves. Keeping a record of personal achievements attained while in your current job and attempting to do better every month is a challenge that is never completed. If this fails to motivate you, then look at other things which reward performance. Often, people are most motivated by the recognition of their achievements by others, and by setting an example to other members of staff. Whatever works for you is a valid means of self-motivation. Make sure that you have as many motivating factors as you can think of, because the more things you want to achieve, the more you will achieve.

Maximizing Your Motivators

As far as motivation in a job is concerned, it is a matter which requires regular evaluation and frequent updating. There are countless potential motivators for individuals, and as long as they work for you they are valid. What some people struggle with is ensuring that they continue to work. Particularly if you have been in the same job for a long time, it can be easy to lose the urgency and motivation that drove you to your best results when you started. Think of yourself ten years ago and the principles you held which you believed to be as solid as a rock. Do you still feel the same way now, or has life given you a different outlook?

Constantly giving some thought to what motivates you and why will enable you to get the best out of your motivators. When you started in the job, it may have been about the money, but maybe you have enough money now. In this case, it can help to think of something that you want to do which will require more money – taking a break to travel for a while, building a new house, or whatever suits your means. This is a way of maximizing an old motivator which may have ceased to be that effective. Maybe one of your motivations has been recognition. In this case, seeking to mentor a newer member of staff can be beneficial. While you may have achieved almost all there is to achieve in this job, someone else could maybe do with the benefit of your experience.

Taking the factors which have motivated you in the past and updating them for the future is one way to maximize your motivational factors. In addition, it helps to look at your home life as it relates to your work life. If there is something you really need or really want in your home life, and your job can help you achieve it, then this may be all the motivation you need. Pushing yourself to achieve as much as possible will eventually pay off, especially when other people have ceased to push you because they know how good you are.

Evaluating and Adapting

We all have things which motivate us – when we are kids, when we are young adults and when we are mature adults – and all that changes is the nature of our motivations. Even once we have retired, we will often find that there are things that we need to do and need to achieve before we can truly rest. In fact, one thing that motivates a lot of people is the need to keep their minds active. Research has proven that people who remain active through their middle and early old age keep syndromes such as dementia at bay for longer than those who do not. This makes it all the more important to remain motivated.

It is sometimes too easy to just let things pass you by through complacency, especially when you have already achieved enough to make you more or less immune from being fired. While it may be nice to remain in a job even when on auto-pilot, there is no denying that it is disadvantageous for keeping the challenge in a job and for motivation. Should you want to make a move into another part of the company or another job, it is always useful to have a results sheet which shows continuing improvement and achievement. To this end it always helps to have a record of achievement and keep testing yourself against it

In the end, the person who can best judge how well you are doing is you. Any manager to whom you answer will probably have other people to manage as well, who may require more careful handling than you. The only way you can ensure you remain motivated is to motivate yourself – so if you find that your motivation is beginning to wane, look at other reasons to stay in the job and work harder. There are always reasons to push yourself, and it is a matter of finding the one which does it for you, no matter how often that changes.

Motivating Your Team on the Job

Motivating Your Team on the Job

The importance of motivation in any workplace is clear to see. Without motivated employees, any manager or team leader will find it a lot harder to get results out of their team. One can produce a fairly reasonable standard of work without having great motivation, but to exceed expectations and achieve great results it is essential to have superb motivation. Without something to concentrate on as the reward, the reason you do the job and the reason you want to do the job, it is difficult to produce quality results, because an absence of enthusiasm will always result in flaws.

The Key Factors

There are various factors in motivation, and philosophies of motivation as put forward by great minds of the business world. The key factors of motivation are diverse, and can come from anywhere. Your team  may feel more motivated by the prospect of the punishment of failure than they do with the rewards of success. Even if they are motivated by the trappings of success, there are several different elements that can be covered by this – a higher salary, a promotion, the recognition of co-workers. Human motivation is something personal and cannot be second-guessed.

The inherent factors in motivational tools are that they fulfill a priority for the person concerned and that they can be relied on. If you want to provide motivation to a team, it is essential that you allow for the fact that different team members will be motivated by different things. A company can spend as much money as it likes on tools for the job and on office facilities, but if the employees are not motivated on a personal level there is simply no point. Giving the team members reason to come in in the morning and do their job to the best of their ability is the only way you can guarantee the optimum level of performance.

There are many of the factors that need to be considered with a view to motivating your team. The team members need to feel secure first and foremost. They wish to feel secure in their job, and also in their personal life. If they are well enough remunerated they will be able to meet their rent or their mortgage payments. Team members also need to feel that they are valued and respected. But as well as how an employee feels, it is also important to consider what they covet. As often as not this will be a higher salary, better benefits, and the chance to take part in occasions which recognize brilliance.

Creating a Motivational Organization

An organization is only ever as strong as its employees, and a team will only be as strong as its weakest members. In order to produce the best results over and over again, there is nothing more important than ensuring that motivation is high throughout the organization. This means that a company needs to have a policy for motivation if it wants to have the best results. Good motivation from top to bottom is not something that can be achieved simply by flipping a switch, nor by decree from one boss. Good motivation is achieved by team members knowing that their work is appreciated and will be rewarded, and that they are valued within their organization.

Ensuring that this is the case entails a process of selecting the right people for the right jobs. Someone can be an excellent worker in terms of their knowledge of the procedures and tools required to perform operations, but if they are liable to have a corrosive effect on team morale then their position has to be considered. It is all well and good to be able to carry out your duties, but if when you are not carrying them out you insult team mates and create a hostile atmosphere then the overall effect will be negative for the company. To ensure a motivational organization it is essential to prioritize the appointment of staff that can work with others, provide encouragement or advice, and contribute to a positive working environment.

This is a question which comes down to balance. If you have an organization which has its fair share of problem solvers, consensus builders, nurtures, and humorists among others, then you will have a far greater chance of creating the motivational environment that you are looking for. This is something that should be checked for at the recruitment stage. It is important to get people who can do the job, and it is also hugely important to get people with whom you and other people can work. A motivational organization is one in which the employees naturally complement one another as personalities and as workers.

Creating a Motivational Job

Ideally, any employee in a company will be able to reply to the question “Do you like your job?” with a “yes”, a smile, and a list of reasons why. We have all heard, or read, or have been that person who is never done complaining about their job when not in the office, so it would appear that there is still some work to be done before we are all doing our perfect job. If perfect is not possible, then, we are looking for jobs which make us feel motivated, and as though we feel it is worth going to work tomorrow. Jobs like that do not grow on trees, but when you are a team leader and it is up to you to put the right job description together in order that potential employees feel that they want to do the job.

Everyone has their own perfect job. The idea of a perfect job is that it will be one that the employee will be happy to show up for, and which they would consider doing even if they weren’t being paid. Although the simple truth is that most of us only countenance doing our job because we know that there is a pay check waiting at the end of it, it should be a target for everyone to have a job where they require little extra motivation beyond that which already exists – a target for employers and employees. If you have a happy team you are much more likely to have good work done.

So while people will generally find it very hard to ever get hold of their perfect job, having a good motivational job is something worth aiming for. The perfect motivational job is one which combines as many of the business philosophers’ essential factors as possible. It will present challenges for the employee, but ones which are achievable for a diligent worker. Achieving these challenges will be met with financial and social reward and the confidence of maintaining a place in the business while also being recognized as a strong worker. In the best motivational jobs, an understanding will exist between the employer and the employee that each knows what the other is looking for, and can provide it.

 

Using Expectancy Theory to Motivate Your Team

Using Expectancy Theory to Motivate Your Team

While there are a number of theories which focus on needs as a driver of motivation, Victor Vroom’s Theory of Expectancy rather thrives on the outcomes. To clarify, while Herzberg and Maslow make the case for motivation being something that is dependent on need, Vroom suggests that the best motivation is to concentrate on the result of work as being the ultimate goal. He splits the process down into three sections – effort (for which motivation is essential), performance, and outcome. The theory is that if the employee is sufficiently motivated to achieve the results, their performance will be better as a result, and the outcome will to some extent take care of itself as a result of improved performance – which will itself be a result of greater effort.

A History of Expectancy Theory

Victor Vroom is a much-respected professor and researcher in the business world, and works at the Yale Business School as well as serving as a consultant for some of the world’s most successful companies. This elevated status is due in no small part to his expectancy theory of motivation, which addresses the reasons why people follow the path that they do within corporations. His proposition was that behavior results from choices made by the individual where the choice exists to do something else. The underlying truth in this theory is that people will do what works out best for them. The important element is the outcome.

Related: Reward your team with fun team building activities

Vroom worked on this theory with fellow business scientists Edward Lawler and Lyman Porter. The theory dates back to 1964 and is still widely used by professors. While the process is characterized as Effort, Performance, Outcome, and more specifically as E>P (increased effort leads to a greater performance) and P>O (increased performance brings a better outcome), he takes notice of the fact that greater effort will not happen all by itself. What makes a satisfactory outcome for one individual may not necessarily work for another.

Clearly the theory has convinced many, as Vroom has been much in demand since the theory was unveiled, and major companies such as American Express have taken great care to solicit his opinions. While the Expectancy Theory may seem simple and largely self-explanatory, Vroom does make specific reference to elements which can easily be ignored, and without which the theory would not work. It is therefore beneficial to take not only the three factors above, but Vroom’s three “Variables”.

Understanding the Three Factors

The core variables in the theory of expectancy are Valence, Expectancy, and Instrumentality. The meaning that these variables have is as follows:

Valence – the importance that is placed by the individual upon the expected outcome. If the outcome for a project’s successful completion is that the individual will be rewarded with more important projects when they would actually rather be rewarded with time off, they will place less value on the outcome, and their motivation to perform well will suffer, leading to reduced effort. Ensuring that the valence of a task is at a suitable level is a significant motivation

Expectancy – the belief that increased effort will lead to increased performance. Expressed in more simple terms, this means that if you put in more effort, the results will be better. This obviously depends to some extent on having the resources, the skills, and the support to get the job done. While effort is undoubtedly important it is not quite accurate to say that more effort will always mean better results. More effort on its own may well simply be wasted effort, if the person doing the work is using the wrong tools, is the wrong person or is working with people who have limited interest in reaching the same outcome.

Instrumentality – this is the belief that if an individual performs up to a certain level, they will be rewarded with an outcome that will be beneficial to them. It is one thing to tell an individual that, should they meet their performance targets, they will be rewarded with a beneficial outcome, and another to convince them of that. The important factors in Instrumentality are:

an understanding that performance equals outcome (so the reward depends upon the satisfactory performance)

a sense of trust that the people who promise the reward will deliver

trust in the capacity of the people judging the performance and the outcome

Therefore, the Theory will only work in practice if the individual recognizes that they need to perform, and trusts the people in control to judge their performance and deliver what is promised.

Using the Three Factors to Motivate in the Workplace

The three factors of the theory of expectation as set out above all have their part to play in the workplace. Along with what has been learned from Herzberg and Maslow’s theories, we can take their insistence on the needs of an employee and put them in a goal-oriented context by applying Vroom’s theories.

Firstly there is the issue of valence. Does the motivation exist to complete a task well if the outcome is uninspiring? Surely not, therefore to ensure the maximum motivation, it is ideal to offer something which will be coveted. This is perhaps the most important level of the E>P>O equation. The effort will rise to meet the outcome. How this is used in the workplace will depend on what the company can deliver.

Then there is the issue of expectancy. Effort will only lead to performance where the conditions exist to make it so. In the simplest terms, you might be able to deliver a fine reward to someone who can build a kennel for your dog. But if you only hand them two planks of wood and a broken screwdriver, you may as well offer them a trip around the world for all the good it will do. You cannot expect someone to meet their goals if you do not present conditions which make this possible. All the effort in the world will not make it happen.

Finally there is the issue of instrumentality. This is important in workplaces where big rewards have been offered before, and in those where it is done for the first time. There is little point in a small-income business to offer a sports car as an incentive for better performance, as there is little likelihood of them delivering it. Equally there is limited reason to offer a chocolate bar as the reward for a project which will make a company a million dollars, as it just seems like a slap in the face. Equally, if rewards have been offered before and the task completed only for the company to express their regrets and fail to pay out the reward, the chance that people will trust enough to put the effort in again is greatly reduced.

Team Motivation Through Reinforcement Theory

Team Motivation Through Reinforcement Theory

The concept of reinforcement theory is an old idea, which has been used in many different settings for many different purposes. If you have a pet dog, the chances are that you have used reinforcement theory in training it to behave the right way – a treat for sitting, rolling over and walking when you ask it to, and a punishment for climbing on the furniture or going to the toilet in the house. It is not, however, limited to dogs, although the way it is applied changes depending on whom the theory is being practiced on. For humans, something as crude as a piece of candy to reward a good deed will not be as effective, but the concept of rewarding good practice and punishing bad holds firm. Reinforcement theory has been established as successful and coherent, and it is a valid method of ensuring the best performance.

A History of Reinforcement Theory

We are all conditioned to act in certain ways based on certain stimuli. This is something that is visible in most things we do. From something as simple as waking up and getting out of bed when an alarm goes, to calling the fire department if we see a fire, our responses to certain situations are more or less instinctive, as we are not automatons, we do have some leeway in exactly how we respond. The knowledge of how we respond to stimuli was articulated in 1911 by E.L. Thorndike in what he called the “Law of Effect”. Essentially, this lays down that in a situation where normal results can be expected, a response to stimuli which is followed by something good will become more “right” in our minds, while a response followed by something “bad” will become more “wrong”.

To take this theory and apply it practically, as children we are still learning and our parents will usually use positive and negative reinforcement to apply lessons. Practically, if we eat up all our vegetable when we may not necessarily want to, we will be given a pudding after dinner. If we push our sister over, we may be sent to our room or to sit in the corner and think about what we have done. These reinforcement steps may be applied as often as possible until we always eat our vegetables and refrain from pushing our sisters over.

Behavioral conditioning is a subject which some consider controversial and even cruel, but there is a strong body of opinion which suggests that it is absolutely necessary. B.F. Skinner responded to arguments that human drives needed to be respected by saying that people learn behaviors based on what resulted from them. If somebody is of a mind to transgress because they enjoy transgression, but find that the result of their conduct is reduced freedom, they will become less likely to transgress so often. The thought of transgressing can become painful when associated with the idea of what will result. This theory is known as “behaviorism”.

Behavior Modification in Four Steps

Once we have accepted that there is a truth to the theory of reinforcement, it is important to look at how the theory can be applied in terms of ensuring the desired behavior. The message of reinforcement theory is that it is possible for you to modify behavior in yourself or in others by associating undesirable behaviors with undesirable outcomes. In order to be fully “scientific” and guarantee the desired results from a program of behavior modification, it is worth following a strict pattern and recording the results faithfully. By referring to the results it is possible to see what patterns of modification work best. The following is a trusted four-step pattern for behavior modification:

  1. Define the behavior to be modified.
  2. Record the rate at which that behavior takes place.
  3. Change the consequences which result from that behavior.
  4. If this does not succeed in preventing the behavior, change the consequences to a greater or lesser extent.

By working through this model as often as is necessary it is possible to change the behavior of an individual from being detrimental to being positive in most cases. The form that this pattern might take practically in a workplace is as follows. Person A has a tendency to leave their work station and go and speak to their friend, Person B. Person A is perfectly capable of delivering good work when they keep their mind on it. The distraction is infringing on Person B’s work, too, and they do not have the willpower to refrain from chatting with Person A. In order to ensure that both people’s work is as good as it can be it is necessary to stop Person A from behaving in this way. Thus we have defined the behavior to be modified.

It is then necessary to see how often this happens. If it happens three times a day outside of scheduled breaks, and goes on for ten minutes at a time, then half an hour is lost to this behavior in a given day. If it is allowed to continue, this can build into hours lost in a given week – in fact, in a five day week, five “person hours” are lost to this behavior – half an hour each day for Person A and half an hour for Person B. As yet, nothing is being done. There are numerous things that could be tried here. Simply telling them to return to their workstation is one. If this works in reducing the amount of time lost, then a positive result has been achieved.

However, this may mean that Person A simply changes tack and goes to chat with their friend when you are not in the vicinity. Most offices now, however, have software which records the amount of time an employee stays away from their work station. By checking the time lost in a given day, and tallying the times that Person A and B were both inactive, it is possible to record how much time is lost when you are away from your desk. This can then be addressed in a number of ways. One way may be to stagger the lunch breaks of the members of the team, ensuring that Persons A and B cannot take lunch together as they would prefer. By checking how this affects the conduct of Person A you can see if this is working. As time goes on you can apply a number of different methods and settle on the one that works best.

Appropriate Uses in the Workplace

As things stand, it is really up to the employer, line manager or other supervisor to decide how to apply reinforcement and behavior modification in the workplace. The above example is one case where it can be helpful, but behavior modification is not limited to cases of deliberate transgression (although if the transgression is deliberate it will be more likely to build a clear, causal link in the mind of the individual). Behavior modification can also be used to aid a situation where an employee is working less effectively than they might for reasons other than rule-breaking. People have different ways of going about their jobs, but if one or more employees have a technique that is hindering their results, then behavior modification can form part of their coaching.

Reinforcement theory can also play a part in rewarding employees. If the members of a team have risen above and beyond what is expected of them, it is usually within the capability of a company to deliver some form of reward such as a team lunch. The knowledge that they can have a leisurely two-hour lunch break on the company if they consistently hit targets and exceed expectations is something that will remain in the minds of employees. They will be encouraged to continue the good work by the knowledge that their ability to exceed expectations has been noted and rewarded, and may be rewarded again.

Object-Oriented Theory of Team Motivation

Object-Oriented Theory of  Team Motivation

Motivation is not all about philosophical needs, of course. A lot of people work better when they have the concrete facts in front of them – something to work towards, something to avoid. Different things motivate different people, and in any given team or workforce, there will be a mix of these people. As Herzberg’s Theory suggests, what will motivate each individual will be a mix of satisfaction and non-dissatisfaction. This is similar to the old theory of the “carrot and whip” – based on the hypothesis of riding a horse and using the carrot to encourage it to speed up, and the whip to prevent it from slowing down too much. Then there is also the idea of the plant – seeing a worker as a “plant” who, given the right mix of the already-discussed factors, will flower beautifully. The carrot, the whip, and the plant are united into the heading of “Object-Oriented Theory”.

The Carrot

The “carrot” as a theory takes its lead from horse-riding and dates back to the middle of the 20th century. The idea is that a cart driver would tie a carrot to a long stick and dangle it in front of the horse or donkey which was pulling his cart. As the donkey moved forward towards the carrot, he would pull the cart and driver forward, ensuring that the carrot always remained beyond his reach until such time as the driver slowed down and stopped, at which point – should he so desire – the driver could give the carrot to the horse as a reward for doing what it has been encouraged to do.

For the employer, this can perhaps be read in a number of ways. Looking at how the “carrot” theory works, it is quite easy to assume that the “carrots” offered to employees should be continually moved beyond their reach, and this assumes that the employee is as stubborn and witless as a donkey. This would be a rash assumption to make, and continually moving the point of reward away from the employee could be seen as a disincentive. Not delivering on a promise is always likely to annoy workers rather than stiffen their resolve to meet the new goals.

It could, however, also be argued that the carrot on the stick is something which should not just hang there within easy reach. The employee will need to keep testing themselves, but as long as they meet their challenges they will be rewarded at the end of their efforts. In the theory detailed in the first paragraph, there is a defined end point. The important element of the theory is that if someone has the promise of a reward at the end of their work, they are likely to keep striving for it. If that reward is continually denied them even at the end of their work, however, do not be surprised if it ceases to work.

The Whip

In different cultures it is known by different names, but the second part of the “Carrot” theory is the Whip. There is a long history of terms and sayings attached to the idea of having an element of threat involved in motivating a group of employees, or anyone for that matter. “Spare the rod and spoil the child”, for example, is an old proverb meaning that if you never punish someone for transgressing, they will come to believe that they can transgress as and when they wish. In the old “Carrot” theory, the way it works is that if the employee tired of chasing after a carrot that never seems to get any closer, simply slows down, a quick smack with the whip will make it speed up again.

The theory of motivation by threat of punishment is one which needs to be handled very carefully indeed. Not only is it absolutely illegal in many places to physically discipline workers, but other forms of threat can have a detrimental effect on the workforce. An employer, team leader, or manager with a reputation for flying off the handle when things are not to their satisfaction may get results from some people, but this method can lead to a culture of fear within a company or department, and stifle performance in order to simply get the work done.

It is left up to the person providing the motivation to decide to what extent and in what way they will use the “whip”. There can be initiatives which combine the carrot and the whip – for example, in a one-off situation over the course of a day or so, the person or people who have performed worst in the team can be required to buy coffees or any other small reward for those who have performed best. A “forfeit” system can also be applied, but it is dangerous to apply anything too humiliating in this situation. The limits of the system need to be clearly defined. If it is something so meaningless that it won’t be taken seriously, the whip ceases to be a motivation. If it is too stringent it becomes the whole focus and can infringe upon performance.

The Plant

An element of objected-oriented motivation which, is essentially separate from the above, but not incompatible with them, is known as “Plant” theory. Take as your example a simple house plant. In order to ensure that a plant flourishes it is important to give it the best combination possible of different nourishing elements. Most plants will require sunlight, warmth, water, and food in order to grow in the way you would wish. By the same token, employees will be motivated by a combination of factors.

The average employee will require motivation in many of the forms discussed by Maslow and Herzberg, and because humans are not all the same it will be a matter of judgment to ensure that each employee gets the right amount of each factor. This can be something as simple as getting the balance of “carrot and whip” motivation right. It is important, in many managers’ eyes, to get the balance right between the arm around the shoulders and the boot up the backside. Making an employee feel valued and supported without letting them become coddled is important, as is ensuring that they know they have to perform without making them feel like they have a gun against their head.

Taking three of Herzberg’s essential elements of motivation as an example, some employees work best with the prospect of challenge in their work, while some will work better with the goal of recognition. Others, equally, will want simply to get through as much work as they can while doing the work to a high level of quality. It is important to take into account the differing “buttons” that need to be pressed in each staff member to ensure that they do their job as well as possible. It is many people’s view that the team which will work best is the one that has a combination of people who work well under different motivations. This way, tasks within the team can be assigned in a balanced way and ensure the best performance from every individual, and consequently the best performance from the team. The “Plant” theory, as applied here, is about knowing which plant requires which type of nourishment in which measure. By getting the balance right you can ensure the best “greenhouse” arrangement.

The Different Types of Teams

The Different Types of Teams

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines a team as a number of persons associated together in work or activity. Teams are formed for many purposes.  Examples include project teams, ad-hoc teams, quality improvement teams, and task forces.  Sometimes the team is formed to work on a goal as an adjunct to a traditional hierarchy in an organization.  At other times, the team is designed to replace the hierarchy.

Several roles help to keep a team operating smoothly.

Team Leader:

  • Moves the team to accomplish its task
  • Provides a conducive environment for getting the work done (location, resources)
  • Communicates with the team

Team Facilitator:

  • Makes things happen with ease
  • Helps the group with the process
  • Enables the group to produce the “how” decisions

Team Recorder:

  • Writes down the team’s key points, ideas and decisions
  • Documents the team’s process, discussions, and decisions

Time Keeper:

  • Monitors how long the team is taking to accomplish its tasks
  • Provides regular updates to the team on how well or poorly they are using their time
  • Collaborates with the team leader, facilitator and others to determine new time schedules if the agenda has to be adjusted

Team Members:

  • Displays enthusiasm and commitment to the team’s purpose
  • Behaves honestly; maintain confidential information behind closed doors
  • Shares responsibility to rotate through other team roles
  • Shares knowledge and expertise and not withhold information
  • Asks questions
  • Respects the opinions and positions of others on the team, even if the person has an opposing view or a different opinion

The Traditional Team

There are several characteristics common to traditional teams.

  • A team gains a shared understanding and purpose among team members, as distinguished from a group.
  • Teams require mutually agreed-upon operating principles such as agendas, procedures, and decision-making processes.
  • A team is interdependent; everyone works for the good of the team, not for oneself.
  • Effective teams distinguish task from process. How they do things (the process) is just as important, if not more important, than what they do (the task).

Self-Directed Teams

A self-directed team is a team that is responsible for a whole product or process.  The team plans the work and performs it, managing many of the tasks supervision or management might have done in the past.  A facilitator (selected by the team or an outside individual) helps the group get started and stay on track.  The facilitator’s role decreases as the team increases its ability to work together effectively.

E-Teams

An e-team is a group of individuals who work across space and organizational boundaries with links strengthened by webs of communication technology. Members have complementary skills and are committed to a common purpose, have interdependent performance goals, and share an approach to work for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.

Geographically dispersed teams allow organizations to hire and retain the best people regardless of location.  An e-team does not always imply telecommuters, individuals who work from home. Many virtual teams in today’s organizations consist of employees, both working at home and in small groups in the office, but in different geographic locations.

The benefits of an e-team approach are:

  • Workers can be located anywhere in the world
  • Virtual environments can give shy participants a new voice
  • Members have less commuting and travel time, so they tend to be more productive
  • Companies gain an increasingly horizontal organizational structure, characterized by structurally, and geographically distributed human resources.

There are a few caveats when using e-teams.  They frequently operate from multiple time zones, so it is important to make sure that there is some overlapping work time.  In addition, unless a camera is used for meetings, working virtually means that there is no face to face body language to enhance communications.  Therefore, intra-team communications must be more formal than with a team whose members meet physically.  Care also needs to be taken to make sure no one is left out of the communications loop just because he or she is not visible.  E-teams demand a high trust culture.

Building Consensus in a Team

Building Consensus in a Team

Consensus is a point of maximum agreement so action can follow. It is a win-win situation in which everyone in the team feels that he or she has one solution that does not compromise any strong convictions or needs. To reach consensus, team members share ideas, discuss, evaluate, organize, and prioritize ideas, and struggle to reach the best conclusions together.

A good test for consensus is to ask the question “can you support this decision?” If everyone can support it, the team has achieved 100% consensus.

Consensus is not always the best strategy. In some cases, reaching consensus does not result in a better decision or outcome. For example, team members are capable of unanimously agreeing on a completely incorrect solution to a problem. But generally, reaching consensus remains a highly desirable goal.

To make consensus work, the team leader must become skilled at separating the content of the team’s work (the task) from the process (how the team goes about doing the task). But the process should get the most attention.  A facilitative leader helps a team to solve its own problem.  The problem-solving process is as follows:

  1. Identify the problem or goal.
  2. Generate alternative solutions.
  3. Establish objective criteria.
  4. Decide on a solution that best fits the criteria.
  5. Proceed with the solution.
  6. Evaluate the solution.

Everyone involved in the process should understand exactly which step is being worked on at any given point. When team members sense a problem, they are usually reacting to symptoms of the problem. But they are the side effects of the real problem which usually lies below the surface.