Leadership Move #18: Challenge Them To Connect The Dots

Ever see that mind puzzle called the 9 Dots? You start with 3 rows of 3 dots, and the goal is to connect all 9 dots with 4 straight lines. Oh, and once you start, you can’t lift your pen off of the paper – the ‘end’ of each line must be the ‘start’ of the next.

Here’s the puzzle. Go ahead and give it a try.

9dots-a

(There’s a link to the solution, below, but don’t go there just yet – try to figure it out on your own.)

Knowing and Not-Knowing

The point of the game is simple enough: As Salvador Dali once said, “It is either easy or impossible.”

In other words, until you know HOW to do something (e.g. connect the dots correctly), you don’t.  But once you DO…you absolutely do!

And by virtue of you being in a leadership role, chances are pretty good that you already know how to connect some dots that your staff does not.

Struggling versus Puzzling

Of course that doesn’t mean you should always just give them the answer. No fun in that! (And not much growth and development for them, either.) But, with a few well-placed ‘hints’ you can certainly help them figure things out for themselves sooner.

After all, isn’t making good things happen ‘sooner’, pretty much the whole point of leadership?!

There’s Significant Power in a Good Hint

Sure, the 9 Dots it’s just a silly puzzle, but using it as our metaphor du jour, what would be a good hint that might help someone solve it sooner, rather than later, rather than never? Here are two:

  1. It’s okay if the lines don’t stay ‘within’ the dots.
  2. It’s okay if some of the lines cross each other.

If you couldn’t solve the puzzle before, give it another go. I’ll wait.

The Broader Context

By challenging staff to figure things out (and being there to provide a few hints, when necessary) you’re helping your direct reports – and your department as a whole – to get more done sooner AND helping them all to learn and grow in ways that they might not otherwise.

And that’s a GOOD thing.

Said another way, if you’re NOT helping your direct reports and staff get more done sooner, then you’re probably not challenging them enough.

What ‘Dots’ are ‘Impossible’ for THEM?

So what ‘dots’ don’t they know how to connect?

  • Is it how a new assignment affects the company’s bottom line?
  • Is it how to integrate a project’s goal into the team’s other priorities?
  • Is it how to reduce line-item expenses without jeopardizing essential services?
  • Is it how to have an employee performance discussion in a way that the employee feels respected and cared about?
  • Is it how to ask better follow-up questions the clarify someone’s intent?
  • Is it how to follow-through on assignments that they don’t already know how to complete?
  • Is it how to manage conflict or disagreements more constructively?
  • Is it how to stay motivated even when they feel exhausted?

Take a moment to come up with some hints that might help them connect the dots.

Because once they know, they’ll know! And you’ll have helped them turn the seemingly impossible into something that’s relatively easy!

—–

(Oh, and as promised: The 9 Dots answer.)


Team Design and Team Effectiveness

“60% of  a team’s success is determined BEFORE the team even exists!”

Is that wild, or what?!

So said Ruth Wageman, Ph.D., visiting scholar in psychology at Harvard University and at ReThink Health, in a recent presentation of hers I attended.

Defining Team Effectiveness

Think about this for a moment: “What one or two organizational conditions most increase the chances of having a great team?” In other words, “if you were to stack the deck in favor of having a great team what are the 1-2 design features you would most want?”

Wageman posits that there are three keys to a team’s effectiveness:

  1. that the output from the team meets or exceeds the needs of whomever that output was designed to serve
  2. that the team becomes an increasingly capable team over time
  3. that the team members’ learning and growth are fostered by their work with the team

So the operative question is, “How, as leaders, can we increase the probability of these things happening in the teams that we create?”

And from this, two sets of conditions become apparent: Essentials – things you MUST have;  and Enablers – things that accelerate team development.

Ruth Wageman, ICF Advance 2016Let’s take a close look

Team Essentials

  1. The team has to be a REAL team – Everyone must know (and agree on) who’s actually ON the team. People rotating on and off, or being part-time team members, won’t cut it. The team roster must be stable over time. Otherwise, it’s just a collection of people and NOT a team. So YOUR job, as leader, is to decide who is (and is not) on the team and make sure everyone else knows, as well.
  2. The team must have a COMPELLING purpose – Is it clear? Challenging? Consequential? If not, don’t expect much by way of output. Note, though, that this is about specifying the desired ‘ends’ of the teamwork; not the desired ‘means’. So YOUR job is to specify the desired/required ‘ends’ and leave it to the team to determine the ‘means’.
  3. The team must have the RIGHT people – This means NOT choosing someone based on their title or position, but on their ability to meaningfully contribute to achieving the team’s purpose. This means NOT including people on the team because they’d feel slighted for being excluded. This means NOT including people who are known to work poorly with others even though they may have some relevant technical expertise. This means NOT including people with ‘derailer’ attributes (a lack of empathy to see or care about other team members; a lack of integrity with conflict). So YOUR job is to insure that all members of the team have both task- and teamwork skills, and that the team, itself, has adequate diversity and a good mix of perspectives and capabilities needed for the work at hand.

And why does this all matter? Because if you can’t get all three of these Team Essentials in place, then you’re probably better off not even having a team in the first place.

Team Enablers

Once the Essential are good, Wageman suggests that there are three additional conditions of note.

    1. The team must have a sound STRUCTURE – The team size must be right (research shows that 9 or less is ideal – any more than that and progress gets bogged down by having too many ideas to sift through; any less that that and progress gets bogged down by having too few ideas to consider. The tasks team members are, well, tasked with, must be meaningful. (Taking time to provide others with routine updates is not a meaningful team task.) And team norms of conduct must be clearly specified and maintained.  So YOUR job, as leader, is to insure that the team you’ve created has these sound structures – because it matters:Ruth Wagemen, ICF Advance 2016
    2. The team must have TOP-DOWN  support – Think about this in terms of the following elements:
        1. Rewards: Positive consequences for good team performance must be in place
        2. Information: The data needed for the team’s work must be made available to the team and done so in a form they can actually use
        3. Education: Any training or technical consultation that’s needed must be made available to the team in a timely manner
        4. Resources: Other material resources needed for the work are sufficient and available

      So YOUR job, as leader, is to empower the team by removing organizational roadblocks, opening opportunities, and providing them with what they need so they can properly exercise their own influence up and out, in service of achieving the very goals you’ve assigned to them.

    3. The team must have Available, Expert Coaching – Someone (inside or outside the team) who can skillfully intervene to help the team, and its team members, do their absolute best work. That said, while while ‘good’ coaching can greatly help both well- and poorly-designed teams become more effective, ‘poor’ coaching will negatively affect both types of teams, as well, so choose your coaches carefully:

Ruth Wagemen, ICF Advance 2016

One more thought on this: The TYPE of coaching that’s needed will likely vary based on where the team is in it’s life cycle:

Ruth Wageman, ICF Advance 2016

60-30-10 Rule

Wageman’s quick-and-easy reminder for team success is her 60-30-10 Rule:

  • 60% of  a team’s ultimate success is determined BEFORE the team even exists, based on how YOU, their leader, creates the Essential and Enabling conditions for that success
  • 30% of a team’s ultimate success is determined during the first few minutes of the team, based on how YOU, their leader, handles the official launch of the team (and the team members reactions to that launch)
  • 10% of a team’s ultimate success is determined by the presence and quality of hand-on coaching and process consulting.

May your NEXT team be your BEST team!

 

 


Geeking-Out As A Coach

ICFadvance2016Great people, plenty of thought-provoking content, deep personal growth – a total ‘geek-fest’!

Last week I attended the “Science of Coaching” conference hosted by the International Coach Federation – the membership organization that manages coach credentialing and has designated me a Master Certified Coach (MCC) for the last 9 years (and the next 3, as well). For me, the coach, this was he epitome of personal AND professional development. Loved it!

Sure there were things about the conference that could’ve been better. That is, more relevant for particularly me. But as I’m sure you already know, the value derived from a conference largely depends on your intentions. Want to hate it? It’ll be there for you. Want to love it? Same. The choice, as we say, IS a choice!

So I chose to embrace its potential. (How very coach-like of me, right?!) And I profoundly benefited.

Great People

The conference sold-out quickly, and coaches from all over the world – from 17 different countries, I think someone said – attended the event in Tempe, Arizona. (Kudos to The Marriott at The Buttes – a truly stunning venue.)  I got to meet, and speak with, colleagues from the North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. All so different, yet strikingly similar. I even got to meet my own coach for the very first time! (We’ve been working, by phone, for the last 3½ years, but had never actually met, in person, before.)

Plenty of Thought-Provoking Content

There were three main content areas of the conference:

  1. coaching presence
  2. creating awareness
  3. team coaching

Ironically, I haven’t yet sat down to review my notes, yet – I pretty much filled an entire spiral notebook. Nor have I reviewed the dozens of photos I snapped to capture the more salient PowerPoint slides I saw. But that will all happen soon enough. Suffice it to say, though, that since I’ve been back, every single coaching conversation I’ve had so far has been somehow enriched or informed by a reference to what I learned while in Tempe. And I suspect that will continue for the foreseeable future.

Attending the conference also afforded me the opportunity to earn more than 35% of the continuing education credits I need for my next MCC renewal (in 2019), which was an added bonus and makes perfect sense!

Deep Personal Growth

Yes. Deep. Personal. Growth. Curious? Just ask. I’m happy to share and discuss in a more private forum. (Hey, the Internet doesn’t need to know EVERYTHING, alright?!)

What About YOU?!

Have you you attended a professional development seminar yet this year? What relevance did have to your personal development, as well? Not much, you say? The value derived from a conference largely DOES depends on your intentions, now, doesn’t it?!


How to Fire Your Coach Without Being A Jerk

One of the coolest parts of coaching is the interpersonal relationship that develops between coach and client. Yet clients often continue to work with a particular coach long after the power of their coaching relationship has ebbed. So it’s always a good idea to regularly assess where you are with your coach and consider what might make the relationship even more beneficial for you. Maybe all that’s needed is a little tweaking here or there.

But it may also be that it’s getting to be time for you to make a change.

Telltale Signs That It May Be Time For A Change

So how can you tell? Well to be sure, you’ll need just the right mix of intuition, mood and consideration. To help, though, here are some telltale signs you may want to look for:

  • The reasons for hiring your coach to begin with are no longer as relevant as they once were
  • You’re wanting to work with more of a specialist
  • The energy you get from your coaching session isn’t lasting as long as it used to
  • You’re not pushing yourself as much as you used to – and you miss that
  • It’s been a while since you’ve had a major developmental leap or gained new insight or understanding about yourself
  • You’re thinking that you’d rather be your coach’s friend than client
  • The program you’re enrolled in is nearing conclusion

If a few of these items hit home for you, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s time to quit working with your coach. And if you’ve got mixed feelings about making such a move, clearly you ought to talk with your coach about what you’ve realized. But say you now realize that it really IS time to make a change. What’s next?

Taking the Next Step

  • Make the decision on your own. Although your coach (and colleagues) can certainly help you work through the question, it is something that you ultimately have to decide for yourself
  • Don’t try and find a new coach before informing your current one. It’s about you being ready for a change, not about comparing one coach to another, so go one step at a time
  • Let your coach know. If you’re ready for a change, just say so. After all, your relationship is built on trust and honest disclosure and all coaches know that this conversation is an inevitable part of working together
  • As a show of respect, tell your coach about the value you’ve received from working together and help him/her see why it’s now time to move on
  • Agree to spend a month (or whatever) finishing up your work together. Maybe there’s something you want to circle back on; maybe your coach has a ‘completion’ process s/he’d like you to go through. Finish up with a smile and head held high
  • Get over any residual guilt feelings you may have. While, yes, your decision does affect your coach, it’s more about what’s best for you – after all, you’re the one paying. And your coach already knows that sometimes what’s best IS change. So celebrate your growth and readiness to take some bigger strides. Own the personal growth that this implies.

If your coach is cool, you’ll feel validated in having made a difficult – but appropriate – decision.

Next up: finding a new coach to work with.

Finding Your Next Coach

  • First, get clear on what you want your next set of goals and objectives to be. Think through the makings of that next big challenge of yours and what type of support would serve you best
  • Then, ask friends and colleagues what they like about their coaches. Not so much to see if their coaches would be a good match for you – which they might, by the way – but more so to reacquaint yourself with some of the language you can use in making your own assessments
  • Check out coach referral sites. The International Coach Federation has one and so do all the major coaching schools
  • Talk with several coaches before making a selection. Take advantage of any offer for a complementary sample session. They’re a great way to experience how a coach coaches
  • Consider your choices: How aligned are your personalities? Who had the biggest impact on you? Who made/helped you think the most? What emotional energy did you get from talking with each of them? Whose style of coaching and support feels best?
  • Make your selection and don’t look back – not for a while, anyway.

Now it may be time for you to change coaches. But then again, maybe it’s not. The important thing is that you make that determination by choice and not just by default.

—–
I originally wrote this article in 2002. It was originally carried by the Association of Coaching & Consulting Professionals, The Coaching Zone, and the Online Consultancy Network – none of which, sadly, seem to be around anymore. I decided to republish it here as a tie-in to a LinkedIn comment I recently posted.