Building Workplace Relationships

Leading Unstoppable Teams!
The Best of "Two Minute Training"

As requested by readers, the first collection of my weekly "Two Minute Training" emails is now available! These 50-plus articles bring you the best ideas on developing your leadership skills, motivating team members, raising difficult issues, and bringing your team to peak performance. Equally important to our multitasking lives, each article takes only about two minutes to read. This collection is like having a private coach available whenever you need advice on Leading Unstoppable Teams! To order your copy, including downloadable copy for your Kindle, go to

Table of Contents
Part I: What Makes Teams Unstoppable
  • Leaders Who Know How to Lead
  • A Sharp Focus
  • Trust
  • Motivation
Part II: What Keeps Teams From Being Unstoppable
  • Weak Leadership
  • Clashing Teams Members
  • Meetings That Waste Your Time
  • Resistance to Change
  • Unresolved Conflict
Part III: From Stopped to Unstoppable
  • A Strong Organizational Culture
  • Conflict Resolution Training

Here's A Sample:
Recognizing Ineffective Team Patterns

Sometimes teams are stuck in ineffective communications patterns that aren’t even recognized although they may be having significant impact on the team’s success. These patterns can be focused on such issues as relationships, processes, behaviors, or resources. Even if you are sure your team is working well, it might be useful to step back and take a look at the patterns of communications on these issues and see if any can be improved.

How can you make improvements in these patterns if they are not visible? Begin a process that will bring them to the surface so they can be explored.

Making hidden patterns visible. Bringing the patterns to the surface can be done informally or formally. Informal methods include stepping back from the discussion periodically and paying attention to more than the information being exchanged. It’s referred to as being the “participant-observer,” the person who participates fully and with just enough distance to recognize the dynamics and processes of the situation as well as the outcome.

Other informal methods include:
•    Gathering informal feedback from people who deal with your team to see how it is perceived by others, inside or outside the organization.
•    Conducting individual, informal conversations with team members to gain insight into how they feel the team is doing as a group. Naturally, these conversations should be very informal and exploratory. More formal conversations will make people wonder why you are asking these questions and create concern.

Formal methods include the use of focus groups and assessments or surveys, including formal interviews. They should be facilitated by an outsider to the group, and preferably to the organization. Inside consultants may not get all the information available simply because they, too, work for the organization and may be seen as not entirely neutral despite their best intentions and professional ethics. An outside consultant will have a fresh perspective; no internal relationships, loyalties or history to affect the process or the outcome; new skills to apply; and the platform to make recommendations more clearly than an internal consultant might have.

In addition, if negative information needs to be reported, especially about the department head, the consultant provides that feedback, absorbs the potentially negative responses to hearing it, and takes those responses with him or her at the end of the project. The internal relationships remain intact and hopefully, improved, and can be called upon by the team leader or department head to support planned change. If an internal person provides that feedback, no matter how carefully, resentment may be generated that may be difficult to overcome in the future.

In three cases where I worked with teams, I had to provide very difficult feedback to the team leaders about their leadership styles based on focus groups, survey responses, and interviews. This information was hard for leaders to hear since they were at the highest levels of their organizations and thought they had effective leadership skills. After providing the report and recommendations, I worked in the background with two of these leaders to follow-up and provide coaching on how to implement the recommendations. Positive actions and changes observed by staff members were attributed to the leaders, not the consultant, strengthening the leader’s skill and credibility, which was, of course, part of the plan.

Acting on the information. If you have identified ineffective patterns and want to make some changes, fix the easy things first.
•    Few comments during discussions? Go around the room and ask each person for comments on each topic. Don’t let them hide.
•    Little participation? Tell each person in advance what part of the meeting he or she will facilitate, not just what topic he or she will report on.
•    No clear actions taken on decisions? Have a recorder note every action that needs to be taken by whom and by what date. Have these actions read to the group before the meeting ends so people can’t say they didn’t have the same understanding as others about the necessary follow-up.
•    Difficult behaviors? Identify the behavior clearly and provide opportunities for change. Talk to people privately, define preferred alternatives, and provide coaching as possible. If necessary, go to a more formal process to ensure change, but don’t tolerate the behaviors.
•    Lack of focus? Remind people of the goals – constantly.
•    Disordered meetings? Improve your facilitation skills. The problems are not just other people’s.

The harder part of the process will be holding people accountable, including yourself. Tell team members what you have noticed, what kind of changes you plan to make and why, and ask what changes they can suggest as well. Help them feel safe during the process. Then make it clear that they are accountable for meeting their responsibilities, and hold yourself accountable as well. Be prepared to lead, not just read the next item on the agenda.

To order your copy of Leading Unstoppable Teams! go to

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Maria Simpson, Ph.D. * Los Angeles, CA * Phone: 641-715-3900 x 1376932 Fax: 310-826-7440 *

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