5 Leadership Lessons You Can Learn from a Micro-Manager

5 Leadership Lessons You Can Learn from a Micro-Manager

When I was in my early twenties, within the space of about three weeks I lost my job, my grandmother passed away (her funeral was on my birthday, no less), my dog died, and I became fairly ill. It was like a country song gone bad.

During that season, I worked for a guy that was a micro-manager. I was in a job that stretched me, for sure. But I was willing to work on the things that I didn’t know, and I was committed to do whatever I needed to make things work with my boss.

No matter your situation there are leadership lessons that you can learn. Regardless of circumstances, there are always “take-away’s.” These are lessons you can learn if you give it a little thought and reflect on your experiences.

Here are five such lessons I learned from my experience working with a micro-manager:

Be willing to work on your differences

One of my takeaways from that experience is to always be willing to work on the things that make you different. Everyone has unique gifts and strengths to bring to the table.

What are your strengths? What are your boss’s strengths? What are your subordinate’s strengths? What differences are there? How can your differences complement one another?

If you sit down and go through these, chances are you’ll find that your strengths and even differences complement each other and, if you use them correctly, can really move your team from being so-so to being awesome!

Hire the right people for the right position.

Knowing about strengths and personality can also help on the front end. Before you ever hire someone, it would serve you well to perform a personality test and a strengths assessment. Using these two things can tell a boss or hiring manager up front if they are the right person for the position you’re hiring for (and, just as importantly, if they’re not).

There are a number of professionals that use the Stengthsfinder 2.0 assessment for hiring. Leadership guru and virtual mentor, Michael Hyatt, is one of them.

Give people the freedom to do their jobs.

Once you hire a person, you’ve just given that person your endorsement. If you feel a need to micro-manage, then the insecurity is really with yourself. So, back off and let the person do what you’ve hired them to do.

Give your new hire time to adjust to the new position, responsibilities, and culture. If you discover they need additional training for technical skills, then provide

If you discover that someone is not as proficient as they first seemed? You have at least two options:

  • Provide more training.
  • Let them go and rehire that position.

The issue with the second option is that it usually will cost you more to re-hire than to invest in some training.

Develop your people as needed.

Every company should have a training culture. The best companies know that it is easier and cheaper to train staff than to rehire for those positions.

Few people come into a new job or position knowing everything they need to know. Whether it’s a matter of training on company culture and process or learning new hard skills, there is a learning curve for every job. (Even for people that move within a company, different departments can even have their own unique culture within the overall company culture.)

Investing in training leads to more engagement and better retention of employees. Commit to a culture of training and development.

Work on Yourself as the Leader

There are a number of companies that have a great training culture…initially. Does your company continue to develop and encourage the development of its employees beyond the first few weeks or months?

Amazon’s training includes a 1-month initial training program as well as prepays 95% of employee’s tuition for in-demand fields.

Bonobos, a leading retail company, has multiple offerings to train their employees in leadership, management and customer service.

Randstad US not only offers programs in management, leadership, communication, and presentation skills, but also offers its employees both mentoring and coaching services.

As you may have gathered, my boss was not committed to working on things as I was, and I was let go. It was disappointing, but I definitely did learn a lot from that experience.

There are some things that both of us could have done to really make that situation better. I have learned to be a better communicator. The pastor I worked with could have committed to working on the relationship and helping me get better instead of asking me to leave immediately.

It may not have been the right position for me anyway; however, that’s why it’s so important to know more about people on the front end of hiring. I definitely believe that every company, every boss, and every hiring manager could benefit from doing their due diligence before they hire anyone. And every company can engage their employees by providing training to get them familiar with the company culture and continue to develop them as leaders and people.

What does your company do before hiring someone? What kind of on-going training do you provide? 

[photo credit: Nosnibor137 and Bigstock Photo.]

Three Secrets of a Super-Fun Team

Three Secrets of a Super-Fun Team

Have you ever wondered what makes some teams great and some, well, duds? So have I. I’ve been on teams that work really well together and are downright a blast to be a part of. I’ve been on others where I couldn’t wait to go home at the end of the day. For many people, it may be a mixture of both fun and frustrating.

In working with a number of different teams, I’ve noticed a common thread among the ones who work really well together. There are certain characteristics that make these teams click. Lack of any of them, however, can cause any number of team dysfunctions.

Super-fun teams are good at collaboration

Fun teams work well together and have an atmosphere of trust and cooperation. If you’ve ever experienced working with people you don’t trust, you know how stifling that can be. And, it just takes one person to ruin an environment of trust.

You would think trust takes a lot of time to develop. The fact is, trust can be developed very quickly and that foundation can continue to be built upon. According to Stephen Covey, there are 13 behaviors you can us to develop what he calls “the speed of trust.”

Collaboration is a by-product of a high-trust environment. You can see this in those with whom you work. You tend to work well with those you trust and avoid those you don’t. The partnerships you seek are with people you know you can trust – for obvious reasons.

As you look at your team – how would you rate your level of collaboration?

Super-fun teams exhibit effective communication

Teams and co-workers communicate all the time. But is it effective? Have you moved forward with a project, only to find out at the end, that you weren’t given all the critical details?

When your team communicates effectively, it will increase productivity and significantly effect your bottom line, as well as overall team morale. People will feel more engaged and a critical part of the process.

What is the level of effective communication within your team?

Super-fun teams know when it’s time for celebration

I’m a part of a team that loves to celebrate. Whether it’s someone’s birthday, or a new team member comes on board or leaves, we celebrate. (And, no, we’re not celebrating the fact they’re leaving but going on to new adventures!)

The celebration usually centers around food, as well as the person we are celebrating. There is eating, laughing, conversation, eating, more laughing, sometimes singing, maybe a game or two (but not always), eating, frivolity, and did I mention eating? 🙂 Usually there is a theme, and it’s based on something that the person we’re celebrating likes.

We do our best to not talk about work (for the most part we are very successful). It’s not time to check in on business, but it is time for a party. We have lots of fun and don’t worry about work.

So, you may know these things already. The question then becomes, how do we make the above a reality? One of the best ways I know of to increase all of these is through a combination of icebreakers and team building activities.

That’s why I wrote a brand new book of these kind of exercises called, 10 Super Fun Team Icebreakers and Challenges. In it, you’ll find 10 team building activities that have never been printed anywhere else.

super fun team ebook

These are activities that I’ve spent the last few months creating and designing for teams just like yours. Whether you need better collaboration, communication, or you just want a day of celebration, these exercises will help your team, all based on the superhero theme.

You can use these activities one at a time, or you can group them together for a Super-Fun team adventure. Or do a half-day event by picking and choosing a few of the challenges. You decide.

Here’s a sneak peek at the book.

Right now, you can order the book for only $10. It not only includes the activities, but also has suggestions for how to use the book, instructions for how to facilitate each activity, and also (my personal favorite) a “Deep Dive” section where you can take the activity further and dig into the challenges even more.

If you end up buying the book and do some of the activities, please let me know. I’d love to know how it goes – send pictures, email me with how it went – who knows, maybe you and your team will even be featured on the blog or my social media accounts (with your permission, of course!)

Top 10 Reasons Your Team Building Activities are Ineffective

Top 10 Reasons Your Team Building Activities are Ineffective

“I really don’t want to share anymore,” one of my coworkers said.

“Why not?” the facilitator demanded.

“Because this isn’t the place,” she replied. At that point, Kara began to cry and walked off.

Talk about your awkward moments. Fortunately, I wasn’t the facilitator or the one who made her cry. (Phew!)

Why did that turn out so badly? I’ll finish the story in a bit, but first let me share some of the other the top ten reasons why you may not be getting the desired results out of your team building activities.

Reason 1: You never set any goals.

Goals are important for most business activities and team building is no exception. For a team building program to be effective, you must start by setting goals.

– What do you want the end result to be/look like?

– What areas of your team do you want to focus on? Communication? Personality styles? Vision? Values? Leadership development? Conflict resolution? Problem solving?

– What activities match your desired goals?

All of these (and more) can be addressed, but you probably don’t want to focus on too many of these at a time. Take time to set goals and focus on results you want to see and watch your team capacity skyrocket!

Reason 2: You never debriefed the activity.

I’m a big proponent of processing challenges. There are numerous ways to do this. You can use standard questions, or you can use more creative debriefing solutions.

The processing time doesn’t have to be long and drawn out, and it doesn’t have to be awkward. You can even use other activities or an experiential process to debrief the exercise.

Whatever method you decide to use, though, just don’t skip this part of the activity. This is where a lot of a-ha moments can happen.

Reason 3: You aren’t connecting the team building activities to real-world scenarios.

Often times, this mistake happens in the debrief. This is where “a ha” moments can really begin to take shape. You want to let the team make the connections, but there are times when they will need help to do so. Asking a question such as, “So how do you see a similar situation playing out at work?” or “How would you see this team solving a similar challenge elsewhere?”

These questions can help people bridge the gap between the activity and how to implement the same or similar strategies in the future.

Reason 4: You are not following up.

There is certainly a time where a stand-alone icebreaker or team building activity is called for. Most of the time, though, for your team to gain the optimal value from these programs, there needs to be follow-up.

Mark Collard of Playmeo recommends monthly follow-up sessions for all of the organizations he works with. I think this is a fabulous idea. We tend to get busy and distracted. Following up with people, and seeing how things have gone, where they are, and what questions they have is one key to lasting change.

Reason 5: You’re too serious.

There is a time to be serious, but there is also a lot of fun to be had when doing team building exercises and programs. However, when we begin to expect people to do things the “right way” or are too intense, it can hamper creativity and problem solving.

The great thing about team building activities is that every group will respond differently. Learning how to handle and adapt to each situation is one of the greatest traits of an effective facilitator.

So relax, have fun, and don’t be too serious! 🙂

Reason 6: The activities aren’t challenging.

Another reason your team building program may not be effective is using activities that never push people past their comfort zone. If everyone stays in their safety zone, then people aren’t challenged to the point where transformation can occur. There is a fine balance between stretching people and making them panic (see Reason #8); however, the team building exercises should be challenging.

Making these  too easy, or giving people the answers without really letting them struggle to find it could be a reason that you’re not seeing the effectiveness of these activities.

Reason 7: You did not adequately prepare.

Leading team building activities is more than just picking something that looks good or fun. There’s nothing wrong with having fun (see Reason 6 above); however, there is preparation that you will need to do before taking people through activities. You’ll want to set goals, determine what challenges you want to work on, and what activities will best fit the issues your team needs to navigate.

Doing some prep work beforehand will make the challenges much more relevant and effective for your team.

Reason 8: Your team building activities pushed people too far, too fast.

In his book Serious Fun, Mark Collard talks about 3 different zones that people can experience during this experiential training process. There is the safety zone, the stretch zone, and the panic zone. There is a process by which people can be moved from the safety zone to the stretch zone (without reaching the panic zone) in a way that provides optimal engagement and transformation.

If you try to push people too far in a short amount of time, then they will enter the panic zone and not be able to transfer what they are experiencing to real-world scenarios. They are too busy trying to get back to the point where they feel safe.

Pushing people is fine, but there is a process to doing so. You can stretch people without pushing them into panic-mode.

Reason 9: You did not prepare the group properly.

I once experienced a team building effort as a participant where my boss basically sprung a series of trainings on us that were very personal and the facilitator was borderline intrusive. Many of our group resisted and were bitter about our director not letting us know what we were in for.

That situation was what precipitated the events that I mentioned above. So how did the story end?

My coworker eventually calmed down, came back and our team participated (most very hesitantly and with much resistance) in the activities that this lady had planned for us. There were several lessons I learned that day about facilitation that I vowed never to do. This was just one of them.

People want a choice, but if you want something to be mandatory (which is fine), then prepare them ahead of time. A good facilitator will come to you with a plan and let you know (as much as possible) what can be expected. There will, no doubt, be some surprises during the activities: how people respond, who ends up with a great idea, the ways that people will interact and try to problem-solve.

Make sure you communicate to your team what’s going to happen and what they can expect. You don’t have to give away the farm, but don’t expect them to respond favorably to an “impromptu team building day” that you had planned for a while.

Reason 10: Your activities aren’t tied to a broader plan.

Team building activities are great. They can be fun, challenging, and create a space where awesome things can happen. However, if they aren’t connected to more than just an event or training, then they just become fun exercises that will fade into people’s memories.

To get the most out of them, tie these to a broader training plan that includes small group and one-on-one coaching, leadership development trainings, and the overall vision and values of your organization.

While team building activities can be very effective, the lack of any one of these things could cause fewer positive outcomes than what you, as the leader, want. Include all of these things and see if your teams don’t experience greater results.

Photo image credit .

Disclosure:  Some of the links above are affiliate links, and if you decide to make a purchase I will earn a commission at no additional cost to you.  Please know that I have experience with all of these companies, and I recommend them not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something but because they are helpful and useful. Please only spend money on these products if you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your or your team’s goals.

5 Quick and Easy Holiday Team Building Activities

5 Quick and Easy Holiday Team Building Activities

Need some team building activities for the holidays? Here are five different ones that you can use as stand-alone activities or put them together for one amazing holiday gathering.

Each activity comes with instructions, and you can even download a 4-page PDF guide of this post at the end to take with you to your holiday party or team meeting. (The PDF includes additional ideas not listed in the post.)

1. Snowflake

Also called the Paper Tear activity, this exercise shows the importance of communication and clarifying instructions. This activity can be done with smaller teams as well as large groups.

Instructions:

Hand everyone a piece of paper. Once everyone has receive a piece, instruct them that this exercise is to be done with all eyes closed and in silence (except for the rustling of the paper.) Participants are not allowed to ask questions of you, their neighbor, or make comments about the process until it is completed.

Ask everyone to close their eyes and to follow these instructions exactly:

  1. Fold your paper in half.
  2. Fold it in half again.
  3. Tear off the top right corner.
  4. Fold your paper in half length-wise.
  5. Tear off the bottom left corner.
  6. Rotate your paper.
  7. Fold it in half again.
  8. Tear off a piece from the middle

Say, “If you followed these instructions exactly, all of your papers should look the same. Open your eyes and unfold your paper.” At this point, have them compare their papers with those around them.

Debrief questions:

What was it like to follow the instructions?

How hard or easy was it to not be able to clarify?

How does this resemble communication in your organization?

What ways could this process be improved/changed?

2. Helium Peppermint Stick

This is a variation on the helium stick team building activity. One year with a student leadership group, I wrapped red electric tape around a thin, long piece of PVC pipe to make it look like a peppermint stick. Depending on your team, you can create a story to go with this activity:

Santa’s elves have lost one of their peppermint sticks. It appears they’ve accidentally dropped some of the reindeer dust on it because it has a tendency to float up. It’s fairly fragile and very light weight. Because we don’t want to break it, we’re just going to use our index fingers to touch it. In order to reverse the effects of the reindeer dust, we have to set it on the floor as a team. Everyone must be touching the peppermint stick with both index fingers, and they must remain touching it the whole time.

This activity takes a lot of communication and cooperation to complete. It’s much harder than it seems at first.

Debrief questions:

  • What worked well during this activity?
  • What was your communication strategy in the beginning?
  • How did that change over time?
  • What observations did you make during this exercise?

3. Holiday Spectrums

Spectrums is a game that I learned personally from Mark Collard of Playmeo. The game is an icebreaker that asks participants to line up on a continuum based on two choices.

Designate two end points on the spectrum you’ve created. (You can use a couple of small cones, 2 chairs, roll out a long piece of webbing or duct tape, etc.) Tell your group members you’re going to read off what the 2 ends of the spectrum represent. For example, “dog lover” at this end (and indicate which end that would be) or “cat lover” at this end (point to the opposite end of the spectrum). You can choose to move to either end or pick somewhere in between. It doesn’t matter where you go, just pick a spot that you feel represents your answer.

Possible questions/categories for this team building activity:

a. Christmas is (The holidays are) awesome! OR Bah Humbug!

b. Griswold Christmas Lights… or Never put lights up

c. Black Friday shopping… or Stay at home and avoid the crowds!

d. I love holiday traditions… or I love to try new things every year!

e. I use wrapping paper… or I use gift bags.

Get more ideas by downloading the free PDF!

f. Create your own spectrum question(s).

After each person has selected their place, ask them their reason for selecting that particular spot on the spectrum (you don’t have to ask everyone – just get a few responses.)

What can we learn from each other during this activity?

4. Deck the Halls Scavenger Hunt

Option #1

Make a list of holiday items and assign points for each item. The larger or more hard to find items should have more points attached to them.

Give each team a list of the items and a time limit to gather items (typically 1-2 hours). If teams are late, they could face disqualification. I would suggest that you have the teams stay together for this activity. You can designate the teams stay within a certain area or allow them to venture out. (Just be aware that the larger the teams, the harder it will be to stay together if they are allowed outside of a certain area.)

See sample items in the PDF (Free download)

Option #2

This is the “bigger and better” approach to a scavenger hunt. Give each team a small item (small Christmas stocking, candy cane, ornament) and ask them that their job is to go out into the community and ask for something “bigger and better” than what they currently have. The idea is for each team to trade up to the most extravagant item that they can find in a certain amount of time.

Usually you give teams an hour or two to complete the task, meet back at a certain time (or face disqualification), and reveal what each team has been able to come up with. You can select a winner based on size of item or most expensive item. You could also give out other awards such as:

  • Most creative item obtained.
  • Biggest item.
  • Weirdest object.
  • Most likely to be found in a Michael Jackson video.
  • Most likely to be found in our boss’s house.
  • Create your own fun awards!

5. Holiday Mapping (Where in the world?)

Instructions:
Imagine the floor where you are is a map of the world. The center of the map is where we are physically. I will ask a series of questions and you move to the spot on the imaginary map that represents your answer to the question. For example, if I asked “Where were you born?” go ahead and move to that spot now. For each question, don’t worry about being able to afford

Additional question ideas:
a. Where in the world would you like to spend the holidays?

b. What other country’s holiday tradition(s) would you like to learn more about?

c. If you could take a 2-week vacation during the holidays (all expenses paid) where would you go? (You could also ask what they would do there once they’ve moved to their spot.)

d. Where in the world would you like to go for the New Year’s celebration?

e. What place would you absolutely NOT want to visit during the holidays? (This could create some laughs!)

f. <Insert your creative question here.>

After each question, call on a few individuals to name the place where they are and you might ask the reason they chose that particular place.

You’ll have great fun with these activities. Don’t forget to download the PDF (FREE) that also includes ideas for the scavenger hunt items above, as well as additional ideas not listed in this post.

What activities are you planning to use? What other holiday activities do you use for team building? Let me know in the comments below!

Five More Funny Teamwork Videos to Get Your Team Talking

Five More Funny Teamwork Videos to Get Your Team Talking

In my last post on Funny Teamwork Videos, I found a few videos that might lighten up a team meeting or be good examples of what NOT to do as team members along with a few debriefing questions after each one.

Here are a few more funny videos that I’ve found since then. The first three are from the same duo, Tripp and Tyler, out of Georgia. You might need special permission to use some of these videos in any team meetings, so do your research before using these. (These guys are seriously funny, and I wouldn’t normally use three videos from the same people, but they are great!)

1. A Conference Call in Real Life

Has your team ever hosted a webinar or conference call? See if you can relate to this video, and answer some questions afterward.

Team process questions:

1.) Who do I identify with in this video?

2.) What issues does this video address that we need to address?

3.) What are some solutions for the issues discovered?

2. Every Meeting Ever

You know that guy? In that meeting? Yes, that’s the one I’m talking about. Which of these personality styles are you in a meeting?

Team debrief questions:

1.) Who do I identify with in this video?

2.) What issues does this video address that we need to address?

3.) What are some solutions for the issues discovered?

4.) What ways can our meetings be improved?

5.) How can different personalities work together to improve meeting times?

3. Email in Real Life

Like or not, email is a part of every day work life. It doesn’t have to be painful, and it can be very productive. Look for issues that you can relate to and figure out how those issues could be addressed productively.

Team process questions:

1.) What do I identify with in this video?

2.) What issues does this video address that we need to address?

3.) What are some solutions for the issues discovered?

4.) How can we improve our email processes?

4. American Airlines Team Building Spoof

Every had one of those way-uncomfortable team building experiences where it seems like only the facilitator is having a good time? (Maybe at your expense?) Here’s a fun video to get you to think about the team building experience.

Debrief Questions:

1.) Share a funny team building story.

2.) What can you relate to in this video?

3.) How can we improve our team building experiences to make them more enjoyable and more effective?

5. Problem Solving with The Big Bang Theory

Where does your team hit roadblocks when you try to come up with solutions? Is it the same obstacle every time? Or are there multiple roadblocks? What alternative solutions can you come up with to help solve these dilemmas?

1.) What issues can we relate with on this video?

2.) What challenges do we have as a team when collaborating?

3.) How can we improve collaboration and make everyone feel a part?

 

Hope you enjoyed these videos as much as I enjoyed compiling them for you. I would love to hear how you used them with your team and what solutions you came up with to improved certain processes.

What was your favorite video and why? Which one will you use for a teachable moment with your team? Let me know in the comments below.