Category Archives: Personal Effectiveness

Episode 128: What are the best types of people for a team?

Episode 128: What are the best types of people for a team?

In a recent post on LinkedIn I talked about the 5 People to kick off your team– NOW! The post talked about the five types of people who you probably don’t want on your team if the team is to reach its objectives. Each of the five, either reduced the effectiveness of the whole of derails the mission of the team. Hopefully you did not see yourself on this list. If you did, take time to fix those bad habits.

This time, I though we should look at the satiation from the other side. Taking a slightly more positive view: who are the five types of people we want on our team. Hopefully you will find yourself on this list and if not, that’s something to work towards.

The Gatekeeping

If you look up the definition of the ‘gate-keeper’ you will see it talk about “a person in charge of a gate, usually to identify, count, supervise, etc., the traffic or flow through it.” On every good team you will find someone who is acting as the ‘gate-keeper.’ It is important to separate out this from from the Team Leader as they may not be the same person. But more on The Leader later.

Our gate-keeper is vital become they are the person on the team that keep the processes of the team moving forward. They ensure there are agendas for meetings, they can be counted on to get the people there on time and they help the meetings end of time. Often and sometimes more importantly, in a project with multiple deliverables on multiple dates, they help us get the right stuff done at the right times.

The skill of the gate keeper isn’t only managing the flow of work and people but doing it in an unobtrusive way. A good gate-keeper is neither bossy nor rude. The best are sometimes almost invisible. Sometimes they only get noticed at the end of a project when you look back and wonder how it all went so well.

If you worked on a project and it was successful, you probably need to thank the gate-keeper.

The Foot-soldiers

While history has a habit of crediting the Generals, most wars are won by the infantry or foot-soldiers. The brave men, and now women, who are the first line of defense are often the first line on offense in any battle. It is their victory and their loss, that most defines success or failure in war. In business the foot-soldier is as critical to an organizations success as the CEO.

This is true in our teams as well.

If we are to be more than just ‘talking shops’ then real work will need to get done. That real work requires people who are able and willing to do it. We need people to do the research, build the prototypes, test the hypothesis, to sell the solution and on and on. We all believe that “too many cooks spoil the broth” and in team, “too leaders get nothing done.” Without The Foot Soldiers there is no team work.

Understand who your foot-soldiers are and what skills they have is essential to any successful team. Not having people to do the work is an obvious failure, but just as bad can be giving the wrong job to the wrong person. Match the jobs to the people and work will progress much faster and with less errors.

The Note Takers

We have all been in workshops or group break-outs where great, if not brilliant, ideas have been generated. We are all very impressed with our broad and strategic thinking. Around two minute before we have to the ‘read-back’ we stare at the empty flip-chart and say “who’s going to write something?” We are now about to risk all our good thinking being lost to our bad note taking.

I can never understand the people who volunteer to take the notes or be The Secretary of our clubs. I can not understand but I am always very grateful for them. With their good hand-writing and clear note-taking we get minutes and charts. A good Note-taker can do more that just capture the ideas.

When you take good and accurate notes, you often need to ask for clarifications.  Our Note-takers will be heard say, “what did you mean by that?” While some might find that question aggressive and even painful it is often required to accurately record the idea. No point looking at the notes a week later and asking “what did we mean by that?” In this respect the Note-taker can often be a huge influence in helping to focus any discussion.

If the success of your team is to be judged on its output, then having something to submit will be critical. Where would we be without our Note-takers?

The Simplifier and Communicator

Confucius tell us that “life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” The opposite is often true of our projects. They can be very, very complicated. Multi-dimensional, multi-phased and multi-national.

Often we spend weeks working on a solution or project. We consider alternatives and debate options. Then despite our desire to explain intricate and subtle brilliance of our idea, we are given 5 minutes to explain it. This is when the Simplifier or Communicator is most needed. While they maybe two different people but both are vital and they often come in the same person.

Their skill is to take our ‘intricate and subtle brilliance’ and quickly explain it to someone else. Either through story telling or analogies they get the basic point across and sell our solution. The senior manager or ‘buyer’ can quickly get the idea and becomes engaged to find out more.

As team members we are often horrified that all our work over weeks or months can be so simply summed up into a few sentences but without their work, our ideas may go unsold and unimplemented.

The Leader

Finally, I would like to talk about the role of the The Leader. Finally, because while every team needs a leader they don’t define the success of the team. In fact, the role of leader can become too important and their ego can get in the way.

The traditional view of a leader tends toward a Henry V type figure, waving his standard and shouting “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.” Clearly there is a time and a place for that type of leader but it’s not always needed. Good leaders need to be flexible in their approach to building and running the team’s they lead.

Mostly, a good leader needs to be like a good manager: hire a great team and get out of the way!

When people ask me about my management style I often say, I think a good manager only really does three things. They make a team member think more broadly than the want to, move faster than they want to and helps them by moving obstacles out of the way. In our teams, a good team leader does the same for their team.

There is an old computer joke about the 6 phases of an IT project. It describes the last three of these as: search for the guilty, punishment of the innocent, and praise and honor for the nonparticipants. The last major role of the leader is to ensure this does not happen. They need to make sure the right people get the credit and rewards.

Bottom Line

Teams need to made up of lots of different types of people with lots of different skills. While we tend to look for a to the leader, they will not guarantee success. As with like, diversity of people with diversity of skills we always a good idea.

Let me know what you think.

Episode 127: How do you set someone SMART Objectives?

Episode 127: How do you set someone SMART Objectives?

If you believe an article in Fast Company last October, “Accenture, GE, Adobe, Netflix, and dozens of other organizations are killing annual performance reviews as they aren’t enough for today’s workplace.” In Forbes they declare at IBM that “… yearly goals are a thing of the past.” It’s all because these annual reviews, according to Kris Duggan, CEO of BetterWorks on CNN Money, are “entirely demotivating.” Cleary we can all breath-out and relax knowing there is no need to fuss anymore about our company’s annual review cycle.

Not so fast.

This desire to kill the old-fashioned review process is part Millennial-reality and part HR frustration. Whatever you do, or don’t do, the need to set objectives and goals doesn’t go away.  The framework in which you provide feedback to employees on how they did against their goals is, however, changing. In this episode of The 3 Minute Mentor, I reviewed how to set good goals using SMART, but let us think for a moment about the review cycle.

Some people in HR’s view

There seem to be two arguments against annual reviews. First comes from the over-worked and ‘down-trodden’ HR departments, and one comes from people who are actually looking at the changes in the workforce. The first, in my experience makes no sense. The second will become the way of working for all of us – more on that later. First to the HR departments.

Over my career I have worked with many great HR teams and partners. I do not mean to paint them all with this broad brush but there are some recurring messages on the annual review cycle. They go something like this:

“Most managers are bad at doing annual reviews or do them badly. They either rush through them and give poor or useless feedback or they look to avoid them all together. This frustrates the employees and demotivates them. Worse still, if you force a skew (tell some people they are better and more valuable than others) you disrupt and destroy everyone’s productivity. We should all back away from this very 1970’s GE view of ranking people and move to a more modern approach. We need to more regularly review employees progress against their goals and give them better feedback.”

Does that sound familiar? I know I have heard this a number of times. This statement does have four points to it, each of which is worth discussing.

  1. While there may be some managers who are doing bad reviews, there are many who are good at it. What is often cited as the problem here is managers having to tell people they are performing badly. The difference between those who can do this and those who cannot is training and experience. While it takes time to get the experience, most companies do a poor job of training their managers to give reviews. If you find a manager reporting to you that is bad at doing review, mentor them and if your company has no management training, encourage the creation of some.
  2. They are often rushed through and poorly designed systems and tools don’t help. It’s the review not the tool that should be the focus of the process but few companies invest in good on-line review tools. Having a 15 stage process that makes reviews a grind is as much a problem as anything. HR tools are never the top of the investment list. Pity really if people are our biggest asset (see Dilbert).
  3. Having a sense of ranking is not a bad idea – forcing it on a team of 10 people is. That is why I do agree that a forced skew within a small team makes no sense. However, across divisions and companies, having a sense of your talent is important. We have all been confused by a team of top rated people who misses all the objectives. Maybe it’s not the people but the manager, or it’s something.
  4. If the problem is people not doing an annual review well, it’s hard to believe, unless you change something, the same people are going to do more regular reviews any better. Of course the implication is that the more regular review would be a different type of review – more focused on the task at hand. While that’s good, at some point you still have to tell the employee whether they are doing well or not. If the problem is a manager’s inability to be clear with employees where they stand annually, they are not going to do it any better monthly or weekly.

This is not an argument for keeping things the way they are – they need to change. But they need to change because the workforce is changing, not because people ‘suck’ at doing reviews.

The Millennial Change

By 2020, around 50% of our workforce will be Millennials or younger. By Millennial, I mean that they were born on and after 1980 and started work in the 21st Century. There has been a lot written about managing Millennials and if they are a mystery to you, I would suggest some good reading. I wrote a blog called “5 questions that will stop you talking to yourself and motivate your Millennials” which might a good starting point.

One of the stereotypes I hear about Millennials from managers who are struggling with them is a perception that they need constant ‘reaffirmation of their value’. What I think that manager is seeing is not a need for constant ‘reaffirmation of their value’, but a desire for continuous feedback.

In Anna Liotta’s book “Unlocking Generational Codes,” she talks a lot about how the different generations think and work. Using her perspective, and my experience, here is how I think the different generations view the issue of feedback from their manager.

  • Baby Boomers (born 1946-1963) like an annual process
  • Gen Xers (born 1964-1979) like a monthly process
  • Millennials (born 1980-1999) like a weekly process
  • Nexters (born after 2000) like a daily process

While this view is a little simplistic, I do think it can help us to think through how to feed back to our teams. It does imply that one size does not fit all. Managers and leaders are going to have to tailor their review process to the people they are reviewing. This clearly supports the idea of a more regular process, but it does not necessarily deny the need for an annual process of some sort.

There will always be winners and losers

We create organizations and companies to achieve objectives and goals. Without these unifying elements there would be no need for us to come together as a group other than to achieve purely social connections. If these end-games exist, then we need to have a view as to whether we are moving towards them and achieving them. In business, there are greater pressures than just pure strategic goals. We need to pay wages and this requires money. This money is probably derived from selling a good or service. If we fail to make enough money, then at some point we cease trading.

Setting objective in a SMART way, maximizes your ability to achieve your aims. If you don’t both communicate and delegate these down the organization, then you cannot be surprised if you fail. Once you delegate them, in whatever form you do that, you have to hold the people who receive them accountable for their role in achieving them.

Across the whole team, some people will do more to help you achieve these objectives and some will do less. Some work harder and some slide-by doing just enough. In the end, while it may not be politically correct to say so, business has winners and losers. Unless you can find a Utopian world where everything is fair and equal, there are tough decisions that have to be made.

  • Some people take bigger risks than others – those risks need to be rewarded
  • Some people contribute more to the success or failure of a goal – if you assume all do equally then you punish high performers and reward those who perform sub-par
  • Not everyone can get the same pay raise – unless you ‘peanut butter’ (divide equally) the money, which will motivate no one
  • Not everyone can get the promotion – unless you have no hierarchy at all

Whatever the reason, it is clear that you are going to have to judge how each member of your team did and tell them what you judged them by.

Bottom Line

While the rigid system based tools of the last century seem out of date with today, talking to your team is not. Telling people what you expect them to achieve and letting them know if they achieved it, is never going to be out of style. If once a year is too infrequent, then do it quarterly or monthly. Do it daily if you need to. Whatever the cycle, you still have to do it. So if the idea of no annual review makes you or your management team think they are getting out of anything, think again. The alternative is clearly more often, not less.

Finally, all of this can be made better with training and mentoring. You need your team to get clear feedback and you need your managers to know how to give it. If they don’t, the answer is to help them, not to prevent them talking to their teams.

Let me know what you think.

Episode 124: Do I need a personal brand?

Episode 124: Do I need a personal brand?

We would all accept that in a competitive market it is important to differentiate. While that’s true about products, we don’t always connect this to ourselves. Over the next three episodes we look at key elements of having a personal brand. We will cover USPs and online personas but first to your personal brand.

NEW BLOG: 5 People to kick off your team– NOW!

Also, please check out some of the media for the book and The 3 Minute Mentor on the Media Page. This includes a TV interview with ABC in DC and a great podcast with Todd Schnick from intrepidNow.

Episode 121

Episode 121: Managing your ‘ego’ in the workplace.

If you are a regular of The 3 Minute Mentor my guess is you have some determination and drive. To achieve what you want to achieve you have to exhibit confidence and to lead people. Both of these are good and should be encouraged in yourself and others. The problem starts when this becomes unchecked and it can look to some that you think it’s “all about me.” When this happens confidence can look like ego and could derail a career. The Economic Times recently look at 5 things you can do help – we explore these five things in this episode.

Episode 120

Episode 120 | 3 Minute Mentor


My boss micro-manages me, what can I do?
One of the most un-empowering things you can do is micro-manage people. It not only tells them
you don’t really trust them, but it takes away their initiative. So what do you do when you are being
micro-managed? Here are some ideas.

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