Teamwork, trust and kept promises

April 17, 2007

NvestNtech founder Peter Kusterer offers a simple, well-told story illustrating that trust is a key component in teamwork.

As the early morning of a new day unfolded, the quiet procession of trucks, men, and equipment were nearly silent; you could barely make out their silhouettes in the low light of dawn. They were getting ready to take care of a large tree at my neighbor’s home that was beginning to lose its footing.

Credit bacigalupeQuietly in the dark they went about their prep work. Words were exchanged quietly with many actions being taken without speaking to each other.I was struck by the professionalism of this team.

Although it wasn’t clear to me, they seemed to understand what each other needed and how they worked together. It didn’t take long to see that each member had a specific role and duty to carry out.

This is dangerous work and you could see the trust each man placed in the other.

The story caught my attention, in part, because my father used to tell me stories of the tree removal crew he worked on as a young man. Perhaps because of that experience, Dad taught my brothers and me how to look out for the safety of each other when handling tools and equipment during group work such as hay baling or trout line rigging. Even more, we learned to accomplish our tasks in ways that helped add to the efficiency and effectiveness of the other person.

As with the tree crew in Peter’s story or my own youthful experiences, teams in professional organizations require a high level of trust among team members to meet their performance objectives.

How is a high level of trust achieved? Through kept promises!

Here is how Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith explain it in The Wisdom of Teams.

At its core, team accountability is about the sincere promises we make to ourselves and others, promises that underpin two critical aspects of effective teams: commitment and trust. By promising to hold our selves accountable to the team’s goals, we each earn the right to express our own views about all aspects of the team’s effort and to have our views receive a fair and constructive hearing. By following through on such a promise we preserve and extend the trust upon which any team must be built.

Whether the team’s goal is the safe felling of a large tree or the on-time, within-budget production of a project deliverable, success rests upon the team members’ trust of one another; trust to keep promises.

Find Peter’s entire post here.


Related posts:
Rebuilding shattered trust
8 essential elements for trusting teams
Trust is a two-way street
Three steps for building trust in teams and organizations


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Become curious about resistance

April 11, 2007

Talk to the HandHaving trouble convincing team mates to adopt your suggestions? Feeling that your ideas are meeting resistance more so than collaboration? Maybe it’s time to take another look at what you can learn from resistance.

Dale H. Emery explores “resistance” in this rich article, Resistance as a Resource. (via Mishkin)

…the key to resolving resistance — is to become curious. Before trying to convince someone, learn at least one more thing about the person’s point of view. A great way to learn is to explore people’s responses — especially the responses that strike you as resistance. Every response carries valuable information, clues about the person, about the environment around you, about your request, or about yourself. Treat each response as a precious resource.

Emery provides an in-depth examination of 4 factors that may lead to resistance when one person makes a request of others:

  • expectations about the request
  • communication about the request
  • the relationship with the person making the request
  • influences from the environment

One take-away: Resistance is a natural reaction that should be anticipated when working with others. By learning what is behind the resistance, we can ferret out weaknesses in our own strategy and make adjustments. The result will lead to overcoming resistance and improving the plan overall.

Be curious; take a look at the article here.


Related post:
Asking the right questions to facilitate teamwork


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Ready; Set; GO!

March 30, 2007

I have the privilege of posting the final review in the month-long A Love Affair with Books at Joyful Jubilant Learning. It’s been a tremendous month of learning about books regarding every possible aspect of life and the world we live in!

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If you’ve been reading this blog lately, you can guess which book I reviewed; Go Put Your Strengths to Work by Marcus Buckingham.

Please click over, check out the review, and join the conversation!


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5 things I learned – March ’07

March 28, 2007

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Tim Milburn is host of this month’s Rapid Fire Learning at Joyful Jubilant Learning. Check out Tim’s item 4 and learn what he puts in front of his personal “greater than sign.”

Here are 5 things I learned this month.

Zac Crain for Dallas Mayor 2007. Paid for by the Crain for Mayor Campaign.1. Watching the unraveling of Zac Crain’s campaign to become the next mayor of Dallas, I (along with everyone else) learned that social networking alone is not enough to create a viable campaign. Despite having over 1500 “friends” on myspace, Crain was unable to secure the 473 valid voter signatures required to get on the ballot.

SXSW Interactive2. I learned that the next best thing to attending this month’s South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin is watching the videocasts or listening to the numerous podcasts offered online. [Just click on the image.]


jjl_lawb_banner.jpg3. I learned (from Dave) that if you “Cut off the arm of a starfish and it will grow a new one.” I also learned that JJL’s A Love Affair with Books introduced many outstanding books through a series of excellent reviews.

Social Media Club4. I learned that belonging to a particular generation (age) is only one of the determinates of whether individuals use social media to make online connections. I learned from Ann that curiosity and flexibility are factors, as well as how much utility one gains from online exchanges. Sunni adds that being generally comfortable with technology makes a huge difference when we start to use specific social media tools. Jason adds that the biggest factor may be how comfortable someone is with communicating personal messages in public, open forums.

go.jpg5. I learned practical techniques for identifying which professional activities make you feel strong and how to play to your strengths for the good of yourself, your team, and the organization. All of this courtesy of one book, Go Put Your Strengths to Work by Marcus Buckingham. I recently enjoyed hearing Marcus speak in person (a story for another post.) He speaks as well as he writes, with a pleasant British accent to boot!

Well that’s it for me. How about you? Why not share your Rapid Fire Learning by leaving a comment here or writing on your own blog with a trackback to Tim’s Post?


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How team members identify their strength activities

March 21, 2007

One of the chief objectives in forming a team is to find people with complimentary strengths, talents, and skills. The mix provides the team with the necessary breadth to cover a wide range of demands, and allows for more flexibility to adjust to the inevitable challenges that arise during projects.

Steven Covey puts it this way, “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.

To achieve this mixture in teams, it is first necessary for individuals to understand their own strengths. Most of us have plenty of thoughts about our own strengths. After all, we all had to answer the same standard interview question, didn’t we? “So [interviewee name], what are you greatest strengths?”

Answers that I have heard (and used) are typically fairly vague, in the vein of: attention to detail, team player, organized, self-motivated, etc.

GOIn his book Go Put Your Strengths to Work, Marcus Buckingham argues that our greatest opportunity for improvement lies in capitalizing on our strengths. To achieve real improvement, however, we need to get beyond vague descriptions of strengths by focusing on the activities that allow us to utilize our strengths.

Strength activities have 4 SIGNs

  1. Success – you are successful when playing to a strength
  2. Instinct – you are drawn to, and look forward to, strength activities
  3. Growth – strength activities feel natural (more on this below)
  4. Needs – strength activities seem to fill certain innate needs

Under the header of GROWTH, Buckingham writes engagingly about how strength activities make us feel.

It feels easy. It feels like you’re not trying very hard. It feels like an activity that for some reason, proved quite simple for you to pick up. You learned it quickly and now, when you are doing it, you don’t struggle to concentrate. Instead you naturally stay focused and time speeds up, and you still stay focused and time speeds up some more. You have to remind yourself to step and look up at the clock, and when you do, whole hours have flown by.

Sounds to me like being “in the zone.”

Identify your strength activities

Buckingham suggests a process of self-observation whereby you write down what you are doing when you catch yourself engaging in activities that have the 4 SIGNs described above. Continue the process for about 2 weeks, recording each activity on a separate card, along with how it makes you feel.

At the end of the time, review all the cards to reveal those with the highest SIGN rankings. These are the daily activities that most play to your strengths. You will want clarify whether the activity has caveats or special circumstances. For example, attending brainstorming meetings may be a strength activity for you, whereas attending other types of meetings may not.

Related Post: Playing to your strengths on teams


By the way, I will post a review of Go Put Your Strengths to Work by Marcus Buckingham at Joyful Jubilant Learning’s A Love Affair with Books on March 30.


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Books, and book reviews, worth reading

March 10, 2007

The book review carnival is well underway at Joyful Jubilant Learning, including some great reviews of books and authors that were previously unfamiliar to me.

Here are clips from two of the reviews that particularly caught my attention.

Lisa Haneberg, author of Two Weeks to a Breakthrough and Management Craft blogs, reviewed The Zen of Groups: The Handbook for People Meeting with a Purpose.

The book has two parts – The first 90 or so pages offer a good primer on how groups operate (purpose, roles, phases of team development, and meeting models). They offer a pretty good primer on group facilitation, too.

One of the distinctions the authors return to again and again is the importance of how we relate to baggage – ours and other people’s. I love this simple quote from page 7, “Baggage is not right or wrong, it just is.” I can relate to that! The authors talk about baggage a lot because its mismanagement is the cause of a lot of group dysfunction. I like this distinction (I call it Mucky Muck, but it’s still baggage) and think they use it in helpful ways.

Karen Wallace, author of The Clearing Space and Sanctuary, reviewed Do Less, Achieve More – Discovering the hidden power of giving in.

Do Less, Achieve More uses the parable of the rainmaker, made famous by Jung, in which a man ends a five-year drought through inner harmony with the divine. Chu weaves this parable through the book – and being in the middle of terrible drought here in Australia this had extra meaning for me.

I don’t know that it is feasible for me sit in a tent, alone, quiet and still for four days communing with the divine until my inner harmony causes the rain to fall… (although, then again… 🙂 but the richness of the analogy allows the lessons in this book to seep into our soul.

I am adding both of these books to my reading list, and expect the list to grow as the month-long Love Affair with Books continues. Check it Out!

[Oh, I almost forgot a shameless self promotion: I’ll be reviewing Marcus Buckingham’s Go Put Your Strengths to Work on March 31.]

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Throughout March – A Love Affair with Books

February 28, 2007

I’ve been looking forward to the month of March for a while now, because of the tremendous line-up of book reviewers scheduled to post at Joyful Jubilant Learning. If you haven’t visited JJL in while, now is the time to check it out or subscribe to the RSS feed.

JJL is a content network centered around a the practice of collaborative, life-long learning. There is always lively discussion, so be sure to weigh-in with comments about your favorite book or book review.

It’s an honor for me be among such a distinguished group of writers and I’ll be reviewing Marcus Buckingham’s soon-to-be-released Go Put Your Strengths to Work.

Here is full line-up of schedule book reviews:

[here] 3/1 Made to Stick, written by Chip and Dan Heath – Reviewed by Tim Milburn

[here] 3/2: Setting the Table, written by Danny Meyer – Reviewed by Rosa Say

[here] 3/3: GRUB, written by Anna Lappe and Bryant Terry – Reviewed by Mary Hunt

[here] 3/4: Love is the Killer App, written by Tim Sanders – Reviewed by Benjamin Bach

[here] 3/5: Authentic Leadership, written by Bill George – Reviewed by Dean Boyer

[here] 3/6: Two Weeks to a Breakthrough: How to Zoom Toward Your Goal in 14 Days or Less, written by Lisa Haneberg – Reviewed by Dwayne Melancon

[here] 3/7: Do Less, Achieve More, written by Chin-Ning Chu – Reviewed by Karen Wallace

[here] 3/8: Your Brain on Music, written by Daniel Levitin – Reviewed by Steve Sherlock

[here] 3/9: The Zen of Groups, A Handbook for People Meeting With a Purpose, written by Dale Hunter, Anne Bailey and Bill Taylor – Reviewed by Lisa Haneberg

[here] 3/10: The Omnivore’s Dilemma, written by Michael Pollan – Reviewed by Bren Connelly

[here] 3/12: Wherever You Go There You Are, written by Jon Kabat-Zinn – Reviewed by Chris Owen

[here] 3/13: Move Closer Stay Longer, written by Dr. Stephanie Burns – Reviewed by Beth Robinson

[here] 3/14: Leaders’ Playbook, How to Apply Emotional Intelligence: Keys to Great Leadership, written by Reldan Nadler – Reviewed by Wayne Hurlbert

[here] 3/15: The Sundering, Banewreaker and Godslayer, a two-volume work written by Jacqueline Carey – Reviewed by EM Sky

[here] 3/16: The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama – Reviewed by Nneka

[here] 3/17: Citizen Marketers by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba – Reviewed by Phil Gerbyshak

[here] 3/19: How to Connect in Business in 90 Seconds or Less, written by Nicholas Boothman – Reviewed by John Richardson

[here] 3/20: Seeing David in the Stone, written by James B. Swartz and Joseph E. Swartz – Reviewed by Terry Starbucker

[here] 3/21: The Difference Maker, written by John C. Maxwell – Reviewed by Tim Draayer

[here] 3/22: Oh the Places You’ll Go!, written by Dr. Seuss – Reviewed by Dave Rothacker

[here] 3/27: StrengthsFinder 2.0, written by Tom Rath – Reviewed by David Zinger

[here] 3/28: One, written by Lance Secretan – Reviewed by Greg Balanko-Dickson

[here] 3/29: Think and Grow Rich, written by Napoleon Hill and newly edited by Ross Cornwell – Reviewed by Carolyn Manning

[here] 3/30: Go Put Your Strengths to Work, written by Marcus Buckingham – Reviewed by Blaine Collins

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