Showing posts with label Leadership. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Leadership. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Have we forgotten how to celebrate success?

I spent my Saturday evening watching a cultural dance performance. The hall was packed with family members and friends of the dancers. The dancers had taken months to plan and rehearse to put up the show. They had a tight timeline. Their dance costumes were all tailor-made to the individual and to suit the dance segment. With the time and resources ploughed in, there is no way but to pull it through successfully.

Sounds like a project that you are working on? Hold on, something's not.

As soon as the dancers and instructors take their bow, and the curtains close, they broke into huge cheers of euphoria. As they leave the stage to their families and friends, they were greeted with flower bouquets and group hugs. Keep that feeling you have of that celebratory mood in your mind. 

Now, when was the last time you felt this way when you celebrated your team's success or at any of the previous "appreciation sessions" you have attended? 

Have we forgotten how to celebrate Success? 

4 things to be mindful of in truly celebrating your team's success and making appreciation sessions work 

1) Don't Make Celebration a Chore 

Imagine completing a project that has expended the team's energy, just to be assigned to organise or turn up with duties at the post-project appreciation session. 

If it sounds like it turns you off, it definitely turns the team members off. And you end up with team members infecting one another with the do-it-for-the-sake-of-doing, it's-not-my-KPI, what-am-I-doing-here mood. 

If the celebration is worth it, make it simple and spontaneous. It need not always be the team leader planning and executing the celebration. The people persons/extroverts in your team might have terrific ideas on how to celebrate. Set a budget, be open to ideas and contributions from team members. At times, you do need to acknowledge that the team might really not be in the mood for an elaborate celebration, If it's a work project that you are celebrating, you might also want to consider the profile of the team in determining whether you should hold it during work hours or off hours. 

2) Determine the purpose of the Celebration 

Is there any one you would particularly like to spotlight for his contributions to the team? Remember to consult other members in your team to eliminate "blind spots". You won't want someone to walk away feeling that he or she contributed equally or more than the person you spotlighted. 

Keep the agenda simple. Keep the atmosphere positive and celebrate the successes. You can choose a different occasion to pinpoint errors and mistakes. 

3) Never entirely outsource the organising of the appreciation session 

Because no one knows the team better than you do. 

4) Focus on celebrating 

Avoid conducting official debrief during appreciation sessions. Spare a thought for the note-taker. The official element in the programme might also set the tone for the session. 

This post was first published on

Monday, April 04, 2016

Lessons from Batman vs Superman - Know your Enemy. Fight the Right War.

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Spoiler alert. 

If saving lives and keeping villains behind bars were their calling, why would two superheroes pitch a war against each other? A large part of the reason why I decided to watch the movie was to find out the reason why. The other part, of course, is because of Batman (never mind that the Director prefers Superman). Suffice to say, the suspense generated by the epic battle was a great movie-seller but to think of it, such "wars" happen to our team and organisations from time to time.

In a nutshell, the movie sets itself in the aftermath of the destructive battle between Superman and General Zod (in the prequel Man of Steel) which left Metropolis in ruins. Batman saw Superman as a potential threat to humanity, and was manipulated by Lex Luthor to firm up his perception. Superman, realising Batman's actions, also viewed him as a threat. When both heroes realised they were not each other's enemy, they were confronted with a larger monster to deal with. After the victory, Batman and Wonder Woman set forth in their search for other superheroes to form the Justice League.

Whether the "war", silent or pronounced, takes place between the veterans and the freshies, the newly recruited Manager and subordinates who would have thought their career progression opportunity just got stolen. Left unaddressed, the energy spent by team members to engage in mini-"wars" among themselves will leave the team high and dry when the real "war" (think opportunity or crisis) comes by.

Forge Healthy Mental Models with Open Communication 
Amidst the hustle and bustle of our daily operational work, data can sometimes be hived up within a department or a work team, with the others oblivious to it. This is especially so when the team feels that the new data only concerns the team itself. For instance, a suspected increase in request for logistics support, due to a competitor suffering from downtime issues, might seem like data critical for the logistics department but the Human Resources department could have benefited from more lead time to respond to possible needs for contract drivers and overtime budgeting. In the absence of data and information, work teams can develop unhealthy mental models about one another.

Open Communication is, thus, crucial in forging healthy mental models within work teams and between teams. Besides promoting an open organisational culture and keeping one another in the loop via email ccs,these are some ways to encourage open communication:

  1. Ensure there is sufficient time allocated at each team meetings for each member to be engaged in discussing the bigger picture, besides their operational updates. Use the check-in/check-out method to facilitate such discussions which often produce gems. 
  2. Listen from the rank-and-file and the frontline staff. My experience working with unionised blue collar workers tells me that at the company canteen and at the shop floor, informal conversations thrive and data sometimes get pieced into very useful trends. 
What gets actually measured gets actually done 
Employees are driven by KPIs, and passion. No performance appraisal is perfect but spending organisational time and resources to conduct appraisal exercises only to subject it to be overriden by personal bias is counterintuitive.

When team members find that the listed KPIs are just to legitimise the appraisal process, they will soon determine what actually gets measured and gravitate their work correspondingly. In most cases, this leads to a contest of face-time with the boss (including staying back late in office and leaving after the boss does), and pleasing the boss (ultimately leading to groupthink and poor team cohesiveness).

While the other extreme of strict adherence to KPIs is not beneficial as well, organisations would need to find a balance on transparency and managing expectations.

Service Excellence with Team Excellence 
When your client lodges a complaint on your team member, how you respond as a team leader can affect team morale. Do you prioritise your external stakeholders' (clients, shareholders) interest above your internal ones (employees)?

I once came across a hardworking employee who works stealthily. His hard work was not as appreciated as employees who received compliments from customers. As a result, he submitted compliments to his company using his clients' names. He soon got a raise.

There can be established guidelines on handling complaints and feedback against employees but the team leader's attitude towards unproven, unverified claims can matter more than the final outcome.

I am eager for the sequel to the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Meanwhile, identify your Lex Luthor in your enterprise and may you build a strong Justice League!