The following is a true story, of value added results that come from Create-Learning’s Team Building & Leadership Processes.
· The marketing team began to implement the team problem solving model, and came to understand that their lack of commitment to making decisions had negatively impacted both customers and profits. They determined that they needed a consistent method for making decisions as well as clear accountability for who would be responsible for each piece of the solution. Now, in every meeting, they use a consistent method to make decisions; team members agreed to support the method and the decision made.
· Decision making time decreased from the prior norm of three months to 1-2 weeks, and they now use one method consistently. The firm is saving money, as there is less start and stop, and redoing of work. This model has been recognized by other departments and is now being implemented organization-wide.
· People support the decisions that are made, now understanding that each decision needs support, even if there was not total agreement.
· Active listening has been implemented in communication with peers, supervisors and direct reports. The marketing manager makes more informed decisions; people have increased their support for decisions, whether they came up with the idea or not, because their voice was heard and they were involved in the implementation.
Ten months prior to my work with this organization, five of the key players on the 12-person marketing team had retired and 5 new people joined. The CPA firm, employing several hundred CPAs, had not grown for the past several years. The marketing process that they had used for many years was by now having only marginal success.
I was contacted by a Managing Partner in the CPA firm. During our initial discussion, he described the political riff that existed within the marketing team. The team had two factions, the long-term employees and the five new people, and their infighting had recently led to a decrease in new customer acquisition. His goal for the intervention was an effectively functioning marketing team and increased growth for the firm.
After individual interviews, and observing the team in action, the following issues were identified:
- The marketing team lacked trust and understanding, both of themselves as a team and of other individuals on the team. This lack of trust showed up as:
- Decisions made too slowly and without the requisite information: it impacted employees, stakeholders and community partners
- Increased costs due to work needing to be redone
- Unclear expectations and lack of accountability leading to little support for decisions
When I presented this list to the Managing Partner and team members there was agreement that these were the areas needing most focus.
I was contracted for a 6-month period. I first interviewed each person, co-creating individual development plans based on their 360 feedback assessments. The interviews revealed that each person wanted things to change, but they were not sure how to change, and were unsure that they could support one option. I also observed team meetings. The meeting pattern was that everyone would express their point of view, no decision would be reached, and another meeting date would be set. After a meeting, there would be several smaller meetings, attempting to identify a process that could be used in the next meeting to ensure that a decision could be reached.
At one point, a group of three people made a choice on how best to proceed and began to implement it; it was viewed as going against the team and forward progress was stopped. The internal us-vs.-them mentality was stopping all forward progress. People in sales and customer service felt this deeply; the marketing efforts were so slow customers were sent unclear messages.
I met with the team on a regular basis, facilitating communication and trust building discussions, and developing skills in effective listening and communication. Monthly, over a 4-month period, I also interviewed five people who were primarily impacted by the decisions made by the marketing team, and provided feedback to the leader and team members for continued improvement.
Areas of Focus Included:
- Each person’s increased awareness of the team’s and their own preferred style for communication and information sharing
- An individualized list of what each person needs in order to accomplish great work and how the other team members may serve in that great work
- A composite list of what the leadership team, as a whole, needs to do to continue great work
- Implementation of a model for active listening and communication with peers, direct reports and supervisors
- Improved communication skills for decision making and problem solving, using real-time examples from the organization.
The following areas of the Exponent Leadership Process were used:
- Decision Making: Facts and Intuition
- Planning: Creating a Future
- Team Problem Solving
- Bringing Out the Best in People
Each person on the team was granted access to the private Exponent website. As they completed each content section, they were required to write up a field assignment. The field assignment was to include what they did, how they did it, what they learned, and their specific applications for the future. In addition to posting their own field assignments, each person was required to review all the others’ reports, commenting and questioning their results and application. This created a best practice and information sharing capacity within the team.
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michael cardus is create-learning
image by Sean Hering Photography