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  1. Creating virtuoso virtual teams

    August 18, 2015 by Alison Hill

    By Alison Hill

    Technological change and the globalisation of business mean we will probably all work in a virtual team at some time. Well over half of us already work in virtual teams.

    While the debate goes on about whether virtual teams are more or less productive, efficient and responsive to customer needs, what is certain is that they’re here to stay.  While nothing can quite replicate face-to-face contact and the behavioural and emotional interaction and learning that comes with it, leaders are working hard at creating a different experience of the workplace that promotes efficient teams that are also happy and productive, innovative teams.

     

    Technology has made collaboration across borders of time and geography relatively simple. Enterprise social networking software, screen sharing, document sharing, collaboration tools and online meeting platforms provide the means to create a sense of community. Making them available is a good start, and ensuring that they are extremely well supported is vital. Many will have experienced the frustration and time-wasting of virtual meetings hijacked by technical glitches. Excellent tech support and training for all users is non-negotiable for effective virtual teams

    Whether being part of a virtual team means working from home a few days a week or managing people dispersed across the globe, there are challenges in communication, collaboration and leadership. Sharing information, integrating knowledge and achieving team cohesion are undoubtedly more difficult than in a face-to-face team. Simply using technology well won’t solve these issues. There must be attention to the interpersonal dimensions of a virtual team.

    In a healthy team, conversations are encouraged and knowledge is shared. Expectations are clear and roles are made explicit. Team members feel heard. This may be a little harder when some members are at home or in another city or country, but it can be done. From simple things like sharing photos of the team and their locations, to drawing up and agreeing to rules for virtual meetings (no multitasking, give everybody a turn to speak, turn webcam on at all times, for starters) to hosting virtual team building sessions, work at it.

    Leaders must:

    • focus on both technology and interpersonal competence
    • encourage respect for other cultures and languages
    • promote diversity as a strength
    • build trust between team members
    • build trust between themselves and their team members
    • ensure technical support is available
    • facilitate training in technology and people skills
    • recognise and reward efforts and results right across the team.

    Team members must:

    • dial in to meetings and events on time and respond to chat and requests for collaboration
    • be aware of body language – slumping, eye rolling and smirking are just as impolite and destructive in a virtual meeting
    • observe the same manners as in a face-to-face situation – don’t get up and walk around, check Facebook, or make a phone call
    • ask for advice and help from your dispersed team members
    • be ready to learn from one another, not just about the mechanics of the job but also about values and attitudes
    • celebrate diversity, for example by learning about one another’s public holidays, religious festivals, birthday traditions and so on.

    While work might be geographically dispersed and asynchronous, it is still happening in a team. Virtuoso virtual teams will value working and learning together, each contributing fully to its success.

    Have you worked in a virtual team? What is your experience of working remotely? Let us know how it is for you.


  2. Team meetings that run perfectly: follow the 5 Ps

    August 11, 2015 by Alison Hill

    By Alison Hill

    You probably spend a lot of your work day in meetings.  According to software company Atlassian, on average we attend a staggering 62 meetings a month, for a total of 31 hours. And we find half of them are a waste of time.

    Whether time in team meetings is time well spent or time wasted depends on the five Ps: purpose, planning, preparation, participation and P.S.

     

    Purpose

    A meeting needs to be the best way to use the hour or so it takes. Make sure the purpose is clear before the meeting begins, and start by stating what you hope to achieve in the time allotted. Be specific by saying something like, ‘We have an hour to decide between x and y, hear a report back from Z, and to revise the tasks allocations for the week.  By the end of the meeting we should have our decision and a list of seven tasks.’

    Planning

    Send out an agenda if you are responsible for running the meeting, or ask for one if you’re not. Be clear about what the outcomes should be, invite those who need to be part of the decision-making, and leave out those who don’t. Arrange the agenda items so that the most important items, or those that involve the entire team, are dealt with first.

    Allocate a time to each item and move o when the time is up. This way you will cover everything and avoid the team leaving feeling cynical and sour about wasted time. Have a designated note taker who will pay attention and record decisions

    Preparation

    Read the agenda before the meeting. Think about the issues and consider what you will contribute. Do your research before the meeting if items on the agenda are a mystery to you. Having to explain to one team member what the rest already know is a time waster, and a poor reflection on you.

    Make sure you have any reports, facts, statistics or examples with you, as well as any items to be handed to team members. Take along extra copies of the agenda. If you use a whiteboard or projector, make sure they are set up before you start.

    Participation

    Make the hour count. Concentrate and participate. Leave your laptop and devices outside the room (unless you ABSOLUTELY must be contactable, in which case switch to silent and leave the room to answer calls). Don’t ramble, and don’t introduce a topic that isn’t on the agenda. If it’s really, really important, mention it and set up another time to discuss it.

    If others are not participating, ask them for their opinion. Most importantly, don’t do other work, or daydream, or start side conversations. That merely demonstrates disrespect for others in your team.

     P.S.

    Following up after a meeting is perhaps the most important step. It’s a good idea to have the note taker record actions and decisions and who is responsible for them, and distribute them to all the meeting participants straight after the meeting, or at least by the next morning. Put a deadline against as many actions as possible, and then get them done. That way your team meetings will become surprisingly productive.

    Do you have tips to share about making time in team meetings productive? Let us know.

    Find out about Challenge Consulting’s tailor-made team building workshops here.


  3. What’s your motivation style?

    June 30, 2015 by Penny Robertshawe

    Being motivated brings many rewards – it compels you to take action and pushes you to succeed. Advice about how to become more motivated is plentiful but if it’s not directed towards your personal motivation style, it might not be all that useful to you. When you know your motivation style, however, you can better direct your efforts.

    Your motivation style affects how you behave as well as how quickly and successfully you achieve your goals. Usually people fall into two broad categories – those who are motivated towards achieving their goals and those who are motivated by fear of not achieving their goals. Both styles are effective as long as you understand which is your style and how to work with it.

    Towards motivations

    If you’re the type of person who is motivated towards goals, you tend to spend time thinking about what you will gain by achieving them. You love goals that come with incentives such as a bonus, promotion or pay rise. You also like goals that give you a sense of accomplishment especially when it’s coupled with positive feedback from others or, better still, an award.

    As a towards motivation type you are an optimist and you usually see the world in a positive light. It’s a good way to be – just watch that you’re not spending all your time dreaming. Try to maintain a balance by making sure that you take the actions needed for achieving your goals.

    Away from motivations

    When you spend your time thinking about what will happen if you don’t reach your goal, you’re motivated by fear. It’s all about the consequences. Let’s say you’re studying to get a qualification. A towards motivation type might be thinking about graduation day and celebrating their academic achievement; you will be thinking about how disappointed you’ll be with yourself if you fail, and how embarrassing it would be to have to tell your family and friends.

    Although as an away motivation type you tend to be a little pessimistic, you can make it work in your favour. This is especially true when it comes to wanting to change. You’re so good at imagining what your life would be like if you stay where you are and being fearful of stagnation, that you work hard to make the necessary changes.

    The most important thing about understanding your motivation style is to use your style to its best effect. Once you do that, you open yourself up to growing both professionally and personally. Feeling motivated?


  4. Five awesome ways to love your job more

    June 23, 2015 by Penny Robertshawe

    ‘The secret to great work is being passionate about your job’, said Steve Jobs. The problem is that sometimes it’s hard to keep the passion alive. So what can you do when you’re faced with challenges like conflicting demands on your time and energy, internal politics and a general lack of job satisfaction? Quitting is an option, but not always the best one. Another option is to take action to ignite your passion using these five awesome techniques:

    1. Look for meaning

    We all want to feel like we’re doing something meaningful that will make a difference but sometimes we get so caught up in the daily grind that we lose sight of why we’re there. The secret to finding meaning in your work is to align it with your values. Write down your top five values. Here are mine – family, good health, challenge, creativity and curiosity. What are yours? How does your work help you to live according your values?

    1. Do more of what you like

    You might not like every aspect of your job, but you probably like parts of it. Maybe there’s an opportunity to do more of those parts you like. Do you enjoy helping others learn new skills? Are you a natural organiser? Do you like working with words to make something sound just right? Build more of anything you like and see how your job suddenly becomes more interesting.

    1. Learn something new

    To be happy at work you need to find the sweet spot between being under challenged and over challenged. If you feel that your job only needs half your brain then you’re bored and it’s probably time to learn something new. Challenge yourself by learning more about the industry you work in and learning new skills. You’ll not only quell your boredom but you will also be adding to your worth as an employee.

    1. Get clear about expectations

    If you’re faced with conflicting demands, ask your boss to clarify priorities for you. Be upfront early about the possibility of not completing a task on time because another task has taken up all your time and attention. You don’t want to be faced with having to tell people that you didn’t complete the task by the due date, so flag obstacles early so others can plan ahead.

    1. Keep away from the moaners

    Are you hanging around with the cynics and whiners at work? Negativity breeds more negativity. Work will never be perfect, but when you spend your time with people who love to hate the workplace and most of the people in it, you won’t be happy. Seek out people with more balanced views and you’ll find that your views about work will shift dramatically.


  5. Four top tips for reaching your goals

    June 16, 2015 by Penny Robertshawe

    FOUR TOP TIPS FOR REACHING YOUR GOALS

    It’s great to set some goals for the future – they give you a sense of purpose and a roadmap for where you’re going. But setting goals is just the beginning – you also need to achieve them. Here are our four top tips:

    1. Lay down plans

    Well-laid plans are well played plans. Break your goal down into milestones to give you a sense of control. Milestones are the steps to your goal and can be further broken down into tasks.

    Let’s say your goal is to find a new job. Ask yourself, what do I need to do that? You might decide to start with updating your resume – that would be your milestone. Then ask yourself, what do I need to do that? Maybe you can start making notes on some of your recent achievements or research on the internet for some tips on resume writing – they would be your tasks.

    Write down all of your milestones, their corresponding tasks and a definition for how you will know when you have completed them. Give yourself a timeframe for each and tick off each task and milestone as you go.

    1. Create new habits

    Very often the process for coming closer to your goal means doing a particular task on a regular basis – it’s like building up a muscle. Each day you work on it, it gets a little stronger. If you’re looking for a new job, a regular task might be to keep checking job sites and honing your skills in writing engaging cover letters.

    Make a habit of doing the necessary tasks. They say it takes three weeks to form a habit, so stick with it safe in the knowledge that it will get easier. When you’re starting out, put aside some time each day, then tell yourself that you only have to do your task for fifteen minutes and then you can stop. Nine times out of ten, you’ll find that you’ll be happy to keep going.

    1. Focus on the process

    Research has shown that our brains tend to focus on the most difficult part of any task. Consequently, we’re often tricked into thinking that it’s all too hard and finding excuses for putting it off. And if we put it off for too long, we can give up on the goal before we even start.

    To help us, we frequently hear advice telling us to visualise having already achieved our goal. Unfortunately this type of visualisation often results in fantasising about a future and procrastinating about doing anything about it. Better, more motivating advice is to visualise doing the processes you need to go through to reach your goal.

    1. Commit to the weekly weigh in

    Each day ask yourself, what did I do today to get me closer to where I want to be? This question makes you accountable for your actions towards your goal and will help to keep you on track.

    Another way to make yourself accountable is to tell someone what you are going to do over the week towards your goal. Be careful who you tell though because some people won’t be interested. You need someone who will give you a hard time if you’ve procrastinated about following your goal plan.

    When you get to the end of your week, write a summary of everything that you achieved. If you’ve kept yourself accountable, you’ve probably achieved quite a lot and you’ll feel energised for the next week.


  6. What to say in a performance review

    June 9, 2015 by Penny Robertshawe

    Performance reviews are an opportunity to get some feedback on your work over the past year, but they’re also your chance to have your say on how you think you could become a better professional. Here are eight ways to do so:

    1. What you like about your job

    Tell your boss what you like about your job. It helps them to understand who you are and how to keep you motivated and happy. Happy employees are more productive and contribute to a healthy workplace culture.

    1. What you want to learn about

    Let your boss know what you’re interested in learning about. It helps them to plan where you might fit in a growing company. Employees who are continually learning continually increase their value in a business.

    1. What you would really like to work on

    If there is an upcoming project that you want to be a part of, tell your boss about it. It shows your interest in what is happening in the business. Employees who work on projects that they are interested in are more passionate about their work.

    1. Where you see yourself in the future

    Tell your boss where you see yourself in the future with the company. It shows that you are goal orientated and are keen to be a part of the business in the long term. Employees with a vision for the future are motivated towards achieving their goals.

    1. How you would like to contribute to the company’s success

    Let your boss know what you would like to do to contribute to the company’s success. It shows that you are a team player and that you’re dedicated to common goals. Employees who want to contribute have a high morale.

    1. What support you need to do your best work

    Tell your boss what support you need to do your job well – be it training, new technology, better communication, an extra pair of hands or anything else. If you don’t tell them, they may not think to offer support. Employees who speak up about what they need are more likely to get help.

    1. What isn’t working

    Be honest about what isn’t working – be it a process, procedure or a type of technology. Managers who aren’t working with the systems may not be aware of inefficiencies and appreciate insights from the ‘trenches’. Employees who give feedback can help to streamline business processes.

    1. What ideas you have for improving practices

    Suggest solutions for what is not working. It shows that you’re creative and insightful. Employees with ideas for improving practices show their leadership potential.


  7. Six winning goal-setting strategies

    June 2, 2015 by Penny Robertshawe

    Do you love your job and want to get better at it? Are you thinking of moving into a more interesting role at your current workplace? Or are you looking for your new dream job? If you’re serious about making some changes in your career, stop thinking about it and start putting some goal-setting strategies together.

    Setting yourself a few time-bound, specific, challenging goals will give you the direction you need to find your way to where you want to be. Here are some strategies:

    1. Be specific

    Give yourself clarity and vision. State in detailed, specific terms what you want to achieve. This type of goal setting ensures you won’t settle for less and be tempted to convince yourself that it’s ‘good enough’.

    1. Make it difficult

    Make your goals challenging but achievable. You don’t want to set yourself up for failure by making your goal too difficult, but you do want your goal to challenge you enough to stoke your enthusiasm for getting there. Remember, there is no such thing as an easy goal – if you never challenge yourself, you will never change.

    1. Set deadlines

    Deadlines are great motivators – they keep you committed to your goal because they make you focus on what you need to do. Deadlines help you to break down your goals into tasks and milestones that will set you on the road to reach your goal.

    1. Understand the why

    Understanding the why of your goal gives you the energy to persist when times get tough. It also gives your goal greater meaning and purpose, firing up your passion and inspiration.

    1. Prepare for the ifs

    Rarely does the journey towards a goal come without a few twists, turns and bumps in the road. That’s why people have ‘what if?’ plans. There’s almost always more than one way to reach a destination and, as all scouts know, it’s good to be prepared.

    1. Keep your eye on the prize

    Sometimes you need to close your eyes to see yourself. Try it. See yourself in your mind as being there already with your prize for reaching your goal. Breathe it in and let the feelings wash over you. Now go for it…


  8. Keeping motivated when you are a Leader

    May 19, 2015 by Jenna

    Leadership takes on many responsibilities; it can be very busy and even tiring at times and therefore motivation levels can fluctuate. However, in this role you need to be able to keep yourself motivated because in turn it keeps the rest of your team motivated and thriving in the business.

    It starts with keeping in check your own personal motivation – your passions, continuing to challenge yourself with various projects and remembering why you committed to these goals in the first place. What you are trying to achieve?

    Sometimes the quickest way to lose motivation or even exhaust your level of motivation is to spend all of your time and energy trying to motivate and please the needs of your team. The truth is motivation is personal and you cannot force it upon others. Instead, leading by example through your own motivations, you can inspire others to motivate themselves and drive them to perform better. It’s showing the way towards success.

    Methods for self-motivation can include:

    • Learning new skills – What is needed for your current role? Where can you obtain these skills? Is there anyone who you can consult with for direction or advice?

    • Taking appropriate leave breaks to relax & rejuvenate – Clearing your mind of distractions (and resting), taking the time to find out more about yourself or pursuing a personal goal or hobby.

    • Spending time developing a self-improvement plan and setting goals – Where do you see your role developing in line with your business goals? Where do you see your team going and what do you need to do to help guide them there?

    • Investing in courses and training that can lead to growth and development – Are there any conferences within your local area that are providing information on areas of development? Have you looked into local educational institutions and what courses they provide? Are there any online resources that you could review outside of business hours?

    Building your own motivation by developing our skills and abilities also provides the knowledge and insight to pass on to others. If others within your team are seeking your advice or direction, you can provide recommendations and information on what you have looked into previously, helping direct others toward their future success.

    Make sure to also keep following up on your personal progress and what motivates you, whether it is every month or six months. That way you can help keep your motivation levels consistent and on track.

    If you are currently in a leadership role, what motivates you? More importantly, in what ways do you keep your drive and motivation consistent?


  9. Bad Habits Leaders Should Avoid

    May 12, 2015 by Jenna

    When you look up the term ‘leadership’ or ‘leadership roles’, you will find many articles on what to do to become a great leader. It is also important to be aware of bad habits that can hinder progress.

    I know I have been guilty of at least two of the items listed below, but the first step is being aware of these habits so that you can find the ways to improve your leadership performance:

    1. Taking credit for others’ ideas and contributions – We all know the famous term, there is no ‘I’ in ‘Team’. It is very exciting when members of your team make a contribution that takes the organisation in a positive direction. However, the biggest failures one can make as a leader is to neglect to recognise and acknowledge individual and team contributions. If you are taking credit for someone else’s work, chances are you will start to notice your team working against you and not for you because they do not feel appreciated or valued.
    2. Using a position of power to control and intimidateothers — This autocratic style of leadership will often leave the team with a low level of autonomy. This can prevent creative ideas being presented as team members feel they do not have the right to contribute.
    3. Blaming others when things go wrong – It is important to recognise with the team when mistakes are made and that they have negative consequences in order to assess better solutions for the future. However, singling people out, pointing fingers, or making others carry the full weight of the failure is not reaction a leader should take. A leader needs to stand by their team no matter what, accept responsibility of when things go wrong, keep track of team members and progression, and have an ‘open door’ for team members to approach if they are experiencing struggles on tasks.
    4. Clinging to traditional methods and old ideas –In order to thrive in society most leaders need to think outside the box, take risks when needed and use innovation to be one step ahead of competitors. While traditional methods may have worked in the past, if you find you are constantly using the same strategy when the rest of the world is changing, you may fall behind. This includes those that refuse to learn new skills and tools to keep up with today’s market. If you are not trying to learn and adapt, you will fall behind.
    5. Failing to keep promises – Leaders who make promises but do not follow through risk loss of personal credibility, trust and the goodwill of others. If you have let down your team more than once, it can often take a long time to earn that trust back.
    6. Actingalone – Leaders who do not consult, collaborate or solicit input from others often fail to make enlightened decisions. Leaders also need to make sure they delegate tasks within the team appropriately so that they can stretch their teams’ abilities.

    Failing to effectively manage issues – Leaders who dismiss the need to address, manage and resolve issues, place themselves and their organisation at risk.

    What are some of the experiences you have learned in a leadership role? What were the learning curves that you have experienced?


  10. Tips on how to effectively lead teams

    May 5, 2015 by Jenna

    Leading teams requires great commitment and looking outside of yourself to meet their needs. We have provided some tips below to help set you on the right path to a great leadership experience: If you are new to a leadership role they might help guide your way and if you have been at it for a while they may serve as a useful reminder.

    1. Brush up on Your Communication Skills. Having clear and precise communication is important, and being honest and open with your team helps build a level of trust. Making sure all staff understand what the goals and expectations are and giving them the opportunity to contribute their thoughts and ideas for feedback is important.

    2. Be Committed to Your Goal. Not only should you be explaining the importance of the company goals to your team, but you need to show by example that you support the goals as a leader. This involves setting out the tasks, having follow-up meetings and making sure that your team is on track with what needs to be achieved.

    3. Give Verbal Recognition. Verbal recognition for efforts and praise show your support towards the staff member’s accomplishments. It also boosts morale and positivity that encourages a mutual support among team members.

    4. A Team Leader Should Lead by Example. A great leader is someone who shouldn’t be afraid to get their hands dirty or dig in to help when the team requires additional support. Someone who can encourage team members to take risks and support them when they do.

    5. Invest in Staff Careers. To ensure your staff are up to date with the skills they need for their role, you may need to invest in training, invest time mentoring or finding the right mentor, invest time to discover what they really need and want in order to do a great job.

    6. Resolve Conflicts. Any conflict within the workplace needs to be handled promptly and assessed by leaders as soon as it arises. Appropriate measures need to be taken to find resolution or negotiate a mutual agreement. Whether it is conflict in a task or between co-workers, leaders must step up to the plate to take action and problem solve the best way that they can.

    7. Teach Adaptability. The effective team manager should teach adaptability and flexibility to all their team members. This results in better communication, a greater sense of empowerment among staff and a faster exchange of information.

    8. Build Pride in Your Team. Positive reinforcement on success is a proven way to keep staff motivation high and build pride in your team. It will increase productivity amongst the team and encourage drive towards goals. You are also creating a positive working environment that employees are happy to be a part of.

    9. Give Your Staff New Responsibilities. Just as you have developed into your role of leadership, your team are looking for development opportunities. It is important that you help them by giving them the opportunity to take on new responsibilities as the opportunities arise.

    Have you lead teams during your career? What were your first experiences when it came to leading teams? What did you find was most successful? What did you learn from the experience?




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