If only the words by John Lennon really worked that way, life as a leader would be so much easier. If this was true each new hire would instantly be 100% on the same page about everything. But that isn’t true and that is the issue with free will and life experiences, they influence how we see the world and how we engage in it. So the greatest challenge that a leader faces is helping everyone find common ground and understanding about what is needed and expected through their experiences and where they are in life. It is also one of the most rewarding efforts I have ever had the pleasure to press my shoulder against with our leadership team. As many of you that read this post and/or keep up with us on social media know we have been busy over the past 6 months, both hiring new staff and integrating groups. We have been doing this with staff now in 2 offices and several mainly remote team members. All adding to the challenge of everyone being on the same page in the same book at the same time. But as we enter the second half of 2016 I believe the team has been doing great in this effort and I thought I would share a few things that I have learned and a few things that I have had validated that all leaders should know when they are working to expand their team.
Iron Sharpens Iron: As the saying goes rubbing two iron blades together makes them both sharper. In leadership and team building it helps to have like-minded and committed people already involved when you start so together you can get better faster. Last year we spent almost 9 months rethinking our employee on-boarding program. It is now a 1 year program called Infinity U. This was done by a cross section of the company that spent hours together talking about what is needed to be a great team and to serve our clients well. We challenged each other and the collective thinking through reading different books that we thought might be good tools for us to use in our efforts to teach. Many were reviewed and only those that we all came to a consensus on were ultimately selected. We then reviewed each area we wanted to teach and determined who best to lead the initial effort from the group. We each submitted work plans to the group that were reviewed and reworked as needed. One person could have sat down and decided all of this much faster but the outcome would never have been as complete and pointed as it is because of the group’s efforts. Now as we work through the sessions we use each other to further refine things as each new person that goes through the process helps us become even more focused and able to communicate the core concepts we want everyone to be engaged with.
You have to meet people were they are: As I said above everyone has their life experiences that informs were they are as you begin to engage them, many people are open and trusting from the start, some have deeply ingrained ways of doing things, others are just starting out in their working life. So you have to meet each person were they are and help them use their experiences or overcome them in some cases so they can fully engage. Since we have a set schedule for our Infinity U program for each new team member we know that many will leave one area without fully getting everything we hope they will. In some cases it is because a disconnect between lead/coach for the area and in some cases they just need more time to process things. We each have experiences were we struggle to help individuals make the leap to a new step and when it happens it is frustrating because we can’t make them do it. We can only help them through their journey through question based inquiry which helps them process ideas and thoughts. I personally have several times just told someone what they needed to learn and knew later that they would still have to process to it on their own. But since the program is an “interconnected” effort many of the ideas come back up again and again and that gives more opportunity for people to connect with the idea. It is a great joy for those of us that coach in the program when we hear someone connect with an idea we tried to help them understand later under another coach because we know they are one step closer to being 100% connected with everyone else.
You have to be 100% committed to the program: This kind of on-boarding is an effort. It would be easy to take short cuts or overlook lack of effort on people’s part. But that wouldn’t allow us to achieve the outcome we know we can have. For a number of people we are 6 months plus into the program and as we enter the downhill side of the effort we can see how things are improving and want to finish strong. For those that are everywhere from one week and beyond we have to continue with the same level of commitment because they are just as important as the first ones through. We might have a period at some point where we don’t have to run this program for an extended period of time and if that happens we worried we might get rusty. So we documented everything and committed it into the HR hiring process so that when needed it can be started and we will know exactly where we are and what we should do.
You have to be flexible: We started delivering the program with a very detailed and ridged schedule but quickly realized we weren’t allowing enough time in some areas, too much in others and not enough space between things. So we had to make adjustments. We also have had to make adjustments because of schedules and work hours for people. It is more important that the content be honored than the schedule. Also we know that people going through the program around the same points will talk and may confuse things for some people. We don’t get upset, we adjust to get back on track. We also have had to consider additional time for some topics one on one for people. But in all of this we keep the desired outcome in mind.
So how would I rate our efforts to date to build a truly High Performing Team that is 100% on the same page and in lock step to the point that everyone will do the right thing even when they aren’t 100% sure what to do? I would say we are exceeding my expectations in most areas and have given ourselves opportunities to continue to grow in others. For us it is never about perfection but about continue improvement because you don’t walk 1000 miles all at once you do 20 miles a day. So how are you sharpening your saw? Do you spend time with people that can challenge you to grow? If you lead do you take the time to help those you lead to grow and get better? I can tell you it will amaze you what people will do once you help them start heading in the right direction.