“Mistakes are, after all, the foundations of truth, and if a man does not know what a thing is, it is at least an increase in knowledge if he knows what it is not.”
- Carl Jung
Trust is a critical ingredient in being a good Middle. But trust is a “two-way” relationship; you must trust your Teamers in order for them to trust in you.
Almost all of the folks that I’ve worked with over five decades really wanted to do good work and feel good about their performance and contribution to the success of the team and the Organization, so I recommend that you trust your Teamers until they prove that they can’t be trusted. If you have a Teamer that doesn’t want to do good work and be a part of the team that does, then it is time for you to help them find another opportunity.
Once you give your Teamer the assignment let them make mistakes. You must trust them to do the project. That’s part of the motivation of the project! My suggestion is to meet with them as frequently as you think is needed to avoid a disaster. Focus on their concerns and problems as well as their accomplishments and plans. Can you help them? Then do it! Work with them often so that they don’t go too far from what you want them to accomplish and give them immediate feedback on their performance.
You need to think about and implement the following five steps NOW to start to develop mutual trust with your Teamers!
Co-Develop Job Success Talents for Each Position
“In creating, the only hard thing’s to begin; a grass-blade’s no easier to make than an oak.”
- James Russell Lowell
Job Success Talents are the skills and strengths that a person needs to have or develop to do a job well. Perhaps you are wondering “what’s the difference between skills and strengths” well it is really fairly simple. I think that the best description of the real difference between skills and strengths is provided in the book Don’t Retire, REWIRE! written by Jeri Sedlar and Rick Miners on how to find fulfilling work after retirement. They focus on identifying your skills and strengths to help you find the right opportunity that matches them and you. They offer that the difference is this. “The most practical and useful way to look at it is that strengths are innate and skills are learned. Strengths are what you have to work with; skills are what you develop.”
“Innate” means talents that you have from birth or that are native to you. You can’t learn them but you can improve them with training and practice. An example of a strength could be being “self-motivated” while an example of a skill might be “oral or written communication skills.”
Please note that not all job positions have the same needed Job Success Talents, and not all job positions need the same level of Job Success Talents. For example, everyone needs to be able to write, but a professional writer needs to have a very high level of writing talent, while a graphic designer can function very effectively with a lower level of writing talent. I’ve worked with organizations that use “expectation ratings” for Job Success Talents. For example, “essential or must have,” “nice to have” and “needed but not essential.” Using these ratings can help when comparing candidates.
Developing the Job Success Talents for all of your Teamers is not easy and it will take some time. But how can you hope to recruit new Teamers without knowing what Job Success Talents each position requires?
I suggest that you ask your Teamers for help in developing the Job Success Talents for each of the job positions in your team(s). You should write a “draft” list of Job Success Talents for each job position and then have your Teamers review them and make suggestions for additions and changes.
Once you and your Teamers have agreed to the Job Success Talents for each job position within your team(s) you are ready to start using them during recruiting, job postings, candidate interviews and Teamer performance reviews.
During your recruiting interviews don’t waste valuable time asking “generic” and really “meaningless” questions like “why are you interested in joining our organization?” or “what do you feel that you can provide to help our organization?” During candidate interviews always ask targeted questions to determine if the candidate really has the Job Success Talents that you need. For example, if you need a person with great “oral presentation skills” ask them “what’s the best (or worst) presentation that they’ve ever done and why?” If you need someone who can handle stress ask them “how do you deal with stress?” If the person you need must be able to solve problems, ask them “what’s the biggest problem that you’ve solved?” Get the idea? A resume tells you what the candidate wants you to know about them, but you need to ask the right questions during the interview to get a better idea if they really have the necessary Job Success Talents.
During the interview always encourage the candidate to feel free to respond to your questions with answers from their work life as well as their personal life, that is church, clubs, school and other life experiences. People often demonstrate a talent outside of their “daily work world” that could prove of interest.
For additional ideas and suggestions on co-developing Job Success Talents with your Teamers, I refer you to an earlier blog.
“We can throw stones, complain about them, stumble on them, climb over them, or build with them.”
– William Arthur Ward
Co-Develop a Job Description for Each Position
“If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.”
- Lawrence J. Peter
As I mentioned in an earlier blog, recruiting must be your first step in improving the overall happiness and performance of you and your team. You can’t expect to improve your quality, productivity, planning or communication without having the best possible talent on your team and you can’t expect to find that talent without have a clear definition of the talents needed and overall responsibilities for each of your Teamers.
Simply stated, the Job Description is the “foundation” of all that you do with your team. Most people know what a Job Description is but few know what a Job Description can be. Most Middles see a Job Description as just as another piece of paperwork that you need to do to get a hiring approval from your Boss or the Human Resources group. Most employees see it as a waste of time, since it never really relates to what they really do, how they do it and how they can improve their performance.
Think of the Job Description as the following tools to address these critical needs:
- It’s an agreement between you and each of your Teamers on what you want them to do, what responsibilities they will have, what qualifications they must have or develop and how they are to work with other Teamers and the overall Organization.
- It’s a tool to help you measure each Teamer’s performance.
- It provides information for your Salary Administration group to determine the appropriate salary for each position.
- It provides information for your Human Resources group to use for advertisements and internet postings for hiring. Think of it this way, how can you possibly develop a job ad/posting and recruit a person for your team without knowing what you want that person to do?
- It provides standard expectations to feed your reward, empowerment and performance review processes for your Teamers.
A good Job Description is the “vision” of the person that you want to work with and have as a member of your team.
I know that most Organizations have “guidelines” on what your Job Descriptions might be like but trust me, YOU are the best person (along with your Teamers) to write these Job Descriptions. It is not easy work but most necessary!
A Job Description should contain at least the following items or topics:
- Position - The actual title for the job.
- Date - The date of the most recent change to the content of the Job Description.
- Supervision Received - Who is their boss?
- Supervision Exercised - Who do they manage or supervise?
- Position Summary - A high-level description of what you want this person to do within your team. What are they supposed to do each day? Here are a few examples
- Responsible for providing project status information to clients…
- Acts as a single point-of-contact for clients using the services of...
- Responsible for monitoring the client satisfaction for projects…
- Administrator of the project time management system…
- Responsibilities - Provide a specific list of tasks that the person filling this position must do. Here are some examples:
- Work closely and proactively with team, clients, consultants…
- Expedites all “crisis” jobs…Monitor the results of client satisfaction surveys…
- Monitor the results of client satisfaction surveys...
- Develop and implement processes to improve productivity...
- Qualifications - Provide a specific list of skills, talents, strengths, characteristics and educational needs. Here are some examples:
- MBA preferred
- Must work well under pressure
- Must have great organizational skills
- Must have excellent attention to detail and ability to meet target dates
Your Job Descriptions must include the Job Success Talents that you and your Teamers developed in the Responsibilities and Qualifications sections.
Ask your Teamers for help in writing and updating Job Descriptions on a regular basis, but you must be the one to start the process by writing new or updating existing Job Descriptions and having them reviewed by your Teamers and include their suggested changes. They are the people actually doing this work. They know what it takes to do their job!!! Trust them and always work to include their changes and comments!
For additional ideas and suggestions on co-developing Job Descriptions with your Teamers, I refer you to an earlier blog.
“Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boast the self-esteem of the personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.”
- Sam Walton
Ask your Teamers to Help in Interviewing and Selecting New Hires
“When you’re drowning, you don’t say ‘I really would be incredibly pleased if someone would have the foresight to notice me drowning and come and help me,’ you just scream.”
- John Lennon
Now it is time to move to the “next level” of trust by asking your Teamers to help you with the candidate interview and selection processes. You will notice a process here, of moving to higher and higher levels of trust between you and your Teamers. If you can’t trust one another, you can’t get much done in being a better Middle and having the best team possible.
I’ve work with lots of Middles that think that asking for your team to help in recruiting new talent is a sign of “weakness.” I think that is completely wrong. Asking your team to help interview and select new talent that they will be working with makes perfect sense to me. Why keep it a “management thing” or a “select standard group” for interviewing and hiring decisions?
I highly recommend that you adopt a team interview process in your recruiting. Rather than just you and one other Middle interview a candidate, line up Teamers and perhaps future co-workers to be a part of the interview and selection processes.
I would always select a variety of Teamers from different “disciples” to do the interviews. For example, if I was hiring a marketing writer I would recruit a graphic designer, another writer, our editor and the project manager to be a part of the interview process. You get different ideas and opinions from a true cross section of your team. I kept the interview to no more than four Teamers and myself. I would do the opening and closing of the interview process. Make sure that everyone uses your Job Success Talents and appropriate targeted interview questions, but of course not the same ones.
As a team, use an interview agenda including each person doing an interview session, time estimates, topics and questions for discussion. If you follow an agenda like this you are talking about a half day total interview time for a candidate.
I always had a meeting with everyone that was part of the interview process as soon as possible after the interview. Before the interview started, I would have a pre-interview meeting and ask that the Teamers doing the interview “set aside” time around the closing of the interview to get together to present and discuss their opinions and suggestions on the candidate. Doing a group debrief meeting immediately after the interview keeps everything fresh and you’ll make better decisions.
Each member of the team interview process should use a standardized “evaluation form” to rate, compare and evaluate Job Success Talents during team interviews. It’s just a simple approach to rank and compare candidates from the interview team’s opinions to gain collective agreement on each targeted Job Success Talent for each candidate. Use a general rating scale like this:
- 5 points – Much more than acceptable
- 4 points – More than acceptable
- 3 points – Acceptable
- 2 points – Less than acceptable
- 1 point – Much less than acceptable
During group debrief meetings make sure that everyone shares their opinions freely and openly. Share the ratings from each person’s evaluation form. Gain consensus by collecting your Teamer’s ratings for each Job Success Talent. Keep these records with your recruiting data. Use these rankings to compare potential candidates. Make a group decision on hiring, if you’re not comfortable doing this, don’t! I always have, and the group’s best candidate selection has always worked well for me.
“Every time you take a risk or move out of your comfort zone, you have a great opportunity to learn more about yourself and your capacity.”
- Jack Canfield
Schedule One-on-One Sessions With all of Your Teamers
“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
- Albert Schweitzer
One of the most critical things that you need to do is to understand and know each of your Teamers. What are their goals, values, skills, wants, needs and potential contributions to the success of your team and the Organization?
Start having regular sessions with all of your Teamers. The frequency is up to your working relationship with each Teamer. Once a week is best to start out with, but some folks will only need to get with you every other week or even once a month. The frequency will depend on the person, their assignments, your understanding of their needs and your overall working relationship with them. But make sure that these meetings are habitual that is “every Tuesday at 10:00 o’clock.” Depending on the number of Teamers that you have I suggest that you reserve blocks of time during your workweek. I suggest reserving an entire morning or afternoon for these sessions. You’ll get into the One-on-One “groove!”
Make sure that this is not viewed as an adversarial meeting or a gotcha session due to the name. It is to help the two of you get to know one another better. This should be a special time spent together. Spend your time wisely with your Teamers. Make it a positive time together. You should have only two goals for the One-on-One session:
- Help your Teamer feel better about you, themselves and the Organization.
- Help you understand them and their needs, wants, dreams and concerns so that you can help them work in the “flow” as much as possible
You and your Teamer should prepare a written agenda for each One-on-One session. Keep each One-on-One session to no longer than a half hour. If you need more time, set up another session.
Sometimes you “inherit” Teamers through reorganization and you don’t know these folks as well as those that you have hired. The One-on-One session is an excellent way to “get to know” new Teamers. I’ve “inherited” lots of new Teamers over my years as a Middle, usually through budget and staff cuts and reorganization, and the One-on-One session helps these new folks feel more comfortable working with you now, rather than old “what’s his name” (you!) that they’ve heard all about though the “grapevine.” Your goals are to get to know them and to get rid of their concerns and problems with the “transition.” Empower them by knowing them to help them work in the “flow!”
Some suggested agenda items for One-on-One sessions would be at least these topics:
- Accomplishments during past time period
- Goals for next time period
- Problems or Concerns
- Training opportunities
- Other general “stuff”
Your goal must also be for your Teamers to walk away with a positive feeling about your session including the following:
- They are in a comfort zone and can freely express themselves. There is trust and honesty present in each session.
- You work on what needs to be done – direction!!
- Make needed decisions. Stop tangent thinking and the paralysis-by-analysis syndrome.
- Have them feel that you really care about them, their work and their overall success and that of the team and the Organization.
- Address any problems or concerns they have.
It is your job as the Middle to do everything that you can do to create the best possible environment for these sessions. Ask them how their One-on-One sessions can be more effective and how you can be a better leader for them. Then listen and do what you can to address their ideas and suggestions.
“The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.”
- Abraham Lincoln
Start Having Regular TEAM Building Sessions
“This is a story about four people: Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.
There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry with that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.
It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.”
- Author Unknown
Team building is just that, getting your Teamers to work together as best that they can. They need to understand each other and the ways and means of what they think and do and the values they have.
One of the first team building sessions that I ever was a part of was the Morris Massey presentation on What You Are Is Where You Were When where Dr. Massey presents the concept that people are impacted by certain times in their lives (such as World Wars, the Great Depression, the Kennedy assassinations and the attacks of 9/11), and they typically bring the same values analysis from that “time and place” in their thinking and feelings. If you and your Teamers understand why each individual thinks as they do and the values that they have, the team performs better and is happier since everybody “knows each other!”
Have regular team building sessions where you encourage your team to:
- Look at work as a team as it flows from one Teamer to another. How could they work together better and transfer work between them better?
- Look for ways to improve handoffs to other teams or groups.
- Look for ways to improve the quality of the products and/or services provided by your Teamers.
- Look for process changes and improvements that need to be made.
- Look for policy changes that need to be made.
Lastly, always the following these rules for having outstanding meetings:
- Never go to or schedule a meeting without an agenda. The meeting agenda should include at least the following information and be available to meeting attendees well prior to the meeting.
- What topics to discuss
- Who will discuss each topic
- Why discuss the item, what's the proposal or action needed?
- Time estimates
- Have some time set aside for “general junk” and a Rumor Round-Up session.
- Have a facilitator to keep the meeting on schedule. I suggest that you pick someone as the facilitator that’s not involved with any of the meeting agenda topics and is an independent thinker.
- If you have a meeting with Co-Workers from other departments or organizations, be sure to start with introductions so that everyone knows everyone.
- Start the meeting with an “ice breaker” agenda item to get the conversation flowing. “How they got assigned to this project?” can be good one.
- Have a scribe to keep notes of the meeting and action items. Actually use a recording device if needed.
- Appoint a time keeper. Again, to help stay within the agenda and time estimates for each topic.
- Always keep meetings to one hour or less. Meetings are expensive. I once worked with a guy who had meetings without chairs. His quote was “if we don’t all sit down and get comfortable we can get this done quicker! I’ve got work to do!” I suggest you try it at least once as a “wake up” for your Teamers.
- If you need more time schedule another meeting. If everyone wants to continue to complete a topic go another 15 minutes or so, but try to keep the time limited.
- The facilitator should stop idea judgment or judgment statements of any kind.
- The facilitator should stop letting multiple people talk at once. Let each person share their ideas without interruption.
- Stop endless talking and arguing. Play the “bad cop” if you have to.
- Encourage brain storming and idea hitchhiking, that is “what if we did that, what would happen?”
- Encourage everyone to stay on schedule and stick to topics and solutions.
- No cell phones unless it is a REAL emergency!
“The people that get on in this world are the people that get up and look for the circumstances that they want; and if they can’t find them, they make them.”
- George Bernard Shaw
Mutual trust may be the most critical ingredient in empowering you and your Teamers and YOU as the Middle must do everything that you can to achieve this environment for your team.
“A mature person is one who does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective even when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both good and bad in all people and in all things, and who walks humbly and deals charitably with the circumstances of life, knowing that in this world no one is all knowing and therefore all of us need both love and charity.”
- Eleanor Roosevelt
I wish you empowerment, happiness and every success!