Learn How to Partner with Your Team

Learn How to Partner with Your Team

In 1995 when I was CEO of Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf at the height of our rapid expansion, I was in the middle of scrambling to remodel stores, open a new store every month, while simultaneously attempting to resolve our staffing and efficiency issues! It was a lot to say the least AND training new team members was a major investment in time and resources, and if an employee stayed only a short time, the entire staff felt the impact. This often turned into a cycle of overworking the trained people to the point of burnout, because there just weren’t enough of them! 

And, because our growth was mostly fueled by traditional bank borrowing, if we put money into stores that performed poorly, our entire growth plan could collapse, and then we’d have trouble paying our debts.

The slew of new (and stressful!) pressures made the company like a bucking bronco—so I dug in my boots the only way I knew how: adopting my dad’s top-down management style. All these years later, I can laugh and admit that I am a “recovered micromanager.” But back then, I wouldn’t listen to my team. My management style forced store managers to wait on me and my decisions, when they should have been presenting their solutions to the issues that they were dealing with on the ground. Instead of asking, “What do our stores need?” their default was, “What does Annie want?” 

I vividly remember the gut-wrenching day I realized I had to change. My HR manager and I had a major disagreement about management staffing, and while storming out the door, she didn’t mince words about me and the “ivory tower” she felt I lived in (spicing in language that I don’t dare repeat) and how my leadership style “wasn’t working!” And she wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Many other managers threatened to quit en masse, and for the first time it hit me that having an unhappy, overworked, under-inspired workforce could put us out of business.

In the undeniable reality of this painful moment, the light turned on, and I realized that a viable company isn’t just a product or a service, nor is it a combination of systems or processes—it’s all about the people who work there. After all, they are the ones who, day in, day out, deliver results. Their skills, their commitment, their teamwork, and their heart are necessary to drive a business forward. I couldn’t have sustainable business success without my team—I had to learn how to partner with them.

I mulled over this thought: How could I let people know they were an essential key to achieving our goals within our company? How could I make the best use of our great employees—the people I now call ‘A’ Players—and at the same time structure teams in such a way that they worked together like the well-tuned parts of an engine? I needed a business model that allowed me to step back to do the bigger strategic thinking while filling the gap with people who stepped up and took responsibility!

To make this happen, I had to radically change my management approach. I couldn’t sacrifice our company values to get results, no matter how tempting, because then everyone who worked there would do the same. I realized I wanted a company whose reputation highlighted the value of our products and our people—people who were empowered to make decisions and encouraged to lead. I admit this transition was a challenge for me for a while. I had to learn to develop my team so I could reliably trust that they would think and act in the most effective, best interest of the company and its goals. And once they got developed, I had to trust that they had the skills and perspectives to do not only the operational tasks but also the ongoing managerial activities (such as problem-solving and decision-making) that I had kept control of for far too long.

These realizations were part of a humbling and growing season for me as a person and a business leader. After all of my running around, working long hours to continue our expansion and strengthen our reputation for having the best ice-blended mocha beverage on the market, I was still slammed with the fact that we could go under from poor operations. Up until this time, I had believed it was my role to figure everything out and then dole out the instructions to my team. My leadership shortcomings were the driving factor behind the challenges we were facing, and this harsh reality got my attention. At that point, I started to think, I have to learn how to do this differently. Our company would not survive if I didn’t change my approach and transform into a leader who recognized the people who worked for me as my most valuable resource. 

And if I could do it (a reformed micromanager!), I know you can too.

So how do you uplevel your own leadership skills? 

You must learn how to partner with your team so that you can empower them to become leaders who are able to problem-solve and make decisions anchored in the outcomes of your vision and strategic plan. This is key to your long term success. The days of top-down authority are over and any business committed to caring about their impact on their team and clients will lean into collaborating and developing their team to drive outcomes.

And that’s what the people part is all about. 

We teach companies and their leaders how to come together to align and make conscious agreements that help you take effective action together.

And before you dive into ACE teamwork, you (and each member of your team) have to be in Self-Leadership which is the basis of critical thinking, performance, and effective interaction. Because, if you are continuously showing up in self-protection, your best thinking is NOT available. And that means your ability to make the best decisions in partnership with your team is also not available.

Here are a few tips to help you get out of a reactive state (self-protection) and show up in Self-Leadership so you can effectively collaborate with your most valuable resource—your team:

  • Start noticing and recognizing when you might be in self-protection and don’t make any decisions in the moment if you can help it (this might not always be possible especially if you’re in the middle of a presentation). But, it is more possible than most realize to ask to postpone the decision until later in the day, or the following day, to give time for emotions to pass, and all to be certain they are seeing things clearly.
  • If you are having a reaction where you feel like you want to defend, prove, fix, or blame (or any other reactive impulse), pause in a way that helps calm down your own reaction. It can be as simple as sitting back in your chair, and pulling your focus inward, or putting your emphasis on listening. Active listening is a leadership super skill that can be very revealing in the best possible way. 
  • Depending on the circumstances, once you’ve paused, do something that helps you regulate your emotions so you can shift back to a more neutral state—go for a walk, take a dance break, play with your dog or kids, watch a funny video, or whatever else helps you move the energy of your emotions. These moments we step away, often prove to feed our creativity, so even if you feel you couldn’t possibly take the time, trust me and take the longer pause.

Strengthening your own emotional endurance is the one thing you can do everyday to help ensure you have the leadership stamina to meet the moment. Self-Leadership is key to your empowerment. The more you can become aware of your own reactive behaviors and get yourself back into Self-Leadership, the easier it will be to work with your team effectively.

You and your team are in this together and you need each other, with your best thinking, to reach the best results! Deploy united teamwork today with ACE: alignment to outcomes and consciously made agreements, set you up with the best chance to take effective action. 

You’ve got this!

 

Warmly, 

Annie

 

PS: We started a podcast! It’s called Leadership Is Calling. You can tune in here: https://leadingedgeteams.com/podcast

Or you can watch it over on YouTube: https://leadingedgeteams.com/YouTube

 

 

 

Praise for The People Part:

“Annie’s approach to managing people has transformed our business here at Hay House and my life as CEO. Let her help you and your business too.” — Reid Tracy, CEO of Hay House, Inc.

Are You In The Stands Or In The Game?

Are You In The Stands Or In The Game?

You’ve just walked into an arena to watch a big game. 

You’re excited—you grab a beer (or whatever your drink of choice is) and your favorite stadium snacks. You head to your seat and settle in, ready to be entertained.

Then, a couple of players on the team you’re rooting for start missing passes. They even miss a couple of clear shots. Things aren’t going the way you envisioned and it isn’t looking good for your team…

It’s easy to judge when you are sitting comfortably in the stands. There’s no risk for you to be there, no skin in the game (unless you have placed a bet or you’re one of those diehard fans who has some superstitious ritual that helps your favorite team win!). You’re there to sit back and enjoy watching the action.

You get to observe and make quick assessments of how the game is going from the vantage point of someone who isn’t on the team or directly involved… 

In other words, it’s easy to have an opinion about what should and shouldn’t happen when you’re on the sidelines. It’s a totally different experience when you’re actually in the game.

The same is true when you’re working inside of an organization and on a team. It’s easy to judge and have a limited perspective of how a business or team should operate when you aren’t directly involved with them. It’s a much different experience when you are directly involved and responsible for achieving a successful outcome with others.

Take the following example—you have a teammate who hasn’t completed a project that’s been on their plate longer than the original timeline. While it isn’t directly affecting you or your workload, you start making judgments about how this teammate has dropped the ball. You may question their abilities overall or think that if you had been in their shoes, that you would have surely achieved that goal.

It’s easy to judge how your teammate is handling their part, while totally ignoring the fact (or conveniently forgetting) that YOU, too, have missed a deadline or that you likely have had a future project or two that you couldn’t get moving as quickly as you would have liked. Judging is our human default. We all do it. But great performers and humans who strive to have an impact strive to be better and do better. That’s why putting good critical focus on how you can uplevel your performance is key to you being successful in the game. The more you put the focus on your part, rather than hanging out in judgment of others, the bigger impact you’ll have on the overall outcomes and goals that you and your team are going for.

And, you have a bigger impact than you think.

You have a part to play and you get to choose to be conscious of this or to keep sitting back and unconsciously judging others without considering how you can jump in and make a positive difference.

Which do you choose? 

If you’re ready to jump in and be part of the change, it’s important to consider that there are a lot of challenges in the world today that are affecting all areas of our lives. And that means we need outside of the box thinking, great minds collaborating, and humans striving to make a positive difference, and enduring when the game plan needs revising along the way. 

This means that you are one part of a team (and humanity as a whole) who has the power to make a positive difference in the way you choose to show up when you’re in the game. You get to choose your impact and bring your best self to the table when working with others. 

Will you always do this perfectly? Of course not, but your willingness to drop judgment and remember that you and your team are doing the best you can under a lot of challenges and stress is a huge win. You need each other, through all of the ups and downs, to be successful in the game. That starts with your willingness to show up and do what it takes to succeed.

In our teaching and training, we emphasize and model that everything begins with you from a place of empowerment rooted in Self-Leadership. This means that you are showing up with your best thinking available and you are not in a reactive state—AKA you’re not taking action from a place of judgment. You’ve done the work to get back into Self-Leadership by using our CCORE Empowerment Process, (click here to get the full process, complete with exercises) and then you are taking the most effective action together as a team so that you have the best chance of reaching your goals. 

When everyone on your team is moving together rooted in their own Self-Leadership, you’re able to make decisions that keep making you a winning team. 

Will you jump in or stay on the sidelines?

To your best and most empowered self,

Heather

 

PS: We started a podcast! It’s called Leadership Is Calling. You can tune in here: https://leadingedgeteams.com/podcast

Or you can watch it over on YouTube: https://leadingedgeteams.com/YouTube

 

 

 

Praise for The People Part:

“Annie’s approach to managing people has transformed our business here at Hay House and my life as CEO. Let her help you and your business too.” — Reid Tracy, CEO of Hay House, Inc.

Become Aware of Your Own Self-Protection

Become Aware of Your Own Self-Protection

Have you ever witnessed someone who was totally unaware of the impact of their behavior?

I’m sure you have—we all have. It isn’t pretty and can look gnarly, but it is helpful to know that we all have stealth, hidden blind spots that happen when we are reacting from self-protection. These behaviors are often unconscious and automatic, but can have an impact on the way others experience us and the results we achieve.

When you are able to slow down and become aware of your own state of reaction in the moment, you’ll be better able to ask yourself, “What’s the impact I’m having here, and is this what I am intending?” Often the impression we have of ourselves and how we want to show up are completely different from what others are experiencing in the interaction with us.

That comes from a lack of awareness of the effect of our self-protective behaviors on others.

What I notice often in our work with leaders, especially during these times of so much uncertainty and external influences that are impacting people and business, is that our team is under huge amounts of pressure and stress not only at work but within their personal lives. Due to this, so many leaders are finding themselves in self-protection more often. In uncertainty, we are hardwired to have protective reactions—and that’s okay because it’s normal. It is part of being human. Yet, we need to pay attention to the impact we have on others in order to create secure and supportive relationships for achieving the results we are going for together.

How do we become aware of our own self-protective behaviors especially when we might be more reactive due to current stresses?

In our coaching sessions, I remind Entrepreneurial Leaders to consider the whole person now more than ever. Everyone has been affected by the current economic and social climate over the last few years. People are feeling stressed with added pressure from multiple avenues—it is understandable that we may find ourselves and others being more emotionally reactive in situations, and we want to be sure we are compassionately keeping this consideration in mind. 

How can we each be more aware of our own behaviors when interacting with others?

It starts with pausing to recognize and observe, and then fully accepting our own reactions through the lens of compassion. If we always apply compassion to ourselves first, then this is key to being able to extend the same kindness and compassion to others on our team. 

As you pause, ask yourself, “What is happening right now and what is it I’m going for?” These questions bring forward curiosity and openness. When you pause long enough and lean into curiosity, you are able to choose your impact and easily anchor in a positive intended outcome—especially when there are a lot of moving parts and external drivers that are impacting not only the business, but everyone on your team.

Being in Self-Leadership brings a sense of confidence and security. When you lead from this place, it is easy to be open to what others are thinking and even what their self-protection may be informing you. How can you meet them where they are?

The truth is we may not know everything that a team member is experiencing inside and outside of work; therefore our part is to be compassionate, curious and anchor in the awareness of the influence and impact we are going for, and stay aware of our own process to keep returning to Self-Leadership. From Self-Leadership, you will be best positioned to have the positive impact you are going for and connect with your team members in knowing they are doing the best they can in circumstances of change and uncertainty. This is Leadership!

The People Part always comes first—it is up to us to be intentional in creating an environment that includes more safety and security. This creates the container for you and your team to do your best thinking together and drive results to reach your successful outcomes.

So how do you put this into practice?

Here are some tips and reminders that can help you be more aware of your own self-protective behaviors and ways you can lean in and lead with more compassion…

  • Get curious about your own self-protective behavior. Knowing your own reactions and becoming more aware of when you find yourself blaming, judging, defending, hiding, or any other reactive behavior, the better opportunity you have to be a witness to others having a similar experience. Remember: we are all hard-wired for self-protection. The key is to be aware and to do the work to return to Self-Leadership.
  • Practice extreme self-care. The more you are under a lot of pressure and stress, the more you need to employ the practices that help you refuel and return to a neutral state. Your best thinking isn’t available if you aren’t taking care of yourself.
  • Anchor in viewing everyone through the lens of compassion. Assume positive intent from your team members. We are all doing the best we can in any given moment and the truth is—we may not know what others are experiencing that is impacting their ability to do their best. 
  • Use the power of the pause when you recognize you are in self-protection. Once you are in the habit of recognizing your own reactions, be sure to pause. This allows you to slow down the flood of emotions enough to choose your next best step from a place of Self-Leadership.
  • Keep asking yourself, “What’s my part and what’s the impact I’m going for?” This practice is a powerful reminder that you and your team are in this together. It helps you anchor in your own positive intent as you move together to reach the outcomes of the business.

Remember, that you have the power to make a difference, lead with positive intent, and create a safe environment so that you and your team have a better chance of navigating the changes being brought forward during these unknown times.

This is leadership and you are doing great!

Barbara

 

PS: We started a podcast! It’s called Leadership Is Calling. You can tune in here: https://leadingedgeteams.com/podcast

Or you can watch it over on YouTube: https://leadingedgeteams.com/YouTube

 

 

 

Praise for The People Part:

“Annie’s approach to managing people has transformed our business here at Hay House and my life as CEO. Let her help you and your business too.” — Reid Tracy, CEO of Hay House, Inc.

Work Closely Together to Navigate the Unknown

Work Closely Together to Navigate the Unknown

In our current economic climate, it can be difficult to determine what to do next when the market doesn’t feel as predictable as it may have in the past. That is totally normal—there are so many unknowns and variables that many of the businesses we work with have never experienced before. What’s important to remember is that the most successful businesses that come out on the other side of this are the ones that are able to stay closely connected to their team.

The more you can connect and collaborate with your team, the better chances you have for the next best moves to come forward. Your team is your think-tank during challenging situations—that’s why you’ll want to circle up more often to navigate all of the impactful external drivers that are changing frequently. You and your team can then make the best agreements with the information on hand and your goal(s) in mind, and then get aligned together to take action. 

Unfortunately, there’s no way to avoid challenges, mistakes, unexpected changes, and failures along the way. You’ll get better as you go, but it’s a long voyage that demands education, commitment, practice, and a willingness to endure difficult feelings and situations.

The journey from A to V (A = your current state, V = your future desired state or vision manifest) usually goes something like this: You make a plan for the direction you want to go, you take a few steps, and then you assess what actually happened. Sometimes things go exactly as you expected, but most of the time it’s something pretty different that requires you and your team to address issues, make changes, and plan pivots—all while learning in the process. And in this rapidly changing business environment with so many unknowns on the horizon that may require you to pivot quickly, you and your team need to realign to your V State and make the adjustments based on what will put you back on track to achieve those future desired outcomes. Then, you take a few more steps and see what happens. Be open to new information as it comes forward. Adjust. Repeat! 

And take heart from this quote I love, from an author who’s unknown but, to me, brilliant: “The bend in the road is not the end of the road, unless you refuse to make the turn.” Right now, there may be many bends and that’s okay as long as you and your team are making those turns together.

One more word to the wise: When you step off of A and things go differently than you anticipated, do not waste time, energy, and resources trying to return to A because it seems better in retrospect than these new challenges. That option is no longer available! Seriously, once you step off of A, it no longer exists. This is because the world keeps moving forward. You can’t go back to how things were before. Even if you tried, your customers’ needs and expectations have likely changed, or one of your competitors could be gaining market share, or perhaps a popular product of yours is about to go obsolete. You can change your direction, but you still have to move forward, because returning to the past isn’t possible. 

So what do you do instead?

Here’s a list of suggestions that can best set you and your team up for success as you continue to navigate these challenging times…

  • Make sure you are doing your part to show up in Self-Leadership. This might mean doubling down on your self care so that you are showing up as your best self. During challenging times, it can be difficult to stay out of reactivity. This is why you have to be more willing to do what it takes to get back into Self-Leadership.
  • Dedicate part of your current meetings to check in on each other to make sure everyone is doing okay. This may seem obvious, but it is worth pointing out—this will help create another layer of psychological safety. When everything you are doing isn’t predictable and business as usual, you and your team may be stretched far out of your comfort zone. This can leave each of you in self-protection more than normal.
  • Create a weekly meeting to discuss current external drivers that may have an impact on the business. Being in it together will help you discuss the best ideas as to how to proceed each week. Even if there isn’t much new information week to week and no new actions are needed, adding in this level of check in helps create the safety needed to pivot quickly when appropriate.

While you cannot always accurately predict what is going to happen during these challenging times, you can work together to find the best ways to navigate them together and come out on the other side stronger.

 

This is leadership!

 

Warmly,

Annie

 

PS: We started a podcast! It’s called Leadership Is Calling. You can tune in here: https://leadingedgeteams.com/podcast

Or you can watch it over on YouTube: https://leadingedgeteams.com/YouTube

 

 

 

Praise for The People Part:

“Annie’s approach to managing people has transformed our business here at Hay House and my life as CEO. Let her help you and your business too.” — Reid Tracy, CEO of Hay House, Inc.

Make Good Agreements with Yourself

Make Good Agreements with Yourself

There has been a lot of talk lately about the concept of “Quiet Quitting” and depending on which side of this debate you land, you may either relate completely or you may think that anyone who is “quietly quitting” is just doing the bare minimum to do their job. 

But what if it isn’t really that black and white? 

What if the concept of “quiet quitting” is just an opportunity to have a bigger conversation about what it takes to be present at work AND your life, so that you can show up as your whole self at work and outside of work?

Here at Leading Edge Teams, we believe and teach that aligning and making conscious agreements with your team (and with yourself) is needed to take effective action that leads to successful outcomes in your business. Without good agreements in place, you may be operating ineffectively as a team and putting yourself at risk for overwhelm and burnout—the very things that lead to employees wanting to “quietly quit”.

What I think may be at the heart of “quiet quitting” is that individual team members are not only making agreements with other team members that may leave them overextended, overwhelmed, and on a path to burnout, but they are also not making great proactive agreements with themselves. 

It is easy to get caught in the trap of saying yes when you really want to say no, and it is easy to do whatever it takes to get the job done and done well. But, I promise you that when you keep going and giving your all without putting your needs high on your priority list, you will become so overwhelmed that you’ll feel you have no choice but to quit or “quietly quit”. 

But it doesn’t have to be that way…

The more you practice addressing an issue for yourself within your organization, the better chance you have for creating a better environment for yourself and your teammates. Say for example, you have a manager who is always texting you after hours with “urgent” requests. Before you decide that this is just the way it is and there’s nothing you can do about it, you can address it with the manager (and with other team members). You can make a new, conscious agreement that the manager waits until office hours to send messages and / or you can decide as a team what constitutes urgent so that there is a clear group agreement about when it is okay for after hour requests. That way you are helping to create a better environment for yourself (and your team) where your needs are better met.

I hope you can see how being willing to raise the issues and make better agreements not only serves you, it serves everyone on the team. In fact, good agreements are the secret ingredient of high performance and a healthy culture.

To bring your best thinking and do your best work, putting your well-being and self care on the top of your list is a non-negotiable. So if you feel like, “Quiet Quitting” instead grab the opportunity to make better agreements that serve your overall well-being, so that you can do your job to the best of your ability today and in the future.

 

To your most empowered self,

Heather

 

 

Praise for The People Part:

“Annie’s approach to managing people has transformed our business here at Hay House and my life as CEO. Let her help you and your business too.” — Reid Tracy, CEO of Hay House, Inc.

True Collaboration: The Best Results Are Team Driven

True Collaboration: The Best Results Are Team Driven

As a business begins to grow beyond stage 1 where it was mostly driven by the founder / CEO and maybe one other right hand person who helped get all the things done that the CEO wanted, you’ll likely begin to hire more team. What actually happens when you hire and begin to onboard can make all the difference about creating long term success in your business.

In top down authority models of leadership, people may think of themselves as leaders and managers who are responsible for taking what the top level executives want done and making their team get it done. It is an outdated model of doing what you’re told. But when you build a cross-functional leadership team, you are setting your business up to achieve the best outcomes. A strong cross-functional leadership team collaborates and contributes their best thinking to drive results. 

Essentially, a cross-functional leadership team takes the strategic plan created by the CEO and / or executive team to develop the roadmap that drives the execution of functions. This is the heart of what your business needs as it continues to grow and expand into its next level. When everyone within your organization is committed to bringing their best thinking and ideas not only to their functional area, but to other areas, then it isn’t just one person (the CEO) or an executive team giving orders. A strong cross functional team is the engine that helps drive the best results. 

You want your team to share their best thinking. They have information that the CEO and executive team may not have. For example, one of your best places for market research may come from your customer service team. They are the ones who interact with clients on a regular basis and are getting constant feedback on what clients really want in real time. To stay completely within their own functional area in this case would be a missed opportunity that could have saved you time and money.

When I help teams create and build their cross-functional leadership team, we focus on understanding that there’s so much more available to the business when this team is in place. It can often feel as if taking the time to slow down to build this foundation will make everything go too slow and halt growth altogether. The truth is that it isn’t sustainable for one person to do all the thinking and delegating as you grow and expand your business. You’ll spend more time fixing things and putting out fires and if you’re the CEO, you’ll likely experience some level of burnout as a result. You can’t do all the things—your business has needs and it has constraints. If everything is solely dependent on you, your growth will have a visible end point.

An effective cross-functional team needs to be built intentionally with a lot of safety. To bring to life a high-performing cross-functional team you need to create a safe container. It starts with a mindset shift from top down authority and control, to embracing a new mindset that your team members’ collective thinking is one of the most valuable assets of your organization. With this as your anchor, you can begin laying the groundwork to create a psychologically safe environment. Psychological safety is THE key ingredient of successful teams. Why? Because when a team feels safe from blame, judgment, and criticism, they feel free to raise issues early and share their creative ideas before they are perfected instead of hiding them. 

One of the best ways to start creating this safe container for your cross-functional team is to invite them to share their ideas. Listen more. Ask curious questions. You can do this by asking, “Can you tell me more about that?” The gift of listening and asking more questions is that you get everyone’s thinking rather than just your own. And with the complexity and fast pace of business today, more thinking power is paramount to your success. 

Once you demonstrate that this is a true collaborative environment where all thinking is welcome, the next phase of the cross-functional team’s development begins. It takes all participants in the team to keep the environment safe. All must practice listening, curiosity, willingness to be brave and share, and a commitment to bring out the best in one another. Each person is equally responsible for the overall outcomes and success and that takes listening in and drawing out other perspectives.

And it is not always easy to think as a team, but it is worth the work to develop your collaborative think tank. In today’s economic climate with so many unknowns, you need a psychologically safe environment now more than ever. Unexpected big external changes keep happening and the businesses that survive and thrive will be the ones that harness the power of their team. 

Let us know how we can help you build and strengthen your cross-functional team.

This is leadership!

Barbara

 

 

Praise for The People Part:

“Annie’s approach to managing people has transformed our business here at Hay House and my life as CEO. Let her help you and your business too.” — Reid Tracy, CEO of Hay House, Inc.

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