Articles tagged with: teamwork

Time to Detox Your Team?

How’s the weather where you are?

OfficeNot the kind of weather that you experience when you walk outdoors, but the weather when you walk in your office.

Earlier this year I had a conversation with an employee in a business that was really struggling. He said, “When I enter the office in the morning, I can feel the tension. People barely acknowledge each other.”

There’s an undercurrent that’s creating a toxic environment. He said people are out for themselves. They’re sabotaging each other. There’s no trust.

Over the years I’ve had similar conversations with a number of people in different industries and businesses of all sizes. Even virtual teams sense when negativity is in the air. As the volume of work increases, stress escalates too.

When teams become dysfunctional, it’s easy to point fingers at the people who aren’t working well together. “If she would communicate better, things would improve. ” “If he stopped hoarding information, we could get more done.”

Some teams do their best work under extreme pressure when there’s much at stake.

Others crumble under the pressure.

What’s the difference?


You can’t control the weather outdoors, but as a leader, you can influence the climate in your office. In fact, you already are.

Think about how you’d describe your current work environment.

As an exercise, ask your team members how they’d describe the work environment. If you’re concerned they’re telling you what they think you want to hear (a common concern for many executives), find an outside resource to help.

Then set your intention about the environment you want to create. Talk about it openly with your team. Give specific examples of the kinds of behaviors, attitudes and interactions you’d like to see.

Some questions to prompt your thinking:

What kind of physical environment would best support your team’s work?

Maybe you need to reduce clutter, change space or lighting, etc. An office that’s too quiet becomes problematic when people are distracted by colleagues’ conversations. If too noisy, some people get frustrated. More companies recognize how the physical environment affects employee morale.

What kind of mental environment would best support your team’s work?

Maybe you need to create more opportunity for open communication in group meetings or one-on-one conversations. Maybe you want to create an environment that encourages creativity or collaboration. An environment to help you think better.

What kind of social/human environment will best support your team’s work?

Consider how you want to engage with each other, respond to conflict, deal with challenges, etc. Also note how the team can express appreciation, gratitude or share accomplishments. You might need to establish or re-establish rules of engagement that work well for everyone.

If you believe there’s a negative vibe brewing on your team, address it quickly.

One of the worst mistakes you can make is to do nothing–to hope the situation will resolve itself.

People become disillusioned when they’re all paddling and the captain is nowhere to be found. They’re exasperated when “no one at the top seems to care.”

skyDon’t underestimate your influence.

If you’re intentional about creating the best environment for your team, you’ll get better results, and you’ll make work more enjoyable for everyone.

Wishing you blue skies ahead…

PS – When you feel like something’s off in your own work, check your own personal environment.

Make sure you have the space, support, resources and people around you to help you thrive.

Team Meetings Made Simple

In my role as executive coach, I often see clients holding too many meetings. The problem isn’t too many meetings  necessarily – it’s too many unproductive meetings.

They argue that some meetings are beyond their control. They don’t initiate the meetings, but they must attend — so they think.

Whenever a customer, business or team problem occurs, “Let’s have a meeting…” seems to be the impulsive response.

Other managers take on too much work dealing individually with team members when they should call a meeting instead. In some cases, a meeting may help reinforce one-on-one communication efforts.

They key is finding the right mix of communication between working one-on-one and collectively with your team members. Both approaches can be very effective.

In those cases when you want to meet as a team periodically, keep the meeting focused. Remember the meeting does not have to last too long. Much can be accomplished in 15 or 20 minutes.

Try this kind of agenda to engage your team:

1. Acknowledge recent accomplishments and/or setbacks

2. Summarize what the team needs to achieve over the next 30 days.

3. Ask team members what they’ve observed or experienced. “What’s working?” “What’s not working.” They may cover successes, problems, changes, etc.

4. Ask for their ideas/input on how to move forward in the best way.

5. Thank them for their ideas and suggestions. Confirm expectations and next steps.

This is a simple outline that engages your team, keeps a positive focus for your team and generates potential solutions you may not have considered otherwise.

Team members appreciate the opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas, as opposed to being told what to do.

They’ll be better team members.

You’ll be a better leader.

Leadership Problems Revealed

My husband's nerves were being tested — stuck in a check-out line at a local Office Depot.  Onlywaiting two people were working at the front counter. When one clerk finally became available, she turned away from her post and walked away.

Stunned, my husband motioned to her and said, "Ma'am, you have customers waiting." She looked at him and said, "Sorry. My stomach's calling. It's break time!" 

Compounding his disbelief, and not standing for "talk-to-the-hand" treatment, he took action. The three other people in line looked on expectantly as my husband called for a store manager. The manager eventually made his way to the front of the store. With underwhelming concern he arranged for another employee to handle the check-out. 

On the surface, it looked like the store had a customer service issue. But what was the real issue? Often leadership problems are disguised as customer service problems. 

The larger the organization, the more difficult it is for senior leaders to connect with the front line. Office Depot is not unique in that regard. Many organizations are unaware of isolated issues customers experience. Customer satisfaction surveys can only go so far. 

As a leader, what can you do to make sure you are not just aware of potential problems, but avoiding them in the first place?

  • Hire the best talent for the job. Some people are simply not cut out for the job. No amount of training can get them to the level they need to be if they don't have the right attitude. When it becomes evident that the employee will not succeed in the role, don't hope for change or ignore the problem. Quickly move him to another position that's a better fit or help him move on. 
  • Look for employees with leadership potential. People with leadership potential are naturally motivated and more engaged in their work. They care about their performance and want to make a positive impact in the organization. They will grow with your organization. Incidentally creativity is now one of the most sought after attributes in leaders.
  • Help employees get to know their customers better. They don't necessarily need to know them personally, but they should understand the demographics and psychographics (personality traits) that reflect your market. For example, business customers value their time and appreciate handling transactions quickly. They are typically results oriented.
  • Work on yourself.  Strengthening your own leadership skills will make you a better leader. Pick one area to improve such as communication with your team, public speaking, coaching, strategic thinking, etc. As you develop your leadership, you'll increase the chances of helping others avoid costly mistakes.
  • Look for symptoms. Poor customer service is only one possible symptom that points to problematic leadership. Other likely clues include high employee turnover, low employee engagement, poor employee communication and lack of teamwork.

Serious leadership problems may go undetected for some time. Who's got the guts to tell the boss they could be the problem? 

Some employees are good at compensating for poor leadership. They plod along working in counterproductive environments. They work for leaders who have no self-awareness about their negative impact. Some employees even make these bosses look good. But they can only sustain that kind of performance for so long.

Ironically leadership problems that become visible can be a positive force in your business.  

When leadership problems are revealed, you're forced to take a hard look at your business. Then you can take appropriate actions that create more dramatic improvements in the business. 

Leadership issues can be tricky and sensitive to address. But by doing so, you can move your business in new directions. 

Once the real issues surface, real change can happen. 

What leadership challenges are bubbling under the surface in your business?

How can you see them on your radar before customers do?

PS – When my husband returned home, he contacted Office Depot's corporate senior management to express his concerns. They were very responsive. 

On subsequent visits to the same store, we have seen noticeable improvement in their customer service which likely reflects positive shifts in their leadership as well.

On the Lighter Side


"Accept that on some days you're the pigeon, on other days, you're the statue."

Scott Adams

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 About Gayle Lantz  

Gayle Lantz is a leadership and career expert, and president of  WorkMatters, Inc., a  consulting firm dedicated to helping leaders think and work smarter.


A sought-after consultant, coach, facilitator, and speaker, Gayle works closely with executives and leadership teams to expand their vision, think and act strategically, and inspire change. Together, they increase business results and help make work matter at every level of the organization.




Are You Pushing Your Team Too Much?

"I think I need to push my team harder."
A client was concerned that his team wasn't doing enough to achieve their goals. He thought he needed to be "tougher" on them.
Maybe you've had similar thoughts.
Yes, there's a time when you might need to light a fire to get better results. But there could be other issues you're missing:
* The team needs to understand how to work together better. Pushing a team that's not performing well to begin with makes matters worse. It's like trying to drive a car faster on a flat tire. Fix the tire first.
* They may need a break. Perhaps they haven't been able to recover sufficiently from the work done on a previous project. People need time to refuel. Give them what they need to help them recharge. (Some managers confess they haven't taken the time to acknowledge the success of a past project because they moved on to the next so quickly.)
* The team lost sight of the goal. They've become too fixated on metrics, processes, action items, to-do lists or even office gossip. Refocus the team on what's most important. If you don't, who will?

Leading a team can seem complicated with so many different generations and personalities in the workforce. When you delve into the issues about what you really want your team to do, it raises bigger questions about what "work" really means.
For example, many Baby Boomers view work differently than Millennials. Boomers tend to be competitive and possess a "work yourself into the ground" mindset, while Millennials seek collaboration and flexibility. One is not necessarily better than the other. There are simply differences.
So if you want your team to "work harder," what does that really mean?
To some people, working harder means working more hours. To others, it means doing more in less time. Still other people may view "working harder" as doing those things they really hate to do (e.g., delivering difficult feedback, dealing with conflict or giving more talks).
Are you pushing yourself?
Leaders who feel the urge to push their team typically have high standards themselves. They expect their team to perform at the highest level. And they tend to push themselves. Some too far, to the point where their personal life and health suffer.
Truth is, good leaders are skilled at helping the team raise the bar or break through status quo. But they don't have to push. They inspire.
If you want to inspire your team, you don't need a motivational speech. Instead help your team see a clear goal ahead. Involve them in determining how to achieve that vision for the future – whether it's a successful project, department or organization.
I'm reminded of the Chinese Proverb:
"Tell me and I'll forget.
Show me and I may remember.
Involve me and I'll understand."
When you find yourself wanting to "push" your team, help your team increase their understanding — the "why" behind their work. Consider different ways you can involve them in the process of achieving results.
Don't push for performance. Invite their involvement.
Need some ideas?
* Hold a special team meeting to brainstorm new ideas to help you move forward differently. (Reminder: Resist your temptation to chime in. Let them talk.)
* Pull one team member aside to get their personal perspective on a challenge.
* Ask a team member to assume part of your own leadership role. (Delegation is good!)
* Invite a guest expert or stakeholder from another area, within or outside your organization, to your next meeting so your team will benefit from their knowledge as it relates to the team's goal.
It doesn't have to be complicated. Just stop what you're doing for a minute and jot down a few ideas of your own.
Implement one idea by the end of the week.
What can you do to help increase your team's understanding?
What will you do differently so they really know what's at stake and how critical their role is in the process?

On the Lighter Side
Push something hard enough and it will fall over.
~Murphy's Law

Want to Use Gayle's Article in Your Newsletter or Website?  You may, as long as you include the following statement:
"Reprinted from 'WorkMatters,' a free ezine produced by Gayle Lantz featuring tips for leaders and executives who want to grow their business, their teams, and themselves. Subscribe at:"
About Gayle Lantz  

Gayle Lantz is a leadership expert and president of  WorkMatters, Inc., a consulting firm dedicated to helping leaders think and work smarter.

She is author of the award winning book, Take the Bull by the Horns: The Busy Leader's Action Guide to Growing Your Business…and Yourself.  
A sought-after consultant, coach, facilitator, and speaker, Gayle works closely with executives and leadership teams to expand their vision, think and act strategically, and inspire change. Together, they increase business results and help make work matter at every level of the organization.