Archive for the ‘Teams’ Category

The Right Questions

Ten times a year I give myself the gift of a day of developing my business skills. As part of a fantastically powerful group called Association of Business Leaders (ABL), I have the benefit of being able to focus entirely on my business issues for a day, and share current issues, problems and suggestions with other members.

The impact of this peer coaching is surprisingly powerful given that the members are not professional coaches. What we are tapping into is the shared experiences and perspectives of a group of highly motivated people who understand the pressures of building a business. Although the industries, business sizes and specific expertise of every member is different, the common thread is the willingness to share knowledge, support a fellow member, and help each other grow in capability, and profitability. This is powerful stuff and every one of us is loathe to miss a single day despite our heavy pressures.

Our speaker this morning was Anne Miller, a highly knowledgeable and enormously talented author, inventor and entrepreneur from Cambridge. Anne has recently published her first book, The Myth of the Mousetrap, in which she unravels some of the critical barriers to getting new ideas adopted. For anyone attempting to build an innovative business, Anne’s book is an essential management tool.

It turns out, we learned from Anne today, that its really important, when gathering information to back up a hunch, or provide data as the basis of an important decision – to ask the right questions. So often, we miss some critical nugget of knowledge just because we forget to ask some of the more obvious questions. Anne’s example of NASA’s Challenger disaster is a poignant reminder of at least one instance where this critical step wasn’t included, with devastating results.

Clearly, in most situations, the consequence of asking the wrong questions (or omitting the right questions) isn’t catastrophic. But even in our discussion of business issues during our ABL sessions, effective questions provide greater clarity in the least amount of time.

Consider your teams and your organisation’s culture. Do you encourage lots of questions? Do you focus on asking the right questions to get the whole picture?

Ask yourself those questions.

Turning Critic into Champions

It may seem counter-intuitive to invite your most difficult colleagues to be part of a steering committee or pilot group. But there are some excellent reasons for doing just that.



We learned this from a very wise client – by making sure that he had some challenging colleagues working alongside him he ensured that the final result met all their expectations.



Including them in the ‘how’, ’when’ and ‘who’ decisions means that they get to be part of the project decisions. It’s always harder to criticise when you’ve been partly responsible for the final result.



A few things to consider:

  • Try to get people from other disciplines or departments – this helps avoid silo-mentality.

  • Think about whether there are any key groups in the organisation where the project will have major impact – make sure they are represented.

  • In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the need for
    • Connectors (people who know lots of people),
    • Mavens (people who know lots of stuff about their subject) and,
    • Salesmen (people who can persuade other people).

If you want to create champions for your project – aside from getting them inspired by being involved – do you need your team members to be Connectors, Mavens or Salesmen?


  • But, be very careful not to make any group too big. No elaboration required, I’m sure.


In many cases, once they have been involved in the early phases, these challenging colleagues can often become the project’s biggest assets – the champions within the organisation.

A Joined-Up Approach to Performance Measurement

We were absolutely over the moon a couple of months ago when two of our clients made it into the “Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For” list. So what makes these companies different?

Amongst other things, they both have consistent ongoing development programmes for staff, including leadership and other soft-skills measurements and training. It is significant that companies who join the ranks of the 100 Best Companies to Work For generally have two things in common – they invest in their people and they reap the rewards by outperforming share indices over time. Historically, as a group, these companies have had up to 18% higher growth in share and dividend return over a 5 year period. There is a real business case for the investment in people.

But the investment must also take the form of a mixed portfolio. It is unrealistic to expect a narrow training and development perspective to make enough difference. There should be measurement of current performance to show where development is required, training across teams and for individuals at all levels of the organisation, and a company-wide perspective showing the bigger picture of where the skills gap lie. Only this sort of joined-up approach will deliver the organisation-wide abilities that enable the company to achieve its strategic goals consistently.

The current view is that the only competitive edge possible in today’s business climate is innovation. But innovation requires a solid base to build upon. The first step must be to build that solid base through sound management programmes and team performance initiatives. Once that has been embedded, the organisation can take advantage of the innovations conceived by a diverse work force to gain the lead in the market.

Team performance is a key element in this sort of organisational growth. Critical success factors in building a high performance team are openness and trust, followed by communication.

Case studies
show that measuring these factors and others enables organisations to pinpoint areas for development to enable teams to operate at peak.