5 Habits to Improve Your Team’s Reliability

This is a guest post by Lee J. Colan, Ph.D. Lee Colan and Julie Davis Colan co-authored The 5 Coaching Habits of Excellent Leaders.  They also co-founded The L Group in 1999 to equip and inspire leaders at every level:  personal, team and organizational.

 

Coaching Reliability

Reliability is something every leader wants more of from his or her team. Your challenge is to coach for reliable individual performance as the building block of a reliable and profitable business. Reliability is a customer magnet, whereas unreliability is a customer deterrent.

 

“Reliability is a customer magnet, whereas unreliability is a customer deterrent.” -Lee Colan

 

When a customer needs something done by a set date, or a service performed in a specific manner, he’s seeking someone who can provide that service with certainty. Many companies have built their reputations by providing that certainty for customers. For example, FedEx realized it could corner the market by promising to get your letter to its destination overnight, without fail. The company created an entire niche that never existed before. McDonald’s has built its iconic brand based on a promise of a reliable experience, regardless of which location.

Ultimately, excellent leaders help good employees become even better people. They help their employees build better lives for themselves and others while producing better business results.

 

“Excellent leaders help good employees become even better people.” -Lee Colan

 

5 Habits to Create the Reliability Advantage

There are five habits that excellent coaches use to create the reliability advantage. The five habits give your team the biggest boost if applied in sequence. However, you must use your knowledge of your team to determine when to accelerate through or spend more time on a specific habit. The root meaning of the verb “to coach” means to bring a person from where they are to where they want to be. Consider the role of a football coach. He sets clear expectations for his team with a game plan to win. He asks players if they have any questions to ensure they are clear about their respective roles on the team. He also asks them questions like, “How can you improve your performance or overcome a certain obstacle?” Then during the game, he involves them in changing the game plan, if necessary, based on what they are seeing on the field. The coach also observes and measures each player’s performance (e.g., number of tackles, yards gained, etc.). Finally, the coach gives constructive feedback and recognition so his players can elevate their performance in the next game.

These are the same five habits that excellent leaders employ to coach their teams. First, excellent leaders explain expectations. They realize it is necessary but not sufficient, in and of itself, to boost performance. Excellent leaders take the time to ensure alignment with their teams before moving forward. Second, excellent leaders also ask questions. A leader might ask to clarify a problem or ask for ideas and suggestions. Asking questions ignites employee engagement. Third, excellent coaches involve team members in creating solutions to improve their work. This enlists ownership because we are committed to things we help create. Fourth, excellent leaders diligently measure results to boost team accountability. The fifth and final coaching habit is to appreciate people. This builds commitment to sustain and improve results. Using each of these habits in concert elevates team reliability.

 

“Asking questions ignites employee engagement.” -Lee Colan

Become a Master Coach

Unlock the Talent in Your Team

When I think about a great leader, I inevitably think about someone who is a great coach, understanding my weaknesses, but helping me play to my strengths. From John Wooden to my favorite manager, a coach is someone who unlocks talent.

Gregg Thompson wants to help leaders throughout organizations become great coaches. THE MASTER COACH:  Leading with Character, Building Connections, and Engaging in Extraordinary Conversations is his new book, written to help make coaching the part of your culture. He’s the President of Bluepoint Leadership Development and has coached senior leaders in many Fortune 100 companies. I recently talked with Gregg about becoming a master coach.

 

Share with us the Gregg Thompson definition of a master coach.

A Master Coach is someone who, through their conversations, helps others accelerate their learning and increase their performance. The Master Coach is not an advisor but, rather, a catalyst for sustained personal change in individuals. The Master Coach is a positive and creative force that challenges the person being coached to move from intention to action and holds the person accountable to do that. The Master Coach has highly-tuned interpersonal skills but is much more recognizable by who they are rather than what they do. They are men and women of exceptional integrity, sincere humility, noble intention, and a high degree of emotional intelligence. They take people into uncharted territories, challenge them to consider new perspectives, and help them plot significantly more fruitful paths forward.

 

“The Master Coach is a catalyst for sustained personal change in individuals.” -Gregg Thompson

 

Become a Great Coach

What do people get wrong when they think of a great coach?

People often think of the great coach as someone with the expertise and experience to provide great advice and sage wisdom. While occasionally coaches will have valuable perspectives and insights to share with those they coach, this is not their prime role. Their prime role is to help others find their best answers, solutions, and action plans. Some people also make the assumption that a coach is a counselor. Coaching and counseling, both powerful processes that can help to improve lives, are deeply different. Coaching is dedicating time and attention to help the person being coached to be the best version of themselves going forward while counseling usually involves resolving past difficulties and issues.

 

“The primary role of a coach is to help others find their best answers, solutions, and action plans.” -Gregg Thompson

 

What’s the difference between a coach and a mentor? 

A mentor can function in a coach-like manner, but their role is more of a career advisor than a coach. The mentor is usually someone with deep knowledge and expertise in a particular field and uses this to help more junior individuals accelerate their development and career growth.  Coaching, on the other hand, requires no expertise in the discipline of the person being coached. In short, anyone can coach anyone.

 

“Leadership happens one conversation at a time.” -Gregg Thompson

 

7 Characteristics of a Coaching Culture

How Leaders Create the Reliability Advantage

This is a guest post by Lee J. Colan, Ph.D. Lee Colan and Julie Davis Colan co-authored The 5 Coaching Habits of Excellent Leaders. They also co-founded The L Group in 1999 to equip and inspire leaders at every level: personal, team and organizational.

 

The Reliability Advantage

Consider this scenario: It’s early February. Jack Samuels, a sales director for a large logistics company, just landed back in Chicago and is now driving to his suburban home from the airport. He pulled off a successful pitch to a new customer in Dallas earlier that day, his final ticket to punch before the promised promotion to a VP role. The thrill of victory is running through his veins as he considers not only the pitch but also how he arrived on time against all odds. As he sits in standstill traffic with worsening road conditions from ice, Jack reflects on his team. Team members pulled off a big win by reliably performing their roles despite a series of obstacles, and it yielded the desired result for all involved.

Jack’s mind drifts to all the others he had to rely on today to make the pitch possible. He realizes that he couldn’t have even made it to the meeting in Dallas without a series of people from the airline team doing their jobs reliably: the curbside attendant quickly checking him in and tagging the big box of presentation boards to beat the 30-minute deadline, the gate agent persistently paging his name to ensure he was not left behind, the flight attendants politely hustling passengers into their seats, the de-icers timing their process just right, the pilots doing their dozens of checks to ensure all were safe, the baggage guys who loaded and unloaded his big box of materials, and the maintenance and food service teams who are invisible to Jack but, no doubt, played a part.

Then Jack’s appreciation deepens as he thinks of their monumental task of delivering reliable performance many, many times each day through hundreds of teams and thousands of team members. He is motivated to boost his personal reliability each day so that he can inspire more reliable performance from his team, an even bigger team with his pending promotion.

You might have experienced a similar scenario at some point where, like Jack, you could see and appreciate the connection between personal and team reliability and its profound impact on the customer.

 

“Reliability is a team sport.” -Lee Colan

 

We all inherently value reliability. It goes way beyond our air travel needs. Every day we value:

  • Reliable cars that save time and money on repairs.
  • Reliable mail that gets delivered on time.
  • Reliable investments that deliver expected returns.
  • Reliable cell phone service to stay connected.
  • Reliable vendors who show up on time.
  • Reliable restaurants that serve quality food and give good service.
  • Reliable friends and colleagues who do what they say.

Each of these outcomes we value is achieved by a team even though, in some cases, an individual is delivering the service.  Reliability is a team sport, and like any team sport, it requires a good coach.

Of course, we all know the results of dealing with unreliable people and teams. They cost us more time and money, two things we all would like more of. Further, unreliability costs us more frustration and more stress, two things we would all like less of.  Our organization has coached, trained and equipped more than 100,000 leaders to elevate their leadership since 1999.  It has been evident that being an excellent coach is central to being an excellent leader. So, it’s no surprise that much of our time is spent helping clients become better coaches, and ultimately better leaders.

 

“You must be personally reliable before you can coach your team to generate reliable results.” -Lee Colan

 

From Reliability to Profitability

Why Pixar, Netflix, and Others Succeed Where Most Fail

Build an Extreme Team

 

Teambuilding.

It seems easy enough. Hire talented people who are motivated to achieve something and together the team is formed.

What could go wrong?

Most of us who have been in leadership positions realize that building a team is far more difficult than hiring talented individuals.

It’s a process. From understanding individual styles to improving communication, it’s a constant effort.

That’s why nearly every leader I know is constantly working on the team.

One of the experts I follow is Robert Bruce Shaw. He’s a management consultant focused on leadership effectiveness. He has a doctorate in organizational behavior from Yale University and has written numerous books and articles.

He’s also an expert on teams and has a new book out: Extreme Teams: Why Pixar, Airbnb, and Other Cutting-Edge Companies Succeed Where Most Fail. After I read his new book, I asked him to share some of his research with us on teams.

 

“Extreme teams realize that tension and conflict are essential to achieving their goals.” -Robert Bruce Shaw

 

Elements of a Highly Successful Team

What are some of the elements of a highly successful team?

I assess a team’s success on two dimensions.  First, does the team deliver the results expected of it by its customers and stakeholders (in most cases, more senior levels of management within a company).  Does it deliver results in a manner that builds its capabilities in order to deliver results as well into the future?  Second, does the team build positive relationships among its members as well as with other groups?  This is required to sustain the trust needed for a team to work in a productive manner over time.  These are the two team imperatives:  deliver results and build relationships.

 

What’s an extreme team?

Teams that continually push for better results and relationships are what I call extreme teams.  Most teams work in a manner that emphasizes either results or relationships – and fail to develop each as an important outcome.  In addition, some teams settle for easy compromises in each area in striving to avoid the risk and conflict that can come when pushing hard in either area.  For example, a team that pushes hard on results can strain relationships.  Or, a team that values only relationships can erode its ability to deliver results.  Extreme Teams push results and relationships to the edge of being dysfunctional – and then effectively manage the challenge of doing so.

 

“Results + Relationships = Team Success.” -Robert Bruce Shaw

 

Foster An Extreme Team Culture

How do leaders help foster a culture where extreme teams thrive?

My book examines five practices of cutting-edge firms that support extreme teams.  These firms are unique in how they operate but do share some common practices.  I will mention three of these success practices:

1) They have a purpose that results in highly engaged team members.  This purpose involves the work itself but also includes having a positive impact on society.  Pixar, for example, attracts people who are passionate about making animated films that emotionally touch people.  Patagonia attracts people who love the outdoors and want to do everything they can to protect the environment.

2) They select and promote people who embody their core values.  Cultural fit becomes more important than an impressive resume.  Alibaba looks for people who fit its highly entrepreneurial culture.  The firm’s founder, Jack Ma, describes this as finding the right people not the best people.

3) They create a “hard/soft” culture that works against complacency.  In extreme teams, people realize that they need to be uncomfortable at times if they are to produce the best results.  This need is balanced against the need for people to feel they are part of community that supports them and their success.  Each firm I profile in the book does this to a different degree and with different practices.  Each, however, is more transparent and direct than conventional teams.

 

“Cutting edge firms have a critical mass of obsessive people and teams.” -Robert Bruce Shaw

 

Deciding what not to do is an important challenge. What do the best teams do to focus?

Why Leaders Must Prioritize Health and Wellness

Prioritize Your Health

Leaders are especially vulnerable to stress. Often leaders put others first and sacrifice their own wellbeing in the process. That’s not a recipe for long-term success and often results in failure.

Danielle Harlan, PhD is the Founder & CEO of the Center for Advancing Leadership and Human Potential. She completed her doctorate at Stanford University and has taught courses at both Stanford Graduate School of Business and U.C. Berkeley Extension’s Corporate and Professional Development program.

After reading her book, The New Alpha: Join the Rising Movement of Influencers and Changemakers Who Are Redefining Leadership, I asked her about her research and experience in leadership health and fitness.

 

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” –Antoine De Saint Exupery

 

Your Health and Your Leadership

When did you realize that prioritizing health was linked to leadership?

Leadership is fundamentally about being able to set a vision and persist over the long run as you lead yourself and others to take on big challenges and work toward the finish line, so it seems like making health a priority would be a no-brainer, right? I mean, it’s pretty obvious that taking care of ourselves affects our energy levels and stamina in the long run.

However, in my experience, this is the one aspect of personal excellence that leaders are most likely to struggle with—and this is true across industries, types of organizations, and roles. As the work piles up, self-care often takes a back seat to other more “pressing” priorities, which almost never leads to good outcomes in the long run.

 

“Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work.” -Booker T. Washington

 

More often than not, leaders who don’t prioritize their health either become unbearable to work with because they they’re dehydrated, or tired, or stressed, or “hangry”—or they start to get sick. I’ve worked with people who’ve developed diabetes, pre-diabetes, and even heart disease because they’ve put work ahead of their health. I’ve also known people who’ve gained or lost too much weight because of work and even someone who eventually had an aneurism. I’m not saying that there weren’t other factors that played a role in some of these cases, but all of these examples are of people who put work ahead of self-care, and I think they (and their teams and organizations) suffered for it.

After seeing this pattern of behavior and outcomes over and over again, it became clear to me that managing your health is a key component of being an effective human being and a successful leader.

Copyright Kate Haley Photography Copyright Kate Haley Photography

 

 

“Tomorrow belongs only to the people who prepare for it today.” –Malcolm X

 

The Dangers of Putting Work Ahead of Self

Why do you think so many people miss this important link (leadership / wellness) to their detriment?

I think putting work ahead of self-care actually comes from a good place—a desire to put forth our best effort and do as much good as possible, and people can be very effective in the short run by working this way (I’ve definitely had moments, for example, where I’ve sacrificed sleep in order to meet a big deadline).

The problem arises when we consistently put “achievement” ahead of our health and wellness, which simply isn’t sustainable in the long run—and I think The New Alpha gives people permission to re-prioritize their health and wellness, even if it means perhaps being slightly less effective on a few short-term tasks.

 

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” –Winston Churchill

 

4 Steps to Improve Your Health Today