Leadership Trevolution Blog

Blog Entries by Tag: Team Work

Three Reasons Collaboration Beats Competition in Teamwork

Published on: Oct 08, 2012 | Tags: Productivity, Management, Team Leadership, Decision Making, Team Work

A team, by definition, consists of people who work together. I have discovered a range of definitions for “work together” in organizations. At times it means people areCompete connected to the same manager, others might say it means we tolerate one another, and still others might develop friendships enjoyed at work. These definitions do not clearly delineate how people work together, nor do they ensure realization of the true benefits of teamwork.

When many work groups do actually attempt to work together to make a decision, address a problem, or define a goal it becomes competitive.  Competition influences the group members’ participation in those processes. 

  • One person may become more assertive, or even aggressive, to ensure he or she influences the outcome based on his or her perspective. 
  • Expertise can be positioned as an advantage to ensure one is heard and respected so his or her input is utilized. 
  • A group member can withhold his or her ideas, passively avoiding the interchange to avoid an escalation of tension while hoping someone else decides the results. 
  • The leader can depend compromise, knowing everyone received something important to him or her while accepting everyone also had to give up on part of his or her ideas. 

When collaboration characterizes “work together” there are different influences resulting in different group member experiences. 

  • Everyone knows his or her contribution is valued and will be considered as he or she values and considers others’ contributions. 
  • It is a safe environment for everyone to contribute ideas and provide feedback to one another. 
  • Experts are open to questions, learning, and options as they contribute to a shared solution. 
  • The leader ensures that the group focuses on discovering the best outcome or solution. 

At some level, collaboration and teamwork are synonymous. Competition in a work group counteracts most of the benefits that we gain when we truly work together. For this reason, collaboration is better than competition in teamwork. 

There are three reasons that collaboration beats competition in a team. 

1.      Focus 

Competition focuses on winning. Those who are competitive strive to see their input chosen as the answer. The non-competitive withhold the contribution that may make the difference, but is not known to the group. 

Collaboration focuses on the best solution or outcome. The focus is on every person in the team contributing all that is available to achieve that common result. The competition is against the problem, best decision, or goal and not one another.

2.      Interaction 

The interactions in a competitive environment usually do not promote healthy relationships. Communication can be ineffective with more talking than listening and ignoring those who do not compete. 

Collaboration, which should be energized in lively debate, requires listening to understand and making sure one is understood. Interactions are respectful and it is safe to contribute as well as question the ideas of others.

 3.      Outcome 

Competition results in a one sided outcome, or a compromise of what everyone can live with. It leaves group members with questionable commitment to the outcome that they may or may not agree with fully. 

Collaboration results in the outcome everyone agrees is best, knowing each one has contributed something to discovering it. There is ownership in the decision and clarity that engages everyone in contributing. 

Teams will benefit from collaboration. Without leaders who possess both the skill and capacity to develop collaborative teamwork, they will not experience it. Our next webinar will provide foundational leadership skills for leaders who desire to develop a collaborative team. More information is available here.

The Difficulty of Holding People Accountable

Published on: Jul 03, 2012 | Tags: General, Team Work, Team Leadership, Management, Feedback

Leadership would be easy if it weren’t for people. I have had that thought many times, usually when I have had to address a person who has acted irrationally, irresponsibly, unprofessionally, or thoughtlessly. I hate it when I am that person, because we are all capable of actions and behaviors that do not represent the best of our humanity. At the same time, we all have incredible capacity to make a difference, achieve success, and contribute positively. I enjoy those days, don’t you?

 Many leaders experience fewer enjoyable days and more stressful ones because they fail to hold people accountable when they behave negatively. The result is an inescapable trap that some leaders fall when they succumb to the belief that there is nothing that can be done. The basic belief: holding a person accountable is difficult and should be avoided if possible.  I have observed six reasons leaders no not hold people accountable. 

  • Conflict - The leader believes potential conflict is riskier than the negative behavior.
  • Failure – The leader believes that since he or she has failed, it is not right to address another’s failure.
  • Expectation – The leader believes adults should know how to behave and therefore he or she should not have to intervene.
  • Hindsight – The leader was not aware of his or her expectations until they were not met and then believes it is too late to address them.
  • Control – The leader assumes tacit responsibility by fixing the problem because he or she believes the other person cannot or will not do it right.
  • Pity – The leader feels sorry for the person and does not want to make him or her feel worse by addressing an issue.

 Each of these reasons for not holding someone accountable becomes an inherent leadership trap. The intention behind the justification for ignoring negative behavior, whether based in pity, expectations, or any other of these beliefs, seems reasonable if you do not examine it.  However, upon further examination, a leader will observe it becomes a self-imposed deception. Accountable

Consider this… 

  • Conflict ignored becomes increased conflict.
  • Failure to address failure because of failure perpetuates failure.
  • Expecting that which is not realistic creates a false reality.
  • Permitting hindsight to limit the present undermines the future.
  • Taking control of a responsibility without expecting a person to practice self-control limits you and frees them.
  • Pity that removes consequences for behavior perpetuates that behavior. 

Can you see the trap in each of these reasons for not holding someone accountable? I have unknowingly trapped myself by the practices that develop from these reasons. Beyond that, I have experienced the stress and frustration that accompanies each one.  I have also observed these in many clients and organizations. 

Accountability is the way out of the trap. Our upcoming, complimentary webinar Creating Employee Ownership through the Five Levels of Accountability will introduce you to an approach to accountability that ensures you avoid these traps. You can participate on Wednesday, July 25 from 11 am to 12 CST pm by signing up here.

Aligning Your Team through Strategic Planning

Published on: Jun 25, 2012 | Tags: General, Team Work, Team Leadership, Strategy, Organizational Leadership, Goals, Productivity, Organizations

Strategic planning processes begin at the organizational level. Those who can see the big picture develop strategies that set direction. They also develop goals that the entire organization will be expected to achieve. The farther a person is from senior leadership the greater the risk that he or she ignores these goals. Many people, whom I have asked when working with large organizations, indicate that they feel little or no responsibility for corporate goals. Beyond that, they also indicate they do not believe their actions affect the outcome of those goals in any real way. 

If most people who are not senior leaders in an organization ignore corporate goals, what is the potential that they will be achieved? There is a perspective problem. Perhaps that is why many managers assume corporate goals will not change much each year. Most people are ignoring them. 

When you make progress toward corporate goals, it will be because enough individuals are aligned with them to contribute. Individual contributions accumulate, resulting in collective success.  The primary place that individuals in a company can connect to corporate goals is through the work group. 

In many organizations, managers are expected to ensure individuals set goals that connect to a corporate goal.  This approach attempts to align individuals, making some impact, but it misses the opportunity to connect the person to the organization through the team. 

As a team leader, you connect the team to the organization when you set team goals. Team goals should align with corporate goals, but team members will be more closely connected to team goals than corporate goals. Team actions to achieve team goals complete the team’s strategic plan while aligning the team within the organization. As a result, individuals are contributing to corporate goals.

 Your plan should have these three attributes: 


Your plans should be strategic. That is, the plan defines how you will make progress in areas you are not achieving desired results. It should provide measurement to gauge progress. If the goals in your plan are achieved you should make significant progress as you support corporate goals.


 Innovation has become a buzzword as everyone strives to achieve it. As it relates to your team’s strategic plan, it means you plan to take different actions than you have taken in the past. Current performance is a result of past actions. If you want to perform at a different level, it will take a different set of actions.


Implement your plan as your team members set individual goals that support team goals and assume responsibility for their completion. Ensure the individual actions that support individual, team, and corporate goals are included in team members’ daily activities. Set this expectation and check in so you know how they are progressing toward their goals. Monitor team goals, as they should reflect the achievement of individual team member goals.

 When you, as a team leader, align your team with corporate goals through a team strategic planning process, you will effectively fulfill your responsibility within the organization. This positive outcome will benefit you, your team, and the company.

Four Practices that Support Empowerment

Published on: Jun 19, 2012 | Tags: General, Team Work, Empowerment, Productivity, Team Leadership

The Road

If you are like me, you may naturally think in terms of events. Communication is an event, meetings are events, writing or reading an email is an event and giving work away is an event. This is not a particularly accurate perspective. Most of the time, I benefit from thinking in terms of process.  An event, then, becomes one-step in a process. Communication is a process, meetings are processes and parts of processes, and giving work away is a process. 

Empowering a person is not an event. It is a process. If you simply give someone work and believe you can check “task complete” off of your to do list, you will find yourself experiencing undesirable consequences. 

Some practices that will improve your process of giving work away include know the person, communicate clearly, promote discovery, and check in regularly. 

Know the Person 

When you give work to someone else that becomes his or her work, you need to know that person. Strengths, weaknesses, personality, experience, training, workload, and skills represent some of the information that is useful to a leader empowering a team member. 

Communicate Clearly 

Communication is a process. Focus on giving all of the information the team member needs to own the responsibility. You walk a fine line between providing the information needed to think though ownership of a responsibility and telling a person what to do. Be clear about expected outcome and any non-negotiable that must be met in completing the work. For instance, one non-negotiable in my team is that you must complete your work in a way that benefits everyone it impacts. 

Promote Discovery 

Instead of telling the person you are empowering how to do the work, let the information you provide combined with what you learn about him or her come together as that person engages in the work. Suggest that he or she determine the best way to get the job done. Give the new responsibility owner a chance to discover new and better ways to accomplish the job. Position him or her to take acceptable risk. 

Check in Regularly

When you give a person whom you do not have experience working with responsibility, check in regularly. Do this from the perspective of being helpful and supportive. Ask them about any questions they have or identify resources they lack. This is an initial accountability level that, when offered in a supportive manner, does not feel like accountability. As the person demonstrates proficiency and confidence, the need to check-in diminishes. If he or she is struggling, you will catch it early and ensure they are supported for success. 

If your empowerment process includes these four practices, you will ensure ownership in responsibility and success for those you empower. Is it true that when those you lead are successful, you as a leader are successful? I believe it is. 

Empowerment and Alignment

Published on: Jun 11, 2012 | Tags: General, Team Work, Empowerment, Management, Organizational Leadership, Goals, Mission, Vision, Values

 The individual contribution of everyone in an organization contributes to its performance. It is this collective effort, when appropriately directed, that makes a company successful. Organizations rely on senior leadership to set direction, but ensuring that everyone throughout a company positively contributes is a different challenge. That is where management engages. The typical management practice is for a supervisor to receive responsibility and delegate it to individuals to accomplish work. In practice, the work remains the responsibility of the supervisor while completed by an employee. This appears to align an organization by making sure everyone knows exactly what to do. 

The problem with this approach: it is not working. The result of delegation is low ownership, limited engagement, death of creativity, limited responsibility, unmet expectations, conflict, and low morale. 

Organizations achieve alignment through empowerment. I differentiated empowerment and accountability in a previous blog.The basic difference is the ownership of the work. In delegation, the work belongs to the one giving it away. Empowerment occurs when a person is given his or her work. 

Leaders at the senior level must design an organization that supports empowerment and expects alignment. When these two conditions are met, collective contribution engages teams and individuals in a shared direction. The organization, team, and individual align and move in the direction set by senior leadership. Each level has distinct responsibilities. 


At the organizational level mission, vision, and values must be clearly defined and compelling. If they simply hang on the wall and are written on cards to be placed with employee badges they have little impact. Beyond the direction these provide, measurable, strategic goals should be provided consistently and in a timely manner. When organizational goals are provided after the actions that will make them successful should have started, they are seldom achieved.

Sailing together


At the work group level, teams collectively connect to organizational mission, vision, and values as well as setting goals that connect them to other teams in the organization. Team is defined as any group at any level of an organization where everyone shares a responsibility. The cascading goals that are developed by teams at all levels of the company should all feed into the organizational goals. 


Individuals connect to an organization through the team or work group. When a team has defined and understood its connection to the organization and each person shares responsibility for the collective outcome, individual goals should be set. To be fully aligned, personal mission, vision, and values will connect to the organization through the team. Individual goals then support team goals that support organizational goals. 

When each organizational level aligns, groups and individuals can be empowered. Without alignment, empowerment becomes chaos as each person and work group operates in a disconnected, misdirected manner.

Human Resources and Your Team

Published on: Jun 04, 2012 | Tags: General, Team Work, Team Leadership, Productivity, Empowerment, Weakness, Strength, Management

Some question the term “human resources” because they believe it may objectify people. Based on that definition people become resources like computers, desks, phones, or vehicles. While few managers would agree with this view and even though most companies say that people are their greatest resource, employees at times perceive they are treated like objects. Traditional management practices tend to create this perception, and many times do so without intention. This does not make human resources a bad term, but simply a bad definition that has developed over time. 


It is true that people are human and, in my experience, people desire to be a valuable, contributing resource at work. Resource becomes derogatory when organizations use people without consideration of their humanity. In that case, they define the person without consideration of who they are and who they can become. This occurs when managers attempt to conform people to their expectations without consideration of each person’s uniqueness. 

Once you, as a leader, take the responsibility to understand the people on your team based on each person’s unique ability to contribute, human resources will be redefined. Three practices will begin your development of this capacity. 


Leaders develop the capacity to understand people, clarifying both individual and group potential.  The primary skill required is nonjudgmental observation. All of the information you need is readily available and accessible. Watch and listen to learn about those you lead and position them to contribute successfully. 


This is a challenge because many of those you lead today are not fully aware of their own potential. As you learn about the people you lead, you will also guide them to become more aware of their own capacity. I hear discussion about employee engagement. One of the keys to engagement is awareness of the capacity each person possesses. It is their abilities, strengths, and knowledge that they must be aware of and you must engage. 


When you observe potential in a person on your team, position them to discover it. Allow him or her to investigate personal potential by attempting something he or she has not yet mastered. Do not set a person up for a level of failure that discourages him or her and puts the outcome at unacceptable risk. Do challenge them beyond their current contribution level. Present the opportunity based on your observation of unrecognized potential. The learning opportunity is an investment whether the person succeeds easily or struggles toward mastery of new skills. 

PeopleThe leadership capacity of development is important because it ensures that people are appreciated as a resource based on personal uniqueness. You appreciate who a person is by engaging everyone based on what each individual is best equipped to accomplish. Beyond that, you give every individual the opportunity to excel beyond personal expectations. With this practice, you, your team, and the organization will benefit from the individual and collective performance results. 

Evidence of Buy-in

Published on: May 29, 2012 | Tags: General, Team Work, Team Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Productivity, Strategy, Organizations

Buy-in Help

Leaders value buy-in to their team or organization’s direction. The assurance that those you lead have bought-in brings a leader reassurance. It gives hope to the leader that he or she actually influences the direction of the team or organization towards success. To know that those you lead have bought-in, you have to know what buy-in looks like. 

If you want to evaluate whether those you lead have bought-in, there are three observations that will provide insight. 

  1. Team members share responsibility 

Assuming responsibility for results that support the defined direction is a key indicator that team members have bought-in. Shared responsibility can be observed in individual and group decision making. When individuals make decisions that support the direction of the team or organization without requiring feedback from a leader or co-worker, they are expressing buy-in. The team has bought in when discussions, reports, and group decisions intentionally drive for results that direct movement down the defined path. 

  1. Team members support one another 

When a people buy-into a direction that results in shared responsibility, they support one another in getting there. Individualism goes “out the window.” When you, as a leader, observe people supporting one another because they recognize the cumulative result of their work, they have bought into the direction of the team as well as the organization. 

  1. Team members contributing resources 

Contributing the minimum or the basic requirements does not reflect buy-in. People express buy-in with contribution beyond the basic expectations.  When a leader observes people exceeding expectations, and at times acting sacrificially, they are bought-in. Resources can include time, expertise, budget, or space. 

Buy-in’s benefits are not difficult to measure short or long-term. In the short-term strategies are successful as measured by goal achievement at all levels. In the long term, vision becomes reality by creating value, the visible evidence of sustainability. The leaders challenge becomes defining direction and communicating it in an organization designed to engender buy-in. Do the people in your organization and on your team have a clear direction to buy into?

Management Favoritism

Published on: May 21, 2012 | Tags: General, Team Work, Team Leadership, Management, Productivity, Feedback

Favoritism is perceived when a manager appears to offer more opportunity to an employee or employees than he does to others in his work group. This same manager may not recognize that he practices favoritism, or he may justify his favoritism. Either way, if those who work with him perceive that he practices favoritism the result is ongoing conflict and turbulence in the work group. Perception is reality to those that perceive it. The negative work environment costs in morale and productivity. 

Actual favoritism occurs when a manager allows a person rights and privileges based on relationship or personal benefit to the manager. This practice is easy to identify and cannot be justified. There is a simple solution in this scenario. Stop it! Stop it

Perceived favoritism develops with less intention and may not be understood as favoritism by the manager. When a manager relies on his most productive employees it can appear to be favoritism. From his perspective, it takes less energy and time to give them more opportunity and therefore more reward than those who are not as productive. In this scenario, “low performers” question why they do not get better assignments and more opportunity. It appears, from their perspective, that the manager has favorites. 

The manager justifies the practice based on his perception of the people on the team. That is his reality, or is it? There is another perspective a manager can take. He can see the developmental opportunities in the team. Then he will be practicing the leadership capacity of development. 

While it is unrealistic to believe everyone can perform at the same level, it is reasonable to believe people can improve. There are always exceptions, but does that make the exception the rule.  If the disparity of capability in a work group results in a manager who ignores some and relies on others, he is enjoying the results of that practice. Actually, it may not be very enjoyable. If a person is not meeting expectations, and the manager’s approach is to give more work to someone else he is missing a developmental opportunity. Two practices build the leadership capacity of development. 

Focus on Fairness 

The perception of favoritism will disappear if you are fair. Fair is setting expectations and giving everyone the opportunity to meet them. Invest in the growth of those you lead. If everyone shares the same opportunity to develop skills that prepare him or her for opportunity no one should appear to be a favorite. If someone does not want to grow in skills required for success, then be fair to those who are preforming at a high level and address the issue. Hig performers should not have to carry someone else’s responsibility because of poor managment. 

Challenge people to recognize what they are capable of plus a little. 

It is important for you to know the capabilities of those you lead or manage. The risk is that you accept current capabilities as all the capacity a person will ever possess. If you carefully observe those you lead, you will probably see more capability than they acknowledge. This may be your frustration, but it is also your opportunity. With this information, you can challenge people beyond where they are while limiting your risk. Push them a little past what you determine they are capable of without putting yourself or fulfillment of expectations at significant risk. Give them the same chance to learn and grow someone has probably given you. When they succeed everyone wins, when they fail they learn. Leaning becomes growth. 

Take a fresh look at the potential of those you lead. Make sure the lens you use for observation seeks potential. That potential clarifies the opportunity to develop people who want to succeed. 

The Power of Diversity

Published on: May 14, 2012 | Tags: General, Team Work, Team Leadership, Self Leadership, Weakness, Strength, Productivity

The workplace grows increasingly diverse. I define diversity as anything that makes one person different from another. By this definition, some personal characteristics make identifying how we are different from those we work with easy. At the same time, there are more subtle differences. These can be overlooked or ignored. A leader who aspires to bring people together and achieve optimum levels of performance needs the skill to leverage this diversity. 

In some cases, managers either intentionally or unintentionally attempt to move people to conformity. This is essentially an attempt to make everyone the same. I understand this desire as it appears to the manager that her job will be easier if everyone acts and thinks the same way. If this is your expectation as a leader, how realistic is it? The energy expended attempting to get people to act as you want them to act and the frustration you experience when it does not happen can be better spent. 

Diversity presents the integration and differentiation challenge. Your team has to be integrated enough to work together and fit into the organization while differentiated enough to bring individual resources derived from personal uniqueness to the team. Teams that achieve this balance share three characteristics. Diversity

  • Each person understands self in order to contribute out of strengths and manage weaknesses. 

When a person contributes from self-understanding, there is less temptation to let another person define individual contribution. As people understand and lead self well each one fits into the team without losing personal high potential or hindering team productivity. Everyone complements others with confidence in what each one can and cannot contribute to the team.  The expectation is that everyone contributes out of personal strengths and weaknesses. 

  • Acceptance and appreciation of self and others expressed as openness and mutual support. 

Failure to accept and appreciate self and others generates judgment, criticism, relational distance, and misunderstanding. This becomes a negative diversity experience. At best, independence limits group productivity. At worst, everyone lives in constant turbulence.  Alternatively, when everyone accepts what others bring to the group with openness and mutual support, one person’s strengths cover another’s weaknesses. This is diversity’s power. 

  • Collaborative interactions evidenced in collective outcomes. 

Diversity’s power results in collective outcomes. The ability to collaborate derived from acceptance and appreciation engages every resource each person possesses. In the end, the team’s productivity improves as each person’s best synergistically produces what the individuals cannot. Personal achievement excels as well when each person contributes from her strengths. 

Some managers may believe it easier to make everyone the same. Great amounts of energy have been expended to this end. The problem with this approach: it goes against nature. Do we really believe it is easy to make someone become who he is not? It is easier to position a person to be who she is with the expectation of openness and support of others. There will be some turbulence as acceptance is sorted out, but it diminishes in time. Attempting to make people who they are not for conformity’s sake perpetuates turbulence.

Leadership Credibility through Accountability

Published on: May 07, 2012 | Tags: General, Team Work, Team Leadership, Productivity, Management, Organizational Leadership, Organizations, Communication

Accountability, when discussed in organizations, usually focuses on employees as subordinates. Managers expect people to be accountable for the results of their work, as they should. A problem develops when people are not as productive as expected and managers cannot or do not hold people accountable. This occurs in spite of the coaching and counseling training that many organizations rely on as the way for managers to approach their responsibility. When the initial focus of accountability is on the person in the subordinate position, it is difficult for accountability to work. The initial focus of accountability should be on the leader. Account

The leader should be accountable for his or her leadership before he or she expects accountability from others. The way to accountability as a leader is through credibility. People tend to embrace accountability to someone who is equally accountable to them. When you, as a leader, fulfill your role well you become someone to whom others willingly become accountable. Voluntary accountability is much more powerful than relying on authority and power. Becoming credible requires attention and intention to your leadership role. Here are three ways to build your credibility in a way that develops accountability. 

Create ownership by offering opportunity 

I find that leaders value people who take ownership in their work. Ownership increases accountability. If you, as a leader, want to increase ownership, then be accountable to provide people the opportunity to own their work. It must be work worth owning from their perspective. They have little interest in doing your work. Unless you are accountable to provide opportunity, you may find it difficult to hold them accountable as owners. 

See results by positioning people to achieve – 

The fundamental need for accountability develops when one fails to meet expected results. I have worked with managers who believe people do not want to or cannot succeed so they exert control that results in micro-management. In the end, these managers still struggle to find significant productivity. If you want people to deliver results, be accountable to position them to achieve. Most people can achieve more than they realize. An effective leader positions team members to surprise themselves, even though he or she is not surprised. He or she sees the potential in people and believes they want to succeed. 

Experience progress by developing healthy relationships – 

Many times, work groups cannot progress because people do not work well together. Even maintaining the status quo presents a challenge in these cases. Managers get frustrated from endless turbulence. If you want people to progress in the ability to work together, you as a leader must be accountable to develop healthy relationships within the team. If you do not fulfill your accountability to guide people on your team out of relational turbulence, you should not expect them to progress in their ability to work together. 

There are many ways a leader can be accountable to followers at both the team and organizational level. If you want to increase accountability from those in your organization or on you team, first make sure you are credible as a leader. You will find the willingness of people to be accountable to you increases with your credibility.

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