MVP Seminars Blogs

How many times have you witnessed your team stuck in their problem solving attempts? Were you able to quickly move them through their blockages, or were they too bogged down by their inability to move forward? As a leader, it is your responsibility to find a way to get through to your team members and to keep them moving forward even when they refuse to budge. Some of the major issues that keep teams from moving forward are competition among team members, unclear direction, lack of support, internal politics, and fear of making mistakes. When you notice the team divided and incapable of high productivity, your first step is to find a reason why they should want to resolve the issue. If there is not a big enough why behind the resolution, your team members will not care enough to work through the challenges. Perhaps the incentive is to receive additional vacation days, a salary bonus, or an additional half hour exercise or relaxation period. IDENTIFY THE REAL ISSUE The next step is to identify the real issue. This could become complicated if your team members are uncertain what the issue is. To discover the true issue, you might have to do a little digging. Three successful methods to identify problems are:
  • Spend one-on-one time with the team members who are most capable of understanding team dynamics.
  • Have your team members anonymously list the three things they believe are creating the issue.
  • Do a brain-storming session where no reactions or judgments are allowed.
DETERMINE THE FACTS After you have identified the problem, take the time to determine the facts. This is problematic because facts can sometimes be people’s perceptions. Keep the perceptions separated from actions. When your team members share the information with you, have them relay only what they know, not what they thought they saw or heard. Begin the conversation by giving them the instructions: “Please convey factual information without commentary on how you feel about it. While your feelings are important, I am attempting to distinguish the facts.” ESTABLISH A VARIETY OF SOLUTIONS Once all team members have had an opportunity to share their facts with you, encourage the team to offer solutions. During this time, direct them to come up with at least fifteen different solutions. This causes them to stretch their mind outside of normal thought processes. After the fifteen solutions have been identified, determine the top five. Have your team members discuss the pros and con of each solution to uncover which solution best fits the scenario. SEAL THE AGREEMENT Make certain all parties have agreed to the solution. Ask them to write down what they are willing to do to maintain their part of the bargain. It is crucial at this time to ask if everybody feels good about the solution. If you notice people averting their eyes or showing signs of reluctance, ask them if they have concerns they would like to discuss. “Mary, I feel you are reluctant with the solution. Is there something we’ve missed?” Let the team members know that if they will have the opportunity to evaluate the solution. The solution might need to be modified or scrapped if it does create the outcomes desired. Keep the attitude that solutions are an ongoing process. This process might appear to take longer than giving directives, and it is. It is also more apt to gain the outcomes you desire by making your team members take ownership of problem-solving. Once they have invested time and energy, they will be more invested in keeping the agreements. The key is for them to see you as part of the process, and not the process.  
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Have you ever been on the receiving end of a problem that no one would help you solve, even if they had the authority to do so? You provided data and observations about the problem's existence and explained how it impacted production, cost, earnings and/or culture. You talked to the person or persons that had authority over the problem, but those individuals either denied that the problem existed, washed their hands of it, or said that it was someone else's problem to solve (even if there was "no one else"). Right now I have a wireless internet problem that does not seem to have an owner. This problem is preventing me from backing up some data, which is kind of a big deal. Every company that I talk to says that it is out of their control - the internet provider, the router company and the company that made the device that I am uploading the data from. The problem is real - I have data that I have collected on speeds and have narrowed down the scope based on what the data shows. I have shared that data and was told that the problem was "out of our control". I have not given up and continue to escalate the problem to a higher level, hoping that I can get some assistance but do not know if I will be successful.

I could give many examples where management chose to ignore a problem, even though that choice was tied to a production loss, higher costs or a loss of trust. In addition to these losses, the person making that choice ALWAYS lost credibility with others in management and/or the workforce. Management priorities would change if we could quantify the losses associated with choices to ignore problems. But... before we track the losses (financial and cultural), we must first stop accepting this choice as "management's discretion". Until we change our perspective on what we are willing to accept as "OK", unrecorded losses will continue and the people directly impacted by an unsolved problem will continue to work around it the best that they can, knowing that it's "management choice" that they continue to struggle with the issue.
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The dictionary defines life force as “the spirit or energy that animates living creatures; the soul.” Recently, while attending a business luncheon I looked around my table and was reminded, yet again, of the power of listening and how great communicators know the value it brings to one’s individual life force. There were a total of six people at this table, including myself, but only one other that exhibited what I would call any real life force. I include myself in the count, because I was consciously working at listening, to make sure that I was animated and that my receptive energy was reaching out to the rest of the people. Listening Is an Art unto Itself The Power of Listening is such an important and powerful skill that rarely gets enough attention! As an actor, I learned a long time ago the importance of listening. Not only is the camera filming the person speaking, but (as we have all observed) it’s also covering each person’s reactions to words being spoken to them. Really, listening requires getting out of our heads and making the person speaking more important than our own thoughts and what we want to say in response. How many times have you begun to tell a story about an experience and the person “listening” jumps in and says something like, “Oh I know what you’re talking about. I had the same thing happen to me, it was a terrible experience!” Off they go and you are left with your story still unspoken. Great Communicators Hear from Others This may be my primary “beef” in life…people who are so caught up in themselves, so insecure, that they are constantly pushing their importance forward, rather than just listening with an open heart. Abraham Maslow’s definition of “real” listening is to listen “without pre-supposing, classifying, improving, controverting, evaluating, approving or disapproving, without dueling what is being said, without rehearsing the rebuttal in advance, without free-associating to portions of what is being said so that succeeding portions are not heard at all.” Believe me – I am guilty of not listening at times, as well. But I have learned how important it is to catch myself and refocus. When you learn to really listen, you learn to react and, in turn, allow that reaction to reach your face. Listening then becomes a non-verbal feedback to the person speaking. That’s what we see in the movies when they cut from the person speaking to the person being spoken to. The audience is usually waiting for a response, which can sometimes determine the next action that takes place. Keeping Your Audience Engaged Begins With Listening I do a lot of speaking in front of people and it’s one of the most difficult things to do; not the speaking part, but keeping the audience engaged part! Each audience member is naturally going to be thinking of other things when you speak, it’s human nature, so it’s the speaker’s job to keep them actively listening and engaged as much as possible. I do that by expressing myself with energy, animation and passion. Energy, animation and passion are also an integral part of listening. Here’s why:

•   When you listen with energy and animation people will believe that they are being heard.

•   When people feel that you are really listening to them, they will be able to trust you more.

•   When people have more trust toward you, they will be more willing to hear from you.

Remember to Listen with Your Heart AND Your Head

This is precisely the power great communicators have come to know – the power of genuinely listening or, “active” listening, with the heart and not just the head. Practice this type of listening and you’ll be amazed at how well you’ll be able to engage people, giving you even more success as

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Most of us work for a living. On or off the job we are bound to encounter a wide range of, shall I say, challenging personalities? Bullies, intimidators, hypocrites, backstabbers, underminers, instigators, complainers, gossips, withholders, and know-it-alls just to name a few. Their presence can be distressing and distractive. Many of us are ill-prepared to deal with their ever unpredictable behaviors yet are quick to hold them accountable for making it even more impossible to perform our already demanding jobs. As in all relationships, the interaction between both parties contributes to the dysfunction on the job. Therefore, it is imperative to first examine the self for any improprieties. Take a moment and reflect upon the following: ~ Am I guilty of any of the preceding behaviors? Unless I am able to identify my own destructive behaviors I have no right to complain about others nor do I have the ability to improve the dynamics. I am responsible for my own actions and must first be willing to change myself. ~ How is my attitude? Have I always been polite and respectful? Was I in a bad mood the day we had an issue? Did I say or do anything that may have provoked the other party now or prior to the incident? ~ What is my history with this person: amicable or hostile? What is their personal history? Is this an isolated incident? Is this behavior out of character for them or typical? ~ Am I blowing things out of proportion? Have I taken personal offense to an issue that is not about me? Am I the only one in the office who has an issue with this person or does he/she behave the same way with all of  us? ~ Is this impacting my performance on the job? It is causing me significant distress? Do I need to address the issue with the individual? Can I let it slide? Do I need to enlist the aid of another person such as my supervisor to help resolve this? Only after I have thoroughly and honestly examined my role in this incident can I take action with (not against) the other party. (Attitude is key: you are coworkers, not adversaries.) There are several keys to dealing with individuals who exhibit the above characteristics: 1. Carefully and objectively assess the situation and determine its level of seriousness. A minor incident may be well to overlook while one of a more critical nature needs to be addressed. 2. Determine if this is something you are comfortable and qualified to handle on your own. Involving a third party might jeopardize the other's anonymity and sense of safety. 3. Choose the proper time and location to discuss the issue. 4. Utilize a firm yet fair approach, speaking with confidence and clarity. 5. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Ask questions rather than make assumptions or accusations. However, be certain to hold them accountable for their actions. 6. Listen open mindedly to their response or explanation. Consider their point of view. 7. Set guidelines and boundaries if necessary. 8. State your position and what changes need to take place. Ask for the same from them. 9. Reach a mutually agreed upon settlement and put the issue behind you. 10. For those issues or individuals who will not change, accept what is and do the best you can under the circumstances. Not every incident will be resolved the way you had hoped for. Remember that whatever course of action you choose to take or not take, do so with dignity and integrity. Your behavior reflects your character and the example you set may be just enough to surreptitiously resolve the issue.  
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