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Teamwork Leadership:  Personally Model ResiliencePosted on May 1, 2022

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Over the last two weeks, we have explored two work tactics to help strengthen your team’s resilience: (1) focus the team on what they CAN do, not on what they cannot, and (2) empower the team to prioritize tasks. This blog entry will focus on what YOU can do, through your role modeling, to strengthen your team’s resilience. Leadership is not about “telling people what to do” and then doing whatever we feel like doing. Leadership is about clearly communicating and demonstrating the behavior expected in a way that inspires your team to follow.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

As you have noted through this series, a positive, productive teamwork environment is possible primarily because of your behavior. Resilience is no different. Mahatma Gandhi is quoted as stating, “be the change you wish to see in the world.”  If you want something to happen, you must start with your own behavior.

How can you do it? 

  1. Model asking for help.  Leaders can also fall prey to taking on too many tasks and then trying to do everything (and failing). Leaders must push themselves to delegate tasks appropriately to members of their team. This behavior not only demonstrates trust in your team but also gives your team members a chance to grow and models the behavior of asking for help.
  2. Model decompression and self-care behaviors.  Make sure to block time in your life to get active, spend time with your family, and get the appropriate rest (for your body).   Your team knows that you are always available, but when you are off work, honor that for yourself, and when your team members are off, work hard to protect that time. Ask yourself, “is it urgent that my response (or team members) is necessary right now?”  If not, write it down and follow up when you are back at work.
  3. Model appropriate boundaries.  When I first started at SOMC, my leader worked in the office from 8 AM to 9 PM most days. We never talked about her work patterns or why she worked these hours; I just made the assumption that was what was expected of me. Explain your work patterns to your team. Maybe you get back online at 10 PM because your children are finally in bed, but that doesn’t mean you expect others to do that. So talk about when/where you each work best and when/how best to contact each other during these periods.
  4. Model connection to purpose.  Everyone needs to feed their work soul on occasion. Spend some time periodically reflecting on the “why you do what you do.” When something goes well, pause and be thankful for the opportunity to make a difference in that one leadership moment. When something does NOT go well, pause and reflect on what you learned and how you can help your team learn from your mistake. Make sure to share these reflections with your team and encourage them to celebrate the moments when their actions have made a difference for someone – a patient or a co-worker. Reinforcing purpose in work is crucial in keeping ourselves and our teams strong.

What additional strategies do you deploy to role model resilience with your team?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/leadership. We learn best from each other’s experiences.


Teamwork Leadership:  Empower Team to PrioritizePosted on April 24, 2022

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Everyday tasks can pile up, and competing demands on your team’s time and attention may create stress and frustration. When this occurs, team members may “lock up” and not know which tasks are most important, so they stall. Some of your team members may continue to try to do everything before them, regardless of the circumstances, and then become overwhelmed.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Just as you have to focus your team on what the CAN do instead of what they CANNOT, another necessary leadership behavior is to empower your team to prioritize. Because a team cannot do EVERYTHING, a team must learn to look at what they can get accomplished in any given situation and prioritize which of those are most critical. Change happens, and your team needs this skill to adapt to changing circumstances and get done what needs to be done at the appropriate moment…without you there. Yep, I said it. Empower your team to use the following during their shift to manage a smooth, limited-stress flow of work.

How can you do it? 

  1. Empower your team to triage tasks.  Just like an Emergency Department has to triage patients to manage the most important patients effectively, your team needs a framework for determining which tasks are most critical and which can wait. Talk through the typical task demands with your team and develop a system for them to prioritize tasks at the moment.
  2. Empower your team to say “no, but when”.  Saying “no” carries a negative stigma – not a team player, can’t handle the workload, etc. But saying “no” to specific tasks that do not impact their work can allow your team to prioritize the identified  “can do” tasks in front of them. Give your team permission to say “no”, but then instruct them to offer a “when” they may be able to perform the task on their lower priority list. “When I am finished with hourly rounds with my patients, I’ll be happy to help.”  This simple framework gives your team the ability to communicate their needs and focus on the most important tasks during their workflow.
  3. Empower your team to switch focus and refresh.  Personally, I cannot focus on one task intently for more than four hours (some days less) without switching it up a bit. Making sure you allow your team to rotate tasks from intense to more mundane periodically can give a mental breather. Empower your team to ask for help to “tag out” of an intense task so they can have a break and refresh.

What are some additional prioritization tips you have provided your team to help them stay focused?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/leadership. We learn best from each other’s experiences.


Teamwork Leadership:  Focus Team on What CAN ControlPosted on April 17, 2022

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

It is seductive to get derailed by what we cannot control. Outside influences are constantly working on us as individuals and as teams—forces such as competition, expenses, and market changes impact organizations. In contrast, influences such as peer opinion, perceived injustices, and belief in chance affect us as individuals. The easy thing to do is blame these outside factors for limits in our performance. We make excuses for what we cannot do because of the pressures or situations created by these forces.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

This focus on the external distracts the team from leaning on the internal factors the team CAN do to produce results. When an individual or a team faces a challenge and breaks it down into what they can DO to impact or change the circumstance, the control balance switches toward internal. The team can remain focused on these tangible, actionable steps toward success instead of getting distracted by things the team cannot possibly control. This focus on action and common purpose gives the team the stamina to weather tough situations and the grit to push forward despite the external distractions.

How can you do it? 

  1. Focus on actions for incremental progress toward the end goal.  Sometimes an ultimate end goal seems too far away to be attainable. And when something seems so unreachable, it is easy to lose focus. Help your team identify interim progress steps and measurements to remain focused on achieving the end goal, one baby step at a time.
  2. Focus on choices the team can make.  When teams cannot make independent decisions or choices, they also may lose focus because of that feeling of “loss of control.”  Look for opportunities where the team can decide on the direction or next steps, and then let them! Ha!
  3. Focus on a shared sense of purpose.  When external pressures abound, a team can strengthen its focus by looking inward. Instead, focus on directing attention to why the team exists, what strengths each team member brings,  and how they choose to treat one another.

What additional strategies have you used to focus your team on what they CAN do?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/leadership. We learn best from each other’s experiences.


Teamwork Leadership:  Facilitate a Climate of TrustPosted on April 10, 2022

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

It is easy to fall into the mental trap that because you are the “leader,” people should trust you. You have worked hard and achieved the required education for the position you hold, and well, your team should just trust you, right? Not a chance. Trust is built over time with effort or “deposits” into a trust bank account. Deposits are made by demonstrating consistent behaviors that build trust and minimize withdrawals or those that detract from the trust. Trust, like leadership, is hard work. And not every leader is willing to put in the effort.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Trust in leadership starts first with the leader extending trust to their team. Extending trust should be the foundation deposit made in the trust bank account. When you trust your employees, you empower them to own their success. When they own their success, they can better push through adversity, take responsibility for their performance and results, and enhance their own leadership skills. When your team trusts you, they are more willing to communicate improvement opportunities without fear, take risks, try new solutions to problems, and be open to change. Leadership cannot exist without people willing to follow, however. So making the following “deposits” are essential for encouraging trust in your leadership.

How can you do it? 

  1. Demonstrate actions consistent with your words.  When you observe a discrepancy between someone’s actions and words, which do you believe? Actions. As a leader, you are always on stage and being observed. A foundation deposit for trust is to demonstrate consistency between what you say and what you do.
  2. Tell the truth. Teams with high levels of trust in their leader have learned that their leader tells them the truth, even when the information is unpleasant. Great teams do not want their leader to sugarcoat the truth. Demonstrate trust in your team by consistently being straight with them, and they will reciprocate.
  3. Admit when you have made a mistake.  Nothing makes a bigger trust deposit with your team than openly admitting when you have made a mistake and what you will do to fix it. Everyone makes mistakes. When leaders share their mistakes openly and how they are managing through and learning from them, they communicate to the team that mistakes are a part of learning and improving.
  4. Do not promise confidentiality about matters affecting the team.  Nothing destroys trust like secrets. When a team member comes to you with a matter affecting the team, never promise confidentiality. Period. Tattle telling, without team accountability, is a destructive team behavior. Teams can’t trust one another if they believe everyone is talking behind their backs, primarily if the leader engages in or condones the behavior by being the sounding board. Be clear that you will not be keeping the issue confidential and facilitate the issue resolution. 

What additional leadership “deposits” have you made to build trust in your team?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/leadership. We learn best from each other’s experiences.


Teamwork Leadership:  Promptly Manage Destructive ConflictPosted on April 3, 2022

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

One of the most common reasons leaders are hesitant to address any form of conflict is the need to be loved. This need leads to the flawed leadership belief that addressing the individuals involved in the destructive conflict will hurt the relationship between parties. Insecure leaders will try to wait out destructive conflict and hope it will resolve without the need for leader intervention.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

When conflict crosses over from energizing to destructive, the faster a leader intervenes, the least damage within the team. Hoping destructive conflict “goes away” is NOT an effective leadership strategy. Left unmanaged, destructive conflict can damage team relationships, affect productivity, and increase employee turnover.

How can you do it? 

  1. Ask open-ended questions to identify the issue.  Facilitate open communication with those that are involved in the conflict situation. Focus on understanding the facts of the problem at hand from all perspectives. Use question-asking to keep those involved focused on the facts instead of only the emotional context of the situation.
  2. Develop a list of possible options to resolve the conflict.  If possible, involve the parties involved in the conflict situation in developing options for resolving the team’s destructive conflict. For each option identified, generate the pros and cons of each option.
  3. Select the BEST option available.  As a team, select the best option that addresses the conflict and meets the most needs of the team. Please note that most often, NO option meets everyone’s needs. Your job as a leader is to facilitate the selection of the decision that has the best chance of managing the conflict and repairing trust within the team.
  4. Hold yourself and the team accountable for the conflict resolution decision(s).  Once the team has agreed on a conflict resolution path, get to it and don’t look back…unless you have to. Trust that team members will honor the agreement, but regularly verify that everyone is holding up their end of the bargain. Redirect quickly if team members repeat behaviors that are inconsistent with the team agreement.

What steps do you take when you identify destructive conflict within your team?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/leadership. We learn best from each other’s experiences.


Teamwork Leadership:  Encourage “Energizing” ConflictPosted on March 27, 2022

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Often leaders associate conflict in the workplace as “bad.”  Our workplaces today often involve varying levels of interpersonal and organizational conflict. As a result, so much leadership energy is devoted to prevention and management that it is easy to see why conflict is perceived negatively.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

It is important to note that conflict (disagreement, difference of opinion, concern, complaint) is not in and of itself inherently bad. Conflict is merely the result of different people occupying the same space, working with one another. Conflict can produce positive benefits; however, it is also not inherently good. The key to “energizing” conflict is dealing with the conflict well enough to create benefits for the team. Leaders who unlock the benefits of conflict learn to engage with conflict when it arises effectively.

How can you do it? 

  1. Create a space for energizing conflict to occur.  Make your expectations clear that your team can respectfully raise difficult and contentious issues. Role model this as you facilitate the discussion. Suppose every time a team member brings up an issue, you tell them to stop complaining rather than facilitating or listening for the content of the message. In that case, it won’t take long for team members to stop generating or sharing improvement ideas.
  2. Watch for patterns of minor friction or trivial disagreements.  Workplace conflict can shine a light on deeper problems that need to be addressed. Even the most seemingly small disagreements might stem from underlying unaddressed issues that, if not addressed, are likely to fester and then explode down the road. Thoughtful managers can watch for patterns in the workplace and engage early with the involved staff before a full-fledged conflict disrupts the workplace. Similarly, conflict can identify practices and processes that need improvement or replacement.
  3. Facilitate the conflict situation beyond problem identification to problem-solvingLike breaking a rumination cycle, leaders can maximize energizing conflict by quickly helping the group move from identifying what is wrong and generating solutions that will fix the situations. Once the root problem/process creating the conflict has been identified, lead those involved in the situation through a discussion identifying possible solutions. Facilitate the generation of pros/cons for the possible solutions, and then engage the team in picking the best solution option. In other words, as quickly as possible, turn lemons into lemonade.

What other strategies have you used to harness the energy of conflict?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/leadership. We learn best from each other’s experiences.


Teamwork Leadership:  Recognize Individual ContributionsPosted on March 20, 2022

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Leaders may hesitate to recognize individual contributions because of fear of being perceived as demonstrating favoritism. Leaders with this insecurity will typically stick to group recognition only and often practice this same model with corrections. For example, when an individual misbehaves, this type of leader addresses the whole team with a correction rather than the individual with the behavior problem. To this type of leader, group recognition or correction is just “safer” than singling out individuals.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

While team recognition is essential to reinforcing the team’s focus on common goals. It is also critical to recognize those who have individually contributed to the team result. Individual team members bring a different set of strengths to a group. The magic of a team is when this collection of individuals demonstrates those strengths to their highest potential. While team recognition celebrates the collective accomplishment, individual recognition acknowledges how each person’s strengths contribute to the whole.

How can you do it? 

  1. Recognize specific contributions.  Frederick Herzberg’s research on motivation found two powerful motivators that, when combined, have the potential of explosive results – the desire to achieve and recognition for that contribution. Regularly reflect on the contributions of those you serve, no matter how big or how small, and thank them for it. Leverage the power of cause and effect by explicitly connecting recognition feedback with outcomes.
  2. Recognize specific behaviors.  As a leader, you are in the business of managing behavior. Many managers get the negative side of this and grasp the use of corrective action to manage ineffective behavior. But don’t forget the power of the positive. Recognition is a force that reinforces effective behaviors. Ovid says, “A prince should be slow to punish and quick to reward.”  Provide a balance of recognition and correction with your team.
  3. Recognize specific attributes. Recognizing good work and effort shows that you appreciate and value people for who they are and what they do. Avoid using overused phrases such as “good job” or “keep up the good work.” Instead, be specific about “what” they did and recognize the “how.” For example, don’t just thank Sherry for getting the report done, but recognize some of the attributes of the information (quality, accuracy, professionalism, etc.)  The more specifically appreciation is expressed, the more power the effects are on the receiver.

What are some recognition strategies that have been effective that either you have received or have delivered? Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/leadership. We learn best from each other’s experiences.


Teamwork Leadership:  Recognize Team AccomplishmentsPosted on March 13, 2022

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

As leaders, we have all heard the phrase “what behavior gets rewarded and recognized gets repeated,” so why don’t we do it?  Well, probably the most common response is time.  Meaningful recognition takes effort, and leaders have so many other tasks and fires that recognition gets pushed to the bottom of the to-do list.  There is also the thinking that employees are just doing their job, and the leader sees no need to recognize beyond a paycheck.  Some leaders may be so concerned with the perception of favoritism that they shy away from recognizing high performers.  And believe it or not, some leaders are uncomfortable with recognition and just do not know how to do it.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Recognition helps meet a fundamental need deep within us to know if we are needed and significant.  Recognition can act as a fuel source that can propel teams you serve to try harder, persist longer in the face of challenges, and invest more energy in work.  We are hard-wired to receive recognition.  Whenever we receive praise or recognition, our brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain in charge of stimulating our pleasure centers.  And you DO get what you reward or recognize – you want certain behaviors to continue and be repeated, so thank your team for their effort.  When you consistently appreciate your team, it strengthens the bonds of goodwill essential for trust, your currency that allows you to lead effectively.

How can you do it? 

  1. Connect team recognition to the Values of the organization.  Connecting the dots to what is purposeful in the work of our team is essential to engagement.  Sometimes in the day-to-day work, our teams get lost and forget the “why” behind what they are doing or how their work makes a difference.  Connecting a team outcome with the organization’s values reminds the team of the reason for their hard work.  “My work is meaningful” is a powerful driver of engagement at SOMC.
  2. Connect team recognition to the goals and measures the team strives to achieve.  Teams exist to produce some result or outcome.  As your team hits specific goals in striving for that outcome, make sure to connect your team to how they measure up.  Celebrate small “wins” toward large goals.
  3. Be specific about the teamwork behaviors that contributed to achieving results.  When connecting behaviors or outcomes, be specific about what teamwork behaviors got the team there.  This behavior is critical to make sure the team is recognized for their collective effort, AND they know what worked in helping the team achieve its goals.

What additional team recognition strategies have you used that have been effective?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/leadership.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.


Teamwork Leadership:  Set S.M.A.R.T. Team GoalsPosted on March 6, 2022

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Setting goals that matter and determining appropriate measures of success takes time and the execution of many of the leadership behaviors we have discussed throughout this blog series. It is easier to let everyone around you do their own thing, and what happens happens. Leaders may have such a need to be loved that they hesitate to set stretch goals and measures for fear of not being liked or accepted by the team or failing to achieve the goals.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

A common goal, or purpose, is essential for high-performance teams. Successful teams have goals that everyone agrees on and measure progress toward those goals. A team without a common frame of reference and purpose is just a group of individuals with their action plan. Instead of focusing on common direction for each person to contribute their energy toward, this loosely grouped set of individuals will go through their work at their own pace toward their direction. The organization then loses the benefit that results from the collective strength of goal-focused teamwork. Leaders must set S.M.A.R.T. goals to focus the team on the path to success.

How can you do it? 

  1. Be specific about what the team needs to accomplish.  Be very clear about the end-state. Specificity is essential so that the team knows what needs to be done in order for the goal to be deemed a success.
  2. Define how accomplishment will be measuredA measurable goal is based on some sort of metric. This metric should provide a clear description of what success looks like.
  3. Make sure the goal is attainable by the team.  An attainable goal is a goal that the team can accomplish. Setting goals that the team will not accomplish doesn’t make sense for anyone. It’s more important to be realistic than too aspirational here. Break down larger goals into pieces if you need to accomplish them.
  4. Ensure that the goal is relevant to the team.  Relevant goals will help the team reach the larger purpose or dream. Make sure the team’s goals always connect to the higher purpose.
  5. Select a time-frame within which the goal should be accomplished.  The best goals are also time-bound. Adding this constraint is important so that you can keep yourself and the team accountable. Setting goals is sort of like creating a to-do list. You have on your list what you want to do today, what you want to do tomorrow, etc. With goals, you may have daily goals, monthly goals, yearly goals, etc. Be very specific with the dates you choose, and make sure to complete the goal without excessive stress.

What are some additional strategies you have used to set team goals?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/leadership. We learn best from each other’s experiences.


Teamwork Leadership:  Close the Loop with Follow-upPosted on February 27, 2022

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Leadership follow-up after rounding and soliciting input takes both time and organizational skills. To deliver on a commitment to follow-up with team members, leaders must commit time to work on concerns or ideas suggested. To be consistent with follow-up, the leader must document the follow-up in an organized manner and share the feedback with the team within a time frame communicated. Many leaders like to just “wing it” and do not develop follow-up processes to ensure they have closed the loop.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

When leaders do not take the time to close the loop with follow-up effectively, they risk losing the engagement their team members have invested in giving input. When leaders ask for input, team members put themselves out there with their ideas. Suppose leaders do not follow-back up in some way. In that case, lack of follow-up is perceived as disrespectful, or the leader does not care by those team members who provided input. A consistent and timely leader with follow-up, even when they do not have the answer or solution to all of the input, will build trust and create a respectful team environment.

How can you do it? 

  1. Document the input you receive.  It will be impossible for you to remember the input provided from your team or rounding interactions if you do not document the input in a format you can reference. Rounding logs are used at SOMC to facilitate the questions to ask for input and provide a documentation template.
  2. Investigate the ideas/concerns provided to determine next steps or solutions.  Your team members have taken the time to share the input, so as the leader you need to review the input and take the time to look into solution options. Do not quickly dismiss an idea just because it might be poorly formed. Consider the input a gift and carefully consider the pros/cons of the idea for documentation of next steps. Even if the answer is “no” to an idea, you will want to document why the answer is no.
  3. Regularly distribute the input and next steps to the entire team.  Building trust through follow-up means that your team will know they can expect a regular summary of the team input and where these ideas are on the next steps. At SOMC, one tool that many leaders use is a Stoplight Report. The Stoplight Report is intended to summarize rounding input and separate the input and next steps in action categories as follows: Green input has been put into place, Yellow input is still be considered or worked on, and Red input is not going to be implemented and why.

What other methods of feedback follow-up have you used with success?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/leadership. We learn best from each other’s experiences.


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