Effective Teams, Innovation, Leadership, Strategy

Innovation and preparing for post-pandemic life

As organizations navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, our clients regularly discuss the importance of encouraging innovative thinking and building effective teams. I am encouraged by the rapid development of vaccines and think life may feel more “normal” as we progress through 2021. Our organizations have seen many changes over the last several months. Most of us have embraced technology in ways that we would not have imagined at the beginning of 2020. 

As we discuss pressing needs with our current and prospective clients, we are hearing some similar themes. Organizations are looking to:

  1. Develop a more cohesive team in this remote work environment.
  2. Encourage innovative thinking among individuals and the team.
  3. Develop individuals’ appreciation and understanding of team member differences.
  4. Introduce a common vocabulary that fosters more creative and collaborative thinking. 
  5. Prepare for conducting business post-COVID.

I previously wrote a blog titled “Encouraging a more innovative culture” that will provide ideas for applying in your organization.

We’re excited to offer a two hour virtual Creative Thinking Boot Camp that helps teams build individual and collective abilities to think creatively and work collaboratively. This is one of our most popular introductory offerings and has been used by a wide variety of organizations to build more creative, collaborative, and effective teams. 

The Two Hour Boot Camp is offered through a highly interactive and engaging online Zoom workshop. We’ve all attended many boring webinars, but this workshop includes hands on exercises, discussions, and small group activities. It has been well received by businesses, nonprofits, churches, and schools. 

Participants learn about why innovation is so important now, divergent and convergent thinking, what hinders creativity and innovation, and characteristics of effective and innovative teams. In advance of the workshop, participants will complete the Basadur Profile which is used to help them understand how they and those around them approach creativity and problem solving. At the end of the workshop, participants will discuss how they can apply these skills within their organization.

We are scheduling Creative Thinking Boot Camps right now. This is an important time to start post-pandemic planning. Please contact us for more information. We look forward to hearing from you.

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity in the surrounding region.

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer, Certified Basadur Profile Administrator, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Certified Practitioner.

Effective Teams, Leadership

Leading effective virtual meetings

I recently led a webinar about leading effective meetings. At this point in the pandemic, the novelty of virtual meetings has worn off. I hear people talk about missing the “in person” experience that occurs through informal conversations, reading body language, and personal connection. 

Photo by Polina Zimmerman on Pexels.com

I offer some thoughts on virtual meetings that I hope are helpful for organizations: 

  1. Is a virtual meeting necessary? We have all sat through in person and virtual meetings that were unnecessary. I find virtual meetings to be most effective for group problem solving, team building, gathering outside input, and collaborative projects. Before you schedule meetings, consider the purpose of the meeting and whether the work and/or communication can take place in another format. There may be other ways to communicate or collaborate, such as video messaging (Loom), team communication (Slack), or project management (Trello).
  2. Thinking like an “event planner”: When event planners prepare for conventions, weddings, or special events, they are very intentional about focusing on the experience of attendees. We could all benefit from reflecting on what experience our virtual meeting attendees will have. 

In my experience leading virtual meetings, I recommend the following best practices:

  1. Provide instructions when people log in: As soon as people log into a virtual meeting, it can be helpful to share expectations on the screen or in the chat. For example, you can welcome attendees and let them know when the meeting will begin. You can also ask them to share information in the chat or mute themselves. 
  2. Build community: With virtual meetings, we often miss out on the community building that occurs naturally during in person meetings. Begin meetings with an icebreaker to help connect people. 
  3. Establish ground rules: For larger meetings, we need to be more formal with ground rules. Be sure to explain the system for responding to questions or participating in the discussion. You can ask people to stay muted when not speaking or explain expectations for staying on camera.
  4. Breakout rooms: Breakout rooms are a great way to foster engagement during larger meetings. They can break up the time and make meetings feel quicker and more productive. 
  5. Frequent breaks: “Zoom fatigue” is real. I recommend including frequent breaks during virtual meetings. For longer meetings, you can meet for 50 minutes and then take a 10 minute break. Giving the group a stretch break every 25 minutes can also help. 
  6. Shorter meetings: With in person meetings, it is not uncommon to meet for several hours. I think we should set a maximum of 2-3 hours for virtual meetings to avoid “Zoom fatigue” and maintain engagement.
  7. Waiting for responses: There is value in giving group members time to respond. For example, after asking a question, count to ten before moving on. Internet speeds, slowness of finding the unmute button, and taking time to think can cause a delay in responding during virtual meetings compared to in person meetings. 
  8. Debrief: Virtual meetings are still relatively new to us. I recommend spending a few minutes at the end of each meeting asking questions like “What went well during this meeting?” or “What could have gone better?” We can take this information into consideration as we plan future virtual meetings. 

We have all learned a lot about virtual meetings in recent months. I welcome your input or suggestions on how we can make virtual meetings more effective. 

How can we help your organization?

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity in the surrounding region.

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer, Certified Basadur Profile Administrator, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Certified Practitioner.

Leadership

Three ways leaders can use feedback to improve employee performance

Providing feedback to employees can be one of the most challenging responsibilities of a leader. There seem to be two extremes: 

  1. Some managers completely avoid giving feedback. 
  2. Other managers provide feedback that upsets employees in a way that is counterproductive.
Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels.com

In my leadership coaching practice, I frequently discuss giving feedback with my clients. The goal of this blog is to provide three ways leaders can use feedback to improve employee performance. 

Providing feedback immediately after something does not goes as well as expected:

In this video, The secret to giving great feedback, cognitive psychologist LeeAnn Renniger provides a four step process for delivering difficult feedback:

  1. “The micro-yes” helps the feedback receiver know feedback is coming. The feedback deliverer asks a question such as “Do you have five minutes to talk about how that last conversation went?” The micro-yes commits the feedback receiver to the conversation.
  2. A “data point” is a specific description of what was observed. If an employee has missed a deadline, the leader might say “You were supposed to turn in the report by the end of yesterday, and I still haven’t received it.”
  3. A leader should “show impact” by describing the impact of the data point. For example, the leader could say “As a result of not receiving the report, I could not begin the proposal for a customer who expects the proposal today.” 
  4. The leader should “end on a question” such as “How are we going to move forward?” This approach can make it a two way conversation and create buy in. 

This five minute video is a must-watch for anyone who has to deliver difficult feedback. The approach can also be applied to providing positive feedback that is very specific in nature. At the end of the video, Renninger also mentions the importance of leaders asking for feedback from those around them. 

Providing regular, ongoing feedback

Marshall Goldsmith has suggested a six question agenda for meetings with direct reports that includes the following questions:

  1. “Where are we going?”
  2. “Where are you going?”
  3. “What is going well?”
  4. “Where can we improve?”
  5. “How can I help you?”
  6. “How can you help me?”

Goldsmith suggests the manager ask the questions of the direct report and then the manager can provide additional comments. For example, when the manager asks “What is going well?” the direct report may share information that the manager is not aware of. The manager can add areas that he or she has observed are going well. The “Where can we improve?” question allows an opportunity for the direct report to share some ways to improve, and the manager can agree or possibly add another area of improvement. This approach allows the manager to develop an excellent rapport with direct reports and remain informed of efforts throughout the company. 

Providing feedback from multiple sources

There is value in gathering feedback from multiple sources. We often use a 360 degree feedback process to gather information from direct reports, supervisors, customers, and peers. The input is compiled into a single report to provide confidential feedback. This approach allows those providing feedback an opportunity to be open and honest with their comments. Simple questions such as “What is this person doing well?” or “What changes do you suggest this person makes?” can be used. The questions can also be more specific based on the type of position. After providing feedback from a 360 degree process, I recommend developing a growth plan for the employee. Giving the employee an opportunity to select an area of improvement is a great way to develop buy in for the improvement process. Companies might consider utilizing a 360 degree feedback process on a regular basis such as once a year or every other year. 

I hope these suggestions are helpful. Please contact us if you would like to discuss leadership coaching and training options. 

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity in the surrounding region.

Are you ready to learn how we can help develop your leaders?

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer, Certified Basadur Profile Administrator, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®) Certified Practitioner.

Effective Teams, Leadership, Strategy

What is your organization’s long term remote working strategy?

I recently provided a webinar through University of Evansville’s Center for the Advancement of Learning related to engaging remote workers. As organizations navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, many are scrambling to accommodate a remote work environment for their employees. The adjustment can be particularly challenging for those organizations who have maintained a traditional office working environment. I encourage organizations to explore whether there are new opportunities for them as a result of the current remote working environment. 

Gallup has been tracking employee engagement since 2000. They categorize employees into the following groups (Harter, 4 February 2020):

  1. Engaged – “those who are highly involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace”
  2. Not engaged – “those who are psychologically unattached to their work and company and who put time, but not energy or passion, into their work”
  3. Actively disengaged – “those who have miserable work experiences and spread their unhappiness to their colleagues”

Gallup reports a record percentage of employees at the engaged level for 2019: 35% (with 52% not engaged and 13% actively disengaged). According to Harter (4 February 2020), engaged employees: 

  • “produce substantially better outcomes
  • treat customers better and attract new ones
  • are more likely to remain with their organization than those who are less engaged.
  • Engaged employees are also healthier and less likely to experience burnout.”

According to the Remote Work Study (Zapier, 13 November 2019), 

  • “95 percent of U.S. knowledge workers want to work remotely”
  • “74 percent would be willing to quit a job to do so”
  • “57 percent” say the option to work remotely is one of the perks they’d most prefer to be offered by an employer.

I was surprised to see the incredibly high interest in remote working, and I think there will be continued desire for remote working after the pandemic. 

Gallup (Hickman & Robison, 24 January 2020) has linked the highest level of engagement to those who work remotely three to four days a week (60%-<80%) and work in the office one to two days a week (41% engaged, 48% not engaged, and 11% actively disengaged). It is important to note that employees who worked remotely all of the time had lower levels of engagement (30% engaged, 54% not engaged, and 16% actively disengaged), and these engagement numbers are similar to those who do not work remotely at all (30% engaged, 55% not engaged, and 15% actively disengaged). 

Based on the desire for employees to work remotely and the high levels of engagement that can result from a hybrid remote working environment (time spent working remotely and in a traditional office), organizations have the opportunity to reimagine their future working arrangements. 

Here are some items to consider regarding remote working:

  1. Are there cost savings opportunities to reduce office space?
  2. Will a remote working environment help us improve employee engagement?
  3. Will a remote work environment help us retain and attract talent?
  4. Are our leaders equipped with the necessary skills to successfully manage remote employees?
  5. What work activities can take place remotely and what needs to take place in person?
  6. Do we need to more fully explore ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) to clearly define outcomes for employees’ work?

As many organizations are developing a plan to return to the office, I recommend strategic discussions about the future of remote working in organizations. This is a great opportunity to gather input and make decisions that could have an impact on the future success of organizations. We are skilled facilitators who have helped organizations navigate complex problem solving. If you need help in this area, please contact us

References:

Harter, J. (2020, February 4). 4 Factors Driving Record-High Employee Engagement in U.S. Retrieved from https://www.gallup.com/workplace/284180/factors-driving-record-high-employee-engagement.aspx

Hickman, A., & Robison, J, (24 January 2020). Is Working Remotely Effective? Gallup Research Says Yes. Retrieved from https://www.gallup.com/workplace/283985/working-remotely-effective-gallup-research-says-yes.aspx

Zapier Editorial Team (13 November 2019). The Remote Work Report. Retrieved from https://zapier.com/blog/remote-work-report-by-zapier/

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity in the surrounding region.

Ready to learn how we can help your organization develop a planning process for long term success?

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer.

Leadership

A leader’s infinite mindset inspires

I recently read Simon Sinek’s The Infinite Game, and I find many of the concepts particularly relevant to our current situation. All individuals and organizations have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in some way, and the uncertainty of the situation is particularly troubling. Restrictions are gradually being lifted where I live, and that seems to create hope for many people that better times are in sight. However, there is still anxiety about the chance of a second wave and the accompanying implications on our health and economy. 

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In The Infinite Game, Sinek describes finite and infinite games. We are all very familiar and comfortable with finite games, because they have defined rules, players, etc. Athletic events are examples of finite games, and we know what it takes to win one. In business, quarterly or annual financial benchmarks are examples of finite games. Businesses set a goal, and we know whether we “won” or “lost” based on whether we met the metric. 

In contrast, “the primary objective is to keep playing, to perpetuate the game” in infinite games (p. 4). I think the infinite game is about knowing who we are at our individual and organizational best rather than looking for finite measures. It is a long term perspective that focuses on success now and especially in the future. Sinek writes:

“In the Infinite Game, the true value of an organization cannot be measured by the success it has achieved based on a set of arbitrary metrics over arbitrary time frames. The true value of an organization is measured by the desire others have to contribute to that organization’s ability to keep succeeding, not just during the time they are there, but well beyond their own tenure.” (p. 9)

Many organizations are losing the finite game as we speak. They are missing monthly and quarterly quotas, decreased sales, lower productivity, laying off employees, etc. It is easy to succumb to finite thinking and get discouraged. During difficult times, leaders often have a short term perspective.

During the challenges brought by the pandemic, I encourage leaders to think about the infinite game. How might we use this time to ensure our organizations are better in the long run? At some point, we know scientists will find a vaccine or effective treatment for COVID-19. It’s only a question of when. 

During the challenging weeks and months ahead, how are leaders building teams and employees focused on their “organization’s ability to keep succeeding?” (p. 9). This is a time when leaders can focus on improving company culture, expanding technology capabilities, developing innovative products and services, training their team, and other areas that contribute to the infinite game. While there are many things out of the control of leaders right now, leaders can focus on those areas they have influence over.

Here are some questions worth reflecting on and discussing:

  1. Is our organization focused on the finite game or the infinite game?
  2. How might we build a stronger company culture where everyone is focused on the “organization’s ability to keep succeeding?” (p. 9)?
  3. What can we do now to make our organization and people better in the long run?
  4. How might we view this time as an opportunity to act on items that we have previously put off?

The finite mindset focuses on just surviving the pandemic until life gets back to normal. The infinite mindset focuses on a path that will allow the organization to thrive now and in the future. Finite does not inspire. An infinite mindset inspires people to dream big and be part of something bigger than themselves. 

We help clients focus on an infinite mindset through planning processes, leadership coaching, and building organizational culture. 

Reference: Sinek, S. (2019). The Infinite Game.

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity in the surrounding region.

Ready to learn how we can help your organization and leaders develop an infinite mindset?

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer.