In many diagnostic tools for leaders and teams there is a scale which indicates how far the leader or the team is on a ladder between two opposite behaviors or style preferences. This could be for example critical evaluation on the one end of the scale and compassionate encouragement on the other side of the scale. (see example below).
These kinds of results are often used to coach and develop leaders and teams towards a desired behavior or culture. In many cases the distinction between the “right” behavior and the “wrong” behavior is more linked to the situation at hand, associated risks and/or the person you have in front of you than a simplistic view of correct behavior. For example it may be less desirable behavior to be overly critical in an evaluation of someone who is new to the role and the company or team. In another instance where the risks are high and the people on the team very experienced it may be more appropriate to perform a critical evaluation in the event of a major failure to achieve desired outcomes than to offer supportive encouragement.
This leads to the concept of managing or working with both of the ends of a linear scale. Choosing both sides in terms of developing leaders and teams can help them to have a bigger capacity to choose the right response depending on the situation. The key is to develop awareness in them. Encourage leaders and teams to embrace more than one behavior or style to respond to specific situations or a tasks.
If we go back to the example above. You may be coaching someone or guiding a class of developing leaders through an exercise and this approach may be useful. Ask them to first of all identify the extreme ends of a scale of possibilities. Then identify for both extremes – the possible positive outcomes from that approach and also the possible negative outcomes.
In a class situation you can also assign it as an exercise between two or more people to brainstorm together.
Once the exercise is complete you can lead a discussion with examples from the class or the leader you are coaching. When may it be appropriate to use one or the other behavior for the best outcome? You can also choose to ask groups that had completed the exercise to prepare a demonstration (role-playing) to show the appropriate way to respond to a situation based on an example they discussed in the group. Or you may choose to provide some case-studies where the leader or class have to identify which may be the best approaches. These practical exercises will further help your participants understand the choices that they have as leaders when facing different situations and how to at least evaluate the best path forward before they go into action.
As a followup action you can ask participants or your coachee to capture examples they come across in the next few weeks/months where they had to make a choice between two opposite approaches and used the exercise above to identify the potential positive and negative outcomes. When using this approach one will will not necessarily avoid mistake or guarantee the most effective approach. The process of pausing and considering options will make the leader or team more effective over time and will improve decision-making.
Some examples you could consider for the exercise above:
Working independently vs working in groups/teams
People focused vs Task focused
Having a structured (fixed) approach vs a creative/open approach
Formal vs Informal approach to others
Monitoring others closely vs holding them accountable for outcomes created
This approach does not invalidate the tests which offer leaders and teams valuable insights into their own typical approaches and style preferences. This is merely another way to approach the outcomes from those tests to help develop more adaptable leaders and teams, which is highly needed in the current environment where change has become a constant and successfully working across borders, cultures and generations have become essential.
This exercise is very popular with those who prefer working with images and pictures to express and represent their thoughts and feelings. Using images often opens up new ways of communicating, which could bring a creative element to your event and everyone typically enjoys participating in this exercise.
The set-up is simple and the exercise does not take up a lot of time. It is also very versatile in the sense that you can use it in quite a number of different ways to get feedback and input from those you are working with in your event (training, meeting, workshop etc.) I am sharing some specific options for you as facilitator to consider, but once you start getting creative with it, I am sure you will find many more applications for this exercise.
The information you need for this group or team activity/exercise is shown below:
When it comes to selecting pictures get creative or brainstorm with a creative coworker or friend to create or find pictures that may “speak” to your participants given the context of the event or session(s) where this exercise is to be used. If you often facilitate sessions you will probably build up a good set of images to use for an exercise such as this one. More “out of the box” (unusual) images could potentially lead to richer feedback from individuals to start group/team discussions. This could lead to vastly increased understanding of issues by participants.
Working with a group of people to accomplish structured outcomes can be daunting. This is especially true when there are strong opposing views or a lack of communication (and listening!) in the group. I used to facilitate many sessions for a large global company and worked with a few colleagues who did similar work in other regions. The resource I am sharing contain tips received from my colleagues when I got started as a facilitator years ago. In turn, I have made it available to other new facilitators that I have encountered over the years. Now you can also benefit from this. (see inserts below)
Some assumptions made for these to be relevant:
As facilitator your workshop/session is part of a process. The session includes exercises designed to produce outcomes that would benefit the team. There is at least one (could be more) manager who have a vested interest in a successful outcome and who will also attend your session. These same managers are aware of the team and session process and have provided input to you in terms of their vision and needs from the process. Note: there may be more than one manager if you are facilitating a group process involving members of a client organization too and which may also be attended by the manager from the client organization.
Your role is to facilitate the agreed process and to re-agree next steps should the process somehow not be able to continue as planned or new information/changes trigger you to recognize that a change in timing/agenda should be considered.
TIPS for Facilitators:
How to stimulate participation by session participants?
Ask open-ended questions
Do a poll – where by raising hands people have to vote for one idea vs one or more other ideas
Count to 10 or more before you speak, let them bridge the silence with participation
When there is a question to you or a comment, defer it to the group – how does the group feel about this topic/question/statement?
Ask direct questions to specific participants whom you know (be sure) have experience in an area or on specific subject matters.
Summarize the points raised and ask the group to respond – agree or disagree? Correct or ..?
Divide them into pairs for a short discussion on a topic that pertains to what you just covered. (Gets them active after a period of perhaps monologue or exclusive dialogue.)
When the group seems lethargic consider an unscheduled short break
Do an impromptu energizing exercise (always have two or three of these in your back-pocket to employ when you see the need.
Expect some sluggishness in the period right after lunch for about an hour or so. Ensure your session design contains activities for this period – small groups etc.
Call it – sometimes a group is unresponsive, because everyone is thinking about an elephant in the room – some topic which should be discussed or settled which may not be on the agenda., but it is occupying the minds of everyone. If you know what it is, ask “Is ….. something we should discuss at this time?” if you do not know ask “Is there another issue that we should be covering at this time which may not be a scheduled topic?” [You would need to check in with the manager to ensure he wants to do it right away or later -schedule a specific date and time when he will deal with it. So call a short break if they tell you that something needs to be settled. To determine the”how” with the manager involved.)
These examples are not exhaustive, but they did help me out during those early years of facilitating sessions with groups and teams. I do trust they will do the same for you!
A new leader or manager has to quickly connect with the team and understand the objectives and issues around the team and their tasks if he or she wants to be effective in the shortest time possible. At times the team may know the person promoted to be the new leader or manager. The new leader or manager may also be hired from outside the company or someone who joined the team from a remote part of the organization where there had previously been very little to no interaction with team members. In all cases, the team members may have concerns and wonder how the new leader or manager will help the team and them as individuals succeed going forward.
The slides I am sharing can be used to facilitate a group session with the new leader/manager and the existing team. The focus of the session is to help them accelerate the connection and learning that needs to take place for the team to maintain momentum and reach their goals under new leadership. The session helps the team get to know the new leader/manager and voice their concerns. The new manager/leader also gets to know quickly what the team issues are and how the team feels about progress and possible team obstacles to success, which enables him/her to more accurately set the team’s priorities and focus areas for the next few months.
The resource includes some instructions for setting up the activities and also some timing estimates. The slides contain a basic ice breaker/check-in exercise at the start of the session. You could always change this activity for something that better fits with the group/team that you are working with, if needed.
For a simplified process of setting expectations with new leaders and/or new teams, you can download a file to help with that below.
Depending on how many issues the team has, the size of the team and how much they already know about the new leader/manager the entire session can take anything from 2 to 4 hours. If you are the facilitator you need to watch the time. Sometimes the first group discussion can take much longer than expected – when they share their answers. This means you need to plan up front : If they go over the planned timing for that portion of the agenda, will you let the discussion continue and defer the rest of the activities to a later date? Or what will you change to ensure you stay within the contracted time with the group while reaching the goals and objectives for the group session?
If time allows I strongly suggest that you include a team meal at the end of the session. This would allow for some informal social interaction between the new leader/manager and the team members, which further solidifies interpersonal relationships within the team and helps the new leader/manager have a good start with the team.
I am a strong believer in experiential learning – learning by or based on an experience and observation. Key learning points seem to be integrated faster and stronger when the learners are put in a situation where the skills they need to learn or apply are put to the test.
The exercise I am sharing (see download file below) is a group or team exercise focused on the style of a leader and how a leader approaches employee issues given their own background and preferences. The backdrop for the experience could be situational leadership or Emotional Intelligence for leaders. It is up to the trainer or facilitator to choose the right materials to suit the needs of the team or group.
The exercise requires some volunteers to engage in role-play based on specific scripts – included in the resource. There are “role sheets” to help those standing in as employees understand how that employee behaves and describes his or her style.
The key to this exercise is to showcase the possible dilemmas that leaders can face when confronted with employee behavior that seemingly goes against their own values or goals at work. The discussion after the role-play exercises is where the most value can be realized. Reflecting on what the group saw and experienced during the role-play and then relating that to their day-to-day work-life is where most insights tend to surface. This helps each leader determine how he or she could adopt a new mindset in dealing with difficult discussions with employees going forward.
This exercise works well for groups ranging from 8 to 16 people. Larger groups of 20 people or more can work too, but you may need to add in an additional step – a small group exercise. In that case, divide the group into smaller groups of 4 or 5 people and have them discuss the exercise debrief questions in the small groups before requesting each of the small groups to report back to the larger group for further discussion. You may want to consider an additional facilitator to assist if you are dealing with groups larger than 20 people.
Without emotional intelligence or a compassionate approach to interpersonal relationships even leaders with the best technical minds and education will never be great leaders with motivated followers. Exercises like the resource I share here can help trainers and facilitators bring home the importance of having the right approach and encourage a personal change process in developing leaders.
One area that often causes misunderstandings and frustrations in the workplace is when two employees have different interpersonal styles and ways of communicating and they do not get along. Being different from each other mostly means that they do not understand why the other party is doing and saying things in the manner that they do. Most of us do have the ability to make small changes to how we do or say things in order to improve collaboration and interfacing with others and this resource can help by creating awareness, which is the first step towards improvement.
The downloadable document I am sharing can be used for reviewing relationships with customers, other employees, work-related contacts, and even friends or loved ones. It helps you reflect on the interpersonal style that the other person displays in his or her behaviors. Building on this awareness this resource enables you to be more mindful of the best ways to interact with that specific person to have a better relationship with him or her.
Once you have awareness of how you can improve interpersonal relationships with specific people it may still be difficult to make changes to your own behavior for the betterment of the relationship. Should you get stuck once you have done the first part of the exercise, consider asking others for ideas on how you can best approach improvement in the key aspects you came up with. Depending on the current relationship you have with the person you focused on, you may be able to ask him or her directly. For example: “I noticed that you are very detail-oriented. Can you help me understand how I can better provide you with what you need in order for you to feel comfortable with my contribution on the projects that we are working on together?”
Uses for this resource include:
Own reflection and then taking action to improve on some of your interpersonal relationships.
Discussions with your coach on how to deal with some difficult individuals that you often work with.
Team-building – ask each team member to rate themselves on the items shown and then share with each other as a way to get to know each other better and improve interpersonal relationships on the team. (advocating).
Team feedback – Depending on the time you have available and the size of the team you may also ask each team member to map out each other team member using this resource. This means each person gets feedback from the entire team on how each team member sees them. The outcome could magnify self-awareness in the team and drive interpersonal relationship improvements across the entire team.
Misunderstandings can lead to a lot of misalignments between team members and can result in rework, which is a waste every project should avoid. Better interactions with others make the workday more fun and go a long way towards employees feeling more productive and effective at work.
Trustworthiness is the undisputed main characteristic that we look for in a leader and frankly also in any other person we encounter on a daily basis. Trust is a topic that is often discussed in a business context after employee satisfaction or engagement survey results are known in organizations. The topic also often comes up when leadership training or development is considered.
The resource I am sharing consists of some slides highlighting the nature and importance of trust in teams and then it has an exercise which you can do with a group of leaders.
You can use this (download above) file in a few ways:
As a quick exercise (about 20 to 30 minutes) with meeting participants where Trust and Leadership is the topic of conversation or discussion. For example: in a meeting to discuss a recent employee survey where trust came up as an area to be addressed.
As a sub-section within a leadership training course where Trust and Leadership is an aspect of the course.
As a coaching discussion topic where it is important for someone to learn more about actions and behaviors that can contribute to being viewed as more trustworthy.
These slides won’t teach someone all of the aspects of trust and leadership, but they do provide a context for you to explore the topic. You may always choose to follow-up with more exercises or conversations about the topic in future.
(Note that the last “Slide” in the resource is not for display purposes, but for you to print out so that the small groups in the exercise have a way to capture their thoughts while going through the exercise.)
Business meetings or group events can be exhausting especially if they span several days and contain mostly sessions where presentations are made and do not have any or many interactive sessions. It can be challenging to keep meeting participants engaged and energized during such meetings and it is not uncommon to spot people struggling to keep their eyes open during long afternoon sessions. The first session after lunch can be especially tough and don’t forget the impact of jet-lag on participants from other time-zones.
The list which you can download above shows some activities that can be done with meeting participants to help them feel re-energized during a meeting. These short exercises are best done between agenda items and can take anything from 2 to 7 minutes to complete so they are not a major disruption to your planned agenda.
You would typically need an open space where participants can gather for these exercises. This space could be in the front between the projection screen and the first tables/chairs or it could be in the back of the room behind the last tables and chairs. It is a good idea to mention that you need this space when you arrange the set-up of the room.
As the leader of the meeting or the facilitator you should always have a few of these quick energizer exercises on a sheet of paper or in the back of your mind to use on the spot. When you notice that the energy and responsiveness of the group is dropping you should be able to quickly conduct an energizing exercise to revive the energy and the alertness of the group attending your event or business meeting.
Some coaches like to use a tool to help someone they coach look at his or her own life and how things are going from a big picture perspective as opposed to just focusing on one specific aspect of someone’s life like their career success. The goal is to see how much balance there is across various areas in someone’s life. The template helps identify life values and then it helps as a check-up to do maybe once a year to see how things are going in terms of maintaining a balanced life.
People dealing with signs of burn-out may also benefit from using this kind of tool with their coach to see where their lives may not be balanced or may not be a good reflection of their values. Meaning that the choices they make in how they spend their time (for example) do not line up with the things that they care about the most.
Imagine your life looked like a pizza
The starting point is to imagine your life has segments or aspects that matter to you. Imagine there is a segment called Financial health which is important to you because you like to have nice new clothes and a nice car. So you would have to make sure you pay attention to being able to earn money so that you are able to buy those things that matter to you. Another segment may be friends – and it would be important to spend time with your friends or you may find they are less engaged with you. This is how one starts to identify what each of those “pizza slices” of your life may be.
Once you have answered the questions and determined the total score for each segment in your life you can color it in to see a result like this example above. In this case the “friends” segment has a very high score in the result but another aspect like career has a very low score.
This template can be the basis for evaluating your “life set-up” and then you can work with your coach to discuss how balanced this is for you given your priorities in life. If you want to increase the outcomes in a specific area, simply start setting some goals in that area and then plan to follow through with actions to help achieve it.
Interpreting the results from this kind of tool is best done with someone who has experience in this area – like a coach. It is also easier to set goals and create a plan to meet them when you have someone to help you think it through. Holding yourself accountable to make sure you actually work on the actions you have planned can also be supported best by a trusted buddy or coach who can remind you what you had committed to take action on and highlight to you when you seem to be off-track.
Inbox exercises are often used when there is an evaluation of leadership/management style and skills or training in time management, judgment or decision-making. I believe the value of this resource lies in revealing the thought processes of an exercise participant. It reveals HOW the person going through the exercise reasons and reacts to typical tasks that they could face as a manager or supervisor.
While you can keep track of how many pages the person completed within the time provided or how many of the actions the person chose aligned with what is considered “correct” in your company (and desired company culture) the highest value (for me) is the coaching conversations that can be had around the reasons that the actions were chosen. These conversations can really help leaders understand their impact on others and improve their self-awareness as a result.
The exercise setup
The attached inbox exercise requires you to print out items and provide them to intended participants in the exercise. The first page describes the situation which you should share with the participant(s) as part of the exercise. The next two pages are then for your eyes only and they will help you to understand the set-up and what you, as the facilitator, should do with that particular exercise page. The section that follows behind the “Worksheet” page is provided to participants once the Q and A portion of the instructions discussion is over.
Once the participant understands the scenario the worksheets are handed out to him/her to complete. This is the inbox exercise and it is usually a timed exercise. Exercises include aspects like this:
If you choose to include priory setting as one of the test elements, consider using something like the Eisenhower/Covey matrix:
You can read more about it here : Priority matrix write-up If you decide to include priority-setting as an element, this approach will give you a better foundation for debriefing discussions.
You can use this exercise with a class of participants and then I would suggest you have each participant check the work of his/her neighbor once the exercise has been timed-out. Read out the action considered best for each of the incidents and assign a score for correct answers. Of course you can use your own judgment when some participants have similar answers/responses, but just worded it differently.
I prefer to use this with a small group of people who are in a coaching program. The results of their work can then be debriefed more fully with their coaches who can explore their responses deeper by asking questions around : how did they interpret the note/incident? Why did they choose that action? Did they consider other options? If so, which ones? How/why did they decide to select that particular action? How did the limited time impact their thinking and responses?
Leaders learn through reflection and an experience such as this inbox exercise is full of opportunities to reflect on own actions, choices and mindsets. The hardest part about improving one’s mindset or way of doing things, is gaining awareness of one’s own style or impact on others. The specific examples that come out of this inbox exercise is a very tangible basis for reflection with a coach and then choosing better ways in the future.