Archive for the Category ◊ Team Performance ◊

• Wednesday, November 02nd, 2016


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How is stress affecting your home life?

80% of kids say that they notice that their parents bring work stress home.
If you check in with work after hours, or on your days off, your kids are 200% more likely to say you come home in a bad mood.
And Maybe more importantly, you are also 20% more likely to have stressed our kids.

And let’s face it – pretty much everyone is checking in with work, outside of work hours.

With more to do than ever before we are more stressed than ever before as well.
And yet most of us are like the proverbial frog in the saucepan – this constant feeling of pressure has become the norm. We almost don’t notice it. But clearly others do. In the survey results above, I am pretty certain you could replace ‘kids’ with ‘friends’, or ‘spouse’ and you’d end up with exactly the same results.

So here are two things you can do to leave stress at the office

1) Plan Tomorrow

Before you leave the office, write down the critical things you need to do tomorrow. For some reason, when we allocate time to do something in the future, our bodies and brains treat those things like they’re already taken care of. Actually plan your day out and work out where you’re going to do those things that are bugging you.

2) Do something to disconnect on the way home

Try to forget work on the trip home. No work phone calls or problem solving – try to switch off by listening to some music or reading a book. Make this your signal to leave work at work. This also allows us to transition from your work persona to your home persona.

Stress is a pervasive element in the 21st Century workplace. But by managing stress well, we can use it to get more done and help us perform well, instead of letting it negatively us and those around us.

• Thursday, October 13th, 2016

Helicopter Managers

We all know the helicopter parent. That person who hovers over their child. Making sure that everything is ok. Often removing any obstacles in their way. This parenting style is highlighted by a need to make sure that your child is ok – that there’s nothing going wrong – and, in many cases, removing any difficult obstacles that stand in their way. At the most extreme – helicopter parents will even go so far as to do many things for the child. Some people might even say they do too much.

But this isn’t about parenting. I am wondering this:

Is there such a thing as a helicopter manager? The answer is yes. You might even be one.

In every single leadership workshop I facilitate, when asked what behaviours leaders would like to change in their staff, they come back with one particular thing:

“I want my people to think for themselves. I want them to stop coming to me with problems and asking me for the solution.”

Someone brings this up. Every. Single. Time.

This leads to a discussion on what drives behaviour in people and the reality is that, at it’s most basic level, we do things because they are either easy, or because we get a reward.

So we dig a bit deeper and our conversation invariably goes like this…

Me: So – what do you do when they come to you with these problems

Participant: I give them the solution. I have to – by this time there is not time and it would take too long to work through it with them.

Ok – so let’s look at this in the context of people doing things because they are easy, or because they get a reward.

1)    This is so easy it’s crazy. If I’m your staff member, and I’ve got a problem, I can either a) spend a heap of time thinking about it, or b) ask you and you’ll tell me the answer.

Which one do I pick? The first option of course! This is a no brainer.

2)    Let’s look at the rewards -

a)    I didn’t have to do something hard (that is, think for myself)

b)    I can’t get in trouble if the answer is wrong (because it was your decision)

c)    My job is finished.


This happens all the time.

Managers solve people’s problems for them.

They take back work that they originally delegated.

They accept poor quality work and then fix it themselves.

And when we do this, we ‘make it all better’ for our staff. And then we wonder why they can’t think for themselves.

• Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

Three Signs You’re Collaborating Too Much
Collaboration is a sure way to better efficiency, more creative problem solving and staff engagement. But there’s a very real downside to collaborating too much. Here are three signs that collaboration has gone too far.

Collaboration. It’s what makes a team really work. It is one of the key ingredients that takes a group of people and transforms them into a real team. It’s where you can create moments of brilliance as a team. After all, without collaboration we don’t capitalise on diversity, different ideas, different experience levels, and we don’t use the human capital that we have to the best of it’s ability.

But we can actually create problems when we collaborate too much. We can create mediocrity instead of brilliance. Here’s what to look for:

3 Signs of Over-Collaboration

1) It takes forever to get consensus

This is one of the problems with creating too much collaboration. We spend too much time going back and forth, getting more input and buy-in. All of a sudden critical decisions take too long to happen, and even longer to implement.

Depending on the size of your team or division, you might need to have some areas of a project that are set in stone, and others that can be discussed and collaborated upon. People are generally happy to accept that there are some hard and fast guidelines, but if they can have a moderate level of input, they still feel ownership.

2) You find yourself compromising the solution

This is the single biggest problem with too much collaboration. Over-collaboration can sometimes lead to a feeling that we have to include people’s opinions and come to some consensus. This is wrong. The object of collaboration is to find the best solution. We compromise that solution when we include people’s ideas and opinions just for the sake of making them feel valued.

When we collaborate too much, the best ideas sometimes get watered down, because our feeling is that we have to give everyone a ‘piece’ of the idea to feel valued and create ownership. What we need to realise that that people mostly just want to be heard and validated. They want to have their say and if there’s a valid reason their opinions don’t factor into the final outcome, then that’s generally ok. But you have to listen and give a valid reason.

3) People need to be involved in every decision

This is a classic case of over-collaboration. People suddenly feel the need to be involved in Every. Single. Decision. And if they’re not, they feel disempowered and cheated.

But the reality is that people can’t be involved in every decision. And there are sometimes critical, urgent decisions where collaboration would take too long and be too cumbersome. And there are other decisions where the staff may not have all the information to make the right decision – sometimes because of confidentiality and sometimes because of lack of time and resources.

People need to understand that collaboration is useful but we don’t live in a perfect world. And sometimes there are decisions that need to be made. But they also need to understand that you will collaborate whenever possible. That way when you can’t do it, they know the reason is genuine.

So there you have it. Collaboration is great, but it can go too far. Are your decisions taking too long? Do you sometimes settle for consensus and mediocrity over best practice? And do people feel a sense of entitlement when it comes to being involved?

• Wednesday, August 03rd, 2016


Think you can get by with less sleep than other people? You probably can’t. The research tells us that even sleeping 5-6 hours a night starts to affect our performance in almost everything you can think of.

The vast majority of research agrees that we all need between seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night. If you only get five hours sleep a night, and you do this for four nights in a row, this actually becomes the equivalent of being awake for 24 hours straight. What does that mean?

Well, in a study by the Harvard Medical School, showed that nurses who were under this level of fatigue were 61% more likely to stab themselves with a needle, and168% more likely to have a car crash on the way home. A lack of sleep affects our judgment, our decision making, our attention and our ability to control emotions and behaviours in a very real way.

If you’re like most people, then you get these symptoms or very similar ones when you have a period where you can’t sleep properly.

  • You become moody and find it hard to control emotions
  • You are easily frustrated
  • You forget things easily
  • You feel like eating junk food
  • You tend to act on auto pilot – becoming reactive and doing easy things rather than difficult things

Your Brain Can’t Recharge

The biggest thing you need to know is that without sleep, the brain’s Pre Frontal Cortex (PFC) can’t recharge itself properly. If it can’t recharge, then it can’t function for very long, and it runs out of energy to keep working.

The PFC is responsible for controlling emotions. So without sleep, you are easily frustrated and may become moody or ‘snap’ at the drop of a hat. That PFC is also responsible for holding things in short term memory, so forgetting things is pretty much going to be a given. And finally, the PFC is responsible for our top down, goal-based function. So without it functioning at its best, we become reactive, auto-pilot machines, doing the easier thing and finding it very difficult to exert any self-control whatsoever.

First Things First – Aim for 7-8 Hours

We sleep in phases, with the most important phase being ‘Slow Wave” or ‘Restorative Sleep’. Seven or eight hours will allow us to get more restorative sleep phases completed, and also, as we get closer to the six, seven or eight-hour mark, these restorative cycles become longer.

Without the right amount of sleep – even if it’s good quality – you will wake up with your brain’s PFC exhausted and your stress chemicals elevated – and neither of these things are going to help you perform at your best in any area of your life.

Set your body clock

Help your body clock as much as possible. To do this, it’s best to go to bed and wake up at the same time at least 6 days a week.

After a while, you will train your ‘wake up’ chemicals to release at the same time every morning, and those sleep cycles start to get organized and form an optimal pattern. Your body and brain knows when it is meant to go to sleep and when it has to wake up, so those sleep cycles become consistent. When your body is confused, your sleep cycles are confused as well. You should no longer need an alarm clock to get out of bed.


Switch Off, Literally: No Screens

If you’re someone who feels they have to work until late at night, then try to disengage for 20 to 30 minutes before you hit the pillow. This gives your brain a chance to shut down. Do something that allows you to disengage mentally from work.

Try turning off anything with a screen at least 30-40 minutes before bedtime. And then engage in some sort of routine to help you hit the pillow in a relaxed state. Screens emit a light frequency that keeps us awake, and more than this, multimedia is designed to stimulate our senses, not relax us.


If you want a better night’s sleep, use at least one of these strategies. If you struggle to get the sleep that you need, then use all of them. You brain (and likely your boss, coworkers and family) will thank you for it.

• Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016


Building trust seems like a fluffy concept, but as any leader knows, without it, people won’t think for themselves, and teamwork quickly evaporates. Here are some easy things you can do to constantly build trust in your team.

Reward Pathways
The brain’s reward pathways light up when we feel valued, when we feel like we belong, and when we feel like we can trust other people. When we get the opposite messages (undervalued, alienated and suspicious) we get the opposite result – the brain’s pain pathways are activated. These are the same pain pathways that light up when we feel physical pain. There is some great research out of UCLA listed here

When our reward pathway lights up, we think more effectively, we are proactive and we tend to be way more productive. Think about it – if something painful is happening, you tend to be distracted, risk-averse and reactive.

One of the greatest ways that we can light up the reward pathway is to let people feel like they can trust us and each other.

Two Simple Ways to Build Trust

1) Delegate More
Yep – as crazy as this sounds, delegating more to your staff actually builds trust. When you don’t delegate enough, it says that you don’t trust people to do a good job, or hit their deadlines, or you don’t think they are capable. But the more you delegate, the more people feel valued and feel that they are trusted.

Oh yeah – did I mention that it will actually free up your time as well?

2) Listen To and Act On Feedback
If you ask for feedback, do something with it. This might be feedback about you directly and your performance, or it might be feedback about work, a project, or a process. It doesn’t matter what it is, do something about it. Either change something, or at the very least, let people know you explored the option but you can’t do it for whatever reason.

What’s even more important to pay attention to, is that you advertise that you listened. If you try something that was suggested, you have to make it visible – either by directly showing people or just making the connection between what’s changed and what was suggested.

There is nothing worse than a manager that says they want your opinion but then doesn’t do anything with it. It literally says to people: “hey, I’m going to ask your opinion because I think I’m supposed to, but I have no intention of actually listening to you, because I think you’re worthless.”

These seem like small things, but if you do them consistently, then you can build huge amounts of trust with your team very quickly. And the key work there is consistently. Inconsistency shows people that you can’t be trusted to keep a good thing going.

• Tuesday, February 16th, 2016



As a leader, what makes you valuable? I am sure there are many answers to this question, depending on your particular role and company, but if you’re a real leader, then chances are I can sum up the reason you are valuable in one simple sentence:


You are valuable because you can influence people’s behaviour to make the team you manage more effective.


Think about it. At the end of the day all leaders are valuable because of this one trait. Influencing people’s behaviours can enable you to get people to:


do more of the high value things, and be less distracted

provide brilliant customer service

think outside the box and come up with great solutions

spend less money and help our bottom line

Turn up to work on time and help out their team mates


Our ability to influence people’s behaviour, and shape those behaviours, greatly impacts the performance of the team and the organisation.


Sounds simple. What’s the catch?


In an ideal world, all of our employees would engage in what is termed ‘Top-Down Processing.” In Top-Down Processing, we make behavioural choices based on an attempt to achieve a long term goal. For instance, Top-Down Processing would keep your customer service reps on the phone an extra five minutes to make another sale or add some more value to the customer – above and beyond the original reason the customer called. In life, Top-Down Processing would help us choose a healthy lunch if our goal was to lose weight.


Unfortunately for leaders, the vast majority of people make behavioural choices based on “Bottom-Up Processing.” That is, they tend to react to the situation around them and the obvious opportunities that the environment presents – and this is what drives their behaviour. So they answer only the question the customer called for and then gets the off the phone as quickly as possible because their lunch break just ticked over. In life, they then go to lunch and order a burger and fries – because that is what is calling to them the loudest.


What can we do about it?


There are three things you need to be very aware of, that will help keep your long term goals and behaviours front of mind for your staff. You want to make it easier for them to identify and choose the right behaviours, but also, you want to have the environment keep reminding them. In this way you get the best of both worlds – you get them more focussed on Top-Down, but there is enough Bottom-Up to keep them on track.


Here are three things you need to know:


1) Set Expectations

Many leaders are really clear about what it is they are trying to get their people to focus on. Set very clear expectations about what you are trying to achieve, but also set clear expectations about what that looks like from a behavioural standpoint.


In order to understand the goals of the business, they need to stay front of mind. Talk about them all the time, make them visible and integrate them into all your systems.


In order to understand what that looks like day-to-day, they need to understand the behaviours that go along with them. What should people be doing that represent their attempts to achieve the long term goals?


2) Recognise positive behaviours

It’s a simple rule and considered common sense, but positive reinforcement helps cement behaviours. Make sure that you give praise for people who are whoeing the behaviours you want to see. Better yet, do this in front of the rest of the team, so that they also start to understand what it is you are looking for.


The positive recognition helps to keep it front of mind, and gives a shorter term reward for doing the right things.


3) Hold people accountable when they do the negative

This is the flip side of the above. When people do the wrong thing, then hold them accountable. You don’t necessarily have to drag them over the coals, but let them know they’ve done the wrong thing and how they should correct it next time.


Rest assured that other team members will notice their indiscretion, so if you don’t address it, you don’t seem serious about the expectations you set. And before you know it, you’ll find other people taking a ‘why bother’ attitude.


Influencing behaviour is pretty simple. Set the Expectations. Reward the Positive. Hold people accountable for the negative. While it’s pretty simple in theory, it’s harder in practice. But the more you get people doing the things that make a difference, and avoiding the things that don’t, the more effective your team’s going to be.