Archive for February, 2014

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: U.S. Olympian Shares Teamwork Gold

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

U.S. Olympian Shares Teamwork Gold

Alignment solution: The best team members know that for the good of the team, sometimes they must give less than 100% of their individual efforts.

Recently I spoke with an athlete who is a veteran of three U.S. Olympic water polo teams, including the 2008 silver medalist team. While reflecting on the years spent practicing and competing with his fellow elite athletes, he shared a key insight. Early in his career, he gave 100% of his effort in every practice and competition. In fact, he believed it was his duty always to do his absolute best, no matter the situation. What he came to realize, however, is that sometimes his all-out efforts actually hurt the team, such as when they prevented others from honing their skills or trying new techniques because he was always there to assist or to do it for them. His biggest “aha” moment, he said, came when he realized that for the team to be successful, sometimes he had to step back so that others could step forward.

To see the wisdom of this insight, one need only consider the very different experiences of the U.S. Olympic men’s basketball teams in 2004 and 2008. During the 2004 Games, team members played as individuals, going all out as they showcased the things they did best. As a result, the team, which on paper had the best talent in the world including young NBA stars, went home with the bronze medal. In contrast, the 2008 Games saw the athletes play as a team, holding back on their individual efforts when doing so was in their collective best interest. They earned the gold medal that year.

When people are passionate about what they do, their inclination is to give 100% all the time. Below are eight ways to help them internalize the reality that going all out sometimes may be counterproductive. The intended outcome is to enable them to optimize the team’s results by determining accurately when greater success requires the timely easing of individual efforts.

  1. Keep the big picture in mind. It’s about the best outcome for the customer, not about which team member exerts the most effort.
  2. Evaluate current approaches to see where there could be opportunities for team improvement by a strategic lessening of individual efforts.
  3. Show team members what’s in it for them to optimize their collective performance by engaging in compare and contrast scenarios.
  4. Teach your employees to hold back when necessary, and highlight the difference when the team’s outcome improves as a result.
  5. Allow new employees to learn by doing. Take the time to get to know the strengths and weaknesses of those who are new to your teams.
  6. Recognize that others will do things differently than you would, and that’s okay as long as the methods are legal and ethical.
  7. Take pride in your team members’ progress and accomplishments. Their success is your success.
  8. Set a powerful example for others by holding back when it’s appropriate for the good of the team.

Especially when employees are committed to achieving the best for their team or organization, they tend to want to give 100% of their individual efforts. Before doing so, they would be well advised to consider whether that decision will optimize the team’s or the organization’s success.

Alignment Solutions is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help organizational leaders optimize their business results. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.

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© 2014 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: Alignment through Enlightened Self-interest

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Alignment through Enlightened Self-interest

Alignment solution: To align others’ interests with your own, appeal to their enlightened self-interest

Years ago as a FedEx employee, I learned an important lesson in motivation. At that time I worked in the Mergers and Acquisitions department of the Treasury division. Those were heady days, with the company growing by leaps and bounds. One day we learned that a new pay-for-performance program would be implemented; it required all employees to identify outcome measures that demonstrated their value. While additional pay certainly was attractive, we scoffed at the notion that anyone could measure what WE did. As a result, we failed to turn in the required measures. Paying us a visit, our human resources (HR) representative made the situation very simple: “no measures, no money.” We came up with the requisite measures in record time.

As a university professor, I taught a required HR course that our fully employed MBA students usually assumed was about the “soft” side of management. Given that a sizable percentage of the students were engineers returning to study finance or accounting, the first day of class each semester found me facing a room full of adults who believed they had better things to do than learn about HR. Having been in their shoes when I worked at FedEx (i.e., a finance person who didn’t want to be bothered by “pesky” HR folks), I delivered this message: “Although you must take this class to earn your degree, the fact is that HR is the only course in this entire program in which you will learn things that will be of use regardless of your profession. Whether you are – or want to be – a manager, an employee, or a business owner, you will learn things you will use the rest of your life. So you can choose to be miserable for the next fourteen weeks, or to focus on learning information that will serve you well for a lifetime.” After I adopted that introduction, my MBA classes became a lot more enjoyable for the students as well as for me.

These examples exemplify the use of the biggest motivator I know: enlightened self-interest. The key to appealing successfully to people’s enlightened self-interest is to focus on the word ME in answering the question, “What’s in it for me?” from their perspectives. The answer cannot be about their team members, their organization, their friends, or even their families; it must be about them personally. In the first example, the benefit was higher pay; in the second, it was the value that would accrue to individuals as a result of knowing the ins and outs of managing people effectively.

The “enlightened” part of this concept is important: because we don’t always know what’s in our best interests, education plays a key role in aligning interests. In the first example, we learned that earning the rewards truly required measurable performance outcomes. The MBA students discovered that paying attention to something they had to do anyway could result in tangible benefits. With interests aligned, life became much easier for all parties, and desired results were achieved more rapidly and without the drama.

Next time you want or need to align others’ interests with your own, try appealing to their enlightened self-interest. You’ll be amazed at the results.

Alignment Solutions is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help organizational leaders optimize their business results. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.

Click here to Join Our Mailing List!

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© 2014 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.