11 Questions and Prompts for Insightful Debriefing Sessions

flow chart for debriefing sessionIn order to create a powerful “learning organisation,” your management team needs to be able to share lessons learned among themselves in a systematic way. Structured debrief sessions following major projects can help your leaders learn from their successes, as well as the times they could have done better.

Debriefing sessions shouldn’t be viewed as negative finger-pointing exercises but as opportunities to acknowledge successes and challenges and then to empower each leader to help others in the organisation learn from their experiences.

Before the debriefing session begins, a strong discussion leader should be appointed who will encourage everyone to contribute but won’t allow personal attacks to derail the conversation.

Here are 11 prompt questions that can be used to guide the discussion during a debriefing session: Continue Reading…

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Running and Sliding into the New Year

solitary long distance runner in urban parkI hope you’re having a good slide into the new year, as the Swiss say. Are you rested and refreshed after your holiday break and ready to start ”the race” again? Have you made any New Year’s resolutions about how you’ll run the race this year?

Before you do, think about the Zambian proverb on the homepage of this Thought Leader Zone site: ”When you run alone, you run fast; but when you run together, you run far.”

Ask yourself, have you been running alone or running together with your team?

I’m reminded of the title of the acclaimed short story and film by Alan Sillitoe that spawned several rock renditions of the same name — The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. It takes discipline and endurance to run fast alone.

“When you run alone, you run fast; but when you run together, you run far.”
— Zambian proverb

Were you lonely last year because you were running too fast for your team members to run beside you? Did you find time to stop running to think and look at whether you’re running together with others or trying to cover long distances in your business by yourself?

The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah writes (12:5 NIV): ”If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?”

If ”the pace of the race” threatened to wear you out last year, what changes are you going to make now to ensure you’re able to run far in 2013? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

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12 Tips for Effectively Managing Remote Employees and Teams

map pushpins and connections image representing concept of managing remote and virtual employee teams In a galaxy far, far away…as a global thought leader, you may often need to ”manage by mobile” and lead from a distance. Instead of ”eyeball management,” you need to be able to focus on ”results management” and trust that your employees are capable of achieving the goals you set for them even when you’re not physically present.

Some of the leadership skills remote managers display are similar to those of on-site managers. But multi-site, dispersed, virtual teams can present particular challenges for even the most experienced managers.

What challenges have you faced? How have you handled them? Take a few minutes and click here or comment below to share some of your experiences and tips with other thought leaders.

To kick start the conversation, here are 12 general observations and tips:

Instead of ”eyeball management,” you need to be able to focus on “results management.” 
  1. Make your expectations concrete and measurable – for example, add structure by clarifying in writing short-term priorities and long-term goals.
  2. Check in regularly and spontaneously, formally and informally — for example, ”planned spontaneous interactions” might include virtual coffee chats and lunches or frequent check-ins with instant messaging.
  3. Keep it personal – for example, nothing will replace water cooler talks and coffee breaks, but take time to drop a personal note about something happening to the virtual employee – like a house move or a child graduating. Encourage a brief “sharing” time for all team members in regular meetings to help build team spirit.
  4. Be aware of the process the team is using and help them break it into manageable pieces with measurable results at key milestones.
  5. Don’t judge the process but judge the results.
  6. Set rules of engagement based on a consistent mission, purpose and values system.
  7. Agree on time boundaries — for example, what are the manager’s and the team’s expectations for sending or returning emails on the weekend, late at night or during the dinner hour.
  8. Set and model good communications practices — for example, what are the team’s rules on whom to cc: and what types of subject lines to include on emails.
  9. Listen better – for example, it’s much easier to miss subtle verbal clues when corresponding with telecommuters or distributed team members by telephone, video, Skype, etc.
  10. Remind on-site employees to listen to others on conference calls – for example, print out a photo of the remote employees and put them on the table or a chair during important meetings.
  11. Avoid engendering an ”us and them” mentality – for example, when virtual team members are mixed with co-located teams in headquarters, try overemphasizing the inclusion of voices outside the nucleus so that a “home-based” bias isn’t created inadvertently.
  12. Meet whenever possible in person, but particularly at the beginning of the distance employment relationship to minimize the virtual team member’s sense of isolation. Nothing replaces “face time”…nothing.

Do you need help improving communication as you manage remote employees from a galaxy far, far away from them? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

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Dobson at TedX Zurich: Should Colleagues Compete?

The Value of Co-opetition

During her presentation at TedX Zurich on 4 October, Eleanor Dobson, the experimental particle physicist from the CERN Atlas experiment– the Super Collider – in Geneva, made several other important points that apply to teams.

For example, she observed that the science of the future – like the business of the future – is one of collaboration. But teamwork is also enhanced by competition, she pointed out.

Her team faces stiff competition daily because they are co-located in the same building as their “shadow team,” which is working independently to verify their experimental results.

Like for any team in business, such competition can be healthy because it encourages people to try harder to get the right results faster. How can you harvest the energy that competitive spirit brings to an organization? Do you see your competitors as stakeholders in your own success? Ask yourself those questions and then take action to channel that competitive spirit productively. Ask, assess, then act. Contact us – we’re here to help.

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