Feb 032015
 February 3, 2015  Posted by on February 3, 2015 Uncategorized No Responses »

When was the last time your group sat down to discuss how you are doing – in terms of your working together?

I recently helped a client group have that conversation and it quickly became clear that some things weren’t going well. Yet folks were holding in their frustrations and not talking about what was getting in their way.

As I led an inquiry, they were able to talk about some troublesome habits that had developed that were causing difficulties. This was happening just as new opportunities kept adding on expectations and the pace had been accelerating. On top of that, there were some personnel changes that slowed things down while folks got up to speed.

It can be hard to bring up things that aren’t going well. I find that’s especially true in groups like this client where people genuinely like and respect each other immensely. No one wants to create hard feelings or be seen as griping or criticizing. Yet it’s inevitable that people’s differing needs and perspectives will sometimes lead to dislocations and dysfunctions. Not addressing them can lead to serious problems.

The best way that I’ve come up with to avoid that risk is to have a standing agreement to talk openly about how things are going – and do so explicitly in terms of your inspiration and agreements.

With this client, I proposed a judgment free learning conversation so everyone could talk freely in terms of (one of my favorite concepts) "workability." It was when I proposed the context for an open assessment about what was working – and what wasn’t – that folks felt comfortable raising their issues. Talking about workability helps to stay out of notions of "right and "wrong" ways to do things and keep things from getting overly personalized which just leads to defensiveness.

This group’s conversation ended with a great deal of clarity, relief at not having to hold everything in and try to solve it alone, and specific plans for how to move things into greater "workability."

This is the practice I call Renewal in Group Alchemy. I recommend you set an agreement in your group for a routine schedule for this kind of learning conversations.

Knowing there’s a special place and time in the group to raise concerns and make requests for how to get things done will help everyone stay inspired and committed to your workability.

Dec 132013
 December 13, 2013  Posted by on December 13, 2013 Uncategorized No Responses »

Often when I give a talk on group alchemy an audience member asks a question that goes something like: “Aren’t the problems you described, such as coming late to meetings or not following through on commitments really a problem of leadership? If the leader ‘lays down the law’ and makes it clear that either you do x or face the consequences, then you won’t have those problems.”

When I hear that I’m very aware of the mindset behind it that places the “leader” at the top and in charge of getting people to do what she or he thinks is best.

Ingres,_Napoleon_on_his_Imperial_throneThis is the traditional command-and-control version of management and most versions of leadership today. In this logic, when the “leader” creates the rules and severe consequences for not following them, most people will go along. They comply.   

This is really more a form of rulership than leadership. Carrot and stick incentives driven from the top express very little respect and confidence in the people being “led.” The boss becomes the cop. You get adherence to the rule but at what cost? Enthusiasm, creativity and the initiative to go the extra mile disappear.

Compliance Versus Commitment

Compliance is a defensive act. When people are subjected to rulership, most will seek to reassert their personal power. That may happen in ways that are not beneficial to the group and your results. Some will go into open resistance, some will find the cracks and exploit them, and others will withhold contributions.

This can look like “OK, I’ll be at your meeting on time. And I’ll bring my report to work on (or patient files to update, or papers to grade). I don’t have to give you my full attention.”

When the focus is on getting people to obey rules, no one is addressing the underlying issues. Why doesn’t every member of the group think it’s important to be at the meeting on time and engaged? Are our meetings not worthwhile? Is there a deeper issue within the group? How has the culture in the group developed to allow for such unilateral actions?

Seeking compliance – “be on time or else” – misses the fact that what’s needed is commitment. Commitment is the source of the engagement and dedication that form the will to perform and create extraordinary results together.

What to do?

Real leadership is a group effort, based on commitment. This is what I call shared leadership or collaborative leadership and is what creates the possible.

In order to move towards leadership, look at where you feel you have to “lay down the law” to get people to do what you need. This is a symptom of no commitment.

group-discussionThen you can lead the conversation in the group that’s needed to identify what’s in the way of everyone making a full commitment to your agreements. When you work through that, everyone becomes accountable to the group and can contribute to leadership.

As a leader, the more you feel that you have to “lay down the law,” the more important and urgent this conversation is. It’s your role to create an environment where everyone is heard and all issues are resolved, even when it might appear difficult. It’s only through this process that true success can emerge.

What would your business or organization be able to create if everyone is in full communication and totally committed to a set of principles and agreements for doing what works?

Sep 172013
 September 17, 2013  Posted by on September 17, 2013 Uncategorized No Responses »

5 Worst Mistakes Leaders Make

As I’ve worked with many dozens of groups over the years I’ve seen certain mistakes over and over again – running their group – and their potential success into a ditch. Here are the top five mistakes I’ve seen that block groups from achieving their true potential so you can be sure to avoid them.

1. Taking high-end cooperation for granted. It’s natural to assume others see things the way we do, especially when we’re dealing with professional adults. We figure everyone should know how to “behave” and get along. But of course it’s not that simple. Differences in backgrounds and personalities mean different assumptions and expectations. Those need to be worked through in order to get the power of your group.

2. Ignoring struggles, hoping they’ll go away. Believe me, they only get worse. Unresolved conflict turns into more assumptions (“Here she goes again!”) and resentment (“I can’t stand it when she does that. Doesn’t she know how obnoxious she is?!”) Loss of trust blocks further communication and cooperation. Then as people avoid each other or retreat behind email, the possibility of your group steadily fades.

3. Letting good people leave because the environment is toxic. I am still surprised by how willing people are to let the success of their mission fall by the wayside because they are afraid to deal with what’s causing strife in their group. Talented people always have options and won’t tolerate mediocrity or frustration for long. Not learning how to resolve problems and how to be more collaborative means that you will lose your most creative people.

4. Thinking that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Many leaders feel pressure to have all the answers. Rising to a leadership position means people depend on you. After all, isn’t it your skills and experience that got you to a leadership role? But no one knows everything or has all the answers. Being a life-long learner exhibits strength, courage and leadership! You are modeling openness to new ideas and commitment to creating greater success.

5. Not dedicating time to attend to the group relationships. Your group is a network of relationships that need tending like a garden. You need to weed out things that aren’t working – old ways that limit your results; and you need to feed and water what you want to keep or it will die. This is why I constantly talk about the need for structure to support the relationships you depend on for your results. With good habits – developing your people and collaboration becomes part of how you do what you do.

If any of these are happening in your group, take action now to change the situation and stop wasting the talents in your group. It won’t get better on its own. But with some attention, you can be surprised by how extraordinary your group can be.

Aug 212013
 August 21, 2013  Posted by on August 21, 2013 Uncategorized No Responses »

If you’ve ever wondered “how do I make sure we’re doing what we can to be most effective” – consider creating structure. The structure I’m referring to creates the open communication needed for high-powered collaboration.


Good leaders behave in ways that strengthen relationships. But as I always say – while that’s good practice – it’s not enough. Powerful groups have to do specific things together that keep good habits in place and help everyone connect in partnership.

Then you can enjoy the freedom your structure offers because you’ll know that you are doing the things that keep your group in great shape to handle whatever happens in a fruitful way. You enjoy far less struggle and conflict because there are agreed upon ways to work that keep things going smoothly. Here’s an example of why it’s so important in groups.

I recently did an exercise designed to expose some of the differences in styles and preferences in a company of 60 people. As I read a series of paired opposing statements I asked them to stand up for the statement that was most true of them. Some examples: “I like a quiet work environment.” vs “I prefer a social work environment.” “I try to avoid conflict at all cost.” vs “I prefer to confront conflict openly and work through it. I don’t mind a good argument.” “When faced with a new situation or task, I prefer to jump in and experiment to find a solution.” vs “I prefer to analyze the situation think through all the options before I move into action.”

We watched while 1/2 or 1/3 of the group stood up for one statement while the other 1/2 or 2/3 stood for the opposing statement. Such differences exist in every relationship – they are the source of creativity and of conflict. The more people, the more complex those differences become.

Now imagine how things are going to work out if there are no opportunities to identify those differences and jointly design ways to accommodate each other around your goals. It’s naive to think things will always go smoothly. If we wait until differences become conflicts, they just create bigger problems.

Ideas like “get over it” and “get on with the work” just don’t suffice. That’s where conflict becomes resentment becomes withdrawal or manipulation.

If you want real teamwork and cooperation there have to be ways for people to work through differences – routinely, and as they crop up.

Think of it like a safety inspection or preventive maintenance. Routine opportunities to make sure you have good habits in place will keep the “machinery” running smoothly.

Differences in style and preferences can be difficult to address because they feel personal. We’re often afraid to bring those things up because most of us want to avoid personality conflicts and difficult emotional situations – especially at work! But with a structure for bringing people into conversation about what’s working and what’s not when the situation is not charged, it can be easy to keep creating what works for everyone to collaborate.

Here are some great ways to set up structure for your group culture.

1. Routine staff meetings. Allot 5 or 10 minutes for group alchemy. This simply means provide a fixed time slot to ask how things are going – where are things going well, what’s working, and what’s not working. Then explore ways to do more of what works and make agreements to support that. focus-group-1If a problem surfaces that can’t be resolved in that time frame then it’s easy to create an action plan to resolve it. Everyone leaves feeling energized and encouraged that small matters don’t become persistent aggravations.

2. Make agreements. Keep creating and assessing your working agreements to bring people together on “how we do things around here.” Include agreements about how you will handle breakdowns and resolve problems that arise and you’ll have a capacity for powering through situations that usually cripple effectiveness.

3. Hold periodic reviews. Timing for this can vary depending on the workflow and the complexities of your situation. But all groups need regular times – monthly, quarterly, annually – to look at how things are going and to learn from weaknesses or conflicts.

5. Identify a “structure keeper” for the group. If one or two people in your group take the leadership for keeping your structure and making sure your agreements are being kept, then you can rest knowing that things won’t get stale or deteriorate. Sharing and rotating that role will help everyone feel the ownership for the group effectiveness that keeps it strong.

Don’t let it fall by the wayside.As pressures mount, as the “to-do” list grows, it’s easy to get so focused on critical path tasks that the time for attending to the group dynamics seems like a luxury we don’t have. But the opposite is true, the busier we are, the more we need structure to make sure that attention is being given to the very source of our success – the relationships we depend on.

It’s not a quantity of time that matters so much. It’s the routine nature of these activities that creates the magic. You can address small things before they become big, you can amplify the good things people are doing, and you can re-inspire confidence in the power of your group over and over again. That’s how to achieve your gold.

Tell us – what kind of structure works for your group?

Aug 192013
 August 19, 2013  Posted by on August 19, 2013 Uncategorized No Responses »

Apathy: indifference, lack of concern, lethargy – that feeling that
people don’t really care about what’s going on.

It might be you who is feeling apathetic or perhaps the people
around you appear apathetic to you. Either way apathy is a major
drag. It drags down enthusiasm and energy, stifles the cooperation
and communication necessary for creativity and high performance,
and it produces stress!

What does the stress fracture apathy look like?

Are people coming late or leaving early? Is there a lack of
attention to detail, to quality? Have people stopped getting
together to work on problems? Are people showing up late for
meetings? Are folks checking their e-devices constantly or carrying
on side conversations during your meetings?

Are you experiencing the feeling “who cares?” or “why bother?” or
“nothing’s going to change around here anyway!” Do you see people
retreating into their department or silo to avoid having to work
with others? The feeling is usually unmistakeable – we know when
we’re in the presence of apathy.

Individual expressions of apathy about the group and its purpose
can fall along a continuum.

a) Some people will withdraw and shutdown. They’ll do the minimum
it takes not to get in trouble; what a client of mine calls
“trolling” rather than working.
b) More high-charging types get increasingly unilateral – they make
their own moves, working around anything in their way.
This is
often how silos get entrenched, particularly at the executive
level, and the organization becomes driven by personal motivations
and interests rather than group values and purpose.
c) Still others will become saboteurs. These are the
mischief-makers who indulge in gossip, disruption and subversion.

All of these behaviors have a triple impact 1) hurting individual
and group performance and the bottom line, 2) diminishing wellness
of individuals and the group and 3) contracting the ability of the
group to continue to grow and expand its results.

Apathy has conventionally been treated as an individual or
personality problem. Management applies carrot and stick strategies
to try to entice or coerce the employee into “getting with the
program.” I think there’s a more powerful solution – the cultural

Group Alchemy places responsibility for apathy squarely in the
group – in the culture of the group to be more precise.
If apathy
is present in your group there are specific places to work to
develop group habits that chase apathy away and fill that space
with commitment and enthusiasm.

Start with asking whether you have a compelling inspiration
conversation in your group.
Have you clearly articulated what you
stand for and your purpose for existing? Are your goals clear and
achievable? This isn’t a product of leadership (“getting buy-in”)
or something that can be handed down by the executive team. This is
where the attention to the individuals in the group is crucial.
Inspiration requires a process for everyone in the group to tie
their personal interests and goals into the collective mission and

Perhaps it’s time for a renewal event to give your group a chance
to revisit and reaffirm what you stand for.
Every group needs a
chance to revitalize its core values and mission – even if you
think it’s already clear. Create lots of opportunities to
experience the emotion of it again.

Next you can look at your agreements and goals and ask – “Are we
keeping our word?
Do we hold each other accountable to our
agreements?” There’s no better way to create the stress fracture of
apathy than by allowing discrepancies between words and actions to

Look at acknowledgment practices in your group. Are you
acknowledging people for their contributions and how they forward
your mission?
And consider whether you have sufficient
opportunities to grow through mastery – learning new performance
skills, moving into a more challenging role, and learning how to
create powerful results will inspire people and dispel apathy.

Each of the elements in the Formula for Group Alchemy® support
enthusiasm and meaningful connection – to purpose and to each
other. If you practice the habits of group alchemy routinely you
won’t have to worry about apathy fracturing your group, your
results or your health.

Jul 182013
 July 18, 2013  Posted by on July 18, 2013 Uncategorized No Responses »

Lately, as Group Alchemy grows, I’ve had to spend a lot of time on a thousand administrative details and difficult tasks. Every day has felt like a long “to do” list of jobs that support my true work but aren’t “it.” They are necessary and important, but they don’t feed me the way that actually working with a group and coaching my clients do.

When I sat down to write this essay I was focused on getting another one of those tasks off my list – “I’ve got to get the July bulletin written.” I was in a hurry, feeling the urgency of many other things that needed “doing.”

It was a painful afternoon and not very productive. Though I had a lot of great ideas, bringing them together in some coherent form was very difficult. It felt really hard and all I could think about was how much I hate writing…  I could not find the appreciation for a challenge in service of a higher purpose.

I was as persistent as ever so I drafted an essay and closed the computer, very unsatisfied and frustrated. And I admit that those feelings tainted the rest of my day. It wasn’t until later that evening that I realized what was happening.

I was running on empty because I had gotten so focused on “solving problems” and “getting things done” that I had lost the connection with my larger vision. I couldn’t find the connection between the immediate task – in this case writing an alchemist bulletin to send you – and the bigger inspiration and purpose – making a contribution to the work that you are doing and fostering the alchemy in your groups.

I’m reminded about how easy it is to get mired down in the details of getting our work done and losing sight of what we’re really up to – the context for why the specific task has meaning. Many of the jobs we must do day-to-day are not glamorous and might be removed from the more exciting and nurturing parts of our work. Those tasks can easily feel like burdens rather than opportunities that feed our goals and dreams.

It’s like the fog that creeps into the San Francisco Bay many evenings, always ready to move in when the conditions are right but not always welcome. In our work these conditions include; being so busy we feel overwhelmed, forgetting to create experiences to re-member what our true passion is, not taking time away from the work to replenish our spirit, failing to share experiences with our co-workers and partners that re-ignite our shared passion for what we do. As I cleared my own fog around getting this month’s Alchemist out to you, I was reminded of just how vigilant we must be to have powerful practices to get re-inspired.

Powerful action takes commitment and commitment requires inspiration.  Without a strong connection to the original inspiration, tasks quickly become burdens. It slows groups down, lowers morale and decreases satisfaction. You can hear it in the language of your group. What you hear is; ” I have to… ,” “We should….” When people are present to inspiration you’ll hear things like; “How about…,” “I can imagine …,” and “What if we….”

The question is, are you still present to the inspiration that you created? If you find that it truly isn’t alive for you anymore, maybe it’s time to move on. But it’s easy to confuse that with not being present with that inspiration. Frustrations, resentments, bad feelings and overwhelm can block access to your inspiration so you’ll want to check that out.

Ask yourself, is there something that needs to be cleaned up or completed that will allow you to return to your inspiration? Or, maybe you just need to declare your inspiration – to yourself, to another, to your group, in order to remind yourself of what it is you are up to.

Inspiration is an experience, not an idea. When you are present to your inspiration, you will feel the passion of the possibility. It doesn’t exist in our heads.

We need others to help us reconnect. When you’re stuck, your co-worker, a partner, an associate can serve as the reminder of what you are really up to. This is exactly what helped me to get unstuck. I spent an hour in the energetic and inspiring Toastmasters group I belong to where I had the opportunity to talk about what I’m excited about. I came away re-charged. That inspired a conversation with my partner who also reminded of my inspiration and pop – I broke through the logjam of burden. This is the potential in groups. Other people can serve as your reservoir for your inspiration.

We need routine practices to reconnect.  Specific practices, personally and collectively,  that help us experience what inspires us are crucial to call us back from our busyness and prevent getting stuck. Personally, it might be a short meditation, or a visualization,  or a connection with someone that inspires. In the group, it can be a visualization, a brainstorming session about ideas, or an explicit story sharing a success.

I think I’ll be doing a creative visualization and having a renewal conversation with my partners from now on before I sit down to write these articles!

What techniques  work for you to reconnect with your inspiration that justifies all the tasks and activities you must do? A meditation? A reading? A conversation with someone who shares your commitment? Decide together what you will do as a group to stay connected to your inspiration.

Let us know what you decide. We might be able to take a page out of your book.

Jun 262013
 June 26, 2013  Posted by on June 26, 2013 Uncategorized No Responses »

Have you ever felt people in your group were looking backward instead of forward? Or that people are resistant to change, content to stick with things as they are, not interested in taking on new challenges? Do you sense that people are bored, feel uninspired, disengaged?

These are the symptoms of the being stuck in The Doldrums – a major stress fracture in groups. It can happen to the best of us. Perhaps some disappointments have settled into rigidity and resistance to new ideas – “oh it won’t work anyway” kind of thinking. Or maybe you’ve been so successful that folks have gotten comfortable, “resting on your laurels” and acting as though the future will be like the past.

Such complacency can lead not only to frustration and boredom, it can also be dangerous to the survival of the business.

The environment is constantly changing and businesses have to be nimble and creative to stay alive. This recession has been a wake-up call for many. The future will not be the same as the past. Less complacency and a more proactive way of working might have helped a lot of organizations survive this recession better.

If there’s a feeling of being stuck in the doldrums in your group, you can turn that around.

1. Conduct a review or assessment.  Find out how people really view what’s going on. Find out what happened to shut people down, what caused them to get discouraged, or give up, or fall into complacency?

2. Hold a visioning session. I guarantee you that there is untapped passion in your group. Find out where it is. Get people together in the spirit of imagining the future and they will spark each other and fan dormant embers of vision and creativity.

3. Pick an exciting challenge to take on. Be audacious. What would you do “if only we could….” Act as if you can. What step would you take right now?

4. Support the creatives in your group. Take new ideas into serious consideration – even if they look unrealistic some part of an idea might be a breakthrough.

5. Give rewards for great ideas. You could set up a competition between teams or bonus time for working on new ideas. Ask your group what would inspire them to develop their ideas

6. Hold regularly scheduled environmental reviews. You could ask everyone to bring in an observation or news fact about the environment you work in – whether it’s your industry, your local community, your particular network, or the global economy – once a month. Hold a brainstorming session about what you think the future is going to look like. The point is to seek information outside of your normal business routines and open a channel for imagining what you can do to create your future.

Don’t let complacency and lack of creativity stress your group. They will sap your group’s energy. The stress from that is unhealthy – for each person – and for your business. Don’t wait until a shock event to jolt you out of the doldrums. It could be your undoing.

Be proactive. Your creativity energy needs nourishment. By establishing habits that energize your group with new ideas and experiences, you can keep people engaged, avoid The Doldrums and create your future rather than react to it.

Stay inspired.

Jun 242013
 June 24, 2013  Posted by on June 24, 2013 Uncategorized No Responses »

Growing attention to the costs of stress means that many larger companies have created wellness programs that promote exercise and meditation and provide assistance to employees to create healthy lifestyles and learn how to cope with external sources of stress. This is great. We need more of that. Much of health and wellness is an individual affair. But – it’s not only a matter of what the individual can do.

We can do more to create positive relationships and group experiences that reduce stress and contribute to success and well-being.

There is much research that shows that happier people are more productive. They are healthier so they do not miss work and they stay at their jobs longer. A big part of being happier at work is being in positive relationships and groups. And that takes time and attention to fully engage everyone. When that doesn’t happen then the group is fractured by hopelessness.

Stress Fracture: Hopelessness

Hopelessness is about feeling stuck with no options. It means grinding through with no sense of a better future. And it creates what we know is the most damaging kind of stress – the feeling that we have no control over the problem. That’s what happens when the work situation is difficult with no visible means for making a change. And it’s a lot more common than most of us want to admit.

The stress fracture of hopelessness is fed by a syndrome that I see a lot. People aren’t sure what to do to create truly powerful groups so they just hope for the best while concluding that “people are difficult.”

Are there topics that no one is willing to raise even though it’s clear that there’s a problem? Maybe you’re afraid to open a discussion about how things are going because you’re afraid of opening up an argument. Are your meetings so full and exhausting that you don’t know how to make room for the open and honest communication needed in order to clear the air and find more creative ways to work together? Maybe your meetings could use an overhaul to make them more effective and energizing.

In reality there’s plenty we can do about creating happy, productive groups . If our groups are difficult it’s because we allow them to be. The simple fact is that groups need structure and processes that facilitate people coming together in constructive ways rather than competing to have their own way. Without structure, people are left to do whatever they choose.

If there is a sense of hopelessness or just being stuck in your group then a great place to start the change process is by learning something new.

Solution: Mastery

Mastery is about learning new things and developing new skills. In this case the focus is on learning specific techniques for building strong groups. It might be as simple as learning facilitation methods to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your meetings. Or it might be learning about group dynamics and creating a distinctive experience for your group members to try some new ways of working. It can be an extended program but even short exercises can be very powerful. (See Chapter six in Group Alchemy: The Six Elements of Highly Successful Collaboration for more suggestions.)

Just yesterday I led a group in an exercise to learn a decision-making model based on personal learning and problem solving styles. They had fun and were excited by what they learned about the differences between their personal approaches to solving problems while also learning a lot about the power of their collective talents. They now have a new language and a model to help them combine their perspectives and strengths. It took about twenty minutes.

Making a habit of learning and developing new skills in group dynamics and culture keeps people growing and offers options. You don’t have to be stuck with difficulties when you all are learning to expand your personal and collective repertoire. That makes the experience of working together illuminating and energizing.

Where to start? I suggest looking at where you experience a stress point and identify a gap in understanding or knowledge. Then identify a book, course, exercise or program that will take you on a learning journey. Or just choose something that you are curious about that you think could help you all work together more effectively.

If it’s something the group can do together that is always best. But minimally you can do something on your own like read a book and share what you learn.

A routine and habitual mastery practice will work to keep people inspired. I notice that my clients always list things they want to learn about I ask them what they want in order to stay inspired about their work.

The key is always bringing people together with intention to create the work environment that supports everyone’s success.

Whatever you choose to do, please take action today. Try something different that can relieve any stress in your work.

Your health depends on it.

Jun 202013
 June 20, 2013  Posted by on June 20, 2013 Uncategorized No Responses »

As we move through the winter solstice the northern hemisphere is closing down for its winter rest. This has long been a time of literally going inside, and of turning inward for rest and rejuvenation. And as our calendar year comes to a close, it’s a time when many of us take time to reflect on the past year and what we want to create in the next year. Hence the many “new year’s resolutions.”

It’s powerful to be in sync with natural rhythms and a great practice that offers deep insight and possibility on a personal level. It can be equally powerful at the group level.

Why not give your group time to go inward so to speak, and assess how you are doing?  Every group needs special times to reflect, to review, and then make adjustments where needed, or reinforce and celebrate what’s working.

The rapid pace of change in our world make this more important than ever. It’s the time to look at the big picture and make honest assessments of the results of actions taken that enable us to create rather than merely to react. And as I say in all my messages – if we want to pull together to make things work then we must have sufficient time for the conversations that bring us in sync.

1. Put dates on your 2013 calendar for renewal activities.
Take time to look at what your doing – what’s going well? Where do you see opportunities to shift things for more ease, efficiency, and effectiveness? Your strategic planning, program review, business planning are all part of this. Just be sure to include the review of your culture.

2. Practice preventive medicine.
It is just as important to assess your social environment – your culture, your agreements, your habits of collaboration – as it is to evaluate your performance on your goals. We spend so much time focused on the tasks we need to accomplish that the relationships on which that performance depends are often overlooked – until there’s a crisis. Make it easy to talk about the quality of the environment you are creating and recreating every day. Then you can routinely make the adjustments that will keep everyone “healthy” and producing great results.

3. Make sure you have routine moments to check in with each other.
Even five or ten minutes at a routine staff meeting to find out what people are thinking about how things are going and where they see opportunities to grow can be hugely beneficial. Don’t let little things become big problems. Provide easy opportunities to clear up misunderstandings, resolve disagreements and create healthy agreements.

Jun 172013
 June 17, 2013  Posted by on June 17, 2013 Uncategorized No Responses »

Once you have strengthened your inspiration (values, vision, mission) then we can take a closer look at how to work with agreements to address behavior that is having a negative impact on the group.

1. Remember, your culture shapes what is possible, and it’s a product of all that happens.
Think about how the culture in your group allows for the bad behavior. Then take responsibility for that. What implicit agreements exist in the group that allow people to continue to act in ways that are difficult for others? What can you do to change the agreements in your group – not just between you and that individual – about what is acceptable and what is not?

2. Make sure you have strong agreements.
Agreements that declare what people are supposed to do to achieve your vision are the key to getting and keeping people on board. Agreements about conduct are just as important as agreements about job performance. Does your group have the kind of agreements that make it clear what is expected of everyone? Have people been able to ask for what they need to do their best work? Is it clear what is not acceptable? Are people willing to call each other back to those agreements? Are agreements breaking down? Are multiple people contributing to that?

3. Practice accountability.
There is no benefit in having a list of core values or ground rules if people are not held accountable to them. In fact, it can be counter-productive. Saying something is valued and important but not requiring everyone to live up to it just breeds cynicism. Loss of commitment and contribution usually follow. Get clear about what important words like “respect” or “quality” mean in your organization and then hold each other accountable to them. Help each other protect your values and vision so they can support you.

4. If all this fails, help them move on.
When you’ve done everything there is to do to invite and encourage each person to join in the group’s vision but still someone continues to be a drag, it is clear that their interests and needs do not match those of the group. Then it is crucial to compassionately help them to leave. Cultures need boundaries. When you allow someone in your group that is not living up to your values then the real culture you have is one that is not committed to those things you say are important.

When you take responsibility for what is actually happening in your group, together you can seize the opportunity to renew your values, reinforce your vision and achieve your mission. Everyone will benefit.