teamsteps, align your team

Keeping your team aligned, on task and up to date can be a challenge

teamsteps is designed to be a simple sheet to capture the key weekly activities and priorities for your team.

This sheet should be used at a weekly team briefing – maybe a standing meeting? – to capture:

1/
what you are working on individually and as a team

2/
key deadlines for that week

3/
what barriers are in your way which can stop you

4/
what resources and input can help you (internally & externally)

5/
what you need to carry forward, postpone or note for next week

Then display it somewhere everyone can see it.

This will help keep the home team aligned, informed and can help you measure progress, even those small ones. As its weekly, it keeps the priorities flexible.

Download

Download the sheet for free by clicking on the picture below:

teamsteps_align your team

If you have a difficulty with the link, click on
https://iammichaelwatts.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/teamsteps_align-your-team.pdf.

No New Years resolutions found

Its that time of the year where people are starting to make their New Years resolutions.

What are New Years resolutions I hear yin ask? Well, here’s a definition: 

New Year’s resolution is a tradition, most common in the Western Hemisphere but also found in the Eastern Hemisphere, in which a person makes a promise to do an act of self-improvement or something slightly nice, such as opening doors for people beginning from New Year’s Day.
– Wikipedia

Well, last year I made a decision that turned out to be quite controversial – I announced that I wasn’t making any New Years resolutions. Zilch. Nil pois. None.

And this year I am doing the same.

 Why, I hear you scream?

Well, it’s not that I can’t do with making changes to my life to make it better. More exercise. Eating healthier. Visiting Starbucks less. 

I do need to do those things. 

It’s just that if I want to do that, then I’m going to do that when I’m ready to do that. 

History and experience has shown me that I’m no more likely to stick to these homages if they start on 1st January than I am if they started on 29 June.

For me, change only sticks when I’m ready for it to stick. Am I ready to eat healthier, to exercise more and to visit Starbucks less? Yes I am. 

Will I start doing soon? Probably not!

But I do commit to living my personal purpose – to do life, better. This includes making better decisions every day and being a better person every day. 

Here’s to progress. 

Book 5 – Start with Why & Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

This is the fifth and final book in my countdown of my top 5 books around leadership, personal development, and self discovery.

What’s the book about?

Book 1:

“Why are some people and organisations more inventive, pioneering and successful than others? And why are they able to repeat their success again and again?

In business, it doesn’t matter what you do, it matters WHY you do it.

Start with Why analyses leaders like Martin Luther King Jr and Steve Jobs and discovers that they all think in the same way – they all started with why.

Simon Sinek explains the framework needed for businesses to move past knowing whatthey do to how they do it, and then to ask the more important question-WHY?

Why do we do what we do? Why do we exist? Learning to ask these questions can unlock the secret to inspirational business. Sinek explains what it truly takes to lead and inspire and how anyone can learn how to do it.

– © Amazon

Book 2:

“Imagine a world where almost everyone wakes up inspired to go to work. This is not a crazy, idealised notion. In many successful organisations, great leaders are creating environments in which teams trust each other so deeply that they would put their lives on the line for each other.

Yet other teams, no matter what incentives were offered, are doomed to infighting, fragmentation and failure. Why?

Today’s workplaces tend to be full of cynicism, paranoia and self-interest. But the best organisations foster trust and cooperation because their leaders build what Sinek calls a Circle of Safety. It separates the security inside the team from the challenges outside. Everyone feels they belong and all energies are devoted to facing the common enemy and seizing big opportunities.

As in Start with Why, Sinek illustrates his ideas with fascinating true stories, from the military to manufacturing, from government to investment banking. He shows that leaders who are willing to eat last are rewarded with deeply loyal colleagues who will stop at nothing to advance their vision. It’s amazing how well it works.”

– © Amazon

Why did I choose this book?

These books were only number 5 in my list because I wanted to finish with a bang. Otherwise they would have been joint first with Howard’s Onward.

These books have been life changing.

They gave me so much belief in myself that being me was possible. There are others in the world that work to make the world better for the sake of making the world better for everyone – rather than just making it better for a personal gain.

I live my life by working to help others do life, better. And both the books embody that approach.

At work, at home and in the third place in between, I try to inspire others and put them first. In such, I try to be a leader in the all the environments I am in. I want to – and choose to – eat last. It is a privilege to give others more than I take from them.

And Leaders Eat Last proves that I am not the only one. And it also proves that I am impacting on the world by living my life in that way.

Start with Why also just hits so many buttons with me. Everything I do is driven by my own personal why – my personal purpose of “to do life, better. And this shapes everything that my team does too.

I have even started using my personal why to share our ideas, thoughts and team priorities with others. See my libraries presentation, for example.

Please do read these books, visit www.startwithwhy.com, and get inspired to inspire others.

What does the book look like?

210dd4287dda99cfaf52e8fad50ba8e5.jpg

Why should you read it?

  1. If you are a leader in an organisation – this counts for everyone, not just leaders in a formal hierarchy – then these books will make you a better leader, a better manager, a better organisation – and a better human being
  2. The stories used our powerful stories that we all know, can relate to and understand, and this just brings the content, the ideas and the learning to life
  3. The world needs you to be a better person by better understanding your personal why, understanding how you be a better leader, and how you can inspire the world around you – and these books will help you do just that

Where can you buy it?

If you are in the UK, you can order Start with Why and Leaders Eat Last from Waterstones.

Alternatively, you can download the books for your Kindle or as a hardcopy from Amazon.

You can get inspired daily by signing up to the daily e-mail from Simon at www.startwithwhy.com.

Protecting your most precious gem – you

One of the things that I have learnt over the last few years is how important it is for people to protect their most precious gem – themselves. 

I learnt the lesson quite hard after I had a period where I neglected my gem. I tried being all things to all people. I stopped looking after me. I stopped listening to my body. I believed that regular caffeine via my local Starbucks would keep me going. And it did for a period of time.

And then one day, it didn’t.

I reached a point where my body said “enough is enough” and took things into its own hands. It made me stop,

At that time I was balancing a full commitment at work and at home. I was working full time. I was a husband to a caring wife who was needing support. I was a dad to a toddler and a set of baby twins. And I was a dad to a toddler and a set of baby twins who each had special/additional needs. 

Let’s just say I was running low on energy and sleep. And instead of listening to my internal messages telling me to take a step back, to take my foot of the peddle, and to stop trying to be everything to everyone – I carried on. 

And then early one morning I had a really bad migraine attack – migraines are something I have suffered with since I was a toddler – which led to me collapsing and having a couple of seizures – something I have never had in my life. And for the next three months I had a constant migraine, I couldn’t get up without feeling completely dizzy, and I couldn’t focus on anything. 

Looking back I know that this was my body making me stop. And looking back at the time before the episode, I now realise that by trying to be everything to everyone, I was actually not being everything to anyone. Nobody was getting a good deal from me. Nobody was getting what they needed – and what they deserved. 

Why am I writing about this now?

Well, as someone who is working on leading a great team, I know that for me to be the best me I need to listen to my body more – and also, make sure the members off my team are looking after theirs too.

So I’ve started to take a step back when my body feels like it’s getting to a point where I need caffiene. I’ve started to notice when I’m not being the best me at work – and at home – and take actions to balance it. Sometimes this means prioritising work and sometimes it means prioritising home life. But I’m comfortable with that now.

And I’ve started to monitor and regularly check in with each member of my team too. 

If I notice they have stopped being the best them I’ve started to take some actions – such as reprioritising workloads, moving deadlines, being more flexible in the working arrangements, etc – for them. Sometimes this has been with their awareness – and sometimes I’ve done it subtly as I felt that they weren’t in the right place to understand and agree, before bringing it up when they’ve been in a better place.

You only have one you – and I’ve learnt the hard way that you really have to prioritise your most precious gem. So, make sure you protect yours.

Making Ideas Happen

As the annual 99U Conference (by Behance) kicks off – it seems like the perfect timing to start putting the lessons that I am learning from Behance founder Scott Belsky‘s magical book – Making Ideas Happen – into action!

making-ideas-happen

In the book – which I am only a third through – Scott sets out what he has learnt through years of research about how the most productive people stay productive and move from ideas to actions.

One of the biggest tips through the book is to see everything – and Scott means everything – as a project.

Work stuff – all projects. Personal stuff – all projects. Secret stuff that you don’t tell your husband/wife – all projects*

* But not recommended!

And whilst looking at everything as a project, Scott recommends breaking all the projects into 3 sections:

  1. Actions
  2. References
  3. Backburner

And when doing this – he recommends using a single method and system to manage ALL the projects.

So, today, that’s what I’ve done.

I’ve started using the brilliant Evernote as a single place to capture all my projects. I’ve downloaded the app onto my iPad, my phone, onto my laptop, and onto my desktop – with the great Chrome extension!  And I’ve starting creating my folders and notes.  And in each project I have the 3 sections – Actions, References and Backburner.

Already I have tick lists for the Actions. I have photos of post-it notes and e-mails saved for References. I have web articles saved in the Backburner.  I’ve created an ‘Actions for Today’ list.

And, I’ve taken Scott’s advice further.

I’ve created a ‘done’ folder so that when I’ve done the actions I can move them into the folder. Already I’m loving looking at what I have managed to achieve – and that’s just in 10 hours.

So I just want to say a huge “thank you” to Scott for helping me make my ideas happen. And to wish Scott, the team and everybody lucky enough to be in New York at the 99U Conference a brilliant few days.

One day I will be lucky enough to attend. Until then though, I’m going to be stalking the conference via social media.

Here’s to making things happen.

Here’s to progress.

The challenge of creating the right sub-culture

One of the most acknowledged key ingredients for any great team or organisation is its culture.

The most innovative companies – such as Apple, Google or Pixar – are always used as examples of organisations that have the right culture. Other organisations – such as local government or financial institutions – are often used as examples where bureaucracy creates the wrong culture. In other examples, fear is often used to describe why culture is badly affecting the health of the culture in an organisation – just think about any of the ‘great’ companies that disappeared during the recent financial crash.

But, I always think that the examples are missing a really key point. Obviously I can’t disagree with the fact that a company’s culture can influence it’s success – or not – but I do think that there is something else that is often forgotten – or overlooked.

And that is that a company, organisation or even a large team does not have just one single culture.

The sub-culture

Yes, companies can set an environment for a particular type of culture to thrive – however, quite often in my experience, each team will have its own culture – a type of sub-culture. Something that has grown through the time the team has been together. Something that each member of the team influences. Something that supports that team to exist, function and do its work.

Quite often this sub-culture is shaped by the manager of the team. The manager can support the culture of a team to be a better culture than the wider culture of the organisation – or the manager can support the culture of the team to be a worse culture. It can either make people want to stay in or join your team – or it can make them leave or not want to join in the first place. Everybody knows about that team that they could never work in – and about that team that they really do want to work in.

And this sub-culture is something that I have always had an interest in as it is something that as a manager/leader I can influence and help shape, and it it something that I have always tried to shape even when I didn’t have any managerial responsibilities.

It is also something that I have been working on changing for my team as part of our journey to becoming a great team – to become that team that people want to work for.

Cultivating the right sub-culture

In my earlier post – The importance of purpose – I wrote about when I first started working in my team that I didn’t fit properly within the culture of that team at the time – a bit of an issue when you’re the manager of the team! And as I felt that I didn’t fit within the culture of the team I never took ownership of it, or tried to shape it. Instead I just let the existing culture fester. I knew it wasn’t the culture that I wanted for my team. As a result we weren’t working as we should. The environment wasn’t encouraging the growth of the right culture. There was bickering, there was blame passing, there was an unwritten rule that the quality of the work didn’t really matter. The team saw itself as being there to just do the work.

But then one day I decided that for me to carry on being part of the team I needed to act as the manager of the team and start to influence the sub-culture, I needed to make the sub-culture better, I needed to make it more like the sub-culture we needed.

And as the manager of the team I have focused a lot of my energy, time and decisions on changing it – for the better.

So I started to sow the seeds of the right sub-culture and then started to cultivate the right environment needed for them to grow and flourish. 

Reaching out for help 

And to help sow the seeds over the past year or so, I reached out for help.

I knew that I didn’t have the experience or knowledge to do all that in my own. I knew that that I needed something or someone else to help me do what I knew we needed to do.

So I reached out to the brilliantly insightful and inspirational people at SYPartners. And unlike those large organisations that SYPartners usually work with – like Apple, Nike and Starbucks – I could not afford to bring them over to the UK to work face-to-face with me and the team.

But luckily I didn’t need to!

As the old saying says “When the Student is Ready, the Teacher Appears” – and appear it did. About a year ago, the great people at SYPartners launched a new set of tools – called Teamworks – which were designed to help people like me.  Teamworks was designed to keep your team engaged and aligned – so you can work better together and do your best work.

So I signed my team up to using it.

Teamworks gave me a platform to create an environment where we could start growing our new sub-culture. By completing the tools in the nine habits of great teams, Teamworks gave me space and the opportunity to work on some new actions, decisions and activities as a team.

Taking actions – making progress

In some of my other posts – check them out at www.iammichaelwatts.com – I have talked about some of the actions, decisions and activities that we did as a team to start become team, such as – 

Good times are coming

One of the things that is giving me a real skip in my step at the moment is that I am now starting to see the fruits of my labour. I am starting to see the sub-culture that we need as a team starting to emerge.

I’m starting to see minds – and hopefully hearts – change when we talk about what we do, why we do it, and how we do it.

We are working as a team. We are building on our skills sets – and understanding when someone else in the team may have a more suited skill set for a task. We share setting high standards for ourselves and others.

We are starting to live, breathe and be our shared team purpose. 

We are making progress.

Starting to become a team

During my last post – The 3 Habits of Great Teams – I wrote about how and when I realised that the members of my team were not seeing themselves as part of a team. 

When I realised that they felt that their individual tasks didn’t impact on each other and form part of a bigger picture. 

When I realised that we were just a bunch of individuals colocated in what the organisation called ‘a team’.

So I set about changing that.

At that time whilst searching for ideas I same across another blog by the brilliant SYPartners. A blog designed to help people create great teams. A blog that matched my ambitions. A blog that gave me ideas. 

That blog was Teamworks.

One of the first posts I saw when visiting the blog was one of their ‘Teamworks tips’ –

Looking for a good Monday ritual?

As a team, answer these three questions:
1) What did we accomplish last week?
2) What do we need to accomplish this week?

3) Is there anything standing in our way?

[see http://blog.teamworks.is/teamworks-tip/looking-for-a-good-monday-ritual%5D

It seemed like a great way of getting the team to, firstly, share what they were working on with each other, and then, to be a way for them to see the connections between their work. 

So that’s what we did.

We started to meet on Monday mornings for 15-30 minutes and we all took turns to share:

  1. Did we achieve what we said we would last week? [in a positive way]
  2. What are we working working in this week and when are we aiming to finish it?
  3. What barriers could stop us achieving these and how do we over come them?

We started to write them down in an A3 sheet – like below – and pin them to the wall so that we could all see the actions.



And a funny thing happened. 

After the uncomfortable first couple of meetings where people didn’t feel that confident in sharing, they started to become more open, more communicative, and also more engaged. People started to make connections between their work. They started to help support each other. I was seeing seedlings of a shared purpose and shared priorities.

I was starting to see us becoming a team.