Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Synergy of Teams

People are constantly asking me how I do all that I do – my response invariably is that “I have a great team!”

At its simplest, synergy is defined as “two or more things functioning together to produce a result not independently obtainable.” Research has demonstrated that synergistic teams can out-produce even the most talented member – and we’ve seen that over and over within the Life Strategies teams.

There is strength in diversity – at Life Strategies, we deliberately build teams that comprise individuals with different competencies and styles. This, of course, means that we all have to embrace and appreciate diversity. Sometimes it’s easier to work with people who approach tasks the same way or share a very similar perspective. However, by choosing to surround ourselves with people who see the world differently and bring unique skills and talents we minimize our blind spots and maximize our productivity.

Do you really know the strengths and talents on your team? Do you let people do what they do best . . . and try to accommodate their weaknesses? Or, are you trying to do too much independently – spending hours at tasks that others could do better in a fraction of the time?

Tools like Personality Dimensions® can help you better understand the teams you work with – whether at work, in athletics, or on community boards. Most members of the Life Strategies team are Personality Dimensions facilitators or Master Trainers . . . aside from facilitating workshops, though, we all walk our talk – celebrating the diversity on our team and providing opportunities for each other to do what they do best. Contact us at info@lifestrategies.ca if you’d like to introduce your own team to this amazing tool.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fatherhood: What is it All About?

A father carries pictures
where his money used to be.
~Author Unknown

As this past weekend was Father’s day, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on hard-working fathers who struggle to balance work and family commitments. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) reported that working fathers were dissatisfied with the amount of time they spent at work versus with their children. Additionally, 62% of working fathers believed they should be spending more time assisting with child-rearing responsibilities.

However, according to an article from Marketwire, reporting results from another study on fatherhood, fathers seem to be stuck between the traditional role of “breadwinner” and the increasing expectations (and desires) to be more involved with their children. The survey found that 54% of working fathers, as opposed to less than 1% of working mothers, saw “breadwinner” as their top parenting priority. This may not be too surprising; however, according to Cameron Phillips, the study’s coordinator, "the unaddressed issue is that we still undervalue fatherhood and expect little will change for men in the workplace once they become dads." Phillips contended that this will not only impact working fathers, but also working mothers who will continue to bump against the glass ceiling if parent-child paradigms don’t shift.

One way to help such a shift is organizations such as the Fatherhood Institute. This UK-based “think tank” has three goals:

  • Change work systems/structures so fathers can be more available to their children

  • Challenge gender roles/inequalities and change education so boys are better prepared for caring roles

  • Develop “father-inclusive” supports for families

These aims can have far-reaching impacts for fathers, mothers, and children through re-defining the family unit and associated gender-roles and stereotypes.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

To Grow is to Change . . .

"To grow is to change, and to have changed often is to have grown much." - Cardinal Newman

This is one of my favourite quotes . . . I have it in my e-mail signature line and framed on my bookshelf. I love change, I’ve changed often, and I continue to grow much (in more dimensions than I’d prefer, at times!). That said, change can be exhausting!

Did you know that there’s a cumulative effect from change? Psychiatrists Holmes and Rahe developed the Stress Scale, a tool that ranks life changes according to the amount of stress they are believed to bring. Although stressors don’t impact everyone in exactly the same way, this scale can be a useful starting point to see if your stress levels are creeping into the danger zone (I don’t think mine have ever been out of the danger zone since I entered adulthood – so other important things to measure are coping resources and resiliency; luckily, I’m blessed with high scores for both of them, too!).

Continuous, relentless stress, though, can lead to burnout. If, like me, your work and life bring constant changes, ensure that you’re adding in extra de-stressing moments to compensate. Gerry and I are about to leave on my 12th trip in the past 6 months. We’ve actually gone through more toothpaste in our travel bag this year than in our bathroom at home! We both love travel . . . but there’s no denying that it’s stressful. Therefore, we try to add on a few days to each trip that are just for us – to visit friends or family, tour the local area, or simply have time with no agenda other than to recover from jet lag, get adjusted to the climate, and find our way around the local neighbourhood.

Psychologist Nancy Schlossberg developed a 4S model to explain individual differences in coping with transitions (the process that accompanies life changes). She found that one’s Situation, Self, Support, and Strategies together impact how people respond to exactly the same event (or non-event – an anticipated event that doesn’t happen, such as a missed promotion or a broken relationship prior to a marriage). For example, as I contemplate re-packing the suitcase that I just unpacked a few days ago, although I’m definitely tired of travel right now (and looking forward to a summer in my own garden), I recognize that my Situation is very privileged in that I get to choose whether or not to travel and have incredible flexibility in deciding how long to be away. In terms of my “Self” – I’m healthy, very comfortable travelling, fascinated with different cultures, insatiably curious, and able to quickly convert a hotel room into a temporary home. Because Gerry travels with me, I have the same Support as when I’m home; I’m also blessed with an amazing team at Life Strategies who have become quite used to working with me through MSN chat and e-mail. In terms of Strategies, we’ve booked our flights so that we arrive a few days before the conference, and then spend a few days on vacation before returning home.

As you reflect on your own change, growth, transitions, and related stress, consider how to minimize the negative impacts of change and strengthen your resiliency and coping resources – both strategies can be effective.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Motivating Employees

In motivating people, you've got to engage their minds and their hearts.
I motivate people by example and perhaps by excitement,
by having productive ideas to make others feel involved.
~Rupert Murdoch

How to motivate employees is a hot topic for today’s employers and there is a plethora of information available. A quick Internet search resulted in close to 2 million hits on topics such motivating yourself at work, motivating others during transformational times, motivating through non-monetary rewards and recognition, and motivating “bad” employees. With so much information available, and little time to wade through it all, how can employers figure out what really works?

As part of my doctoral studies, I studied motivation at length and discovered there is no clear or easy answer. Each employee is unique and, therefore, likely to be motivated differently; as a result, packaged programs may have limited success. The good news, however, is that “more money” is rarely a solution.

As you begin to explore how to motivate your employees, identify what motivation really means to you and your organization. What do motivated employees “look like”? Next, get to know your employees; explore what strategies might work for some but not others. For more strategies, check out our 10 Strategies for Motivating Employees tip sheet or call to schedule a workshop.