Article Archives

Tell us what your team struggles with

Most of us are more familiar with what it feels like to work on an unsatisfactory or average team. Why? Because teams are made up of people – and individual people are complex. When you bring together a collection of individuals, the teams they make up are infinitely more complicated. How, then, would most of us know if we happen to be lucky enough to work on an extraordinary team?

“It’s complicated” Is True

When I was a kid, one of my family chores was washing the dishes in the evening several times a week.  I grew up in a farming community back in the 80s, when almost nobody had a fancy electric appliance called a “dishwasher.” There were 6 of us in my family, so dishwashing was no small task, either.
My mom and dad each gave me advice about how to get dishes as clean as possible. Mom said to use plenty of soap, and Dad said to use the hottest water I could bear to stick my hands in. I ended up with seriously chapped hands most of the time. My friend Tom pointed out something to me about my dad’s advice…

Accountability: Plan Implementation – Mistake #5 of 5

Years ago, I was managing the paperwork to close a high 6-figure deal, and all I needed was for the people who worked several levels above me to sign it. The project had been in the hopper for years and finishing it was deemed a priority by the organization. I had crossed all of the “t”s and dotted all of the “i”s, checked and re-checked the numbers and made certain that all of the players were truly committed and on board. Yet when push came to shove, my supervisor’s supervisors refused to move forward on the needed documentation.

No Support for Task and Status Managers: Plan Implementation – Mistake #4 of 5

I used to work for a supervisor whose favorite pastime was assigning seemingly impossible projects to me. He would stride into my office, drop a thick file folder on my desk, and say, “Well, Kay, you’re not going to like this one bit, but there’s something I need you to take on. Read through this and figure it out. The deadlines are in there. Good luck.” Which I soon learned was his code for, “This is a project that nobody else will touch because everybody is arguing about how our systems aren’t designed to handle this. And nobody is going to give you help or access to anything, either.”

Not Using Reporting Tools: Plan Implementation – Mistake #3 of 5

In this series of five articles, I’ll be highlighting the most common problems getting in the way of team progress on plans. By looking at these one at a time (which is a great strategy to help teams overcome roadblocks: one at a time!), you’ll have the chance to consider how you can implement these fixes at work and with your volunteer teams. This week: Mistake #3 of 5, Not Using Reporting Tools

Lacking Team Progress Reports: Plan Implementation – Mistake #2 of 5

Many (if not most) teams struggle to implement plans at one time or another. I’ve identified five key mistakes that keep plans from progressing – and ways you can fix these mistakes at work and with volunteer teams. The five mistakes are: 1. Fuzzy plans; 2. Lack of reporting team progress; 3. Not using tools; 4. No support for task managers; and 5. No accountability. In this series of articles, I’ll be highlighting one of these problems each week. This week, learn how to overcome mistake #2, when your team is lacking up-to-date progress reports.

Fuzzy Plans: Plan Implementation – Mistake #1 of 5

Struggling to implement plans is one key roadblock most teams have in common. I’ve worked with countless teams over the years to overcome planning issues. I’ve noticed they all seem to get caught up in the same kinds of energy-sapping, time-draining mistakes. Even when their plans progress, they pay a high price in terms of lost productivity, team morale, and often, lost business. You or someone on your team is likely suffering the consequences of at least one of the five common mistakes I’ve identified. Fortunately, in this series of articles, you can learn how to identify them, too – and fix them, so you can recover team trust, time and other scarce resources. The five mistakes are…

Critical skill: interpreting body language

This special blog post is a Q&A I did with Alison Henderson, nonverbal communication expert and CEO of Moving Image Consulting. We are in the midst of a profound cultural shift in our experiences with and reactions to communications. Alison shared with me some of her insight into how to better understand the nonverbal cues we may see. She is passionate about helping individuals become more self-aware of nonverbal language and behavior and helping teams talk about important changes we may need to make to enhance our work experience and team performance.

Confession: I learned the hard way about perspective

I have a confession to make: for more than the first half of my life, I saw yes or no as the only choices in life. I couldn’t see the value of other opinions because I was so busy trying to sort everything into only two piles – right or wrong. My attitude blinded me to the interesting and worthwhile facets of any given opinion, project or event. Then I became the victim of that kind of thinking. In a situation full of nuances, I was accused of being on the side of wrongdoing, injustice and unfair dealings.

What teams should be reading in 2018

Essential self-help books must do more than inspire. The best ones also offer practical skills that anyone can learn and train themselves to master.  I refuse to settle for anything less. Especially when the stakes are as high as team dynamics, success, interpersonal skills and relationships. The following books are ones I recommend consistently to clients and friends.

You have the power to promote family peace this holiday season

When I was 8 years old, my family’s Christmas was turned on its head when we all came down with the flu. There were 6 of us, and the flu hit us methodically, one after the other. I don’t recall eating any big holiday meals that year – I don’t think anyone was eating much at all. But, looking back across the decades, what I recall most strongly is the absence of fighting that year!

Kay Coughlin, CEO, Facilitator on Fire, is passionate about helping teams turn roadblocks into ACTION and transforming teamwork into TEAMS THAT WORK BETTER.