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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?
I was surprised by a recent news item about Ohio’s Governor John Kasich noting he had issued an apology to the local newspaper. He had called their reporting about some state-wide information “fake news.” Thing is, this report was based on figures released by his department. When corrected numbers were issued by that same department, and reported in the newspaper, Governor Kasich called the editor to say “I’m sorry.”
This made me realize two things:
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…
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.
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.”
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
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.
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, planting us squarely in our beds for days. My poor parents had to care for us (4 children all under the age of 11 at the time) while they were both sick. Somehow, they still managed to put up a tree and wrap presents for Christmas morning.
I don’t recall eating any big holiday meals that year – sparing the details, I don’t think anyone was eating much at all – but I do remember waking up late on Christmas day. We dragged ourselves into the living room and draped our sick bodies across the furniture. Mom administered ibuprofen to the whole lot of us. Then, we looked around at each other for a while before someone, probably my then-3-year-old brother, finally crawled across the room to start weakly handing out presents.
Looking back across the decades, what I recall most strongly is the absence of fighting that year. (To be honest, my family isn’t known for bickering generally, but under pressure of the holidays, we usually manage to get in some good pot-shots at one another anyway.) On the surface, of course, we were just too sick to pester each other. But to dig a little deeper, we didn’t have the energy to indulge in our regular behavior habits and patterns, the ones that typically resulted in bickering.
While I would not recommend giving everyone a virus to make your holidays easier, I certainly believe you can at least disrupt, if not break, one or two of the patterns that lead your family to bicker. In fact, I think you deserve a more peaceful holiday. As we in the U.S. head into our Thanksgiving celebrations, and many of us celebrate additional holidays over the next few weeks, this is especially relevant.
The only power you have is the power to change your own actions and reactions. But, by disrupting a pattern, you can help your family, too. Here are a few things you can do:
Don’t gossip. Just smile and nod, or find another conversation.
Take a break. Go see a movie or take a walk or play football with the neighbors.
Stay somewhere else. If too many people are already staying at Grandma’s house, find another couch to crash on. Or pitch a tent in the backyard!
Be patient, with others and yourself. When you see a pattern that leads to bickering, don’t participate – but be patient with those who do. Habits are hard to break. Notice the little changes and victories and be proud of yourself!
Empower others. Forward the link to this article so others can learn to pay attention to and disrupt those negative family holiday behavior patterns, too!
Here’s to your efforts to promote a more peace-filled holiday season!
Help us Help YOU
What does your family struggle with during the holidays? Leave a comment below to tell us how we can help you disrupt negative habits.
Kay Coughlin, CEO, Facilitator on Fire, is passionate about helping teams turn roadblocks into ACTION and transforming teamwork into TEAMS THAT WORK BETTER.
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