What Every Team Needs – Trust.

Trust is the backbone of a healthy relationship. It is also the backbone of a successful work team. At a workshop this past week, several managers said the same thing to me—trust is the most necessary component for a team to be productive.

This idea has actually been around for fifty years. In 1965, psychologist Bruce Tuckman introduced the team development model called “Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing” which describes the stages that transform a group of strangers into a united group with commons goals.

In the forming stage, the team members and leader are getting to know one another, learning how they work, becoming aware of needs, and how to motivate. Trust is being built.

In the storming stage, trust is threatened and some conflict may arise between team members. This may lead to some innovative outcomes but also can lead to collusion, negativity and fights. Some may even choose to leave the team. This is where a leader learns to reconcile differences.

In the norming stage, the team and its leader have been through the storm and are now figuring out how to rebuild and function in a trustful environment. People start to resolve their differences, appreciate colleagues’ strengths, and respect the leader’s authority.

In the performing stage, trust has become the norm. Hard work prevails and leads to achievement of the team’s goals. Yet, it is important that the team leader and its members make an effort to continue to cultivate trust and check in to make sure it is still strong.

Here are seven ways a manager can build trust in a team.

Be consistent in your behavior. Don’t act one way with customers and another way with your team. Have one face.

Hold your commitment. Be sure that you do what you say. If you can’t or are unsure, say so. Tell your team that you are “not sure if this is going to work, but my intention is that it is going to.”

Always respond to email. Not responding to email is one of the biggest trust breakers. You can set a precedent for how long. Typically, within one business day is acceptable.

Care about the people on your team. Find out what is going on at home. Ask what they are feeling emotionally, physically, and mentally. See your employee as a whole person, not just a team member that brings results.

Be congruent with your values. If you pronounce values, e.g. a team brand statement that emphasizes integrity, be sure that you uphold that value to the nth degree. Sometimes we spout things and don’t know how to uphold them. If you don’t know how, don’t spout them.

Don’t shy away from conflict. When someone has a problem and comes to you, dig into it. Use your coaching skills to uncover the issue and brainstorm a solution. Be willing to sit on the same side of the table with them.

Get in person or on the phone. When communication is going awry and feelings are getting hurt, don’t keep sending emails. Connect with people directly. Hearing a voice can repair, save, and heal most situations.

While trust is an extremely powerful component of a successful team, it can easily be broken. Always work to make sure it is there and still strong. Otherwise, your team will never live up to its potential.

Are You Slacking On Vacation?

Beach chairs on the evening sea coast.

Every year, I do something astonishing. I go on vacation.

But not a vacation where I am checking my phone on a hike in the woods or trying to see my laptop screen under the hot sun with my toes in the sand.

I am talking about a real vacation—where I leave my computer behind and don’t check email for a week. It was challenging at first but now I realize that I am much better at my job for making this commitment to myself—if just for a week.

People around the world view and use vacation differently. In Europe, for example, time off is sacred. Most of the continent shuts down in August while residents head to beaches for one last hurrah of fun with loved ones before returning to school and work. According to Expedia’s 2014 Vacation Deprivation Study, Europeans took on average 28 days of vacation a year. Compare that to Canadians who took an average of 15. Many residents of Asian countries earned an average of 19 days off, but only took 14. Mexicans only took 12 of 15 days. Those in the U.S. only took an average of 14 days off leaving one vacation day on the table.

This is despite the study finding 80 percent of global workers associate vacationing with overall happiness “a great deal or a fair amount.” What’s more, studies show workers who take time off are more productive after their batteries are recharged.

Vacation in general is really important because it can stimulate creativity. It rests the mind. It rests the body. And, it is very good for overall health and mental capacity. It can enable you to think clearly and be more productive when you come back to work.

So, with this in mind, here are six tips to maximize your vacation.

Take as long as you possibly can in one stint. It takes two days to decompress, a couple days to really get into it, and a couple days to come out of vacation. A three day vacation is going to stunt your ability to decompress. Take as long as you can take in one go.

Go someplace that is really relaxing. Be in nature. Head to the ocean or the woods. Go someplace that has less stimulation than at home or in a city.

Turn off devices. If you are big on social media, delete apps. Turn off your email. Maybe even turn off your phone entirely. Keep your laptop at home. If you must, have a small chunk of time every few days to check email and then shut it all down again so you can keep your mind on relaxing and getting new impulses and inputs.

Take the opportunity to learn something new. This could be a new sport, or an aspect of a new culture such as cuisine. Do something that you haven’t done before to stimulate your brain in a new way—particularly something on the creative side to develop capacity in your left brain. This will strengthen your ability to be successful in what you are doing currently because it gives you a perspective on what your core competencies and strengths are by learning something new.

Sleep and eat well. Try to minimize the partying too much. Some partying, of course, is fun. But try to make sure that you are sleeping, eating and exercising well so that you are really taking care of your body while you are away. That will certainly help you come back feeling much more rested.

Do some journaling or drawing. These are two ways that can really stimulate the brain to be more present and mindful, and have more success in allowing new inputs in and quieting the mind.

If it helps, think of vacation as a requirement for doing your job well. I know time off has helped me and I feel certain it will help you.

Are Your L&D Programs Really Making a Difference?

There is a movement among US organizations today. The shift is away from traditional performance reviews and toward learning and development. In fact, last year, American companies spent $156,200,000,000 on learning programs, a staggering sum. (A 135 countries have GDPs below that amount.) These programs emphasize coaching skills and giving effective feedback so that employees can understand and pursue their own personal development, and therefore performance improvement.

Specifically, I have noticed a focus of these programs in three key areas:

Diversity. Diversity programs are being revamped and re-energized with an emphasis, particularly in Silicon Valley, on women, culture, race, and what is known as “unconscious bias.” According to a recent article on unconscious bias by COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg, “Studies show that job applicants with ‘Black sounding names’ are less likely to get callbacks than those with ‘White sounding names’ – and applicants called Jennifer are likely to be offered a lower salary than applicants called John.” This is clearly a problem. Sandberg’s company has developed a training course that helps people recognize how bias can affect them, and gives them tools to interrupt and correct for bias when they see it in the workplace.

From my own experience, I have been asked a lot to work on networking and advancement strategies for women to help them break through internal and external barriers to gain promotions. An example of this is my work with SAP which set a goal of having 25 percent women in leadership ranks by 2017. The company teamed with me to help foster a culture of gender cooperation. Our work has since helped women evolve into management positions with stronger confidence and more support. In fact, women are applying at a 25 percent higher rate than before—and almost half of the women who apply get the position. Learn more of my insights, tips, and tools to support women in their career growth and leadership goals from my book #WomenAdvance.

Management development for frontline managers. Traditionally, learning and development for frontline and new managers has been ignored. According to a 2014 survey by Harvard Business Review Analytics and Halogen Software, only 12 percent of respondents said “their organization currently invests sufficiently in the development of frontline managers.” A McKinsey study found that just 7 percent of the training budget went to frontline managers. That figure has been rock steady since 2010.

But now there is a resurgence on having world-class managers because of new recognition that managers really drive employee satisfaction and engagement. In his book, Good Boss, Bad Boss, Bob Sutton reviewed the research on the impact of a person’s immediate boss on their productivity and engagement. Here’s how he summed it up, “The upshot of these and so many other studies and stories is that bosses pack a wallop, especially on their direct reports. Bosses shape how people spend their days and whether they experience joy or despair, perform well or badly, or are healthy or sick.” In support of this observation, a Gallup Poll about engagement in the workplace found that 70 percent of the workforce has been disengaged—and the managers’ role is key for engagement and job satisfaction. People stay in their roles if they like their bosses.

The newly appreciated frontline manager programs consist of teaching soft skills such as coaching, giving feedback, time management, situational leadership, and basic leadership skills. You can learn more about management programs I offer here.

Meditation and mindfulness in the workplace. These practices are still a bit uncommon but more companies are realizing the value of them. Google, for example, has found that managers that meditate have more productive employees who were calmer, more reflective, and more innovative. They came up with more creative ideas because of these practices. A recent article on Harvard Business Review cites multiple studies that show the practice of mindfulness can actually change your brain for the better. “Mindfulness should no longer be considered a “nice-to-have” for executives. It’s a ‘must-have’: a way to keep our brains healthy, to support self-regulation and effective decision-making capabilities, and to protect ourselves from toxic stress.”

Thus, many managers are looking at mindfulness for their teams and in their own lives; and a lot of companies are holding courses in meditation and mindfulness in addition trying to promote overall health and wellness.

New attention to diversity, frontline managers, and mindfulness will only make you and your organizations stronger. I have seen it firsthand and look forward to many more opportunities to helping grow your talent and bottom lines.