Permalink to Getting Everyone to Speak Up is Important

Getting Everyone to Speak Up is Important

Just because someone on your team is silent doesn’t mean they are weak. The person may not be speaking up for a variety of reasons. The key for a manager is to know how to stop the more outgoing team members from overwhelming the others. Why do this? To make sure the team taps into the wisdom of all, and everyone listens to each other. As a result, decisions are stronger and more sustainable.

The wisdom of all team members

When everyone speaks up, you are more likely to hear the basis for potential disagreements, bad news or something you haven’t heard before. The team will have more information on which to base decisions.

All team members should understand the value of hearing everyone’s point of view, and why it matters. Tell them you are going to try several different techniques to make sure that happens.

How to get everyone’s point of view

  1. Ask the stronger team members to allow time in meetings for the others to speak up. One of our favourite rules is that everyone gets to speak once on their point of view. You can’t speak again until everyone has had his/her say.
  2. Speak to the quieter team members, encourage them to speak up, and tell them their contribution matters. And then compliment them after they do so. Thank them and let them know the value of their contribution. Tell them you value their honesty.
  3. For a really critical discussion, do a ‘post-it’ exercise. What’s this? Ask everyone to spend five minutes writing assumptions about the issue on a post-it pad. One assumption per post-it note. Have them write as many as they can in the five minutes, put the post-it notes on the wall clustered in themes, then discuss the themes. Now the more silent team members are not fighting for air time. This technique also works well to get around the ‘ranking’ problem when more junior people won’t speak up in front of senior people.

There are always going to be differences in how people contribute on a team. Some naturally speak up; others tend to be quiet. The key is to make sure that everyone is heard, and the team benefits from the knowledge and wisdom of all.

With our Intentional Teams Framework, one of the values we emphasize is listening. This creates a culture of trust and acceptance. Learn more about Intentional teams, our methodology and see if it is a fit for you.

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Permalink to 5 Tips to Improve the Mood of Your Team

5 Tips to Improve the Mood of Your Team

Is your team in a bad mood?

Do you ever find yourself in a team meeting and everyone seems to be critical or cranky or the opposite of creative? When no matter what you do, someone is unhappy or tuned out? When you dream of calling the meeting police and have someone booked for obstruction?

It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are ways to get prompt changes to the dark cloud over your team meeting.

Five Quick Fixes for Immediate Improvement

  1. Call for a break… If everyone’s been sitting for too long, you all may need to call for a break and deliberately move around, maybe even outside. Change it up. Maybe you need to get a piece of fruit or drink some juice or go for a walk. Change your kinetic energy. Ask everyone to do that and meet back inside in 20 minutes ready to tackle one more issue.
  2. Call for a process check… Are you pushing for a decision when proper notice wasn’t given or the right people haven’t been consulted? Was the item on the agenda only supposed to be brought forward for discussion? Good process, good decisions, bad process, bad decisions. Remind people or question them about what the process is and what it should be.
  3. Call out the elephant… Is there one thing that the team has been tiptoeing around that is holding you back? Is there a problem with someone in the room? Do you actually have the time/energy/budget for the issue at hand? Is the problem you are trying to solve something that customers don’t care about? Name the issue and see the relief as everyone stops wasting energy on avoiding the elephant.
  4. Call on the team to do something different… When you are blocked on an issue, especially if it’s at the end of the day, sometimes it’s good to put it off until you’ve slept on it, particularly if you are meeting again the next day. Sometimes, sleeping on an issue gives new perspectives. Also, ask the team what issue, if solved, would most clear the path for solving other issues. When we are stressed, solving or getting some progress on the most stressful issue can be really helpful.
  5. Call on the team to create success by picking low-hanging fruit… If your team is trying to pick an issue to solve, look at the easy ones first. It may be that an early experience of success will give your team the energy to solve a more difficult issue next.


Improving your team performance doesn’t have to be a complex project. For more on these and other team routines that create success and clear the “bad mood” of your team, learn about Intentional Teams, our signature methodology that has helped many organizations improve their team performance.

Each month, in our newsletter we provide actionable tips you can try at your next team meeting. Join today and start the journey to  increase your team’s performance. Click here:


Permalink to Biting Your Way to Greatness – Does It Work?

Biting Your Way to Greatness – Does It Work?

Like millions of others, I watched Louis Suarez bite Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini during a 2014 World Cup match. I, for one, was convinced he did try to take a chunk out of Chiellini’s shoulder and that he should have been disciplined for doing so. The purpose and rules of football clearly state that you and your team should try to annihilate the opposing team, using a ball, not your incisors.

This got me thinking… Is it ever appropriate that a member of a team resorts to ‘rogue’ behaviour, even if the team benefits from that behaviour? All teams have members who sit somewhere on the spectrum of Ultimate Team Player to Lone Wolf. All teams have members whose behaviour at times make us wince. What defines unacceptable behaviour? What if that behaviour enables the team?

Teams need clear rules

It comes down to the rules of the game. Some teams (anti-terrorist SWAT units, for example) are required to to act with a high degree of autonomy in a fluid and quickly changing situation. Even here, though, members of the unit, while highly trained and intelligent, have to keep the aim of the mission and the the overall rules of engagement in mind as they operate. While members are chosen for traits such as self-reliance and independence, they are expected to abide by Standard Operating Procedures. Checks and balances exist to encourage sufficient independent decision making within a clear framework that is constantly reinforced through rigorous training.

In business, biting is bad. And yet, in some teams (think sales, for example) it seems inevitable at times. The inducement of individual compensation for individual effort is often the standard and this drives individual behaviour accordingly. Is this actually a team, where cooperation is rewarded? If so, the team leader has to create the conditions where team members can balance individual performance with team based initiatives (cross-selling of services, team ‘ownership’ of the client relationship, for example). Once again, the rules of the game have to be clear and reinforced.

FIFA made a call on Suarez’s fate – he missed the next nine games. FIFA was quoted as saying: “Such behaviour cannot be tolerated on any football pitch, and in particular not at the World Cup, where the eyes of millions of people are on the stars in the field.” 

This begs the question: If the eyes of millions were not on the game, would Suarez’s action have been any more acceptable? The credibility of football and teamwork were on the line. If biting is acceptable, then any player may be the next one bitten.

Is there “biting” on your team? Take a stand. Deal with it.

If you lead a team or are on a team where there is “biting” behaviour and you’d like some guidance on how to deal with it, please contact us via phone or email. We’ve got experience with this type of team dynamic and can work with you to get the situation resolved.


Permalink to Heaven Or Hell? The Open Plan Office

Heaven Or Hell? The Open Plan Office

Open Plan Office

How an open plan office can help make teams more effective.

The open plan office can be a source of great frustration. Although some people seem to love working in this kind of office setup – it favours the gregarious and highly social. Others, find this environment noisy and distracting and hard to concentrate. But it can be really useful in putting teams together.

The problem

One of our clients took a novel approach to getting two parts of the finance group to work better together. Our client, Alex, was aware that his two finance teams, planning and analysis and financial reporting, were not working as well together as they could. His two direct reports, Jorge and Romana were polite but distant and their teams took their cues from them. Alex wanted them to really understand each other more and collaborate.

Jorge, manager of financial reporting, was conscientious and careful, ensuring that his team’s data was accurate and timely and reflected fairly the financial picture of the organization. He was passionate about ensuring the organization’s assets were well looked after.

Romana, manager of financial analysis, understood the need for accurate data but where Jorge’s role ended, hers began. To her, it felt like a constant battle to get the data soon enough to be able to do useful and timely analysis for the executives so that they could run the business better. She saw Jorge as unnecessarily rigid and jealous of his territory and while she understood his point about accuracy, she didn’t understand why he was so difficult.

Closed Doors

Both managers tended to work with their doors closed and only talked to each other when absolutely necessary. Their teams communicated but Alex was convinced that they actually felt guilty about it and tried not to do it in front of the managers.

We suggested that he try an experiment to force the issue.  Alex set up a meeting with his two managers to lay out the issues as he saw it. First he asked them to listen without interrupting. He described what he had been seeing in their behaviour. He talked about the negative impact it was having on their staff, on him, on the work and even on the senior executive team. Then he shared his solution, admitting that it was unorthodox but letting them know that he wanted them to give it a chance. He was going to mix up the two teams and the managers and have them all sit out in the bullpen. The two managers were going to vacate their offices and sit in the open space with their teams. He was going to have the two offices reorganized as small meeting spaces so that if private conversations had to happen, they could.

Then he told them what he wanted to see. He wanted to see one finance team that was open, friendly and collaborative. He wanted Jorge and Romana and their teams to work together respectfully and have each other’s back. And to cement this, there would be a joint team meeting, facilitated by alternating managers (Jorge one week and Romana the next) to discuss the work and take suggestions from the team on how things could work better. Alex suggested that they would try it for three months, after which they would take stock and decide what to do next.

Open Plan

Then he asked them what they would each need to make the two teams work as one. To Alex’s surprise, both Jorge and Romana admitted that they had been stuck in a rut with each other. Jorge asked for more respect for his processes and his passion for accuracy. Romana agreed but asked him if he would be open looking for shortcuts in his quarter end close that would allow her team to begin the analysis earlier. Both agreed.  Romana asked him if he would like to co-present some of the analysis with her the next time.

At the end of the three months the full teams met to discuss the pros and cons of the arrangement.


  1. The teams said that they had found it easier to communicate when Romana and Jorge were willing to work together
  2. As the trust between Romana and Jorge went up, the team members were able to relax and have more fun
  3. They learned more about each other’s roles and responsibilities and the Monday morning meetings had led to some improvements in how both teams did their work
  4. The fact that Romana and Jorge had taken turns leading their Monday morning meetings meant that everyone felt able to make suggestions about any part of the work… they were more creative as well
  5. When a crisis arose, they worked together to solve it and the solutions came faster.
  6. As the trust between Jorge and Romana went up, the trust in them from the senior executives rose as well. Alex’s boss complimented him on how he had gotten them to work better together.


  1. It was much more noisy with all the people working on the phones around each other.
  2. They were more open to distraction as people tended to get involved in conversations out in the open and others joined in but they agreed in one of their Monday meetings, that such conversations should take place in the small offices.

The dynamics of the team were more effective as they began to understand each other. Romana and Jorge elected to go back to their offices at the end of the three months but they kept the regular Monday morning joint team meetings and they instituted a regular Monday lunch, just the two of them.  Alex’s boss told him he was a star for solving what had become a sticky issue.

We can help. The work we do with leaders and teams helps them clarify what effective communication looks like and how to use it to help your company. While you’re here, why not take a few minutes and do a team assessment to find out what may help your team win. Contact us today for this and other team-related questions.



Permalink to The Power Of Teamwork – Jimmy Rollins

The Power Of Teamwork – Jimmy Rollins

Jimmy Rollins, a professional baseball player (shortstop) for the Philadelphia Phillies talks in this video about why teamwork is so powerful and why it matters. He’s been working tirelessly to improve his baseball club’s performance through teamwork.

Permalink to How to improve your team’s performance by 40%

How to improve your team’s performance by 40%

Intentional Teams™ Deliver an Additional 40% of Efficiency

How to improve team performance by 40%

We started out by asking:

  • If you had a piece of equipment that was only working at 60% capacity, wouldn’t you fix it?
  • And, if you had a team that was full of excellent people but together they only worked at 60% effectiveness, wouldn’t you do something to improve it?

And many people could relate to that. They could see how having a team work at only 60% capacity would be frustrating and an erosion of high potential.

Then one of our clients said to us, “My board doesn’t understand what a team working at higher than 60% capacity actually looks like. They don’t feel the advantage in their gut. Help me persuade them.”

And so, began the journey to describe in clear, everyday language, the 40% difference that comes from implementing Intentional Teams™.

The 7 characteristics of  an intentional team:

  1. More rewarding: Our research shows when a team is intentionally focused and consciously and deliberately managing its culture, its members have a work experience they wish to duplicate wherever they go.
  2. Lower turnover: In a team that is intentional, its members don’t wish to leave. Individuals experience personal satisfaction and group cohesion.
  3. Higher engagement: Intentional teams are full of people who are more highly engaged, involved, satisfied employees, working on important work and passionate about the team’s success.
  4. A shared understanding: One of the features of an intentional team working at high capacity is that they have a shared understanding of the focus of its work together and the key priorities that the team must achieve.
  5. Self-correcting: Even an intentional team can get slightly off the rails with distractions or conflicts. However its members know how to name the issue or distraction and have an agreed process for dealing with it.
  6. Have each other’s back: In an intentional team, its members look out for each other and if one has an issue, they all tackle the issue if necessary to help solve problems and to support each other.
  7. Pulling in the same direction: The team members have the same understanding of the key results they need to achieve and they are getting there with a minimum of fuss.

Intentional Teams are great places to work and can make the difference between success and failure in critical work. One of our client teams was full of individual high performers but together they were not impressive. They were each pulling in different directions, lacked trust and had a culture of blame when errors were made. When two team members each assumed the other was informing a key stakeholder, the ball was dropped and the key stakeholder was handed an unfortunate surprise with no warning. The stakeholder was fuming and the team realized they had to pull up their socks. We worked with the team and now this team is humming along in high gear. The stakeholder attended a progress review meeting facilitated by the team’s leader and at the end of it, agreed that the team had robust action plans in place to monitor their communications. “I feel I can trust that I’ll hear the honest news now, on a timely basis, and that they will come to me with a plan to deal with it.”

Do you have a team that is working at less than optimal capacity? To take our free assessment, click here.

If you’re not sure, let’s talk. Contact us here to find out more about how to create great teams, working at full capacity. We’re happy to help.

Permalink to Conflict or Combat?

Conflict or Combat?

Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional –Max Lucade


Conflict or Combat

The project team was hopelessly entangled.  They were passionate about their work and were fully engaged in achieving their goals but whenever they got together they would spend a lot of time arguing and dismissing each others’ points of view. They appeared to be suspicious of each others’ motives and unable to achieve even easy decisions. They had gone from being at a stage of manageable conflict to being on the verge of combat.

I was called in to work with this team. First I observed a couple of their meetings. Here is what I saw:

  • They didn’t let each other get a word in edgewise;
  • There was one person with a louder voice who overrode even the smallest disagreement;
  • There was an equally strong person who stood up to the first person but who was no more effective than the loud voiced person;
  • There were two or three people who essentially gave up and acted quite passively;
  • As their passions rose, the listening went way down;
  • As the listening went down, the commitment to solutions dissipated;

The next thing I did was to convene a meeting with the team to talk about how they conduct their business. I shared the top tips for making team discussion and disagreement work for them. Here they are:

  • Proceed on the assumption of goodwill – remind yourselves that you are good people trying to do a good job – make sure that you keep that in mind.
  • Surface assumptions about the issue at hand – the more contention there is, the more you need to get beneath it understand each others’ assumptions – call a “Stickie” – give each person a pad of stickies and have each person generate assumptions, one assumption per stickie. Set a time limit of 5 or 10 minutes and see how many assumptions can be generated in the time period. Then put them all up on the wall, and cluster them in themes. Discuss the themes and the contradictions. Your team will be very surprised to see all the different assumptions. Many times this technique leads to breaking up logjams or diffusing conflict.
  • Don’t interrupt each other – if necessary, suggest the use of the talking stick (see next point). Agree ahead of time that any one person on the team can ask for the talking stick and everyone will cooperate.
  • When you can’t get in a word edgewise, use a talking stick – the trick is to make sure that no one person hogs the airtime – pass around a stick or a ball or a baton or some object that you will recognize and make sure that everyone airs their opinions before any one person gets a second turn.
  • Ask questions in the spirit of inquiry rather than the spirit of combat – when you truly ask for more information and delve into how another person thinks, you can often be surprised. And when you get more information, the team’s thinking and resources for decision-making are strengthened.
  • Give meeting effectiveness feedback at the end of the meeting – go around the table and have everyone say what they appreciated and what could go better next time.

This team worked very hard to get into healthy team habits.  The first meeting we had, we had nothing more on the agenda than talking about how they could improve how they worked together. I shared the healthy team tips with them and they created some ground rules for themselves. They agreed that any member of the team could make a call for Stickies or for the Talking Stick and if any one other team member agreed, they would use this technique.

The next meeting, they began with the use of the talking stick to get some order to their discussions. It was fun and kind of amusing to see the loud-voiced person biting their tongue. But with some offline coaching of this person, he was helped to see that the real benefit of not hogging the airtime was that now everyone actually listened to him and heard his point of view.

The next meeting they tackled the use of Stickies and found a really helpful technique. They diligently practiced these techniques over about three months and very rarely now do they slide back into combat.

What is your team like? Do they practice healthy team habits? How does your team resolve conflicts? What are you facing right now? We’d love to hear from you. Give us your comments below.

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