Use this quick reference guide to determine whether you, or your teammates, need to hold that meeting. For more details click on the full HBR article here.
Take a quick 2 minutes to learn why Monti is asking you the same questions each week right now.
Mondays – set your mindset to your highest priority items and prompt you to think about who you can delegate or collaborate with to achieve those.
Wednesdays – prompt you to learn something new or remind you of something to practices this week…or a deeper, more thought provoking question that might provide you insights.
Fridays – prompts your mindset towards appreciation and asset based thinking. The follow up question prompts you towards continuously improvement. When you focus on what went right, what can you do differently to make more great things happen next week.
If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask… for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes. Albert Einstein
Asking quality questions takes practice.
It is a learned skill that takes effort. To get really good at it requires intellectual humility and curiosity.
Warren Berger’s book, A Book of Beautiful Questions is a handbook of quality, open-ended questions. Berger states, “I am suggesting that we must figure out our own solutions and answers to the complex, individualized challenges we face, in work and in our personal lives. And that we have at our disposal a natural tool to help us think and “hack” our way to more successful outcomes. That tool is the humble question.” He goes on to say that, that the best leaders are those with the confidence and humility to ask the ambitious, unexpected questions that no one else is asking.
In your quest for better leadership try this set of questions to start your week. Berger labels these as “all purpose” questions.
- How can I see this with fresh eyes?
- What might I be assuming?
- Am I rushing to judgment?
- What am I missing?
Or how about these for overcoming confirmation bias…
- Why do I believe what I believe?
- What am I inclined to believe about this situation?
- What if the opposite were true?
- What did I once believe that is no longer true?
Try this Path to Problem Solving this week
It can be confusing. One minute you need to smooth over an upset team member. The next, you need to hit a deadline on a report that is due. You need to jump on a conference call and send out an email to that customer that wants a quick response. You get to Friday and it feels like nothing truly important got done. A month can go by you’re still battling the same issues you did last quarter. What are you supposed to focus on? Is it what the customer wants? Or is it what you promised your team member you would get done? Maybe the most important task is getting that report that was due last week finished and sent out?
It’s easy to say you need to focus on the intersection between what truly matters and that which you can control. It is much harder to pinpoint exactly what those things are and most importantly, to execute them.
Begin with the end in mind by filling in the blanks because it’s important to create clarity before trying to solve any problem you are facing:
- If we get to the end of the year and ________________ is not complete the consequences will be significant to our team or organization.
- If we don’t ____________________________, we will not complete that thing that has such high consequences.
- What we need to do is ___________________________, to make certain we complete that thing.
Try this if you are stuck.
- Am I or are we focusing on things that are not within our control right now and therefore wasting time and energy that could be better spent elsewhere? Do we know what right will look like December 31, 2018?
- What is within our control right now, that we can change, fix, or complete? Do those tasks or issues work towards our goal of what right looks like?
- Is there anything that can be removed from our task list so that we can fully focus on tackling the things that matter most to achieving what right looks like on December 31, 2018?
If all else fails, do this.
- Stop. Really. Just stop. You could be operating from a place of anxiety which will not result in the best outcomes or your highest-level thinking. Take a day to observe what is really happening in yours or others work flow. You could be dealing with a systems issue. If you have time to redo things constantly and fix things that are messed up or done improperly you have time to observe and plan for better outcomes.
- Get a thinking pair. Find someone who will ask you great questions and be curious about what you are doing, how you are doing things, and why you are doing certain things at all. Curiosity is key here. Your thinking pair is not an “expert” but rather a specialist in asking great questions that bring out our highest-level thinking. The answers are there, you may not be seeing them from the perspective you are at.
- Unplug and relax. Sometimes we’ve worn ourselves out trying to solve the same problems over and over again. Our brain needs a break. Take a drive. Go for a walk or run. Turn off your phone, don’t check your email for a few hours, take some nice deep breaths and allow your brain to do its best job possible to solve some of your toughest problems.
Finally, it’s important to remember that competence breeds confidence. You got this!
We have this quick team building activity that we sometimes do at Cortex workshops that clearly is horrifying for some participants. No, I’m not kidding. The look on a woman’s face, after explaining what they were going to need to do for the next 5 minutes caused what looked like her to fall ill. Her eyes popped wide open and she looked around to the person next to her as if to find out if they were as scared as she was.
The activity was simple. Find a person to ask the following questions to: What do you want to give in today’s workshop? What do you want to get from today’s workshop?
The challenge, from the horrified woman’s point of view was that she would have to eventually talk to someone she might not know that well, or perhaps she doesn’t like that much, because she was being asked to do the exercise 3 times in a row.
Certain people love team building because it invites people to get to know each other better. Some people hate it. Others kind of hold their breath and jump in hoping it won’t be as mortifying as what they are thinking in their heads. The good news is that after every team building exercise we do, even those hardened souls that begin wanting no part of it, express afterward that they actually found value in what they participated in.
Not all team building is alike. Some types are quick and simple, like the one I just mentioned, and others are more complicated and time-consuming… think weekend retreat at a ropes course. What is team building, anyway, and why does it lead to better outcomes at work?
Team building can be defined as a collective term for various types of activities that are used to enhance social relations and define roles within teams, often involving collaborative tasks.
Team building exercises can be categorized into four different types:
- Problem Solving/Decision Making
- Building Trust
Depending on what you need to accomplish with a team, whether it is a new team or an existing one, and if there are past experiences between team members or with their boss or others in the organization, it will determine which one you might want to focus on first. Regardless of where you start, though, as a leader and manager, it is important to consistently devote time to building your team. Why? Because strong teams that communicate and problem solve effectively are more efficient and productive. When a team does not trust you or any of it’s members, the results will affect an organization’s ability to function optimally.
Here are 4 quick team building exercises for each of the categories:
Communication and Icebreakers
Go around the room at your next team meeting and have everyone to finish this statement:
“If I had one more hour this week I would….”
The answers are interesting. It quickly let’s everyone in the group know what each team member thinks they should be doing and don’t have time for or what they want to be doing and are not making time for. Either way, it can be educational to listen to the answers you will get.
Problem Solving/Decision Making
Choose a well-known picture or cartoon with a lot of detail. Cut the picture up into as many pieces as you have team members. Give each of the team members a piece of what is now a puzzle. Do not let anyone know what the picture or cartoon is. Their objective will be to see how their work fits together with the rest of the team members work.
Ask each team member to take their piece and draw it 5x larger on a piece of paper.
The team’s goal is to work together to put the puzzle back together.
Road Map Game
The objective of this game is to get team members to work together to plan a trip in 30 minutes.
The participants need to be split into 2 groups with the same amount of players (if possible) in each group. Participants will need paper, pens, and a map of what the team may consider to be a great vacation spot. Each group needs a copy of the same map.
Instruct the teams to plan a vacation with the following parameters. Each group should be given a list of what they have for their trip. Tell them how much money they have to spend, what kind of car they will have, the size of it’s gas tank, m.p.g., the price of gas, the beginning and ending destination, and anything else you can think of.
Each group should write down their travel plans and any group that runs out of money or gas will be disqualified. You can give fun prizes to the groups that saw the most with what they had as resources, the most exhausting trip, the most relaxing, the most exciting, etc.
The objective is to get team members to trust one another’s directions and learn to communicate more effectively with each other.
You’ll need a large, open room, or parking lot or field for this one.
Set up an area that contains “mines” like balls, bowling pins, cones, etc.
Break the team up into pairs. It would be helpful to have team members that may not have built trust yet, or are having problems in this area, work together on this exercise.
Blindfold one person in each pair.
Have the sighted person give instructions to the blindfolded one to help them maneuver through the mine field.
The blindfolded participant can only ask questions during this exercise.
See if you can run all pairs through at the same time. If that is not possible, be sure that no blindfolded person can see the course before they start.
The purpose of this exercise is to build trust with team members. It is not necessary to give prizes as that may create a focus on competition between people and teams. The point of this exercise is to build trust.