10 Ways To Develop Your Ability To Read The Energy In A Room

Do you focus much, as a manager, on the energy of your organization and team? Reading energy is an acquired and intuitive skill. When you are adept at reading energy you have an advantage. Here are some ways to develop your skill for reading the energy of your team and others.

  1. Observe, observe and observe again
  2. Trust your intuitive feelings
  3. Ask questions that bring out how people feel or think
  4. Watch body language and learn how to interpret it
  5. Stay fully present in the moment and aware of what is happening
  6. Listen carefully to the words people use
  7. Do not preconceive a person’s motives; let their actions inform you
  8. If tension rises and is obvious, call it
  9. Assess the engagement or disengagement of people
  10. Stay neutral to what is happening in the room, so that you can read it


photo: Idea go, FreeDigitalPhotos.net


70% Of American Workers Are Not Engaged In Their Work – What Managers Can Do To Change This

Gallup’s 2013 State of The American Workplace report is out and states that only 30% of workers are engaged in their work. Gallup estimates that active disengagement costs the U.S. $450 billion to $550 billion per year. Some other findings in the report:

• The generations at the beginning and approaching the end of their careers tend to be more engaged than those in the middle of their careers

• Millennials are most likely of all generations to say they will leave their jobs in the next 12 months, if the job market improves.

• Women have slightly higher overall engagement than men.

• Employees with a college degree are not as likely as those with less education to report having a positive, engaging workplace experience.

So how are managers to deal with this? Gallup says it has found that managers who focus on their employees’ strengths can practically eliminate active disengagement and double the average of U.S. workers who are engaged nationwide. That’s a lot of pressure to put on managers, but focusing on employee strengths is a start.

This finding is so compelling that it is worthwhile to take a look at your team’s level of engagement in their work. Could increasing their engagement significantly increase productivity?

Here are a few ways to assess your team’s level of engagement:

• In a team meeting tell them about the findings of the report and create an open space for their thoughts about it.

• Ask them what your organization can do to increase their engagement and what the biggest obstacles are to their engagement. Let them discuss in third person so that their individual experiences are not focused on, unless they want them to be.

• Create your own assessment tool through a survey or other means

• Build engagement into performance measures in a positive manner, having the organization share in accountability for employee engagement.

• Keep employee engagement on your radar and actively support it.


photo: David Castillo Dominici, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How Are Your Peer Relationships?

Fast Company Magazine had an article this week How Would You Feel If Your Co-Workers Decided Your Bonus? The article profiles Bonus.ly, an online peer recognition system. My first thought was that a peer recognition system could help build team collaboration. Then my mind ran away with questions. What about peers with agendas? How would you ensure awards were merited? Isn’t it a good thing to get away from hierarchy and be more egalitarian? Would culture changes have to precede such a system?

Where this ultimately led me, was to examine the nature of peer relationships and what their role is in our work. How are your peer relationships? Are these relationships something you work on? How do they matter to you? Are you dependent on peers for your own success? How much do peer relationships really matter? How is your team doing with their peer relationships?

Let me know your thoughts on peer relationships.


Photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Team Outliers

Teams need diversity to innovate, excel and succeed. Inherent in diversity are differences. As a manager, how do you handle differences and incompatibilities among team members and maintain diversity?

Diversity has many forms – among them personalities, culture, work styles. Differences do not lead inevitably to disagreement, but do need to be acknowledged and observed. Some teams have people who are outliers. They stand apart in skills, by choice, or otherwise and the distance can be significant.

Managing a team with one or more outliers calls first for assessing the value and origin of the outliers’ distance. Do their differences contribute or detract from the team? If they detract, challenges lie ahead for you – to minimize the detraction if the team member is worth keeping on. If the differences contribute, a good challenge lies ahead – to manage your team by honoring each individual and creating an environment for each team member to do the same. Malcolm Forbes offered this positive definition of diversity: Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.

Team outliers can make the difference between excellence and the commonplace. Inherent in diversity is difference, which makes it so valuable. Value your outliers. If you do not have one, bring some in and manage them well.

Photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

10 Tips For Meetings That Fuel Your Team

1. Take the time to thoroughly prepare and organize any meeting.

2. Get input on the agenda from participants prior to the meeting. Ask for suggestions on efficiencies.

3. Limit meetings to no more than 90 minutes. If more time is needed, schedule a series of meetings.

4. Start on time and state the goal and desired results for the meeting, as you start.

5. Begin the meeting with a 30 second “check in” from each participant to gauge the energy of  participants.

6. Follow the timeline on the agenda. If more time is needed on an agenda item, readjust the timeline or table for later discussion.

7. Rotate the “facilitation” of meetings by having one participant track the timing on the agenda.

8. Halfway through the meeting, ask participants for a 30 second statement on how the meeting is going and to constructively and briefly suggest efficiencies. Adjust accordingly.

9. Ten minutes before the scheduled close of the meeting, wrap up and identify action items resulting from the meeting.

10. Send a follow up e mail to all participants after the meeting and thank them.


Photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Collaborating Without Sacrificing

Within collaborations there are important nuances to be aware of. One of them is to find the line between collaboration and devaluing yourself. While collaboration is increasingly the way we work, it is equally important to honor your own individuality and values. Collaboration does not mean sacrificing yourself for a team or group. It means finding the way that a team of individuals can work together harmoniously and productively.

Here are some signs that can indicate that you may have crossed the line between collaborating and sacrificing.

• Another person(s) is dominating the conversation and your voice is stifled

• You find yourself in emotionally charged conversations with team members where you focus on what you want them to do differently, rather than focusing on what you need from the collaboration

• The project is proceeding in a way that is not going to achieve its goal and the team is not working to improve the situation. You are worried about delivering and how this might affect your reputation

• You find your stress level rising about working with the team and you have not defined clear boundaries for your work with them

• You are not honoring your values

Can you identify other signs?

You gain nothing, and often lose, by sacrificing yourself. Don’t do it. Each member of a team matters. That is the challenge of collaboration: to find a way to work together that honors the individuality and contributions of all team members, including you.

Managing Your Team Through Turbulence

Inevitably, teams go through times of turbulence – unsteady movement, conflict or confusion. What is the best way to manage through turbulence?

The starting point is to acknowledge that the energy of your team has changed and you are managing in an unusual environment. Then, you can shift your focus to managing in that environment. When I was working for a federal agency, I was managing team turbulence as a new Presidential administration came in with a very different policy focus from the previous administration. At that time, considering we were a policy team, team members were understandably concerned for their jobs and uncertain what was to come. There were early signs from the new administration that our division could be eliminated.

As I focused on managing the team through this time, I openly acknowledged to them the uncertainty we were in and validated their feelings and concerns. We had a lot of pressure on us in our programs, so I had to find a way we could keep going and get our work done. Some team members were looking for transfers within the government or new positions. I met with the team and told them we had to strike a balance. I asked them to commit to spending the major part of the day on our programs. I told them I would be flexible if they had to spend some work time addressing their future. We charted our path forward together. I also emphasized the need for open communication. I would keep them informed of developments within the agency and asked them to let me know if they were seriously considering another position. I said that uncertainty was just that – uncertain. I did not want us reacting to something that would not materialize. We made it through. One team member did leave. Although the nature of our work changed to conform to the new administration’s policies, there were no layoffs.

When managing team turbulence, keep in mind the importance of acknowledging change, being flexible, setting a focus for the team and maintaining close communication. With this approach, you have good prospects for keeping the team functioning and achieving the best results for all of you.


Photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So, You Think You Can Control Your Team? Think Again.

Control: Determine the behavior of; to exercise authoritative or dominating influence over; to hold in restraint;

Old models of authority are gradually giving way to new models of individuality, freedom, interdependence, cooperation and respect. We are not there yet, but it is time for managers and organizations to start creating new models of interaction for their teams.

Many younger workers are already demonstrating these new models in start-up companies, as entrepreneurs or as team members. Sometimes younger workers, and older ones as well, come up against old models and many misconceptions result – “they have no work ethic”, “they do not care”. In many cases, this is not true. They are honoring their values and rejecting control. Sometimes, however, workers are taking advantage and not doing their part – that is not a new model, it is irresponsible and has no place in your workplace.

What benefits await you as you create new models? Team members will be running on their own steam. You will receive full benefit of their skills, talents and enthusiasm. They will have a voice in the team and a level of independence that allows them to work freely and creatively (not under restraint). Values of cooperation and respect will lead to individual accountability that gets the work done.

How can you get started? Initiate a dialogue with your team members about what conditions will enhance their productivity and satisfaction. Assess your organization’s willingness to accept new models. Gradual change is fine. Spend some creative time on your own, looking back on your management experience to what conditions created the best results, as well as those that didn’t. Think about how you like to work and if that would be good for your team. Most importantly, let go of your confidence in old models of control. They are dying and change is on the horizon.

Photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Getting Started On A Project

There are many checklists for getting a project started – goals, time, measures, resources, task definition are on many of them. What do these checklists miss in assuring a successful project start?

Here are some things to reflect on as you initiate a project.

Open Space and Blue Sky

In your plan, have you made provision for open space that will foster creativity and innovation? You can do this by building in open space opportunities for the team to consider the project and what may be possible.

Handling The Unexpected

Many good project management plans build contingencies into their timelines and budgets. Do you have a process for handling disruptions and unforeseen events? You can create a process by which you and your team can identify and respond to the unexpected in an effective way.


Have you considered means to keep your project in balance for its duration? Think of a wheel – you align it so that it does not wobble. Balance is dynamic as opposed to static. You can address balance by setting, at the start of the project, the elements of balance (for example, not burning out, communication, problem solving) that you want to maintain and creating a way of periodically checking in on the project’s level of balance.

Problem and Weakness Ascension

Many team members are reluctant to identify problems and weaknesses until they reach the point where they are showing up on project timelines or budgets. At the start of a project, team members should know that early identification of problems and weaknesses is encouraged and contributes to success. You can do this by creating a “judgment-free” process for raising problems and weaknesses, as soon as they are identified.

Space for The Unknown

Beyond handling the unexpected, it is good to have a healthy respect for the unknown. You cannot anticipate all that will happen during a project. You can address the unknown by acknowledging its presence at the start. In doing this, team members will not feel pressure to stay on a planned course, even when circumstances have changed. By making space for the unknown, accommodation can be made to reset the course, when needed, in a timely and efficient way.

In future posts, I will go further in each of these areas. I’d enjoy hearing from readers if you are addressing any of these project elements and what you are finding about their usefulness.


Photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

10 Ways To Minimize The Negative Impacts of Office Politics

Office politics is part of managing. It will not go away. However, you do not want your team derailed by office politics.  Here are some ways to minimize the negative impacts that office politics can have on your team.

  1. Observe and be aware of the interpersonal dynamics of your team. Watch for those who are playing politics.
  2. When you witness office politics, name it, both generally and specifically, by making it clear that office politics is not productive and is a distraction from your team’s mission.
  3. Watch any behaviors where you inadvertently may be promoting office politics such as, favoritism, overlooking divisive behaviors, talking unprofessionally about co-workers outside of your team or leading people to think that politics, not performance, will get them ahead. Be an example for your team.
  4.  Cultivate emotional intelligence in your team, so that they can deal effectively with personality and other differences.
  5. Build relationships within and outside your team. These relationships will give you a foundation for when you have to deal with negative impacts of office politics.
  6. Be available and approachable to your team, so they are comfortable bringing problems to you.
  7. Create incentives for fostering teamwork.
  8. Be trustworthy. Gain the trust of your team and those around you.
  9. Keep it professional-do not take sides or take things personally.
  10. Seek influence in your organization, not power over others.

Photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net