Chapter 12: Team Building
Over the next week or so Scarlett continued to check in with her colleagues and employees. She wanted to continue to nurture her relationships and especially see if Melissa was going to be the right fit going forward. She had been as supportive of Melissa as she could even though she was still finding many errors in her work.
She stopped by Melissa’s desk and said, “How are you doing today?”
Melissa looked up looking a little bit overwhelmed, “This project you gave me hard. I am feeling stuck again.”
“How can I help you Melissa? Can I give some of it to Steve to do?”
“No, no it is my work, but I don’t know if I can get it done.”
“Melissa, maybe this is not the right fit for you? As much as we have been working so much better together I am still seeing errors in your work. Maybe the detailed stuff is just not where your strengths lie?”
“Oh no I can’t lose this job. You know I have a son and am a single mom. I really need the money.”
“Yes, I know. I did have a preliminary conversation with Jason out in the tax division about you and he needs some help on his administrative staff. He has a much larger organization and so he has some project support that he could use help with. He was open to bringing you aboard. What do you think?”
“Well I don’t love the change, but at least I would still have a job. I know some of the folks over there and they seem nice.”
“I think it may be a better fit for you and more interesting work. I will contact Jason to make the transition happen in the next week or two.”
“Thanks Scarlett. I am sorry this didn’t’ work out. I thought I could do it and I did see some of the changes you were trying to implement, but maybe you are right that I need to move on.”
“Thanks for all that you have done for me. I do appreciate it and am glad that we could find a better fit for you.”
The next day Scarlett met again with Jack and was feeling conflicted. She felt like she was making progress in creating more balance and building stronger working relationships, but felt so bad that she had lost another admin in such a short amount of time.
“Scarlett, when people aren’t the right fit for a role it is hard on everyone. Putting the right people in the right roles is critical to the success of any good leader. That is why I wanted you to share the vision with your team to see if they were really aligned with it. Now you can see Melissa wasn’t and can work with HR to get the right person in place to take your team to the next level. Sometimes letting go is the best thing that you can do so that something better can come in. “
“I know I am not very good at letting go I have to say. I do hold on when I find people because I don’t’ want to keep training them, but I needed to do this..”
“Yes and now you know the right criteria for hiring and have built up the muscle for building strong relationships - being open and transparent in what you need out of your team.”
“You are right. Thank you for the reminder. I do feel like I have come a long way and this is perhaps a good lesson in choosing the best person for the job even if it takes a little bit longer to find. “
“You are right. So as you know this is our last session, so what do you want to focus on in our remaining time?”
“Well, I want to know how to make sure that I am keeping moving in the right direction towards my vision and then how to launch this into something bigger.”
“Well keeping your vision as a living, breathing document is the first step. We all have an idea of what we want out of our business, out of our future, but we’re human and that means we’re always changing. Combine that with a market that changes and a clientele that changes, and it becomes imperative that you keep you vision flexible and sustainable.”
“Keep revisiting it annually—and more frequently if you get stuck. Keep checking in with yourself and your team to see if you are moving in the direction you truly want to be moving in and make course corrections if you are not.
“In terms of launching this into something bigger, that is where building your relationships and truly building a vision that you can align others around come in. Just like you told me with your client Bernie, you have good relationships with clients. They want to feel cared for and valued. So keep investing in them and the future that you are helping them to create. Scarlett, let me ask you a question—do you know the value that you bring to your clients?”
“I hadn’t really thought about that—I only thought about whether they were happy with my service.”
“You have to think broader, Scarlett. In your work, you truly ensure that a person’s legacy and estate is taken care of and executed in the way that is true to their values. You are creating lasting memories with their families, and you are creating a source of gratitude in a time of grief. So know that what you are doing is making a difference. Go in with a mindset of creating value for them and build a team that is as passionate about that vision as you are. If you do all of that, then you will build a lasting, thriving, growing practice.”
“Wow,” Scarlett said. “You always have such amazing insight. I know that with my clients I always tell them to review their will and trust each year to ensure that they are still valid, and yet I never thought to do that with my own goals. Plus, reviewing my goals with my team each year will ensure that we are aligned and working towards that common end-state. I see now how important that is in bringing people together, building trust and being in alignment.
“I will begin interviewing new people for the open spot on my team as well as Melissa’s back fill now, and will use your guidance.”
“That’s great,” Jack said. “By building the right team now it will make that whole process of sustaining it, growing it, and making it thrive that much easier. People will want to be aligned with you because your vision and theirs are already so close in alignment. You will be able to truly feel the power of your team growing each day as you bring on more and more of the right people. Trust the process. It really works.”
“Thank you so much, Jack. This has been an amazing experience. Thank you for believing in me, providing me with some of the keys for leadership, and helping me create a vision I love. I can’t express how grateful I am to you.”
“Well, thank you. I appreciate the kind words, and I want to congratulate you for all the time and effort you have put into making this happen. I can only coach and guide; you have to put in the time and effort, and you’re doing it. You have made so much progress and I am so happy for you. Keep me posted on how things are progressing for you.”
“I definitely will.”
Chapter 9: Peers
After her discussion with her employees Scarlett thought about the colleagues she would want to target for lunches. She decided to start with Miles. They always had a cordial relationship and he had many good relationships with other colleagues at the firm.
She went into the lunch with a bit of trepidation after her talk with Melissa. “So how was that case a few weeks ago that you were stressed about?” Scarlett asked remembering their conversation.
“Oh it actually was a crazy case. We had a few problems that took a couple of extra days to work through, but it was worth it because in the end, as we won!”
“I’m glad it worked out.”
They bantered back and forth a bit before Scarlett finally brought up why she had asked him to lunch. “I have been realizing that I have not been taking the time to really get to know you and some of our other colleagues at work, and wanted to change that. I have started to understand the importance of building stronger relationships with peers, and I wanted to start with you because you are so good at building relationships with our colleagues.” Scarlett said.
“Well, I’m glad you reached out. I was always curious to learn more about you.”
“Can I ask you a question?”
“Sure,” he replied.
“What do people think of me at work? I want an honest opinion, especially from our peer level. I had a 360 review done, and some of the feedback was a surprise to me. That’s part of the reason I want to get to know people better. I feel like the impression they have of me and how I see myself are two different things, and I want to balance that out a little bit.”
“Well,” Miles started slowly, “I think people respect you and the work that you do, but do feel like sometimes you might be a bit abrupt and only focused on work, and therefore they don’t really feel like they can joke around with you or have fun with you.” Miles wondered if his honesty would result in their lunch being cut short.
But Scarlett rose to the occasion. “Yes, I guess I can see how people may perceive me that way. I have been so motivated to become partner by a certain timeframe that I may have somewhat overlooked the importance of connecting with people,” Scarlett said.
“Yeah, the people part can be the hardest part. I realized that early when my first job out of college was a sales job. Sales is all about working with people, creating relationships, and knowing how to persuade them and influence them in positive ways. Even though I went into law after that, I took those lessons to heart; getting along with people and working with them is essential for success, no matter what the field.”
“Miles, I’m sure it comes as no surprise that the people skills aren’t my forte. I always believed my most important job was to get the work done and make the clients happy. I knew how to do the work, but training my employees always felt as if it took too much time. So if they didn’t do it as well as I did, I just took the work away from them, which never allowed them to learn.”
Miles was nodding his head knowingly.
“You’ve been so nice to indulge my questions—I hope you don’t mind another. How do you make the upfront training take less time? I’m swamped—I’m sure you are, too—and I don’t have as much time to train anyone new as I would like.”
“Well, it does take more time and effort in the beginning, but it’s worth the initial investment because as you now know the payback comes back in spades. Don’t you have someone on your team now? Steve, right? If so, couldn’t he help train someone new as well?”
“Yes, I have talked to him a bit about it, and I think he would actually enjoy it, but there are also some things that I will of course need to show a new person.” She paused. “I will work on my patience a little bit. Honestly, I have started to open up with them as I am doing with you and seeing the changes in my relationships with Steve, as well as the openness and honesty it’s bringing with Melissa is a big eye opener about what it could really be like to hire someone new and spend time working with them. It could actually be fun.”
Miles smiled. “I never thought I would hear you say that!”
“Me neither.” She smiled back. “Thanks, Miles. I appreciate your honesty and openness. It really means a lot to me to be able to talk about these kinds of things with someone else who is going through a similar experience.”
“No problem. Whenever you want to talk, drop on by or let’s have lunch again.”
They walked back to the office, and Scarlett felt good. For so long she had really shut herself off and kept a tightly closed attitude toward her coworkers. Now she realized how helpful it was to have someone to confide in at the office, get advice from; annd bounce ideas off of at the same level. She was going to thank Jack when she saw him the next time.
Chapter 4: Personal Relationships
That night her brother Sam called. He would regularly check in with her, even when she didn’t always return his calls right away. Although he was younger than she was, he often took on the “big brother” role and looked out for her.
“Scarlett, I know what you are going to say, but I have a guy I want to introduce you to.”
“Sam...I don’t know.” He had tried this once or twice before and she was a little weary.
“Scarlett, come on - he’s a doctor. What girl doesn’t want to land herself a doctor?” This was an ongoing joke between the two of them since Sam himself was a physician.
Scarlett thought about it a little bit and remembered the insight that she had when she met with Jack - that her underdeveloped relationship skills might extend into her personal life. If she were truly going to work on this then why not give this guy a chance? “Ok, I’m up for it.”
“Really? Great!” said Sam and let her go before she could change her mind.
A couple of days later Sam’s friend Lee called and asked her out. They planned to get together on Saturday. She was going to remember what Jack had told her - that she needed to build trust through communicating and being open with those around her. She would see how that went with Lee.
Scarlett opened the door when Lee rang the bell on Saturday. He was wearing khakis and a blue polo shirt reminding her of the guys she went to college with at Georgetown. He was a good height and she was pleasantly surprised that he was good looking with his brown hair and athletic build. They walked out to the car together. “So your brother told me you are a lawyer, right?”
“Yes I am in Estate Planning, so I work with a lot of elderly clients.”
“Must be nice to always be the young one. I’m in pediatrics, so I am always the older person in the room,” he joked. Scarlett liked his laugh, and she found herself laughing too.
“How do you like being a pediatrician?”
“It keeps me on my toes, and I love the energy of the children. Even though they might be sick, they’re still so open and innocent. I enjoy that.” Scarlett liked that they both worked with people and were passionate about their work.
When they arrived at the restaurant, they looked at the menu while chatting about their families and themselves. Lee was a bit of an adventurer and liked to do a lot of outdoor activities, even though he was focused on his career. He made time for hobbies such as skiing and rock climbing.
He asked her how she spent her time outside of work.
Scarlett fumbled. “I...um...well...” But after a moment she regained her composure. “I guess I am still figuring that out.”
After they turned their conversation to work and he heard how much effort she put into her clients and the firm, he remarked, “It seems to be taking a toll on you.”
She looked away for a second, but then returned his gaze. “I love it, but I guess I’m realizing that I also need to start investing in both my professional and personal relationships. If I don’t, I won’t be able to achieve my goals. Being a partner is all I ever dreamed of.”
He looked over at her sympathetically. “I totally understand.”
Scarlett wondered how someone so balanced could possibly relate to her situation. As if he read her mind her continued, “I was going for partner with my firm a few years back as well. When I got it, I was surprised to realize that it wasn’t everything that I thought it would be. In fact, the additional responsibility meant a lot of extra work. It was hard because I was making plenty of money, and I liked the prestige of being a partner, but in the end, the money did not outweigh the extra time it entailed. After a year at that pace, I decided to take a yearlong sabbatical and decide what I wanted to do next. I guess you could say I had a mid-life crisis.” he laughed.
Scarlett couldn’t imagine what she would do with a year away from the firm and asked Lee how he spent the time.
“I went to Cambodia to volunteer on a medical mission, to New Orleans to help with the post-Katrina aid, and then took some time off to travel. I realized I still loved the work I did, but I wanted more ability to control my time and to really invest in meeting the right person. So I started my own business. After the initial ramp up period I now have more flexibility and truly can invest much more time in my family and friends...” He trailed off and smiled at her.
Scarlett was intrigued. They finished dinner over pleasant conversation and then drove home. He walked her to her door at the end of the evening and asked her if he could take her out again.
“That would be great,” she replied as he gave her a hug.
That night Scarlett tossed and turned in bed and hardly got any sleep. Would she feel like Lee did when she made partner? As uncomfortable as she was in building relationships, she was realizing that if she didn’t invest more in them, her work might be all she had in the end. Maybe this 360 assessment was a blessing in disguise, she thought. It might help her find exactly what she needs.
Chapter 2: Jack
On the day of the appointment Scarlett walked into the conference room with a bit of a trepidation in her step, Jack was a handsome, distinguished-looking man in his early 60s. He had on a blue blazer, khakis, and glasses, and had slicked-back gray hair. He stood to greet her.
“Scarlett?” he asked.
“Hello Jack. Nice to meet you.”
“My pleasure. Please come in and have a seat.” He told her a bit about himself: he had been an executive in HR at a medium sized company and was spending his semi-retirement years advising young executives and high-potential leaders. He said he was “creating the next generation of CEOs,” and joked that he even had plans for his grandchildren’s careers. “What about you?”
”I have been working here since I graduated from law school. I love what I do and have always wanted to be partner here, but am worried that this review may now get in the way. Right now people don’t seem to have a great opinion of me.”
"A 360 assessment is really used to be a development tool, or an opportunity to work on growth areas. That is what we are here to do - put together a plan to help you develop. I don’t want you to lose sight that you have received great feedback on your technical competence and ability to work with the client. Now what in particular did you see in your review that you think may get in the way the most?”
“I think the relationship stuff. I have been thinking about it since we set up this meeting and think there is a lack of a team dynamic in my group. I have been more concerned about getting the work done well and serving the client that I have not really had the time to focus on my employees or my colleagues. I have always just felt that it is too time consuming to work with people and train them.” said Scarlett.
“Ok, and it also seems like there may be some lack of trust in the team in terms of cooperation in getting things accomplished and maximizing the strengths of each of the team members, which tends to lead to that lack of team dynamic you mentioned.”
“Yeah I guess so. I don’t know how to build more trust.”
“Where do you think you can begin?”
“Well I guess I need to slow down. Perhaps I can take them out to lunch? I don’t do that very often. I bring in pizza sometimes if people are working late, but I am usually at client sites or working through lunch to be able to really spend time with them.”
“Ok so it sounds like you want to begin to enhance your communications with your team. That is a key component to building trust. The other two components are character and competence according to Steven M.R. Covey’s book “The Speed of Trust.” One-on-one meetings may be the best in the beginning in order to really get to know your team members. How big is your current team?”
“It’s small. I have an administrative assistant and one full-time employee,” Scarlett replied.
“Is that your ideal team size?” Jack asked.
“Well, I have been encouraged to grow the team, but I am hesitant as I am not sure if my administrative assistant is the right one. Her work performance has not always been at the level that I have wanted it to be.”
“Ok for this week I want to you to focus on first getting to know your team a little bit better without the focus on performance or roles yet. Take each of them out to lunch individually and talk to them about this review. Begin to share a bit more about yourself, such as your outside interests. See if there are any commonalities and start to build more of a rapport. Once you develop more open lines of communication with them we can then address the performance topic with your administrative assistant.”
Scarlett hesitated for she really wanted to talk about performance right away.
“I am not sure…”
“I want to get underneath this a little bit to see if it really is the relationship between you two or her performance that is really the issue.”
Scarlett sat with it for a minute when Jack asked what seemed like a random question. ”How are your relationships outside of work?”
“I’m single,” Scarlett said looking down, and quickly added, “I’ve been too busy at work to date.”
“Is that what you want in your personal life?” he asked.
Hesitantly Scarlett replied, “Well, I always thought that a relationship would just happen without me having to do anything about it,” she finally admitted. After a moment, she looked up with a hint of recognition in her eyes and asked “Do you think this feedback about relationships at work could also be impacting my personal life?”
“Well typically everything is connected...” he trailed off.
“Wow, so this is inhibiting not only my professional life, but my personal life as well?”
Jack didn’t answer; he just let her sit with that for a minute or so. “Ok, I will try it your way.”
“Good. Let me know how it goes next time we meet.”
As I train for my first marathon (the 2012 Marine Corps Marathon) I realize that there are so many things to learn from the training that apply to leadership. Here are my top 5 picks:
So what leadership trait out of the ones above can you put into practice to make you a stronger leader? How can you push the envelope to reach the goals you have in mind?
According to Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence distinguishes great leaders from merely good ones. He says that when a group of senior managers had the following key capabilities of emotional intelligence, their divisions outperformed earnings goals by 20%. These capabilities include:
Goleman says we are all born with certain levels of emotional intelligence, but we can strengthen these abilities through practice and persistence. The first three skills in emotional intelligence are self-management tools, while the last two are how people interact with others.
Goleman says that out of leaders with similar technical skills emotional intelligence was the skill that set them apart. It was their ability to deal and manage people, relate to them, create rapport with them, and motivate themselves as well as their employees that really created success.
It was also their knowledge of themselves, their values and what makes them tick as well as their ability to regulate strong emotions in a way that balances things out.
I do agree with the author that people skills are a key component of the effectiveness of a leader as I believe the hallmark of a good leader is drawing people into your vision.
So where are you on the emotional intelligence scale? Are there any of the five skills listed above that you need to work on? If so what steps can you take in order to enhance that skill?
Monica Thakrar has over 18 years experience in business focused mainly on strategy, change management, leadership development, training and coaching resulting in successful implementations of large scale transformation programs.