Regardless of the name it is given in an organization - teamwork or unity or something fancy like synergy – issues are par for the course when humans are involved.
A normal day becomes a day of trials when upon entering the office there is that feeling in the air – the leader knows, there is a disturbance in the force. When a synergy shift is noted, it’s time to put the detective hat on and determine whether these are temporary disturbances that are normative or if there is a deeper disruption festering within the group. In the course of an investigation of discordance a good sleuth will distinguish between symptoms and source(s).
When it comes to deficiencies in teamwork, often inexperienced leaders will address unity as its own source when in reality it is a symptom. Here's a thought - teamwork is not fixed by teamwork. To put it another way, talking about unity, training on cooperation or attempting to force synergy into the system often will not cure an issue as all of these efforts are chasing symptoms rather than addressing source. Teamwork is a product, it develops from other sources within your team. Conversely, a lack of teamwork is a symptom, it manifests to expose sources of malignancy within your organization. At its foundation, teamwork is a product of trust – the “T” in Team is for Trust.
Trust Springs From The Head Of The Fountain
When trust is built into the fabric of a team, teamwork will thrive. Without trust, teamwork will be cyclical at best and will not be able to establish roots within the organization. In the process of building a team, trust has to be a core value from the top down. A few questions that will help reveal whether there is a foundational trust issue include: 1) Does leadership trust each other? 2) Is the leadership team setting an example of trust? Leaders who believe in the vision, who respect their co-workers and promote the beauty of both will organically transfer a level of trust throughout the organization. Leaders who have not bought into the vision and/or have reservations about the trustworthiness of their coworkers will emit a level of distrust that will hinder the development of unity in the organization.
Trust Starts With Trustworthy People
Does your hiring process seek and add trustworthy people to the organization? Employees are watching who leadership hires, as who and how a company hires reinforces or contradicts what leadership has declared as it's values. Is there consistency in how leadership deals with core issues that test the building of trust within the team? The working measure of trust in the workplace is, “Can I trust you to do what you say?” When a team member commits to performing a task, regardless of how simple or complex, can the other members of the team trust that their teammate will do their best to follow through on their commitments?
Trust Builds Momentum Through Consistency
People that may not have the strongest interpersonal relationships can still work with each other, if they have trust. When there is a disturbance in the force, when leadership is asking why teamwork is scant, the investigation trail should be aimed at sources of trust/mistrust within the organization. Low teamwork does not mean throw more teamwork at the void. The question should delve into sources that are undermining trust. Do team members trust each other? Does management trust it’s employees?
Trust Flows Or Sputters With Conflict
If teamwork starts with trust, trust survives or dies with truth. Truth fleshes itself in an organization by having a clear vision and bringing people who are invested in seeing that vision through. Truth can be a source of conflict. When conflict is brought about by a tangling among team members over truth, this interaction can be a constructive encounter and must be managed properly to net a positive result (read more on this in our article Embrace Conflict). A commitment to truth, the development of trust and the momentum of teamwork are all ingredients that must be intentionally maintained over the life of a team.
Every organization desires unity, synergy will only result where teamwork is demonstrated, trust is protected and the truth is that teamwork has to be demonstrated. Are you an example for your team as to what teamwork looks like? Do your words and your actions establish the parameters for trust within your organization? The next time you have concerns or issues with teamwork, take a look at where trust is being built and where it is being undermined in your organization. Build trust by being creating clarity around truth in your organization, consistently protecting those values and developing accountability within the team from the top down and the bottom up. The first place to look when seeking to build trust, regardless of your position, is to ask whether you are exemplifying or undermining trust in the organization.
We recently read and composed a review of the book Insuring Tomorrow: Engaging Millennials in the Insurance Industry, written by Carly Burnham and Tony Canas. Carly and Tony are leading by example in their industry by investing in their personal development as well as collaborating to assist others to grow in the industry that they are engaged in. The two founded the resourceful website InsNerds.com which seeks to be, "The go-to source for transformational talent development and career management serving the global insurance ecosystem." We reached out to the accomplished Carly, who holds her MBA in business administration and the insurance industry CPCU, was very gracious in sharing some of her story in reaching her current position as well as the efforts that went into co-authoring a respected industry publication.
Jon Isaacson (IZ Ventures): I've been in the industry over 15 years and in that period of time I have only met one person who intentionally set out to get into the insurance industry, what brought you into this field?
Carly Burnham: I happened to find a part time job as an office assistant at an insurance agency when I was starting college. The agent who I worked for was truly committed to her clients and taught me a lot about coverage and the principles of insurance. She was a wonderful person to learn from. When my now-husband and I re-located to Iowa, I worked in banking for a few months, but I missed feeling like I was truly providing a valuable service, so I started working for Nationwide. At Nationwide, I had the opportunity to develop technically and start taking CPCU courses and learning about all of the different career paths available. This was when I committed to growing a long-term career in insurance.
What aspects of insurance are you currently engaged in, what does your day-to-day look like and what are your goals with writing?
I'm currently a commercial underwriter. I help agents place business by advising them on our risk appetite, coverages, and pricing options. I write because I enjoy it. I think the insurance ecosystem is going through profound change due to technological, generational, and market forces. My experience has always been that consumers feel intimidated by insurance, and many who have historically been tasked with explaining concepts to those customers would benefit from additional education. At InsNerds.com, we want to promote the idea that professionals can educate themselves in a fun way and that carriers and agencies would benefit from committing to encouraging greater education for their employees. Finally, I believe that not only can you build an interesting career in the ecosystem, insurance is truly an important, pro-social service, and I want to help spread that message.
I've talked to several people that have ideas or some level of desire to write a book, for you what was the catalyst that brought you to writing Insuring Tomorrow?
Honestly, Tony said "I want to write this book. I want to publish it by June. Will you join me?" And, I said yes. We had been writing and talking about these topics for years, so it seemed like the next logical step.
In that process of formulating your thoughts into a book what was a) easier than you expected and what was b) harder than you expected in that process?
a) We had a lot of material already at our finger tips, so filling pages was much easier than expected. b) The hardest part for me was promoting the book!
What was the timeline from inception, commitment, writing and then publication?
I would say the commitment to write the book was made late February, serious writing started late March, the draft was done by early May, and final publication was the beginning of June.
What have been some of the positive responses to your book? The topic of Millennials is rather charged, has there been much opposition to your publication?
We have gotten a lot of positive responses. Our audience has appreciated the compilation of information in one volume, that they can easily reference. Given the polarity of the topic of Millennials, I am surprised that there has been next to no opposition vocalized to me or Tony. I would venture to guess that it is because our audience does recognize the talent gap, and we focused on actionable tactics to help offset that gap. We also tried up front to set a perspective on why Millennials are different and why it matters. Finally, I think a lot of the things we recommend in the book are things that would benefit any generation!
What is one lesson learned that you can share about promoting a book?
Build your audience before promoting your book. We've been blogging and working on this for years, so we had an advantage over anyone who is writing their first book without already cultivating an audience.
The subject matter that you are speaking to centers around the topic of Millennials in the workforce, as such what is one key piece of advice that first you would give to leaders working with millennials and then to millennials who are either entering the workforce or seeking to better themselves?
One piece of advice for leaders: Try to remember what it was like when you were starting your career. Unless you were very lucky, a lot of the things that seem obvious to you now were probably a surprise in your first role out of high school or college. For instance, when I worked at the agency during college, the agent who I worked for would take the time to have very direct conversations about the style she preferred in interactions with customers. A classic example: "Answer the phone with a smile. The customer will hear it." I still use this advice (and many other nuggets from her) today. For those who are entering the workforce or bettering themselves: Receive feedback as a gift and seek out people who will give you candid feedback. That being said, understand that you may hear something that doesn't work for you. Always be true to your own strengths and personality, but avoid being needlessly stubborn.
What is next for Carly? Thank you for your time and contributions, keep doing good things!
I'm working on my CIC, and I'll be pursuing the AIDA designation next. There is always more to learn in underwriting, and I love it! When it comes to InsNerds.com, the potential is limitless. We are still having a lot of fun writing articles, producing podcasts, and serving the ecosystem. . . I wouldn't be surprised if another book follows quickly.
Carly Burnahm regularly writes for InsNerds.com, she is on LinkedIn and tweets as @CarlyABurnham. Insuring Tomorrow has many applications outside of the insurance industry and is available for $20, you can find our review of the publication HERE.
“Team work makes the dream wok”, yet everyone's dream is different so which dream are we working on?
Everyone is tired from working long hours and another call for service comes in, what will the team do? Leadership has a dream that everyone will work together peacefully and profitably but the reality is that the motivation train doesn’t always steam along down those tracks without some fuel to propel it. In these situations, what will stimulate individuals to action - which team will be responding to which dream?
There are many managerial delusions, one of which is that everyone marches to the company drum beat. Only the extremely deluded would state it in such blatant terms but many managers express this sentiment in other ways. The truth is that people rarely go above and beyond for a company because of the company. Brand loyalty alone is not typically a primary motivation for employees as though a mid-level manager can summon the name on the logo as a beacon to action for the minions. Enduring motivation for individuals come from a sense of family (within the team), a sense of duty to someone they respect (leader or peer) or a need for remuneration (financial goals). It's important to understand what makes the individuals on your team tick so that you can attempt to connect with them to help build collaboration within the team. If you know just enough to be dangerous, or so that you can manipulate people, this dark art of stimulation will only last so long before you will run out of trust currency.
In the discussion of motivation I have yet to meet a person in a position of leadership who hasn’t attempted some level of incentives for their organization. Jeremy Watkin, who is the Head of Quality for FCR and a featured columnist for Customer Think, shares his experiences and insights with incentive programs concluding, "Unexpected acts of appreciation reinforce the behaviors we want to see in our contact centers. Couple these with efforts to empower your agents and you can watch the engagement and motivation of your team increase." There is no silver-bullet incentive that will work in the same way for all people at all times. A team member may or may not bite on the bait of a particular incentive but that alone is not an indication of their engagement or commitment to the goals of the organization. Mr. Watkin shares some of the responses from individuals within the teams he has overseen who did not participate or weren't successful in certain incentive programs:
A second managerial delusion, or faulty perception, would be that lack of participation equates a lack of motivation or loyalty. As noted above, perceived failure in response to incentive programs can occur for various reasons, remember you are dealing with individuals. When seeking to motivate people, especially if you are in a position where you need to ask for the extraordinary or draw from energy reserves that may be depleted, connect with individuals to conquer as a team. As noted previously, the number of employees that are loyal to your company (the logo) are likely few. This doesn't mean that they aren't loyal employees or that they won't run through walls for the team, it just recognizes that brand X is not the reason why. For example, if all of your people have been working long hours and you get that infamous call at the end of a long day for emergency services, some of the least effective motivational speeches you could conjure would include sentiments such as, "It's your job...This is what we do...You owe us...Do you want me to tell the CEO that you refused..." If you seek to build a connected and collaborative team that is poised to conquer their shared goals, that type of camaraderie occurs at the local level with individuals of character and a team that cares for each other. It is to the benefit of the organization as a whole when there are strong localized teams who are working for each other.
Culture is no accident as we discuss in our article Culture is not a Unicorn. What matters is that the individuals on the team respect, enjoy and fight for each other as those bonds will enable the group to rise to those occasions that draw upon those deep reserves. Teamwork makes the dream work because a strong team has an energy tank with more capacity than any individual. Everyone on the team has a unique motivation, and at times in their life those motivations may change due to circumstances. A sense of brotherhood, empathy for customers in need, the desire to reach financial goals, a commitment to the rotation of responsibility (i.e. It's my turn since you did it last time), respect for a leader, as well as many other positive factors help to keep the wheels turning when everyone is ready to call it a day.
Those in a position of leadership cannot expect a culture of service without being intentional about building it. Even when the culture of service is active, managers must be mindful not to become the boy when cried wolf when sounding the all-hands-on-deck bullhorn. Leadership has to understand that drawing from the bank of trust and motivation requires that they have invested currency into those reserves through things such as development, emotional intelligence, team building and employee engagement. Rather than calling for blind allegiance to the badge of the company, building the team to be prepared for service and having intentionally invested in individuals enough to know how to connect them to a need in relationship to their values and/or motivation are key. Capacity for extraordinary response starts all the way back at the point of recruitment, are we clearly representing our organization to candidates and through our process are we learning about them as individuals with respect to how they will embrace and promote our team culture? Are we reinforcing our vision and values through training, employee development and regular check ins with team members? Investing in individuals and being active in development are the right qualities in building strong teams and they will also go far in preparing the group to respond when the need arises. Don’t wait until the alarm sounds to invest in people.
As noted in a previous article on Open Doors, “Leadership is an extension of customer service within your organization. When leaders demonstrate care and service to their employees they perform several key functions including engaging their employees, encouraging positive action and demonstrating how the organization treats people.” Leaders cannot expect team members to sacrifice without having themselves exemplified this value. One of the beautiful revelations of programs such as Undercover Boss is that those who sit the highest and furthest removed from the boots on the ground get a first hand view of the strengths as well as weaknesses in the organization in action. Nothing reveals more about a person or enables close connection better than working shoulder to shoulder, or in the case of services industries like ours - elbow deep in human waste. Motivation comes in many colors, shapes and sizes as so do your team members. Exploring means that recognize individuality as well as build the team are going to be the most effective long term. Making the commitment to understand the individuals and investing in each team member will assist in building individual as well as team reserves that can be drawn upon when the extraordinary is required.
From recruitment to retirement, understanding the motivations of individuals and building a connected team, that collaborates on values and is poised to conquer goals does not happen by accident. Nothing worthwhile comes easy, investing in employees who grasp, build and hold their peers accountable to a culture is key to long term success. If team work is going to make the dream work we must clarify the dream of the organization, understand the motivations of our team members and intentionally build means to connect those values into something collaborative.
Jeremy Watkin - http://customerthink.com/incentive-programs-for-service-agents-a-pre-implementation-checklist/
Do you ever ask yourself, “What do those we are employing (or seeking) want?”
Option 1 – Your answer is no. You don’t ask this question and/or you think it is a stupid question. You’ve got it figured out, so you should probably skip this article. It’s poorly written anyways.
Option 2 – Your answer is yes. You ask this question and/or you think it is a relevant one. We agree. So we want to know what you have come up with? Please share what you and your team have discovered.
Those in group 1 and group 2 have this in common, they are both tired of business catch phrases such as “employee engagement” in so far as there is a lot of talk but not a lot of help. Investing in people comes at a cost. Everyone who has invested in some aspect of employee development has painful stories of those they invested in only to have them lose the fire, take their fire to a competitor or who literally set fire to the organization. For the later you can think of Milton’s character in the cinematic masterpiece Office Space. Yet, it would be important to note that the management team depicted in that film did not invest very intentionally in that unique individual. Thankfully, there are also those stories that are still unfolding of individuals whom we have invested in who are developing or even active as leaders who are themselves investing in others. Those are the stories we have to treasure as we continue to learn from our past, present and future experience - whether positive or negative.
We can rephrase the opening question this way, how do we connect in such a way that we are able to facilitate collaboration within the organization? Connecting and collaborating are the key components to finding ways to conquer. What can we do to make employee engagement something tangible in our recruiting, our development and our retention of quality team members? In management there is an inescapable truth that we will receive the team that we deserve (a topic we addressed in our article Leading With Empathy that was published in About Leaders). Let that settle in for a minute. If we go back to Office Space, poor leadership stemming from a few of our key factors, such as no organizational clarity, low consistency and zero accountability, that iconic detached leader had the team he deserved. Why should it matter what our lowly employees want and why would we take the time to care?
Cue the dangling carrot and our answer is profitability. Wait. Are we saying that investing in creating an environment that will increase employee happiness (fancy word = engagement) may also lead to better profitability? No. We aren’t saying that at all but this really smart and successful person is - Former CEO of Xerox, Anne Mucahy speaks to the importance of engagement, “Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.” If we reverse this thread, we start with profitability, which all organizations know is key to survival. Profitability comes from satisfied customers which comes from satisfied employees which comes from where?
Call it what you want, but it’s employee engagement. The first key to successful employee engagement is having a desire to connect in a meaningful way. If you have no perspective or desire to connect, you won’t. The next step is about as simple and challenging as the first, being consistent about being intentional to connect with the individuals as well as the whole of your team. These two points are simple enough to point out, but if you jump in those trenches they are complex. If you fail, you are in good company. If you learn from failure and success and share your experiences with others who are doing the same (we call that collaboration), you may have a fighting chance.
It’s a start.
Thoughts on personal and professional development.
Jon Isaacson, The Intentional Restorer, is a contractor, author, and host of The DYOJO Podcast. The goal of The DYOJO is to help growth-minded restoration professionals shorten their DANG learning curve for personal and professional development. You can watch The DYOJO Podcast on YouTube on Thursdays or listen on your favorite podcast platform.