Leadership, Management Tips, Teamwork.

We all want to be on a team where people trust one another. The environment is friendly, cooperative and often innovative. There is a positive pulse that is almost palpable. We look forward to being with the people at work. Regrettably, untrusting teams seem to be more the norm.

Why? As usual, sports teams offer some plausible examples. Lets say you were a new baseball player looking for your first team. Where would you want to go? Or let's say you were a basketball player, where then? I would propose the answer might be right here in the Bay Area... the Golden State Warriors or the San Francisco Giants. Both teams have managers who share several things in common:

  1. Praise their team, in print and in person.
  2. Possess humility about their own accomplishments, transferring recognition back to their team.
  3. Are mature and composed about losses, admitting mistakes and seeing the long game.
  4. Understand the unique strengths and challenges of their team members and allow opportunities for both to develop.

Effective managers model what they want to see among their team. The team in turn works collaboratively instead of competitively. Rarely have I witnessed a trusting team that didn't have a strong leader who demonstrates most or all of these qualities. Patrick Lencioni, best-selling author of 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, places Trust as the foundation for a cohesive team. He goes on to explain that trust is expressed on a team by the ability of team members to admit mistakes and ask for help, among other behaviors. When the manager of a team demonstrates and expects this type of behavior, trust grows.

So if you are in a management role bemoaning that trust does not exist on your team, think about this: What can you do to help it along - "Let it begin with me."

For new ways to create trusting teams attend the popular DISC certification program

Leadership, Management Tips, Teamwork.

Several years ago I recognized a common phenomenon when working with teams. It would begin like this: I would meet with the manager of the team to assess needs and analyze team dynamics prior to designing a training program or consulting project. The manager would proceed to tell me about two individuals (sometimes more) who do not get along. Many times these two individuals were well regarded by their co-workers, yet due to their differences they had trouble working together. Often these two would work “around” each other rather than “with” each other. Sometimes others would take sides, creating a “posse” effect. In short, this pair’s lack of good relations diminished individual and team productivity.

What to do? One approach is to help these individuals realize that the very differences they don’t like are ones they actually need. Each of them can fill the other’s gaps.

As an example... A detail-oriented person may get frustrated with the lack of details their co-worker provides, while the co-worker may have the capacity to see the big picture and offer creative solutions. Similarly the big picture thinker needs the detail person for an excellent end-product. In our programs, we invite opposites to think of themselves as “Power Partners.” Working together, these two individuals make a powerful partnership team.

How can we identify the power of strength differences and then value the differences? One proven effective behavior style tool is called DISC. Our company feels so strongly about the success of using this tool that I became certified in DISC, which evaluates work styles and helps relational productivity in teams. In 2007, certain clients began requesting that I train them to use this tool themselves. Because of their size, it was cost effective to have internal expertise using this valuable tool. In the last few years I have several times conducted a popular two-day train-the-trainer certification program through NCHRA (Northern California Human Resources).

Who is your power partner?

Management Tips.

It sounds good . . . what does it mean?

It does take courage to ask for what you need.  And it also takes good consultative skills to have an optimal outcome.

Last year the Northern California Human Resource Association (NCHRA) offered me the opportunity to present a topic of my choice throughout 2015.  As a big fan of the win-win philosophy, I chose this topic to deliver to HR professionals throughout the Bay Area.  The 1.5-hour program begins with a facilitated discussion about the challenge of influencing a win-win outcome for a project or proposal with an executive or business partner.  We assume it will take two meetings to accomplish buy-in.

First Meeting.  One initial tip is to set modest expectations in a first meeting.  Resist the urge to “sell” your ideas.  If you consider that your key objective is not to influence but rather to hear the other person’s perspective on the issue, you will not only be better prepared in a second meeting, but you will also have started building an ally to your proposal.  Additionally any research you can do about past trends or historical data adds to your credibility and ability to customize your message.

Consider that in a first meeting you should talk approximately 20% of the time, briefly explaining your project or proposal, leaving the remaining 80% listening and recording their responses to questions such as:

“What are your primary goals this year for resources and dollars?” The answer may inspire inclusion of other options and stakeholders in your second meeting.  Ask questions such as, “What is your initial reaction to this project?  What are your ideas about this project?  What are your concerns about this project?  What do you see as both the positives and negatives of this project?  What do you see as obstacles (resources, $, time, other) to success?  What do you see as the main benefit of this project?  Who else would be involved in approving this project?”

Second Meeting.  Your second meeting is aimed at getting either initial or final buy-in.  Tailor your discussion from their responses in your first meeting.  How can you integrate their #1 benefit and positives more directly into your proposal?  Did you find a solution (or partial solution) to their primary objections?  When you finalize your discussion, identify options to ensure your success.

Incorporating their ideas increases likelihood of approval.  Create Good-Better-Best choices for them.  Multiple options enhance the possibility of a win-win outcome for both of you.  Some years ago I worked for a successful retailer.  They had three primary store chains aimed at offering three price options for the customer:  discount (low), mainstream (medium) and upscale (high).  By offering multiple options, they increased the chances of a win-win outcome for both the company and the customer.

With probing, perseverance, and collaborative alternatives, you can greatly increase the likelihood of a “Yes.”

Wishing you many win-win outcomes!

Employee Recognition, General, Leadership, Management Tips.

While I am writing this, the San Francisco Giants are in the World Series. We in San Francisco have become a bit superstitious (in a good way) about even-numbered years… 2010, 2012….2014, we hope we hope! 

How did they get from there to here?  There: Inconsistent, up and down season, lots of injuries, many surprising mistakes, and who could forget the June gloom and Summer Slump? Here: They always held on to first or second place in the Western league, and now they are in the World Series.  How did they get from there to here?  What is the Giants’ secret sauce?

I have a single answer. Not the great pitchers, not the good picks of talent during August, not the dependable Buster Posey or the newest darling of the team, Hunter Pence, not the many individually talented professionals that compose this team. Not the veterans or all the newbies.  Perhaps all of those things but what is the one irreplaceable ingredient in the Giants’ Secret Sauce?  

My humble opinion: The Skipper-Manager: Bruce Bochy.  He is everything that a good manager of any team should be: Even-tempered, fair, intelligent, protective of his brood, proud, experienced, engaged and downright talented!

In my profession, I have opportunities to observe many managers and would love to share a page from the Bruce Bochy playbook with them.  Along with his even-tempered personality, he always has the players’ backs . . . and they have his. They succeed not only for themselves but for him.

In organizations, there is an old adage: Employees leave managers, not companies.  Many of us have experienced lower-paying jobs that we loved because the owners trusted and appreciated us. Sometimes we even stayed with them longer than was prudent for our careers, simply because we thrived on the feeling that we were making an important contribution. Likewise, we may find ourselves frustrated in a higher-paying position in which we feel undervalued. A hostile work environment leaves us feeling exhausted at the end of each day, and we leave that place as soon as possible, high pay notwithstanding.

Of course, in the Bruce Bochy scenario, the players have the best of both worlds – good pay AND encouraging management. But good pay alone cannot build a team that gives 100%. Regardless of the financial element, the “secret sauce” contains support and the confidence that comes from being relied upon and given credit. Ironically, it costs no money to empower one’s staff with these positive attributes. Ideally every job would bring both high salary and high satisfaction, but if only one can be had, the satisfaction is ultimately more important. Treat an employee with respect and gratitude, and the manager is repaid by loyalty and maximum effort.

Go Giants!


"Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere."

-Chinese proverb

Recently I was a guest on an SAP-sponsored radio program called Game-Changers discussing the way that different generation groups prefer to learn.

While conducting research for the program, I had a conversation with a 28-year-old female friend about the process of learning.  I made the erroneous assumption that due to her age, she would prefer to learn new content on a computer. She responded, “I am on the computer all day long, why would I want to spend extra time learning that way?”

It made me re-think some common misperceptions.  I often hear about the uber-tech millennial who prefers all information to be transmitted at sonic speed over the Internet.  Like any other generation or group, while some general observations can be made, it is risky to generalize.  Upon further probing, I learned my 28-year-old friend prefers to learn with others, so that best practice sharing along with business relationships can happen.

Her preferences made me reflect back on my experiences completing my Master’s degree in 2009.  The degree program in Instructional Technology (learning to use technology to enhance instruction) included students of all ages 20-50’s.  The program was offered in three formats:  1) online, 2) face-to-face, or 3) some combination of both coined as HyFlex by esteemed educator Dr. Brian Beatty. 

One might predict that the population of learners for this type of degree would prefer online participation.  Surprisingly, many of the students preferred face-to-face learning.  And while input and collaboration was possible for the online learner, the majority of attendees in my Master’s program still preferred to attend in person.  The consensus was that live learning seemed to possess more dynamism, and networking was an advantage.  These same reasons matched my 28-year-old friend‘s preference-– the collegial nature of the communication was an extra benefit to learning.

Through a survey of graduate students in Hyflex programs, Dr. Beatty learned that a more accurate deduction about online vs face-to-face preference could be made from the gender of the learner.

“Female graduate students, on average, reported that it was more important to them to feel connected to the people involved in the class (teacher, peers) than it was to feel connected to the content or activities. Male graduate students, on average, reported that it was more important to them to feel connected to the content or activities being studied than it was to feel connected to the people involved in the class (teacher, peers).”

The good news is that in today’s work world we have many options for all learners and content.  E-learning has become much more interactive and interesting.  With conference technology, members in remote locations can join in, and collaborative technology keeps improving.  Face-to-face learning can be supplemented with online and/or telephonic coaching.  And the traditional face-to-face learning has been mostly improved, replacing the “Sage on the Stage” lecturer with the expert facilitator who taps into the participants’ knowledge.

In summary, it’s a great time to be learning….and it will only get better!

Teamwork, Videos.

"Teamwork begins by building trust."

-- Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

Recently I had the privilege of hearing Patrick Lencioni speak at a conference of Wiley Publishing, with whom we partner. Lencioni, a renowned author, spoke about why teamwork is so important and the 5 key behaviors of a cohesive team. He was at times funny, poignant, provocative and always fascinating.

In 2001, Lencioni wrote the ground-breaking book, The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. In addition to maintaining a best-seller position on the New York Times list, the book is Wiley’s #1 best-seller in their entire collection for the last 13 years... and that’s a lot of books!

Due to the book’s success, Lencioni created an accompanying assessment tool to measure how organizational teams fare in the 5 functions - Trust, Conflict, Commitment, Accountability and Results. When Lencioni’s assessment is used in a training program, he recommends that participants begin with a self-assessment to enhance self-awareness prior to delving into the teamwork issues. At times, two assessments in one program can feel like one assessment too many.

Five Behaviors of a Cohesive TeamThat is why I am so excited about Lencioni’s most recent development: Merging the DISC behavior style assessment tool with his team assessment for one elegant personalized narration: a comprehensive 36-page assessment complete with insights, strategies and action plans.

During the same Wiley conference, I was fortunate to join an exclusive group of consultants trained and authorized to facilitate with this new tool. I am eager to share this valuable information with our existing clients, many of whom use the DISC behavior style model and/or The 5 Dysfunctions Model already. We look forward to offering future clients the same opportunity.

Lencioni’s successful model proves that a cohesive team is evident by five necessary behaviors:

  • They trust one another – not because they have known one another for years, but because they can comfortably admit to the team that they made a mistake, they have trouble delivering on a project or that they need help. They are not worried that their colleagues will leverage their weakness but rather that peers will encourage and support improvement.
  • They can have healthy conflict – There is an atmosphere that all opinions are expected and welcome, they will be openly debated on their merits, and not based on one person’s preferences or individual, selfish desires. In this environment, neither destructive conflict nor “artificial harmony” is accepted.
  • They commit to the decisions made – This can only happen when everyone feels that their opinion has been adequately heard by the group and the leader and that the decision made, whether by consensus or by the leader, has been made with the best interests of the organization in mind.
  • They hold one another accountable – This happens easily when there is trust and commitment to take action. Peer-to-peer accountability is most effective, rather than accountability handed out by the leader.
  • They focus on results – the results that the leadership team has agreed to rather than their individual results. They focus on how the organization does rather than how well one individual performs over another.

If you want to discuss how this exciting new program can help your organization, please contact me or call me @ 650-255-9697.

I look forward to connecting with you. And thank you to Patrick Lencioni for helping me to help silo’d groups become cohesive teams.


"The greatest ability in business is to get along with others and to influence their actions."

-- John Hancock

Over sixty years ago, Dale Carnegie wrote the book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. The book has remained relevant through several revisions.  In some ways, influencing skills have become even more important over time. Why? Reduced workforces and tighter deadlines are causing cooperation among employees to be more crucial than ever.

Influencing may take the form of peers influencing each other to get things done in a timely way, or to reprioritize their workload. It’s not easy to influence another person to meet your deadline when they have many of their own. When the help of a co-worker outside the department doesn’t translate into bonuses or performance evaluations, it becomes that much harder to obtain their “buy-in.”  In this situation, personal influencing becomes not only a “nice to have” but also a “need to have” skill.

Given these new realities, what steps can be followed? Here is an adaptation of the influencing master, Dale Carnegie’s, tried-and-true techniques.  The wording will guide your conversation toward successful outcomes.

  1. Begin in a positive way - “I would like to get your input . . .”
  2. Identify and understand their priorities - “What is important to you?”
  3. Show respect for their opinions - “I understand your concerns; let me help with a way to address them.”
  4. Identify the intersection between their ideas and yours - “We both have this in common . . .”
  5. Offer options and benefits of your ideas - “The benefit to this idea is . . .”
  6. Identify and address the obstacles to “yes” - “Now that I know what your concern is, could we . . .”
  7. Throw down the challenge - “Can we try it?”


Among the many changes occurring in today’s business trends, perhaps no element is undergoing more transformation than Human Resources. In the past HR’s role was seen as kind of an expanded version of the benefits department with a focus on compliance, but over time it has developed leadership and strategic focus.

On October 8, 2013, an SAP sponsored radio program, HR Trends with Game-Changers, focused on the HR-Led Business. In a roundtable discussion format, the participants were:

  • Jill McGillen, with whom readers of this newsletter are acquainted,
  • Simon Mitchell, General Manager at DDI Worldwide UK, and
  • Brigette McInnis-Day, Executive Vice President and Human Resources Business Partner for the Global Customer Organization at SAP.

For my part, I pointed out that the HR department is the umbrella department ….the department that an employee interacts with first, last and during their employment. Thus, HR departments can wield a “massive influence” on the culture and productivity of the entire company. HR departments are already becoming more impactful as they are starting to be viewed as true strategic leaders by the company. HR is now utilizing collaborative inquiry as opposed to its former focus on compliance.

Simon Mitchell stated that the best HR professionals are “comfortable with challenging and pushing back on ideas from other departments.” In his opinion, “HR superstars” are able to talk business first, but through the lens of people and talent.

Brigette McInnis-Day has found that HR should mirror the natural behaviors of people. One of the best ways for the HR department to lead is to connect with the business and have the people “pull the HR programs along” as opposed to the HR department primarily pushing programs out. Brigette advised that when HR departments work with a “listening consultative approach,” they are much better at connecting with both the business and individuals.

Panelists were asked what skills and characteristics they would look for in hiring Human Resources professionals for the future. Here is a summary of what the panelists said:

  • Consultative learners
  • Collaborative
  • Visionary
  • Creative
  • Innovative
  • Strategic
  • Executors
  • Fun

Management Tips.

Last week I facilitated Next Turn’s DISC certification program sponsored by the Northern California Human Resource Association.  DISC is a behavior style assessment tool that can heighten self-awareness and offer strategies to improve work relationships.  The train-the-trainer program shows participants how to use the DISC tool in their own organizations.

The members were talented Human Resource professionals and savvy consultants from a variety of private and public organizations.  In one lively discussion, someone asked, "Jill, what is the perfect size for a training program?"  It was a provocative question.

In preparing for this particular program, I had noticed that every activity was easy to plan because 12 people were attending.  Thus the number 12 was foremost in my mind.  So I responded, "A range of 12-16" and upon further thought settled on the specific number 12.

As I plan a training program, I often plan interactive activities with small groups such as:

  1. Breakout group (ideal 4-5),
  2. Triad discussions (ideal 3),
  3. Partnering exercises (ideal 2).

The number 12 lends itself readily to each breakdown.  No other number under 20 does so. Groups under 12 may lack energy.  Groups over 20 become unwieldy and may require more than one facilitator.   An odd number of people makes pairing exercises awkward. Even numbers, except for 12, don’t always work for triads or balanced breakout groups. Twelve is just right for positive interactivity and meaningful discussions.

Admittedly it is not always possible to have 12 people in a training group.  Sometimes the program is developed for an existing team or department.  Or a minimum headcount may be required for budgetary reasons.  However, if it is possible to choose the number of participants, a good facilitator seeks to create that magic equation of right people + right content + right number = great outcome.  In our experience, an even dozen does the trick.

Education, Leadership.

When you communicate, do you do it with style? Before you begin wondering whether you are stylish enough, may I explain.  In our training programs we use a popular behavior style profile called DISC, an acronym representing four styles or communication preferences.  A person can take a self-assessment that results in a personalized profile. I like this particular workplace profile because it allows one to better diagnose one’s own natural style and how to adapt or flex to others who may be different from us.

For instance, because of my natural style, I prefer high level information and broad strokes vs. specific details. While this may work well in certain situations, when I am working with others who prefer specific details, I need to flex or adapt to that preference and perhaps do more research before conversing with them. An intuitive approach may turn off this person and lack credibility. Rather than judge the detail-seeker to be better or worse than my approach, I think about it in terms of being different and offering me an opportunity to adapt and learn how to be more effective.

The natural inclination of most people is to wish that others would be more like them.  While it is easier to communicate with somebody who is similar to us, it is not always the most advantageous for an organization.  For example, I know my writing would not have nearly the same high quality without my editor.  She is able to polish an article in a way that would take me more time and probably not come out as well.  All important writing has to go through her scrutiny before publishing.  Since my editor is extremely detail oriented, together we complete a whole.  I call her my “power partner.”  Separately each of us is not as good a writer as we are together.   I don’t always know what is missing and she may not always see the big picture.

Although we are often drawn to those who have similar styles to our own, it is important to remove our blind spots about our shortcomings at work and identify our “power partners.”  These “others” are often different from us and not natural allies, yet we can all probably identify someone who “fills in our blanks” and adds value to our work product.

Next month on October 1st and 2nd Next Turn will be offering a DISC certification program in San Francisco at NCHRA (Northern California Human Resource Association) headquarters.  After you complete this practical program, you can train and share with others the great advantage of “reading” people and communicating with them in the way it makes most sense to them and is most effective in the workplace.

Many of my clients have seen the value of having a culture of employees who can identify natural strengths, adapt to others, and discover “power partners.”  Please join us for this two-day program so that your trainers, Human Resource professionals, appropriate consultants, or team members gain expert skills to bring this valuable DISC communication tool into your organization! All are welcome!