One element critical for team success


If asked to name one element critical for team and organizational success across all industries and environments, what would you say?  Perhaps vision? Shared values?  Purpose?  Or possibly skills, and ensuring the people with the right skills are in the roles that make best use of their strengths. Maybe you’d say strategic thinking or an effective business plan.  Maybe camaraderie, cohesiveness, or focus on results.

All of these things are important, it’s true.  And still there is one critical element that everything else builds upon. Trust.  Trust creates the foundation for successful teams, and when trust is absent, the team struggles to move forward. trust fall

Why trust matters

Patrick Lencioni demonstrates this principle In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by looking at what happens when there is an absence of trust on a team, or in an organization.  When trust is missing, team members are more likely to withhold information, keeping their opinions to themselves.  They may not feel safe expressing themselves.  They may cover up mistakes, or fail to report potential problems. They may agree to a decision because it’s the easiest path, not because they believe it’s the right course. This leads to lack of commitment, accountability, and ultimately poor focus on results.

Trust – or the lack of trust – has direct financial implications for organizations.  Stephen M.R. Covey shows how trust impacts cost and speed in The Speed of Trust.  Lack of trust results in increased costs and decreased speed.  You can probably think of examples from your own experiences. What happens when people don’t trust each other?  Information isn’t shared, problems are not surfaced, excessive review and approval systems need to be navigated before people can act.  Bureaucracy and red tape, and work that needs to be redone because decisions have  been made based on incomplete or even incorrect data.

Absence of trust is demotivating.  According to Edward Deci and Richard Ryan’s Self Determination Theory, one of the pillars of intrinsic motivation is autonomy. We work so much more effectively when self-motivated rather than externally motivated.  Allowing autonomy requires trust – trust that people will do what needs to be done, with high quality and on time.  Micro-managing sends the opposite message, that people are not trusted.

It takes a lot to achieve peak performance on a team: Mission, vision, values, planning, strengths-focus, open communication, healthy conflict, collaboration, commitment. But without trust there is no foundation and performance will crumble.

How can you build a foundation of trust?

So how do you build trust within the team?  A good way to start is to be intentional about creating an environment where people feel safe sharing their thoughts, ideas, and opinions, without negative repercussions.  Find ways for team members to get to know each other and develop interpersonal bonds.  Create purposeful experiences for team members to help them build relationships and trust. Many of you have heard about or experienced activities such as the “trust fall.”  (You’re not rolling your eyes, are you?)  These trust-building activities take us outside our comfort zones.  Which makes us, well, uncomfortable!  That discomfort is powerful, though, in promoting growth and change.  As we begin to trust another person for our physical well-being, we also begin to trust them when it comes to our emotional or psychological well-being.

When there is a foundation of trust in an organization with a compelling vision, clearly-understood purpose, and shared values – a team performing at its peak can accomplish anything.  It can move mountains!

Create the company culture you want!


Culture in the workplace.  It can make the difference between a place people love to work or one they dread. For something that has such a profound impact on the success of an organization, the accidental company culture is surprisingly common!

If you are a leader in your organization, you have a choice. You can be intentional about establishing and developing the culture you want.  Or, you can do nothing toward creating culture and hope that what develops organically is what you had in mind.  Because whether or not you are intentional about it, your organization will develop a culture of its own. And as with most things, it’s easier and more effective to establish the culture you want if you build it from the start. When that doesn’t happen, you may find you need to change the culture, sometimes one that is firmly entrenched.

yoga at the beachThe core elements of culture are the same, in organizations, society, and families. Culture grows out of the mission, vision, and values of groups of people. And the leaders of people have a tremendous impact on culture. When leaders select and develop people who demonstrate values and behaviors that align with the organization’s purpose, they reinforce culture. In addition, the leader’s ability to communicate the vision, promote the values, and demonstrate the behaviors that support those values has a profound influence on everyone else in the organization.

So how can you be more intentional about creating culture and developing a team that embodies the culture you want?

Here are three keys to effectively establish or change an organization’s culture.


Mission and Vision:

First, be clear on both the organization’s mission and vision.  Make sure everyone has a solid understanding of why they do what they do, and where they want to go in the future. Leaders need to be able to clearly articulate both of these, and make them part of an ongoing conversation with everyone in the organization. Steve Jobs once said, “in a thousand  and one little, and sometimes larger ways, the vision needs to be reiterated.”  In your organization, are the people in every role able to talk about the vision and about how they contribute to achieving it?  If not, what steps can you take today to bring this about?



The values that are reinforced day-in and day-out are the ones that become part of an organization’s culture. What values are reinforced in your organization? Do the actual behaviors of everyone in the organization align with the stated values? Or are there areas of disconnect? Perhaps you’ve experienced something like this: A stated value that “work/life balance is important and respected.”  But the actual practice is for emails and texts to be sent at all hours, any day of the week. If there is a discrepancy, the behaviors will have far more influence on the culture.



Determine the behaviors that align with your mission, vision and values, and then consistently demonstrate and reinforce those behaviors. Think about behaviors you would expect to see in your ideal culture. If building relationships is one of your organization’s values, you might expect to see people going to lunch together, or taking time to interact on a more personal level from time to time. If you value achievement, you might expect to see a focus on goals and celebration when milestones are reached. Ensure that the systems in place support the desired culture and behaviors.  Consider the behaviors that are rewarded in your organization.  Are desired behaviors sometimes inadvertently punished?  Or unwanted behaviors rewarded?  For example, perhaps top-performers are “rewarded” with extra work, while under-performers are given less work to do.


Once you start on the path of changing culture, remember that it won’t happen overnight! The larger the organization, the longer change will likely take. But as you consistently reinforce the mission, vision, values, and desired behaviors, your ideal culture will soon become a reality in your organization. Change, large or small, starts with a single step. What step will you take today to take your organization’s culture where you want and need it to go?


Keep Team Development Momentum Going


You’ve just wrapped up an energizing and motivational day of team development.  Now what?  How do you keep the momentum going?

Team developmentFortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to be purposeful about ongoing team development!  Looking for ways to make the most of those opportunities on a regular basis is the key to turning your team into a cohesive, engaged, and collaborative unit. And when you do that, your team members become more competent communicators, problem solvers, decision makers, and innovators. By making team development a priority, you demonstrate that you believe the team is worth investing in.  Sustained focus on the team builds on the foundation of trust, communication, and collaboration necessary to achieve peak performance in achieving your organization’s goals.

Here are a couple of ideas to continuously build your group into an effective team:

  • Include a brief icebreaker activity at the beginning of routine meetings.  Even something simple like having everyone share what they were listening to on the way to work that morning can help people feel more connected.  Try this activity – it’s easy to do and always energizing!  Tailor the questions to make the activity even more relevant to your team and organization.
  • Plan for more extensive team development interactions at quarterly or six-month intervals to reinforce team values and goals.  If your team already meets regularly, set aside time to focus on purposeful team development. You will be amazed at the impact an hour or two of sustained reinforcement will have on the cohesiveness and performance of your team!  Here’s an example of a trust-building activity that you might use.

Every step you take is valuable in developing your highly-effective, top-performing team. Team development is a process – it takes ongoing work and commitment.  But the outcome is well worth the effort!

What are some of the things you’ve done to develop a peak-performing team?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

What do you believe?


IMG_0611Last week’s Inspiration Conference at San Diego Women’s Week was, well, inspirational! The underlying theme from speaker after speaker?  Believing.  Believing – that you can make a difference, that you will succeed, that your thoughts and perspective are valuable, that the world can be a better place… There is tremendous power in our beliefs – they propel us toward the future we are creating each moment.

From Elizabeth McCormick, Black Hawk Helicopter Pilot and author of The P.I.L.O.T. Methodwe don’t need to know the “how” in order to believe.  In fact, sometimes we let the “how” get in the way of success.  Instead of figuring out how to do something, have you ever found that you’ve talked yourself out of doing it because you didn’t know how?  Be your own cheerleader, believe in yourself, and you can accomplish incredible things!

Even with the best cheerleading, sometimes we can still find ourselves feeling powerless in the face of challenges.  How to overcome that feeling?   The amazing Amy Cuddy shared insights on the power that comes from trusting in our own unique qualities and abilities, and from believing in ourselves. In her new book, Presence, she shares her research about the body-mind connection and how that connection can be harnessed to build confidence. “The way you carry yourself is a source of personal power… the key to presence.”  When we believe in ourselves, we are authentic, present, and confident.

Naomi Tutu offered the most powerful message of belief and hope: Don’t look at what you see today and accept it as the conclusion of your story.  Work toward your dreams.  Prepare yourself.  Opportunities we can’t imagine will come to pass.


What is the world you are dreaming?  What are you doing to live that life?


On being a servant leader


servant leadershipWhat does it mean to be a servant leader?  Whether we recognize it or not, as leaders we have an enormous responsibility to those who follow us.  And the higher a leader is within an organization, the greater the responsibility. A leader has the ability to provide or withhold resources that others need to be successful. Access to training, coaching, tools, technology, or a psychologically safe work environment are all within the leader’s control. A servant leader focuses on how s/he can provide these resources in order for others to achieve success.

When the leader shares a vision, provides appropriate support, encouragement, and resources, and then trusts followers to work toward achieving that vision, amazing things happen!

How does it make an organization better when leaders embrace a servant-leadership mindset? If everyone within the organization acts as a servant leader, the focus within the organization turns to how each member can best support others to make them successful. When everyone has this attitude the potential for achievement grows exponentially.

As you reflect on your role as a leader, consider what your actions say about your leadership philosophy. Are your actions, beliefs, and values in alignment? Are you giving your team the support it needs to thrive?


To learn more about the servant leader philosophy, check out these resources:


Feeling grateful


At an event I attended recently, everyone was asked to share what they were grateful for that day – and we were only allowed to use three words. Many included words like, “family,” “friends,” “my clients”, or even more specifically, “my friend Sharon,” or “my three children.” No one, however, said anything like, “my new car” (or any other material item). It was glaringly obvious that it was the connections with others that held the most meaning for everyone in the group.

friendsWhen you think about what you are grateful for, what words come to mind? Most likely, the relationships in your life have a high place in your gratitude list. Whether it’s family and friends or clients and co-workers, the relationships we build are the things that have the greatest impact on us. Today, and every day, I am grateful for those relationships!

On this Thanksgiving Day, I wish you a day of peace, joy, and warmth shared with those you hold dear.


Time management illusion


time commodityDid you know that the word “time” is used more often in the English language than any other noun? In the United States especially, we are obsessed with time. Being on time, making the most of time, providing goods and services “just-in-time,” wasting time, killing time, spending time (ideally quality time), saving time… I could go on, but in the interest of time will stop here as I am sure you get the picture.

After reading the thought-provoking article “Being Lazy and Slowing Down” by Riyad A. Shahjahan I started thinking about time a little differently as I explored the idea from diverse perspectives.


In Western culture, time is viewed as a commodity, not to be “wasted.” If we’re not engaged in a visibly productive activity, we’re thought of as being lazy. As a result, we often find ourselves rushing from task to task, although not necessarily accomplishing much of anything. It’s an illusion that we can “manage” time, bend it to our will. And yet we try – with calendars, schedulers, reminders, alarms, and a host of efficiency and time management tools. But in many cases, the more we try to control time to get the most out of every minute, the less we actually have.

While we can’t truly control time, we can make choices about how and where we focus our energy and attention. Yes, the tasks are important (many of them, at least). And then there are those things that don’t fit so neatly into a structured and scheduled block of time. Things like building relationships, meaningful communication, innovation, reflection, and problem-solving. When we do those things well, we become more productive, completing the tasks and projects more effectively and efficiently.

Reflection, for example, is a foreign concept for many, its power unrecognized. And yet, reflection is a critical component of learning and creating. Without it, learning is shallow and seldom remembered, while innovation seems entirely out of reach. How often have you heard someone say, “I do my best thinking in the shower.”? Perhaps you’ve said that yourself. Why is it that we find solutions for problems we’ve been grappling with or find exciting new ideas while in the shower? For some of us, that is the only unstructured time we have in the day – and we thrive in that environment! We find solutions to problems, clarity about decisions, and answers to questions, when we allow ourselves just a little space.

What would happen if you allowed yourself to be lazy for just a little while today? How might you thrive?



Riyad A. Shahjahan (2015) Being ‘Lazy’ and Slowing Down: Toward decolonizing time, our body, and pedagogy, Educational Philosophy and Theory: Incorporating ACCESS, 47:5, 488-501, DOI: 10.1080/00131857.2014.880645

Why attend a conference?


You have many demands on your time and budget. Why would you want to add to that by adding a conference or two to your schedule?

Having just attended the AEE’s incredible 43rd Annual International Conference, I can share some of the reasons why I already have next year’s Association for Experiential Education conference on the calendar, set as a high priority. Connecting with others who share your interests, and at the same time bring divAEE Conference logoerse perspectives, is powerful! It:

  • stimulates fresh ideas
  • inspires
  • provokes new ways of thinking
  • provides endless opportunities for learning
  • builds relationships
  • stretches comfort zones
  • encourages collaboration
  • is energizing!

Are these things worth investing in? Absolutely! You are investing in yourself.

How will you invest in yourself in 2016? Whether you choose to attend a large conference or get involved in local events that connect you with things you are passionate about – whatever you do for your own growth and development is worth the investment.


Is yours a healthy workplace?


Do you go to work each day in a healthy workplace, or do you consider it toxic? If it’s not as healthy as you’d like, what can you do to improve it?

You make choices every day that can influence the overall culture of your workplace – and that includes influence over how healthy that culture is.

When you hold an early morning meeting, do you bring: doughnuts? bagels? fresh fruit?healthy workplace

Do you use candy as a motivator in training sessions?

Do staff members eat lunch while sitting at their desks, trying to get caught-up on their work as their energy is draining away?

Do you do anything to encourage playfulness in the workplace? Toss a nerf football around, perhaps, or take a break to shoot hoops?

What about meetings? Do they always take place indoors with attendees sitting around a table? Have you ever tried moving your meetings outdoors, or at least into a room with lots of windows and the feel of the outdoors? Or what about a “walking meeting”?  Among the many benefits of walking meetings: brain studies have shown that we think better when we’re moving, and it’s much less likely for the meeting to expand arbitrarily just to fill the hour.

If you are looking for ways to make your workplace healthier, there are some great resources out there for you. Many cities and counties have developed Healthy Communities programs to partner with businesses, schools, and other organizations to find ways to make the healthy path the easy path. Here’s an example of a program in San Diego.

Small changes can make a big difference. What if you improved the lighting in your office stairwells and hung employee’s or their family member’s artwork there? What if you offered oranges at a training event instead of candy? What if everyone were encouraged to spend 30 minutes being physically active during each workday? Have you ever noticed an increase in your own energy and productivity after you’ve moved around a bit or eaten a healthy snack?

Imagine what you could accomplish if you worked every day in a healthy workplace! What small step can you take today toward creating that kind of environment?


Less is More


A neighbor of mine writes an inspirational note each day on a whiteboard hanging on a fence. Sometimes the messages are quite long, but the other day all it said was, “Less is more.” Which, of course, got me thinking.

How can it be that “less = more?” It’s not logical, not rational. But does it have to be logical or rational to be true? How often do you find yourself rushing through a day overflowing with meetings and tasks, and yet have no sense of fulfillment at the end of the day? And if this starts to happen day after day? It’s easy to fall into a pattern of busy-ness that gets in the way of meaning and purpose.

ReflectionHow to break out of that cycle? It may seem counter-intuitive, but one way is to set aside time for reflection. Intentional, focused reflection. You may find that as you think about your experiences you discover insights and meaning that you might have overlooked while racing on to the next item on your “to-do” list. You may realize that some less-important tasks are eating up most of your time, keeping you from accomplishing those that are more meaningful. Your time is limited and valuable. It’s worthwhile to use some of that precious time for reflection to help you make the most of the rest!

If you’re not already in the habit of reflecting, it may seem foreign to you at first. Find a method that works for you, and be persistent about it. Perhaps writing in a journal at the end of every day is ideal for you, while someone else might benefit more from taking brief moments throughout the day for reflection. And another might get more from having a deep conversation with a friend or colleague.There is not a single right way – all of these have been useful for me at one time or another.

What about you? Have you found reflection to be useful? Have you experienced situations where “less” was actually “more?”

1 2 3 4 5