Archives for August 2020

Everyone on your team has something to offer if you let them

Teams are important. It takes people to have a team. For a team to perform optimally, each person must have a voice and be allowed to contribute. 

This has been on my mind in relation to a corporate client who, while having a management team, really has a top down decision making process driven by a single person, the owner. I was asked to participate in a meeting on issues related to a legal matter. Each member of the team of four was allowed to speak. After each one spoke I watched and listened to the owner kind of acknowledge what someone said and then replace it with what he thought or wanted to do. This went on for two hours, after which I was directed to do what the owner had told me he wanted to do a few days before the meeting. He allowed his people to speak and ignored their thoughts and input. 

This is an example of a dysfunctional team. An owner has the right to be the ultimate decision maker, but if you give someone a voice only to ignore it, what’s the point of even giving the illusion of wanting input? 

That meeting made me think of a non-profit board I am a member of. The members of the board are diverse in many ways and each bring things to the table the others don’t. During a recent meeting on strategic issues, I listened as committee members spoke. People actually listened to each other and helped form the ideas and action steps on the matters being decided by the board. This is a functional team.

Functional teams involve input from all and team members being open to ideas different from their own. If you think about this, most of us are involved in teams at work and home. How these teams function makes a difference. Of course, at home, parents need to dictate family decisions on many issues, but allowing children a voice at the table on certain issues seems like a smart strategy for them to be part of a functional team from a young age.

People on a team won’t always agree with the decisions coming out of the group. Once a decision is made, those who may not have agreed with the decision need to align so there is a singular message coming from the team. This happens with high functioning teams: respectful discussion and disagreement when meeting and then sending a unified message to those not on the team.

If you are on a functional team, it just makes things easier. If you are on a dysfunctional team, make changes. Change is hard, but it’s the path forward to more ideas and better decision making.

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Disconnect from your work

Most of us are connected to our phones, tablets or computers more than ever right now. From the time we wake up until the time we go to sleep, most of us are a few steps from our office from anywhere in our home. Like many, my summer travel plans were cancelled, taking away a time I actually disconnect from work and email. Losing that time and the current circumstances are wearing on me and those around me. We all need a break, but it’s hard to do when day and night are spent in the same place.

It’s always hard to disconnect because of some perceived emergency situation for a client I may or may not remember a year in the future. When I do disconnect, I am reminded we all need to do so. It’s so relaxing and provides a much needed break from work and the continuous need to stay on top of email and various forms of electronic media and information. When is the last time you disconnected?

It’s more important than ever to do so, but it takes even more planning. Maybe you are willing to travel by plane or car and take a few days away. Even if you aren’t, there are ways to take time. Plan an outdoor activity. If the weather is bad in your locale, you may have to drive a few hours, but you can do so and be home the same day. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do something and force yourself to disconnect.

We walk around with these small computers in our pockets that we use to communicate with others, take pictures, surf the Internet, and stream video and audio content. We also use them for work. Most of us really are connected all day long whether because of a level of addiction or the need to be accessible at all times to customers and clients. For those working at home, the lines have become even more blurred.

As an attorney, I definitely have clients who think I should be able to immediately respond to any email or text at almost any time of the day. I try to set reasonable expectations of my availability and general response times, but many people think because a message was sent it will be immediately viewed and responded to. I had one client who used to text me “????” if I didn’t respond or call him within a few minutes of his text. When I would get back to him he logically understood I have other clients, a family and things going on, but because he is an instant responder on email and text, his knee jerk reaction is that everyone else is too.

Use your phone to Google it and you will find numerous articles and studies about how bad it is for your brain and, generally, your well-being, to be using technology so much and accessible at all hours. How bad has it become? Someone my wife previously worked with used to (and hopefully, for her and her husband’s sanity, doesn’t) keep her phone under her pillow and answer texts at all hours of the night. That is so bad on many levels.

Just like your body and brain need you to take vacation, they need you to disconnect from technology for at least short amounts of time. But it isn’t easy to disconnect – our phones help us fill downtime or dead space. The problem is that our downtime is time we used to spend thinking, coming up with ideas, and being creative. In the big picture, for most of us, technology is a creativity killer. For me it may mean the great legal argument or idea for one of my cases won’t come into my head out of the blue like they used to. For you it probably means something different, but there is something you have lost from not taking time to let your mind be unoccupied, even for a moment.

At the same time, I am a big fan of technology both in my professional and personal worlds. I continually am trying to balance its use better, with varying results depending on the day. The truth is you have to focus on turning away from your technology to reconnect not only with the people around you, but yourself.

Try taking a short break from technology and see what positive effects it has for you. I know some of you are saying to yourselves “but when I turn it back on I will be so behind and have to catch up.” You have to do that anytime you go on vacation, are in a meeting or unable to constantly be online, so accept that as a given. If you try to take a break, even for a short time, you will come back looking forward to the next time you can do so and try to make it a regular thing.

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Imagine you are in a car with others on a long drive, have somewhere to be, and out of nowhere traffic on the highway comes to a stop. What is your first reaction? It may be to curse under your breath (or out loud). It may be to voice your frustration or you may be upset knowing you will be late to your destination.

I had this happen earlier this week. My first reaction definitely was frustration. But then I sat back and thought about what I can control and what I can’t control. It didn’t make sitting in traffic for around an hour stopped or barely moving fun by any means. At the same time it gave way to good conversation, made it easier to change the music and provided some time to think. There is good and bad with all things and I tried to find the good and let go of the frustration.

Patience is defined as “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” Being able to do so is a learned talent. We all want what we want now. Learning that isn’t how the world works when you are young is a hard lesson. Aging, and hopefully maturing, doesn’t make it any easier. It also is impacted by the situation, whether you didn’t sleep well last night and a host of other factors.

That is why patience always is a work in progress. I try to exercise patience in situations where it’s needed. Sometimes I do better than others. No matter my reaction, I do look back to try and figure out how I could have reacted better and with a plan (and hope) to do better the next time.

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