Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Year End Team Questions

The end of every year is often a blur with holiday parties, lunches, and running to get projects wound up. Are you and your team building in some time to reflect on your successes, and learning, this year? Even 10 minutes spent in dialogue looking at key milestones can be important in supporting the team to create awareness around your achievements.

Some of the questions you may want to bring into a staff meeting before the end the year are:

1. What have been our biggest achievements this year?
2. What has been our biggest learning this year?
3. What strengths/bench strength are we developing as a team?
4. What is our team known for (or getting known for - in our organization, across teams, with our customers or stakeholders)?
5. What is the one outstanding project/task if left undone this year, could derail us?
6. Our most important focus for 2013 is going to be _________
7. I'm going to commit to bring the following to the team/to work: ____________________
8. I am looking forward to __________________ during 2013.

Realistically you may not have time to discuss all of these as a team. They can be useful in incorporating into one-on-one conversations you have as well.

What are you and your team doing this year end to pause, reflect and celebrate?

Have a great week,

Jennifer Britton, MES, PCC, CPT
Potentials Realized - Retreats, Leadership and Teamwork
info{at}potentialsrealized{dot} com

Some of the other related posts you may wish to look at are :
Corporate Retreats - 4 Things to Consider
Teams on Thursday - Teams in the Downturn
10 Signs it's time for a Team Tune Up
Mapping Your Team's Strengths

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Facilitating Effective Virtual Meetings

Patrick Lencioni said it really well - "Death by Meeting". How much time have you spent this week in meetings? How effective have they been?

Chances are, you have probably been on a couple of conference calls or virtual meetings. Where did your attention go?

Here are seven tips to keep in mind when considering facilitation of your next virtual meeting:

1. Send out an agenda a few days prior to the call, asking for feedback and input (by a specific date). Follow the agenda during the call.

2. Make the purpose of the meeting explicitly clear so individuals can gauge their need for participation, and what they may need to bring or do prior to the call.

3. If possible, keep it conversational or interactive. Research from virtual learning indicates that virtual participants need to be engaged every 5-7 minutes. Whether it is throwing a question out to the group for discussion, comments (by email) or written reflection, engagement is key!

4. Summarize key decisions, action items and agreements throughout the call. It is easy to "get lost" without the visual cues of a face to face meeting. Summaries along the way will help to keep everyone on the same page.

5. Encourage group members to "bottom line" their comments. As a facilitator of the call, keep an eye on process and keep the call moving. It is easy to get sidetracked and have long-winded stories. Establishing some process guidelines to keep the conversation moving will be very useful.

6. Follow up with a BRIEF summary of the call after wards..

7. Ensure that there is a circling back to check in on action items/commitments as appropriate.

What other tips would you suggest to ensure that your virtual meetings are most effective? Any good resources you know about?

As always, please feel free to share your thoughts below

Warm regards

Jennifer Britton
Author of Effective Group Coaching (Wiley, 2010)
Potentials Realized - Leadership, Teamwork, Retreats

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Leader as Empowerer

"People under the influence of an empowering person are like paper in the hands of a talented artist" - John C.Maxwell

As a leader or professional, what do you do to empower others?

What do you do to provide space, as well as support, for others to do and achieve their goals?

Empowerment is a term that is often bandied around these days, with those empowering and team members who are supposed to feel empowered not always being on the same page. Empowerment without trust and respect may not be construed in the way it was intended.

In order for empowerment to really work it is important that people are given the tools and resources to do their work, as well as the authority and responsibility to make decisions.

As you consider empowering your team:
  • What barriers might they smack up against? 
  • What tools and resources do they need? 
  • Do they have the authority and responsibility to get things done? 
  • What additional support, feedback and resources might you need to provide for them?

When groups and teams have what they need in order to do their work, and the space to do the work, it's time to step aside and as a wise colleague of mine says "micro-monitor, not micro-manage".

Have a great week,

Jennifer Britton
Author of Effective Group Coaching (Wiley, 2010)
Potentials Realized - Leadership Development  | Teamwork | Staff Retreats
Phone: (416)996-TEAM (8326)

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Leadership - The Art of Questions

In my former work I had team members in ten countries. I learned very fast that the best skill I could have as a leader/manager was to ask great questions. Today I spend a bulk of my time in coaching conversations with leaders. Regardless of how long you have been a leader, the art of questions is critical.

I really enjoy the parts of my work that have me face to face with new leaders, whether I am leading a training or group coaching process with them. Time and time again, we come back to the basics - communication.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind with respect to the art of questions:

- Great questions are related to what is being said. That really means that we have to listen to what the person is saying to us, not thinking about what question needs to come next. Next conversation you have with a staff, really listen and trust that the right question will come. If not, pause and think about it.

- Great questions are short, sweet and to the point. When did you last get lost in a question someone asked you?

- Great questions are often open-ended, inviting someone to elaborate. Is your question designed to solicit input or is it designed for something else?

- Why questions often put people on the defensive. Why questions however are loved by "why" learners - those that learn through asking the Why?

- How questions will put people into process and may limit creativity and innovation. Try starting with a WHAT question around creativity/innovation and then move to a HOW question.

Next time you are in a conversation, reflect on how you did, AFTER the conversation (not during it). What did you do to really listen and ask great questions?

Have a great week,

Jennifer Britton
Potentials Realized
Coaching, Training and Consulting Services - Leadership, Teamwork, Performance
Phone: (416)996-TEAM (8326)

Monday, May 07, 2012

Virtual Mentoring Tips

Mentoring across distance is becoming much more common place. Last week I delivered a mentor training program to a new set of mentors in the financial services industry. A couple of mentors were surprised that mentoring could work over the phone. In fact, I increasingly hear that virtual mentoring may work better for some parings than face to face meetings.

Here are a couple of tips to get the most out of virtual mentoring:
1. Set a clear agenda for the meeting. What is the focus of the conversation? What does the protege/mentee want to explore? It may be useful for you to have an agreement as to how this is communicated - ie. before the session or at the start?

2. Spend some time building your relationship. Sometimes mentoring at a distance is the only way due to geographic concerns. If you can, it may be useful to meet face to face, even via skype. Mentoring relationships can be strengthened when time is spent getting to know each other, and having discussion around what expectations exist around meeting (where/when), focus areas, type of support etc. Five - ten minutes spent on this can help to keep the process moving for the length of the partnership.
3. Understand each others styles. Virtual mentoring may be more comfortable for t
ose who are more reserved or introverted. Consider how virtual mentoring may support, or not support, your unique styles.

4. Mix it up. If face to face and virtual options are possible, consider how they can be used for greatest impact. You may notice a different "feel" to a call, lending itself to explore certain topic areas.

5. Make it regular. Just because you are not seeing each other face to face, out of sight does not mean out of mind. Together as a mentoring partnership determine how frequently you want to connect. Shorter touchpoints, more frequently may be of greater benefit.

In closing, consider how you can strengthen your mentoring process through the inclusion of more virtual meetings.

Have a great week,

Jennifer Britton, MES, CPT, PCC
Author of Effective Group Coaching (Wiley, 2010)
Potentials Realized - Leadership and Teamwork 
Coaching, Training and Consulting Services
Phone: 416-996-TEAM (8326)

Would you like to reprint this post? Please do so with the following: As a former global leader with the UN and other international organizations, Jennifer has always led in "unusual times". Today, Jennifer works with teams and organizations to think outside of the norm, building capacity and solutions which are innovative and flexible. Jennifer is the author of Effective Group Coaching (John Wiley and Sons, 2010), the first book to be published on the topic of Group Coaching globally. She continues to work with clients across Canada, the US and globally, leveraging technology to close the gaps. Her corporate training retreat work has taken her to deliver programs in more than 18 countries.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Styles and Teamwork

It's very common for  a multitude of styles to exist within any team. Some people are more detail oriented, others love the big picture, some like to be "hands on" (doers) while others may be more cerebral (thinkers).

What are the different styles that exist within your team?
How do different styles create conflict?
How do the different styles allow your team to do exceptional work?

Some of the work I do with teams is to provide them with further detail about their styles and strengths. "Knowledge is power" and may provide new insights about team members' preferences, what they value and how they may prefer to work.

Perhaps you are looking to do some work in this area. Depending on your budget, amount of time, team size and focus, you may wish to explore these assessments:
 - DiSc
- Personal Styles Inventory
- Myers-Briggs
- StrengthsFinder (more of a focus on strengths than styles. Can be very useful for teams)

The key to introducing any of these to your team is to use it in expanding the awareness of the group. It's not just to say " I'm an ENFP"  or "I'm a Sensor, and hence I am an x....". Assessments can be useful in reinforcing, or enhancing our awareness around our preferences in how we work, and where our natural abilities/affinities may lay. Sharing this information within the team context can help facilitate a deeper understanding about the overall team strengths, gaps, blindspots, areas of opportunity and potential threat (i.e. all team members are strong in big-picture orientation but not in detail).

How might a conversation about styles and strengths benefit your team?

Have a great week!


Jennifer Britton
Author of Effective Group Coaching (Wiley 2010)
Potentials Realized - Team Services | Retreats | Leadership Development
Phone: (416) 996-8326 (TEAM)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Feedback - An Essential Leadership Skill

Feedback is a critical skill for supervisors, managers, I would also say team members. As important as it is so many professionals continue to be very uncomfortable with both providing feedback, and sometimes even in receiving feedback.

If you are providing feedback to another, here are a couple of tips to keep in mind:

1. Be specific. Telling someone they did a "great job" without providing specifics is not very useful. Provide examples of when they did a "great job" - what did they do, when, where etc. Provide detail on what you noticed, not what you assumed.

2. Provide feedback that is meaningful. Feedback should be relevant and important to us, or our work. Have a conversation about what type of feedback your colleagues are looking for, what's important in their work, or with their priorities. What type of feedback is meaningful for each person you work with?

3. Provide feedback at an appropriate time. The timing of feedback is also important. Is the person open to receiving feedback? Is it an appropriate time, or location?   When feedback is delivered is also important. When would be the most appropriate time to provide feedback?

4. Provide feedback on an ongoing basis - Feedback is most useful when it relates to events that just happened. So many times feedback is only provided when it is performance review time. Feedback about something that happened six months is not as useful as having a discussion about something that happened today. 
How do you want to provide more regular feedback?

There are several different models out there for providing feedback including the "sandwich technique" and the SBI model.

Many of you may be familiar with the "sandwich technique" of starting and ending on the positive of what you have noticed, and providing the constructive feedback in the middle.

The SBI model was developed by the Center for Creative Leadership and is an acronym to focus on the Situation, Behavior and Impact. Read more about the SBI model here.

In closing, what changes do you want to make with respect to providing feedback?

Have a great week,

Jennifer Britton
Author of Effective Group Coaching (Wiley, 2010)
Potentials Realized
Performance | Leadership | Teamwork

Monday, April 16, 2012

Corporate Retreats - Four Things to Consider

Corporate Retreats can be a great opportunity for teams and entire organizations to get away and FOCUS on things that are important. Unfortunately, retreats are not always as productive or fruitful as they can be. In planning for an upcoming corporate retreat, here are four things to consider:

1. What is the purpose of this retreat? Is it for strategic planning? Team building? Unplugging and focusing on what's really important in our business? Skill building? Time taken to get clear on the purpose of the retreat process is invaluable in ensuring the FOCUS is right. Once you have selected a facilitator to work with your team/organization, ensure that the purpose is clearly articulated.
Consider: What is the purpose of our retreat?

2. What approaches will work best for us? Choosing a facilitator that can bring a style and approach that matches your needs is critical. Are you looking for a planner? A team builder? Someone who can work at the strategic level? Do you have someone internally who can support this work, or do you need to look externally?
Consider: What is it that we are looking for in terms of the retreat approach?

3. What do we want as outcomes and takeaways? Consider what tangible takeaways will be best. Is it the core of a strategic plan? Annual workplans? Resource lists? New skill development? Each team/organization will have different needs. Keep these outcomes and takeaways front and center as you move through a retreat process.
Consider: What do we want as outcomes and takeaways from the retreat process?

4. How will we sustain the process? For many years I ran retreats internally for organizations I worked with. A key challenge was always around how we sustained the process. Great ideas were often left at the retreat site. For the past eight years as I have worked as an external facilitator of retreats, I have encouraged my partner organizations to consider how do we sustain the process, and keep the conversation going? It may involved dedicated staff meetings for follow up, several conference calls to keep the conversation flowing, or even a couple of shorter off or on-site "tune-ups" throughout the year.
Consider: How will we sustain the process? What will work best with our organization?

Have a wonderful week!

Jennifer Britton
Author of Effective Group Coaching (Wiley, 2010)
Potentials Realized - Coaching, Training and Consulting Services
Corporate Retreats - Read about some of the retreats we have developed with partner organizations, and download a retreat planning checklist
Email: info{at}potentialsrealized{dot}com
Phone: (416)996-8326

Monday, April 02, 2012

Leveraging Your Team Strengths: Questions to Consider

When was the last time you discussed the strengths individual team members bring to work? In today's busy context of "doing more with less" discussion around "the softer stuff" often gets pushed aside.

Here's what Emotional Intelligence author Daniel Goleman says:

"In hard times, the soft staff often goes away. But emotional intelligence, it turns out, isn't so soft. If emotional obliviousness jeopardizes your ability to perform, fend off aggressors, or be compassionate in a crisis, no amount of attention to the bottom line will protect your career. Emotional intelligence isn't a luxury you can dispense with in touch times. It's a basic tool that, deployed with finesse, is the key to professional success"

Gallup's research around strengths find that leaders support and invest in their team members strength the odds of the person being engaged increases 8x. How is disengagement showing up in your organization?

This past weekend I led a retreat for an organization which focused primarily on strengths, team development and strategic and immediate action planning. What people really enjoyed above all was the opportunity to share and connect. When did you last ask your team what they see as their own strengths? How often do they get to use these in their work every day?

Here are a few questions for team members to consider:
1. What do you view as your strengths? What are you good at?
2. How do you use your strengths at work, in your role?
3. What could you do to more fully use your strengths each and every day?
4. Looking at upcoming priorities, which of your strengths, skills and talents, can support this work?
5. What else do you need to share with the team?
6. What do you need to stop doing? In light of current priorities?

What other questions would be useful for your team to consider?

Have a great week,

Jennifer Britton, MES, PCC
Author of Effective Group Coaching (Wiley, 2012)
Potentials Realized
Leadership Development | Teamwork | Staff Retreats | Strategic Planning
Phone: (416)996-TEAM (8326)
Email: info{at}potentials realized{dot}com

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Toxic Communication in Today's Workforce

A couple of weeks ago I spoke at the HRPA conference here in Toronto on Toxic Communication and how it impacts performance. This seems to be a topic very prevalent in so many work places these days.

Toxic communication patterns can run the range of the gossip at the watercooler, to the rolling of eyes during presentations, the "here we go again", the subtle (or not) ignoring during meetings by leaving or disconnecting on a blackberry, or the more obvious name-calling or berating.

Toxic behavior is normal - what is not is when it goes to the extreme. My team coaching partner Sharon Miller and I typically use the following definition for toxic behavior -

A Toxic Relationship is a relationship characterized by behaviors on the part of the toxic partner that are emotionally and, not infrequently, physically damaging to their partner.

The cost of toxicity in today's workplace is huge. A study by Porath and Pearson (2009) found the following impact on employees:
  • 48% decreased their work effort
  • 47% decreased time at work
  • 38% decreased work quality
  • 68% said their performance declined
  • 80% said they lost time worrying about it
  • 63% lost time avoiding the person
  • 78% said their commitment to the organization declined

Consider the following:

What toxic communication patterns are present in your organization? Within your team?

What is the cost of this?

What is needed to address/change the communication patterns?

Warm regards


Jennifer Britton, MES, CPT, PCC

Author of Effective Group Coaching (Wiley, 2010)

Potentials Realized

Team Coaching, Facilitation and Training

Phone: (416)996-8326

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Questions for Building Stronger Work Partnerships

In the spirit of Valentine's Day, today's post deals with business relationships. Strong business relationships are critical for success across all industries today. A few years ago when I was writing Effective Group Coaching, I was asked about how to make co-facilitation of programs really work. It led me to write an accompanying digital chapter for the book. Whether you are co-leading, co-facilitating or working collaboratively, here are some questions to consider and discuss together:

1. What are the unique strengths we each bring? How do these overlap/intersect?
2. How do our skill sets and strengths compliment each other?
3. How do our skill sets and strengths create a blindspot? (note a blindspot is an area which you may not be aware of, or has an absence)
4. How do we individually and collectively define success for this work?
5. What does "quality" and "success" look like? (Be specific)
6. What is/are the priorities - individually and collectively?
7. What can we each be counted on for, no matter what?
8. If things go off the rails, what will you commit to doing?
9. What support and feedback does your partner require?
10. What support and feedback do you both need from the people/project you support?
11. What will you do to celebrate your successes along the way?

Have a terrific week!


Jennifer Britton, MES, CPT, PCC
Author of Effective Group Coaching (Wiley, 2010)
Potentials Realized
Coaching, Facilitation and Training Services
Email: info{at}potentialsrealized{dot}com
Phone: (416) 996-TEAM (8326)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Skills Needed for Collaboration

In follow up to my recent post on Creating the Context For Collaboration, it's important to also think about the skills professionals will need to thrive in collaborative context.

Resmus, in Best Practices: How to Make Collaboration Work, indicates that employees will need skills in:
  • Facilitation
  • Team Building
  • Conflict Resolution/Negotiation
  • Brainstorming
  • Technology
  • Ethics
In my former work with the UN as a leader these skills were essential. I continue to see in my current work supporting teams and organizations make this shift that some additional skills are required at all levels. These skills include - For New and Current Employees:
  • Communication
  • Relationship Building
  • Influence
  • Emotional Intelligence (particularly enhanced Self Management, Relationship Management)

Where do your own skills in these areas lie? Which ones are strengths? Which ones need some fine tuning?

What other skills do you see as being essential in boosting collaboration?

We work with teams and organizations to boost these skills through intensive training programs (virtual and in person), staff retreats and 3-6 month group and team coaching processes. If you have any questions, please give me a call.

Have a great week,

Jennifer Britton, PCC, CPT

Potentials Realized

Phone: (416) 996-TEAM (8326) | info{at}potentialsrealized{dot}com

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Creating the Context for Collaboration

Collaboration is critical to success in today's economy. What context is required for a collaborative workforce?

Here's a quick definition that I often use for Collaboration from Beyerlein, Nemiro, and Beyerlein, 2008):

“Collaboration occurs when individuals work together towards a shared goal, completing the work is dependent on relationships with a purpose, and individuals working together in purposeful ways toward a shared goal are committed to one another’s success” (Beyerlein, Nemiro, Beyerlein, 2008)

As you consider the context for collaboration in your organization or team ask yourself:
  • How clear are shared goals within your organization? how are these communicated? Where might they be unclear?
  • How strong are your team work skills, enabling individuals to work together? What gets in the way of individuals working together?
  • Are relationships strong across the team/department/organization?
  • How purposeful are relationships? Do relationships exist to get work done?
  • What is the level of accountability for results? What is the level of commitment? What needs clarity? Shoring up?

What is the context for collaboration at your organization, or within your team right now? What actions will make it a more enabling context?

Have a great week


Jennifer Britton

Author of Effective Group Coaching (Wiley, 2010)

Team Coaching | Corporate Retreats

Potentials Realized.com | Group Coaching Essentials.com

Phone: (416)996-TEAM (8326)