Do you come to me with a Problem or do you bring a Solution?

04/01/2017

Depending on your management style, your people will confront you with practical problems or with solutions.


Depending on your management style, your people will confront you with practical problems or with solutions. Every manager recognises at least one of these two situations:
1. Micro managers, who choose to stay in full control, are regularly confronted with employees coming to them with the question: ‘I have a problem, please tell me how should I solve it?’
2. Leaders, who delegate tasks, responsibilities and accountability, are regularly confronted with employees who bring them solutions for problems they are supposed to solve, because that is what they are hired for.

Problem Solving is best done in multi-functional teams. Working effectively together in Teams is (one of) the biggest assets an organisation has, to survive in the fast changing and disruptive markets of this digital age.

The Importance of Teamwork

Teamwork offers benefits to both company and staff:

  • Delegation: Management can delegate tasks to Teams and create more time for their own strategic and tactical tasks, while team members become better at dividing tasks so they are done by the most qualified people.

  • Efficiency: Teams develop systems that allow them to complete tasks efficiently and quickly. Then the company can take more work and generate more revenue without having to add more staff. This becomes even more helpful when efficient teams from different departments communicate and work together.

  • Ideas: Team members become accustomed to brainstorming information and to discuss how to solve company issues and problems; the company benefits from the variety of suggestions and solutions that comes from effective teams.

  • Support: In every workplace there are challenges each day, a strong team environment acts as a support mechanism for staff members. Work group members can help each other improve their performance and work together toward improving their professional development. Team members also come to rely on each other and trust each other. These bonds can be very important when the team faces a specific difficult challenge.

What defines Effective Teamwork? 

Effective teamwork features some key characteristics. According to Chris Joseph characteristics of effective teamwork include the ability to set aside personal prejudices and the willingness to take responsibility as a group.

  • Sense of Purpose: Teamwork is characterized by having a sense of purpose to achieve a clear, specific goal that all members believe is important to attain. All teams should consist of members who are capable of contributing to the achievement of the goal based on their level of knowledge or expertise.

  • Cooperative Spirit: A successful team contains a spirit of cooperation. All members need to work together to achieve the specific goal. This can be difficult, especially if some members possess strong personalities or are highly opinionated. Successful teams tend to have strong leaders who can keep everybody on the same page while keeping the petty bickering to a minimum.

  • Communication: One of the most important characteristics of a good team is open communication. Each team member must be able to communicate with the rest of the group for project updates, questions, ideas and general input. A team that encourages open communication allows everyone to be able to share their ideas and opinions without fear.
  • Respect:  For a team to be a comfortable and safe place for all members, each person must respect everyone else. Members should respect every aspect of other members, though they do not have to agree with it: ideas, communication abilities, background, religion, work style and cultural traditions. Because a great team practices open communication based on respect and trust, this will allow members to be vulnerable.

  • Playing by the Rules: Teams should also have a set of rules that determines its operating procedures. These rules help to keep the team on track and eliminate ambiguities. For example, a team might have a rule that all team members must agree on a decision before it can be implemented. This requires that the team discusses and exchange until consensus is reached.

  • Accountability: Teams must ultimately be held accountable as a whole for their failures as well as their successes. As a Leader, this means you need to reward the team as a whole for its accomplishments and hold all members accountable for its failures. Team leaders should foster a culture within the team where its members feel free to offer praise and criticism of other members with the idea that team results are what matters, not individual contributions.

Why not delegate trust, responsibility and accountability?
My personal experience is that, in general, cooperation and effective teamwork in Croatian companies is hindered by a main attitude of negative thinking and complaining. And because of this there are so many opportunities missed.
But besides this, do you realise which effects negativity and complaining further have?

Complaining rewires your brain for negativity
Travis Bradberry (2016) says complaining is tempting because it feels good; but complaining is not good for you! Your brain loves efficiency so, when you repeat a behavior such as complaining, your neurons branch out to each other to ease the flow of information.
Your neurons grow closer together, and the connections between them become more permanent. Scientists describe this process as “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” Repeated complaining rewires your brain to make future complaining easier and more likely.
After some time, you find it easier to be negative than to be positive. Complaining becomes your default behavior, which also might affect the way people perceive you.
And worse: complaining damages other areas of your brain as well.
Research from Stanford University showed that complaining shrinks the hippocampus, the part of the brain that is critical to problem solving and intelligent thinking. Damage to the hippocampus is scary because it is one of the primary brain areas destroyed by Alzheimer’s.

Complaining is bad for your health
When you complain, your body releases the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol shifts you into a fight-or-flight mode, directing oxygen, blood and energy away from everything but the systems that are essential to immediate survival. All the extra cortisol released by frequent complaining impairs your immune system and makes you more susceptible to high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and obesity. It even makes the brain more vulnerable to strokes.

Solutions to stop complaining
One possibility is to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
That means, when you feel like complaining, shift your attention to something that you are grateful for. Taking time to contemplate what you are grateful for is not only an effective thing to do; it reduces the stress hormone cortisol by 23%. Research conducted at the University of California shows that people who worked daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude experienced improved mood and energy and substantially less anxiety due to lower cortisol levels. Any time you experience negative or pessimistic thoughts, think about something positive. In time, a positive attitude will become a way of life.

To give you one take away: the 1:3 factor!
The 1:3 factor states that if you have 1 negative thought, feeling or experience, you will need 3 positive thoughts, feelings or experiences to compensate this 1 negative thought, only to get back into an equal emotional balance again.

Why this little intermezzo about Negativity – Positivity?
I am some 25 years in the business of consulting based on Positive Change and Transformation, both on a Company level as on Individual levels.
The 2nd of November 2016 I was confronted with diagnose of cancer. Might be life threatening? How would I really cope with it? How would I respond? Many, many questions and feelings came up. How would my usual positivity work out on myself now? It was a two months interesting personal quest.

Sisters of Mercy University Medical Centre and its Department of Otorhinolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery, Zagreb
After several examinations I was taken into the ‘Sisters of Mercy University Medical Centre’ for surgery in the department of ‘Otorhinolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery‘.
My surgery took place at 7 December. I woke up in the Intensive Care room where I had to stay for five days, then I was taken into another room for another five days until Friday 16 December and, on this Friday, I could leave the Hospital and go home for further recovery.
I am a ‘light sleeper’ so I had difficulties with sleeping and, as I refused to take sleeping pills, during these two weeks I got a very good insight in the way this department functions, both in the day-shifts as in the night-shifts.
Especially the observations I made about the Teamwork in this department I like to share because, there are not many organisations where Teamwork is performed at such a high level as in this practice.

In previous columns I wrote about specific requirements for transformation of your business (model) to adjust and stay ahead of your competition. or even how to survive the 4th Industrial Revolution companies are in. Basically, next to creativity and innovation, it is about leadership, trust, employee engagement and especially teamwork.

Teamwork in the department of ‘Otorhinolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery’
First let us look at the team of nurses. In my view this is the core team with one simple (?) goal: keep our patients alive and make them better.
The team of nurses consists out of ca. 15 persons in total but the team compilation changes regularly because of the 2-shifts (day, night) they are working in.
Note: this requires flexibility and communication.

Another interesting point in the compilation of the team: there are always two or three highly experienced nurses and one or two ‘learners’ in the team.
Note: this requires education, communication (active listening) and control.

The team has standard tasks like checking certain patients every x minutes, giving medication to specific patients with specific needs etc. Also take temperatures and blood pressure of every patient every shift. And they have to check on every patient regularly etc.
And of course there are always patients who want or need something special, something unexpected to which the nurse has to respond adequately. This could be something medical, just a question or only the need for a talk.
Note: this requires systematic, planned working and flexibility; it also requires creativity and authority toward the patient that ‘does not know what (s)he is doing at a specific moment or, for instance, the patient who is having a bad emotional moment.
Meta-communication: listening, ‘reading’ between the lines for the deeper question the patient actually has or might have.

The task of the Team further consists out of preparing the daily morning- and evening round of the doctors who visit every patient and receive their info from the nurses.
Note: this requires systematic registration and effective communication.

Teamwork, the best part
In the previous paragraph I gave the most important tasks of the Team of nurses as I saw it.
In this paragraph I want to mention the Team performance as I experienced it in this hospital.

As a customer of health care (or a patient) I was highly impressed with, and I admired the great Teamwork I saw from these nurses.
They have a job in which they have to work hard; in some shifts they do not even have a 5 minutes rest, they are real professionals in their job who always put their customers / patients first.
They really care about their patients and provide them with personal care and personal attention. If one colleague needs help there is no question needed, someone just jumps in to give support.

You never hear them complain, they are always looking for solutions and trying to improve the situation of their customers / patients, they give their patients their best! Regularly you hear them ask ‘’what can I do (more) for you’’ to one of their patients or, they give a concrete suggestion what they could do for this patient.

Their communication is fast and efficient and, between the seriousness of their ‘business’ (making patients better) they manage to have fun, exchange some personal things and contribute to the teamwork. There is a lot of trust and a strong focus on the same goals shared between them.

 

Many ‘teams’ in companies could learn a lot from the way these nurses bring their teamwork into practice
And, actually, I never felt as a patient but as an individual with his own responsibility for his own health, that is the great feeling these ladies gave me and what, in my humble opinion, helped me a lot in my recovery process, because, in the end, MY recovery process is MY responsibility.

Conclusions

  • Good and effective teamwork is essential for any business to survive the coming years. In that context much is written about effective teamwork this last year. I was highly impressed by the way ’my’ nurses brought ‘Teamwork’ into practice. Many companies could / should learn much from this example.
  • Positive thinking is essential for creating a positive team-spirit.
  • Positive thinking is crucial for everybody’s individual well-being and happiness.
  • According to doctors and nurses my positive attitude improved my recovery remarkably.
  • Negative thinking and complaining are dangerous for your health

My best wishes for all of you
Entering 2017 I wish everybody a Happy and Successful New Year, most of all, I wish you a good health.
Especially my best wishes are for the nurses and doctors who helped me so good.
I wish you to enjoy the beauty of the New Year, make sure you and your families keep on looking at the sunny side of life.

 

John Lodder MA, MSc.
www.balance-consultancy.com

 

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