Tag Archive for: development

Why Teams Fail

My son is involved in a lot of different teams as well as musical groups. Most of the teams and groups are doing fine. However, one of his musical groups is not doing well. Yesterday, 4 out 5 band members declined to participate in a scheduled event. What surprised me most was the confusion and lack of communication amongst the band members and their parents. No one seemed to know what was happening or where it was happening, or, more importantly, why.

So what went wrong?

I can think of a few reasons why this particular group had issues.

Lack of alignment with a vision and mission: the group had no mission or vision. There was no operating context for their activities. Basic questions such as “What is the reason that this group exists?” and “What are we hoping to achieve?” had not been discussed and resolved.

Lack of clarity around roles and responsibilities: the group had not clarified various roles and responsibilities. Who leads the group? How are decisions made and communicated?

Lack of communication.

This incident created some tension and some frustration. And a potential learning experience. A team needs to rally around a common purpose and a shared set of values. And this holds true for any team whether it is a group of musicians, a volunteer team or a team at work. Hopefully, this group will reflect on what happened and talk about the fundamentals before they take on another gig. I think there are a few other issues that this group will need to resolve as well.

A team that does not share a common purpose is not a team. And that was certainly demonstrated yesterday. I spoke at length about this topic with my son.


My son and I went to visit the University of Waterloo yesterday, the first in a series of university visits. He has been given early offers of admission to all of his university choices and soon he will need to make a decision.

During the drive to Waterloo, we talked about decision-making and its purpose. Some decisions are very basic: what drink will I have with my meal? what movie will I watch tonight? Other decisions have significant and potentially devastating impact if the wrong choice is made. For example: will I buy a PC or a Mac?

In my own experience, I have come across many different decision-making styles. Perhaps you recognize your own style in the following list:

  • Impulsive Decider: one who takes the first alternative that is presented: “Decide now; think later. Don’t look before you leap.”
  • Fatalistic Decider: one who leaves the resolution of the decision up to the environment or fate: “Whatever will be will be.”
  • Compliant Decider: one who goes along with someone else’s plan rather than making an independent decision, especially when that plan doesn’t agree with one’s own beliefs: “If it’s OK with you, it’s OK with me.” “Anything you say.”
  • Delaying Decider: one who delays thought and action on a problem: “I’ll think about it later.”
  • Agonizing Decider: one who spends much time and thought in gathering data and analyzing alternatives only to get lost amidst the data gathered: “I can’t make up my mind. I don’t know what to do.”
  • Intuitive Decider: one who decides based on what is felt, but cannot be verbalized: “It feels right.”
  • Paralytic Decider: one who accepts the responsibility for decisions, but is unable to do much toward approaching it: “I know I should, but I just can’t get with it. I can’t face up to it.”
  • Escapist Decider: one who avoids a decision or makes up an answer to end the discussion.
  • Play-it-Safe Decider: one who almost always picks the alternative with the perceived lowest level of risk.
  • Planner: one whose strategy is based on a rational approach with some balance between the cognitive and emotional: “I am the captain of my fate; I am the master of my soul.”

I told my son that the best approach for making a decision about university is to follow a basic process:

  1. Clearly identify the decision to be made. The choice of which university and which major is not the same decision as which career and which company.
  2. Assess yourself: look at your values, your skills, your interests and your character.
  3. Identify the options.
  4. Gather information.
  5. Assess the options.
  6. Select one of the options.
  7. Make a plan and implement the decision.

When I Grow Up

How many times were you asked: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I remember being asked this question repeatedly as a child. And, despite my best efforts, I ask my own children the same question. Not about what they want to be but about what they want to do. Work. Job. Career.

I often confuse doing with being. Perhaps because I spend most of my time doing things. Which is really not hard to do as doing seems to take an awful lot of time.

Benjamin Kline Hunnicutt in his book Work Without End had this to say:

Meaning, justification, purpose and even salvation were now sought in work, without a necessary reference to any philosophic or theological structure. Men and women were answering the old religious questions in new ways, and the answers were more and more in terms of work, career, occupation and professions.

As I have been reading Covey’s book, The 8th Habit, I have been giving a lot of consideration to his arguments about the disconnected work environment where we seem unable to engage people at the level of their passion and their voice. Joe Dominguez and Viki Robin in their book Your Money or Your Life offer this encouraging thought:

Is it any wonder that so many of us suffer midlife crises as we face the fact that our doing doesn’t even come close to expressing our being.

I wonder if Covey read their book.

The Problem

I continue the journey of reading Covey’s The 8th Habit. In one week, I have successfully managed to complete two chapters or 24 pages. I usually read about 500 pages a week.

The first chapter spoke to the pain that many people experience in life. Unable to find their voice, they become frustrated and disenfranchised. The second chapter speaks to the problem. Covey puts much of the blame on our corporations:

We live in a Knowledge Worker Age but operate our organizations in a controlling Industrial Age model that absolutely suppresses the release of human potential. Voice is essentially irrelevant.

In essence, our society has placed a higher value on controlling and managing people as things rather than as a whole person. A whole person with heart, mind, body and soul.

The book is divided into two parts. The first part is focused on how we can find our voice. The second part is focused on how we can inspire others to find their voice. Covey recommends that the best approach to gain the greatest results from his book is to adopt a yearlong personal growth and development program. Spend one month for each of the twelve chapters.

The Pain

I finished the first chapter of The 8th Habit tonight. 11 pages. No, I am not a slow reader. But I am being challenged to think about what I am reading. The book offers a set of films through a website and I reviewed the film called Legacy here. Universal human needs were presented.

Life is short.

To live.
To love.
To learn.
To leave a legacy.

The voice of the human spirit — full of hope and intelligence, resilient by nature, boundless in its potential to serve the common good. Time to discover my voice.

Listen to the Voices

I started reading Covey’s The 8th Habit this evening. Chapter 1, The Pain:

Listen to the voices:

“I’m stuck, in a rut.”
“I have no life. I’m burned out — exhausted.”
“No one really values or appreciates me. My boss doesn’t have a clue of all I’m capable of.”
“I don’t feel especially needed — not at work, not by my teenage and grown children, not by my neighbors or community, not by my spouse — except to pay the bills.”
“I’m frustrated and discouraged.”
“I’m just not making enough to make ends meet. I never seem to get ahead.”
“Maybe I just don’t have what it takes.”
“I’m not making a difference.”
“I feel empty inside. My life lacks meaning; something’s missing.”
“I’m angry. I’m scared. I can’t afford to lose my job.”
“I’m lonely.”
“I’m stressed out; everything’s urgent.”
“I’m micromanaged and suffocating.”
“I’m sick of all the backstabbing politics and kissing up.”
“I’m bored — just putting in my time. Most of my satisfactions come off the job.”
“I can’t change things.”

Perhaps that is what happens when you reach a certain stage in life. Young enough to still make a difference and yet old enough to think about the journey. After I read the first chapter, I thought long and hard about passion, talent, need and conscience. How often do we engage in work that taps our talent and fuels our passion?

I’m not sure that I am enjoying this book.


I downloaded a demo of MacJournal yesterday. My intent is to focus a little more time on formal journalling. Although this blog has elements of a journal, there are many things that I will not write about because of the public nature of a blog.

Why journal? I came across this perspective from a Windows-based journalling website:

Journaling is a record of personal progress. I get a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment as I tick off items on my To-Do list. Journaling increases this feeling of satisfaction because journaling tracks the journey. Whether it’s a photo array of a garden-in-progress or many weeks of weight loss, there is joy in accomplishment, even with the ups and the downs. There’s a sense of, “I’m on my way and I’ll get there!” It serves as inspiration and reflection. In addition, a journal can become part of our collective historical record. The farmer who faithfully recorded land and weather conditions in his journal provided a treasure trove of information for ecologists and meteorologists in the 20th Century. Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks give us a special glimpse into his thoughts and character.

Speak Your Mind

I started public speaking when I was in Grade 7. I was involved in competitions and I did pretty well. I also taught for a number of years. Nothing like having to get up in front of people every day to help build up the presentation skills.

I do not do as many formal presentations or speeches these days which is a bit of a shame. I do enjoy the process of research and the process of building a message. I have never really struggled with nerves except for one event. I was asked to give a convocation address to the graduating students at a large college in London.

It was a great honour. I really prepared for that event. I wanted the address to be moving and inspiring for the attendees. What I was not expecting was the sheer size and formality of the event. I was required to wear my masters hood and gown. There were publicity photos. A formal procession. An orchestra.

And there were over three thousand people attending the convocation.

The address was a great success. I was terrified right up until I got to the podium. And then, the hundred or so rehearsals, paid off.

I came across the following suggestions for giving great speeches. Something for me to think about the next time a speaking opportunity comes along.

  1. Have something interesting to say. This is 80% of the battle. If you have something interesting to say, then it’s much easier to give a great speech. If you have nothing to say, you should not speak. End of discussion. It’s better to decline the opportunity so that no one knows you don’t have anything to say than it is to make the speech and prove it.
  2. Cut the sales pitch. The purpose of most keynotes is to entertain and inform the audience. It is seldom to provide you with an opportunity to pitch your product, service, or company. For example, if you’re invited to speak about the future of digital music, you shouldn’t talk about the latest MP3 player that your company is selling.
  3. Focus on entertaining. Many speech coaches will disagree with this, but the goal of a speech is to entertain the audience. If people are entertained, you can slip in a few nuggets of information. But if your speech is deathly dull, no amount of information will make it a great speech. If I had to pick between entertaining and informing an audience, I would pick entertaining–knowing that informing will probably happen too.
  4. Understand the audience. If you can prove to your audience in the first five minutes that you understand who they are, you’ve got them for the rest of the speech. All you need to understand is the trends, competition, and key issues that the audience faces. This simply requires consultation with the host organization and a willingness to customize your introductory remarks. This ain’t that hard.
  5. Overdress. My father was a politician in Hawaii. He was a very good speaker. When I started speaking he gave me a piece of advice: Never dress beneath the level of the audience. That is, if they’re wearing suits, then you should wear a suit. To underdress is to communicate the following message: “I’m smarter/richer/more powerful than you. I can insult you and not take you serious, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”? This is hardly the way to get an audience to like you.
  6. Don’t denigrate the competition. If you truly do cut the sales pitch, then this won’t even come up. But just in case, never denigrate the competition because by doing so, you are taking undue advantage of the privilege of giving a speech. You’re not doing the audience a favor. The audience is doing you a favor, so do not stoop so low as to use this opportunity to slander your competition.
  7. Tell stories. The best way to relax when giving a speech is to tell stories. Any stories. Stories about your youth. Stories about your kids. Stories about your customers. Stories about things that you read about. When you tell a story, you lose yourself in the storytelling. You’re not “making a speech”? anymore. You’re simply having a conversation. Good speakers are good storytellers; great speakers tell stories that support their message.
  8. Pre-circulate with the audience. True or false: the audience wants your speech to go well. The answer is True. Audiences don’t want to see you fail–for one thing, why would people want to waste their time listening to you fail? And here’s the way to heighten your audience’s concern for you: circulate with the audience before the speech. Meet people. Talk to them. Let them make contact with you. Especially the ones in the first few rows; then, when you’re on the podium, you’ll see these friendly faces. Your confidence will soar. You will relax. And you will be great.
  9. Speak at the start of an event. If you have the choice, get in the beginning part of the agenda. The audience is fresher then. They’re more apt to listen to you, laugh at your jokes, and follow along with your stories. On the third day of a three-day conference, the audience is tired, and all they’re thinking about is going home. It’s hard enough to give a great speech–why increase the challenge by having to lift the audience out of the doldrums?
  10. Ask for a small room. If you have a choice, get the smallest room possible for your speech. If it’s a large room, ask that it be set “classroom style”?–ie, with tables and chairs–instead of theatre style. A packed room is a more emotional room. It is better to have 200 people in a 200 person room than 500 people in a 1,000 person room. You want people to remember, “It was standing room only.”?
  11. Practice and speak all the time. This is a “duhism,”? but nonetheless relevant. My theory is that it takes giving a speech at least twenty times to get decent at it. You can give it nineteen times to your dog if you like, but it takes practice and repetition. There is no shortcut to Carnegie Hall. As Jascha Heifitz said, “If I don’t practice one day, I know it. If I don’t practice two days, my critics know it. If I don’t practice three days, everyone knows it.”?