Motivating Your Team in a Tough Market

When the market tightens, the media spews doom and gloom and Consultants become discouraged, it may be a good time to try new strategies for motivating your team.

Traditionally, most sales teams and sport teams focus on causes of failure and try to improve weaknesses. As Sales Managers, Coaches and Trainers, we identify skill gaps and try to address them. We focus on what they are not doing well.

Well, there’s a new strategy in town! A strength-based approach to enhance motivation and teamwork. It turned the Sri Lankan Cricket Team into a world-series winning team by applying these two new processes prior to their April – July 2006 tour of England. And I thought you might like to know about it, as I think it’s exactly the right approach to use with sales teams in a tight market.

Appreciative Enquiry and Open Space Technology.

It’s all about moving from a team with a champion or two, to a champion team focused and motivated to soar. I attended a session with Dr Sandy Gordon FAPS, now based at UWA, Perth Australia who was the Sri Lankan team’s sport’s psychologist at the time. And it occurred to me that this would be a great approach for a sales team, bruised and battered by the economy.

The Appreciative Inquiry Process

AI is a positive, strengths-based operational approach to learning and development that seems to enhance and refocus Team Work. The AI Process asks questions as a group:

“What are we doing right?”

“When we are at our best, what are we doing well?’

“When we are at our best, what is our behaviour?”

“How do we make what’s working, happen more often?’

AI makes some assumptions from which this model operates:

– In every group something works

– What people focus on becomes their reality

– Reality is created in the moment and there are several realities

– The act of asking questions of a group influences the individual in some way

– People are more confident and comfortable in their journey to the future when they carry forward parts of the past

– If people carry parts of the past forward, those parts should be what is best about the past

– It is important to value differences

– The language people use creates their reality

Ultimately, it puts the attention on their goals by paying attention to the right things at the right times. It also helps identify what is out of your control but keeps your focus on the team vision.

So, how did they apply AI to the Sri Lankan team? And how can you use this for your sales team? AI took a five step process:

1) Discovery

Identifying the ‘best of what has been or what is’ and supporting their belief in a positive future

2) Dream

Creating a clear results-oriented vision in relation to the discovered potential and encouraging them to conceive images of possibilities.

3) Design

Creating possibility propositions of the newly express dream or vision and bringing the dream into focus

4) Destiny

Strengthening the affirmative capability of them and helping them recognise the dream in the present.

5) ‘Naming the Elephant’ in the room

Bringing ‘undiscussables’ into the open and having the ‘difficult conversations’. Let’s face it, every time you try to motivate your team, there will be ‘yes buts,’ as a barrier in their minds. Ask them if there’s any problems, the whole team will shake their heads, “No, can’t see any problems.” But guess what, the first thing they will talk about when out of the room are the very things you wanted them to talk about in the room.

This gives people an escape clause, a back door if you like. If they are not doing well because they are being annoyed by your DealMaker, frustrated at the lack of leads, have bought into the media story of the economy and no training will remove these perceived barriers.

But holding a confidential ‘Naming the Elephants’ facilitated by a professional, you will be able to name these Elephants. Naming the Elephant allows for identifying barriers and distractions, innovation and taking action. It allows the team to learn from each other, and teaches them not to attack or blame.

The rules are simple;

– Expect and respect different points of view

– Avoid trying to identify who wrote what

– Avoid naming names – if the ‘Elephant’ is a person, only describe his behaviour and its impact on the team.

Open Space Technology

As an Open Space Facilitator, I have seen the impact this new form of meeting has on the motivation, energy and passion of the participants. Open Space Technology is a meeting methodology which helps individuals and groups become more effective in work environments that are rapidly and constantly changing.

Open Space Technology releases the knowledge, experience and innovation in the organization which is not captured through less open processes, and applies them to specific complex issues.

Open Space works best when the work to be done is complex, the people and ideas involved are diverse, the passion for resolution (and potential for conflict) are high, and the time to get it done was yesterday.

What Will Happen?

We never know exactly what will happen when we open the space for people, but we can guarantee these results when any group gets into Open Space:

  1. All of the issues that are most important to the participants will be raised.
  2. All of the issues raised will be addressed by those participants most qualified and capable of getting something done on each of them.
  3. In a time as short as one or two days, all of the most important ideas, discussion, recommendations, conclusions, questions for further study and plans for immediate action will be documented in one comprehensive report.
  4. After an event, all of these results can be made available to an entire organization within days of the event, so the conversation can invite every stakeholder into implementation, right now.
  5. And results like these can be planned and implemented faster than any other kind of so-called “large group intervention”. It is literally possible to accomplish in days and weeks what some other approaches take months and years to do.

When the economy changes, what were once predictable cycles seem to extend well beyond what we have experienced before, you need new tools and new strategies to keep your team focused and motivated.

The end result for the Sri Lankan team? They said the meetings they held were the ‘best team meetings ever’. Sri Lanka subsequently drew the three Test series 1 – 1 and white washed England 5 – 0 in One Day Internationals, their best overseas tour performance in 25 years.

Unfortunately, a change of Management decided that these processes were a bit too non-traditional and went back to more familiar strategies.

What could these concepts do for your team? Do you have the courage to try something new?

The Elephant In The Road

Question: How can you succeed applying creative leadership principles when creativity and innovation have little support in the executive suite? (The answer may surprise you.)

Answer: You can’t!

That’s right, you can’t. If you’re disappointed, stand in line. I have met many, many managers – both staff managers and project managers – who try to practice the principles of creative leadership but are frustrated by their organizational cultures. And I feel deeply sad when I hear that kind of story, because it means one more flame of inspiration will be coughing and sputtering just to stay alive. If you wonder where cynicism in the workplace comes from, you need look no further.

I used to recommend a guerrilla tactic to these folks. I advised them to establish creative work practices in their area of responsibility and focus on helping creative practices succeed there. I said they could use that as a beachhead. The idea was that the small success would spread organically, despite organizational resistance, because everybody loves success.

But I found that this guerrilla tactic only works occasionally, and then only because a powerful ally emerges in the leadership team. Having seen the profound discouragement all those other times, when no knight in shining armor materialized, I can no longer recommend it.

You see, the executive team is in many ways like an elephant, and if it wants to block the road, you’re sunk. Very frequently, the elephant is the CEO him or herself. So I’ve changed my approach and now I start right at the top. In doing so I’ve found many executives who simply don’t believe that creativity has an important role to play in the fabric of their organization.

I’m happy to work with someone who values creativity as an organizational strategy, even if they have doubts about its applicability or effectiveness in their situation. We can work together, and I can help them overcome the real and perceived obstacles.

But I absolutely will not work with people who don’t see the business value of creativity to begin with. I’ve concluded that their minds will only be changed by the success of their more creative competitors. So I explore the issue right up front, and I winnow out the doubters as soon as possible. That way I get to spend much more time with those creative competitors.

There’s a lesson here for those of you interested in change, creative or otherwise: when you’re traveling through a jungle, you’ll enjoy the trip much more if your elephant blazes the trail and gives you a ride.

Living Room Lighting Tips

It has never been more important to choose the right living room lighting sources with care. Choosing a good lighting scheme can have a remarkably dramatic impact on your living room – it is just as important as how you choose to decorate it. Even the simplest lighting scheme can have a dramatic impact if well planned and thought out – it can make an area seem larger or ore defined. The same light bulb and lighting fixture can have little or tremendous impact on your living room’s décor Since this room is a room which will probably be used a lot for many different purposes such as reading, watching movies and television, and relaxing, selecting the right lighting sources plays a more critical part on how our family feels and will use the room.

A living room works best with layered lighting for its many uses throughout different times of the day. You can use ceiling-recessed lights to draw the eye to certain artwork, pictures or mirrors hanging on the walls in the room. You can then add table or floor lamps which will provide the direct lighting needed to read or work.

And don’t forget, that in most homes, natural light is the primary source of light during the day and a living room’s décor definitely needs to make the most out of using this light throughout the day. You can install skylights or dormer windows to increase the amount of natural lights that comes into the room. You can also use lighter curtains, blinds or shades on existing windows to allow the direct sunlight though to the room while keeping your privacy.

All in all, picking the correct living room lighting sources can make a huge difference in the room’s décor – making you feel comfortable, cozy and relaxed any time throughout the day. Sports-themed lamps and lighting fixtures are an excellent choice in decorating your living room. They will bring enjoyment, enthusiasm and illuminating light in a way for every fan to enjoy.